Looking at the array of academic workbooks in any major bookshop you’d wonder if you’d need anything else to educate a child! They pretty much cover every subject and every level. And with their bright colours and attractive illustrations and cartoons they can be very appealing to children.

They are primarily aimed at parents who feel that their children – probably already in school – may well need extra revision and practice. But how useful are they to home schoolers?

Some home schoolers base much of their child’s education around a course of workbooks. Other families don’t use them at all. Some find a compromise between the two is the best approach. So, like with everything home education, it is a matter of personal choice. One that can be made with the needs of the child and your family in mind.

The danger with workbooks is that on their completion parents may consider their child to be competent in that particular subject, since they’ve worked through the graded exercises. But this is not the case; workbooks are really designed to support practical experiences and certainly should not be considered an education on their own.

Education comes from an understanding of a subject, not simply from a completed course. And understanding comes from an experience of something, the more first-hand the better. The workbook can have a part to play, but is not an education in itself particularly at the primary age.

However, based on that fact, workbooks can still be a valuable resource for families. They can be used for:

  • reference; either of subject matter or keeping abreast of the National Curriculum
  • a starting point for a topic, backed up by experimenting with the subject
  • a way of formalising a topic already experienced
  • picking up any topics that you feel you might have overlooked
  • for extra revision and practice
  • more academic subjects you find hard to provide for in practical ways
  • the children to enjoy the bits that appeal, covering the rest through other approaches

The way in which you use workbooks in your home education can be very much in tune with your own personal approach. They are not a necessary part of education; some families wouldn’t use them at all. It also depends very much on the child; some love them whereas others find them tedious and uninspiring and may be put off from learning that topic at all.

So, perhaps the best way to use them is flexibly and intuitively, being aware that it is not essential that you use them at all.



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