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Miss Marple

Why are textbooks considered bad?

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Based on a current thread and on many past threads there appear to be folks out there who consider textbooks (particularly science textbooks) to be responsible for killing a love of science.

 

Can anyone explain this? I find, too, that those who feel this way are usually not science majors. There appears to be a contrast between what a science major and a liberal arts major find to be a reasonable/rigorous science education.

 

The idea that textbooks are evil and stifling is just so foreign to me. But I will admit that I spent many hours curled up on the sofa with my mother's nursing education textbooks when I was in 6th grade. From there, I learned to appreciate a well crafted science text. I still get a little giddy when I open one of my sons' science texts - there's just something about knowing that I'm going to learn something interesting...

 

Is the problem, perhaps, that the current resources available to homeschoolers, that would allow a non science mom to teach the subject, are incredibly dry and boring?

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I have limited experience, but I think the key is "well-crafted science text". Below the high school level, we rarely used a text. The few times I tried they failed. One popular public school series made it through one day in our house. The five pages I read made my eyes glaze. Ds read it and had a visceral reaction. Those pages said almost nothing, they circled back around vocabulary and by the end of that day, I knew we'd be better off just reading the captions to the pictures.

 

The high school texts I've seen, seem to fall in the same category. I was the kid who sat and read the encyclopedia as a kid. I would grab the antique textbooks my dad bought at sales and read them too. The few texts I own for high school, not limited to science, seem to provide little real information. As someone without a science background, if the text generates questions for ds and the text doesn't address that, I have to find the answer elsewhere.

 

For instance, I own Spielvogel's Human Odyssey (high school) and Western Civ (college) (brief edition). The Human Odyssey goes through history at lightning speed, so Ancient Rome gets one chapter, the Middle Ages just over two. It reads like an outline. The teacher's text ask kids to make conclusions that many would never get from reading of the text. The Western Civ expands the same narrative and fills in some of the details, Ancient Rome gets two chapters. It, however, does not have the fancy end of chapter tests or further work. The helps in the high school text make teaching easier, but the text in the college text makes it much more interesting.

 

As many have recommended here, we've made the jump to college level texts for science and history. I find the detail to be more in line with what ds wants to know, but again, many of those don't have the fancy teacher tools that some of us need. We don't use any text specifically designed for homeschoolers.

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I think part of it has to do with learning styles and part of it has to do with the subject matter. For learning styles, some people like things laid out in a linear, straightforward manner. Others find that dry and need something more creative and engaging. And I think that certain subjects like math and science lend themselves better to learning via a well written textbook. Whereas I don't think other subjects do, such as history. Also, I think there are so many poorly 'written by committee' textbooks out there that many people just associate them with superficial and mind-numbing boredom. Textbooks are pre-digested and often biased too, so one has to be wary of that. But usually, if the student is reading from original sources and various different authors on a subject they can get a deeper and more well-rounded understanding of the subject.

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I believe I have read several threads here, by people who would love to use Textbooks, but they don't, because: (a) they are expensive and If they buy the teachers manual and other teaching aids, for that textbook, that is an additional expense.

 

And, some Home Schoolers here I believe do use regular textbooks, especially for High School.

 

DD is a Distance Learning student and uses regular textbooks and she likes them. That includes her Science textbook. :-)

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I think it really depends on the student's learning style and how well the textbook is written. I personally love textbooks (for myself). I get a thrill from reading this books. However, I have to really research to find a high quality textbook. I have only found a few that I felt are really high quality - and they all tended to be older, college-level texts.

 

Part of the reason textbooks are probably considered bad is because it simply is really that difficult to find high quality textbooks at the level that you need them to be at... but that may just be my opinion.

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One reason is that there are so many bad textbooks! Most designated school textbooks are of abysmal quality, full of factual errors, with a cluttered layout and information in sound bites instead of actual text. The main reason for this is, IMO, that school textbooks are adopted by school boards that consist of people without subject expertise.

College textbooks are typically of a much better quality because the person who adopts the text is a professor who is an expert in the field and who is able to discern a bad from a good textbook; bad books simply don't get adopted and "die out".

I have been using only college texts for my kids since 7th grade. Even if the student would not be mature enough to work through an entire college level text at this age, one can select sections of the text, use those as a spine, take the text as a resource for problems. There are so many different levels - even conceptual physics is a college text, but can be used for middle school science - that it should be no problem using college texts for the entire high school time.

 

This said: I can see avoiding textbooks entirely working in literature and history. In sciences and math, at last at high school level, a systematic approach is necessary which can not be replicated without a text, except by highly trained experts who then would have to spend extraordinary amounts of time working around the textbook.

 

I have never used any materials specifically designed for homeschoolers.

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I think the perception that textbooks are "bad" stems from the predominance of bad textbooks out there. Frankly, not all textbooks are created equal, and a good one is worth its weight in gold.

 

Homeschoolers have somewhat different needs from classroom teachers when it comes to picking a text. A classroom teacher has the luxury of being able to knit concepts together with lectures and demonstrations and activities and discussions. The text does not need to shoulder as much of the actual teaching when used as part of a classroom based course. Also, I get the feeling that the majority of textbook authors do not believe that people actually read their books. They view the contents of a textbooks as simply material to be covered rather than a story to be told. This problem is not confined to science texts.

