Textbooks Versus Computer Teaching

Lori Soard
Girl behind computer with textbooks

Whether you're new to homeschool or have been navigating the school at home waters for a long time, you may be debating the benefits of textbooks versus computer teaching.

Pros and Cons of Textbooks Versus Computer Teaching

There are both positive and negative qualities to both methods of teaching.

Pros of Textbooks

  • Limitless supply of subjects: Just about any subject you can imagine has a book of some sort of in. For more advanced, teen students, college texts can even be utilized to study particular subjects more in depth.
  • Inexpensive: Because textbooks are readily available used or through your local library and interlibrary loan programs, the cost of using a textbook is often minimal. Although many homeschool families own more books than they could possibly use, the cost of acquiring all these wonderful educational opportunities is still quite affordable.
  • Portability: The beauty of a textbook is that it can be taken with you just about anywhere you go. Since many homeschool families relish the freedom of being able to go on vacation whenever they want or visit a museum in another state, the ability to take schoolwork on the road can be invaluable.

Cons of Textbooks

  • Boredom: Because most textbooks follow a familiar format, students can grow bored with simply reading out of a textbook and doing worksheets or problems in that book.
  • Not all textbooks are created equal: Just because a textbook is available, doesn't always mean it is worth reading. As with all books, there are texts that offer good solid information and texts that probably shouldn't be bothered with.
  • Outdated: Because of the time it takes to publish a book and get it out into the general public, textbooks can sometimes be outdated. If you are purchasing a history or math text, this likely doesn't matter, but in areas such as science, geography or economics, this kind of dated material can have a big impact on learning. Add to this that many people buy textbooks used, and they become even more outdated.

Pros of Computer Teaching

Computer teaching can involve several different elements, including computer based instruction programs like Switched on Schoolhouse, online schools and online texts.

  • Preparation: With many computer teaching models, preparation and grading time is cut down. This can free a homeschooling parent to teach more intensive topics, spend quality time with her family or spread her abilities between several students.
  • Updated frequently: Most online based programs are updated regularly, providing fresh content and the latest innovations. Sites such as Time 4 Learning are easy and inexpensive.
  • Gives kids a break from books: If your child loves technology and seems bored with his textbooks, computer learning can be a nice break, providing learning games and cute cartoons and explanations. Lectures can even be streamed from some sites.

Cons of Computer Teaching

  • Too much computer time: Some parents complain about too much computer time with some computer learning models. A child who sits in front of a computer for four hours a day can grow just as bored as one who sits in front of a textbook for that length of time.
  • Eyestrain: Because of the increased time spent staring at a screen, some children develop eye strain, which can be quite painful and prevent the student from studying to her full ability.
  • Not enough parental involvement: Most parents who homeschool do so because they love to spend time with their children. Computer based teaching often utilizes a program or other teachers, which means the homeschooling parent isn't able to be as involved in the learning process.

Solution: Combination of the Two

A good solution to balancing the pros and cons of textbooks versus computer teaching is to use a combination of the two methods and add in some other measures as well for a nicely rounded homeschooling program. For example, topics like math and history could be studied out of textbooks, an art class might be taken through the local community college or homeschool co-op, and science and literature might be taken through an online school or computer based program.


Knowing the different options available to homeschooled students is vital. By pulling only the best from each area, you can customize a homeschool program that will help your child learn well, allow you some free time for yourself, and keep everyone involved happy and learning.

Textbooks Versus Computer Teaching