I have used curves, but for me, it is too time consuming. Like Lightroom, I just never got the hang of it.
I have a great Photoshop book by Scott Kelby who walks you through each and every step, and actually makes things easy to understand.
I even think that Scott Kelby has books for Elements too.
I still prefer to use the adjustment layers/opacity levels for most of the photo treatments I do.
The wonderful thing about photoshop is that there are multiple ways of doing the same thing. The important thing is to keep try methods, tutorials, techniques until you find the ones that work for you.