Monday, June 28, 2010

Review of Simple Gifts by Caryl D. Schlicher


Caryl Schlicher has a B.A. teaching degree, has taught in both public and private schools, and also home schooled her own children. In her book, Simple Gifts, she uses this experience to create a resource that benefits educators of all kinds and at all experience levels.

Simple Gifts is a perfect companion to my book, The Checklist. Schlicher believes, as I do, that education is more than learning facts. Just like The Checklist, Schlicher’s book also covers academics, character development, and physical care. The difference is that The Checklist lists the topics to study, while Simple Gifts tells you how to teach these topics most effectively.

Simple Gifts is jargon-free, making it both easy to understand and use. It doesn’t micro-manage with scripts such as, “Today, you will read pages 2-3 and complete exercise A and B.” Instead, it’s customizable. You can use it with students who are ahead, behind, or on grade level. It works with college prep students, as well as students who are more entrepreneurial, ministry or trade focused.

The book is based on a 15-step checklist, a system Schlicher used as a teacher, a tutor, and a homeschool mom. Here’s how I would use this resource along with The Checklist.

Let’s say our subject is the Civil War. From The Checklist, I select the topics I want to teach about the Civil War, depending upon age, abilities, goals, and past learning experience of my children.

Using Simple Gifts, I work through the 15-Step program. Each step is an activity that helps me set goals for the lesson, activate curiosity about the subject, and create learning assessments to help my child learn. The activities for the child include giving oral summaries, writing projects, dramatizing, vocabulary drills, timelines, memorization, and others.

As the students work through the assignments, they complete reproducible checklists that are included in the book. These checklists help them: determine the main idea, compare and contrast ideas, find similarities and differences, sequence events, determine cause and effect, outline character traits, and analyze plot and plot structure. By the time they have completed the 15 steps, the child will have mastered the topic much more than he or she would using a typical fill-in-the-blank workbook.

This is a resource that you will use over and over again. With a copy of Simple Gifts, The Checklist, and your local library or bookstore, you can create lesson plans that will rival the education in the days of our founding fathers. They had no “curriculum,” yet they were much better educated than most students today. The reason is that they were taught to think and reason, just as this resource will do for your kids today.

If you’re a do-it-yourselfer who is willing to take the time and energy to create your own customized lesson plans, this is a resource you will want to purchase. 

See Schlicher’s website to purchase this and other resources she has created. 

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