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My dd is getting close to high school, in 8th this year. She is definitely an out of the box thinker, creative child, kinesthetic, visual spatial, loves art, hates most everything else about school. A lot of high school involves the use of textbooks (which we have not used in the past). Is it possible to get through at least most of high school without using textbooks? Learning from textbooks is just not appealing to her at all. She does not mind reading chapter books or other topical nonfiction books, just has a problem with the overwhelming dense quality of material in textbooks. I think the visual nature of them does not appeal to her as well because they distract her too much. Has anyone completed history, science, etc through some other method, reading books, doing experiments, etc and been successful in learning the material in high school?

 

I guess I need examples of curriculum or accredited schools that might appeal to her style of learning more. We have done one year of Winter Promise in the past and I was thinking maybe I need to go back to that method for her. Any other ideas? I really want to have her graduate from an accredited school so have been looking at Kolbe and a few others. I like that Kolbe is flexible. Anyone have any ideas for an accredited school that would be a better fit?

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My dd is getting close to high school, in 8th this year. She is definitely an out of the box thinker, creative child, kinesthetic, visual spatial, loves art, hates most everything else about school. A lot of high school involves the use of textbooks (which we have not used in the past). Is it possible to get through at least most of high school without using textbooks? Learning from textbooks is just not appealing to her at all. She does not mind reading chapter books or other topical nonfiction books, just has a problem with the overwhelming dense quality of material in textbooks. I think the visual nature of them does not appeal to her as well because they distract her too much. Has anyone completed history, science, etc through some other method, reading books, doing experiments, etc and been successful in learning the material in high school?

Yes, many unschoolers have done just that. And yes, many of them have gone on to college, if that's what their life plans included.

 

I guess I need examples of curriculum or accredited schools that might appeal to her style of learning more. We have done one year of Winter Promise in the past and I was thinking maybe I need to go back to that method for her. Any other ideas? I really want to have her graduate from an accredited school so have been looking at Kolbe and a few others. I like that Kolbe is flexible. Anyone have any ideas for an accredited school that would be a better fit?

Clonlara. Most distance-learning schools, accredited or not (and most are not), will require its students to do everything just like school...except for Clonlara. It's the most original, flexible school of its kind.

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History should be really easy to do without using textbooks. Primary sources, literary works, non-fiction books, documentaries...

 

Science, OTOH, is harder and depends on your goals. Some science? Sure. But if her goal is university, I don't think you can avoid textbooks (or a textbook-like online program which would be worse visually than an actual book) for a systematic, rigorous college preparatory science education. Even for a good online class, there would be textbook readings.

I have not seen any resource that teaches physics without a text (or text-like online resource) at a level that I would consider uni prep.

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I've just finished buying curriculum for my DS for 9th. I've been looking ahead at 10th as well.

The only two subjects I see as being difficult to manage without texts at this level are science and math.

Secular science at the HS level seems to be textbook oriented (at least for biology and physics - which are the two I've looked into), and it's hard to beat a good math text once you get into the upper levels.

For everything else, though, I don't buy text books.

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Does she have future plans for college? If so, I would gradually add in textbooks. For college, they are a way of life whether we like it or not. At some point we have to get out of our comfort zone and attack those areas we aren't comfortable with or don't like because they will be a part of our life later.

 

I think there is a lot of learning one can do outside of textbooks - but I wouldn't toss the idea of textbooks altogether :)

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Does she have future plans for college? If so, I would gradually add in textbooks. For college, they are a way of life whether we like it or not. At some point we have to get out of our comfort zone and attack those areas we aren't comfortable with or don't like because they will be a part of our life later.

 

I think there is a lot of learning one can do outside of textbooks - but I wouldn't toss the idea of textbooks altogether :)

 

I kind of feel the same way too, prep for what is to come later in college; however, she will probably pursue a career or college (whatever it may be) in the arts. I can see her doing web design, graphic design, she has even thought of doing jewelry design. I can also see her being more of an entrepreneur. So, she may need to take a few basic college classes that require a textbook, but it is entirely possible that she might go a route so different that she never takes those kinds of classes. She is just not academic in nature.

 

I also told her about dual credit courses as an option, because this is a kid that just wants to get the boring stuff over with and move on already. So, she might go that route later in high school. I might be able to have her complete her science courses that way, although that would require a textbook...but I think she would be motivated by the fact that she would receive college credit and get those classes out of the way.

 

I will have to look at Clonara more and Harmony Art mom's blog to get ideas. Just wondered if anyone else had a similar child and had been down this path before.

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I also told her about dual credit courses as an option, because this is a kid that just wants to get the boring stuff over with and move on already. So, she might go that route later in high school. I might be able to have her complete her science courses that way, although that would require a textbook...but I think she would be motivated by the fact that she would receive college credit and get those classes out of the way.

 

Yes, but I would make sure the skill to work with a textbook is in place before the student embarks on a college level science class.

In a college science class, there will be asisgned reading, the student will be required to take notes and extract information from the reading, and the professor may not necessarily re-iterate everything form the book, but just emphasize a few major points. A college science course is challenging in content; I would make sure the student is not also challenged by the mechanics of it, but has solid textbook and notetaking skills in place beforehand.

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Yes, but I would make sure the skill to work with a textbook is in place before the student embarks on a college level science class.

In a college science class, there will be asisgned reading, the student will be required to take notes and extract information from the reading, and the professor may not necessarily re-iterate everything form the book, but just emphasize a few major points. A college science course is challenging in content; I would make sure the student is not also challenged by the mechanics of it, but has solid textbook and notetaking skills in place beforehand.

 

I have done a lot of classes non-textbook style and I totally agree with this statement. You may have the sort of child to whom this sort of thing comes naturally (making it look like there is no skill involved), but if you do not, then suddenly being faced with a fast-paced class that involves lots of new concepts and vocabulary and graphing is pretty overwhelming, especially if you don't have the skills to read a textbook and predict which bits interest the prof and/or take notes from a lecture.

