Homeschooling with Textbooks

“I am reviewing my cherished, Managers of Their Schools book and have been so blessed by it this past year. I was one of those who was completely against textbook learning, but after reading your book last year, the case was proved, and there is no going back for our family.

“I knew the first month would be awful, and it was but so worth it. The children (10, 9, 7, 5, and 3 at the time) were so used to a fully mom-directed schooling and ‘entertaining’ school. So some new character traits had to be learned – self-discipline and hard work even when it is not enjoyed to name the top two, had to be worked through. Now we all love our textbook learning, I have more time with the younger children, and the children are proud of their work and work well.

“The children asked if they could use textbooks from here on out. Character is the main reason we homeschool, and this style truly helped. Anyway, I have found your curriculum choices to be of great wisdom, and they have been right on for our family as well.”

Homeschool Textbooks

With August upon us, those who are homeschooling are probably preparing for a new school year. Because we receive so many e-mails from homeschooling moms, we have become aware of the major areas of struggles with which they will wrestle. A large number of their problems could possibly be solved very simply—by changing their method of homeschooling. Their method of homeschooling is putting unnecessary pressure on them, and they are suffering with the burden of it. They continue with the way they have been homeschooling because they believe if they change methods they will do their children a disservice. Plus the way they are homeschooling appeals to them either intellectually or to their mommy hearts even if the practical side isn’t very successful. Because of these issues, I want to take this Mom’s Corner to once again recommend a style of homeschooling that many have dismissed without much, if any, consideration—Christian textbook homeschooling.

There are two past Mom’s Corners when I have addressed this same recommendation. Here are links to them: May 2005 Mom’s Corner and May 2003 Mom’s Corner. In these articles, I encouraged those who were satisfied with their method of homeschooling to skip reading the rest of the Mom’s Corner. Truly, if you are content with how you homeschool and it is successful for you, we don’t want to dissuade you from what you are doing. However, as we continue to hear from moms having difficulties in their homeschooling lifestyle and also hearing very positive comments from those who are switching to textbooks, we are feeling the need to become slightly more overt in our encouragement for homeschool families to consider Christian textbooks. It is not our desire to put down other homeschooling methods, but to see families successful. We are grateful for everything that helps, supports, and allows families to homeschool. More and more, though, we are becoming aware of families who are so frustrated with homeschooling for many reasons that they are sending their children back to a public or private school. It isn’t their heart’s desire for this to happen, but they haven’t been successful with their homeschooling either because of the demands on Mom’s time, because school wasn’t consistently accomplished, or because the children weren’t learning. Would it have been necessary to give up homeschooling if they had tried using textbooks?

Textbooks Help You the Mom

As we become more convinced that textbooks facilitate not only the education of a homeschooled child but also allow a homeschool mom to keep up with the needed demands on her time, we are taking a bigger step in becoming proactive advocates of textbooks. Please, though, don’t misunderstand us. We are not saying you have to use Christian textbooks to successfully homeschool. Nor are we saying it is the only way to homeschool. We are simply suggesting homeschool families consider textbooks as a possibility, especially if they are having any problems with accomplishing school, with their children’s education, or with continuing to homeschool.

In a nutshell, the testimony that introduces this article says well what I would like to convey. Most of us didn’t consider homeschooling with Christian textbooks when we began homeschooling. After all, we were told in the materials we read about homeschooling, that if we used textbooks to school our children we would be bringing school into our homes—something we were encouraged not to do. We were also told that our children would be bored with textbooks, and that they would dislike learning if we used texts. We were encouraged to try out other methods of homeschooling—ones that would entice our children to learn, be more fun, and be more exciting.

As we work with homeschool moms and listen to their pleas for help, we wonder why textbooks have a negative reputation in homeschooling circles. Their benefits are numerous, and they solve so many of the problems with which homeschooling families are struggling. Our personal experience with Christian textbooks is very positive, and we are hearing that same result from other families who have switched to textbooks. We moved away from twelve years of other homeschooling methods to textbooks, which we have used for twelve years, and we plan to remain with textbooks for our last six years of homeschooling. As other moms are switching to textbooks, they are also finding positive changes in their homeschool environment quite similar to the mom in the note who introduced this article. These benefits are causing them to be excited about homeschooling with textbooks, and they don’t have a desire to go back to other methods they have left behind.

