Homeschool Posts

Monday, February 15, 2010

Review: Eclectic Education Series

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As a member of the TOS Homeschool Crew, I received a free copy of the Eclectic Education Series collection from Dollar Homeschool for review purposes. I received no compensation.
A K-12 curriculum for $159? No kidding? Dollar Homeschool presents a trip back in time to education the way it was from 1865 to 1915, before colorful workbooks and standardized tests. The Eclectic Education Series (EES) collection includes Mathematics (all levels of Ray’s Arithmetic and White’s Arithmetic), History (Thalheimer’s histories, Progressive Reading Course, and more), Science (from First Year Science to Norton’s Elements of Physics and more), Grammar (Harvey’s Grammar, Pinneo’s Grammar, and more), and all of McGuffey’s Readers. You can see a list of the book’s included in the EES collection here.
Most of these books are out of copyright and therefore in the public domain. If you do a quick search online, you’ll find a number of them available for free download. But many are not available online, at least I couldn’t find them. It all depends upon whether someone has taken the time to scan them page by page and post them. Hundreds of pages.
Dollar Homeschool has gone a step or two further. The books come to you in pdf format on cds. Each category (Arithmetic, History, Science, Grammar, and McGuffey’s Readers) comes on it's own cd. When you open one book on that cd, an index opens in the left sidebar in Adobe Reader, linking you to all the other books on that cd. For the most part, the books are listed in the order in which they should be taught. Ray’s Primary is followed by Ray’s Intellectual, which is followed by Ray’s New Elementary Arithmetic (and no, I didn’t know they came in that order until I received this product---another advantage). The pdfs are all searchable, but not clickable, so if you are looking for a particular topic you should be able to find it with relative ease, though you cannot search through all the pdfs in the index simultaneously, or jump to your desired page from the table of contents.
I first heard about Ray’s a few of years ago when I started homeschooling. It sounded attractive, especially as my oldest is extremely anti-workbook. The idea of something very simple, that’s been used for over a hundred years (and free or cheap) was appealing, but the scans I’d seen of Ray’s online confused me. Ray’s Primary Arithmetic sounded like the place to start, but there was no instruction, just pages of math problems. Do we to do these orally, with manipulatives, on paper…? I was missing a key ingredient. I had my “aha” moment after digging into EES---Ray’s Manual of Methods! It’s here and explains how the program is intended to be used.
There are other gems in this collection I know I would not have stumbled across in an internet search. First Year Science is a very thorough elementary science program, although I’m a little hesitant to rely solely on a science text written in 1915, there have been advances. They did discover Pluto. And call it a planet. And then say it wasn’t a planet…maybe a 1915 science text isn’t so far off the mark? Inaccuracies could be used as learning opportunities to show how man’s understanding of the world is inadequate and constantly evolving, provided you recognize the inaccuracies when you find them (but this could be true of many modern science texts). The Progressive Course in Reading, an alternative to McGuffey’s, will take you from beginning reading through vocal training. The 746 page Cyclopedia will fill your head with (possibly) useful knowledge.
I’ll be honest, the EES collection panders to the bibliophile in me without adding to my already overloaded bookcases. I’ve just added over 100 books to my library without having to buy another bookcase or adding any boxes when it comes time to move. And with the entire collection at my fingertips, I can pick and choose what I’d like to use, and print or not print…though I would love to actually have the original books in my hands. It is fatiguing to read so much from a computer monitor. One disadvantage to having these massive books on cd: they are much slower to load than they would be if they were resident on your hard-drive. But the entire collection would take up a couple of gigs of hard-drive space. Transferring them to a flashdrive would be a possibility, though you still may experience some lag.
A main selling point for me with this type of product is the quality of the scans. All the scans are black and white. The text is clear, with good contrast. Line drawings are also crisp and clear. Unfortunately, some of the other illustrations do not fair so well. The charming illustrations in the McGuffey readers are, for the most part shapeless blobs in these scans, making it impossible to discuss the pictures at all.
While I don’t really consider this a complete curriculum, it’s nice spine of general knowledge to build from as you fill in the gaps for the past 100 years of history and knowledge.
The Eclectic Education Series is available as a complete collection from Dollar Homeschool for $159 (free shipping).
You can also purchase each of the cds (Ray’s Arithmetic, History, Science, Grammar, and McGuffey’s Readers) separately. Prices range from $39 to $59.
All files are pdfs and should be compatible with any system that can run the free Adobe Reader.
To read other reviews of this product by homechoolers, please visit:
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