 

Homeschoolers need to look far and wide for textbooks that tell a story. Textbooks like this are well written, coherent, and (reasonably) interesting. You get the sense that the author is actually trying to communicate. Texts that are written especially for the homeschooling market are more likely to be this way, though they usually lack in other areas.

 

In my opinion, textbooks are an indispensable part of homeschooling high school. There is a lot of information to be learned in high school, and a good textbook will present it in a logical manner. Living books simply cannot do this. But the textbooks used by homeschoolers need to, as much as possible, be of the variety that tell a story. (Actually, I think *all* students would benefit from this type of text, but this is a homeschooling board!)

 

Please note: When I say "tell a story" I don't mean of the Life of Fred variety. I simply mean that the narrative presented is logical, coherent, and interesting.

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I agree with most of your points, but this one has me puzzled:

 

Homeschoolers have somewhat different needs from classroom teachers when it comes to picking a text. A classroom teacher has the luxury of being able to knit concepts together with lectures and demonstrations and activities and discussions. The text does not need to shoulder as much of the actual teaching when used as part of a classroom based course.

 

Why should a homeschooler be entirely at the mercy of a textbook?

We have the luxury of having few students - so lecturing, activities and discussions can be done much more effectively to suit the needs of our students. We can even use one-on-one teaching to supplement a text.

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I agree with most of your points, but this one has me puzzled:

 

 

 

Why should a homeschooler be entirely at the mercy of a textbook?

We have the luxury of having few students - so lecturing, activities and discussions can be done much more effectively to suit the needs of our students. We can even use one-on-one teaching to supplement a text.

 

I certainly did all of the things that you mention. But a homeschooler who knows nothing about the subject has very different needs from a classroom teacher who is supposedly an expert. The classroom teacher can add information that the homeschooling parent needs to get from the text. Obviously, the homeschooler could undertake a serious study of whatever topic it is--and I did this for math--and then add the information herself. But realistically, this won't happen most of the time and it is very helpful to have the text be as complete and coherent as possible.

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But a homeschooler who knows nothing about the subject has very different needs from a classroom teacher who is supposedly an expert.

 

Agree! I think there is a huge gap in the homeschooler high school curriculum market for materials that are sufficiently rigorous and engaging AND provide the inexperienced teacher with the appropriate helps.

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Agree! I think there is a huge gap in the homeschooler high school curriculum market for materials that are sufficiently rigorous and engaging AND provide the inexperienced teacher with the appropriate helps.

 

The problem I have with some of the homeschool specific materials I've seen is that in the process of providing context and other information, the books tend to also do the thinking for the parent/teacher. Just as an example, I picked up a couple of the Stobough lit books. I did approve of the literature selections, but the commentary just left me cold. If I'm arguing with the points made in the text, then it isn't going to be a good choice for us.

 

I love an annotated edition that explains the bckground behind various situations and statements (ex. knowing what entailment was is essential to reading many Austen novels). I don't need a book that tells me how I should be responding to the story at hand.

 

We tend to use both college level intro texts (many can be picked up at used bookstores or online for less than $20 each - far less than many homeschool specific texts) or older books that were originally written for upper elementary/middle school (American Heritage Illustrated History of teh United States and American Heritage Junior Library books for example. Middle school texts when written but complex with lots of primary documents used for illustraion.)

 

We love books about science. Physics of the Impossible, for example. But I don't expect that my kids will learn physics from them. Rather I hope they will inspire a love for the topic and a desire to stick to the physics lessons themselves.

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The problem I have with some of the homeschool specific materials I've seen is that in the process of providing context and other information, the books tend to also do the thinking for the parent/teacher. Just as an example, I picked up a couple of the Stobough lit books. I did approve of the literature selections, but the commentary just left me cold.

 

You've hit a point that I have experienced as well with homeschool and secular materials. There is an "attitude" represented in some of the materials that the parent picked said curriculum because of a certain bent in theological thinking. And the author(s) just assume that we must believe the same or we wouldn't have picked that particular curriculum. Or that we aren't able to synthesize an opinion of the material so the author saves us the trouble :glare:

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Well, as I probably contributed to this...I loved textbooks as a kid. I didn't use them as much in my College/Uni career because of the path I was on. In my earlier education, I was the smartass who read their textbooks already and knew all the answers well enough to argue about the answers the teacher gave us :p.

 

But, yes I did feel like the textbook we have was stifling. But, it might be the edition or a poor fit with my child. I do see a textbook as bad. But, if I can accomplish that work with a hands on experiment kit, documentaries and a compilation of smaller reading materials I will do it. And, honestly I have known quite a few teachers to do that as well. IMNSHO, Being a homeschool teacher is not about being an expert who knows how to dole out the proper book. You have something that most teachers do not have. You know your child better than anyone and you can accommodate their learning styles and preferences.

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Maybe we just lean more toward a Charlotte Mason education? Living books are always preferred here to text books. We use text books, but (not all) many are dry and boring to us.