Because of the homeschooling style the mom whose testimony we have shared with you had been using, she knew that it would take some effort on her part to reestablish learning patterns in her children. Her children had become accustomed to learning only if Mom made it entertaining, exciting, appealing, and enticing. The reality of that type of homeschooling is that it is quite exhausting for Mom. You would think children would be sad about leaving that fun style of homeschooling. However, after one year of using textbooks, these children themselves didn’t want to return to their old method. They were happy with the change and have requested to continue homeschooling as they have been the past year.

Homeschool Textbooks Facilitate Independent Learners

Textbooks are just plain practical. Many of the other homeschool methods are totally dependent on Mom continually having the proper books, supplies, motivation, and time to direct the learning and educational activities. If Mom isn’t available or just happens to be working with another child, school is put on hold. With textbooks, children can be independent learners. They can work at their own pace. If they happen to need help but help isn’t immediately available, they can move to another section of their book or another subject that they can do by themselves. With the older children being able to do much of their work on their own, Mom’s time can be invested with the younger children, who are still learning to read, and with the older children in the particular areas where they struggle.

We have found textbooks to give our children a very thorough education. They don’t leave gaps in a child’s learning like other methods may be prone to do. I had often read that textbooks were boring, and if I used them to homeschool, my children would dislike learning. However, our experience over the years of using textbooks for our homeschooling is that they aren’t boring nor do they stifle my children’s joy in learning. Instead the education those textbooks provide our children will equip them to research their own projects and move into autonomy in their learning.

Textbooks Provide Opportunities for Real Learning

For many homeschool families, we wonder if their homeschool method is causing their children to grow up with an appetite to learn only if the material is exciting, interesting, and fun. Moms usually have to work very, very hard to keep their homeschool in these enticing realms where their children are willing to put forth the needed effort to learn. This in itself can become wearying for Mom. What will children, who grow up with this type of homeschooling, think about reading the Bible? It is simply a normal kind of book to be read and applied to our lives. Will their hearts be drawn to wanting to spend time in the Word or will it not measure up to the kind of learning to which they have become accustomed?

In addition, in real adult life, we sometimes get to learn what we find to be interesting. More often, however, we learn because we need to learn – whether we like what we are to learn and how it is presented or not. In our family, our children mostly enjoy their textbook learning, but there are times when they don’t prefer the subject matter such as when they come to the elements of the periodic table in science. What they gain by this kind of textbook experience, is that they can apply themselves to learn an area in which they aren’t interested, and it is okay.

Through the use of textbooks, our testimonial family learned self-discipline and how to work hard. Rather than the children being unhappy about that and wanting to return to their old method of homeschooling, they are proud of their work and their ability to work well. They want to stay with their textbooks.

I want to encourage homeschool moms to evaluate what is happening in their homeschools. Have the methods and materials burdened Mom down? Is your method giving your children an excellent education? Are you consistently keeping up with your homeschooling? Are your children independent learners, or do they have to rely upon Mom to keep school going? As a solution to many of the problems homeschool families are experiencing with their homeschooling, I would like to suggest the possibility that textbooks would provide the solutions.

(If you are interested in more detail concerning the benefits of textbook homeschool, you can find it in our newest book, Managers of Their Schools: A Practical Guide to Homeschooling. Plus Managers of Their Schools gives much practical homeschooling information in general and specifically about how to use textbooks plus our curricula choices.)

Personal Bible Time with Your Children

This month I wanted to take a few minutes to share something that has been on my heart and might be an encouragement to you—my daily morning Bible time with my children.

I wonder if this verse isn’t one of the most widely quoted verses in homeschooling circles. “And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might. And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up. And thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thine hand, and they shall be as frontlets between thine eyes. And thou shalt write them upon the posts of thy house, and on thy gates” (Deuteronomy 6:5-9). It so clearly presents a father’s need to diligently instruct his children in the Word of God everyday. Part of this instruction will be helping our children learn to read the Word, understand it, and apply it to their lives. I believe this is achieved through leading my children to have a personal time every day for Bible reading and prayer.