 

Nan

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I don't know about accredited schools. I do, however, know something about alternative learning. My middle son is wired a bit differently and peacewalked. This involved walking for several weeks or months (preferably months) during the school year. When I investigated the accredited schools route at the beginning of high school, I considered three different paths. One path (A) maximized the projects and minimized traditional academics. For this, I considered Clonlara's walk-about program. One path (B) used traditional academics methods (which tend to be very efficient time-wise) stripped down to its basics (even more efficient) in an effort to make lots of time for peacewalking and minimize the time spent on traditional academics each year. For this, I considered American School. One path © was along the same idea but arranged differently - almost all projects/non-academic things early on in high school and then much less or almost none the last half while my son went to community college. In the end, we chose not to do any of these three. Instead, we did a combination of TWTM, peacewalking/projects, and some community college courses to "verify" my son's ability to do college-level work and to teach him to learn in a more traditional fashion in a classroom. It worked well enough that we have done something very similar with the youngest. I concluded that we didn't need an accredited diploma. I also concluded that in order for my son would learn the academic skills needed to survive in college and at the same time do the projects/peacewalking, he was going to need to work specifically on some of those skills rather than learn them in the context of projects. Peacewalking itself is not something that can be mixed with learning academic skills. It isn't like a history research project or a science experiment. I also knew from past experience that as nice as it is to mix projects and academics, it is hard for me as a parent to combine them because academic skills come fairly easily to me and so I don't see what needs to be learned and what doesn't, if that makes sense. Past experience also showed me that when one struggles with academic skills for whatever reason, it is usually easier to learn the skills specifically, separately from the project, and then just practice the skill while doing the project or simply use the project for non-academic learning. Not being fast at academics makes it hard to be super efficient about doing them (plan B) or suddenly do them with no preparation (plan C). TWTM mixes skills and projects fairly successfully but still specifically teaches academic skills.

 

I'm not sure any of that is helpful because it is so specific to my circumstances. Just in case, though...

 

Nan

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Yes, it does depend on whether the kid is struggling to acquire basic skills, or whether the visually busy and detail-oriented textbooks simply don't suit her and she can learn perfectly well and happily from other sources. It also depends on whether a child NEEDS to have engagement and purpose, a larger context that is meaningful, to acquire skills, or whether the child can happily and effectively learn skills in isolation (mine, for instance, could not).

 

For a child who must have purpose and meaning -- that larger context, a personal goal, or a Big Picture version of a subject as a first introduction rather than an onslaught of details -- but who otherwise does not struggle, textbook reading strategies can be MORE easily picked up in a college class of the child's own choice, which is part of the process of getting to the child's own goal, and/or for which the child has already accumulated a background from other sources. It CAN be easier, for SOME kids, who will not need four years of learning to work from textbooks or write one particular formulaic kind of essay over and over, to succeed in college. The trick of course is figuring out which kind of kid you've got!

 

This is why Saxon math didn't work for my family. Singapore math, on the other hand, was very applied. We did PM and NEM, then they switched to CC math. It wasn't perfect but it was a good deal better than the Saxon we tried. My family struggled to put the little pieces back together again into the whole picture. We liked Hewitt's Conceptual Physics, too. That was a textbook that worked well for my family. We did natural history instead of biology for similar reasons. Having the same general set of questions for literature rather than questions specific to a particular work let mine begin to notice the answers as they read (since they remembered the questions from the last time). I never had much luck getting mine to do the "writing process" (in other words, accept criticism and rewrite) when they were writing about things important to them. They were more willing to fix their mistakes if it was a silly writing assignment that didn't matter, something just to learn a particular skill. On the other hand, it was hard to get them to follow the directions.

 

I had lunch two days ago with a psychologist who was telling me about a recent long-term study of kids who struggled in school' date=' particularly in middle and high school. What the study found was that these kids tended to make enormous progress in their mid to late twenties, catch up and even surpass those who did conventionally well in school. The study posited two reasons for this: first, their wiring was such that they were simply on a different developmental timetable. Pushing them to acquire certain conventional academic skills to the normed level at earlier ages just didn't work. And second, perhaps even more profoundly, when they made their developments -- in math and writing skills mainly, but also in speech and reading comprehension levels -- it was IN THE CONTEXT of further schooling or a job they had pursued, with tasks that had meaning and purpose for them, and which they were highly motivated to do well. These findings have enormous implications for the way the school system is structured and how skills are taught to alternative learners of all kinds. Again, it doesn't mean they don't need to learn how to use a textbook or how to write a paper. It simply means that the time at which they do so, and the context, may differ from conventional wisdom; earlier and more is not necessarily better. Nor do I mean to imply anything about "all kids," just to offer this as a more detached version of what I was saying from my experience teaching a group of "differently wired" kids in a co-op, and my own dd.[/quote']

 

Yup. Mine are late bloomers. Well, the older two are. And I am, most definately. My spelling and memory suddenly and miraculously drastically improved when my oldest was born. At the time, I attributed it to not going to school or work, but in retrospect, I think it just was that I had finally reached 25. My husband stopped growing when he was 25. We've noticed that our oldest (25 now) has suddenly got a much better grip on many things. I think this is why it works for my family to do things very loosely and untextbookie (except a few science ones to build the skills) until the last few years of high school when we add a few community college classes.

 

Nan

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Just one more thing. The problems you mentioned wih textbooks are not problems all textbooks share. They're part of a specific genre where the majority of books are churned-out rubbish but in which there are some absolute gems.

 

My daughter is using Foerster's Algebra 1. It has no sidebars, no distractions. It's just a sytematic survey of algebra wth lots of exercises. We also have and love Hewitt's Conceptual Physics and Campbell's Biology was a hit with the unschoolers I used to know because it was such a clear and enjoyable read.

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Just one more thing. The problems you mentioned wih textbooks are not problems all textbooks share. They're part of a specific genre where the majority of books are churned-out rubbish but in which there are some absolute gems.

 

:iagree:

Most high school textbooks are unbearable. Sidebars, colored boxes, sound bites...

Go for intro college texts, which are of much better quality and have more consecutive written text, less of the distracting stuff. (Unfortunately, this nonsense starts in college texts now too...)

