We all know that antique and thrift stores sell used books, but have you thought of them as places to buy actual curriculum? Keep in mind that your grandmother's eighth grade education was probably the equivalent of a high school education today. If you don't believe me, ask her.
Many of yesterday's textbooks have landed in the used book departments in all kinds of stores. A number of these books are in terrible condition -- they smell horrible, have missing pages and even in their prime were not worth owning. Just as digging through piles of used clothing will often result in one wearable garment; educational books are worth digging for. You do have to be every bit as discriminating.
Recently, I came home with two spelling books in very poor condition from the early twentieth century. I'll either use them "as is," or I'll take from them whatever I want to teach to my children. The books have spelling rules, lists of words and dictation lessons. It was the best money I've spent in the area of language arts in years!
Another favorite of mine is old math texts. Quite often they work as excellent reference tools that. Spending twenty-five to fifty cents will enable you to instantly turn to the formula or mathematical concept you need to refresh your memory.
Old history textbooks are available too. Again, you'll sometimes come across bad examples of yesterday's schooling, so be discriminating. Make sure you don't buy anything that you find boring. Pick up each book and look past its cover and layout (and sometimes its smell!). Look carefully at several different written sections. You're looking for something to grab your attention and make you want to know more of what the book is saying. If that isn't your reaction, chances are the book is too boring and not worth owning.
You'll find the selection of used biographies to be endless. Biographies provide a birds-eye-view of a person's life. Don't be fooled, you'll learn a lot more than just one person's life. Benjamin Franklin's autobiography is a good example of this. When I read it, enjoying every minute of it (which, by the way, is a very inexpensive form of entertainment), I learned that Franklin didn't like paperback books, but it was all he could afford when he was a young man. That the United States had paperback books so long ago was news to me. My knowledge about the United States, its economics and daily life were also expanded. Mr. Franklin spent some time in Europe, and had he elaborated much upon that continent, which knows what else I could have picked up.
The other school subject in abundance at antique stores is art. There are cheap art prints available, and books galore. You can never collect too much beautiful artwork to have on-hand for your family to use during school hours, and a collection of masterpieces will definitely enhance any home.
Catherine Levison is a long-term home schooling parent with over a decade of experience. She is the mother of five children and a grandmother. Catherine's a popular public speaker with parenting and educational audiences throughout the United States and Canada, as well as the author of the book, A Charlotte Mason Education: A How-To Manual, More Charlotte Mason Education, and Catherine's latest book, A Literary Education: An Annotated Book List. Catherine resides with her family in the Seattle area.
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