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Absolutely! As I wrote in my response to your other post: there is 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.

 

:iagree:

 

My field is (was) biochemistry. I never felt that there was a ton of memorization. Every so often there was something--like needing to learn the names, abbreviations, and structures of the amino acids. Even organic chemistry, which is considered to be memorization heavy, wasn't as terrible as its reputation. But most of the terms learned were learned as regentrude says--through engagement with the material.

 

I think that if a person is finding that there is too much memorization in science then they or the curriculum they are using are doing something wrong. It's sort of like saying that you don't like history because there is too much memorization. Well, yes, you can teach history that way but it's not necessary to do so.

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I do not feel that ALL textbooks are bad. I do feel that textbooks are not the ONLY way to learn a subject. Based on my experience and what I have seen, the science textbooks give science a sterile quality. And because the OP said " 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." I will add that I was a science major and I took AP science courses in public high school (one of the top 10 in the nation at the time) as well as a Laboratory Technology program for 2 yrs and held a Laboratory job with the United States Department of Agriculture for 5 years so I am not looking at textbooks from a non science oriented view. I can remember in high school, in AP Biology, working through the text book and thinking THIS is not biology. I was doing biology at home. I had a microscope and studied microbiology, written up several lab notebooks with what I was finding and what I was seeing and reading on my own taught me far more then the microbiology section of the AP book. I would read the textbook and after just sit there trying to figure out what in the blankety-blank they were saying. I studied Botany on my own and geology. Made collections and took notes of my findings. If I had not done these things I would have detested science if all I had of science were the textbooks.

Textbooks have a purpose and I will use them in science but as a guide only. Maybe as a dictionary of scientific terms or maybe a jumping off point. But I will also use other sources to get the subject of science across. Sources that make the study of Botany or Biology or whatever come alive. Show that it is not a sterile subject but a subject that is alive and exciting. There are more then textbooks that explain DNA or photosynthesis. If my son reads about these in a textbooks and then looks at me and says "HUH" then I will direct him to other books that can clarify the lesson...whether that be another textbook, a web site, or a book...how he understand the science should not be questioned, it is the goal of me, the teacher to make sure he does understands it. I will do that with all means at my disposal.

Textbooks are not bad, they are just not the only way a high school student can learn the subjects needed.

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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.

 

:iagree:

 

College level texts for history are also less likely to gloss over unpleasant truths.

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I do not feel that ALL textbooks are bad. I do feel that textbooks are not the ONLY way to learn a subject. Based on my experience and what I have seen, the science textbooks give science a sterile quality. And because the OP said " 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." I will add that I was a science major and I took AP science courses in public high school (one of the top 10 in the nation at the time) as well as a Laboratory Technology program for 2 yrs and held a Laboratory job with the United States Department of Agriculture for 5 years so I am not looking at textbooks from a non science oriented view. I can remember in high school, in AP Biology, working through the text book and thinking THIS is not biology. I was doing biology at home. I had a microscope and studied microbiology, written up several lab notebooks with what I was finding and what I was seeing and reading on my own taught me far more then the microbiology section of the AP book. I would read the textbook and after just sit there trying to figure out what in the blankety-blank they were saying. I studied Botany on my own and geology. Made collections and took notes of my findings. If I had not done these things I would have detested science if all I had of science were the textbooks.

Textbooks have a purpose and I will use them in science but as a guide only. Maybe as a dictionary of scientific terms or maybe a jumping off point. But I will also use other sources to get the subject of science across. Sources that make the study of Botany or Biology or whatever come alive. Show that it is not a sterile subject but a subject that is alive and exciting. There are more then textbooks that explain DNA or photosynthesis. If my son reads about these in a textbooks and then looks at me and says "HUH" then I will direct him to other books that can clarify the lesson...whether that be another textbook, a web site, or a book...how he understand the science should not be questioned, it is the goal of me, the teacher to make sure he does understands it. I will do that with all means at my disposal.

Textbooks are not bad, they are just not the only way a high school student can learn the subjects needed.

 

When can you be here and how much do you charge? We need you to teach science in our home!

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:iagree:

 

My field is (was) biochemistry. I never felt that there was a ton of memorization. Every so often there was something--like needing to learn the names, abbreviations, and structures of the amino acids. Even organic chemistry, which is considered to be memorization heavy, wasn't as terrible as its reputation. But most of the terms learned were learned as regentrude says--through engagement with the material.

 

I think that if a person is finding that there is too much memorization in science then they or the curriculum they are using are doing something wrong. It's sort of like saying that you don't like history because there is too much memorization. Well, yes, you can teach history that way but it's not necessary to do so.

 

Thanks for this. I think I was misinterpreting memorizing for "need to know" or "learn" in previous threads.

 

I see where memorizing info that you have no connections with would be futile. My thinking was more in lines of making sure it's in long-term memory and not short-term. My daughter enjoys learning correct terms and "memorizing" them, but mainly so she can use correct terminology discussing the topic and understanding it, so I was confused for a bit. Now I see I was using the term in a different way.

 

Thanks! It makes sense now.

 

So it's like AoPS. She doesn't memorize the formulas, but she can explain why they work and use them.

 

We are only in middle school, but I am learning lots from this thread. Thank you. FWIW, we use textbooks as a spine to give a broad overview/summary of topics as a foundation for the many other books we use in each subject.

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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.

This is a good point. Inquiry or discovery based science is not about random guesses yet many children are led on this path in the early days when science is associated with play. I know that my then seventh grade son had a hard time doing chemistry as it was laid on in TWTM. He just wanted to play while I was trying to teach him observation, documentation and research skills.

 

A discovery based math program that is highly successful for many users is the Art of Problem Solving. A strong inquiry based methodology needs to be guided--I can see either a text or an expert doing the guiding.

 

I have seen very successful discovery based science courses in action. I have a friend who teaches this type of course in a co-op setting but the amount of work she puts into the course is more than what most parents would choose to do.

 

Labs are often the place where students can get a feel for experiential science which is why I don't care for virtual labs in general. There are times when access to equipment or chemicals may not be practical which makes the virtual experience better than nothing. But I do think it preferable for parents to try to come up with at least a few high quality lab experiences.

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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. 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.

 

It isn't really straight memorization, but it's definitely like another language that one needs to be fluent in IMO. One needs to be introduced to terms AND really know what they mean - not for a multiple choice test, but for actual usage. In English we can "know" what "train" means in the context of "train a dog to do tricks," but until one has practice training a dog, it's not quite the same thing. Once one is used to doing just that, it's second nature and will likely be remembered for eternity, but if one is just learning definitions without knowledge, the word, itself, could be forgotten the next day or confused with the "runs on rails" versions of the same word. In the working world it's not really enough just to train dogs without knowing terminology (both "man on the street" and "insider" or "dogese"). Ideally, one has both the terminology needed and the practical experience. The more experience they have, the more they will truly know IMO. No one knows either the meaning or the practical experience coming straight from the crib. Both are learned at some point. A textbook (or teacher) is good for the basic learning, then more needs to happen to get overall knowledge.

 

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

 

And this is what I see in ps even when students are given formula sheets and even "easy" MC tests. They never are internalizing the meanings, so in effect, it's short term memory rather than long term with true knowledge. Some students are able to memorize fairly well for a test the next hour or next day, but put that same test off another day and the groans are loud! "We won't know it then!" they'll gasp. (Math or Science) My reply is always, "If you truly know it, I can ask you at ANY time to do the test and you'd be fine. It you can't do that, you need to keep studying or whatever else is needed to get to that point."

 

 

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.

 

No one can be an expert at everything - at least, I believe that. Repetition is the best way to learn - repetition WITH the knowledge of what the part is (in this example) and what it does. The student should be able to orally tell you all about that part. I've read that the average person needs to see something 7 times to truly know what it is. One can need just once, or perhaps 14 times. Who knows? But that's what studying is all about. Learning is the whole thing - knowing the terms and what they truly are. Very few grasp it without some effort (same as with any "job" really). It's not just one or the other and it need not come from solely one source.

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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. :)

 

Good morning! I woke up thinking about this (Cynthia's question about textbooks), and I've been mulling over it for a couple hours. I've been trying to figure out if there's a kernel of truth I'm MISSING in the process of adapting to my dd. I think in your particular question though, it assumes the dc with whom I'm doing this is ever GOING to take an AP Chem class or any significant college science class. Do you take your science-track students and assume they'll take AP European History? My dd *can* interact with textbooks. She routinely picks them up *for history* and asks for them *for history*. But she has significantly more background and more engagement. Even then, what it TAKES for me to help her use the material she WANTS to is pretty significant. She's using the BJU World History text right now. She engages with it, enjoys it, has refused my repeated attempts to offer her something else. She selected it herself, considers it well-written, follows rabbit trails, and does quite well on the tests. To me that's a successful experience. To do that, to use that text she likes in content she's especially driven toward, I have to sit there for 3-4 hours a week and make study guides for her. It helps her slow down and engage with the material. As Shannon said, if she just sits down and reads it like it's Tolkien, she's toast. She WANTS the level of material (she's 8th using a 10th gr text), but her reality doesn't change.

 

So what I've been pondering this morning is whether Cynthia's question goes beyond CONTENT and goes to a SKILL SET. I'm all about skills. I think skills have to be learned, and skills apply to any content, any textbook, any situation. So to me the question became whether Cynthia's wise concern is over the *content* not being covered or the *skills*. She might even say both? In reality, there are a lot of ways to cover content, and you can make an argument that content is flexible IF the dc is not going to be taking formal courses in that subject later. You can pursue biology from a lot of angles, hone in on one in particular, whatever, and it's fine for transcript purposes. This can create engaged, lifelong learners and be a good thing, and it's legit. Doesn't come back to bite you in the butt if they don't go on to do classes in it in college that use the foundational content that would have been covered mre traditionally.

 

However the skills you learn by doing a high school level course are important. This is where I got more intrigued as I pursued it in my mind. I had previously only thought through it in terms of reading, ability to take notes, ability to synthesize (go beyond what the text said and see the flow of the arguments), etc. There's a more fundamental question you get to though, and this is where I realized I had finally hit something IMPORTANT, when you start asking whether you're making the high school experience too SOFT. Ie. whether you've eliminated the obstacles SO much that you've actually given them a free ride, that they don't get the experience to work hard or work through something that DOESN'T come easily for them. And I think this is a very VALID point. However, I go back to this idea of some of these people pursuing this because the kids have (not necessarily diagnosed but definitely there) issues. That point of what is the right amount of push and tension may VARY. Textbooks, just done straight, make that answer too formulaic: the same amount of tension and push is right for every child, and your dc better suck up and work harder. Well I think we're here to customize and have more brains than that. It's not HEALTHY to push every dc in the same way.