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Well I'm one year behind you, rather similar situation, and I can only tell you how we're handling it. For science I'm looking at doing *just the labs* from a couple physical science books (PH Concepts in Action and BJU). After that I'm thinking we'll do the Illustrated Guide to Home Chemistry Experiments (Biology, etc.) sequence. The man who wrote those was himself an out-of-the-box learner. The books are clearly laid out, have short, coordinated readings freely available online, and have lab kits available. I'm hoping our procedure this coming year for physical science will prepare her well for that process. I was working tonight on pulling it together. The main reason it can work is because the labs tend to include some background info on the first page of the lab instructions. I'm also pretty fearless in science and don't mind guiding it. Ok, physics I'm a little fearful of, haha, but we're not there yet. :)

 

I agree with Nan and the others that *at some point* this demon has to be hit head-on. I think it's also helpful to know *why* the issue is there so you can figure out what you're dealing with, kwim? There's personality and gifting of course, but then there are vision problems, attention problems, all sorts of reasons why a person might struggle with this. And of course if it's vision (just throwing out an idea), then there's something to DO about it. You wouldn't want to accommodate before you pursued all that. With my dd and the non-fiction aversion I've been basically just trying to get her in and get her feet wet. And it seems like the more she does, the more comfortable she gets. We've actually been using Muse magazine, which has short non-fiction articles and longer essays. Outlining or mindmapping (we do it on the ipad) is fabulous with these articles, because they have clear structure, a writing style you'd be happy for your dc to imitate, and high interest subjects. The outlining slows them down and helps them learn a new way to read, and the high interest keeps it enjoyable. Then when they do that a while, on increasing lengths of articles, they realize they might be able to tackle a chapter in a history text that interests them.

 

I also think not all texts are created equal. A HARDER text with more emphasis on narrative might be more engaging than a simple text that has nothing more than one definition after another, bleh. I think there's wisdom in how you break it up and what you have them DO with the text.

 

Texts can also be a starting point or a reference for you to pull together your ideas on what to cover and what to have her research. I've been having my dd read books on the states (America the Beautiful series) from the juvenile non-fiction section of the library for a state study she's doing right now, and while they're not stellar literature, the fact is she's learning, retaining, synthesizing (I have her read several sources), and writing. And the fact is that easier literature has built her confidence to tackle harder non-fiction. 9th grade might be a good time to do a bridge study like that with your dd, where you help her make the jump to reading and learning from more non-fiction. Rather than going right to textbooks, use the textbook as a SPINE for 9th, read easier sources, and teach her the process (taking notes, synthesizing, discussing). So you're bridging to where you want to get to rather than dumping her in cold turkey. At least that's what I'm doing. We're planning on doing geography this coming year using the BJU9 as a spine along with a bunch of stuff. I'm thinking of re-ordering it a different way and pulling in the Milliken religion guides. That continues our non-fiction stamina-building. I have the BJU10 stuff along with Kane, Spielvogel, that sort of thing, to use after that. But that's all the way into textbooks. I want to bridge and build her up, hence the year of researching and continued hands-on.

 

I think they need structure when they tackle a textbook so they know what they're supposed to do with it and what the goal is.

 

I'm not trying to say you need a lot of textbooks. There are ways to take much of this out of the box. The reality is though, if she's bright but alternative, that at some point the knowledge SHE wants is in those textbooks and harder non-fiction sources. So you bridge her into them and help her learn the skills to use them. If she's so into art, maybe you pick a non-fiction art history text to start working through together. Brommer has a good one. That way she's working through non-fiction in shorter amounts with something that really interests her. Small doses with consistent effort.

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My dd liked Conceptual Physics enough to read it a second time for pleasure, but I have to say I'm surprised to hear Campbell's Biology referred to as a "clear read"! I guess it depends what you expect, and what you like in terms of writing style (and whether that even matters to you). Dd did not expect to be hit with such a massive tsunami of tiny details, and she didn't find the textbook easy to read at all. On the other hand, she went through Ian Stewart's pretty sophisticated The Mathematics of Life (not a textbook), finding it well-written and engrossing. When after that book she picked up Campbell I think the contrast in style/literary quality really disappointed her.

 

That's interesting. I haven't had a chance to look at it myself but I keep hearing wonderful things about it from people who generally don't like textbooks. Sounds like something my own daughter might not enjoy.

 

So yes, there are some excellent textbooks; but there is also the most mind-boggling range of really well-written, sophisticated trade books in physics, biology and mathematics, just as there is in history (chemistry, not so much). There are also all kinds of visual resources online, from videos like the University of Nottingham's series on the elements to taped lectures to documentaries. They all stretch minds in different ways. I personally don't feel that textbooks have any corner on effectively presenting the basics of a discipline, or that they work equally well with every kid or even in every subject. they are the perfect match for some, even many kids, particularly academically motivated, sequential and linear thinkers, kids who learn well through note-taking and reading. VSL and kinesthetic learners have been the most poorly served by conventional textbook curricula, which is why High Tech High --to give one fairly well-known and well-regarded example which caters particularly to VSL, dyslexic, ADHD, and kinesthetic learners -- uses them as only one resource out of many in a given class. And High Tech High sends an impressive number of kids on to 4-year-universities (including the Ivies) as science majors, so clearly "rigor" and coverage are not at issue. They do a really good job; they just do it differently. Part of that differences lies in the supporting, rather than central, role that textbooks play for much of their program.

 

I agree with this, I just hate to see the baby tossed out with the bathwater. I used to be violently opposed to textbooks myself and when I started to stumble on a few that were clear, beautifully written and a ripping good read I realized I shouldn't be so quick to dismiss them.

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Outlining or mindmapping (we do it on the ipad) is fabulous with these articles, because they have clear structure, a writing style you'd be happy for your dc to imitate, and high interest subjects. The outlining slows them down and helps them learn a new way to read, and the high interest keeps it enjoyable. Then when they do that a while, on increasing lengths of articles, they realize they might be able to tackle a chapter in a history text that interests them.

 

OHElizabeth, can you explain how you do outlining and mindmapping on the iPAD?

 

Thanks!

Capt Uhura

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High Tech High is probably something my family should have investigated, especially for the oldest.

 

I think it is important to remember that there are different ways of using a textbook, also. Using it as a spine, as sort of a syllabus and an introduction/jumping-off point without trying to memorize the whole chapter and answer all of the textbook questions is another option.

 

There are also different ways of reading a textbook. Some people do better reading them backwards (I am one). That way, you get the wrap-up summary at the end first and have some idea where each chapter is going. One of mine does well "reading" a textbook by going through and reading all the bold bits, picture captions, and headings, then reading all the questions, going back and glancing through the text rapidly, and then settling down to answer the questions, going back to read at need. This way, he has a purpose first.

