Are You Homeschooling with Textbooks, By Default?

Are you're teaching your children with textbooks because they're effective, or because "that's the way it's always been done"?

Why is it that the things that should be the most obvious to us are those which we find so difficult to grasp?

Take textbooks, for example.

I’m honestly astonished at the number of homeschoolers who seem to cling to this holdover from compulsory schooling- you know, that form of education most homeschoolers are trying to avoid?? And I’m not approaching this topic in an uppity manner, since I was once one of those very people.

Thankfully, I have gradually realized how little textbooks have to do with an effective education for most children, and I think a good number of other parents instinctively know this, too. Despite this fact, however, I’ve increasingly come into contact with many, many other homeschool moms who are genuinely aware that textbooks aren’t working for their children, yet they beat themselves up over it and desperately try to get them to work. 

Stop clinging to what doesn't work and embrace the things that do.

Now before I incur the wrath of those whom textbooks really do work for and really are excited to use them, let me just say that I know you’re out there, and I’m not writing this for you. This post is for all of you other homeschooling families who are on the brink of giving up because you just feel like you can’t do it anymore.

Here’s what I want to ask you:

Are you using textbooks, by default?

Some of you may be asking, what do you mean?

In short, what I mean is, are you teaching your children with textbooks simply because that’s “always the way it’s been done”?

Before moving on, I do want to point out that the school model most people view as “always having been around” is relatively new, so no. Learning hasn’t always been done this way, but since this is the way the past several generations have been educated, it’s hard for a lot of people to accept the fact that it is not the only way.

Some questions to ask yourself to determine the answer to this are:

Do I find myself trying to recreate a traditional school setting in my home?

Do you have wooden desks neatly in a row?  A flag in the corner? A set time for each subject? Do your kids have to raise their hands to go to the bathroom? If this sounds familiar, I’d say the answer is yes.

Am I adamant that my children use textbooks even though they don’t work for us?

Not all kids learn the same, and that is perfectly okay. Schools use textbooks because they have to have a common method to teach such a large number of students, but the sad fact is that many children who don’t learn well this way get pushed to the side, left behind, and/or stigmatized.

It’s a common misconception that children who don’t fit the school mold are less intelligent, but that is not the case. Different is not less. Different is just that- different.

The home education environment is the perfect atmosphere for children who don’t mesh well with textbooks. (And to be honest, I’d wager that even those students who seem to do well with them aren’t learning as much as we think they are.)

Am I clinging to textbooks even though our homeschool environment is miserable because of them?

Do you find yourself dreading homeschooling each day? Do you find yourself wistfully looking at the big yellow bus outside?

Ask yourself what it is specifically that you’re anxious about. Is it homeschooling in general, or how you’re homeschooling?

Do I feel like I’m not doing my duties as a homeschool mom if our assignments don’t come from a textbook curriculum?

That used to be me. When we first started homeschooling, it felt like we were playing school because that’s exactly what we were doing. The difference, however, was that the fun quickly wore off and burn-out took its place.

Does our homeschool seem less “official” on those days our activities take a different path?

I can no longer count the number of times I’ve had conversations with new homeschool moms who were listing off all of these amazing things they were doing with their kids, only for them to end their story with a fear of not having time to “fit homeschooling into the day.”

Ladies (and gentlemen), if your children are stimulated, curious, and learning in the midst of it, that is your homeschool day- textbooks or not.

Am I using textbooks to please others?

Whether it’s your parents, friends, relatives, neighbors, or your school district, remember this one thing- none of them know what your children need more than you do.


Am I using textbooks because that’s what my kids are used to from when they were in school?

I’m going to be honest and say that it can be just as hard for kids to break out of the school mold as their parents if they spent a substantial amount of time in school.

My oldest daughter insisted on using textbooks through graduation because she had grown to connect textbooks with education from the seven years she spent in public school. She used to openly admit to me that they didn’t hold her interest, and she wasn’t retaining much, but she still couldn’t bring herself to attempt to “do school” any other way.

The struggle is real.

(I should add that she has learned more in the six months since she’s graduated than she ever learned from her textbooks simply because she finally feels free to pursue education in a way that suits her.)

Just remember that if you decided to homeschool because you lost faith in our educational system then you probably shouldn’t try to imitate it. Just saying.


I’ve come to the realization that the word “homeschool” may be what throws people off. The word “home” tends to get overlooked while the word “school” is emphasized. Maybe it’s time to turn that around and focus more on the “home” aspect of this journey. 

No textbooks required.




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.

13 thoughts on “Are You Homeschooling with Textbooks, By Default?”

  1. It didn’t take me long to realize how textbooks were not working. They didn’t work for me and I didn’t think they would for my children. This is such an amazing and informative post. Thank you for sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Even though I am SO against textbooks, I have found that I can’t get rid of a few from my classroom, because I used them for so long (& so wrong 😉 ) and so I still have a few things I’ll pull out occasionally. BUT, it’s kind of like not throwing the baby out with the bath water, because I’m making the textbooks work for me, as opposed to being controlled by the textbooks. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Agree 100% with what you are saying. Although I must admit that sometimes I get a little anxious and tend to beat myself up a little when we drift slightly away, do less, or do things that are considered “learning” but not exactly following a “school” mode. We are using a very unstructured approach, aside from program as my son does not like any text book or structured format. It is self-paced and allows a lot of freedom and flexibility. But even then, some days we just take it easy and relax on a coach with a book that my son picks or educational games (that by the way sometimes can prove even more educational, at least for my son), or just engage in random conversations about the world, science(asking and answering questions is learning too), observations in nature (best learning of science for my son), etc.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, it can be very hard for us homeschool moms to completely let go of those schoolish notions, can’t it? I still fall prey to them from time to time! Your homeschool routine sounds so fantastic, though. 🙂


  4. I find myself buying textbooks and workbooks because I want to do them! My public school brainwashing is deeply embedded. My mostly unschooled kids groan most times we pull them out. It’s hard for me to change my thought processes regarding “school”.

    Liked by 1 person

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