It is often assumed that unschoolers like us avoid workbooks. I understand why, workbooks are very "schooly" in a lot of ways, but I think the intent is really key. Are the workbooks to be enjoyed at the will of the child? Or are they required by the parent? Is the child able to set them down at any point if they tire of them? These are the questions that make all the difference.
Today Dani has gone though at least a dozen pages from her "preschool" workbook. I purchased this particular book sometime last year because it looked fun. Colorful. Lots of "circle this" and "draw a line from here to here" sort of activies.She did all of two pages at the time and the workbook was otherwise forgotten. No matter! It went in the activity/art cabinet with all the other coloring and activity books.
This morning she picked up a jumbo coloring and activity book I had picked up at a thriftstore (it was unused and in fine shape for 25 cents) and did a dozen or so connect-the-dot pages til she ran into a word-scramble. The scramble was beyond her (yeah, she's not-quite-4 and cannot spell "lioness"...not surprised at all!), but she got me to make dotted line letters she could trace of the words. When she was done with that and asking for more it seemed like the perfect time to dig out that workbook!
So far, she can't get enough of it! Is she learning anything from it? Probably. Does that matter? Nope! The point is she's having fun. She's doing something she enjoys and is probably learning something from it in the process. I'm not forcing her or trying to turn it into a teachable moment, I'm letting it be what it is: a curious child who likes doing activities on paper.
Do unschoolers use workbooks? Absolutely! Do all unschoolers use them? No, it varies from child to child and day to day. One child in your family may love them and use them all the time because they choose to...and their sibling may never even thumb through one. I have no idea if Dani will ever pick it up again after today, but knowing her it's likely she will keep at it for a few days longer (I may have to print out more sheets to keep up with demand!) before finding something else that interests her. She did the same with coloring last month (to the point that she wore out a set of markers in the process).
This is all her. That's the whole point. :)