In addition to our evening family Bible time, we have a time of individual reading of the Word and personal prayer every morning. Weekday mornings, my children and I gather together in the living room to individually read our Bibles. I say weekdays because the children have the option of sleeping in an hour on Saturdays and Sundays if they were up later the previous evening and need more sleep. On those days when they sleep in, I will be finished with my Bible time as they are gathering for theirs.

I dearly love the early morning hours with my children and look forward to them when I get up. The children are awakened by their own alarm clocks based on how much time they need to get up, dressed, and be in the living room at the appointed time. Some will gather a few minutes early to visit until it is time to start our Bible reading at 5:45 a.m. Then we each read our Bibles to ourselves for a half hour. At 6:15, we close our Bibles, kneel, and pray silently for fifteen minutes until 6:30 a.m. At that time, Teri and I leave to walk, and the children begin their responsibilities for the day.

There is something special about being together with my children and watching them read their Bibles. I like being physically close to them even though we spread out around the living room. There were a number of years when I had one of the younger children snuggled up beside me, and that was a treat. However, even now just being in the same room while we fellowship with the Lord Jesus is precious to me.

There is something about those early morning hours that adds a sense of peace to our Bible reading. At that time, we don’t hear cars, lawn mowers, or children outside playing. It is just my family gathered with their Bibles and the occasional turning of a page or the clicking of a pen to write a note. It is a wonderfully peaceful setting.

I believe another benefit of our personal Bible time in one room is that my children observe me spending time in the Word. Often, if Dad is reading his Bible, he does it alone before the children are up, in his study, or another room where they never see him. While they may know that he puts a priority on his personal time in the Word, seeing it in action will be an even more powerful testimony.

On occasion, one of the children will ask a quick question. Since it disturbs others’ reading, it isn’t often, but it does provide the opportunity to answer the question while it is fresh on their heart. Not only does it clear the issue for them, but there are others who might benefit as well. I like it because it shows me they are thinking about what they are reading.

Have you noticed at a mealtime when something is really tasty someone might exclaim, “Mom, this is great!” In a similar fashion, it excites my heart when one of the children finds a verse that reveals new truth, and in his enthusiasm he has to share it with us. I love for the other children to see that excitement and hear the discovery as well.

A benefit of being together is that it adds accountability. Occasionally there have been times when due to a late night, one or more of us was extra sleepy. If we were reading our Bibles in different rooms, it wouldn’t be too difficult to drift off to sleep. However, when we are together, the sound of sleep breathing in a very quiet living room is pretty distinguishable and doesn’t go on for long. A simple clearing of the throat, dropping of a shoe on the floor, or the snickers going around the room is all that is needed for the sleepy head to find new energy to stay awake.

There is also the blessing of drawing my family into closer fellowship due to the “camaraderie” of doing something together. I can’t explain it, but it just works out that way. In a time when everything in our world tries to separate the family and pull hearts away, I want all I can find that will bring the hearts of my children toward each other and the Lord Jesus.

Beginning when my children can read fairly well on their own, usually around eight years of age, I have them join us in the living room for personal Bible time. When the children are younger, they are still asleep when we have our Bible time. That means getting up for Bible time is a looked-forward-to stage in their lives because it represents, in their minds, a transition from being one of the little children to becoming one of the big ones. I try to structure the evening time so that the children can choose to go to bed at times that will allow them to get the amount of sleep they need each night and be up for early morning Bible time. After the child has consistently had his personal Bible time for six months, I purchase him a new study Bible and cover.

Through my interactions with Christians who have struggled or are struggling, it has become obvious that without a daily time in the Word, they are rudderless. They lack the spiritual grounding that would direct them through the storms of life. By giving my children the discipline of daily time in the Word, I am handing them the tools they need for spiritual growth and stability.

I’m not saying if you have individual Bible times in different rooms, you are doing something wrong. The fact that you are having Bible time is wonderful. However, since we have found such blessings from being together, I thought it might encourage you to try it as well. Even if everyone in your family already has his own personal time of Bible reading, you may want to start being together in the same room for it and see if you experience the blessings like our family has gained.