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I don't view textbks as "bad", but in many cases I do consider them inferior. For my non-high school kids, we rarely use textbooks. I would rather them spend time reading in-depth whole bks on topics that makes them learn to sift through information and process the whole vs pre-digested snippets that just give barebone explanations. I don't worry about "gaps" or memorized vocabulary for science terms, etc, bc they have read multiple bks on the subjects over the yrs that provide them a very strong base ( true for science and history)

 

When we hit high school, I do switch to textbooks for science bc broad coverage and terminology becomes important at this pt as well as incorporating problem-solving. However searc.hing for textbooks that cover the info informatively while maintaining accessibility (well-written) is a requirement. For some history topics, we use textbooks while for others we don't. Depends on how important I view the topic.....the more important the topic the less likely I am to use a textbook since history textbooks summarize severely by the very nature of being a textbk.

 

Adding in lectures during high school also helps flesh out textbk materials.

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For some history topics, we use textbooks while for others we don't. Depends on how important I view the topic.....the more important the topic the less likely I am to use a textbook since history textbooks summarize severely by the very nature of being a textbk.

 

The way we use the textbook for history is as a spine that ties the different eras and events together. We are using the summarizing and concise nature of a text as a strength.

We use the Short History of Western Civ TWTM recommends in its 1st edition, but spread it out over all four years of our history study. In every year, we are going only through a quarter of the text to establish the timeline and set up a skeleton of basic events - so obviously a fourth of a textbook is not going to be the major material of our history studies. Most of the time we spend with original literature and huge amounts of TC lectures - but the text serves as orientation and guiding red thread.

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My kids loved textbooks (still do) and used them as a starting point for questions and more research on topics that interested them. This goes for all subjects (sometimes even math). My youngest would rather read a textbook than fiction...

 

BUT, mine don't "end" with the textbook. It just provides the basics of whatever subject it is about, then inspires them to want to know more, so they look it up or we have discussions, watch videos, get other books, etc.

 

They really didn't care what "type" of textbook it was, but they would rank some based upon how much they liked it.

 

Maybe my kids are weird... but if so, it's genetic. I remember liking to read textbooks when I was young too. I still flip through new ones occasionally.

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I don't like textbooks for science because of the jumping around that seems to be essential to the goal of surveying the entirety of science subjects every year rather than either a) focusing on one subject at a time or B) linking units that are actually related thematically, like classification>energy metabolism>nutrition/biospheres for example. I feel like the broad survey is supposed to provide everyone with exposure so that students can find what they like to study more, perhaps for a career, however if he encounters one chapter on oceanography in 7th grade and then has to wait until college to take that particular class, chances are the passion may have died by the time he can pursue it.

 

But a homeschooler who knows nothing about the subject has very different needs from a classroom teacher who is supposedly an expert.

 

Ha hahaha ahahahahahaahahahahah

 

This is my incredibly biased self being amused because I have maybe twice in 20 years of schooling had a teacher who was an expert in the field he was teaching. I once had an English teacher in high school who had a BS in math and no qualifications in English whatsoever.

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I don't like textbooks for science because of the jumping around that seems to be essential to the goal of surveying the entirety of science subjects every year rather than either a) focusing on one subject at a time or B) linking units that are actually related thematically, like classification>energy metabolism>nutrition/biospheres for example.

 

What kind of textbooks are you referring to? Even the - granted, not particularly great- designated high school science texts focus on ONE area of science for a whole year: either physics, or chemistry, or biology. Where, in a high school level text, do you encounter such a survey of all science subjects? (That would drive me crazy, too, but I though those are over after middle school?)

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This is my incredibly biased self being amused because I have maybe twice in 20 years of schooling had a teacher who was an expert in the field he was teaching. I once had an English teacher in high school who had a BS in math and no qualifications in English whatsoever.

 

I hear these comments frequently from people who went to school in the US. My own experience was fundamentally different, because in Germany, a teacher must be educated in his subject in order to teach. We never had teachers who were not qualified to teach their subjects, any foreign language teacher was fluent in the language (in communist East Germany, not a small feat for English teachers who were never allowed to spend time in an English speaking country, see English films or listen to the radio).

Btw, our math teachers used the textbook as a resource for problems only. They taught everything lecture style on the blackboard, without notes. So, they really knew what they were doing.

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What kind of textbooks are you referring to? Even the - granted, not particularly great- designated high school science texts focus on ONE area of science for a whole year: either physics, or chemistry, or biology. Where, in a high school level text, do you encounter such a survey of all science subjects? (That would drive me crazy, too, but I though those are over after middle school?)

 

None of OP's post referred to high school level texts specifically.

 

Based on a current thread and on many past threads there appear to be folks out there who consider textbooks (particularly science textbooks) to be responsible for killing a love of science. Can anyone explain this? I find, too, that those who feel this way are usually not science majors. There appears to be a contrast between what a science major and a liberal arts major find to be a reasonable/rigorous science education. The idea that textbooks are evil and stifling is just so foreign to me. [snip]

 

This part could be seen to imply that she's talking about high school level study, but that's not how I read it.

 

The thing that bothers me personally about science textbooks (in general) is that they are not set up in what I believe is an order that fosters interconnectedness of science subjects. In grammar/jr high this is because it's a broad survey that never focuses or relates each unit to another, in high school it's because only one subject is studied and in isolation of how it relates to another subject, as in the example I showed where biological classification is inherently related to energy metabolism (a connection I didn't make until college), which is chemistry (which some students are never required to study at all to graduate).

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How so you think you can foster those connections? (And, I wonder if this is indeed the thing that is bothering me about our present textbook quandary? Because I feel like things are disjointed. And, my boys are only doing the work because they have to.).

