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Quotes to Ponder
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Learning Beyond Textbooks

Ruth Beechick's You CAN Teach Your Child Successfully: Grades 4-8 is filled with tons of wisdom and common sense. She is an experienced teacher who wants to encourage parents teaching their own children. I would like to share some quotes from her chapter titled, "History and Social Studies", which deals with going beyond textbooks, especially when studying history. First, Ruth Beechick shares some concerns about using a "textbook only" approach, including ...

Another major problem of textbook series is that, for all their publicity about building concepts, skills and generalizations from grade to grade, this is not done. The books are collections of separate, unrelated topics that, as the children perceived, may contain only dates, events, and brief vignettes. And for all their talk about integrating skills with the content, most publishers had separate chapters on map reading skills, and few other skills besides map were included. Any thinking skills beyond finding and memorizing facts were few and far between, so that children have no opportunity to consistently use and practice them.

So what are we to do? We need to think beyond textbooks, as Ruth Beechick says, "learn beyond textbooks". This doesn't mean that we should throw out our textbooks (unless they contain erroneous information). We can use our textbooks as reference material and as idea or unit study "starters". Here are some more quotes from this chapter ...

Since there is no widespread agreement on what should be taught in each grade, you can be assured that you will do no damage to your own curriculum by making adjustments that fit your situation. If you are teaching children of several ages, it is perfectly all right to have all of them studying Columbus and the explorers at the same time. Or all can study ancient Greece at the same time. Younger children can read easier books, help make posters or scrapbooks, or take part in skits. They can enter into discussions or sharing time where family members contribute information from their reading or, better yet, raise questions they would like to find answers for.

... A simple start is to have your children look through the unit in the textbook and list people and events that are included. Then take a family trip to the library or send your older children. Get a variety of children's books on Drake, Balboa, DeSoto, and others in the list, being sure to include some easy books for your youngest children. Then everyone starts reading.

... Children could begin by reporting to each other what they learned from reading. ... They might decide to collaborate on a map or timeline or chart, or they might decide to make separate maps or reports or whatever.

... A technique to use often is to help children write questions they want to find answers for. ... Some questions may be unanswerable or at least unanswerable in the time you allot for the unit [or topic of study]. You can decide whether those are worth pursuing or whether they should be laid aside for now. Children who learn to ask questions are far ahead educationally from when they had experience only in answering questions, particularly in the fields of history and other social studies.

In this chapter, Ruth Beechick goes on to give lots of practical and experienced advice to help us go beyond a "textbooks only" approach.

Reading this chapter on "History and Social Studies" again has re-invigorated my love for history studies. These have been especially wonderful studies for my family. I like to take this time of year, the summer months, to reread books like this one. It helps me to evaluate our past year, to be thankful for all we've accomplished. It also gives me a longing to get going with the next year of studies so that we can continue to build upon what we have learned.

June 8, 1998
1998 by Kathy Ridpath
Please ask for permission to reprint this article, ridpath@chfweb.com. Thank you!


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You Can Teach Your Child Successfully:
Grades 4-8

by Ruth Beechick, Paperback
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"And all thy children shall be taught of the Lord;
and great shall be the peace of thy children."

Isaiah 54:13

Kathy Ridpath: ridpath@chfweb.com
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