Customize Your Homeschool Using a Textbook Table of Contents

Be flexible with how you use your textbooks!

I have a love/hate relationship with textbooks. On the one hand, they’re dreadfully dull and lifeless. On the other, they often contain lots of great information; the problem is in how it’s presented.

I think most people have a very narrow view of how a textbook should be used: Read it, complete the review questions and vocabulary, take a test.

Ugh. Can you say b-o-r-i-n-g? 

Thankfully, textbooks don’t have to be used a certain way. As inflexible as they may seem, it is entirely possible to tailor them to suit your family’s needs.

Here’s one way to do that.

How to Homeschool Using a Textbook Table of Contents

How to use a textbook flexibly

When most people think of a textbook, they think of the body of text. When I think of a textbook, I think of the table of contents.

Sound strange?

Think about it. The table of contents gives an overview of what material will be covered in a given resource.. Each and every major topic that will be touched upon is listed out- often with subheadings giving even more detail.

But what if you looked beyond that? What if, instead, you used that one item as the spine for a custom-made curriculum that is designed for your child- not a multitude of children?

Here are some ideas of how this can be accomplished:

(The first suggestion is the only one that I feel is absolutely necessary. The rest are simply ideas you might consider.)

– Make a list of all of the topics listed in the table of contents.

For example, I have a biology book in which the following areas are covered in the first chapter-

  • Flowering seed plants
  • Structure and function of leaves
  • Flowers, fruits, and seeds
  • Stems and roots
  • Plant varieties

The list you come up with will comprise the framework for the following activities.

– Head to the library and gather some trade books that cover the items on your list.

Have you ever noticed how much more interesting actual books are than textbooks? You can easily cover the same information contained in a textbook by using the library, instead. Just because something’s interesting doesn’t mean that it’s any less educational. In fact, I think the exact opposite is true.

– Compile a notebook to write about the books that are read.

There’s just something about a child getting to choose what they’re going to write about a subject than being asked review questions at the end of a chapter. It brings with it a sense of ownership. This can be a fabulous outlet for kids who don’t like to write because there are so many options to include in a notebook, such as:

  • pamphlets
  • maps
  • drawings
  • comic strips
  • creative writing (focusing on the subject at hand)
  • glossaries
  • reviews
  • and so on…

– Incorporate hands-on activities to solidify what is learned.

Thanks to Pinterest, you can find hands-on activities for just about anything. Be creative! If your child is learning about seeds, plant a garden. If they’re learning about weather, make a tornado in a bottle. If they’re studying pioneer times, make a recipe from that era. There are millions of ideas out there!

– Plan field trips connected to the topics included.

Field trips are another great way to help a child make connections with what they’re learning. And keep in mind that they needn’t be expensive. Consider heading out into the woods to look for animal tracks, visiting a nursery or a local farm, or wading in a creek to hunt for clutches of frog eggs. I guarantee that this will beat your child simply reading about the subject in a textbook any day.

– Find some good movies or videos to supplement.

I’m not one for using the TV every day during homeschool, but I do believe there are a huge variety of visual media that can be extremely beneficial when combined with other learning approaches. Consider the subject you’re teaching/learning and search through Netflix, YouTube, Amazon Prime, or your public library for some documentaries or other relevant programs that may interest your child.

– Combine all of the above!

I think this one’s self-explanatory. 🙂

As tedious as I think textbooks are, there’s no doubt that they can be a great guide or jumping off point to base your very own tailored curriculum on. Simply stick with the table of contents, frame your lessons around that alone, and you can be well on your way to your very own customized homeschool.

Now that’s an approach to textbooks I can handle.









Author: Shelly Sangrey

I'm Shelly, a Christ-following, homeschooling Mom of eleven children ( okay, not ALL children. My oldest is 23.) I met my husband right after graduation, and we've been together ever since. Though my life can be hectic at times... okay, ALL the time, I wouldn't change it for anything.

22 thoughts on “Customize Your Homeschool Using a Textbook Table of Contents”

  1. Thumbs up to this! This is exactly how I use textbooks. And I don’t even buy them!! 😉 I preview textbooks on Amazon and read through the table of contents. Good information, Shelly.

    Liked by 4 people

  2. Thanks for such a wonderful article. It was so helpful – I never thought of using the contents as a framework – such a good idea!!! I agree that completing tasks in a textbook can be so tedious and you can see the expression on your child’s face when they are faced with doing this compared to when they are notebooking – it’s a world of difference. Now I know what to do with all those textbooks gathering dust – thanks again.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. Great ideas all around – I’m just starting our homeschool journey but i love the flexibility of using all kinds of resources to meet the needs and interests of your own children :).

    Liked by 2 people

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 )

Facebook photo

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

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: