School Textbooks vs Homeschool Curriculum

21 Nov

The problem with homeschoolers using standard classroom Math textbooks is that the teaching of the new concepts generally isn’t included in the textbook.  The textbook’s purpose is just to provide practice problems once the concept has been taught by the teacher.  School textbooks aren’t designed to be self-instructive.

There’s two problems I’ve seen happen when homeschoolers use school textbooks, particularly for Math.  One – the parent hands the book to the child and leaves them to it, particularly if the child can already read the instructions for themselves.  This skips the teaching and just expects learning.  Or two – the parent explains the concepts based on their own knowledge.  This works fine in grades 1 to 3, and some topics in the upper grades are pretty easy too, but there usually comes a point, more quickly for some than others, when you are out of your depth and spending ages googling your child’s math or reasoning that it’s time to put them in school.  The problem isn’t the parent (or the child), if they are motivated, it’s the books that are being incorrectly used.

You need solid teaching or the learning doesn’t happen as it should.

I’m not saying that you have to rush out and buy the teacher books to go with your school textbooks (they are incredibly expensive compared to the textbooks, because they are designed to be purchased by schools with big budgets).  Teacher books, designed for schools, might not even include the teaching.  It could just be the answers.  I’m not sure.  In the classroom, I never used one.  I taught the same few new concepts every year.  I just had to work out how to teach those few things during my first year in that grade level, and then I was set for the years to come.  (The only thing that’s really hard about teaching in a classroom is the behaviour management and politics.  Teaching is the easy bit!)

As a homeschooling parent, I regularly use the teaching guide that goes with my Math curriculum.  Every day I’m covering new ground, ground that has got awful rusty over the years, and I need the support of a guide to fill me in quickly with the best approach to the day’s teaching.  This is, in part, why I specifically chose a homeschool Math curriculum.  They are designed to help you with the teaching process.  The option isn’t as cheap or as easily accessible as a school textbook, but when you factor in the cost of the teaching support, it’s a fair price (and definitely cheaper than a school textbook with their exorbitantly priced teacher guides!).

Just something to consider when selecting whether to go with a homeschool Math curriculum (that assumes you need support) or a classroom textbook (that assumes it’s being used in a classroom environment).

There is a difference and it certainly seems to matter in the long run.


Posted by on November 21, 2013 in Homeschooling Thoughts, Mathematics


8 responses to “School Textbooks vs Homeschool Curriculum

  1. Petra

    November 22, 2013 at 1:29 am

    Thanks Tracey, useful info. I learnt this the hard way!!!

    • Tracey

      November 22, 2013 at 5:31 am

      The hard way is a valuable lesson. Not everyone figures it out sadly.

  2. Ilovechocolate

    November 22, 2013 at 1:58 am

    Very helpful post: Keep ’em coming Tracey!

    • Tracey

      November 22, 2013 at 5:32 am

      Trying to keep up my blogging but life keeps pulling me here and there and everywhere. 🙂

  3. Jen in NSW

    November 22, 2013 at 10:37 pm

    I totally agree. I have found that one of mine does seem to self teach but I am well aware it is not common. Every time I “tried” going down the path of Australian bboks available at good book stores I would be disgusted at the way they jumped around and didn’t teach. As you say more likely designed for class work or homework but not teaching.

    • Tracey

      November 23, 2013 at 12:29 am

      I think the cheaper price, the colourful pages, the accessibility, or some strange loyalty to ‘ Australian’ Math (whatever that may be) lures people in. I’m yet to see it work well.

  4. Katie

    November 29, 2013 at 1:05 am

    We use Life of Fred which is designed to cover the concepts – sometimes we do it together and sometimes they do it themselves.
    But we also use other things and I certainly have been guilty of giving the kids a colourful book and expecting them to work nicely….it worked really well for a while and led me into a false sense of security. Unfortunately, it turned out that the work was just too easy for them and when they caught up to where they ‘should’ be (determined by their interest and ability and not by some arbitrary age/class level) they weren’t so keen on working through the colourful book.
    I’m looking into MEP for next year because we are already getting to the stage where Mummy needs to have a little think before she answers questions.

    • Tracey

      November 29, 2013 at 1:53 am

      I gave my boys colourful school textbooks in the early years of school. They were our version of a Math holiday. They were so ridiculously easy that the kids would polished off the whole book in well under a term. The kids liked the change because they were ‘pretty’ books and they didn’t require nearly as much thinking as their Singapore books. They were also good for me to see that, while we are not following the standard school path, my boys could more than compete with their peers. My boys have also done some of the Naplan tests (at home with old tests) for the same reason. They blitzed them, making me just that little bit more confident that this homeschooling path is looking like a pretty good choice. 🙂

      I’ve looked at MEP too but Singapore Math has my heart strings. MEP would be my next in line option.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: