If I said it once… okay, so I said it once. But here it is again: I am going to be spending the majority of my summer building a curriculum for my new homeschooler and reading about homeschooling. (Who am I kidding? I’m also still reading novels and even some short stories.) The first book I picked up, and the first I read, was You Can Teach Your Child Successfully: Grades 4-8, by Ruth Beechick. I had bought this book because it is a homeschool classic, at least in Christian circles, and I saw it on every homeschool shelf that I visited. Also, it was right there in the used bookstore when I had a part of my education budget to spend.
We can all tell from the title that this book is not going to discourage anyone from homeschooling. It is, predictably, encouraging, which is exactly what I need as I start out this rather scary venture. What the title doesn’t tell you, exactly, is that this book is not only for homeschoolers, but also for any parent who wants to understand their child’s education and continue their learning at home (even over homework and nightly read-a-loud). What is even less obvious is that the book is Christian. However, the Christian-ness of it is not pervasive, and it could rather easily be read around. Why would one do that?
Because Beechick is a fount of useful information, encouragement, and interesting factoids. Sometimes I found that what she included was imbalanced (like having 100 pages on math curriculum and not even a list for reading), but it still seems you could build a whole curriculum just starting with the sheer breadth of what she covers, here.
Her biography on Amazon reads as follows:
Dr. Ruth Beechick spent a lifetime teaching and studying how people learn. She taught in Washington state, Alaska, Arizona and in several colleges and seminaries in other states. She also spent thirteen years at a publishing company writing curriculum for churches. In “retirement” she continues to write for the burgeoning homeschool movement. Her degrees are A.B. from Seattle Pacific University, M.A.Ed. and Ed.D. from Arizona State University.
Honest to goodness, it’s not the easy to find information about her, despite the fact that her books are classics in the homeschool world. She has been writing since the 1980s, and exudes this very educated, knowledgeable, and thoughtful perspective which she then makes easily accessible and digestible.
But despite the fact that she instilled an intuitive trust in me, one should really read more than one book as they start homeschooling, or so says the author and voracious reader in me. I plan to read no less than three more books before school starts (in one month!), so I will keep you updated as to whether or not this book still seems completely sane and balanced to me as I read other perspectives.
The main issue with this book is that it was last published in the 90s, and regrettably has not been updated since then. I do believe that many things have not changed since I was in school (which was when this was written) and in many ways have only been ratcheted up, but obviously some of the trends and facts will have changed. I don’t know what to say to this, except that you will want to read the book with that in mind. Still, I think you should read it.
I did really enjoy reading this book. I have a capacity for increasing my own interest when I need to. In other words, since I have to homeschool now, I can get myself pretty interested in homeschooling. (I did the same thing with pregnancy, birth, and raising children, as well as travelling to Eastern European countries and a myriad other things). But I doubt that I am the only one who pretty much devoured this easy-to-read, engaging, and even conversational book. It is so thorough, though not always hands-on, but gives you a more general frosting as well as lots of encouragement. Then again, I made a few lists while reading, of things to incorporate into this years’ and further years’ curriculum, and it is also easy to reference things since the book is organized in smaller and very logical chunks.
I read You Can Teach Your Child Successfully by Ruth Beechick. It was published by Mott Media in 1988, and updated for the 1992 and 1999 edition, the second of which I have.
*There is way too much underlining in my copy to transfer all the quotes I marked, here. I will narrow them down extremely and share a few favorites.
“Everyone thinks that it goes smoothly in everyone else’s house and theirs is the only place that has problems” (pvii).
“But if you find yourself trying to mold your child to a book, try reversing priorities” (pvii).
“Ultimately, children need an inner discipline if they are going to become good learners” (p15).
“Reading to children should not stop suddenly when children complete the primary grades” (p37).
“This one-on-one interaction of child with adult is a major advantage of teaching at home” (p39).
“Some activities could develop into long projects, such as writing a play, and if interest is high you should not cut the project short just to keep up with a schedule” (p69).
“If your child makes a particular letter poorly, help him to get a good picture of that letter in his head” (p124).
“You may comment first on something good about a child’s writing and then find something that can be improved” (p125).
“They learned a great deal of grammar as they learned to talk” (p167).
“The ‘utility’ purpose of arithmetic are largely met when children know basic arithmetic facts from memory and can calculate in the four basic operations” (p177).
“The best general advice about tests is to not be driven either by current test scores or by ambition concerning next year’s results …. But those who teach for meaning (while not neglecting computation) and who emphasize problem solving do achieve remarkable results (p198).
“Any time something isn’t clear to a child, try to arrange a way for him to work through the process with checkers or rods or coins or other objects” (p203).
“But an important principle l to remember is that real-life teaching is never as easy as it looks when laid out in a book” (p228).
“Both in real-life and on multiple-choice tests an estimated answer often suffices” (p260).
“The most obvious weakness [of textbooks] is the superficial treatment of most topics” (p295).
“You may be more of an expert when you finish the unit, but that is one of the hazards (or pleasures) of teaching” (299).
“The best ingredient of this sequence is the excitement of the parent” (p303).
“So you need to realize… that not everything in print is true” (p305).
“The California committee wanted history to be as a story well told—‘an exciting and dramatic series of events that helped to shape the present’” (p307).
“But in science, they should hold answers or opinions tentatively, even skeptically” (p326).
“Homeschooling families have the unique opportunity to raise children in a quiet, unstressful atmosphere in which they can develop powers of intense concentration” (p343).