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For me it is summed up in what I learned reading "Lies my teacher taught me". After figuring the lies that are in your standard American History textbook. The author wrote a textbook. It was rejected for the silliest reasons by committees that granted that it was a more accurate and better book.

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The connections, for me, have to follow the questions. It can take a lot of researching if you don't already know the answer (which can happen to college professors who are "experts" as well) but having dc help is also a teachable moment. Finding balance with your teaching style, whether you're comfortable with putting that much work into finding connections you think are important and using multiple texts/resources is a very personal choice.

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It seems to me that a better way to study science is through an experiential model. In an ideal world, we could lead our teens through a discovery process in science. Note: ideal. Frankly I lacked the knowledge in a subject like chemistry to attempt an experiential model in high school. (My son took two semesters of chemistry at the CC.) I do think though that many parents could use a text book like Conceptual Physics in 8th or 9th, adapting labs with objects found around the house (Slinky, old Hot Wheels race track, etc.) to create an experiential class that is backed up with some terminology and concept clarification from the text.

 

Now obviously this will not work for all kids. Some kids will prefer to read cosmology text books--my son loved reading a genetics text around age 15. There are kids who are just so darn curious about science that a descriptive book about a subject is not as satisfying as the more fact driven text. Others cannot connect with the fact driven book.

 

I don't know how a virtual online science experiment can ever be as satisfying as a get your hands dirty one. Shrug.

 

We used texts in science, math and foreign language. I thought Spielvogel gave context but we relied on the Teaching Company and other books for additional content..

 

Jane (who cannot stand literature texts!)

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None of OP's post referred to high school level texts specifically.

Sorry, but I assumed that we would be talking about high school texts since we are here at the High School Board.

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I think that a lot of students lack the reading skills to be able to read textbooks. When I was training to be a high school science teacher in North Carolina, I was required to take a class on how to identify students with reading difficulties and how to help them with remedial reading work. I think that the problem is much more common than most people think.

 

Ruth in NZ

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Sorry, but I assumed that we would be talking about high school texts since we are here at the High School Board.

 

Oh my, please excuse me for using the View New Content tab and not paying enough attention to which forum the post was in before replying to what I read as a general question about textbooks. I didn't realize the A portion of the two issues I disliked about textbooks would overwhelm anyone by referencing a theme (General Science) that doesn't happen in every High School.

 

/threadjack

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I think that a lot of students lack the reading skills to be able to read textbooks. When I was training to be a high school science teacher in North Carolina, I was required to take a class on how to identify students with reading difficulties and how to help them with remedial reading work. I think that the problem is much more common than most people think.

 

Ruth in NZ

 

:iagree: I've seen this way too much at our school, and it's not really limited to textbooks, but any book with more challenging language. Many students have learned to read the words (technically read the words), but have no clue what was really meant. They are reading like robots. If you ask them to then sum up what they've read in different words they look at you like you're crazy. A large part is they don't have the vocabulary down and aren't willing to look up (or ask about) anything they don't know. When vocab is done in school most kids learn for the test, then promptly forget. They don't really internalize the new words. This is for any subject from English to Bio to Math.

 

The problem is more that kids aren't learning to learn...

 

It may be WHY mine like textbooks. They understand them and understand that any textbook just scratches the surface of a subject - just the basics. Then they can delve into what they want to learn more about in their free time (mine do anyway). They have from a VERY young age and are still doing it - even my college two.

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On thinking about this, I'm realizing that we used very few textbooks when I was in high school. We may have had them checked out to us, but we weren't assigned much reading -- the teachers did a lot of talking and we read a lot of outside stuff, but not so much in the textbooks. The only exceptions were math (just for the problem sets), French, and US History -- and the US History class I was in turned out to be for, um, students of lower abilities (it was the only thing that fit in my schedule). So I'm now wondering if most of the honors classes I was in didn't bother with high school texts. Because the teachers knew they were worthless.

 

The only science textbooks I remember using were both college texts for AP classes. For my two other science classes, we didn't even have texts. We had lectures and labs and worked problems off problem sheets.

 

Now that I've tried to pick out science texts for my high schoolers I can kind of see why. The high school science texts that I've been able to find are just awful. We've done better with videos, frankly. We've been using college texts when we can, just doing only a few chapters per course. With a good text, there's an awful lot of meat in just a few chapters.

 

You can get college texts dirt cheap if you're willing to take an older edition, and with the pace at which new editions come out these days, you really don't have to go very old. Interestingly, a lot of professors are starting to prefer the older editions. For the basics (as in, just about everything that would be taught to undergrads (and high schoolers)) you don't really need a text that's new. And just because it's got a recent copyright doesn't mean it covers the latest anyway.

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You can get college texts dirt cheap if you're willing to take an older edition, and with the pace at which new editions come out these days, you really don't have to go very old. Interestingly, a lot of professors are starting to prefer the older editions. For the basics (as in, just about everything that would be taught to undergrads (and high schoolers)) you don't really need a text that's new. And just because it's got a recent copyright doesn't mean it covers the latest anyway.

 

This!

On abebooks.com, you can get a standard calculus, physics, chemistry or Western Civ text for as little as $4 (shipping included).

At that price, it is even feasible to examine and try out multiple texts to find the best one, or to combine.

