Why We Do Not Use Commercial Workbooks and Basals   — Latest version as of 2010-04-17 17:59:08

Why We Do Not Use Commercial Workbooks and Basals

Our young children have characterized reading as “telling a story” or “thinking what the book says” because they are experienced with books in school. Giving your children skill sheets or readiness workbooks implies that reading is something else – circling a correct word or connecting lines. Children become fluent readers by reading and thinking about what they are reading, not by doing workbook exercises.

We feel that trade books are written in more interesting language than basal readers and commercial textbooks. Trade books are focused and relevant to what is being studied. The books we select are inviting, more aesthetically pleasing. Non-fiction trade books deal with their subjects in more depth than do textbooks, whereas information presented in a social studies textbook is often skewed, opinionated, biased and/or superficial. In math, as well, we choose not to give children workbooks, because they are too abstract, not related to solving real problems or undertaking authentic tasks children encounter in real life. Also, there is generally no real order to or progression of the concepts. Workbooks dictate pace. Filling in the blanks is a passive occupation. Children copy, compete, race through the pages as fast as possible. Children are not, in this way, asked to explain their thinking or solve problems in different ways.

We help children develop the capacity to use their store of knowledge to solve real life problems through giving them authentic tasks and situations. Children who have concrete experience with number really know what a quantity means. We use Xeroxed pages of math textbooks more properly as a reinforcement or resource.

Our focus is on more open-ended, multi-level problem-solving situations that call on children to be more active, involved learners, and use higher level divergent thinking skills.

We believe that the most effective educational environment for children is one in which the adults are also active learners, sharing practices and helping each other. In our school, children, teachers, administrators, parents and support staff are part of a community of learners.

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