I write this post as I look at too many barely used workbooks flopped over on our school shelves. (Why can't they stand up straight?) The truth of these underused educational materials reminds me that I chose workbooks in years past unwisely.
This post is the first in a series on reducing homeschool clutter. Read the first post here.
A Workbook that is Mainly Busywork will Flop on Your Shelf
Workbooks promise ready made, open and go curriculum. However, very few deliver on that promise. Many workbooks contain mundane tasks that don't really do much except leave a paper trail, both literally and figuratively. Many grammar books are mainly busywork. Do you really need the extra practice math book when there are a few apps out there for math practice that your kids won't cry over. Though I love Costco, most of the workbooks they throughout the summer sell are cute, colorful, and worthless.
I have many workbooks that I've started my kids on and realized that they are actually busywork. I've kept them out of guilt, thinking I can use them for another child. But I finally realized a workbook that was worthless for one child will be worthless for the next because it is simply a low quality product. As I write this post I'm am making a pile of the workbooks I don't use so I can dump them. Or I may let my preschooler scribble on them first, then toss them.
Choose Workbooks Wisely
Only buy the workbooks that you will likely use 85% of the pages.
The advice is simple, but it is easier said than done, especially during the first year of homeschooling
I used to buy a workbook for every possible topic, figuring that I could just pick and choose pages to teach and reinforce topics as I needed them. Of course that lead to a lot of waste and a lot of clutter.
I now buy two workbooks for my 7th grader. I've learned that a Math workbook is a necessary, though floppy, evil. I've also learned that Writing and Rhetoric is a valuable curriculum that has workbook sections. It not only covers writing, it also covers reading skills, critical thinking, memory work, a little grammar, and vocabulary. It is the core book for my son's language arts curriculum. In addition to Writing and Rhetoric, we read literature together and work on a few custom spelling lists on the side and language arts is done. I call that a valuable workbook!
Any workbook that is an integral part of a curriculum or that teaches a valuable skill that I cannot teach on my own is worth keeping on my shelf.
There are a few free, online workbooks that I have links to, just in case I need a page or two. I also go to sites like education.com when I just need a workbook page for extra practice.
My daughter has a math workbook,spelling workbook, and a handwriting workbook. Our charter school adds a couple others which I politely keep on my shelf. They do come in handy when she needs just a little extra practice, or when she feels like doing a workbook (she's funny like that!) Her workbooks don't sit nicely on a shelf, which is where the next tip comes in...
Corral Skinny Worbooks in Magazine Holders
Magazine holders are the best solution to floppy workbook syndrome. Go from this:
To this in about 5.2 seconds.
I have used the file boxes pictured for three years and they are in great condition! (Follow this link to the exact magazine holder shown.) I also use the large size to hold art supplies and sketchbooks together.
If you missed the first post in this series, be sure to go back and read how I have been reducing clutter by eliminating throwaway projects.