A word on worksheets

With all the buzz around worksheets in preschool, you might think it's time to give them up altogether. But don't let popular opinion make decisions for you and your child.
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Don’t you love the freedom of homeschooling? You pick what you want to do and when you want to do it. Try something that doesn’t work for your kid? You drop it, (duh) and look forward to trying something new tomorrow. Enter worksheets.

I’ve seen rumblings around worksheets and their place among preschoolers especially. It’s popular at the moment to create preschool experiences that do not depend on the use of worksheets. In some circles they’ve been deemed ineffective and unnecessary.

With all the buzz around worksheets in preschool, you might think it's time to give them up altogether. But don't let popular opinion make decisions for you and your child.

As a homeschool mom with access to social media, it’s easy to let opinions like these scare me into a corner. So, no worksheets? Ever? If I slip up and use one, will it undo everything we’ve learned?!

Or maybe I’m not scared, just confused. Is it ok to use worksheets sometimes? What if my kid likes them? What if I just need a few minutes…can I give him a worksheet to keep him busy?

The heart of the argument is that many young children will learn better through hands-on, active, fun, creative and silly ways. Songs, stories, rhymes, games and sensory materials are more likely to resonate with children than being told to sit still and put pencil to paper.

I believe this will all my heart! It’s one of the reasons I homeschool, in fact.

But at the same time, I’m sad that there are moms out there who may feel pressured to trash the workbooks because worksheets are somehow bad or wrong.

It’s funny that something as simple as worksheets has caused such a stir. As with all non-central issues (those not directly addressed in the Bible), we have freedom to make the decision that is best for our family.

And, sometimes, the best decision might be to get out a worksheet! In our homeschool, we use worksheets occasionally and unashamedly.

Here’s why we use worksheets:

My kid likes them…sometimes.

Ty (3) did his first worksheet a few weeks ago. He’d never done anything like it and the novelty of it interested him. The sheet included three or four activities, perfectly age appropriate. He liked having it showcased on the refrigerator when he’d finished and showing it to daddy!

Unlike most of the other activities we do for school, this was something we kept, something he could look at and talk about with others. That’s pretty cool.

They require the student to follow instructions

Preschool and childhood in general shouldn’t be overly structured or rule-riddled, but that doesn’t mean children shouldn’t learn to follow instructions. I like teaching my son that there are times when things need to be done according to the directions provided; not everything is open to interpretation.

Now of course, worksheets aren’t necessarily the best way and are certainly not the only way to practice following instructions. Board games and cookie making will also demand the child to carry out tasks in specific ways, with very obvious consequences if the instructions are ignored.

A worksheet will simply “be wrong” if instructions aren’t followed and that probably isn’t enough for most three year olds to realize importance of following directions.

They require the student to sit at least a little still and concentrate

I love letting Ty run, jump, play, pretend, create and explore! That’s what he should be doing for most of his day, every day. But sometimes that’s not appropriate. Doctor’s offices, church sanctuaries and airplanes are not conducive to the energy level of little boys. Taking a few minutes to practice being calm and focused on quiet tasks is not harmful, it’s proactive!

Again, there are plenty of other ways to practice being still and quiet. Worksheets are just one of many.

They’re easy…for me!

Let’s face it; I can’t always come up with brilliant activities and fun, unique, Pinterest-level awesomeness to feed my kid’s desire for “school time.” But I can always tear out a worksheet and feign epic-level excitement over circling all the yellow objects. When you are your kid’s teacher, sometimes you just have to play teacher.

Most of us probably grew up shading, “ringing,” (because that’s a normal way to say “circle”?), tracing and dot connecting. It wasn’t great, but it didn’t kill our spirit. Sometimes, just ok is fine.

So, should you throw out the stash of $1 workbooks you’ve collected?

Should you stop using printables? Should you completely discard all traces of paper from your preschool time? No, I don’t think so.

Should you use worksheets every single day because it just doesn’t feel like school if you haven’t completed at least one activity that requires a pencil? No, I don’t think so.

What I do think is that you should look at worksheets as a tool. Are they working for your child? Not are they turning your four year old into a genius, but does your four year old enjoy them? If yes, then by all means, let him do a worksheet! Do they help you out on those days when you don’t have something amazing planned for school? Then let them help you!

It’s just as silly to think worksheets are necessary for a well-rounded school day as to think you can’t use them at all because some people don’t like them.

Honestly, they’re just worksheets. Some kids will be completely into them. Others will rather run circles around the perimeter of the house then sit down and do one. My advice is to let the kid who loves them do them, and let the kid who wants to run do that first…then occasionally have them work through a sitting activity afterward.

We’re homeschooling our kids, moms. It’s a wonderful, fun, and extremely important job. If we get hung up on what’s popular or not popular we might miss out on the very thing that clicks with our children.

Our job is to find the way their mind works and sometimes that will mean doing school like it’s 1999! I know it’s tempting, but don’t let every new article that pops up on your social media feed make you waver. Read, consider, move on. Be informed, but don’t be controlled.

And please, whatever you do, don’t sweat the worksheets 🙂

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