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Friday, August 28, 2009

School Books

*************** warning: rant ***************

When I was a kid, we needed to bring the following to school:
A looseleaf binder ("klasser")
Paper ("dafdefet")

We received all our books from school.

During the year, we did our excersizes on paper, in our binders.

At the end of the year, we returned our books.

This system seemed to make sense. Since the curriculum did not change much from year to year, the same textbook could be used repeatedly. After all, how much has math changed in the last two thousand years?

Not so in Israel!

In her six years of elementary school, our eldest daughter learned math using THREE different methodologies!! Every two years, we purchased a different type of math book. Our youngest daughter, who is in the same school, is using completely different books, representing a FOURTH method of learning math.

This, apparently is typical among all school and all grades.

In Israel, every year, parents are sent a list of books and workbooks to purchase for their children to use during the upcoming academic year.

Each teacher chooses their own books.

There are no "standards."

"New" parents might assume that they can pass on books from one child to the next.

They would be wrong!

Even within the same school, a teacher might decide to use a different book another year, for whatever reason.

At the end of the year, a parent might discover that several books are still brand new, never opened!

Shockingly, one common cause is that a particular book or subject just was not taught that year. It might not be used the following year(s) either.

Other times, children might not "get around" to their assignments. At the year's end, a parent might find it surprising that their child's workbook is either completely blank or that a meager few pages have been filled in.

Get used to it! No one is going to call the parents to let them know that their child is not doing the homework.

Sometimes, a parent might discover that their child did not answer any questions, but did manage to draw (read: doodle) over all the pages! This can be particularly frustrating for parents who want to sell their used/unused books back to the bookstore!

For the last few years, I have made every effort to get school books from friends with older kids. We manage to find most of our books this way, cutting our school expenses down significantly.

Of course, this effort is fraught with pitfalls, the most common being that the teacher demands that the child use a new edition.

And then there are the years, like this one, when all three of my kids need the same book!!


Because they will ALL be learning from the Kitzur Shulchan Oruch, and they all need a copy for school!


Oh, the joy of finding the right sifrei kodesh! (Jewish texts)

Our son's school is requiring specific publications of those as well. And, while we do own a set of Da'at HaMikrah, there is no way we are letting our son take Sefer Melachim (The Book of Kings) back and fourth to school every day!

So now we need to find out if having a copy at home is sufficient, in which case he can use the Mikraot Gedolot version that we already own. In fact, we already have two copies!

You get the idea?

Please daven (or send happy, healing thoughts) for RivkA bat Teirtzel.

With love and optimism,


rickismom said...

On the other side, Ricki was going to school several years after her older sister, and I was VERY pleased at the vast improvement of the texts, and teaching methods in math and other subjects. The texts are much more colorful and more child-friendly.
Ricki's school actually makes an effort not to change texts unnecessarily, and many schools sponser a "parent-swap book morning" a few days after school ends.

Anonymous said...

In England, it seems that the schools provide everything but the writing, cutting, colouring and gluing implements. Including the homework diary (yoman). If you think this sounds great, read on. Each subject gets its own blank workbook. The teachers photocopy worksheets, which the children have to glue into their workbooks. This wastes two pages of paper for each page the children do, since worksheets can't be double-sided and then a page of the workbook is used as well. Never mind the number of glue sticks used. At the end of the year, the whole workbook is chucked out, wasting all the rest of the paper in the workbook. Oh for a loose-leaf notebook!

Anonymous said...

I laughed when you wrote about empty workbooks at the end of the year because when my son was in third grade, he tried to beat the system. When I asked him why he wasn't doing work in the workbook, he told me they weren't using that workbook yet. When his teacher asked him the same question he told her I hadn't purchased it for him! Thankfully we caught him before too long and the workbook did eventually get used!


Anonymous said...

I totallyagree with your rant It seems to me that changing the workbooks to a new edition every year is a scam between the MInitsty of ed and publishing houses. A friend of mine just told m that she spent more on her daughter's first grade books that she did on textbooks for her first year of college.

aliyah06 said...

In Ashdod, I'm told (by a relative by marriage) that the school system still picks the texts and issues them to the students, to be turned in at the end of the year. My neighbor tells me when her grown sons were in school, it was that way in all of Israel. Cuts to the education budget have reduced us to this: we have to buy whatever books the teachers choose, and we have to pay for heating and air-conditioning in the schools.

If I were Queen for a Day, school would run from 8am to 4 pm, like in Japan; the entire country would use the same textbooks in their grades for basic core courses which would be issued and returned annually; the budget would cover heating and air conditioning because who can study when he is freezing or sweltering.

Jameel @ The Muqata said...

We have been discussing this issue for years at our local schools...

The problem is, the curriculum changes every time the government changes, so we could never have books which could be used for year to year.

For example: Oslo Great, Oslo mediocre, Oslo good, Oslo bad, Oslo disaster, Nakba GREAT, Nakba bad...etc.

Anonymous said...

We're spoiled in Karmiel - at least in our school (and I believe in all the others), they do centralized purchasing of books.

part of our 755NIS school fees covered the books - younger grades are mostly workbooks and nothing gets returned,older grades see a lot of book re-use (after all, no reason that sefer vayikra isn't the same this year, last year and 10 years ago - my son's copy he received tis year happened to have a sticker on the inside showing that it was used by a 23yr old daughter of friends so thats good to know :).

We return all the books at the end of year excluding workbooks. There are even some books that /could/ be written in that aren't - the kashrut book my 2nd grader got this year is the identical edition my older son had 3 yrs ago and they just don't have the kids write inside.

I guess i'll add that to the reasons I'm not moving out of my town :)


Karen said...

I can answer the question about Dat Mikra/Mikraot Gedolot. Even if the teacher says yes, have you compared the two sefarim recently? Unless you're going to give him a magnifying glass, get him a Dat Mikra. That's why they told you to buy it (even though it's twice the price of Mikraot Gedolot). They gave me a choice for one of my kids and I spent the extra 40 shekels so he won't 1) hate Torah, 2) hate me, 3) need new glasses.

BTW at my kids' school, we buy a few basic sifrei Kodesh (in case you're crazy enough to give your kid the Dat Mikra from your set, which I am not either), but other than than we have the option to pay 280 shekels per kid to borrow the books for the year. It's probably cheaper than buying everything new, although it might not be cheaper than buying used/scrounging, but it's certainly easier.

RivkA with a capital A said...

Ariella -- For sure it's a scam. Publishing houses and book stores make a fortune from this business!!

Aliyah06 -- I'm voting for you, your majesty!

Jameel -- welcome to 1984, when history changes depending on who is in charge....

Shoshana -- and yet ANOTHER way the rest of the country can learn from Karmiel....

Karen -- Our kids' elementary school developed a similar policy and I totally pay the school and just get all the books!!

I just discovered that my son's school also has some sort of lending library, but we did not know that in advance, and they don't stock everything.

My eldest daughter's school does something, but we did not know about it last year (before she started learning in the school) and this year we did not manage to get there (you know, what with radiation and the bar mitzvah....)

So, we are almost finished running around. And, next week, I will go to the bookstore and get whatever we are still missing. (Unless I can remember who offered to go for us, in which case I will just hand over my credit card and a list and then take a nap!)