Worksheets have that vaguely “official” stamp of school. They’re easy for us (the teachers) because you slap one down in front of the kid and you’re done. Proof of learning and it keeps them busy; what could go wrong?
That’s the problem – it’s busy work. It’s repetition, it’s sitting still and writing. All things we have trouble with.
Today I came to a realization: am I promoting learning or busy work? At this point worksheets aren’t helping him learn. Just the opposite – he hates them and avoids schoolwork.
We did a few worksheets with this project and they were the sticking point. They were simple ones that I knew the Engineer could do – filling in the missing numbers in a number line. If I asked him he quickly gave me the correct answer. If I told him to fill in the missing numbers he took forever and complained he didn’t know the answer.
I realized that I could have easily come up with something that helped reinforce the number line without having him do a worksheet on it. As usual, I was tired and trying to round out a project instead of adding more to my workload.
Today I am officially renouncing worksheets. We’ll do them when he wants to, or if I make a custom one for things that he likes. Otherwise I’m swearing off the worksheets. No more simple fixes, time to buckle down and keep thinking creatively.
We watched some really cool videos about trains: first, this History Channel one about the Transcontinental Railroad, a compilation of snow plow trains, and an interesting one about how they repair the railroad without ripping it up. All three kids were glued to the screen when we watched the snowplow trains – the video was impressive!
Our activity for this project was a deceptively simple one. We pulled out our massive wooden train collection and got the freight cars out. I handed out “logs,” (straws cut to size) “boxes” (square foam blocks) and “barrels” (foam cylinders.) I wanted the kids to experiment with volume, mass, and building a stable stack. They spent the next hour zooming trains around on the floor, learning how inertia can cause their loads to fall off.
Side note: wooden trains and track have been one of our best toy investments. All the kids enjoy them, and the Engineer especially likes building massive tracks that run around the entire dining room. Most of our track is from Ikea. We have an assortment of trains from various companies, including Thomas, Chuggington, Brio, and the Target brand. These freight cars came from Target. The Engineer really likes his RC battery-powered Brio train and it helps keeps his interest as he’s starting to outgrow the set (this image link will take you to Amazon.)