 

Here is something I wrote awhile back about one way of dealing with a textbook (or regular book): Use it as a spine. Think of it as a plan. Look at each chapter (look at - don't read straight through). Read all the section headings and picture captions. Look at every paragraph and read any bits that sound interesting. Try to figure out, without straight reading it, what it covers and what it expects you to learn from it. Say it turns out to be about the depression. If your book has questions at the end of the chapter, look at them. Can you answer any of them from your quick look? Would it be too hard to go back and try to find the answers? If not, go back and find the answers and write them down. Voila - you are done with the chapter. Just answer one set of questions per chapter. Don't try to do all the sets. If your book doesn't have questions, then it is even easier. Now that you have figured out what the chapter is about (roughly), go to the library and get out some books about it. Don't plan this ahead of time. Do it on the spot. Even better would be to take your textbook with you, figure out what the next three chapters cover, and then look for books. Look for books that have lots of pictures, like the Time Life series books. Don't try to get books on every aspect of every item in every chapter. The idea is to find one or two books about some aspect of the chapter that you found interesting. This being US history, your library is bound to have something for almost everything. Then pick a few aspects that you don't find as interesting but that your textbook seems to emphasize and look them up in the encyclopaedia. Pick something and write a short paper (one page or so - think 5 para paper), so you will have some written work to show. Do that for every chapter. It wouldn't cost anything and it requires NO planning. Meanwhile, do the literature that appeals to you most with Ambleside. Forget about matching them up. If I were you, I would finish the history first, as fast as I could, and then I would relax and concentrate on the literature the rest of the year. Again, I wouldn't pre-plan it. I would pick a book, look up the author in an encyclopaedia (or wiki) and read about him or her, then read about the book itself on wiki or in an encyclopaedia at the library, just so you have some idea of why it is considered important. I would write half a page (a list) of what was going on in the world at the book was written (not took place), using a timeline from the library. Then I would read the book. Then I would do a paper or a project about the book. Do you know how to write a literary paper? If not, I can give you some simple directions that might help. Then pick a new book and read it. If it is something that you are having trouble making yourself read because it seems rather dry, try getting the tapes or cd's from the library and listening to the first few, until you are "into" the book. Or listen all the way through. Knit or something while you listen.

 

I would be careful to tell your student that lectures come in two flavours: some cover the aspects of the textbook that the prof wants you to learn and some assume that one has read the textbook and just cover the other aspects of the subject that the prof wants you to learn. If your prof is the second type, you have to find some way to absorb the material in the textbook, preferably before the lecture.

 

I seem to have wound up in the odd (for me) position of defending textbooks lol. I agree that there are lots of non-textbook ways to learn something, just as there are many non-academic ways of learning things. It is, however, a handicap not to learn to deal with textbooks quickly and easily if one is going to go to a fairly traditional college. (My older two are at a college where it is assumed that most of the students would rather not learn from a textbook, and we also ran into other colleges that did not rely on textbooks, so it isn't absolutely essential. It will certainly cut down on one's choices, though, if one is not able to do this.) One of the first things I tell mine is to go look at Khan Academy. I found that mine needed me to read the math textbook aloud writing out the examples, talking while I did it. Not sure why, but this worked better than leaving them to read the textbook themselves. In the end, they were able to read it for themselves, but not until they were about 16.

 

Nan

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Awesome post, Nan! Gives me much to think about...

 

High Tech High is probably something my family should have investigated, especially for the oldest.

 

I think it is important to remember that there are different ways of using a textbook, also. Using it as a spine, as sort of a syllabus and an introduction/jumping-off point without trying to memorize the whole chapter and answer all of the textbook questions is another option.

 

There are also different ways of reading a textbook. Some people do better reading them backwards (I am one). That way, you get the wrap-up summary at the end first and have some idea where each chapter is going. One of mine does well "reading" a textbook by going through and reading all the bold bits, picture captions, and headings, then reading all the questions, going back and glancing through the text rapidly, and then settling down to answer the questions, going back to read at need. This way, he has a purpose first.

 

Here is something I wrote awhile back about one way of dealing with a textbook (or regular book): Use it as a spine. Think of it as a plan. Look at each chapter (look at - don't read straight through). Read all the section headings and picture captions. Look at every paragraph and read any bits that sound interesting. Try to figure out, without straight reading it, what it covers and what it expects you to learn from it. Say it turns out to be about the depression. If your book has questions at the end of the chapter, look at them. Can you answer any of them from your quick look? Would it be too hard to go back and try to find the answers? If not, go back and find the answers and write them down. Voila - you are done with the chapter. Just answer one set of questions per chapter. Don't try to do all the sets. If your book doesn't have questions, then it is even easier. Now that you have figured out what the chapter is about (roughly), go to the library and get out some books about it. Don't plan this ahead of time. Do it on the spot. Even better would be to take your textbook with you, figure out what the next three chapters cover, and then look for books. Look for books that have lots of pictures, like the Time Life series books. Don't try to get books on every aspect of every item in every chapter. The idea is to find one or two books about some aspect of the chapter that you found interesting. This being US history, your library is bound to have something for almost everything. Then pick a few aspects that you don't find as interesting but that your textbook seems to emphasize and look them up in the encyclopaedia. Pick something and write a short paper (one page or so - think 5 para paper), so you will have some written work to show. Do that for every chapter. It wouldn't cost anything and it requires NO planning. Meanwhile, do the literature that appeals to you most with Ambleside. Forget about matching them up. If I were you, I would finish the history first, as fast as I could, and then I would relax and concentrate on the literature the rest of the year. Again, I wouldn't pre-plan it. I would pick a book, look up the author in an encyclopaedia (or wiki) and read about him or her, then read about the book itself on wiki or in an encyclopaedia at the library, just so you have some idea of why it is considered important. I would write half a page (a list) of what was going on in the world at the book was written (not took place), using a timeline from the library. Then I would read the book. Then I would do a paper or a project about the book. Do you know how to write a literary paper? If not, I can give you some simple directions that might help. Then pick a new book and read it. If it is something that you are having trouble making yourself read because it seems rather dry, try getting the tapes or cd's from the library and listening to the first few, until you are "into" the book. Or listen all the way through. Knit or something while you listen.