 

Come to think of it, it is actually quite remarkable how much education is available for how little money - you just have to put in the effort to work through the book.

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I know I contributed to the idea of a science textbook killing the love of science for my dc. I am currently in the process of figuring out why that is happening. As mentioned, I am checking out reading ability, just to be sure. Ds has excellent literary analysis skills and can read and discuss difficult literature very well. He could easily handle a college lit course right now. However, that's not the same as digesting the terms and processes in a science text. So, I'm trying to ferret out whether he needs better reading and study skills, or if he needs a better text. I'm not really against texts, just trying to sort out all the possible reasons a text might kill a love of science. However, it is entirely possible that Ds enjoys reading about science in his areas of interest, but is simply not cut out to be a science major type of kid.

 

So Regentrude and other science experts.....here is the million dollar question. Can you suggest a good text for high school Biology (I'm sure others want to know about Chemistry & physics too) keeping in mind that it needs to work for a kid with an interest in science, but who may not be science major material?

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So Regentrude and other science experts.....here is the million dollar question. Can you suggest a good text for high school Biology (I'm sure others want to know about Chemistry & physics too) keeping in mind that it needs to work for a kid with an interest in science, but who may not be science major material?

 

Campbell Exploring Life.

A more rigorous text for a student with a strong interest would be Campbell's Concepts and Connections, but Exploring Life is perfectly fine for a high school text. I like the clear structure and well written explanations.

There are extra online activities available on CD-Rom.

 

Disclaimer: I am not a biology expert, my field is physics.

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I know I contributed to the idea of a science textbook killing the love of science for my dc. I am currently in the process of figuring out why that is happening. As mentioned, I am checking out reading ability, just to be sure. Ds has excellent literary analysis skills and can read and discuss difficult literature very well. He could easily handle a college lit course right now. However, that's not the same as digesting the terms and processes in a science text. So, I'm trying to ferret out whether he needs better reading and study skills, or if he needs a better text. I'm not really against texts, just trying to sort out all the possible reasons a text might kill a love of science. However, it is entirely possible that Ds enjoys reading about science in his areas of interest, but is simply not cut out to be a science major type of kid.

 

So Regentrude and other science experts.....here is the million dollar question. Can you suggest a good text for high school Biology (I'm sure others want to know about Chemistry & physics too) keeping in mind that it needs to work for a kid with an interest in science, but who may not be science major material?

 

If you are looking for something rigorous and written at an AP level that works well in a homeschool, check out BJU Biology or Science Shepherd Biology. However, they are both written from a Christian perspective. We found BJU a little overkill for our purposes and we found Science Shepherd more interesting to read than BJU. We liked Campbell's Biology texts as well for a secular text.

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I know I contributed to the idea of a science textbook killing the love of science for my dc. I am currently in the process of figuring out why that is happening. As mentioned, I am checking out reading ability, just to be sure. Ds has excellent literary analysis skills and can read and discuss difficult literature very well. He could easily handle a college lit course right now. However, that's not the same as digesting the terms and processes in a science text. So, I'm trying to ferret out whether he needs better reading and study skills, or if he needs a better text. I'm not really against texts, just trying to sort out all the possible reasons a text might kill a love of science. However, it is entirely possible that Ds enjoys reading about science in his areas of interest, but is simply not cut out to be a science major type of kid.

Shannon,

 

Are you expecting him to be able to read this science book on his own and make his way through the course? If so, I'm wondering if that might be the issue. Neither of my boys were able to sit down and read a science book and essentially teach themselves during high school. I think it has been partially a maturity issue and partially a learning styles issue. My oldest has gone on to university now and is doing well -- but there, he isn't expected just to read the book and learn. There are demonstrations, lectures, and the profs/tutors are available to discuss the material if it gets tough.

 

To me, literature is different in that it is mostly reading/interpreting in the mind. Certainly, discussing literature in a group setting can add richness to the material, but I think science is different because so much of the interest comes from the real-world applications. Being able to see demonstrations and discuss the material really just seems to make it more applicable/interesting. Certainly, some science texts are more interesting than others, but I still think that no book alone would substitute for a course that involves interaction over the material. I, personally, didn't care for the tone in Apologia's texts. For Bio, I would suggest Miller/Levine as a solid high school book that is interesting and accessible for most high school kids. If you can read through the book with your child and discuss the material, or if he could attend an outside or on-line class, I think that would go a long way towards keeping his interest in science.

 

I've used the college-level books, like Giancoli Physics, and while they're good, I've used them later in high school, and I don't think they would have been a great fit for most 9th graders.

 

JMHO,

Brenda

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I'm going to go out on a limb here and suggest that textbooks in and of themselves won't kill a love of science. My guess is that a true love of science was never there in the first place.

 

A kid who has been taught using an inquiry based method where anything goes and science is all about making random guesses and playing with materials and going outside to observe nature is going to be in for a rude awakening when he gets into a rigorous high school science course were the bulk of the emphasis is on learning what is already known. In fact, realistically, the vast majority of a high school and undergraduate science education is focused on learning what is known and is *not* about making random guesses and playing with materials. If a kid is lucky, he will have an instructor who is able to design labs that elegantly demonstrate whatever phenomenon is being studied while giving practice with various lab techniques, but, frankly, original research that isn't contrived and trivial isn't likely to happen until a person gets to graduate school.

