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Workbooks Have a Place and Purpose in Homeschooling Too

Workbooks Have a Place and a Purpose in Homeschooling Too #homeeducation #homeschool #homeschoolmethods

Written by Jessica.

What is a workbook?
It's a simple question with a somewhat complicated answer, especially for those of us who teach from home. According to its definition, a workbook is a student’s book of problems to be solved directly on the page.

In the homeschool world, I’ve noticed that workbooks often have quite a bad reputation. We like to throw around terms like “living literature,” “activity-based learning,” and “hands-on manipulatives.” You don’t find many moms boasting about using workbooks! The truth is, when used in moderation and not exclusively, the workbook has a place and has a purpose.


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Workbooks Have a Place and a Purpose in Homeschooling Too #homeeducation #homeschool #homeschoolmethods

The Worktext Versus the Workbook


Before looking more closely at workbooks, I want to distinguish between a worktext and a workbook. A worktext is similar to a workbook but different in some key ways. Whereas a workbook is a book that has questions and spaces that you can write answers in, its scope is usually much narrower than that of a worktext and does not provide in-depth instruction. A worktext, on the other hand, is like a textbook and a workbook in one. (Some really good examples of what a worktext looks like are BJU’s line of student math books and English books).

A worktext is designed to include both comprehensive student instruction and a place for students to practice or show their learning. The meat of the lesson is always presented in print, with text and pictures, to explain the content to the student. When I use worktexts with my own children, I find that I rarely need my teacher’s manual because there is so much information already provided in the student worktext. I can teach the lesson by referencing the worktext, while using a whiteboard to provide other examples, along with other subject-specific tools (such as math manipulatives).

Worktexts/Workbooks Versus Textbooks for Students


If you weren’t homeschooled yourself, you probably have memories of getting hardcover textbooks at the beginning of each school year and covering the covers with paper bags or newspaper to keep the books in good shape all year long. You’d use your textbook for the lesson but then have to copy the problems onto lined paper or into a notebook in order to show your work and answers. That’s a lot of extra work for students, especially for younger ones.

A worktext (larger scope) or a workbook (narrower focus) is a more modern presentation, where a lesson or topic is combined with the workspace into one softcover book that can be written in. They are especially helpful with elementary and middle school students because they eliminate that extra step of transposing the problems or questions onto paper before solving or answering them--a skill that does not begin to develop in most kids until around third or fourth grade.

Workbooks Have a Place and a Purpose in Homeschooling Too #homeeducation #homeschool #homeschoolmethods

The Number One Workbook Benefit for Teachers


For the teacher, whether using a more comprehensive worktext or a slimmer workbook, the main benefit is that it saves you time as the teacher. Homeschooling requires a lot of time, both in the planning and in the teaching. The longer I homeschool, and the older my kids get, the more I realize that my time is a resource that I have to spend wisely. I only have so much of it each day.

I can gather excellent books to read. I can research and select a curriculum that’s a just-right fit for us. I can learn new material well so that I can teach it well. I can create manipulatives to make learning hands-on. I can come up with fun projects and activities to bring a topic to life.

Or, I can write math problems. I can write sentences for my students to work with that coordinate with every grammar concept under the sun. I can come up with writing assignments and samples of writing to model those assignments. The thing is…all of those materials already exist in abundance.

It is very tempting as a teacher to “reinvent the wheel.” These days, I fully embrace the fact that I don’t have to do that. I know that I can take a worktext or a workbook and use that as one of many tools to teach with while using as much or as little of the content of those books as I need to.

Workbooks Have a Place and a Purpose in Homeschooling Too #homeeducation #homeschool #homeschoolmethods

Ways to Use Workbooks in Your Homeschool


Workbooks can be used in many different ways, and here are some of the ways they can be especially useful:

To fill in a gap in your curriculum


There’s no such thing as a perfectly complete curriculum. You might find that your curriculum for a particular subject has gaps in topics you’d like to cover but that it leaves out.

For example, perhaps you have a living-literature based history program that you love but that doesn’t provide enough written practice in map work. A simple, inexpensive solution could be a map skills book or a map graph book to help you fill that gap.

To compliment an already strong curriculum


Even the best curriculum can be added to. A workbook can be an extra tool that you can add in to round out a program that you love but that needs a little extra something.

For example, I love, have used, and always recommend both All About Reading and All About Spelling. They are superb, high-quality programs that consistently deliver outstanding results. Both programs, however, do not utilize workbooks for students to independently practice reading and spelling skills. For some students, that is fine. For others, more opportunity to practice written work in reading or spelling is helpful (or needed). Books like these for reading comprehension practice or these for spelling word work can be added in to compliment already excellent programs.

To provide targeted review or extra practice


No matter how good a curriculum may be and how well you teach it, some students just need extra review or practice on specific skills or topics. There are workbooks that target skills and topics very specifically, allowing you to help your child work only on the areas that they need extra help or practice in.

For example, perhaps your student is doing well with your math curriculum overall but hits a roadblock when they reach multiplication or fractions. Workbooks like these or like these can help give your student that needed extra support and practice.

Workbooks Have a Place and a Purpose in Homeschooling Too #homeeducation #homeschool #homeschoolmethods

Final Thoughts on Workbooks


A worktext or a workbook is not a curriculum and is never intended to be used as such. They are, however, excellent resources for giving students a place to practice and show their learning in written form. When used in conjunction with other teaching tools in your homeschool, they can be very helpful to both your students and to you as the teacher!

Want more ideas on how to use and how not to use workbooks? Try:

How An Eclectic Homeschooler Uses Workbooks
ABeka Phonics K-2nd: What to Buy and What to Skip


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