 

I would be careful to tell your student that lectures come in two flavours: some cover the aspects of the textbook that the prof wants you to learn and some assume that one has read the textbook and just cover the other aspects of the subject that the prof wants you to learn. If your prof is the second type, you have to find some way to absorb the material in the textbook, preferably before the lecture.

 

I seem to have wound up in the odd (for me) position of defending textbooks lol. I agree that there are lots of non-textbook ways to learn something, just as there are many non-academic ways of learning things. It is, however, a handicap not to learn to deal with textbooks quickly and easily if one is going to go to a fairly traditional college. (My older two are at a college where it is assumed that most of the students would rather not learn from a textbook, and we also ran into other colleges that did not rely on textbooks, so it isn't absolutely essential. It will certainly cut down on one's choices, though, if one is not able to do this.) One of the first things I tell mine is to go look at Khan Academy. I found that mine needed me to read the math textbook aloud writing out the examples, talking while I did it. Not sure why, but this worked better than leaving them to read the textbook themselves. In the end, they were able to read it for themselves, but not until they were about 16.

 

Nan

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There is so much good information on this thread that I will have to reread it several times to let it all sink in. I think for my dd she just prefers to not learn through textbooks or at least only textbooks. For her, that is the least interactive method of learning she could possibly do. The more I think about it I think she is just overwhelmed by the sheer size of the books. I think if she was only presented with a few pages at a time it would be doable. She might do better with an online text that she could view on an IPad or something, maybe just see a few pages at a time and not feel like she has to read it all. I also agree that there are multiple ways to read a text. I tend to read really fast and skim material in textbooks, finding answers as needed, etc and I described this method to her so she would be aware that you don't have to necessarily read the entire book. I have been going back to my local community college in the last few years to take classes and one thing I noticed lately is that the textbooks have not been used as much. I am sure this depends on the college and professor, but I was shocked that I was able to pull strong A's in science classes that I never cracked the book open. It was an entirely new concept than from when I originally went to college years ago. I guess now that there is so much electronic information out there, professors don't feel the need to stick to textbooks anymore.

 

I also was one of those late bloomers. I don't think I really knew how to properly study, ace tests, and do well in school until I was older. I really started to take off in my 30s. My dd may end up the same way because I do notice that she sometimes has to sit on math topics for a while and despite the fact that she is 14 I have decided to hold her back from starting high school for one more year since I don't think she can handle the workload and all the writing required. She is extremely creative and bright, really smart kid, but just struggles with the drudgery of school, probably has dysgraphia because she complains of writing so much, would prefer typing on the computer. She shuts down when she has to listen to excessive amounts of audio for learning and I can relate because I have the same problem, used to fall asleep in lectures.

 

I have to say my dd has no trouble reading about things she is interested in. She will get fully engrossed in a topic sometimes and lose track of time. A good example was yesterday. I had started reading a couple of chapters of White Fang to her a few weeks ago, but then got busy with other parts of school so she asked when are we going to continue reading that book. I had just bought a combined copy from Rainbow Resource that had both Call of the Wild and White Fang so I handed it to her and said go ahead and finish reading it (I often read a chapter of a book to initially get her interested and it works like a charm!). Well, she proceeded to read both books yesterday in one sitting. So sometimes for her it is just a matter of motivating.

 

Thanks again for all the ideas and if anyone else has anything else to add I am sure it will make for an interesting thread!

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I have to say my dd has no trouble reading about things she is interested in. She will get fully engrossed in a topic sometimes and lose track of time.

 

Well, this is pretty much typical for most people. It is easy to read about stuff you are interested in, when you are interested in it.

The difficult thing that is needed for success is to do the work even if you are NOT particularly interested in the topic, or not at that particular instant.

I find this one of the skills many of my students are lacking. Very often, basic introductory courses are not all thrilling and exciting - but in order to get to the cool stuff, you gotta work through the less-than-thrilling concepts to build the foundation. Ultimately, much of college (and general) success hinges on the ability to do the not so interesting things.

It is regrettable is that many college students have not learned this in high school. They expect the instructor to entertain and constantly "motivate" them (for instance by giving points for doing the assigned reading) - whereas I would expect an adult who studies engineering to have enough intrinsic self-motivation to just do the work needed for physics simply because he realizes that it is a foundation for engineering. Much of what happens in school seems to be focused on making it "fun" for the students and offering rewards for any bit of not-fun work. This is doing the students a disservice, because they are not used to doing work that is not fun, and are not used to working without rewards.

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The difficult thing that is needed for success is to do the work even if you are NOT particularly interested in the topic, or not at that particular instant.

 

Another of the benefits of knowing how to learn from the textbook is when one gets a professor who is uninteresting or a poor teacher. My sons have all experienced that and have learned that they must learn from the textbook.

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I found that many students were extremely motivated, but wanted only to be told what they had to know so they could go off and memorize it. They were very very competent at papers and exams when the exact material had been covered in books or lectures, but (of course with some wonderful exceptions) not at all good at exploring beyond those, thinking independently, or asking really thoughtful questions.

 

Yes, this has been my observation as well.

 

For a distressing number of these kids, GPA is the only thing that really matters, or that matters most. They're bright, they're hard workers, they're perfectly willing to tackle foundational or not-so-gripping material as part of their quest for good grades. They don't lack self-discipline.

 

Unfortunately, lack of self discipline is the number one reason I observe why students are failing my class. Students do not do homework, do not attend class, do not read the book. It is not lack of intellect or preparation that lets them fail, but a lack of work ethic.

What they lack, after years of immersion in a system that pressures them to perform all the time on teacher demand, is an intrinsic pleasure in learning,

 

Agreed.

