The DHM tweeted recently that she remembers when Joyce Swann was writing columns for Practical Homeschooling Magazine, and "intimidating everybody." I read her daughter Alexandra's autobiography, No Regrets, near the beginning of our homeschooling years, and I felt a bit intimidated too...but at the same time, I was a bit reassured that if Joyce could do it with ten children and through assorted major life crises, I should certainly be able to teach just one. (This was before Ponytails and Dollygirl were born.)
Earlier this month, the Swanns' website offered No Regrets as a free Kindle download. I re-read it and thought it was still interesting. BUT: this week they are offering Joyce's book, Looking Backward, which I think is more useful for homeschooling parents. You might expect that a homeschooling guide by someone who "intimidated everybody" and taught all her kids through elementary school, high school, university, and graduate school before they were out of their teens would be...scary. But Mrs. Swann seems to be all about reducing students' burdens, rather than giving them unnecessary ones. She is probably the first homeschooler I've ever heard to recommend having kids write IN their textbooks. Deface them. Highlight them. Underline them. Fill in the blanks. Treat them as consumables.
Well, you do need to understand that this family used the Calvert correspondence school, which sends out a fresh batch of textbooks for every student, and you can't pass them on to anyone else afterwards. Which is one reason I backed off from any idea I ever had of using Calvert (I actually did look into it, based both on the Swanns' book and Susan Schaeffer Macaulay's recommendations)...the one-child, no-passing-on deal didn't sit well with me. But whatever...since they were forced to use brand-new books for each student, they treated the books as worktexts and wrote in them. Joyce also had the kids respond orally, if it made things easier; and she used memory work tricks, like singing poems to familiar tunes.
So while you might not want to have a student write in a brand-new hundred-dollar-plus science textbook, the point comes across here, and I've heard some similar thinking in Charlotte Mason's books: dreary copying, for instance, just so you can then underline the subject and the verb in a sentence, does nothing to build character and is usually a waste of time. And if you're buying used materials frugally (as we usually do), and you have no plans to pass them on, unmarked, to someone else, why not do as you like with them? Really, why not treat a thrifted French or math textbook, that cost a dollar or two and that might have gone in the recycling anyway, in whatever way makes the most sense for you and your student? University students do it all the time. If you print out articles or chapters of e-texts, you probably mark them up freely as well. So if it makes your life easier, and your students' work less burdensome, then I agree with Joyce: just do it.
Homeschooling books for free on Kindle are rare: take advantage of this one while it lasts.