Bryan Caplan  

My Homeschooling Textbooks

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People often ask me about the textbooks I used to homeschool my sons during grades 7 and 8.  I appreciate the question, because - aside from grading essays - textbook selection was probably the most time-consuming part of being Caplan Family School's Head Teacher.  The books I assigned, with commentary:

7th Grade
For Algebra we used Practical Algebra: A Self-Teaching Guide.  This is probably the best math text I've ever seen: clear, thorough, and (to our eyes) literally infallible.

For Geometry, I couldn't find a really good text, so we just used the geometry sections of the Kaplan SAT prep book and Kaplan SAT Math Level 1 prep book, plus miscellaneous others.

Our source for Algebra II was Practice Makes Perfect: Algebra II.  Pretty good, but quite a few errors.

For United States history, I assigned Nation of Nations, volumes 1 and 2.  It's not thrilling, but was comprehensive, and low on annoying political remarks and outright economic illiteracy.  Here, and in many other cases, I saved a bundle of money by using old editions.  History really hasn't changed much since 2007, after all.

Later, I bought virtually every A.P. U.S. History prep book for practice questions, as well as Barron's excellent flash cards.

My students also took my labor economics class, using all the assigned texts.

8th Grade
For Trigonometry and statistics, we used the later chapters of Practice Makes Perfect: Algebra II.

For calculus, we used Quick Calculus: A Self-Teaching Guide.  This book is very well-written and easy to follow.  It's also full of errors, but a public-minded Amazon reviewer posted a nearly-complete page of errata here.

If Caplan Family School were continuing, I would start a normal calculus textbook from page 1 now that we finished Quick Calculus.  The subject's hard and deep enough it's worth mastering the basics, then redoing it with all the bells and whistles.

Our primary source for European history was Carlton Hayes' A Political and Social History of Modern Europe, volumes 1 and 2.  Few historians are more fun and funny.  Though his words are occasionally monstrous to modern ears, cut him some slack.  The guy moonlighted by saving tens of thousands of lives during World War II.

Since Hayes only goes up to 1924, I added Civilization in the West to get up to the present day.  But despite its massive size, this book's coverage of the twentieth century was superficial, especially the post-war era.  My sons mainly learned about the twentieth century from random lectures, Wikipedia, and David Phillips' awe-inspiring flash cards.  Best... flashcards... ever.

For micro and macroeconomics, we relied on Cowen and Tabarrok's Modern Principles of Economics.  Using a text written by two guys within earshot may seem like nepotism, but my students privately called it their very favorite textbook: written with joy and packed with mind-expanding problems.

This year, my sons also took my public choice class, using all the assigned texts.

Did I choose textbooks wisely?  Hard to be sure, but I know two things as facts:

1. My students were happy doing their work, day after day. 

2. We took a total of four Advanced Placement tests - U.S. History, European History, Microeconomics, and Macroeconomics, earning straight 5's.  In middle school.  I'll probably never get to cheer for my boys at a competitive sporting event, but this before all the world do I prefer.


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COMMENTS (5 to date)
Ilya Novak writes:

Why don't you want your boys to play competitive sports?

Rick Eberhard writes:

Thanks for sharing the textbooks to homeschool during grades 7 and 8. You can find more resources for homeschooling at myessayslab.com educational website. Homeschooling is a great opportunity for children to study and learn what they want, when they want, for as long as they want. The problem is that while homeschooling can be a highly effective alternative medium in education for the mature, self-disciplined student, it is an inappropriate learning environment for more dependent learners.

Phil writes:

Thanks for sharing.

Happy to hear you guys found it to be a rewarding experience.

Sort of interesting to consider your experience as sort of a soft core version of the Polgar sisters were raised (some background: http://slatestarcodex.com/2017/05/30/hungarian-education-iii-mastering-the-core-teachings-of-the-budapestians/ and http://slatestarcodex.com/2017/07/31/book-review-raise-a-genius/)

one of the things I've wondered about their story, is how much of their chess growth relied on their father's ability to frame chess as an interesting problem early on, and his sense for what resources were appropriate/useful and early stages in their development

it seems possible that the ability to ignite your child's interest in a useful vocation or pursuit, is a really awesome gift to be able to give to your children

Richard A. writes:

What textbooks would you recommend for English grammar?

Jon writes:

Really wonderful progress on the APs. This strikes at a common problem in schooling -- excessive repetition without rigor. NJ used to have deliberate circulum design for middle school based on the premise that the varying emergence of puberty made it unfair to challenge students. This resulted in middle school being a repetition of elementary school save for a couple of advanced classes (algebra) where the material is new but the pace excruciatingly slow.

Kudos to you and your family.

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