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Doodler - In my particular case, we used technology to get around the lecture notes problems and I knew that my own children (and many others here) grew up being read aloud to and having audiobooks. Mine do much better with this sort of thing. Also, profs at the cc write the notes on the board as they lecture or pass out or put on line their lecture notes, so taking notes in class is much less of an issue. On the other hand, I know from experience that mine do not naturally know how to read a textbook or non-fiction book. If it is a simple non-fiction book, then yes, they have no problem, but I discovered early on that mine focus on what is of interest to them (often some detail) and miss the point the author is trying to make. They also have trouble answering textbook questions because they don't have a good feel for the scope of the expected answer. They have trouble judging which questions are supposed to be spit-back-the-chapter, which require extrapolating or making an educated guess, which require using only the textbook material, and which are supposed to incorporate knowledge from other places. There is a wealth of unspoken assumptions behind the questions with which my children are unfamiliar. Mine hated textbooks because they were an excersize in frustration. I knew from my own experience that without any practice at all, I was able to take reasonable notes suddenly in high school where-as I didn't learn to deal with a textbook without considerable practice. Reading a textbook was/is grueling whereas for mine, at least, listening to a lecture (provided one can take notes or doodle or something) was not a problem. I guess I just assumed that the majority of homeschoolers would have the same problems. I think the study that you found is fascinating. I certainly didn't learn to deal with a textbook until college and I only barely learned to deal with one then. Speed has been an issue with my sons. If it takes one a long time to read and take notes on a chapter, that is a fairly large problem.

 

Nan

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I know many people on the boards have kids with ADHD or working memory/processing lags or deficits, not necessarily enough to merit accommodations but still sufficient to impact how well they're going to be able to hold a long auditory focus and retain information. I'd think that's just as big a hurdle as textbook reading for many kids, and I'm surprised in light of that not to see more worry and trickle down of lecture skills into the junior high years, or more stress on it in high school, along with the textbook stuff.

 

Two things. One, the majority of the classes I took in college had the test material come from the texts and not the lectures. Sometimes a professor would have helpful lectures that explained the book or went over problems, but by and large you HAD to be able to wrangle successfully with the book to succeed. Two, an ADHD dc *can* focus when they're engaged, and, as you've found, many good lecturers are riveting. When a bright adhd dc gets a lecturer that actually speaks at a level they find engaging (much higher than typical age-appropriate fare), the dc can learn from it just fine. Might have some fidgeting or body movement or some issues if the speaker talks unusually fast, but in general they'll be fine. Textbook reading though isn't so fine. It's a multiple hit problem with the getting bored and skipping or flying through the reading, not turning on their brains to comprehend (which requires slowing down) and needing strategies to help them engage with and synthesize the text. Even when they want to it's challenging. But a college level lecture that is spoken at a reasonable pace and engagingly delivered on a topic that interests them, no big deal.

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I'm sure your observations are absolutely correct, but I can't help wondering if at least some of these kids don't do what they're supposed to because they're in an inappropriate major for their talents and strengths but somebody pushed them in that direction, perhaps because of job prospects or something? I'm not in the sciences, but the failure rate in physics and advanced math classes, to some degree biochem as well, is high at the state universities here too, despite the kids' stellar backgrounds and discipline.

 

I wonder whether for any of them, failing physics is a secret relief, because then they can do something different? I guess I'm thinking what you see could be the symptom rather than the cause, if that makes sense.

 

Have you had the chance to ask kids who failed your class, two or more years on? Just curious.

 

Interesting thought, thanks. No, I have not asked them this specifically, maybe I should. I occasionally have students who decide to switch majors, but not very often. But I have been wondering about some students' aptitude for STEM...

Thanks for raising this interesting point. Just not sure how I, as an instructor who is not their advisor and does not teach in the field of their major, am supposed to bring it up without them getting defensive (because failing students typically see themselves as victims and are very defensive - after all, nothing is ever their own fault)

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Why is there not the same worry about kids listening to lectures that can be as long as 90 minutes in college courses, taking notes, and learning how to study for tests from these notes? Why not make kids listen to lectures for most subjects in high school, or even junior high? I know some posters do use things like Teaching Company courses or online lectures, but there doesn't seem to be the pervasive fear that kids need to work on these skills as early as junior high, or do so in multiple subject areas just as they need to do with textbooks. Why not? Do people just assume our kids will be able to handle this? Do they think it's an easier skill than reading from a textbook?

 

 

First of all, I consider reading skills more important, because they enable a student to self-study. You won't have lectures for everything you need or want to learn - but you will find a textbook for everything. A good textbook can compensate for a bad professor.

 

Maybe I am biased because I find listening to lectures and taking notes an easy thing to do: professors write important stuff on the board, or have power points, and sometimes students even can download lecture notes and print at home. I never had trouble with lectures and I still have all my notes from college - the stuff from the board in the middle, remarks and clarifications by the prof in the margin - I could take them and lecture from them myself. It would be harder to take notes on purely audio lectures without any visuals, but at least in the STEM disciplines those do not exist.

 

We do use TC lectures, but we listen to them in the car which precludes note taking. My DD learned to deal with lectures and notes when she took her first college class at age 13. I find taking actual courses the best way to learn all the skills students need to have for college: attending lecures and taking notes, reading the assigned chapters and taking notes from the book, doing homework and meeting deadlines, taking exams under time pressure. Basically, my take is: why reinvent the wheel for my homeschool when I can just have them attend a real college course :)

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Sorry, OP, I've kind of taken your thread on a detour! To me it's relevant, as my experiences as a teacher, student, and homeschooling parent all have led me not to dismiss or reject textbooks entirely, but to use them only when dd has chosen to do so. I've also had plenty of chance to see how very many well-written books and other media out there cover much of the same material as a textbook pretty well across the board (excluding, in our own limited experience, math and beginning Latin -- but even there we don't use textbooks exclusively). In some cases, other books and materials do so more engagingly, more memorably, and certainly better stylistically (important to my dd).

 

What I'm seeing is that people's own experiences and modes of learning really shape what they emphasize for their kids -- no surprise there, and that includes me too. But I think it's good for an OP to see this too, and realize that the reasons other people may put such enormous emphasis for so many years on textbook skills (personal experience, the learning issues or strengths of themselves and their individual kids) may or may not apply in her case.

 

A comment on the statement in bold: What your doing clearly works for you and your daughter but presupposes that one 1) has motivated children, 2) has sufficient hours in the day to pursue interesting resources, 3) has financial resources to pay for those interesting items, and 4) has the confidence to veer off the standard path despite one's lack of knowledge in a particular field.

 

It goes without saying that you trust your child but I think that is true of most homeschoolers.

 

Frankly I could not have tackled Latin and French in my homeschool without textbooks. While I did study Latin in high school, I did not have the memory to rewrite the script and create my own educational materials. Nor do we reside near a French speaking community in which we could have immersed ourselves. Now I did add a number of outside resources to the textbooks we adopted. But by the time my son was in Latin III, I was having a hard time keeping my head above water in the class while learning French with him and doing other course related work. And I just have one child!

