Monday, January 3, 2011

Homework for Grown-Ups - E Foley & B. Coates

Title: Homework for Grown-Ups, Canadian Edition
Author: E. Foley & B. Coates
Publisher: Harper Collins Canada, 2010 (Hardcover)
Length: 440 pages
Genre: Adult; Nonfiction/Reference
Started: December 31, 2010
Finished: January 2, 2011

Homework for Grown-ups is a brilliantly informative and entertaining book of old-school knowledge for adults. It is the ultimate refresher course on mathematics (remember Pythagoras' theorem? You will!), English grammar and literature (do you know your Margarets?), and chemistry and the sciences (including the big bang theory). It spans geography (can you name the planets in order?), history (what exactly was the Family Compact?), art, Latin, phys. ed. (hockey!), home economics and much more...including, crucially, recess (finally, definitive rules for Red Rover!).

Packed with essential facts, figures and theories, Homework for Grown-ups is a practical and wonderfully nostalgic revision guide for adults that will entertain while exercising the mind. It'll make readers the hit of any cocktail party, and might even equip parents to handle their child's homework without humiliation.

I saw this while out Christmas shopping weeks ago and knew this was a keeper. Like The Dangerous Book for Boys, this is one of those wonderful "compendium of information" type books that is successful purely because it has a fun, nostalgic value. This started out as a book in Britain, then spread to the US, and now a Canadian edition was published in the fall of 2010. Of course the information in the book differs between the British, American, and Canadian versions.

The book is divided into various subjects: English, Math, Home Economics, History, Science, Religious Education, Geography, Classics, Phys. Ed., and Art. Contained within each section is a very brief explanation of all the key learnings children learn in school that adults could benefit from remembering. Of course, coming from a teacher, if such a book were to summarize the key learnings children are exposed to throughout school, this book would be much bigger. Some of the sections are a little lacking: the English section is pretty much grammar rules with some summaries of classics and a piece on Charles Dickens and William Shakespeare. The History section is pretty good though, and I was surprised to see a Home Economics's not required for any students in our local school boards. The Math section is kind of limited, it only covers material up to grade 8 or 9 (which is still a lot of material). The classics section is a very nice addition for adults but pretty useless if we're only going by material that kids learn in school....classics isn't really explicitly taught in schools here aside from the odd piece of history and Greek/Roman mythology. But the Classics chapter does go into a bit of Latin, which redeems it in my book (especially since Latin was pretty much required for students in Catholic schools here until the 80s).

The book has its limitations, but all in all this is a really neat little concept. It covers material taught in schools that adults older than I will remember (I went to school in the late 80s and throughout the 90s), so it would work if your sole purpose in buying this is to remember things you forgot if you went to school in the 50s-70s, but not so great if you're buying this purely to refresh your memory in order to help your kids with their homework. The modern day curriculum is so different now, the material in this book covers some things but leaves out others that are given more of an emphasis for modern day students.

Definitely buy this for it's nostalgic value, but don't rely on it to help kids with their homework like the back of the book claims you can: invest in some updated reference books that reflect the new curriculum to help the kids with their homework.

Thoughts on the cover:
This is a nice, red hardcover book that actually looks like an old-school least it looks like the textbooks my parents used in the 60s/70s.

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