 

So to me, I've found this thread fascinating, because it let me ponder the issue of the push, and whether my assumptions about what 9th ought to look like are realistic and preparatory. Or, as Debra Bell put it on the boards here a while back (not an exact quote), we don't want our kids to get into AP and college classes under-prepared. And that's an issue that, just being honest, I think is hard to gauge when you're on the front end of it. I read the mid-year posts by people in similar positions where they're describing feeling caught up in a system, system, pushing through lists, working HARD but losing all the GOOD their dc had before. I don't think it makes sense to take a dc who has a non-standard approach to learning, who possibly had their own methods of learning they self-imposed on the side, and totally wipe that out by leaving them with no time and energy to pursue it themselves. That doesn't make sense. Textbooks and traditional school done straight don't do that to all kids, but it does to SOME. So I'll say it again. We got her evaluated, and the neuropsych specifically said NOT to do that. He said NOT to push her through traditional stuff. Her IQ is awesome, reading level awesome, test scores awesome, and that she'll be FINE in college. He said to push things out of the box, go with engagement, and leave her enough energy to do her own things on the side. I think that's a norm other people take for granted, but I can't with mine. Someone on the boards here actually suggested that I just wasn't doing a good enough job if I didn't push her through xyz according to the norms and that I *ought* to and further ought to let her be a *C student* if necessary. So yes, the only option is to force her through someone else's system, wipe her out, and leave her a bad version of herself, when I know that done a little differently, a little more sensitively, she can actually be a stellar version of HERSELF.

 

I really appreciate the kernel(s) of truth Cynthia was trying to get at, and I think they're good admonitions for everyone. I think they're issues to think through. I understand quite well that I'm making decisions that last a long time and affect her viability in certain courses later in college. I also understand that that's what parents DO. We make decisions and guide our kids the BEST WE CAN. That's what I'm doing.

 

Ok, so if you're still reading, I'd like to share something curious I found when I dug through my stuff. I'm sort of a textbook hoarder, because of course I LOVE textbooks. I've reverted to them over and over, when my dd would have been better suited by other methods. Anyways, I just happen to have the BJU Biology 2nd edition text and lab manual on my shelves (told you I'm a packrat!), and I got it out. I picked it up for free when someone was offering it, because I knew the BJU current editions were quite overwhelming and wondered if I could get an older, possibly less rigorous, edition to work for her. Well, shocker folks, the 2nd edition is ALMOST the same content as the 4th! I just compared it a bit to online samples. They've added some chapters on modern issues, rewritten some paragraphs, and added paragraphs to promote their Dominion Theology viewpoint. But when you get right down to it, the text is almost the same, with the new just being an edit of the 2nd edition. BUT MY DD CAN PICK UP THE 2ND EDITION AND USE IT, and I guarantee you if she picked up the 4th she would die. I'm totally serious. And I know because that's what happened with us with the BJU World History. I have this way old (like I think it's 1st edition, haha) BJU World History text, and we looked at the current editions. The CONTENT is basically the same, just with editing, additions for current events, and chapters/paragraphs on Dominion Theology. But the FORMAT of the older editions makes them MUCH easier for my dd to read. The old editions have dual column pages, less color, less distraction, and smaller physical dimensions. The new editions are large, extremely colorful, busy to the point of distracting (I love it!), and have a single column of text with long text lines and wide margins for taking notes.

 

So they totally reformatted the texts, and in so doing made what had been accessible to my dd inaccessible. The text she's been using successfully this year and LOVES, refuses to drop, is an old edition. Same content, much less distracting layout. You give her that same content in the new format, and for her it's this overwhelming experience that is the end of the world. Pulling mules would be easier than getting her to use that.

 

And you know I'm kicking myself that it took me so long to figure this out. I just assumed new was better. It's the learning curve. We're all doing the best we can. I will spend anything and do ANYTHING I can to help her succeed. I've got to work within the envelope I've got. Frankly, I get kind of tired making study guides for things and wish there were an easier way. I appreciate any discussion that gets to the CONCEPTS (hindsite, whatever) that I can apply to my specific situation.

 

So I figure two things.

 

1) I'm doing the best I can.

 

2) At this point, her best foundation for future success is to get SKILLS and be as strong as possible on the content, so she can override any future issues she has (in college) with less tailored methods. I want her so strong that when she picks up a physics text, she doesn't blink. But she won't blink because she has DONE those things and felt them and knows them, not because I shoved her through a textbook. Reading comprehension is largely connected to prior knowledge.

 

And to Shannon's question, I think you shouldn't assume anything. Sometimes the writing is on the wall for their interests (like my dd who is never going to be a science major, haha), and sometimes their interests and future are in areas that are going to be hard for them. I definitely agree with the idea of opening doors, not shutting them, while you're in high school. My dh tells the story that the first 2 years of engineering school were very hard for him, because he's not a textbook person (and didn't go in with adequate foundation). The rest of it though was AWESOME, because it finally got into the application, the real world, the stuff he was really GOOD at. That's why I go back to my theory that a person who is special needs MORE background, MORE experiences, more skills than their peers, because it will give them a bit of a cushion when they get into that harder, less tailored situation. So I'm not doing labs from just *1* physical science book; I'm doing labs from *2*. With the biology, I'll look into AP labs (and look at the Illustrated Guide I have downloaded) and see how much of that I can make accessible. I want to make as MUCH content as I can as accessible to her as I can, because she needs a cushion. But that's just my theory and what I've come to. I need to put that energy *efficiently* into things she *can* do and not spend it slogging inefficiently through a text. Knowing now that my dd probably can do the old edition BJU, I'm probably going to spend the next how many months and start making study guides for it, sigh.

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It isn't really straight memorization, but it's definitely like another language that one needs to be fluent in IMO. One needs to be introduced to terms AND really know what they mean - not for a multiple choice test, but for actual usage. In English we can "know" what "train" means in the context of "train a dog to do tricks," but until one has practice training a dog, it's not quite the same thing. Once one is used to doing just that, it's second nature and will likely be remembered for eternity, but if one is just learning definitions without knowledge, the word, itself, could be forgotten the next day or confused with the "runs on rails" versions of the same word. In the working world it's not really enough just to train dogs without knowing terminology (both "man on the street" and "insider" or "dogese"). Ideally, one has both the terminology needed and the practical experience. The more experience they have, the more they will truly know IMO. No one knows either the meaning or the practical experience coming straight from the crib. Both are learned at some point. A textbook (or teacher) is good for the basic learning, then more needs to happen to get overall knowledge.

(That poor dead horse...I just keep beating it. Sorry to those of you who are tired of my harangue)

 

My complaint with science education in the States is that we introduce science as play and then expect kids to move into some sort of linear path where facts are regurgitated. The example that I repeat regularly concerns elementary children making goo or whatever that stuff made with borax, cornstarch and white glue is called. I don't know how many science workshops my son attended where they made goo but never used the word "polymer". The kids discover the elasticity of their goo but do they learn the word "elasticity"? Why aren't they introduced to the idea of tensile strength?

 

My point here is that there are times in early grades when our little sponges are ready to have the foundation laid in vocabulary and concepts. It is not done. So by the time the kids are older, they have a harder time grasping the language of a science text or science article in a magazine. It does not seem relevant to them when it fact science is highly relevant to all of us.

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I think in your particular question though, it assumes the dc with whom I'm doing this is ever GOING to take an AP Chem class or any significant college science class.

 

I am not the poster to whom you are responding, but I share similar opinions. I do not see high school science as a mere preparation for college science - even for a student who will never have to take any more scicne, I would consider actual problem solving an important skill that can not be taught without actually solving problems.

 

Do you take your science-track students and assume they'll take AP European History?

Most definitely. Not necessarily the AP exam itself, but I consider teaching history at this level as especially necessary for a student who is going int STEM and would not get the history exposure otherwise.

 

My dd *can* interact with textbooks. She routinely picks them up *for history* and asks for them *for history*. But she has significantly more background and more engagement. Even then, what it TAKES for me to help her use the material she WANTS to is pretty significant. She's using the BJU World History text right now. She engages with it, enjoys it, has refused my repeated attempts to offer her something else. She selected it herself, considers it well-written, follows rabbit trails, and does quite well on the tests. To me that's a successful experience. To do that, to use that text she likes in content she's especially driven toward, I have to sit there for 3-4 hours a week and make study guides for her. It helps her slow down and engage with the material. As Shannon said, if she just sits down and reads it like it's Tolkien, she's toast.

 

This is one problem I frequently observe with my college students in physics: they have no clue how to "read" a textbook. I have to tell them that you can not read a science textbook like a fantasy novel. You have to read slowly, while taking notes, work through the examples with pencil in hand, pause at the stop-to-think-questions at the end of a section and actually think about them, look at the graphs in the margin and understand them. It is a completely different process that bears very little resemblance to even reading a non-fiction book for the general audience. Their problems are not caused by poor reading skills alone, but by not knowing how to engage with a science textbook that requires a level of active interaction not needed when reading "living books".

 

 

 

So what I've been pondering this morning is whether Cynthia's question goes beyond CONTENT and goes to a SKILL SET. I'm all about skills. I think skills have to be learned, and skills apply to any content, any textbook, any situation. So to me the question became whether Cynthia's wise concern is over the *content* not being covered or the *skills*.

 

I believe it is necessary to teach these textbook-reading skills I mentioned above.

In addition to the skill of textbook reading, however, there is also the skill of solving problems which is yet a different skill that can only be acquired through training in problem solving.

 

So, in a sense, the no-textbook approach is lacking in both these two skill sets.

 

I acknowledge that for your student, there may be reasons why this is still not going to be a working approach. You certainly know better than anybody else what particular challenges your DD has, and I would not presume to tell you how to work with her.

 

 

 

 

But the FORMAT of the older editions makes them MUCH easier for my dd to read. The old editions have dual column pages, less color, less distraction, and smaller physical dimensions. The new editions are large, extremely colorful, busy to the point of distracting (I love it!), and have a single column of text with long text lines and wide margins for taking notes.

So they totally reformatted the texts, and in so doing made what had been accessible to my dd inaccessible. The text she's been using successfully this year and LOVES, refuses to drop, is an old edition. Same content, much less distracting layout. You give her that same content in the new format, and for her it's this overwhelming experience that is the end of the world. Pulling mules would be easier than getting her to use that.

 

I totally sympathize. Much of what "education researchers" consider improvements are actually disastrous and distracting for many students. Our favorite history textbook is an old college text recommended in the first edition of TWT: it has consecutive text in two columns that is meant to be read, is black and white with the occasional map and contains no colored boxes with factoids, activities, unrelated pictures, etc.

I a pretty sure you will be able to find materials to suit your DD's style for all subjects.

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I totally sympathize. Much of what "education researchers" consider improvements are actually disastrous and distracting for many students. Our favorite history textbook is an old college text recommended in the first edition of TWT: it has consecutive text in two columns that is meant to be read, is black and white with the occasional map and contains no colored boxes with factoids, activities, unrelated pictures, etc.

I a pretty sure you will be able to find materials to suit your DD's style for all subjects.

College textbooks in mathematics and the sciences are written by mathematicians and scientists. Corresponding texts for high schoolers are often written by educators. I believe that this simple nugget in itself accounts for much of the difference we see in the quality of text books.

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College textbooks in mathematics and the sciences are written by mathematicians and scientists. Corresponding texts for high schoolers are often written by educators. I believe that this simple nugget in itself accounts for much of the difference we see in the quality of text books.