 

But back to my greater point: Despite the trust that I have in my child, I am not sure that his lack of knowledge in a subject placed him in a position for evaluating course materials. He had a great deal of say in which TC courses we purchased. He followed the WEM advice of comparing translations to determine which one appealed to him.

 

Perhaps I am returning to something that we have discussed previously on the boards: Is there a body of knowledge that we feel our children should master?

 

Textbooks tend to gather a subset of the body. Someone--an author, an editor--has determined what to include or exclude. I believe in allowing kids to develop passions and follow their bliss. But I also believe that there is a certain knowledge base to which I wanted my son to be exposed.

 

We are part of a summer science community that allows us to attend lectures by Nobel prize winners, National Academy members, etc. The lectures are great--but they are geared to the educated general public, people with a certain amount of science savvy, if you will. These lectures and related hands on activities have enhanced my son's scientific knowledge but they are different from lectures in science classes. Like a number of popular science books, they skim through the details to give the broad picture. They are particularly satisfying to those of us who want to learn more about cutting edge science than we can read in the popular press. But I would not have given my son a science credit for them. Science, to me, is experiential which also means that we never just read text books and called it a day.

 

But that was my homeschool. Some skip labs--we did not. I guess what I am trying to say is that we all walk into this educational arena with our own personal passions. I think that the best home education utilizes these parental interests and desires as well the student's. But at the end of the day we realize too often that there are insufficient hours. So if we turn to an expert who has written a textbook--is there really a problem?

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I just see such a weird process of overcompensation -- from my point of view, that is, not necessarily from anyone else's -- where textbook reading of high school texts is pushed down into junior high, college textbooks are pushed into high school.

 

Actually the major reason I use college textbooks for my high schoolers is the abysmal quality of high school textbooks. Distracting graphics, sound bites, colorful boxes, very little consecutive text - these are all the innnovations made my educators which supposedly "enhance" education, but which I consider disastrous for distractible students, and just a trend catering to declining reading abilities. Since those books are adopted by school boards, i.e. people lacking the subject expertise, the market is full of badly written texts, full with errors and horrible design. In contrast, college texts are adopted by professors who are experts in their fields and who will not choose a bad text, thus the truly bad ones die out.

 

I find that older textbooks are of better quality; they have consecutive text that develops arguments which can not be pressed into a two-square -inch box. Sadly, those texts are not available anymore for high school.

 

I also wanted to add: when I think about textbooks, I am thinking about mathematics and science. I do not use textbooks fro the humanities at all other than as a spine to give a broad overview. We have one history textbook which we spread out over the course of four years to give us a skeleton which to fill; it does not constitute our major resource.

 

But reading skills and self-study don't have to involve textbooks. I think that in your STEM profession textbooks must be far more widely used and considered as "the" go-to source for self-study, whereas in other fields this is not the case. I also think that self-study for you, in the context of your academic career, means something different than it does for me, now outside one.

Yes, absolutely.

I was thinking, for example, of situations where a student might have to educate himself about a scientific concept or method that has not been presented in class. I have encountered grad students who excuse their lack of knowledge on xyz subject by not having had it in class... well, duh, you go to the library, get a text and figure it out yourself. In physics, a textbook is the only way to do that (aside from original papers which are much harder to read and not a good way to get an overview over a broad topic)

 

Of course self-education can also involve literature and other resources; I specifically had in mind STEM content.

(As I said in my very first post on the subject: I consider history etc perfectly doable without textbooks, but I do not think a rigorous systematic approach to sciences can be done without.)

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Regentrude and a few others have expressed exactly what I would say as far as why I think it's important to include at least some textbooks in high school even for a visual spatial learner. I'm going to chime in because I have dealt with this type of situation with two of my dc & will share why it has helped us.

 

First of all, my middle dd seemed like she was a strong vs learner as she fit a majority of the criteria. I've even posted about it here. She has had an extremely hard time with visual distractions, and couldn't even use the coloured textbooks for the first levels of Singapore Math. After reading The Dominance Profile by Carla Hannaford very carefully & testing all of my dc, I found that none of them fit neatly into any of those learning packages (I knew that, but this established it) and found a very accurate assessment of how each of them learns new information & info when under stress. It turns out she is a gestalt learner (I won't bore you with all the details.)

 

It has been very hard for both of them to find texts they learn well from, particularly my ds. Ds uses some because he is a reluctant scholar and doesn't want to avail himself of many of the great things we could do. He is a budding musician (his trumpet teacher ranks him in the top 1 percentile for passion, practicing & talent) but has to have an academic education; he still waffles between wanting to be a musician & wanting to be an aeronautical engineer, but as I tell him for one of the reasons why he has to do academics, it's also the law ;). The trumpet teacher isn't lying; I teach him piano & can see he's gifted musically.

 

Of course it's best not to rely solely on texts, but the discipline has helped my middle dd. Not only is it good discipline, even for a dd who may not go to traditional college (you can't predict that for a certainty based on all you know about her now.) You also can't predict her entire high school education with 100 percent certainty unless you have full foreknowledge :). Despite my full intentions of homeschooling all 3 through high school, that hasn't happened with my dds. I expelled my eldest during her sophomore year for the benefit of our entire family, but she isn't one who had trouble reading the dense nature of a good textbook. My middle one is there now as I'm not going to fight my way through her high school career, and I'm now so happy that we used more textbooks in middle school than is ideal. We also have a set of far better texts on our shelves from my eldest, who wanted them, than the offer at the ps so we use them.

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Of course not. The OP's question was, if we turn to other experts who have written books that are NOT textbooks for the basis of high school, is there really a problem?

 

Sort of skips the more interesting thing I've noticed is the difference in reaction when a dc reads a textbook that IS written by an expert vs. a textbook that is NOT. I mean we're making the assumption here that the people writing the high school level textbooks are experts in their fields and bring peace, love, and joy to the subject or a passion. In fact I think some of the textbook writers are NOT and that's why their textbooks are dry as toast and uninspiring. Passion carries through, or at least that's what I notice with my dd. The better written and more popular textbooks are the ones where the author actually WAS an expert in the subject or at least had some passion and love for it to convey, wasn't just filling out some mindless list of chapters s/he had been assigned.

