Standing in the homeschool section of our local used bookstore, I once told my husband that all the dry, dusty workbooks made me feel as though I were going to physically break out in hives. I couldn’t imagine a more boring way to do school.
Then, a little over a year ago, my teens started using workbooks.
Let me pause to allow you to get a visual image of the disgust on my face. Ick. Workbooks. How boring!
The suggestion to try workbooks was born of frustration on my part. I really thought my kids would quickly see how boring they were compared to my amazing, hands-on homeschooling style.
In my mental image, my bored, repentant teens came crawling back to me, begging me to resume teaching them with fun, hands-on activities.
I didn’t think they’d actually like workbooks. I was even more surprised to discover several benefits to using workbooks.
Note: To be clear, by workbooks I mean textbook style books where students read the text and answer questions. There are often writing assignments and science experiments, but the day-to-day is read, fill-in-the-blanks, multiple choice, and essay questions.
Kids can work independently.
Being able to work independently was the impetus for our foray into workbooks. Prior to that, Josh and Megan, who are only 21 months apart, did most subjects together. We did lots of hands-on learning, reading aloud, games, etc.
Because they have a very different approach to school – Josh just wants to get it done while Megan enjoys taking rabbit trails – they often became frustrated with each other. Workbooks allow each of the kids to work at their own pace at the times that work best for them. (Megan likes to do her schoolwork late at night.)
Bonus for parents: You may just rediscover that almost-forgotten thing known as free time. You might even start to daydream about – or even take steps toward – pursuing your dreams.
They spark some interesting discussion.
Believe it or not, those workbooks can spark some interesting discussion – especially history. It’s my favorite, so there is frequently extra discussion there.
Workbooks can provide a solid education (even when you don’t always agree with them).
People often ask me what curriculum we’re using and I’m always hesitant to mention it because I feel like I have to offer several caveats, the biggest being that what we use can be so evangelical in nature – and we’re a Christian family. I appreciate a text written from a Christian worldview; what I don’t care for is when doctrinal differences become evident.
That being said, I feel as though the curriculum we’re using, Landmark Freedom Baptist curriculum, does provide a solid education, even when the interesting discussion it sparks is how we don’t quite agree with a particular viewpoint.
I’m sure that other homeschooling families have found this to be true with other curriculum – workbook-style or not – and because I have teens, I think the discussion about things we don’t agree with 100% can actually be a healthy, educational opportunity itself.
They’re not completely boring.
I have to confess that workbooks aren’t as boring as I thought they’d be. The kids have covered some pretty interesting topics and there have been some fun science experiments.
Workbooks can teach critical thinking skills.
No, I never would have thought that of a workbook, but there are plenty of short-answer and essay questions that are worded quite differently than the text, so they make the kids think about what’s being asked and what they learned. The questions in each lesson are not complete regurgitation of the day’s reading like I expected.
They can fill in educational gaps.
Yeah, okay, so maybe workbooks teach some things that I wouldn’t have thought to teach. Maybe they even teach some things I don’t recall ever learning in school. I can admit when I’m wrong. Although they aren’t the most exciting way to study a topic, workbooks can fill in learning gaps. Are you happy?
They are some kids’ preferred method of learning.
Guess what? Some kids actually prefer using workbooks. Shortly after we made the switch to workbooks last year, I was grumbling talking about it with the homeschool graduate daughter of a friend. The daughter said that she actually preferred using workbooks when she was in school. They were a good fit for her learning style.
The fact is, if we’re going to tout a customized education, we need to let kids work in the way they learn best – even if it doesn’t appeal to Mom or Dad.
They make lesson planning a breeze.
Okay, y’all, I’m not even going to lie (because, you know, I don’t), lesson planning with workbooks is so simple. When the kids were younger, I’d spend all day on a Saturday once every two or three weeks, surrounded by piles of books, writing out lesson plans for the next few weeks.
With workbooks, the kids can write their own lesson plans in their planners or I can type out a quick assignment sheet if they prefer. Or, if our printer dies and I can’t print out sheets for a couple of weeks, I can just say, “Get out your workbooks. You know what to do.”
This does not make me sad.
They make sick days easier to deal with.
Because kids are able to work on their own, workbooks can make sick days or outside classes much easier to deal with. A few weeks ago, Josh was sick. Megan was able to keep working without it throwing my whole schedule out of whack. Josh just picked back up when he was feeling better.
The same would be true if I was the one who was sick – the kids could just keep working because they’re able to do their workbooks independently of each other and me.
Workbooks can make it possible for some families to homeschool.
No matter how you feel about workbooks – love ‘em or hate ‘em – there’s no denying that they make it possible for some families to homeschool. Dual-income homeschooling families may depend upon the benefits of workbooks – self-instructional with minimal planning – to be able to successfully homeschool. If workbooks are making it possible for a kid to be homeschooled, it’s hard to dislike them too much.
I never thought ours would be a workbook-style homeschool, but we have discovered some surprising benefits to using workbooks. And, I haven’t even broken out in hives yet.
Do you use workbooks? What benefits do you enjoy?
images courtesy of depositphotos