 

I completely agree, but unfortunately, the bad habits in textbook design are creeping into college level math and science books as well.

Just compare a modern introductory physics text with one that is several decades old, for example and notice the increase in page number. There is no new content that would account for the increased thickness - the book is inflated by colored boxes, unrelated photographs, lots of graphs not all of which contribute to a deeper understanding. There is less consecutive text explaining a concept in words; instead, there is a busy sidebar with lots of distracting figures.

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Ack! No more. Too much here to think about! Close the thread! Just kidding. This discussion has been tremendously helpful, but I need to let it all marinate for a while before I can take out the nuggets that will help us.

 

So many good points from these posts--from thinking about what type of learner you have and how much to push, to considering the text your using, to how you use the text, and more. I'm thinking this thread should be required reading for all those with middle school age kids who are planning for high school. Maybe they'll think these things through more than I did!

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I am not the poster to whom you are responding, but I share similar opinions. I do not see high school science as a mere preparation for college science - even for a student who will never have to take any more scicne, I would consider actual problem solving an important skill that can not be taught without actually solving problems.

 

 

Most definitely. Not necessarily the AP exam itself, but I consider teaching history at this level as especially necessary for a student who is going int STEM and would not get the history exposure otherwise.

 

 

 

This is one problem I frequently observe with my college students in physics: they have no clue how to "read" a textbook. I have to tell them that you can not read a science textbook like a fantasy novel. You have to read slowly, while taking notes, work through the examples with pencil in hand, pause at the stop-to-think-questions at the end of a section and actually think about them, look at the graphs in the margin and understand them. It is a completely different process that bears very little resemblance to even reading a non-fiction book for the general audience. Their problems are not caused by poor reading skills alone, but by not knowing how to engage with a science textbook that requires a level of active interaction not needed when reading "living books".

 

 

 

 

I believe it is necessary to teach these textbook-reading skills I mentioned above.

In addition to the skill of textbook reading, however, there is also the skill of solving problems which is yet a different skill that can only be acquired through training in problem solving.

 

So, in a sense, the no-textbook approach is lacking in both these two skill sets.

 

I acknowledge that for your student, there may be reasons why this is still not going to be a working approach. You certainly know better than anybody else what particular challenges your DD has, and I would not presume to tell you how to work with her.

 

 

 

 

 

 

I totally sympathize. Much of what "education researchers" consider improvements are actually disastrous and distracting for many students. Our favorite history textbook is an old college text recommended in the first edition of TWT: it has consecutive text in two columns that is meant to be read, is black and white with the occasional map and contains no colored boxes with factoids, activities, unrelated pictures, etc.

I a pretty sure you will be able to find materials to suit your DD's style for all subjects.

 

Yes, yes! I definitely try to think of science and math for her with the idea that she might not get much after high school and what would be her minimum to be able to homeschool, etc. To me it also ties in with that idea of scientific literacy. A traditional course squashes out room for that, and yet it's so important as a voter, as a human, to know what current issues are in science. I've been pondering how I can make room for that, because I think it makes for someone who engages with it life-long.

 

You know, you've made me see this in a new way. See I only thought of my efforts making her study guides as this sort of accommodation. In the back of my mind I've hoped in theory that at some point she would get to where she could do more of that on her own. But you're right, I've identified an issue and I'm teaching her explicitly what might come for other kids more readily. And what I'm HOPING, by making the study guides, is that she develops an EXPECTATION of what it means to interact with a text. That way when she doesn't have them she WANTS that level of interaction. But I can't guarantee my efforts will pay off like that 3 or 4 years from now, haven't been down this road before. I kind of get the sense (or have my own self-guilt) that maybe it's making it too easy or spoon-feeding her. However there's this pragmatic sense in which I WANT her to have that interaction with the text and can't afford to wear her out in the process. We tried that route, so now I tweak.

 

On the problem-solving thing, the BJU labs are really good for that. They go way beyond demonstration, much more so than other labs I've seen. So I feel like, even as we're doing things in a non-standard way, we're stilling nailing your two key components (how to read a text and problem-solving). But yes, if you just did xyz and didn't attend to those issues, it would be very easy not to have them. And I've sort of had this quandry in my mind, because it seems like I use my accommodations as a way to bump up the content level. It means stuff isn't always something she can pick up and do ON HER OWN. Like if I just had her do simple labs, she could read them and do them on her own. Instead I get much harder labs and do them WITH her, guiding her thought process inductively, taking her way beyond where she could have been if I had given her something simpler. Ditto for the books, where with the BJU world history I'm definitely needing to make the study guides because it's a harder book. She wants the content, so I do it. If I gave her an EASIER book, maybe she could do it on her own. In fact, frankly, most people I know irl with kids with whatever issue basically put their kids a year back. To me it's just a statement of how hard it is to get the texts to fit and be productive with a non-standard kid. My dd has consistently worked a year AHEAD. It's not because she's smart though, because she's really just bright, not brilliant. Mainly it's because we were willing to step away from the texts and do things a totally different way when necessary.

 

Did that make any sense? I think way hard about these things, lol. I was thinking about that recently though, whether I had missed the boat in putting her in the hard (full of math and problem-solving) labs in the BJU stuff and whether I ought to go toward slider, pick up and it's easy to do, labs. That of course is the natural inclination of the dc. My goal has always been to use my time with her to do something she COULDN'T do on her own, to take her thought process BEYOND where she was before. It's actually why I've been so happy with our year, because we work hyper-efficiently and come together to do targeted things she couldn't do on her own. That way she gets the stretch and the efficient. It has been a hard mix to finally achieve. Then I get to mess it all up for next year, lol. If you have any opinions on that though, I'm all ears.

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I completely agree, but unfortunately, the bad habits in textbook design are creeping into college level math and science books as well.

Just compare a modern introductory physics text with one that is several decades old, for example and notice the increase in page number. There is no new content that would account for the increased thickness - the book is inflated by colored boxes, unrelated photographs, lots of graphs not all of which contribute to a deeper understanding. There is less consecutive text explaining a concept in words; instead, there is a busy sidebar with lots of distracting figures.

 

I find the same problem with literature textbooks. I have older editions of the Adventures in Literature series. They are broad anthologies of short stories, plays and poetry with some questions and author info or background. Very light on illustration.

But the newer editions added all kinds of big illustrations and garbage to make the pieces relevant (that actually managed to make them less universal). I stick with the older editions.

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College textbooks in mathematics and the sciences are written by mathematicians and scientists. Corresponding texts for high schoolers are often written by educators. I believe that this simple nugget in itself accounts for much of the difference we see in the quality of text books.

I completely agree, but unfortunately, the bad habits in textbook design are creeping into college level math and science books as well.

Just compare a modern introductory physics text with one that is several decades old, for example and notice the increase in page number. There is no new content that would account for the increased thickness - the book is inflated by colored boxes, unrelated photographs, lots of graphs not all of which contribute to a deeper understanding. There is less consecutive text explaining a concept in words; instead, there is a busy sidebar with lots of distracting figures.

 

Absolutely this is an issue! The world history text she is liking was written by a man with a phd who was a professor at the university. It has this elegance of explanation and thought process that a bright child can connect with. Then you get the editions and additions done by people with degrees in education, a master's, theories... It's just not the same. She wants to connect with the mind of the author, and some books give that and some don't.

 

Hmm, the page count issue, hadn't thought of that. You're right though. It's why I ASSUMED the new edition of xyz was better than the old, because the old is thin and has less gunk and the new is swanky and spanky. But in my dd's case less is more. Not less content, just less gunk. You know the crazy thing is, I was discussing column width and fonts in textbooks with a friend of mine who has a phd in education, and she was saying that, IN GENERAL, they would actually assume the wider columns, blah blah, makes it EASIER to read! So go figure that one.

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Ack! No more. Too much here to think about! Close the thread! Just kidding. This discussion has been tremendously helpful, but I need to let it all marinate for a while before I can take out the nuggets that will help us.

 

Thank goodness I'm not the only one! I can't decide if we're doing things "correctly" and I feel reassured or if I feel panicked because I have messed up to the point of no return. Of course we're still in middle school-- I can still change my corrupt ways.

 

Maybe I only "think" my dd knows anything. Maybe she's just "memorized" her way thus far, and it's all a facade. Maybe she's just staring blindly at all the science and literature books she reads during her free time and has no true understanding because we used flashcards. :svengo:

Honestly, I almost need to talk myself down from sending her somewhere or scrapping everything that is working because it's really not-- in all my ignorance, I've just been fooled into thinking it is. :sad:

 

 

So many good points from these posts--from thinking about what type of learner you have and how much to push, to considering the text your using, to how you use the text, and more. I'm thinking this thread should be required reading for all those with middle school age kids who are planning for high school. Maybe they'll think these things through more than I did!

 

I don't know. . . We're in middle school and part of me wishes I hadn't opened the thread. :001_huh: I was so happy with how everything was going until I read this. Now I suspect we're doing it all incorrectly.

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You know, you've made me see this in a new way. See I only thought of my efforts making her study guides as this sort of accommodation. In the back of my mind I've hoped in theory that at some point she would get to where she could do more of that on her own. But you're right, I've identified an issue and I'm teaching her explicitly what might come for other kids more readily. And what I'm HOPING, by making the study guides, is that she develops an EXPECTATION of what it means to interact with a text. That way when she doesn't have them she WANTS that level of interaction. But I can't guarantee my efforts will pay off like that 3 or 4 years from now, haven't been down this road before. I kind of get the sense (or have my own self-guilt) that maybe it's making it too easy or spoon-feeding her.

 

No, I do not think you are making it too easy. I would not expect a high school student to be able to have these textbook skills without instruction. I do not know what your study guides entail, but if I had to explicitly teach this skill, I would break down the reading assignment into small chunks, model and require note taking, review the student's notes with her to help developing the skill of filtering the important things (most beginners write too much, almost copying the entire book), assign specific comprehension questions, require specifically that example 6.12 is worked out in the notes... stuff like this. I was lucky that my DD got the hang of this quite easily, but I would consider any effort spent there a well spent effort that translates to other subjects than the one at hand.

 

Like if I just had her do simple labs, she could read them and do them on her own. Instead I get much harder labs and do them WITH her, guiding her thought process inductively, taking her way beyond where she could have been if I had given her something simpler.

 

We do exactly the same! I do not see any intrinsic value in a high schooler being able to complete simple labs independently - I much rather work a more complex lab together with her and have her learn more.

 

If I gave her an EASIER book, maybe she could do it on her own. In fact, frankly, most people I know irl with kids with whatever issue basically put their kids a year back. To me it's just a statement of how hard it is to get the texts to fit and be productive with a non-standard kid. My dd has consistently worked a year AHEAD. It's not because she's smart though, because she's really just bright, not brilliant. Mainly it's because we were willing to step away from the texts and do things a totally different way when necessary.

Did that make any sense?

 

That makes PERFECT sense. You are tailoring her education to fit her needs, without using her special way of learning as an excuse to get by with less than she is capable of. She is very lucky to have you as a parent!