 

Science is *hard*. There is *a lot* to be learned before any sort of creativity can kick in. Conducting original research in science is nothing like coming up with an original perspective and defending it in a literary essay. The latter is very possible to do in high school, and the former, for the most part, is not.

 

Yes, there are ways to keep the spark of enthusiasm alive in kids who are willing to go the distance--an instructor can point out the beauty of science where it comes up, can show the interconnectedness of things, the magic of reality and all of that, and an excellent text will do the same thing. But the serious study of science is a long haul.

 

(By way of explanation, my degree is in biochemistry and I worked as a scientist for 10 years.)

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In fact, realistically, the vast majority of a high school and undergraduate science education is focused on learning what is known and is *not* about making random guesses and playing with materials. If a kid is lucky, he will have an instructor who is able to design labs that elegantly demonstrate whatever phenomenon is being studied while giving practice with various lab techniques, but, frankly, original research that isn't contrived and trivial isn't likely to happen until a person gets to graduate school.

 

Science is *hard*. There is *a lot* to be learned before any sort of creativity can kick in. Conducting original research in science is nothing like coming up with an original perspective and defending it in a literary essay. The latter is very possible to do in high school, and the former, for the most part, is not.

 

Thanks, EKS, for putting this so succinctly into words.

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I'm going to go out on a limb here and suggest that textbooks in and of themselves won't kill a love of science. My guess is that a true love of science was never there in the first place.

 

A kid who has been taught using an inquiry based method where anything goes and science is all about making random guesses and playing with materials and going outside to observe nature is going to be in for a rude awakening when he gets into a rigorous high school science course were the bulk of the emphasis is on learning what is already known. In fact, realistically, the vast majority of a high school and undergraduate science education is focused on learning what is known and is *not* about making random guesses and playing with materials. If a kid is lucky, he will have an instructor who is able to design labs that elegantly demonstrate whatever phenomenon is being studied while giving practice with various lab techniques, but, frankly, original research that isn't contrived and trivial isn't likely to happen until a person gets to graduate school.

 

Science is *hard*. There is *a lot* to be learned before any sort of creativity can kick in. Conducting original research in science is nothing like coming up with an original perspective and defending it in a literary essay. The latter is very possible to do in high school, and the former, for the most part, is not.

 

Yes, there are ways to keep the spark of enthusiasm alive in kids who are willing to go the distance--an instructor can point out the beauty of science where it comes up, can show the interconnectedness of things, the magic of reality and all of that, and an excellent text will do the same thing. But the serious study of science is a long haul.

 

(By way of explanation, my degree is in biochemistry and I worked as a scientist for 10 years.)

 

Very well said.

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I think that a lot of students lack the reading skills to be able to read textbooks. When I was training to be a high school science teacher in North Carolina, I was required to take a class on how to identify students with reading difficulties and how to help them with remedial reading work. I think that the problem is much more common than most people think. Ruth in NZ
:iagree: I've seen this way too much at our school, and it's not really limited to textbooks, but any book with more challenging language. Many students have learned to read the words (technically read the words), but have no clue what was really meant. They are reading like robots. If you ask them to then sum up what they've read in different words they look at you like you're crazy. A large part is they don't have the vocabulary down and aren't willing to look up (or ask about) anything they don't know. When vocab is done in school most kids learn for the test, then promptly forget. They don't really internalize the new words. This is for any subject from English to Bio to Math. The problem is more that kids aren't learning to learn... It may be WHY mine like textbooks. They understand them and understand that any textbook just scratches the surface of a subject - just the basics. Then they can delve into what they want to learn more about in their free time (mine do anyway). They have from a VERY young age and are still doing it - even my college two.

 

Just to expand on this a bit, I think part of the anti-textbook or can't use textbooks thread talk is coming from people who have issues going on that they're not talking about. My dd has a sky high reading level. (We've had her tested multiple times, lots of ways. It's age 30+, off the charts.) But when you put her down in front of a mediocre science text she's not interested in and doesn't actively, mentally engage with, there's NO retention, no synthesis, no nothing. And I guess for someone whose dc doesn't have that it's flabbergasting. When she's engaged, she's charming to work with, a very good student. When she's not engaged, it ain't pretty.

 

So frankly I've given up fighting over things that don't matter. Someone else has to decide what matters for their kids. I looked at people who are *like* my dd but adults, and I looked at how *they* interact with those subjects. What I find is that adults with my dd's profile engage with science, etc. just fine. They just don't happen to interact with those topics via the system and the way the system says everyone has to learn. My stepfather for instance (who curates a museum and lectures on history) has a surprising knowledge of science and current science topics. He goes to the library to get all the new history books, and oh on the way happens to pick up science magazines. LOL He never read ANY of his textbooks in school, because he had thicker, more engaging books hid under his desk.

 

So if the recent "how do I do this without textbooks?!?!" thing has been bugging you, there may be undercurrents and reasons for it. I suppose there are just people who chose it philosophically, and I'm with you that it's more tidy and efficient to use a textbook. Goodness knows I LOVE a textbook and SO wish I could make textbooks work for her. You don't know HOW I wish... But I'm done stewing over it and making my house unpeaceful over it. The amount of work it would take to FIGHT how she is made and try to cram a dictionary of information into her via textbook just is NOT worth it. I'm choosing to do what I know I can connect her with in a meaningful way that will result in some retention. I can put units on the transcript to show time, and I can bring it up to an age and IQ-appropriate level by bringing in the discussion, the controversies, the synthesis, etc. I just can't make her be like someone else. To do that would take too much time, wear her out, and leave her without energy to do all the things she does well. We TRIED and got the professional advice not to.

