View Full Version : Teacher's Manuals?

04-12-2013, 05:23 AM
I canít figure out why I have such a strong aversion to them. I am starting to plan next yearís curriculum but I go running for the hills as soon as I come across the ďTeacherís Manualí. Answer keys are obviously necessary but the rest of it makes me want to cry. What is wrong with me?

I donít have a problem with other manuals. I love The Chicago Manual of Style. Heck, if you need a home theater installed, just give me the manuals and I will have it up and running in no time.

So should I beat myself up for this? Or just wing it?

04-12-2013, 07:29 AM
I'm currently re-reading the CMOS, 16th ed. ;)

Well, the thing about teacher's manuals, is some are helpful and some are... not. There is nothing wrong with you. Some manuals do provide helpful hints on teaching a lesson, additional ways to enhance the work, etc. However, maybe it just smacks too much of school-at-home for some folks. I think it depends upon the curriculum. Sometimes the teacher's manual is kind of necessary, such as with First Language Lessons, and sometimes it's not.

If you can look at something and determine the teacher's manual won't add anything useful, then I don't see any reason for you to buy the extra book.

04-12-2013, 07:39 AM
I'm guessing here, but in my scant experience, teachers' manuals seem to be annoying and draining the same way student workbooks often are, and I think, for the same reasons: they are written in a way that seems to communicate that the audience is presupposed to be stupid, so the language is dull, repetitive, and almost boggles the mind with careful avoidance of complex language.

Paradoxically, this renders the material harder to read, in much the same way that ultra-round, serif-free fonts that imitate horrid ball-and-stick manuscript, are assumed to be easier to read, and are often placed as the reading portion of worksheets for children, yet anyone would find a book, written in that same featureless font, very hard to read.

The presence of serifs, while they do make the form of each letter more complex, also help to differentiate one letter from the next and assist the reader in taking words in at a glance. That's why novels are printed in serifed fonts, for readability.

I can read the most complicated forms of writing: scientific and legal jargon, and antiquated literature from an era when verbal complexity was valued, but I often have to re-read a passage from a federal-standards reading comprehension test prep workbook, several times over, and still struggle to divine meaning from it as my mind glazes over.

Would that be why you hate teachers' manuals? Because they are written in that same sanitized, mind-bogglingly simplistic language, with the insinuation that the instructor cannot think for herself?

I feel the same way about most of them. I say most, because the "Teacher's Manual" in Logic of English is actually a hefty hardcover textbook, and *is* the textbook for the lessons from the workbooks, so it's text and teacher's manual, in one. Lessons are given, outlined, and explained, and if you want to use them, there are prompts, in case you have a bleary-eyed morning in which extra coffee is needed, and just want a script. But it doesn't seem to put me off with an underlying message that I must not be able to think at all. But at first, I felt a tad put off by it, too, because of the schooly textbookishness of it. I had to spend an evening flipping through it and marking the sections in the front that were condensed reviews (which actually turned out to be quite handy, once I had put paper clips to mark them for quick reference), so I could turn to the lessons at hand more readily. But for whatever reason, it didn't make me feel like I was being talked down to.

How do your kids feel about the lessons, with that curriculum? If they feel the same way about the lessons, maybe it's not the best curriculum for you?

04-12-2013, 07:57 AM
I've found there's a huge variance in the quality and usefulness of teacher's manuals. Some of them really do enhance and make the program *so* much better. But many of them are wordy and meandering, full of only completely obvious information, meant for a classroom, or just not accessible. So I would encourage you to look at the ones you have and consider them or ask about specific programs to see if people have found them useful. And then try to use the few that are really good. Or to get programs without them - many homeschool programs don't have a teacher book.

04-12-2013, 10:53 AM
curious what curriculum you are using? seems to me if they have bad teachers manuals, they may not be very good programs? thats why homeschoolers rarely use materials from school publishers

04-12-2013, 12:31 PM
I don't use TM at this stage of HSing. When their work is harder, to the point that I can't remember it, then I will purchase them. For now we work from the student books.

04-12-2013, 11:40 PM
Haven't needed them yet. Teacher manuals make me swear like a trucker on "Red Bull". Are the writers getting paid by the page?!? Especially public school manuals. Out of 405 pages, 18 pages of actual content!
But then, I have an aversion to almost ANY instruction manual. I can't imagine putting together Ikea purchases using an instruction manual, or installing software, - that would drive me INSANE!