 

My goal has always been to use my time with her to do something she COULDN'T do on her own, to take her thought process BEYOND where she was before. It's actually why I've been so happy with our year, because we work hyper-efficiently and come together to do targeted things she couldn't do on her own. That way she gets the stretch and the efficient. It has been a hard mix to finally achieve. Then I get to mess it all up for next year, lol. If you have any opinions on that though, I'm all ears.

 

This is precisely my approach for our home schooling. Our instruction time is valuable, and it is judiciously used for things that my students can NOT do on their own. I am not wasting my time predigesting for them what they are perfectly capable of learning independently, but I do spend time where my insight and expertise can help them go beyond what they can do independently.

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Thank goodness I'm not the only one! I can't decide if we're doing things "correctly" and I feel reassured or if I feel panicked because I have messed up to the point of no return. Of course we're still in middle school-- I can still change my corrupt ways.

 

Maybe I only "think" my dd knows anything. Maybe she's just "memorized" her way thus far, and it's all a facade. Maybe she's just staring blindly at all the science and literature books she reads during her free time and has no true understanding because we used flashcards. :svengo:

Honestly, I almost need to talk myself down from sending her somewhere or scrapping everything that is working because it's really not-- in all my ignorance, I've just been fooled into thinking it is. :sad:

 

But then I see her happily explaining something she learned in her textbook, happily going through her flashcards/notecards, or enthralled in a science book in her free time. Then I relax and remember that sometimes ignorance is bliss. If my ignorance in the correct way to go about things has gotten us this far, something tells me it will get us where we need to be.

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Maybe I only "think" my dd knows anything. Maybe she's just "memorized" her way thus far, and it's all a facade. Maybe she's just staring blindly at all the science and literature books she reads during her free time and has no true understanding because we used flashcards. :svengo:

 

If your daughter can carry on an intelligent conversation with you about _____, can ask intelligent questions, can teach someone who knows less than she does, she's doing just fine.

 

When I'm at school (ps, where I work), I often ask students a question. Every single time they'll parrot an answer to me (assuming they memorized it). Right after that I'll tell them that's not what I'm looking for - I want their answer in their own words - perhaps with a description. If they can do that, they're at least on the right track. If they look at you like you're crazy and they're stumped, then you know they've just memorized and need more connections.

 

But then I see her happily explaining something she learned in her textbook, happily going through her flashcards/notecards, or enthralled in a science book in her free time. Then I relax and remember that sometimes ignorance is bliss. If my ignorance in the correct way to go about things has gotten us this far, something tells me it will get us where we need to be.

 

It's not that ignorance is bliss... instead, it sounds like she's doing just fine! ;)

 

Ignorance isn't really bliss IMO... Bliss is knowing she's fine. None of our students will be an absolute expert in everything. All of us could probably do more than we do in at least an area or two. However, if we've taught our kids the connections of truly learning, then they are set up for success in their future. They'll know what it means to truly learn (rather than just parroting an answer from a book).

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Wow - this thread went white hot since last night! :)

 

I was the one who asked about folks who don't use texts in high school science but after pondering things for awhile, I realized I needed to clarify a few things.

 

I absolutely believe that tweaking things to match the learning styles and/or accomodations of our students is a wonderful opportunity that all homeschoolers should take. If a student is not a natural visual learner, then learning by a text alone isn't going to be the best bet for them. In speaking for myself, though, being pro-text for high school science doesn't mean that I'm "text-only". I absolutely think that bringing in other sources (living books, video lectures, etc.) is a fantastic idea. I guess I was just wondering how, if those things were the only sources used in high school science, the skill of working problems would be addressed. If that skill is practiced through the doing of high level, high quality labs, then that's awesome!!! Probably a much more engaging way of learning to apply the math to a particular problem. I would suggest (and this is just me - take or leave it :)) that after the lab is finished and written up, have the student practice some more problems of the same type (relating to what you've just done in the lab) and also that apply the concept in a slightly different way. It will help solidify the concepts for them. I suppose that's where the text comes in handy - you don't have to use it for them to read, just pick out a few problems from the chapter that deals with whatever topic you happen to be working on.

 

So just wanted to out myself as "pro-text" but not necessarily "text-only" for high school science. :D

 

We should probably also clarify whether we're discussing the physical sciences or life sciences. I realize that there is overlap and no hard and fast line between the two but since I'm coming from a chem background, when I think "science", chem is the first subject that pops into my head so my responses are probably coloured by that. The reason I was thinking I needed to clarify this is that the reasons for thinking texts are important will probably be different when thinking about physics or chem as opposed to thinking about bio. I think it's probably more doable to complete a full high school level course in bio without using a text than it would be to do either physics or chem - mostly, in my mind, because of the "working problems" component. If there is a way to get the student to work problems in physics or chem without using a text and that's how they would rather learn, then go for it! Just be careful that all topics and all types of problems are covered (this is also where a text can come in handy - as a "check-list" to make sure that everything is covered).

 

I also wanted to clarify that I'm coming from a Canadian perspective - that may, or may not, matter to some. :D I think someone had mentioned that, if a student wasn't going to go on to do science in university, they probably wouldn't need to (or want to) take AP Chem and so working problems wouldn't be so important (forgive me if I misunderstood or if I'm not remembering that correctly). I just wanted to clarify that, in Ontario, even students taking the Grade 12 college-bound chem ("college" in Canada means a trade school, not a degree granting institution) would be required to do some problem solving in their chem course. Just to say that it isn't just the university-bound kids that have to learn to work problems in the physical sciences.

 

I guess, in a nutshell, I just don't want to see the problem-solving aspect of chem and physics lost because texts are considered to be big, bad, and ugly. :) In Canada, if a high school chem or physics course didn't contain problem solving, it wouldn't be considered to be truly high school level. Whether anyone chooses to use a text or not, please make sure that your students are working the math kinds of problems in chem and physics!

(This a public service message from the chem nut on the WTM boards who loves the subject to distraction.)

 

:D

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If your daughter can carry on an intelligent conversation with you about _____, can ask intelligent questions, can teach someone who knows less than she does, she's doing just fine.

 

When I'm at school (ps, where I work), I often ask students a question. Every single time they'll parrot an answer to me (assuming they memorized it). Right after that I'll tell them that's not what I'm looking for - I want their answer in their own words - perhaps with a description. If they can do that, they're at least on the right track. If they look at you like you're crazy and they're stumped, then you know they've just memorized and need more connections.

 

LOL There is no problem there whatsoever! People comment on her questions and conversations all the time.

 

It's not that ignorance is bliss... instead, it sounds like she's doing just fine! ;)

 

Ignorance isn't really bliss IMO... Bliss is knowing she's fine. None of our students will be an absolute expert in everything. All of us could probably do more than we do in at least an area or two. However, if we've taught our kids the connections of truly learning, then they are set up for success in their future. They'll know what it means to truly learn (rather than just parroting an answer from a book).

 

That was a joke. If I honestly thought ignorance was bliss, I wouldn't be on the boards or spending the $$ and time on her education that I do. ;)

 

ETA: I also wouldn't be on the high school board planning for the future.

 

My point is that while it's good to listen to others and get different perspectives, it would be foolish to ignore what is right in front of my eyes. It would be foolish to fix what is not broke, no matter how many people on a message board tell me it is because it simply cannot be done that way. ;)

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I guess, in a nutshell, I just don't want to see the problem-solving aspect of chem and physics lost because texts are considered to be big, bad, and ugly. :) In Canada, if a high school chem or physics course didn't contain problem solving, it wouldn't be considered to be truly high school level. Whether anyone chooses to use a text or not, please make sure that your students are working the math kinds of problems in chem and physics!

(This a public service message from the chem nut on the WTM boards who loves the subject to distraction.)

 

:D

 

You know, that's a very good question. I haven't gotten that far. Indeed for the physical science this year the math was in the labs. I have the Illustrated Guide to Home Chem but haven't looked at it enough to determine how much problem solving there is. I get what you're saying though. I took AP chem myself in school, did organic in college, so I know what you mean. I just cross each bridge as I come to it, lol. I'll have to think about it. I haven't really pondered chem. My plan (or theory) was to do a good year of chem with her (to whatever level she can do) and then try to get some calc-based physics into her. It seems illogical to me to pursue algebra-based physics with her after the physical science we've done, and I've always wondered about calc-based myself. And of course I like to make my dh's eyes pop out by suggesting these things. I really think you have to think BIG and then remove barriers to making it happen.

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That was a joke. If I honestly thought ignorance was bliss, I wouldn't be on the boards or spending the $$ and time on her education that I do. ;)

 

ETA: I also wouldn't be on the high school board planning for the future.

 

 

How true. Sorry I missed it... I'm a little too used to both homeschooler and ps parents who aren't really "into" school using that phrase or similar ones to explain why they feel they can skip something if they deem it too hard, too unnecessary, or too boring. (I'm not kidding.)

 

I come to this board to find peers who value education (whether textbook loving or not), but sometimes my mind slips into the "local." ;)

 

Your daughter sounds like she's doing great!

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BTW, if we want to rabbit trail, I'd be interested to start thinking about integrated calc and physics and whether there are ways to make this accessible. I wasn't joking when I said it's my goal. They offered that at my high school, and they also offered it separately. (BC Calc and AP Physics) I'm not sure there are textbooks that do this, and the two teachers they used (tag team) were SO ill-liked that many people refused to take it and the rest dropped out mid-year. I always felt it was something we got jipped on, when I listened to people describing the beauty of what could be done in a straightforward way in physics if you knew calculus. (We sat in AP physics dropping packages from airplanes with algebra, ad nauseum, SO boring.) So I KNOW there has to be something better out there, a more holistic, integrated, big-picture, connected way of viewing it. And of course big picture, applied, that has special kids written all over it. There's of course the necessary tedium for basic calc instruction and practice, so I'm not sure how you actually pull that off in a functional way (merging the math and physics instruction). So then you end up with calc one year, physics the next. I've just been trying to figure out if it's possible to combine them in a practical way.

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Wow! What a conversation this thread has become! I'm overwhelmed by the awesome ideas and insights. It has truly enlightened me. I see people here who are giving their kids - or want to give their kids - an education that is tailored to learning ability, teaching ability, and at the same time being completely engaging. I, too, have a student who has learning difficulties and have had to tailor his education to fit his abilities.

 

One of the things I've found interesting about myself, and I wonder if other science majors feel this way, is that I feel competent in teaching anything scientific or mathematic, but I quake in fear when addressing writing/English curriculum. I remember asking similar questions about teaching English and wanting something that was more engaging for my fellas. Rod and Staff may be an excellent text, but I would rather clip the grass with scissors than use that again! So I've tailored my expectations for those subjects to fit my ability to teach as well as their learning styles. And if any of you liberal arts folks could see what we've done you would probably be appalled :crying: . But it was what we could do and get done with some sort of success.

