When my grandma taught me how to knit ages and ages ago, she taught me the long-tail cast on. But it was nothing like the method you see in the books--that one took me years to figure out, and it didn't click until I learned how to knit Continental style.
The way my grandma taught me is more suited to the English style of knitting. It involves wrapping a single loop of yarn around your left thumb, then knitting that loop like you would if it were a regular stitch on a needle. It's not as fast as the classic textbook method, but it might be easier to visualize how it works. If you struggle with the long-tail cast on, hopefully this will help.
There's also a good video of this method at KnittingHelp.com