Sunday, April 19, 2009

WeE-books - an ebook review

I first discovered The Old Schoolhouse’s new line of WeE-books (mini e-books, which sell for $1.95 each) back in February.  They were giving away a book on Lincoln and Darwin (I wrote about it here).

At this point, I own a total of seven WeE-books (their line includes 37 titles), so I do actually feel like I can talk about them.

What is a WeE-book?  From the TOS website, these are “bite-sized e-books” with “quick, affordable content that educates, inspires and encourages.”  I’d have to say that I concur.

Most of the WeE-books seem to be meant for educating Mom, with titles like “10 Big Reasons Not to Send Christian Kids to Public Schools,” “Simplifying Classical Education,” or “Don’t Rush God.”

Others are meant to be used with the kids, like the Darwin-Lincoln title I first saw, or books on hummingbirds, the Italian Renaissance or the Iditarod.  

Okay, so after all of that, what do I think of the actual books?  I loved some, liked others... and there are some that don’t interest me at all (but I don’t own them!  And what doesn’t interest me might be exactly the topic you really want!).  Some surprised me.  All provided a good general overview, although with some I did expect more specifics than they contained.

I’m going to specifically review three of the books that I own, three that are very different, and I think give a good idea as to what the Wee-book line is like:

Transcripts, CLEPs, and Other Ways to Get Into College.  Since I am looking at having Connor start taking CLEP exams next year, I thought this would be a great thing for me to read.  Claire Novak did a good job of summarizing some of the history of homeschoolers and college admissions, and issues about whether you really need to go to college.  There was also great general information about the CLEP exams and transcripts.  Maybe I’ve already read too much about these issues, but I didn’t really find much in here that I didn’t already know.  For someone just starting, though, I think this is a great summary, and the links provided are good as well.  I do really like having all of this in one place, and a short place at that.

Changing History Theories and How to Teach Them was a fun read.  Although it is probably meant for Mom, I plan to actually work through what Dr. Ruth Beechick wrote in the first section with my kids.  I think the first four pages of text are going to be the perfect kick-off for Connor in the fall when he starts working through world history at the beginning again.  The rest of the book was fantastic for me... do’s and don’ts, gaps, chronology, timelines, etc.  Dr. Beechick’s Building Strong Arithmetic Thinking is very similar, except that there really isn’t text that I’d have my kids read themselves.

The Great Books represents another type of Wee-book, as Kate Kessler interviews Fritz Hinrichs.  This book is very similar to interviews in TOS magazine, with good questions, and most of the space dedicated to the answers provided by the interviewee.  Kessler asks some general overview questions (“What is so special about the Great Books?” and “Tell us about yourself”) and she asks some pretty specific ones (Why Euclid? and how does a book get on your “must read” list).  

The only books I own that I haven’t addressed above are the two Homeschooling the Rebel books (the link is to the first one, the second part is here).  Wow!  I downloaded the first one because it was free (offered back in February, along with the Lincoln-Darwin one) and I didn’t really think I should, but I was curious.  Awesome book, and one of the longer ones I’ve seen too.  While I don’t (yet... ) homeschool a “rebel” as described in this book, the information in the ebook is great for a couple of things... helping me to be more understanding of some of my friends with their kids, and more importantly, helping me to see areas where I am falling short in discipline, consistency, distractions, etc.  I can’t say there was a lot of “advice” in here that I haven’t seen somewhere before, but here it was in a condensed format and homeschool-specific.  And that is unique.

If you are looking for basic information about a topic, all in one place, and there is a WeE-book that addresses it, I do think these are a good value.  I would highly recommend that you first check out the sample for the title you are considering, as that includes the table of contents, and I think the contents page gave a very good feel for the actual content of the books.  

One little beef I did have -- many of the books included an appendix about getting started homeschooling, which overall is quite good.  But a big part of that little article is devoted to defining different styles of home education.  First, I bristle at the idea that “classical” eduction is based on Dorothy Sayers writings... classical education existed for thousands of years before she was even born.  And “Classical Christian” education existed for at least hundreds of years before she came along.  I’m not sure how I would define classical education in three lines or less, but the Trivium style only represents one branch of classical home education.  My definition of classical would include the idea that you are spending a fair amount of time on things -- like Latin, Greek, writing, logic and rhetoric -- that are the basics of what “educated people” have learned for centuries.  

I also wish there was a listing for literature based, or something like that.  Maybe that is because I keep referring to myself as a literature based classical home educator.  And I didn’t find myself in any of the labels in this appendix, except maybe ‘eclectic.’

Comments left on my original blog:

Amy B - 

Great job!  Eclectic is not such a bad label is it?  You're doing a great job inmhso, so it doesn't really matter if you don't fit into their list.  Thanks for sharing!  Makes me wish I had downloaded the free wee books I've been offered.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009 - 07:46 AM

Debra -

Amy-- you are right.  There is nothing wrong with eclectic.  But all the other self-described eclectic homeschoolers I know are just, uhh, so, ummmm, nothing like what we do.  We are WAY more structured, I guess.  So, as long as I'm not filling in some sort of form, I'll stick with literature based classical :)

Thursday, April 23, 2009 - 10:13 AM

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