 

When people have asked for opinions regarding various science curriculum I always wonder how to respond. Because I truly believe that the program that you will actually *do* is the one that is best for you. It might not be as rigorous as another text/curriculum, but if you don't *do* the rigorous one then what good is it? I found that with my writing/English courses - if we didn't find it at least 'do-able' then we didn't *do* it and that was a waste of time and money.

 

The two boys that have graduated have gone on to science degrees and have been very successful in college. I like to think they had a good science background, but I can tell you it was nothing compared to what some of the ladies on here do with their kids. And, while they aren't fantastic writers, they have matured enough to write well for their college courses. They won't be authors, but they can do what needs to be done. I felt good when the boys took Chem 1 and already understood the concept of the atom, how to balance equations, had been introduced to various constants and could use them in equations. For physics they already knew and understood momentum, force, could draw force diagrams, currents, etc. so they could go into those courses already understanding the language of the field and could concentrate on a deeper understanding of the topics. That is something I did not have.

 

My own high school science education was sadly lacking. I was poorly prepared for college science, but I *did* the work needed and graduated with a pharmacy degree. When we moved to the area where we live we investigated various schooling options. There were/are some fantastic private options out there but they would have cost a lot in terms of dollars as well as time. We were unwilling to do that. My kids would probably have fared much better there, academically, but it wasn't the lifestyle we wanted. So they got the best I could provide. And I was probably far harder on myself than others would have been on me to make sure that I was doing the very best I could do and that they were doing the best they could do. This goes a bit to OhElizabeth's idea of how much to push.

 

I think textbooks have a place in high school, if only for introducing the idea of studying a text before one hits college. I truly needed a text for writing/English skills because I felt that I could not adequately put together something from a variety of sources that would get the job done. I did not have the knowledge necessary to find materials that would hit all the areas necessary - shoot, I didn't know what all the areas were :crying: . I wish I were an expert in all fields, but I'm not and I have to rely on the advice of others, tempered with my knowledge of myself and my kids, to pick the appropriate materials. And there were times that I just put the book in front of them and said, "it's the hoop you have to jump through" and tried to provide whatever I could to get it done. They didn't always enjoy it nor did they always engage with it. But they haven't really suffered from it either.

 

In answer to OhElizabeth's question about whether you would have a science minded kid take an AP level history (I think that was the scenario), I would say "no". But I would certainly applaud anyone who could get that done with their science kid :hurray: . One of the issues facing many of us is "student population" - number of students, special needs student(s), students with an outstanding talent (musician, dance, etc.) and we have to tailor our expectations as well as our materials to that. I often think that if I had one student who would work with me and who understood that the classes were for his good, we could accomplish deeds and wonders. But the reality is that we have kids who have their own little personalities, desires, expectations, and we are also sometimes wives and sometimes the breadwinners. It's hard to give an AP level of instruction in all areas unless we outsource something (either the housework or the schoolwork). I know that there are those who can do that and I'm in awe of them. I'm not one of them.

 

Well, this has diverged significantly from the question of the textbook :laugh: but I just want to say that I've appreciated reading all the thoughts about that question. Those thoughts certainly went far beyond what I even imagined could be the issues and it has been enlightening and thought provoking.

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BTW, if we want to rabbit trail, I'd be interested to start thinking about integrated calc and physics and whether there are ways to make this accessible. I wasn't joking when I said it's my goal. They offered that at my high school, and they also offered it separately. (BC Calc and AP Physics) I'm not sure there are textbooks that do this, and the two teachers they used (tag team) were SO ill-liked that many people refused to take it and the rest dropped out mid-year. I always felt it was something we got jipped on, when I listened to people describing the beauty of what could be done in a straightforward way in physics if you knew calculus. (We sat in AP physics dropping packages from airplanes with algebra, ad nauseum, SO boring.) So I KNOW there has to be something better out there, a more holistic, integrated, big-picture, connected way of viewing it. And of course big picture, applied, that has special kids written all over it. There's of course the necessary tedium for basic calc instruction and practice, so I'm not sure how you actually pull that off in a functional way (merging the math and physics instruction). So then you end up with calc one year, physics the next. I've just been trying to figure out if it's possible to combine them in a practical way.

 

I am taking the liberty of opening a new thread for you, because otherwise the interesting topic might get buried. I'll respond over there.

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And I was probably far harder on myself than others would have been on me to make sure that I was doing the very best I could do and that they were doing the best they could do.

 

 

This is so consoling, and you're exactly right!

 

Yes, I thought I remembered your 3rd ds. I've spent a lot of time reading your posts in the past, searching out things you've done, looking for inspiration. :)

 

As far as the english, ironically things are sort of flipped for me there. While I'm competent with science and don't mind working with it, I feel much more confident teaching english. I've always been very hack with our grammar textbooks, because I knew what I could cut and what I couldn't and still get the result I needed. I think science people probably do the same thing instinctively with the science texts when they adapt. They know where it's going, what concepts are important, what terms are important, whether that skill/concept/term is important NOW or can be worked around or will be hit later.

 

So when we do grammar, we go in, work hard for 5-10 minutes, cover exactly what I want to cover with her (like firecrackers, bam, bam, bam!), and then we're done. I don't bring that same facility to science. For this year I decided the sensible trim was to go to just labs. I read the textbook as needed and sort through the concepts myself, then when we do the labs we talk about them, inductively leading her into the terms. It's the best I could do this year, and I feel like it has been productive. I like her level of thought and the questions she asks when we do the labs, so that leaves me content it's adequate for this time.

 

I'm definitely going to play with this BJU biology text (old edition) I have and see what I can make work, how valuable it is, how much time it would take, how much is lost by doing the labs without the text, whether I would use the whole text or select portions, how much time and energy that would take, etc. You hit on the other pivotal thing there too, which was the student's growing ability to handle structure and increasing amounts of material. I think it's reasonable to think she'd do a bit more in 9th than she did in 8th, etc. That was good to be challenged to think through. I just can't lose my head and get swept up in things. If it works for 80% of people on the boards, it doesn't seem to work for my kid, lol. Gotta stop and keep my head on straight. :)

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Yes, I thought I remembered your 3rd ds. I've spent a lot of time reading your posts in the past, searching out things you've done, looking for inspiration. :)

 

As far as the english, ironically things are sort of flipped for me there. While I'm competent with science and don't mind working with it, I feel much more confident teaching english. I've always been very hack with our grammar textbooks, because I knew what I could cut and what I couldn't and still get the result I needed. I think science people probably do the same thing instinctively with the science texts when they adapt.

 

And I've read and re-read all the advice you've given me regarding a LD student. It has helped me time and again to adjust my expectations and NOT assume the worst. FYI he's taking calculus this semester as a concurrent senior. He only took 7 hours this semester because I know he just needs more time with the maths than his brothers. It won't transfer as Engineering Calculus, but at least it will give him a head start when he takes it at the state school. Thanks for your advice on that point.

 

I think you are exactly right about adapting based on our strengths. I made the boys do every single sentence diagram, every writing prompt, etc. because I was so sure I would miss something important - and I can say that even today they don't enjoy writing. I typically use a science text as a guideline and we often go off on tangents of interest, but I feel secure enough to know what they need before heading to college. Maybe that's the biggest issue we face when we try to find materials for our kids. There has to be a balance in what the kid needs as well as what mom is equipped to teach.

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Oh my lands Cynthia, I'm having such a chuckle at the thought of your boys doing all that grammar! :) I have my dd diagram 1 or 2 sentences a day. We are SO spartan. It was SWB actually who gave me the push on that, and once we changed we never looked back.

 

That is SUCH a good observation about needing to give them more time when they hit calculus. That totally, totally makes sense. Since we're working on a 4 year plan, that is going IN, thanks! :)

 

Ok, so tell me more about how you use a science text. How do you decide the tangents and what gives and where to put your focus? Have you done that differently with your 3rd vs. the first two?

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Let me preface this very long post with the fact that I would never presume to tell anyone how to teach their own kids, so please take what you can from my thoughts and leave the rest....... I want to answer the question about whether reading and studying a textbook is a skill worth learning, because I think it definitely is!

 

I am going to start with me. I have a PhD in mathematical biology. I did not read until I was 12. I read and studied my first textbook in University at age 19. I remember what it felt like to not be able to read a textbook, to stare at the page, to dread it. When I started my PhD at age 21, I could not read the peer-reviewed papers -- I still did not have the skill. There is reading and then there is READING.

 

When I was training to be a teacher all those years ago, I often thought that I would save my students from having to read the textbook. I thought it was just so much more efficient to teach them directly. Then, I took the "remedial reading" class for my education major (yes, that is the name that still appears on my transcript) -- it was all about the importance of reading and how to help kids learn to READ, not just to read. This was the ONLY class in university that I went in with a certain paradigm and left with another. And I have NEVER questioned the new paradigm -- students need to be able to read a textbook so that they can learn independently and are not completely reliant on another person to teach them. Just think about that for a moment. Do you really want your student unable to learn unless a program is perfectly tailored to their learning style? Do you think that they will only ever take classes that will be tailored to their specific style? Will the fail if a class is not taught in their style? And more generally, if they need to learn something for a job, will they be able to do it? Are they completely reliant a tutor or a friend to verbally explain the material? In the end as you advance in your own personal learning, you typically do it independently, and if you don't you are limited.

 

Now I am NOT saying that the only way to learn is from a textbook. What I am saying is that the end goal is independent learning. And most fields (if not all) have a set of material that must be learned (from lock-smithing to quantum physics), and this material is written down, not transmitted orally. Most fields have a systematic way of getting through the basic material, this is called a textbook. More advanced material has not yet been written into a textbook and this material is published in peer-reviewed journals in each field. So IMHO if you want to learn a subject, you need to get through the basic material systematically, which is a textbook. Now, you don't have to "learn" a subject, you can just dabble in it, and that is fine, but be aware of the difference.

 

So now you have a textbook, how do you learn from it? You need to make the material make sense to you, and this is where your own personal learning style comes in. You can get the 10 headers from the first chapter and put each header into YouTube and study all the topics until they make sense to you and then check your understanding with the comprehension questions at the end of the chapter. If you don't know an answer or 2, you can go look them up.... Or you could do what I had to do with advanced statistics (multivariate nonlinear time series analysis) and get out 6 textbooks on the same subject, sit on the floor, open each one to the same topic, and read each subtopic from each book until you understand, and then move onto the next subtopic.... You could read the book, and then discuss it with a study group and get them to quiz you and you to quiz them and to ask hard, searching questions and really dig in, until it all makes sense.... You could rewrite the textbook as notes, and then shorter notes, and then just a brief outline..... You could put all the information into quizlet and drill yourself..... You could go to lecture and listen to a professor.... You could get your hands dirty and DO activities, experiments, projects..... You could do what I did for Calculus-based physics and work and rework every problem in the textbook until it coalesced into a workable whole. ETC. The point is, YOU must make the material understandable for you. Typically, there is a set of material that you must learn, and it is not tailored to your personal needs. For example, you need to learn the rules of driving. You don't get to say, "well, I can't memorize stuff easily, so can I have an exception please?" There is a set of material that you expect that your Project Manager, Doctor, Lawyer, Scientist, Developer, etc has to know. They just do. And they won't be certified without it. MY POINT: I think you are doing your students a disservice if you don't teach them how to interact with a textbook. It can definitely be more than just reading it, but each person has to evaluate *what* they don't know yet and *how* they will go about learning it. This must be done in all subjects.

