Robinson Curriculum

The McGuffey Readers

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What About the McGuffey Readers?

I just happened to have been composing a ‘blurb’ about that very thing to go on this web site. I took a special interest in them this year after purchasing a little paperback book entitled McGuffey and His Readers, Piety, Morality, and Education in 19th-Century America by John H. Westerhoff III.

As a result, we invested in the purchase of the original (1836-37) hard-cover version from Motts Media last month. All the versions of the McGuffey readers are great reading (the curriculum has the 1879 revision) so, be sure to use the set you already own if want to save the expense of printing.

If you are like me, you will make your own comparisons but, I would encourage anyone to read Westerhoffs’s book to get a well studied comparison of all the versions as well as an eye-opening to the changing of the American peoples beliefs and values as it is reflected in the revisions. The originals are filled with Scripture excerpts, the Soverignty of God, salvation etc..

The revisionists thought it best to take this out to fit a changing, pluralistic nation! Yet, even the revisions, in light of our 20th century, have refreshing moral content, a rich assortment of literature and the occasional acknowledgement of God.

You may be interested in getting the full set of the original McGuffey’s from Mott Media.

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Suggestions For Using the McGuffey Readers:

In our use of these readers the children have been simply READING THEM INDEPENDENTLY.   Of late, as I am incorporating some ORAL READING into our weekly routine, especially with the older children, I find these books to be ideal…for many reasons.

First, being readers, there is an appropriate reading level for each of my ‘school-age’ children.

Second, they are already broken into short stories or lessons.

Third, the content is wonderfully suited FOR INSTRUCTING CHILDREN of Christian households and lead to much relevant discussion.

Fourth, each lesson has its own VOCABULARY list, with pronunciation helps and the fourth reader (as far as we have progressed) has word definitions as well.

Fifth, I find the 2nd reader to be especially useful for COPYWORK as each paragraph is numbered making it easy to identify a selection for copying.

As we now own a reprint of the original readers, I am reading these lessons to the children ‘over’ the occasional lunch . The 2nd, 3rd, and 4th readers in the original version include questions after each lesson. I am presently evaluating the parent-teacher guide by Ruth Beechick (wrote specifically to complement the original readers) as to its compatibility with the 1879 version. So far it looks very probable.

Although lesson examples/stories differ, the teaching suggestions are wonderful. not only for the ‘teaching reading stage’ but also for grammar and spelling instruction. The purchase of this guide could give the Robinson curriculum users even more ‘mileage’ from their McGuffey readers. Look into it if you will and I will likely give you further updates on the matter myself.

From Aaron Jagt of
Q. Are the original McGuffey’s better than the revised ones?

A. So, there were four books in the original McGuffey series. Later, due to their popularity, they were expanded into six, essentially one book every two grades. Alexander McGuffey, William McGuffey’s brother was consulted and he wrote material on rhetoric that was added to books 4-6 if I’m remembering correctly.
Anyway, there is a legend that the original materials were corrupted or changed. I put copies of the original four published by Mott media next to a set of the revised versions also published by Mott media, and looked for differences. I found material added obviously, but I didn’t see any taken away. There were still a few passages from scripture, still various moral stories. I didn’t see any big changes. Maybe there were a few words changed somewhere and I didn’t see it, it’s possible. But I didn’t see any red flags.
I used the Revised edition, I don’t see anything wrong with it. As far as I can tell there is simply additional material. And if your child is reading the way I did, then the McGuffey’s are just a small part of the their overall reading. I think I blazed through them when I was first learning to read, I didn’t try to memorize passages although looking back at my education that was probably something I should’ve done.
So my recommendation is to not be over concerned about it, use them for reading, copywriting, memorization, or maybe just blaze through them the way I did. They were designed for settlers with limited access to books, we have such a wealth of material today in comparison that we can take the magnanimous approach and just read anything and everything.

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