I recently sat down and polled my children about their thoughts on worksheets. Admittedly, I began the conversation in a biased way, stating my distaste for worksheets.

“I hate worksheets. How do you guys feel about them?”

“Ugh. I hate worksheets.”

“Why’s that buddy?”

“Because I have to sit there and wait for everyone to finish.”

Worksheets Waste Time

Children who are high-achievers end up spending most of their time in the classroom sitting at their desk doing nothing. Teachers can’t move on until everyone in the class has completed the work, or finished copying information from the board/document camera. Kids like my son, complete their worksheet in several minutes and are essentially penalized for being on-task and being at or above grade level, and not needing the “practice” the worksheet is supposed to support.

And what are kids really getting from the worksheet? What are they gaining? Does their understanding deepen? Are the putting new skills into practice? Are they getting excited about learning? Is their curiosity being piqued? Are they developing questions? Is their sense of wonder awakened? If you can’t answer yes to any of these questions, we have to ask ourselves, what is the point? 

Want to know the sad truth? More often than not, the answer is: to keep kids busy or to fill time. Worksheets = busy work. 

I’ll admit, worksheets can be hard to resist. They’re cute and chock-full of adorable graphics. They don’t require preparation and can be used in a time-crunch.

Worksheets are like the gummy bears of education. They’re cute. They’re easy. But imagine for a moment that 95% of your diet was comprised of gummy bears. You wouldn’t grow or develop. You couldn’t be considered healthy by any stretch of the imagination. Most of the time, you’d probably feel sick.

It’s the same way when an education is 95% comprised of worksheets. Our kids can’t be expected to grow or develop. Their education can’t possibly be considered balanced or healthy. And most of the time, they are “sick” of learning.

If we want our kids to become well-rounded, healthy, growing learners, we MUST stop feeding them an endless supply of drill and kill worksheets. A worksheet-based education cannot turn a child into a healthy, vibrant, growing learner.

When I asked my daughter if she liked worksheets, her response was different from my son’s, but equally depressing. She responded, “Ohhhh I love worksheets.” When I asked why, she said, “They’re so easy. It’s just a couple of questions, and boom – done.”

Like my son, my daughter is a high-achiever – but worksheets have caused her to become a bit stagnant in her educational growth. She’s become comfortable doing what is expected of her – instead of hungering and thirsting for knowledge. When kids are held at their current level instead of being challenged, learning becomes stale. In the words of Walt Disney, “if you’re coasting, you’re going downhill.” It’s simply not enough to keep our kids busy at school. Coloring a sheet and filling in a handful of answers does not equate learning. Books are being replaced with brief passages and handfuls of “fill in the bubble” questions. Our kids aren’t being stimulated, inspired, pushed, or challenged.

They’re eating gummy bears when fresh fruits and veggies and healthy grains are abundant – so to speak. Don’t get me wrong – worksheets have their place, as do gummy bears. On occasion, they are the perfect compliment to a lesson or a great way to practice a new skill. Should they ever be the bulk of a child’s education? NO!

So much learning can occur through reading, playing, investigating, observing, writing, experimenting, using manipulatives, and actively engaging body and mind.

Use a well-placed and quality worksheet – but don’t let them overtake your child’s education. Their mind and quest for knowledge will thank you for it!

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