 

PS. I think there's room on the board for all of us. :)

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I make a point to my kids that science is everywhere. It is how the earth moves, it is about how a bird grow, it is about how your heart beats, it is about how a ball drop. IMO, there is no science book can cover it all, You as a teacher bear a responsibility to make your kids see that. there is no textbook can do that for you. I am not anti- textbook, I combine them. i review some textbooks that I think that is promising, and I extract the part that I think right for my children and then put my own spin in it. I don't think textbook is bad, I think it is how people using it. If you use it as a regular textbook and make your kids to memorize everything in it, sure it kills science. But if you take what you read in the book and elaborate it by applying it i your daily life. .. I think any textbook will work just fine.

 

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I'm curious (and even though I'm pro-textbook, this is true curiousity - no offense intended!)...

 

If folks are planning on doing (or already doing) high school science without textbooks, how do they deal with working problems? I'm coming from a chem background (former high school AP Chem/reg chem teacher) and I'm having a difficult time picturing how higher level high school chem could be mastered without working the math-type problems that it entails. I can easily see how using living books could provide the chem concepts but standard high school level chem involves being able to do a variety of problem types. I do read many of the living book types of science books but I haven't yet come across any that would have the reader work problems. I'm wondering if books like that are out there and I just haven't seen them. Or maybe folks are writing their own problems for the student to do after reading the text. Or maybe they're using the text for problems only and learning the concepts from a different source.

 

Just wondering. :)

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I make a point to my kids that science is everywhere. It is how the earth moves, it is about how a bird grow, it is about how your heart beats, it is about how a ball drop. IMO, there is no science book can cover it all, You as a teacher bear a responsibility to make your kids see that. there is no textbook can do that for you. I am not anti- textbook, I combine them. i review some textbooks that I think that is promising, and I extract the part that I think right for my children and then put my own spin in it. I don't think textbook is bad, I think it is how people using it. If you use it as a regular textbook and make your kids to memorize everything in it, sure it kills science. But if you take what you read in the book and elaborate it by applying it i your daily life. .. I think any textbook will work just fine.

 

The trouble is, if your Dc takes any sort of test, they will be expected to have quite a bit memorized. There's no getting around that.

 

ETA: And there is no way they can speak intelligently about high school and college level science without knowing the proper terms.

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. I don't think textbook is bad, I think it is how people using it. If you use it as a regular textbook and make your kids to memorize everything in it, sure it kills science.

 

It doesn't here. Quite the contrary.

 

ETA: I think we might mean different things.

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If folks are planning on doing (or already doing) high school science without textbooks, how do they deal with working problems? I'm coming from a chem background (former high school AP Chem/reg chem teacher) and I'm having a difficult time picturing how higher level high school chem could be mastered without working the math-type problems that it entails.

 

 

That is precisely the problem I was getting at in my earlier post. People can certainly read large amounts of books and talk about the science topics - like pp mentioned about her relative- but in order to actually do chemistry or physics on a high school level, the student has to learn how to work problems in a systematic manner.

Nobody suggests learning math without actually doing math problems - but I am surprised how often it is recommended to learn physics or chemistry without doing physics or chemistry problems.

It would be like talking about English without ever having to write an essay.

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I'm going to go out on a limb here and suggest that textbooks in and of themselves won't kill a love of science. My guess is that a true love of science was never there in the first place.

 

Well, it really depends on how you define 'love of science'. I've got a kid who loves reading about scientific discoveries and the way things work together, loves all things related to natural science, finds machines fascinating, and I could go on. I've always said he loves science. What he does not love is memorizing all the itty bitty details in his science text. So, that is what I mean about the text killing his love of science. But, as I stated in an earlier post, it may be an issue with maturity and not handling the amount of info well at this point. I'm still determining that.

 

A kid who has been taught using an inquiry based method where anything goes and science is all about making random guesses and playing with materials and going outside to observe nature is going to be in for a rude awakening when he gets into a rigorous high school science course were the bulk of the emphasis is on learning what is already known. In fact, realistically, the vast majority of a high school and undergraduate science education is focused on learning what is known and is *not* about making random guesses and playing with materials. If a kid is lucky, he will have an instructor who is able to design labs that elegantly demonstrate whatever phenomenon is being studied while giving practice with various lab techniques, but, frankly, original research that isn't contrived and trivial isn't likely to happen until a person gets to graduate school.

 

I agree with what you say here, but this has not been the thrust of our approach, so, for my Ds it's not that he wants to play around more with inquiry. It's more like he's struggling with getting all those terms under his belt, even though he still finds what he's reading to be fascinating.

 

Science is *hard*. There is *a lot* to be learned before any sort of creativity can kick in. Conducting original research in science is nothing like coming up with an original perspective and defending it in a literary essay. The latter is very possible to do in high school, and the former, for the most part, is not.

