Are you one of the many? Have you ever asked the one question that we consistently get about all sorts of products? “Is the teacher manual necessary?”

It’s not surprising, really. Teacher manuals (TMs) can be very pricey and many of us have had the experience of buying a manual that sits unopened on our desk. We at Rainbow recognize the importance of this question from two perspectives. It’s important to preserve and protect your homeschooling budget and unnecessary TM purchases can take a big bite out of them. On the other side, some courses are only a “half” without the TM and sometimes it’s impossible to complete the student material without a TM. That’s why we take the time and catalog space to tell you what is included in the teacher books as well as to distinguish between TMs, answer keys, solution manuals, etc. Furthermore, we’ll often give you our opinion on whether they are a necessity or just a nice thing to have. The publisher obviously has a vested interest in your purchasing the TMs. We, however, have a vested interested in encouraging you to make knowledgeable purchases.

Teacher Manuals typically include some or all of these different types of information:

  • lesson plans – what (pages, chapters, etc.) to complete when (daily, weekly, quarterly)
  • course scope and sequence – what is going to be covered and when
  • detailed lessons (sometimes scripted) – step by step through the text and other material
  • background information – sometimes course philosophy or methodology
  • reduced copies of student pages – these usually have the answers filled in and are useful for the teacher to “see” what the student sees. Teacher information is said to “wraparound” the student pages.
  • tests and quizzes (sometimes reproducible) – with answers
  • differentiated instruction – a “buzzword” that just means adaptations for struggling as well as accelerated students.
  • standards correlations – specifics as to how the course content aligns with either state standards or Common Core standards.
  • answers – for textbook questions/problems, workbooks, tests, quizzes

Materials developed for classrooms – especially public school classrooms – are more likely to include much of the information listed above. Many of these courses are designed for the information to flow from the teacher to the student so the TMs will include course information not included in the student text. Materials developed specifically for homeschoolers typically have more user-friendly TMs or dispense with them altogether and provide just answer keys or solutions manuals. In addition to answer keys, some products (particularly math) include solutions manuals. Solutions show how to work problems out step by step. Some programs provide both solutions manuals and answer keys.

When deciding whether or not you need to purchase a TM ask yourself these questions:

  • Do I need the answers (elementary math, spelling, and phonics are examples of times when you seldom need the answers)?
  • Do I need lesson plans (and does the TM have them anyway)?
  • Do I need background information or teaching ideas?
  • Do I need tests and quizzes (sometimes these are only found in the TMs)?
  • Do I want/need to have reduced copies of the student pages?

If you can’t find the information you need to make a good decision about TMs in the product or category descriptions, please call and talk to one of our consultants. We want to help you make the best choice. There’s nothing more frustrating than trying to do a course without the TM only to find you have to have it but the only way to get is in a set with a student book. Our goal is to help you make sure you purchase everything you need but not more than you need.