My Homeschooling Textbooks
By Bryan Caplan
People often ask me about the textbooks I used to homeschool my sons during grades 7 and 8. I appreciate the question, because – aside from grading essays – textbook selection was probably the most time-consuming part of being Caplan Family School’s Head Teacher. The books I assigned, with commentary:
For Algebra we used Practical Algebra: A Self-Teaching Guide. This is probably the best math text I’ve ever seen: clear, thorough, and (to our eyes) literally infallible.
Our source for Algebra II was Practice Makes Perfect: Algebra II. Pretty good, but quite a few errors.
For United States history, I assigned Nation of Nations, volumes 1 and 2. It’s not thrilling, but was comprehensive, and low on annoying political remarks and outright economic illiteracy. Here, and in many other cases, I saved a bundle of money by using old editions. History really hasn’t changed much since 2007, after all.
Later, I bought virtually every A.P. U.S. History prep book for practice questions, as well as Barron’s excellent flash cards.
For Trigonometry and statistics, we used the later chapters of Practice Makes Perfect: Algebra II.
For calculus, we used Quick Calculus: A Self-Teaching Guide. This book is very well-written and easy to follow. It’s also full of errors, but a public-minded Amazon reviewer posted a nearly-complete page of errata here.
If Caplan Family School were continuing, I would start a normal calculus textbook from page 1 now that we finished Quick Calculus. The subject’s hard and deep enough it’s worth mastering the basics, then redoing it with all the bells and whistles.
Our primary source for European history was Carlton Hayes’ A Political and Social History of Modern Europe, volumes 1 and 2. Few historians are more fun and funny. Though his words are occasionally monstrous to modern ears, cut him some slack. The guy moonlighted by saving tens of thousands of lives during World War II.
Since Hayes only goes up to 1924, I added Civilization in the West to get up to the present day. But despite its massive size, this book’s coverage of the twentieth century was superficial, especially the post-war era. My sons mainly learned about the twentieth century from random lectures, Wikipedia, and David Phillips’ awe-inspiring flash cards. Best… flashcards… ever.
For micro and macroeconomics, we relied on Cowen and Tabarrok’s Modern Principles of Economics. Using a text written by two guys within earshot may seem like nepotism, but my students privately called it their very favorite textbook: written with joy and packed with mind-expanding problems.
Did I choose textbooks wisely? Hard to be sure, but I know two things as facts:
1. My students were happy doing their work, day after day.
2. We took a total of four Advanced Placement tests – U.S. History, European History, Microeconomics, and Macroeconomics, earning straight 5’s. In middle school. I’ll probably never get to cheer for my boys at a competitive sporting event, but this before all the world do I prefer.