 

Yes, there are ways to keep the spark of enthusiasm alive in kids who are willing to go the distance--an instructor can point out the beauty of science where it comes up, can show the interconnectedness of things, the magic of reality and all of that, and an excellent text will do the same thing. But the serious study of science is a long haul.

 

(By way of explanation, my degree is in biochemistry and I worked as a scientist for 10 years.)

 

Agree, agree, it is hard. Like Elizabeth said though, for some there are other issues they're contending with. I'm still in the process of sorting them out. I may try a different text to see if that will help.

 

I think Brenda brought up a good point. Part of the mistake I made at the beginning of the year was assuming Ds could comprehend a science text the same way he can literature. Now I'm actually reading parts of the text and discussing the science with him to see if that helps. But, there may be other factors at work as Elizabeth mentioned, and we may just have to tone down our focus on science. He can still love it on a hobby level.

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As I'm thinking through the posts in this thread, it seems that the issue of kids who learn differently comes to the forefront. I wonder if there is a place in the science world (can't come up with a better term) for a kid who just can't memorize the terms without lots of practical application. I mean is it possible for a Dc to become a science major who is not a stellar memorizer? Can they acquire the terms more gradually as they work with them? I'm just wondering aloud here. Maybe this is a question for another thread, but the posts here got me thinking.

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Yes, I had the same experience in growing up in Austria as well. The teacher had books but during class rarely used them. It was all lecture and problem-solving on the blackboard. We were expected to take notes throughout. This is how we were thought starting in middle school. All the teacher's were experts in their subject.

 

Susie

 

I hear these comments frequently from people who went to school in the US. My own experience was fundamentally different, because in Germany, a teacher must be educated in his subject in order to teach. We never had teachers who were not qualified to teach their subjects, any foreign language teacher was fluent in the language (in communist East Germany, not a small feat for English teachers who were never allowed to spend time in an English speaking country, see English films or listen to the radio).

Btw, our math teachers used the textbook as a resource for problems only. They taught everything lecture style on the blackboard, without notes. So, they really knew what they were doing.

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The trouble is, if your Dc takes any sort of test, they will be expected to have quite a bit memorized. There's no getting around that.

 

For physics, this is absolutely not true. In fact, there is almost no memorization in physics, because a student who has understood the material will be able to derive everything from scratch. And no amount of memorizing will compensate for a lack of understanding.

 

ETA: And there is no way they can speak intelligently about high school and college level science without knowing the proper terms.

 

Again, speaking for physics: the proper terms become ingrained when the student reads, listens to lectures, practices problem solving and talks about the material. You don't have to memorize that a "chair" is a chair or a "fork" is a fork because the words are used in context; a small child picks that up. Likewise, good science instruction uses the correct terminology to talk about the concepts, and there is no way for a student not to remember what "moment of inertia" or "kinetic energy" is if the student has read, heard, and used the words many times throughout a semester.

 

Science instruction does not mean memorizing vocabulary words, even though a large part of what passes for science instruction in schools seems to be just that.

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I wonder if there is a place in the science world (can't come up with a better term) for a kid who just can't memorize the terms without lots of practical application. I mean is it possible for a Dc to become a science major who is not a stellar memorizer? Can they acquire the terms more gradually as they work with them?

 

Absolutely! As I wrote in my response to your other post: there is almost no memorization in physics! The student who understood the material will be able to derive everything from very basic ideas. This understanding develops through engagement with the material and through problem solving practice.

 

Public schools put way too much emphasis on memorization - probably because this is easier to test than conceptual understanding (which some teachers lack themselves).

I teach physics at the university, for different majors. None of our introductory courses requires students to memorize anything; they get a formula sheet for exams, and values for constants are given - students are required to demonstrate that they can apply the concepts they have studied and understood. In fact, students who lack the understanding and instead approach physics as something where you have to memorize lots of scenarios and equations will most definitely fail.

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For physics, this is absolutely not true. In fact, there is zero memorization in physics, because a student who has understood the material will be able to derive everything from scratch. And no amount of memorizing will compensate for a lack of understanding.

 

 

 

Again, speaking for physics: the proper terms become ingrained when the student reads, listens to lectures, practices problem solving and talks about the material. You don't have to memorize that a "chair" is a chair or a "fork" is a fork because the words are used in context; a small child picks that up. Likewise, good science instruction uses the correct terminology to talk about the concepts, and there is no way for a student not to remember what "moment of inertia" or "kinetic energy" is if the student has read, heard, and used the words many times throughout a semester.

 

Science instruction does not mean memorizing vocabulary words, even though a large part of what passes for science instruction in schools seems to be just that.

 

I see what you are saying, and it shows that my own science instruction/texts just did not do what you describe. After I posted I started to think that if the memorizing is a problem, then one way or another the student is not getting the proper context, or is not fully understanding the processes. I still think memorization comes into play. Even if I understand and use terms in context, that does not mean I will remember and be able to recall everything for a test or even for a particular situation ---unless I happen to be current with that info. And, it's entirely possible to know a process and how it happens and just forget the term for let's say the part of the cell responsible for___. In any given chapter in a science book, there will be context and terms. The understanding of a process and all of the terms involved are both required. It can be a lot for a Dc all at once to remember all of the terms and how they function within the process. But, I'm not a science person, so I'm not speaking from a point of expertise in science--just from a teacher's pov.

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