04-13-2013, 09:50 AM
I'm don't particularly hate the teacher manuals, though I haven't sought them out either. I have a teacher's manual for AAS (very useful) and a teacher's manual for Calvert Math (mildly useful). With Calvert's manual most of the time I'm just looking at the page numbers to do for the day and using the lesson numbers as a way to track where we are in the year. If I feel like I need extra help with something that day I may read the lesson and see what it offers. I haven't even bothered to buy the teacher's edition of the science textbook we have. If I have any questions I can always look it up. With lower level math though most of the time you probably won't need an answer key, and even with the science textbooks the answers to the questions are pretty obvious right now if you've read the chapter (but sometimes we don't read the questions anyway). I think the usefulness of a teacher's manual will really depend on the level of the material and how integrated it is.

04-15-2013, 03:23 AM
Yes, yes, and yes to all of these great posts. crunchynerd, you hit the nail on the head. And Tanuki, I am still peeing with laughter! Thanks for that.

Since this year was our first "official" hs year, I grabbed the first thing that was handy (with my only free hand since other hand was nursing a baby...) which turned out to be the web-based Time4Learning. My daughter and I took a one-minute test drive and we signed up. We were generally pleaded with the program AND husband thought that I actually had my act together. :_laugh: I also signed her up at a Kumon center for the same reasons. However, now that a) things have settled down with the baby and b) I feel a bit more seasoned, I want to venture out. I am thinking of MathUSee, LifeofFred, MichaelClay, HWOT, WWW, Science and History from Pandia Press. I am hoping that leaving out the Teacher's Manual for any/all of these will not doom the lessons. My daughter loves to read all instructions so maybe I should just hand her the whole kit and caboodle!

04-15-2013, 06:16 AM
I don't think there are manuals for Life of Fred - the books explain themselves. I could be wrong, but i definitely don't have manuals, and don't see a need, especially early grades. HWOT I got the manual when I was starting K, but found it to be useless, so I didn't buy the manual for the first grade book.

04-15-2013, 09:12 AM
I think the attitude in this thread turned a little too harshly against the manuals. PS programs tend to have cruddy manuals and sometimes there's a worthless manual or the teaching is obvious, but many homeschool programs have great ones. The heart of teaching Miquon is in the diary and the Annotations. If you skip the lessons in MEP you'll skip much of the extensions and meat of the teaching. All About Spelling and Right Start are all in the manual - otherwise you just have a pile of random manipulatives and cards and a few math problems.

In the case of HWT, many kids may do fine with only a workbook, but any child in tears and it's possible you need all the teaching tricks - songs, finger spaces, building letters, writing with wet sponges then chalk... None of that stuff is in the workbooks alone and without doing them, you've done a handwriting workbook, not a handwriting program.

04-15-2013, 09:34 AM
mmm, MCT manuals are a copy of the student book with a few notes and some answers, nothing negative about those. some people only buy the teachers edition and not the student edition for everything but 'practice'. and LOF doesnt have 'home companions' until later levels. i think they are mostly a schedule (for people who want schedules) and worked out answers to the bridges, but i'm not sure. i think i actually might have purchased the home companion for algebra when we were struggling with it, but never opened it.

i think i said before - most of the good homeschool material has good manuals. useful and helpful.

04-16-2013, 02:19 AM
I think I understand your point. It will depend on how integral the manual is to the course as a whole. I guess I feel that in the hs environment TMs seem unnatural. Like JinxieFox said, ‘they smack of school-at-home’. I just want all suggestions and enhancements directed at the student. If kid is stumped then we can sit together and work it out without me having to go fetch another book.

Thanks again to all for shedding some light on this.

04-16-2013, 10:16 AM
See, I disagree with that. I think teacher manuals are often integral to programs that are the total opposite of school at home. Take Right Start. I know it's based off Montessori methods, with all the individual manipulatives and games and focused activities, it's so clearly meant for the home. And beyond that, it's a really dynamic program that is extremely different from how you probably learned math.

04-16-2013, 10:29 AM
crunchynerd, you made my heart go all-a-flutter with your post about font sensitivity. :heart: