Saturday, 28 May 2016

WORKSHEETS in Home Education! REALLY?

I have a rather creative, visually-stimulated 7 year old student, who often finds worksheets intimidating, boring and frustrating. If it was up to her, we would not do worksheets at all and we would simply draw and paint and talk and write stories all day, every day. As lovely as that sounds, it would leave some serious gaps in her education, because she would be doing the drawing and me doing all the writing and then reading back of the stories.

So, worksheets, mostly from Teachers Pay Teachers, are for us the compromise between her desires and my goals.

When we first homeschooled, with my older girls, who are now adults, we used ACE paces, which were basically worksheets in a booklet form, in various subjects. That was the extent of our homeschool, because it was what I understood school learning to look like - we did school at home.

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I love workbooks and worksheets and I love looking at them and shopping for them. It's right up there with my penchant for stationery.   I have to stop myself from rationalising yet another purchase for some item of stationery that is appealing, and worksheets/workbooks have the same appeal for me.  

So, now, when looking for and using worksheets, I choose ones that will catch Raelee's interest immediately (so it has to be visually appealing), not overwhelming (so not too much detail or written work on the page), and have to be effective for her (not just busy work).   These are some of her favourites. 

What I have discovered from browsing through worksheet resources is the very many ways to teach the same things, and how many of them are designed for the classroom to help teachers with many students. Some worksheets are designed with the sole purpose of keeping children busy in the classroom - children who are early finishers and children who need extra work on a topic.   Others are designed to measure or assess how much the child knows.   Neither of these reasons are necessary in a homeschool setting.

I have discovered, however, that many worksheets are great tools for one student or many, and if used well, can really help the student learn effectively. The key is to understand the concepts being taught and to understand how your student responds to that particular type of worksheet. What works for your student might not work for mine, and what works for my 7yo may not work for my next student, who is 3 now and very different to her sister.

Like anything else, worksheets are great tools, but bad masters. You have to know what you want from them and when to put them aside.    And like anything else, you can have too much of a good thing.   More worksheets do not necessarily mean more learning.   Sometimes a few, well-chosen worksheets are much more effective, and serve best as a complement to other ways of teaching and learning. 

Where to get worksheets? There are many places online that have good quality worksheets. If you google worksheets in the subject area and grade you're looking for, it will usually bring up some good choices, and you will often be directed to some major educational sites. Some of them offer freebies; most of them require you to join and pay.

My main place to look at and buy worksheets is at Teachers Pay Teachers - an absolutely fantastic online resource centre for all ages and stages of learning.    Their site has over 2 million resources, over 3.8 million active members and a lot of variety in terms of input and cost. It is structured in such a way that the author of the worksheet is the one that gets the money for their work, and some teachers are making good money selling their work.   It is free to join and it's easy to refine your search parameters. 

The beauty of the worksheets on Teachers Pay Teachers is that they are relatively cheap compared to textbooks, you can often see previews of what's there, and they are instantly downloadable. There are also many freebies on their site, many of which are designed to show you the quality of work from a particular author/teacher. If you like them on Facebook, you will often get notifications of freebies, and when you 'follow' a particular author/teacher, you will get email notifications when they put out freebies, specials or new packs.

It's also very helpful to follow the blogs of the worksheet makers - they are teachers - and to see how they have used them and why they designed them. Some of the worksheet authors are also homeschool mums.

These are some of my favourite teacher/authors: Lavinia Pop, Polliwog Place, Miss Giraffe, Jennifer Hier, Danie Dee's Dollar Store and Eye Popping Fun Resources

So, what worksheets do I use and how do I use them? I will post more specific info on worksheets as I cover various skills and subjects that we are doing and have done.

After using ACE, LEM phonics, textbooks/workbooks, unit studies and a Charlotte Mason approach first time around, I have seen the value in using worksheets in a homeschool setting.   They allow you to plan ahead, to know what skills you're aiming to teach/review, allow the child to learn in different ways, and they are often fun! 

If you'd like to know more about the worksheets pictured, please contact me. 

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