Educational Philosophy Review – 100.01 – The Traditional Textbook Approach

Educational Philosophy Review – 100.01 – The Traditional Textbook Approach

Note: This is the first of several Educational Philosophy Reviews I will be posting for the next few weeks.

What is an Educational Philosophy?

An Educational Philosophy is the approach you will use as the basis of your homeschool curriculum choices. It’s important to understand that there are many options and ideas about how best to educate students, and each of those has pros and cons.  Many people never consider the options, but understanding the myriad of approaches available, and considering what is best for your family, will help you make your homeschool experience a more successful and sustainable one.

The first Educational Philosophy we’ll look at is The Traditional Textbook Method.

This is what we commonly think of when we picture a public school experience. In this approach, textbooks for each subject with a clearly defined scope and sequence for each grade level are used. Information in the textbooks has been prepared especially for use in a classroom, so it is usually broken down into manageable lessons and orderly topics.

Textbooks come from a variety of “worldviews” from religious to secular. Textbooks also come in many forms: video school, computer courses, and worktexts are all based on a traditional textbook approach.


  • Easy for the parent to use, with good teacher guides and answer keys.
  • Grade-level scope and sequence makes it easy to see what to do and how learning is building.
  • Familiar format.
  • Especially good for math, spelling, writing, or any subject where facts and a spiral approach to mastery is important.


  • Textbooks tend to water down materials to fit the format, so there isn’t much depth or nuance to the material.  This can be particularly a problem with history materials and literature anthologies.
  • Textbooks are prepared by a committee for a specific type of school (religious or secular), so you get a lot of editorial influence built into the materials.  Parents must be extra vigilant to point out biases and worldview assumptions that are found in the text (both *for* and *against* your own personal worldview).  This will be especially critical in history, social studies, and literature-type subjects, but sometimes biases can even be found in the math problems or writing prompts.
  • Textbooks can be boring for both the student and the teacher because they sometimes are too repetitive, or they water down the subject too much.
  • Using textbooks can be overwhelming if you try to do ALL of the activities suggested because they’re usually designed for classrooms with many students so extra busy-work is sometimes provided.
  • On the other hand, using textbooks can have you going too quickly through the material – moving on to lesson 2 before lesson 1’s concepts are understood.


  • This approach is the least easy for others to criticize due to its familiar structure, so it is a good one to use if a spouse or parent is negative toward homeschooling.
  • This approach is probably most appealing to families who are uncomfortable with experimentation. It is a very good place to start when initially removing a student from school.
  • If you do decide to use textbooks you can mitigate some of their weaknesses by judicious use and supplementing with other materials as necessary.  Remember that the textbook is a *tool* you use, not a master you follow. Don’t be afraid to set the textbook aside if necessary to give you more time on a problem area, or special interest.
  • Important note:  Even if you start your homeschooling years with textbooks, please don’t be afraid to try other approaches as you gain more confidence and experience.  Textbooks are great for some subjects, but for others some other method (or at least some supplementation) might be better. There will be more ideas on how to do that in some of our other reviews and essays, so stay tuned.


  • Religious: A Beka, Bob Jones, Alpha Omega, Christian Liberty, Calvert, Rod and Staff, etc.
  • Secular: Houghton-Mifflin, Scott-Foresman, and many more.


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