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In my own classes it was also rare indeed to have a class that totally depended on a textbook -- calculus and one science class are all that I recall. Instead, in undergraduate classes we read a range of articles, xeroxed bits of regular books or entire real books, and, for introductory courses only, bits of a textbook. A lot of times there was no textbook but a course reader, assembled by the professor and xeroxed (and I made such packets for my students some years too); now I think most are online. Perhaps being a humanities major made the difference? But at our local university, many upper division science classes also require students to read journal articles and online research publications. Where is the work to get high schoolers ready to do that?

 

 

I'll have to ask at her prospective college(s). I'm really not a history buff, so I don't have a lot of experience there. What you're saying makes sense, but it probably was major-specific. The grammar, linguistics, science, etc. classes I took all really needed a strong ability to get in cozy with the text. I think I took *1* 200 or 300-level history course my entire time, haha, and that only because it was required for my major. Had a super-duper think textbook and the entire classtime was watching slideshows along with narration by the professor. That was fine, but you really had to read and master the text.

 

WTM prescribes reading original sources and in fact some curricula (for instance the upper level BJU history) even integrate them. Research methods are changing so quickly. I think some of the methods still being taught in textbooks are probably outdated.

 

A good friend (with a PhD in curriculum development, a thinker type) pointed out to me that a textbook is, at best, a synthesis, a compromise on using the multiple sources of real books that would be required. It's a practicality compromise for a school situation. So the question with each text is whether that compromise suits my situation as a homeschooler or not. Sometimes it does, sometimes it doesn't. But that's a compromise I can chose to make when it fits my situation. I don't think textbooks are inherently better except when the AUTHOR of the text is inherently stronger in knowledge, passion, understanding of the material conveyed, or writing style, than what you would get using disparate sources. I don't think separate sources are better than a single source if you can have an author who really loves the material and brings synthesis to the table that a mom would have problems pulling off on her own.

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It never fails to amaze me how people read my responses as either/or, black or white, when I have gone out of my way to repeatedly state that they are not.

 

My goodness. I had hoped to add to the discussion but apparently my musings are not welcome.

 

We have been here before, haven't we?

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Part of the beauty of homeschool is that we can cater to our student's individual needs in regards to their learning style. Another wonderful part is that we can spend the time needed to help them to learn in ways which are less intuitive for them. IMO a mix is ideal.

 

In homeschooling, we choose the learning materials for our student. In college, they have little to no control other than looking at each professor's required and recommended texts, materials, etc.. If you have a student who plans to attend college, or just about any student who hasn't even yet begun high school, it's important to introduce them to textbooks in high school at least. As has already been mentioned, some teachers lecture directly from the text, but others just assign the reading and will create tests based on that material as well as what was covered in class. Textbooks are also used in some art classes and students are graded on knowing this information. I don't know any other way to get the information other than to read the text. I suppose someone else could read it to her, but it really doesn't sound necessary for a student who can read Call of the Wild and White Fang in a day. Not all of school is fun. Accomplishment is a wonderful thing and feels great, but often the work needed to get to that point isn't always a joy - not just in school. It's a good lesson in and of itself.

 

Maybe your daughter could start with a textbook in a subject in which she's interested. If looking at the whole thing is overwhelming, ask her to put a paper or folder at the beginning of the 2nd chapter and to just work on the first chapter. Taking small steps might help her to overcome her dislike of texts - especially if the content is interesting.

Then from there you can use text for courses which typically use them in college. Go onto a local cc site and check out what they're using for the different courses. I'd also suggest looking at students' ratings of professors. It's very interesting when you come across professors with mixed reviews. It's not uncommon. As you read through them, you'll often find students commenting on other students' posts suggesting that if they would have just read the text, that they wouldn't have found the tests hard. It's a very common comment.

 

Just my thoughts.

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Sort of skips the more interesting thing I've noticed is the difference in reaction when a dc reads a textbook that IS written by an expert vs. a textbook that is NOT. I mean we're making the assumption here that the people writing the high school level textbooks are experts in their fields and bring peace, love, and joy to the subject or a passion. In fact I think some of the textbook writers are NOT and that's why their textbooks are dry as toast and uninspiring. Passion carries through, or at least that's what I notice with my dd. The better written and more popular textbooks are the ones where the author actually WAS an expert in the subject or at least had some passion and love for it to convey, wasn't just filling out some mindless list of chapters s/he had been assigned.

 

My preference has always been for math books written by mathematicians as opposed to math educators. Your point resonates well with me.

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I kind of feel the same way too, prep for what is to come later in college; however, she will probably pursue a career or college (whatever it may be) in the arts. I can see her doing web design, graphic design, she has even thought of doing jewelry design. I can also see her being more of an entrepreneur. So, she may need to take a few basic college classes that require a textbook, but it is entirely possible that she might go a route so different that she never takes those kinds of classes. She is just not academic in nature.

Realize that things can change, sometimes drastically, over the course of the 4 years of high school. My now 20 year old has changed his goals radically at least 4 times since 9th grade. He was going to be a an Air Force officer, then he was going to be a musician (he does have the ability if he wanted to do that), then he was going to be an engineer, then he just wanted to get college over quickly so he could join the Peace Corps, then he was going to teach linguistics at the college level, now he's majoring in computer science. I think he'll stick with that one because he's now a junior and paying for his own college, so he won't want to take the additional year that changing majors now would require.

 

My point is that you might want to think about preparing her for something unexpected because you just never know.

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My preference has always been for math books written by mathematicians as opposed to math educators. Your point resonates well with me.

:iagree:

I avoid textbooks written by groups of educators like the plague.

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I'd also suggest looking at students' ratings of professors. It's very interesting when you come across professors with mixed reviews. It's not uncommon. As you read through them' date=' you'll often find students commenting on other students' posts suggesting that if they would have just read the text, that they wouldn't have found the tests hard. It's a very common comment..[/quote']

 

Had to chuckle, because one of the negative comments I received one semester was: "She expects us to read the textbook!" (in the context of the whole comment this was written with an expression of horror and disbelief.)

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Had to chuckle, because one of the negative comments I received one semester was: "She expects us to read the textbook!" (in the context of the whole comment this was written with an expression of horror and disbelief.)

 

We have read several of those comments too! :lol:

 

Sad, but definitely humorous!

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