General Question

skateangel's avatar

Do textbooks teach you enough without having to learn from teachers?

Asked by skateangel (298 points ) February 3rd, 2012

I’m attempting to teach (or homeschool) myself to try to catch up on alot of education I missed. but the problem is I can’t go back to school cause I’m 20 and can only take GED classes which I don’t have the time or money for now (and I’m kind of embarrased), so I have to try to catch myself up, at least a little. Most of you guys probably went to high school, so could you tell me if textbooks would be enough to learn most things they teach you? Is the teacher or textbook more important? And does anyone have any book suggestions? Thanks

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24 Answers

auhsojsa's avatar

Malcolm X learned read and learned by himself in while in prison. If he could do it you could do it. You’ll probably form your own opinions and miss out on different perspectives (as classrooms provide excellent source of discussion) but yes, you could learn a lot of texts books. The thing with texts books is there are tons of voices typically on it. A team of writers, editors and researchers work out the kinks of the end result of text books for the most part. The most important parts of readings are distinguishing facts from opinions, then the importance of discussion and perspective talking comes in. Feel free to post questions you have from texts here! Try and get your GED soon though, it’s hard to find a job with out. Unless you want to be an artist, writer, have good connections and etc. Best of wishes to you.

Aethelflaed's avatar

It really depends on the textbook. I find most textbooks to be a horrible source of information (note: specifically textbooks, not all academic books) that lay things out in a strange and incongruent manner. And the textbooks in high school are just horrible, because they are designed by politicians and not academics, and have to jump through all sorts of political hoops that textbooks for higher education use don’t have to.

You could use some of the classes on iTunes University to help you learn. What texts would be good for you depends on what specific subjects and topics you need to catch up on, but if you tell us, I bet some of us might be able to wrangle up some suggestions.

skateangel's avatar

undefined Well I was mostly looking for world history and/or social science education books that would be thorough enough. Thanks guys:)

gasman's avatar

It’s well-known that different people learn in different ways, i.e., by different sensory modalities. Some people, for instance, learn best by hearing the spoken word, whereas others (like me!) learn best by reading the printed word. Nowadays there are plenty of educational videos as well.

For high school level, strive to read the textbook line by line; don’t move on until you totally get what came before. If your mind wanders then go back or stop & pick it up later. Reading without comprehension is a pointless waste of time.

Good teaching material should identify key terminology and list the main ideas. Look ahead at the exercises at the end of the chapter before you read the main text for another clue to what’s probably important. If you have time, read each chapter twice. Once you master a subject or two it gives you the confidence to apply the method to everything else.

When you encounter something you don’t understand, seek help immediately from another text (preferably online or free at public library) to see it explained a different way. Or ask Fluther! Or a technical Q&A site.

I’d still go to lectures / class (or video telepresence?) because sometimes they answer common questions that arise on the present topic, and because they might say things about study materials, exams, or grading that’s not in print or online anywhere. It really depends on the individual teacher.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Math is the HARDEST thing to teach yourself. Other than that, yes, you can learn what you need to know from a text book.

Have you looked in your area for an adult high school diploma completion program? I teach for one. It’s computer based. You work from home, but you have teachers on call for questions.

Dutchess_III's avatar

What do you disagree with me about @KoleraHeliko?

SpatzieLover's avatar

Between your textbooks and the Internet, yes, you can certainly teach yourself what you need to catch up @skateangel.

tranquilsea's avatar

I home school three children who are each marching their way towards taking the diploma exams. I gather resources from all over the Internet for each subject that they need. Math has been the easiest to find resources for.

Where I live you can challenge the Provincial exams when ever you like. You just pay a fee and show up where the exams are being held.

We also have workbooks (called SNAP workbooks) that outline exactly what is on each of the exams.

My favourite resources are The Khan Academy; Thinkwell; Great Courses; The Art of Problem Solving; OpenCourseWare via M.I.T. and my local public library.

Good for you for taking control of your education!

Dutchess_III's avatar

You are their teacher, @tranquilsea You’re teaching them subjects that you already pretty much know. You find the resources then teach them from that. You don’t stick a workbook in front of them and walk away and tell them they’re on their own. Math is hard to learn all by yourself with no human interaction. That’s probably why math has been the easiest to find resources for. Purple Math is excellent!!

fundevogel's avatar

I think this really depends on what you need to learn about and how you learn. And just for clarity, are you planning on getting a GED or is this totally independent education on your part?

If you do plan on getting your GED and just want to get ahead of the game I would check in with the people that provide the classes and find out what you need to take to get a GED. You can read up on those subjects you think merit getting a jump on. Whether or not a textbook is the right thing, at least for me, depends on the subject. I much prefer a well-written academic text to a textbook in subjects like history, government and literature. Textbooks tend to be woefully inadequate at addressing the nuance of those subjects and curiously boring. For science and math I’ve done well with textbooks assuming it’s a good one. But some concepts are tricky and you might need an actual person to break them down.

I second the use of itunes university. It’s especially nice if you’re an audio learner and it’s free.

Aethelflaed's avatar

Also, iTunes U does have some good history classes. If there are any specific classes you need, I can help you with those. In the mean time, I know that Scott Thomason’s History series (101 and 102, Western Civilization I and II, and 104, US History to 1877) from Parkland College are quite good, as well as Richard Moss’s Hist 104: US History II (so picking up roughly where Scott Thomason’s US History left off) and Hist 101: World History I from Harrisburg Area Community College.

YARNLADY's avatar

Yes, the important part is to use a variety of sources. You can easily learn more than school has time to teach you.

