Re: DSM: textbook question

From: Bruce Smith (bsmith@coin.org)
Date: Mon Oct 29 2001 - 12:59:19 EST


Laura,

This is Bruce at Alpine Valley. The last thing you need to spend a lot of
time and money on is acquiring books. Put out a few feelers to your friends
and connections -- ask your mailing list; ask people you know in
conventional schools -- and you should be rolling in used books. Our
problem in this regard is receiving so many donated books we hardly know
what to do with them. I'd guess that maybe 1/10 of one percent of our
library, if that much, consists of purchased materials -- and we've got a
very well-equipped library.

I do think books -- even textbooks -- are a good thing for a school to
have. Think of them as being like computers, or furniture, or games: part
of the physical facility, the general set of resources available for
everyone. You're not going to open with bare walls and floors, right? So
having some books on hand when you open is not automatically coercive.
(Still, textbooks on "all" subjects? How many subjects is "all"?)

Two facts stand out in my experience: 1) it's very easy and cheap to get
lots of books; and 2) most of your textbooks will sit on your shelves,
collecting dust, for months if not years. At Liberty Valley School, I
remember hearing that a primary use of some of their textbooks was to help
a small boy reach the height of a drumset he wanted to play. So appoint a
few people to solicit and sort through donated books, if you like, but
don't spend a lot (any?) money on it, and don't try to acquire a
comprehensive set.

Besides, it's not like you need brand-spankin' new books to teach math. I
teach a few math classes at AVS and one of my texts, from our library, is
old enough to have school-aged kids of its own. So far, I've used a total
of four or five texts to teach everything from basic arithmetic to advanced
algebra. (By the way, that's one book per class: I pick and choose
problems, then make copies and cut and paste them into handouts.)

Finally, until you acquire some books of your own, you might suggest to the
student that he check out public and/or university libraries, as well as
the internet and homeschooling supply stores. You could see if someone in
your group can set him up with tutoring. If the student is sufficiently
interested in "not falling behind," he'll be able to pursue any of these
(and possibly other) options. What you can do is point out to him that at a
Subury school, if he's "not learning anything" (which, incidentally, is
very hard to do), then it's up to him to take the initiative and work with
you to get that ball rolling.

Bruce

--------------------------------
"I gave my life to become the person I am right now.

        Was it worth it?"

                                        -- Richard Bach

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