 

As some of you might be aware, I have spent the last 6 months designing science programs for logic-aged children on the logic board to work with their weaknesses and to celebrate their strengths. The programs I have designed focus on a positive interaction with science and also slowly, over time develop reading skills. No student will learn well if they hate the subject and don't find it useful or interesting. Don't ask me how many times as a highschool teacher some kid has asked me "Why do we need to know this?" Material needs to be applicable to the student, and this is where I think a lot of textbooks fail. If the material is not interesting, my attitude is "make it interesting." Connect it to real life. I would much rather have a student get through half of a textbook and have the material stick because it was connected to real life, then to have them slog through a text that is way too long and too esoteric and none of the material sticks. It is just an exercise in uselessness. But this does not mean you need to give up on textbooks, it means you need to slowly over time develop the skill. It comes much easier to some students than others (I can tell you this from personal experience).

 

So how do you develop this skill? I am currently in the middle of it with both my older and my younger. My younger does not like non-fiction. He is a fabulous reader - he is currently reading Robinson Crusoe at age 9, but his non-fiction skills are not so good. My older has been learning independently from AoPS math books from the age of 9, and read Gormenghast by Mervin Peak at age 10, but he does not interact well with science textbooks. He LOVES science and reads Scientific American and National Geograpic, but textbooks, not so much. So clearly, there are many many different types of reading. I do not consider either of my children proficient readers yet, even though both can handle certain adult material. If they cannot handle ALL adult material then there is more I need to teach them.

 

There are many steps to being able to learn from a textbook, and it is not about the age, but rather about the reading stage. Here are the stages as I teach them, because my kids have not be "naturals" when it comes to textbook reading.

 

Step 1. Read through lots of different types of non-fiction and discuss the pros and cons of each: narrative nonfiction, biographies, paragraph books like Eyewitness, cartoons like the Cartoon Guides, and more full-text books . For a young child, this process will take 2 years (or possibly more). We do this in History and Science.

 

Step 2. Read through an entire "spread" book like How Things Work. Start to finish, systematically. These types of books have mostly pictures. Each spread is a single topic with little connection between topics. Text is short - paragraphs and descriptive notes about the images. But the goal is to get the feeling of being systematic.

 

Step 3. Reading a textbook that is easy and *interesting* to the student. Just reading -- not studying, no tests, no reports, just discussion every couple of days. The goal here is to interact with text that is more connected between pages, but with no **pressure**. Plus, it is on a topic that is *interesting*, so there is motivation. Only about 60% is learned, because there is no real studying.

 

Step 4. Learning to study from a textbook. To actually learn, memorize, internalize ALL of the material. I choose a SHORT textbook and have given my ds 1.5 years for a 1 year course. We are currently doing this now. The goal is to learn how *you* learn. The science course is 2/3rds science and 1/3rd study skills. This part of the process require a LOT of my effort and time. We are currently trialing different methods: Options being:

 

1) Taking notes in a notebook and then summarizing them (this did NOT work)

2) Taking notes on notecards and then on the front, writing a question that would summarize all the material (this is working)

3) Using YouTube to visualize the reactions ( we are studying chemistry, *this* has been key)

4) Making mind maps, using colors (haven't needed this one yet)

5) Using a program like Quizlet to memorize material (will trial this when the exam approaches)

6) Increasing interest level with fun videos, living books, random experimentation (somewhat important to my ds)

7) Making the material feel like real science by doing a large scale investigation (Very important to my ds, His project will be: What features of parking decks reduce pollution levels?)

 

At first I sat with him for 1 hour per day and helped him identify important information that he did not know and take notes in an organized fashion. Then I made my own study materials and allowed him to look at them for a few minutes, and then put them away, and make his own. Now, he is only looking at my study materials if he does not quite "get it." Finally, I will quit making study materials, and will just check his as he makes them.

 

We have also had discussions about how he learns, why it is useful, what the next level of the material would include. I have also been a cheerleader. Celebrating his successes, shoring up his weaknesses. We are not through with this process, as study time will be in October for the IGCSE Chemistry exam, but I will continue with the FULL involvement this year.

 

Step 5. Independent reading and studying of textbooks with interest to the student

 

Step 6. Independent reading and studying of textbooks with *little* interest to the student

 

Step 7. Reading peer-reviewed articles and integrating them into the core of a subject (not done in high school)

 

Step 8. Reading peer-reviewed articles in a different field, and integrating them into your field of study (I applied economic models to ecological systems, this is very difficult to do!)

 

And remember, that IMHO reading the textbook is not always about READING the textbook. It is about systematically learning the core material in a field. If you want too look everything up on YouTube and learn it that way, then be my guest. The goal is to get the syllabus (in outline form or textbook form) and *learn* it in a way that works for you. You can definitely get the AP syllabus for any subject off the internet, not buy a textbook, and study the material by looking everything up in Wikipedia. Not my cup of tea, but if it works better for you, then go for it. I would suggest, however, that you seriously evaluate what you are asking your students to do. I hear a lot of complaining that students cannot handle step 6 (learning independently from a textbook with *little* interest to the student), but it appears that they have not worked their way through steps 3, 4, and 5. So, really, I am not surprised that there are tears.

 

Now, just like teaching adults to read requires special material, teaching High Schoolers to learn systematically from a syllabus takes special materials if they have not yet been through even step 1. You have limited time; they need to earn credits. You are in a pickle. I think you need to do a composite, and this is what I recommend in these situations: they need a textbook but YOU as the teacher need to make it live. So you need to do both. Expect them to read only HALF of a highschool sized textbook and link it to real life issues. Focus on the skills required to learn material systematically. Focus on HOW they learn. Make sure the material relates to them as individuals. Do NOT expect a student at level 2 of my list to sit down with an AP textbook and learn it independently. You are setting them up for failure.

 

However, I do not think that having a perfectly tailored program just for them all the way through highschool will set them up to succeed in university. The Professors don't have the time to tutor each student. The professors expect your students to be able to learn the material that is put in front of them. You need to TEACH your student how to do this.

 

Finally, for all those non-majors out there. Please know that science is not nearly as boring as all the textbooks make it seem. Seriously, just do half of a text and LINK it to current events. You will have time if you only study half of a textbook, plus your students will not feel *pressured*. When you study nuclear chemistry, research and write paper on nuclear power plants (the good, the bad, and the ugly). When you study biochemsitry, dig into wikipedia and read about cloning. As non-stem majors, you do NOT have to slog through the ENTIRE textbook. But you should get your students to learn to read them. Slow and steady wins the race. Help them learn how to learn. Don't leave them trapped -- completely reliant on others' goodwill for any learning to happen.

 

Ruth in NZ

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In answer to OhElizabeth's question about whether you would have a science minded kid take an AP level history (I think that was the scenario), I would say "no". But I would certainly applaud anyone who could get that done with their science kid :hurray: . One of the issues facing many of us is "student population" - number of students, special needs student(s), students with an outstanding talent (musician, dance, etc.) and we have to tailor our expectations as well as our materials to that. I often think that if I had one student who would work with me and who understood that the classes were for his good, we could accomplish deeds and wonders. But the reality is that we have kids who have their own little personalities, desires, expectations, and we are also sometimes wives and sometimes the breadwinners. It's hard to give an AP level of instruction in all areas unless we outsource something (either the housework or the schoolwork). I know that there are those who can do that and I'm in awe of them. I'm not one of them.

 

Well, this has diverged significantly from the question of the textbook :laugh: but I just want to say that I've appreciated reading all the thoughts about that question. Those thoughts certainly went far beyond what I even imagined could be the issues and it has been enlightening and thought provoking.

 

 

My older two are doing their first year of full high school level coursework. I'm not (yet) expecting them to do AP/college level work across the board. But I will say that I see many students who are working at AP level in English, foreign language, science and math. Certainly once those high school seniors get to college, they will be expected to be able to handle college level work across various disciplines.

 

On the other hand, there is the issue of pushing someone into higher level work before they have mastered the tools needed for the earlier stages. Just to pluck an example from the intro to lit class I am teaching in coop, it can be challenging to write a compelling essay when you haven't mastered the art of writing paragraphs that support one topic instead of wandering. We read To Kill a Mockingbird last semester and about half of the class misunderstood the role of Boo at the conclusion of the book. They were also still learning how to deal with a book where there is an unreliable narrator (the narrator is a child who doesn't understand all that is going on, but the reader is expected to read between the lines of what is said and shown). They sometimes had trouble with scenarios that were commonplace in the time the book was written, but seem beyond the pale now. They also tended to take the statements of all characters at face value and not perceive that some could be shading the truth or outright lying. So they need to develop both critical reading and effective writing skills. And they are getting better over the year.

 

What concerns me (on a broad level, not in direct response to the quoted post) is that many families seem to decide that their child is tracking down a particular course and won't ever need competency with this or that. It may be a STEM student discounting history or literature. It may be a language intensive student discounting science. Both concern me very much. Kids change so much through the years. As does life. I think you need to be prepared to learn how to understand a wide range of subjects.

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My older two are doing their first year of full high school level coursework. I'm not (yet) expecting them to do AP/college level work across the board. But I will say that I see many students who are working at AP level in English, foreign language, science and math. Certainly once those high school seniors get to college, they will be expected to be able to handle college level work across various disciplines.

 

On the other hand, there is the issue of pushing someone into higher level work before they have mastered the tools needed for the earlier stages. Just to pluck an example from the intro to lit class I am teaching in coop, it can be challenging to write a compelling essay when you haven't mastered the art of writing paragraphs that support one topic instead of wandering. We read To Kill a Mockingbird last semester and about half of the class misunderstood the role of Boo at the conclusion of the book. They were also still learning how to deal with a book where there is an unreliable narrator (the narrator is a child who doesn't understand all that is going on, but the reader is expected to read between the lines of what is said and shown). They sometimes had trouble with scenarios that were commonplace in the time the book was written, but seem beyond the pale now. They also tended to take the statements of all characters at face value and not perceive that some could be shading the truth or outright lying. So they need to develop both critical reading and effective writing skills. And they are getting better over the year.

 

What concerns me (on a broad level, not in direct response to the quoted post) is that many families seem to decide that their child is tracking down a particular course and won't ever need competency with this or that. It may be a STEM student discounting history or literature. It may be a language intensive student discounting science. Both concern me very much. Kids change so much through the years. As does life. I think you need to be prepared to learn how to understand a wide range of subjects.

 

 

 

 

 

I completely agree. When I hear moms ask for a light math curriculum because their child won't be going to college, I cringe. The one major goal I had with my sons was teach them sufficiently that they would not be able to say that they could not do something because they were unprepared. Now I don't think I could have prepared them for Harvard but I do feel that they are prepared to go into any field they desire in college. Kids change a lot in the teen years. My oldest made a total switch from the idea of being a history major and going to law school to being a petroleum engineer in his last semester of his senior year. Incredibly he had received scholarships for the history major at his school of choice and he was able to get scholarships in engineering at the new school.