KoleraHeliko's avatar

@Dutchess_III “Math is the HARDEST thing to teach yourself.”, hence my linking to a place for the learning of maths. Which I suggest checking out, by the way, even if you’re not needing to be learning maths.

Dutchess_III's avatar

OK, @KoleraHeliko. Yes, there are lots of resources. Are you speaking from experience when you say taking a college level algebra course on line, by yourself isn’t so difficult? Or is that just your theory?

@YARNLADY Yeah…actual schools, like high schools, can sure waste a lot of time on PE and lunch and pep rallys and stuff like that!

linguaphile's avatar

I use these online programs:
www.ixl.com for math- from addition all the way to algebra.
www.essaypunch.com for essay prep and writing.

Textbooks are a good place to start, like Wikipedia, but often only offer one perspective or a very limited, superficial perspective of an entire concept. Some textbooks’ political positions are obvious—for example, there is no mention whatsoever in my students’ American Lit textbooks about the Beat Generation—there are plenty of Beat poems and writings that can be included in textbooks that aren’t about drugs or sex, but no… they’re not included at all, not even as a sidebar. Only dull war lit and reporting represents the 50’s in that book.

YARNLADY's avatar

@Dutchess_III I was thinking more of individual class time, teachers end up having to spend 75% of their time on behavior issues, and then answer the same questions a half dozen times as each student thinks he has to have his own answer.

When I was in school, I sat in my own corner of the room, did my own work, and spent most of the class time reading library books. I hated pep rallys and P. E.

KoleraHeliko's avatar

@Dutchess_III I don’t recall saying anything at all about college level algebra.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Yes, @YARNLADY…. we do spend a lot of time on behavior issues, but we do manage one on one when it’s needed. And if I am asked the same question more than twice, by different students, I’d shut the class down and go through the subject matter again.
You hated PE?? Wow! I loved PE! I probably have 10 credits in PE!

@KoleraHeliko Don’t understand your point. I said that, IMO, math is the hardest subject to teach yourself. College level algebra comes under the heading of “math.”

Jeruba's avatar

I missed out on coursework in linguistics, so I got hold of two or three textbooks in the field and read them from cover to cover. I learned a lot, but I don’t think I did nearly as well as I would have if I had had classes with a capable teacher.

•  A teacher would have managed the pace and paused to give emphasis to important topics.

•  A teacher would have known the field that set the context for these books, known what were mainstream ideas and what were fringe theories, what was current and what was out of date, what had hidden agendas, etc. I would have seen the material within a knowledgeable framework.

•  A teacher would have demonstrated, explained, offered additional examples, guided practice, and answered questions.

•  A classroom setting can reinforce learning through interaction with other students.

If self-teaching is your only option, it’s way better than nothing. But even a poor teacher can facilitate learning if you keep an open mind, focus on the material and not the teacher, and complete the assignments. In your place I’d look into community colleges that don’t require high school diplomas. Distance learning might be another good option for you.

skateangel's avatar

@Dutchess_III Wow, I didn’t know there were online GED classes- that sounds really helpful for me, but I can’t seem to find any online ones in my area…What do you think about enrolling in a GED study online? Would it teach you everything you need to know? and @tranquilsea thanks for the online resources! I was having trouble finding where to go online for help. @Jeruba, Yeah, I have enrolled in a local community college but I’ve realized the classes are pretty advanced for me, with my gap in knowledge. I’m not too clear on what distance learning is- is it like the GED? Thanks so much for all the help everyone:)

Jeruba's avatar

@skateangel, distance learning involves taking courses online through an institution of some kind. There’s a community college near where I live, for example, that offers distance learning as well as in-person on-campus instruction.

To take a DL class in humanities and the arts, I registered through a website the same way I would have registered for an on-campus course, but everything was done online. I did have to go to campus to obtain the required textbook, but I could have ordered it online. There were regular reading assignments, timed online quizzes, and papers to hand in. There were online discussions using a chat function. The final exam was a one-hour open book exam that you couldn’t have done well at if you weren’t familiar with the reading.

Another class, in anthropology, was a hybrid class: instruction was online videos, there were a book and a workbook to buy, and quizzes were online, but you had to come on campus for the exams.

Honestly, I would say go with the desire to learn and forget the embarrassment. There are plenty of people who are way further behind than you. A high school near me caters to older learners with special classes and has adult students who are still struggling with literacy and basic math. People admire the effort you are making and don’t think about how you fell behind. Just think how much more embarrassing it is to remain ignorant than to go ahead and correct your felt deficiencies.

Dutchess_III's avatar

@skateangel The program I teach is not a GED class. The students take the actual classes, from beginning to end, that they missed when they dropped out. If a student dropped out in 9th grade, it can take them 3 or 4 years to finish our program. If they dropped out lacking onnly 1 credit, they can finish in a month.

In our program if a person has a GED, that takes care of whatever electives they may need, which is a good deal, especially if you have a lot of electives.

At the end, they get an actual HS Diploma issued directly through one of the 5 high schools in our area that participate in our program. It’s not a piece of paper that has the words ‘High School Diploma’ on it, when it’s really just a certification. Through our program you get an actual diploma.

We have “classrooms” (we call them labs) that are open 5 days a week where you can go to work if you don’t have access to a computer, or need a teacher’s help, or you can work from home any hour of the day or night.

BrittanyReid00's avatar

It depends on the textbook. A lot of my homeschooled friends learned from textbooks and other home written programs, turns out, she is smarter than me! So yes, I DO recommend using these. But as I said, more textbooks are more useful than others. So yes, I guess so.

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