Sitting for hours in front of workbooks may not sound like your idea — or your kid's idea — of a good time. And since one of the benefits of homeschooling is that you can make learning lively and fun for each student, teaching textbooks might sound like the last resource you want on your list.
However, there's definitely a case to be made for supplementing homeschool with teaching textbooks. Whether you're an unschooling family that does math in the kitchen while baking cakes or a Charlotte Mason family that gets creative with copy work, teaching textbooks for math and other subjects might be a surprising homeschool secret you're not using.
Learn more about teaching textbooks below, including some best practices for integrating them into your homeschool learning lifestyle of choice.
What Are Teaching Textbooks?
Teaching textbooks are exactly what they sound like: textbooks that teach. More specifically, they usually teach lessons appropriate to a specific subject or skill. For example, you can get homeschool math teaching texts that focus on fractions. Or you can find a language teaching text that only covers commas.
Often, these books cover skills and concepts you've covered in other ways with your kids. The goal in this case is not to teach but to reinforce skills. It also encourages kids to apply things they've learned in one format to another, which can help with mastery.
One of the great things about these types of resources is that you can find them in a variety of formats and types. Here's a quick look at some of the types of teaching books you can find:
Literature- or narrative-based textbooks. These books feature nonfiction and fiction that help teach facts or reinforce skills. For example, say you just finished a homeschool unit study on World War II. One of your kids is super interested, but the others are ready to move on. You might get a lit-based WWII teaching textbook for the one child so they can continue exploring the topic during independent study time. You can even find narrative-based math homeschool curriculum options. These use stories to teach kids about math concepts.
Workbooks. Good examples in this category explain a concept and then give kids the chance to put it into action on the page. Commonly, you'll find math, science, and language arts workbooks. Look for options that incorporate on-page games and puzzles instead of rows of problem work to make learning more fun for kids. For example, Calvert Clubhouse provides extra math practice through fun and engaging worksheets to reinforce essential concepts and improve skills.
Experiment and activity books. Like workbooks, these types of books usually explain a single concept or skill. Then, they offer hands-on activities so kids can see the concept in action or put the skill to use in the real world. We're talking everything from planting a garden to building working rockets in the kitchen. You'll need patience for messes and questions if you're using these types of teaching textbooks with younger learners!
What Are Some Benefits of Using Teaching Textbooks?
Teaching textbooks may not sound like your cup of tea right away. Perhaps you have a child who refuses to put pencil or even marker to paper. Maybe you have a flock of free learners who don't like to focus on things they don't choose.
Wherever you're at with your homeschool journey and whatever works for your family, teaching textbooks might surprise you. They're flexible. They can be loads of fun. And (don't share this one with your kids) they can inspire independent learning that lets you actually finish that load of laundry or enjoy your cup of tea while it's still warm.
Let's dig a little deeper into why you might want to add some teaching textbooks to your morning basket or other stack of homeschool resources.
They support all types of learners. Have a visual learner in the house? Choose teaching textbooks that are filled with colorful images, charts, graphs, and other visuals. Is your little learner an auditory learner rather than visual learner? Opt for teaching texts that come with audio supplements. The great thing about these options is that you can find something that works well for each child.
Teaching textbooks reduce homeschool lesson prep time. Manipulatives, puppets, and crates of cutouts are all great learning resources. But not every parent has the time or the desire to cut out props or present puppet shows. Colorful, active workbooks and other engaging textbooks include ready-made lessons you can use for homeschool during weeks when time is flying by and you can't seem to catch up.
They foster independence. Most of these books are created for specific reading and skill levels, often with work or learning that can be done independently. The ability to work independently can increase confidence in skills and even foster a love of learning. Plus, remember the freedom it gives you. Even 5 minutes to shower might be worth investing in a few teaching texts.
They can support test-taking and study skills. Many homeschool approaches focus on teaching practical applications for life. However, those approaches might lack a bit in preparing kids for taking tests or studying in traditional learning environments. One way you can include all those skills is to work a few teaching textbooks into your week. They can help kids get used to reading and answering questions in traditional formats — just something to consider if you have college hopes for your kids.
Some Best Practices for Supplementing With Teaching Textbooks
Just throwing teaching textbooks at your kids, heading for the bath, and hoping for 20 minutes of quiet time probably won't go well. Instead, start with some of these best practices to get the most out of these resources.
Choose the Right Learning Level
If you're using teaching textbooks to encourage independent learning, look for ones that cover skills you've already taught. They should include options for practicing them in different ways. Look for textbooks that are challenging enough that they aren't boring but not so challenging that they're discouraging.
A lot of homeschool resources are labeled by grade or age. Remember that you didn't choose homeschooling to shove your kid into a labeled box. Use those labels as a starting point, but look through resources and pick things that work best for your child, no matter what the title says.
Know Whether You Have to Work in Order
Some resources only work well if you go through them in order. Others let kids skip around, choosing what they're interested in at any given time.
Scan resources before you give them to kids. Let them know what options they have for using the book. Taking a little time to introduce independent materials and give kids tips can cut down on frustration later. It can mean the difference between kids gladly using the resources and tossing them aside to gather dust.
Integrate Teaching Textbooks Into Quiet Times
If your homeschool family has a reading or quiet time, consider adding teaching textbooks and workbooks to the options kids can choose from. This can be a good time to integrate textbooks in areas where your child excels or enjoys learning, as it can create a sort of extra enrichment time for them. That's especially true if you have multiple kids and can't include that subject in regular homeschool lessons as much as your eager learner would like.
Consider modeling this type of learning during family quiet time by investing in workbooks and learning resources for yourself. You could read a cookbook, try out a crochet lesson, or teach yourself the basics of astrophysics. Show your kids that learning is a lifelong adventure.
Don't Stick With Options That Aren't Working
Not every resource works for every learner. Forcing textbooks on kids when they aren't learning well from them can create frustration and challenges across your entire homeschool experience. And if you're using textbooks to supplement, there's absolutely no reason to push kids to use them.
Encourage kids to try textbooks long enough to really know whether they're working, but when you see they aren't, change it up. Sell textbooks that don't work for your family in a curriculum swap or online marketplace and try again with something else.
The Bottom Line on Teaching Textbooks
The final word is this: Do what works for you and your family. That's one of the biggest benefits of homeschooling, and with so many curriculums, textbooks, and teaching resources to choose from, there's never a need to suck it up and stick with something you don't like.