 

Instead of going the AP route, we utilized dual enrollment options for history, government, economics, philosophy, etc. For some reason AP designation has always scared me. I think the problem is more that I would be so worried to teach it making sure that I covered everything necessary that I would end up driving everyone crazy.

 

I read posts of moms with kids who begin taking AP courses in 9th and end up taking 5 APs in their senior year alone and I'm in awe. I don't think my kids could have done that with me as the teacher.

 

 

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Ruth

 

Your long post about learning to use textbooks is one of the best things I've read on teaching in months. I would very much recommend that you see if a magazine would be interested in publishing a version of your comments.

 

This one comment especially hit me:

 

And I have NEVER questioned the new paradigm -- students need to be able to read a textbook so that they can learn independently and are not completely reliant on another person to teach them. Just think about that for a moment. Do you really want your student unable to learn unless a program is perfectly tailored to their learning style?

 

 

This is a question that I think needs to be asked often. So often, especially with middle schoolers and high schoolers, the learning gets more complicated and nuanced and requires more effort. And I think too often, the response (not only homeschoolers, but educators in general) is to tailor the topic to their strengths rather than strengthening the student.

 

There is definitely something to be said for helping someone at the place they are at. But it seems like so much of the educational world feels very comfortable with letting them rest on those pre-developed strengths and habits rather than growing in other directions.

 

Anyway, I really appreciated your comment.

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Lewelma, you've raised some points I'd like to take some time to think about before answering. They're issues I've pondered in the past, but you're right that I need to make sure they're actively incorporated into our four year plan. I also think, at least in our case, it's not as b&w, dichotomous as it might appear. It's not like we've done NO textbook reading or never pushed that envelope. We've done it pretty consistently over the years in fact. It's just that I *pick* which subjects to do it in and don't necessarily do it in *all* subjects.

 

What I'd be really interested in right now is how to find a list of reading techniques like you're describing. Some of your techniques would work well for science topics (where background leads to understanding, a youtube video might get you to the same place), but for a history text comprehension really does rise and fall on grasping the flow of the arguments, synthesis. That's why I take so much time to make these study guides for my dd, because I'm trying to make sure she learns how to find that in the text and gets used to the idea that it's THERE and that she can LOOK for it. We tried doing that completely (with all her own work) in 6th and 7th (with a science text actually), and it just took an inordinate amount of time. My guides have the precise goal of teaching her how to work with a text, how to know when you're comprehending it and how to realize you read so fast that you missed the steps of the argument. I really take history with her one step at a time, so I haven't necessarily charted out every single book and figured out what we'll do at each step. I know where we're trying to end up (with her being able to do dual enrollment or AP classes), and I know we'll have to bridge over the next few years. I also know that at her current level she's performing above the expectations for her age grade with the types of materials they *would* be using. I expect a certain amount of bridging and instruction and guidance to be necessary for her to use the harder materials she's using.

 

So anyways, I find your suggestions on ways to approach a text intriguing, and I'd like more or a resource to find more in that vein. Up till now my answer has been read it 6 times and then you may come ask me. It works, but it's sorta brutal. ;)

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Awesome post, Ruth - love it! :)

 

And I really like Sebastian's response:

"So often, especially with middle schoolers and high schoolers, the learning gets more complicated and nuanced and requires more effort. And I think too often, the response (not only homeschoolers, but educators in general) is to tailor the topic to their strengths rather than strengthening the student."

 

This thread is wonderful. I hope what's coming through for everyone reading, for my part, is not that we need to be draconian with texts and chain every student to his/her chair and force them to read and learn from that ONE source only but that textbooks can be and should be useful and often-used tools in teaching our students. Learning to really READ texts (as Ruth said), using texts to get through the basic material systematically (also, as Ruth said), and using texts to work problems (as Regentrude has said) are all very valuable reasons to incorporate texts into middle school and/or high school education. NOTE: I'm refering here (and in all my posts in this thread) to science texts - namely, chem texts - realizing that the arguments for using or not using a text in the humanities may be different.

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I have a very visually oriented child. Here is what she likes- for history, she loves the Ancient and Middle Ages books by SWB. These are much more indepth than a typical textbook but written in a narrative style. FOr American History, I will use a similar set of books by William Bennett, that my older daughter used. Again, very indepth but in a narrative style. Then for science, the youngest does several things, uses lectures both on the computer and from Teaching company, works problems and gets exact definitions and formulas from a text book, and does demonstrations at home too and will do experiments too. (Physics is mostly demonstrations while biology does consist of some experiments). She also does chemistry experiments in co-op.

 

Oh and I totally agree with Regentrude about memorization and physics. My dh never had to memorize equations - at three different higher learning schools, he always was either allowed to make a sheet or given a sheet at the exam. The physics questions were never the sort that could be answered yes or no. They always involved solving problems as did his homework.

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Awesome post, Ruth - love it! :)

 

And I really like Sebastian's response:

"So often, especially with middle schoolers and high schoolers, the learning gets more complicated and nuanced and requires more effort. And I think too often, the response (not only homeschoolers, but educators in general) is to tailor the topic to their strengths rather than strengthening the student."

 

This thread is wonderful. I hope what's coming through for everyone reading, for my part, is not that we need to be draconian with texts and chain every student to his/her chair and force them to read and learn from that ONE source only but that textbooks can be and should be useful and often-used tools in teaching our students. Learning to really READ texts (as Ruth said), using texts to get through the basic material systematically (also, as Ruth said), and using texts to work problems (as Regentrude has said) are all very valuable reasons to incorporate texts into middle school and/or high school education. NOTE: I'm refering here (and in all my posts in this thread) to science texts - namely, chem texts - realizing that the arguments for using or not using a text in the humanities may be different.

 

 

I can't quote everyone who has contributed, but this thread has made me re-think our approach to science.

 

I tried chaining Ds to his chair with the text. He says it isn't his preferred method of learning. (Kidding, of course I didn't do that!)

 

Actually, though, b/c of this thread I've realized I did close to that. In other subject areas including literature and history, where he is perfectly capable of reading and drawing conclusions on his own, we discuss the material. I had not been discussing science with him for most of the year. I gave him feedback on his work, but not discussion.

 

So, today, we sat down and discussed the info in the text, the way to approach the text, and the questions the text raised for him (and did not answer btw). He had several ah-ha moments and is now going off on some rabbit trails to find out more about the questions he had.

 

So, okay, it's probably not the text that was killing the love of science. It's the lack of support with higher level materials that are quite a step up from the middle school science he was used to. And, now the interest is back b/c he has discovered things he wants to know more about.

 

But, I do need to find a way to get him interacting with the text more on his own b/c at this rate we could spend the next two years finishing just his one text. So, gradually, I'll be working on getting him to process the text on his own in the same way that he does with me. We'll still discuss, but maybe not to the extent we are currently as I try to help him acquire skills for learning from a more difficult text. That's my goal. I think he needs some rabbit trails for the questions that arise in his mind too. It's like he needs those questions answered b/c they are part of the picture for him and all the info he's reading just won't fit without what he sees as the missing pieces.

 

I hope I've figured out what needs to be done, and if it's that simple boy do I feel stupid for not realizing it sooner. I should know better. :blushing:

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And now, Shannon, you know why I've been doing study guides! If I make a study guide that gets her 80% of the way there, then I can come in with my discussion and polish it off. And I also think you're onto something that some kids seem to be content with straight book learning and some people really want to connect with someone about it. I have no clue what the pattern is to that. It's certainly something my dd has expressed.

 

TransientChris, here's my concern with the narrative approach to history, and it's really not personal (since your approach is what a lot of people seem to do). I had a bizarre experience in public school history (no texts most of the years, etc. etc.) and am not a history person, and when I got into college I STRUGGLED with freshman history of civ. Actually, I took it as a senior (had been putting it off, putting it off) and STILL struggled! I was great in grad school theology classes, which were oddly easier for me. I think what was going on though in that freshman history of civ class was that it required a level of *synthesis* of the text that I did not know how to bring. I knew how to memorize facts, but I really didn't know how to take it beyond that. And although I have NO qualms with SWB's series, CM narration, blah blah, I don't see how any of those methods overcome that issue. All of them seem to allow the student to read the text, take what he wants, and call that adequate. They never make him examine the flow of arguments, how past and future topics relate, or what they DIDN'T get from their reading.

 

I like Bill Bennett's books and have them for my dd to read next year in fact. I just have in my mind though that in some fashion, in some way, it does need to happen that she gets these skills. I think there are perfectly valid OTHER ways to learn to do that. The right person might approach it through periodicals or reading opinion articles from the NYT website. They're certainly brilliant examples of rhetoric and building a point. A student who was raised on discussing alternative sources like that would probably slide into the critical reading of a textbook JUST FINE. It's not like a textbook is the ONLY way to gather the skills. It's just the most convenient or obvious or socially normative way. Personally, I think it can turn out a student who's used to being pushed through a paradigm and has no ability to think. I think as homeschoolers it would be much more interesting to break out of the box and do some of the content non-traditional ways and get those critical reading skills *other* ways.

 

I'm on the theoretical end of this btw. Her ability to do increases each year. It's a calculation though, a simple mathematical thing. I will have skill goals, content goals, and options for how to achieve them. Then I'll have the amount she can physically do, and something will have to give. I always have way more ideas than time. Unfortunately, it's just not her reality to do every single subject in the most textbooky, tedious way possible. She can have something that way, something more out of the box, and something way out of the box, a mix. I also try to overlap content and skills. So for instance I have this idea in my mind for next year where she does a journalism study, makes her own monthly newspaper (in the process learning photoshop and some graphic design), writes book reviews, articles on current events, an editorial (studying the approach used on the NYT site), etc. I don't know if I can pull that off, but it's an idea I had. I don't think there's only one way to get these skills or that doing it exclusively with *textbooks* is necessarily the best way.

 

BTW, when I selected our labs for this year, I picked them SPECIFICALLY for the skills she would learn. Reading lab instructions with lots of steps is a really tedious thing. You have to read very carefully, gather your materials, not skip steps, and it may not be something you care about. But reading those tedious instructions in a lower text becomes the springboard to reading instructions for something that's MORE complex (like in the Illustrated Home Guide books!). So I think there *are* ways to take things out of the box and still be attentive to skills. It just doesn't happen accidently. ;)

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Ruth,

 

Thank you so much for your post! It shed some light on some things that I have been pondering lately. My oldest is a rising middle school student, and I have been struggling with how to get her past the point of needing to be spoon-fed the material. I didn't want her to reach high school and utterly fail because I expect her to read and understand the material when I give her a textbook, but so many of the middle school courses (especially science) seem to be more spoon-feeding, and I was unsure of how to make the transition. I can see now where we are, and how to get to where I want her to be. Again, thank you!

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I completely agree, but unfortunately, the bad habits in textbook design are creeping into college level math and science books as well.

