Ticklish Ears

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Textbooks, again!

The 14th Carnival of Homeschooling is up over at Why Homeschool? I’ll be honest, I haven’t been following the CoH very closely. But I thought I’d take a look to see what’s happening at the Carnival.
There are some worthwhile comments on textbooks over at Farm School. Becky’s not terribly keen on them (”committee-written, dumbed down, boring, uneducational, politically correct drivel”). I have written on textbooks before, mostly about texts at the college level. The longer I teach, the more I dislike textbooks. The cost alone is eye-popping, certainly in computer science and math. And they’re never exactly what you need: they cover too much in some places, and not enough in others.

Furthermore, as was pointed out in our Readers’ Roundtable last week by one of the wisest professors at our university, they’re written with the wrong customer in mind. Who do publishers market textbooks to? They market them to professors, who can read them (sort of) and not to students who are still struggling with the language of the discipline (or with language in general - Bob Leamnson has a lot to say about students and their language issues in his book Thinking About Teaching and Learning).

If I really wanted to do things right, I’d create my own “textbook.” Not one that would be published, but one that the students could use, or that at least I could teach from. There’s some scholarship for you: writing an accessible textbook with students in mind.
But I digress. Becky was mainly focusing on textbooks at the pre-college level:

My own experiences with textbooks, academically and professionally, have colored my decision to limit their use in our home schooling, both by not using too many and by relegating them to a supporting position as reference books, rather than relying on them as main texts.

We’re not really at the point of using anything resembling textbooks in our little homeschool (it’s only second grade, after all). The closest thing I had were the readers we were using from A Beka. About midway through the academic year, I decided that the readers were restricting our options too much, and I got another idea. I remembered reading, when I was about my daughter’s age, a series of books called Childhood of Young Americans. They are exactly what they say: stories of famous Americans as they grew up. I don’t know how historically accurate they are, but they seemed like they might be just right for our girl.

She and I picked out two at the university library: Molly Pitcher : Young Patriot and Abigail Adams : Girl of Colonial Days.


She loves them! Begs to read the next chapter! And this from a girl who wouldn’t read on her own before now. We went through Molly and have now just finished Abigail, and we’re excited about whom to take on next: Ben Franklin, maybe, or Martha Washington. We’ll have to see (I’m secretly trying to steer her towards a scientist, like Thomas Edison).
The A Beka books were OK, and she read them dutifully, but she’s excited about these biographies, so we’ll stick with them for now.

And that’s the beauty of homeschool. You can adapt on the fly. And that’s the problem with textbooks. You are stuck with what you have, whether it’s appropriate for all of your students or not.

And I’m out of time. Will have to look at the rest of the CoH on another day.

3 Responses to “Textbooks, again!”

  1. Casting Out Nines»Blog Archive » Thinking about textbooks Says:

    […] Speaking of publications, David at Ticklish Ears writes about textbooks at the college level: The cost alone is eye-popping, certainly in computer science and math. And they’re never exactly what you need: they cover too much in some places, and not enough in others. […]

  2. Suzi Says:

    I think the biographies are a great idea. My favorite biography from that era was one in Childcraft on Dolly Madison. When my children were little I told them the story. As they got older, they read up on her and found she was a little more stubborn and a little less heroic than I had been led to believe… But the love of reading continues.

  3. My Own Thoughts » Reading Biographies Says:

    […] Ticklish Ears has a post about textbooks both at college and in their homeschool. But what set me onto this post was his taking his daughter off the restrictive readers that came with a curriculum and leading her to the world of biographies. […]

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