Homeschooling Tips Blog

5 Easy Tips for Using Teaching Textbooks in Your Homeschool

  • Monday, March 25, 2024
5 Easy Tips for Using Teaching Textbooks in Your Homeschool

Think back to the day you first decided to homeschool. What drove you to make that decision? Was the school system not meeting your kids' needs? Were you looking for closer family relationships or a way to infuse your faith into your children's education?

Sometimes, making the choice to homeschool is the easiest part. We feel called to lead our kids on their educational journeys, but we're not quite sure how to get there. Figuring out what and how to teach can be overwhelming.

Finding the right textbooks and curricula for your family's unique needs can be the difference between a mediocre homeschooling experience and an amazing one. Keep these tips in mind when choosing your teaching textbooks.

1. Get Familiar With Teaching Textbooks and How They Work

Some new homeschool parents know exactly what they want to teach and how they're going to teach it. They may be former teachers, or they may just have strong opinions about curricular content and what it should cover.

But if you're not in that boat, the thought of putting together content for five to eight different courses for each of your kids may freak you out a little. If you're nodding your head, teaching textbooks could be the homeschool hack you need.

Teaching textbooks are professionally developed resources that help you teach subjects like math, science, and language arts, even if you barely remember covering these when you were in school. Curriculum developers put together comprehensive content for homeschools and traditional classrooms. You can use the teaching textbooks they prepare as your core curriculum or as supplemental resources to support your unit studies, online courses, and hands-on activities.

Usually, a teaching textbook covers a year's worth of content and is designed to be completed in about 36 weeks. Some provide content only, while others include assignments and extension activities, saving you the trouble of scraping together a bunch of resources on Pinterest. AOP offers two brands of teaching textbooks, LIFEPAC and Horizons.

2. Learn the Different Types of Teaching Textbooks

Consider these popular types of books as you plan your family's overall education strategy.

Textbooks for Core Subjects
These are the books we use to teach core subjects such as Bible, history and geography, science, language arts, and math. You can choose an all-in-one package from a single curriculum developer or shop around and choose your favorites for each subject. LIFEPAC is a great print solution for core subjects.

Supplemental and Specialized Texts
When you want to dig deeper into a topic of interest, grab some supplemental texts. These hone in on specific topics or themes. They're helpful when your child develops a personal interest in a topic and wants to know everything there is to know about it. You can find them by searching your local library's catalog or by checking the extended reading lists often included in textbooks. Both LIFEPAC and AOP offer electives to encourage deeper learning in topics from astronomy and penmanship to math and physical education.

Activity Books
Homeschool activity books typically contain worksheets, puzzles, experiments, and other activities to supplement learning. They're great for helping kids develop critical thinking and problem-solving skills. Textbooks and activity books often come in sets, but you can also find many standalone activity books.

Reference Books
Reference books offer quick facts about a variety of topics. You'll want to stock your shelves with a good selection of dictionaries, atlases, and encyclopedias that your children can refer to for projects and assignments.

3. Consider the Benefits of Using Teaching Textbooks in Your Homeschool

Whether you're into classical education, eclectic homeschooling, or the unit study approach, teaching textbooks can make your teaching life easier. Their benefits include:

Less prep time. With teaching textbooks, little to no prep is required. You can read over the plan for the day as you sip your morning coffee and jump into lessons just a few minutes later. You don't have to invest as much time researching topics, creating lesson plans, or developing your own schedule (though nobody's going to stop you if these things float your boat!).

Structured, comprehensive content. Unless you're unschooling, you probably have certain state standards you're trying to meet. Trying to navigate these on your own and making sure you're ticking all the boxes can be time-consuming and challenging. When you use textbooks aligned to the standards you're working with, you can relax knowing your children are covering the essential topics.

Confidence boosts. When you chose the homeschooling path, you likely had some academic goals in mind for your kids. Whether you want them to keep up with their age peers or be ready for university, there's always the nagging question, Are they learning enough? The best textbooks teach their content systematically, creating a firm foundation on which new concepts build. As your children progress through the levels, you get the confidence of knowing they're mastering the subjects they need to learn.

4. Choose the Right Teaching Textbooks for Your Child

Your kids' learning styles, your homeschool style, your available teaching time, and your budget all factor into your choice of curriculum. Finding the perfect fit for your family is a tall order, but fortunately, teaching textbooks exist to fit any combination of these factors. Here's how to find the curriculum that will work for you.

Know Your Child's Learning Style and Your Teaching Style
Think about the books you've used in the past. Which ones were winners, and which did you toss in the recycling bin halfway through the year? What set the winners apart?

Do you prefer a formal, scripted textbook or a general outline that offers suggestions while allowing you to still run the show?

How about your kids? Do they respond best to a lot of written text with few assignments and activities or to shorter segments of text supplemented by lots of hands-on learning? Do they like it when you read aloud to them, or do they prefer to work independently? Do they thrive with mastery or spiral learning? The more you can articulate your preferences, the easier it will be to find the right books.

Find Books Aligned to Your Styles
The best way to get a sense of the available books is to attend a homeschool convention where you can check out curriculum options from different publishers. See what sparks your child's interest and yours. What looks fun and inspiring? Start with these. Some will miss the mark, but others will be hits.

A homeschooling style quiz can also point you in the right direction. Cathy Duffy's homeschool curriculum review books, such as 103 Top Picks for Homeschool Curriculum, include charts that match specific curricula to various homeschooling styles and needs. It's well worth it to grab one of her books and narrow down your options.

Download LIFEPAC and Horizons sample pages to explore lessons and projects with your kids to see if they are a good match for your next home learning solution.

Get Recommendations From Friends
Other homeschooling parents have years of wisdom to share. If you haven't already, join an online or in-person homeschool community and ask people which textbooks they've had the most success with. If you share what you know about your family's learning and teaching styles, they can tailor their guidance to your situation.

Find the Right Level
Starting kids at the right level is essential to avoid a potentially frustrating experience. Once you've selected textbooks to try, take placement tests to determine the best starting level for your child.

5. Make Your Lessons Engaging

Today's textbooks aren't as dry as they used to be, instead they are brightly colored and illustrated to capture children’s attention and keep it. When chosen and used thoughtfully, they can be an engaging part of your homeschool experience. Keep these tips in mind as you incorporate them into your schedule.

Don't let the textbook drive the bus. Don't feel compelled to read every single page and complete all the practice problems. Feel free to jump around in your textbook and skip sections that aren't of interest (or necessity). If they seem to be grasping the concepts, let them move on. This is part of building a good rapport with your child and them owning their own educational journey.

Let it go. Homeschool excel at economizing. We love to squeeze all the value we can from our resources.. But this virtue can work against us. If we insist on continuing with a book that isn't working for our kids because we've paid good money for it, we make both ourselves and our kids miserable. Don't be afraid to set aside an unfinished textbook and accept the knowledge you've gained about your kids' learning needs as the value received.

Don't rely too heavily on textbooks. While textbooks should have their place in your teaching toolbox, it's best not to rely solely on them for your kids' educational needs. Blend your textbook lessons with videos, projects, unit studies, and field trips to keep things interesting. Monarch’s automatic grading offers parents a breath of fresh air from grading and students interactive courses to mix things up in their curriculum routine. Start a Monarch free trial.

Get Started With Teaching Textbooks Today

If you're ready to try some Christian homeschool textbooks that incorporate hands-on activities, check out the Horizons curriculum series. These teacher-developed textbooks are engaging, thorough, and fun for kids to use. They provide a strong backbone to any homeschooling program.

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