Just compare a modern introductory physics text with one that is several decades old, for example and notice the increase in page number. There is no new content that would account for the increased thickness - the book is inflated by colored boxes, unrelated photographs, lots of graphs not all of which contribute to a deeper understanding. There is less consecutive text explaining a concept in words; instead, there is a busy sidebar with lots of distracting figures.

 

 

I have three children who are all very different in the ways they learn, the ways they focus, and in artistic and graphics appreciation. To a child, they dislike the more modern math books. They will take Foerster or Saxon over any of the newer, over-sized texts with the mash of colors, graphics, and side-text. The unanimous comment is "distracting and worthless." None of the glamorous stuff helps them engage. I wonder what it would do to the textbook industry to return to smaller texts with less graphics. I know more than a few students who could benefit from not having texts that regurgitate all of the important information for them by actually highlighting it and breaking it down into outline form.

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I know more than a few students who could benefit from not having texts that regurgitate all of the important information for them by actually highlighting it and breaking it down into outline form.

 

 

There has been at least one study

(this is the first link google turned up - no time to search now:)

http://www.futurity.org/science-technology/hard-to-read-fonts-easier-to-retain/

 

that showed a better retention of content that is difficult to get out of the reading material. They did experiments with students reading the same information in different layouts and found that the ones who had to work with the harder-to-read font, i.e. who had to make more of an effort in getting the information, retained it better.

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There has been at least one study

(this is the first link google turned up - no time to search now:)

http://www.futurity....sier-to-retain/

 

that showed a better retention of content that is difficult to get out of the reading material. They did experiments with students reading the same information in different layouts and found that the ones who had to work with the harder-to-read font, i.e. who had to make more of an effort in getting the information, retained it better.

 

 

I am both fascinated and conflicted by that report. If I knew that I had to read something in a difficult font, I would have to slow down and I can see where I would perhaps absorb the information better.

 

On the other hand, as a Journalism major, one gets to spend a fair amount of time discussing the merits of various fonts. To this day, I find that if you make your message difficult for me to read by wild fonts, all caps, all lower case, or lack of punctuation, I am disinclined to read the message at all unless forced to.

 

Somehow I have this vision of a nation of students struggling their way through poorly written texts that have horrid fonts to go with them. <<Shudder>>

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There has been at least one study

(this is the first link google turned up - no time to search now:)

http://www.futurity....sier-to-retain/

 

that showed a better retention of content that is difficult to get out of the reading material. They did experiments with students reading the same information in different layouts and found that the ones who had to work with the harder-to-read font, i.e. who had to make more of an effort in getting the information, retained it better.

 

Hmmm...fonts are one thing, layout another.

 

One of the things that irks me about modern math texts is that there are sidebars with examples and tales that often continue to the next page. So if one is reading the text then pauses at the end of a paragraph to read a sidebar, one has to turn the page to finish the sidebar saga, then go back to the previous page to continue reading the text.

 

Of course, I have this same issue with my morning newspaper. When I flip to A4 to finish a front page story, my eye is often caught by something on A5. I then miss everything on A2 and A3. So maybe this is my own incompetency--not a general layout problem!

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Lewelma, you've raised some points I'd like to take some time to think about before answering. They're issues I've pondered in the past, but you're right that I need to make sure they're actively incorporated into our four year plan. I also think, at least in our case, it's not as b&w, dichotomous as it might appear. It's not like we've done NO textbook reading or never pushed that envelope. We've done it pretty consistently over the years in fact. It's just that I *pick* which subjects to do it in and don't necessarily do it in *all* subjects.

 

What I'd be really interested in right now is how to find a list of reading techniques like you're describing. Some of your techniques would work well for science topics (where background leads to understanding, a youtube video might get you to the same place), but for a history text comprehension really does rise and fall on grasping the flow of the arguments, synthesis. That's why I take so much time to make these study guides for my dd, because I'm trying to make sure she learns how to find that in the text and gets used to the idea that it's THERE and that she can LOOK for it. We tried doing that completely (with all her own work) in 6th and 7th (with a science text actually), and it just took an inordinate amount of time. My guides have the precise goal of teaching her how to work with a text, how to know when you're comprehending it and how to realize you read so fast that you missed the steps of the argument. I really take history with her one step at a time, so I haven't necessarily charted out every single book and figured out what we'll do at each step. I know where we're trying to end up (with her being able to do dual enrollment or AP classes), and I know we'll have to bridge over the next few years. I also know that at her current level she's performing above the expectations for her age grade with the types of materials they *would* be using. I expect a certain amount of bridging and instruction and guidance to be necessary for her to use the harder materials she's using.

 

So anyways, I find your suggestions on ways to approach a text intriguing, and I'd like more or a resource to find more in that vein. Up till now my answer has been read it 6 times and then you may come ask me. It works, but it's sorta brutal. ;)

 

 

When I was earning my MS Ed, one of the few classes that were really interesting and helpful was one on "Reading to Learn in the Content Areas" which was all about how a teacher in subjects other than language arts could teach kids how to understand the texts they were using (from magazine articles to textbooks to primary sources like speeches). Really great instructor, who not only had decades of classroom experience but had also worked with the authors of the textbook on developing the ideas. The text we used has gone through several editions, and older versions are available for just the cost of shipping.

 

I dug a little and found this site MAX Teaching Materials, from my old instructor. If you look at the resources section, there are examples of the anticipation guides, 2 column note templates (like Cornell notes), and 3 level guides (which I could have used for To Kill a Mockingbird - these are designed to help a student move from what is right in the reading to what they infer by putting together the information provided). This paper describes some of his approach, and also includes a hefty bibliography. (One book in the bibliography is The Reading Zone by Nancy Atwell. Her book on reading and writing with middle schoolers was the only other book that I kept more than a month after graduation.) Ah, and through the wonders/evils of Google Books, you can see hefty sections of Dr. Forget's book.

 

This is a little different than what Ruth/Lewelma was discussing. Her suggestions go well beyond the page (and also put more emphasis on the learner needing to take active ownership of the process). But it reminded me of this course and how practical it was.

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Hmmm...fonts are one thing, layout another.

 

One of the things that irks me about modern math texts is that there are sidebars with examples and tales that often continue to the next page. So if one is reading the text then pauses at the end of a paragraph to read a sidebar, one has to turn the page to finish the sidebar saga, then go back to the previous page to continue reading the text.

 

Of course, I have this same issue with my morning newspaper. When I flip to A4 to finish a front page story, my eye is often caught by something on A5. I then miss everything on A2 and A3. So maybe this is my own incompetency--not a general layout problem!

 

 

Well, with modern math and science texts I'll add the observation that the extra info added to lend context or relevance to the topic often seems to be a short biography of someone who looks a certain way and uses the skill/subject. But with little added value of how the student could also apply what they have learned to a practical use.

 

I prefer older books that had a section of application that was an extended word problem to get through. I will know that people who look like me can master it, because I will have mastered it.

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I have three children who are all very different in the ways they learn, the ways they focus, and in artistic and graphics appreciation. To a child, they dislike the more modern math books. They will take Foerster or Saxon over any of the newer, over-sized texts with the mash of colors, graphics, and side-text. The unanimous comment is "distracting and worthless." None of the glamorous stuff helps them engage. I wonder what it would do to the textbook industry to return to smaller texts with less graphics. I know more than a few students who could benefit from not having texts that regurgitate all of the important information for them by actually highlighting it and breaking it down into outline form.

 

 

On the "mash of colours (sorry - I'm Canadian - I have to put the "u" in by law :) ), graphics, and side-text"... What do folks think about any connection between the increased prevalence of video (whether it's from television, video games, Internet use, etc.) in the last 20 or so and the seeming need for students to have their reading material (fiction or non-fiction) follow suit? I would always joke on the first day of any class that I taught that they were in high school now and my job wasn't to present material to them in endlessly entertaining 20 second sound bytes - the Sesame Street days were over. :laugh: It seems to me that that's the direction textbooks seem to be taking. Instead of the student having to (gasp!) read a number of pages and mull over the info to get the whole picture, it's almost as though the textbook industry has given up and just accepted the fact that most students don't seem to be able to focus for any more than a minute or two and so present all the info in Sesame-Street like bits. (PLEASE!!! Don't think I'm hating on Sesame Street!!!! :D I grew up with that show (although, in Canada, we watched more Mr. Dressup and Friendly Giant...) but it seemed like a good example of the "quick, colourful-bits-of-information idea that I was trying to show.)

 

Does (or has) a video/screen based culture contribute (or contributed) to the change in the way texts are being written?

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On the "mash of colours (sorry - I'm Canadian - I have to put the "u" in by law :) ), graphics, and side-text"... What do folks think about any connection between the increased prevalence of video (whether it's from television, video games, Internet use, etc.) in the last 20 or so and the seeming need for students to have their reading material (fiction or non-fiction) follow suit? I would always joke on the first day of any class that I taught that they were in high school now and my job wasn't to present material to them in endlessly entertaining 20 second sound bytes - the Sesame Street days were over. :laugh: It seems to me that that's the direction textbooks seem to be taking. Instead of the student having to (gasp!) read a number of pages and mull over the info to get the whole picture, it's almost as though the textbook industry has given up and just accepted the fact that most students don't seem to be able to focus for any more than a minute or two and so present all the info in Sesame-Street like bits. (PLEASE!!! Don't think I'm hating on Sesame Street!!!! :D I grew up with that show (although, in Canada, we watched more Mr. Dressup and Friendly Giant...) but it seemed like a good example of the "quick, colourful-bits-of-information idea that I was trying to show.)

 

Does (or has) a video/screen based culture contribute (or contributed) to the change in the way texts are being written?

 

 

I think a video/screen-based culture is part of the issue. The decline in the amount of reading done by the general American population is another piece, probably tied into the video culture. However, I do think that current educational trends are the biggest culprit. Teachers are under tremendous pressure to "test" well. Educators look at the habits of successful students and decide that if they can replicate that across the board by mimicking it in texts, they will have won half of the battle. Think of pre-reading, asking what you know, what you want to learn, reading the material once, going back and taking notes, answering your questions, and then summarizing it. No wonder we lose the kids. We get so caught up in the theory of how education should work that we sometimes miss how it actually works. By arranging the chapters the way a student would write out their notes basically eliminates most of the work. I can fill out study guides in subjects that I know little about if I have one of those books with 2 subheadings per page, vocab words defined and important concepts highlighted. Who needs to read and process the information?

 

I am keenly aware of the text book issue after a two and a half hour "how to read a text" lesson that I did straight from the activities pages in CPO Science. When it was all over, my son asked me if the process would work on all texts, including more advanced ones. We pulled out his sister's AP European History and an AP World History text and of course, he couldn't use the same process. Those texts don't give up a lot of information unless you actually read them. Chapter subtitles are minimal. Vocab words may be in bold, or not, but they are never highlighted in yellow. The text is dense.

 

Ds decided the whole thing was a waste of time. We started over the next day and trained off of the more difficult text. We didn't use the approved method. I taught him how I survived grad school, but without all of the coffee. We will see how those lessons hold because he is using one of those texts this coming semester.

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