Because most philosophies that frown on reproduction don't survive.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Yea or Nay on the Teacher's Manual?

We've been going pretty light on the scheduled schoolwork. The girls are still quite young (5 and 4) and some days when I see them playing together nicely I just can't bring myself to break 'em up and make them sit at the table with their workbooks. Perhaps next year, when Eleanor is officially "first grade", we'll have more structure, but for now I don't see it as being particularly necessary.

The workbooks we do have (math, English, and handwriting) I use by themselves, without a teacher's manual. Part of this is being cost-conscious, but I also just don't feel I need a manual to tell me how many pages a day to assign or how to teach adding or verbs. I believe I have a sufficient grasp of these concepts to be able to impart them to the young, and I assess the young scholar's mood at the time in determining whether to push on to another page or assign every other problem or just quit for the day.

The two books I have that include detailed teacher's instructions (Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons and Saxon 2, which I don't intend to use) have begun to frustrate me a bit. At first I found the scripted approach of 100 Easy Lessons to be helpful; now I just find it a bit fussy. Especially with textbooks and workbooks for the early grades, shouldn't the material be clear enough that someone who already understands the concepts will be able to teach it without further elaboration? Or do teacher's manuals include enough references and tips to be worth the extra expense?


Love2Learn Mom said...

Personally, I'm allergic to teacher's manuals and scripted lessons. Answer keys can be very helpful, though (especially for Math in grades 3 or 4 and up), but I've spent too much money on teacher's manuals I've never used.

Catholic Bibliophagist said...

Your instincts are sound, Mrs. Darwin.

I found the teacher's manuals for the Calvert curriculum to be helpful, especially when I was a new homeschooler, in helping me to pace the year's work by giving me an idea what could reasonably be expected of a student in a particular grade. But I didn't hesitate to adapt or eliminate bits depending on the student or the situation.

I didn't use Saxon in the early grades, so I don't know what their manuals are like. If they had them in the later grades, I didn't use them because the student books were so well designed for self instruction.

Entropy said...

Most teacher's manuals are not worth the expense. Though like, l2l mom, it's nice to have the answers rather than go through the work of figuring them out for yourself. *puh*

We bought a Sonlight Inst. Guide for Kindergarten, I believe, and it is chock full of all kinds of stuff not just lesson plans but ideas for field trips and games. Even still I hardly used it because, well, I had my own ideas!

For the most part though, teacher's manuals are unnecessary. (of course, we've only homeschooled through 4th grade so I'll let you know in a few years if I change my tune!)

The Saxon Teacher said...

In Saxon math books, from 4th through 12th grade, there is no need to buy a "teacher's" manual. The only difference between the classroom teacher's textbook and the student's textbook is the teacher's book has both odd and even answers while the student's book only has the odd answers. Which is why there is a homeschool answer booklet to accompany the textbook. You can read more about how to use these books and save money by buying older used editions at the web site

Kyle R. Cupp said...

Nay if you can avoid it. You know what your grasp of the concepts is, and you know your children. Textbooks are written for a broad audience and may or may not apply to your family.

Heck, depending on the subject, I would toss the textbook altogether.

Myth said...

In the limited experience I've had, I've looked at the teacher manuals once or twice before trying to teach a lesson, and have since given them up entirely. There were one or two suggestions I was able to take but for the most part they didn't offer anything worth my time to read through.

Anonymous said...

Do you know how to read and count? Sure you do, and you can pass that on to them without a script. You don't need a manual to tell you that. Ditch the manuals until you encounter something you're not all that sure of. In my case, that would be history/literature at the upper elementary and higher levels -- due to the severe lack in my own education and knowledge. I am so grateful for the support resources I'm using, but I still wouldn't use a script for Heaven's sake. And I still don't use teacher's manuals to teach high school level math. Follow the book and just talk with the kids as though they're normal human beings, eh? So much of what the curriculum publishers try to sell us is baloney ... it takes a lot of effort to weed that out. OK, stepping down off the soapbox now. God bless you and your lovely family.

mrsdarwin said...

Thanks for your advice, especially as it reinforces what I already thought. :)

Kyle, I'm not quite ready to ditch the textbooks because I'm not ready to write my own materials, yet. I don't particularly want to sit and write out practice sets of math problems! But I am careful of what books I use because I want books that make my teaching job easier, not ones that I have to re-narrate on the fly or have to stop to keep explaining, "Well, the book says to do it this way, but I really think it would be better if we...."

Textbooks are a whole 'nother post, though!

barbfromcincy said...

I bought teacher manuals after 4th grade or so for math...just for the answer key. Saved me tons of time correcting math. When my daughter was in high school, I did buy teacher manuals for her science classes. I knew that she would be taking lots of science related courses in college, and I wanted her to have practice in taking tests in these subjects and it was so much easier to just use the tests that were already written for the text, instead of making my own.

Amber said...

I know what you mean about the scripted aspect of 100 easy lessons - when I was brand new and nervous about the whole thing, I liked it, but now that I have a little more experience the scripted materials are grating on me. That being said, the teacher's manual for the Math-U-See Alpha has been nice at times because it has a lot of suggestions for math games to play that reinforce various concepts. Sure I could find stuff like that on the internet or come up with it myself, but this is far more time efficient!

Ana Braga-Henebry said...

A resounding *nay* from this homeschool mom. I do get answer keys to facilitate correcting though, starting around 3rd grade.

I have tried. They're useless. (
Btw, I was never able to use 100 easy lessons... what's wrong with traditional methods? My kids learned to read with little readers such as CHC litle folks phonics).

mrsdarwin said...


Something like those readers would probably be a good fit with my four-year-old, who dislikes 100 Easy Lessons.

Ana Braga-Henebry said...

I could send you my very-used-set when I am done... soon...but really, they're inexpensive especially if you'll use them for all your children!
Mind you, I started with Calvert school--that child is now a junior at Noter Dame. There was next to nil in Catholic homeschool materials then. And yet, I enjoyed the CHC much better! The first child who learned to read from them is now almost 6'3"!

The Opinionated Homeschooler said...

At the risk of repeating everyone else here, it depends. I found that sticking closely to the silly-sounding script for Handwriting Without Tears paid off; "up like a helicopter" and "bump--back on the beginning" and the baseball analogy for the letter "e" were stupid but infectious, and my 4-year-old would get every letter right every time, chanting the little phrases to herself as she drew the letters.

With my first, we used Calvert for one and a half grades, and on the first day she took the teacher's manual away and read the day's assignment herself. So from then on I let her be her own teacher each day, and she loved it. I guess the teacher's manual helped *her* at least.

I would also recommend the book/manual that goes with Miquon Math if you don't have a mathematician living at home to tell you what concept they're trying to get at on each page: there's a lot of surprisingly advanced mathematics being taught in Miquon. TOPS science is completely undoable without the teacher's guide, but it's not separate from the curriculum: in fact there's no student book at all.

That's about it: a rousing "it depends." By the way congratulations on the forthcoming baby!

Ana Braga-Henebry said...

I agree 100% percent! The Calvert Manual is the king of all manuals! But it is not your regular teacher's manual, one must state.