Vintage Textbooks for Homeschool High School

I’m a “Keep-it-Simple” type of homeschool mom, and the curriculum choices I’ve made reflect such a practice. My nostalgic side fancied the idea of the kids using textbooks once used by students in the 1948 on thru to 1968. In my thinking, the information contained in these tag-sale treasures has remained unchanged since the historical events occurred. If it was good enough for a high school student to learn from in 1948; then, it was good enough for my student.

My intuitive method of homeschooling spoke loudly to me. The scholarly information contained between the covers of these vintage books could play an invaluable role in my children’s education. Weaving the texts into their education would be different from what is currently offered in curriculum catalogs. No bells and whistles, just plain ole’ wholesome learning.  I viewed it as being new to us, for our own time, today. It spoke of our own originality as a homeschool family.

Curiosity drew me to compare the newly obtained vintage textbook with a modern version sitting on my homeschool shelf. A recently published textbook’s colorful graphics leap from the page, are clearer, and attention grabbing. Students gain understanding from both the graphics and the written text.

A book published in 1948 has few black and white photographs, with a haze like quality, speaking of the era from which it came, enhancing the history lesson. The student relied entirely on learning the subject from what was written.

The questions at the end of the chapters in the vintage texts demanded more thought from the student. There were no multiple choice or true/false type of questions. The following two questions are from a 1950 History textbook; “Could we have had an Agricultural Revolution without first having an Industrial Revolution?” or “Why has the period from 1865 to 1877 been called ‘the tragic era’? Is this an accurate description of this period? Explain.”

Discussion questions from a 1931 American Literature text; “Note how admirably the first sentence states the case and at the same time arouses our curiosity.” Or “What do you think of the title? Find a line in the second paragraph on page 420 that explains it.” Or Is the picture presented in the story ideal, sentimental, or real? Does it seem overdrawn or natural?”

The textbooks were written expecting the student to deduct logical conclusions to the material that was presented. Unbeknownst to the student, problem solving and critical thinking skills were being gained in the process. Both of which are essential for taking either the SAT or ACT exams for college entrance.

It is unlikely an answer key will be found in the textbook.  Don’t let this dissuade you. This is an opportunity to grade creatively. Instead of writing out every answer, have your child respond verbally. Have a relaxed conversation. I suggest reading the chapter summary and couple it with your own general knowledge of the subject. Your child’s response to the questions will give you an inkling of how well he understood the concepts. The topic of grading high school subjects will be discussed in a future post.

There is little difference between giving your child assignments out of a vintage textbook or a modern one. The reading grade-level is higher in vintage textbooks than current textbook standards, which may prompt your high school student to seek out a dictionary. A dictionary of the same era will match the vocabulary used and provided accurate definition.

The use of dated or vintage textbooks could be used to compliment a modern textbook. Whichever route you choose, always remember: Home, Where Wholesome School Begins.

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