busy work

Enough Pumpkins Already! You don't have to do every page in the book!

My son asked if he had to color something in his math book and it reminded me of one of my earliest memories of being homeschooled. I had to color and cut out pumpkin after pumpkin after pumpkin. I hated coloring and cutting out things. I knew how to do it and was so bored. I didn’t understand why I had to color and cut out so many pumpkins. I wanted to do the ‘fun stuff’ (though I don’t remember what the fun stuff was) that my older siblings were doing.

PumpkinI asked my mom years later why she made me color and cut out things so much. Though I was obedient, it was obvious that I hadn’t enjoyed it. Her response was that she thought it was excessive too at the time, but since it was in the book, she assumed there must be a reason for it.

I’ve heard this view-point from others as well. I have no doubt that the people who design text books do so with a lot of thought and truly try to design the best book they can. However, as my children’s teacher, I feel the best designed book, may not necessarily be the best for my children.

I try to remember my experience with the pumpkins when I’m working with my children. I try to adapt the material to best fit my individual child and think about why he is doing it. Not just do it because the book says so. If there is something that he knows well and doesn’t like to do repetitively, I ask myself if he really needs to do it and what he is supposed to be learning from it. It may be something that he already knows. If that’s the case, I may choose to skip it or only do part of it. For example he may be really good at coloring and cutting pumpkins (he must take after me), so I may have him only do 2 pumpkins today or skip that section all together. Of course I want him to occasionally color and cut even if he knows how, so he continues to improve his skills and for obedience just because I said so. I am the teacher and parent and it’s important that he follows my directions whether he likes what he’s working on or not. We’ve all experienced this in our work-lives, children may as well get prepared for it.

I like this method because it gives me more time to work with my children on the stuff that they either need my help on or the fun stuff that they want to do. How much better would my pumpkin experience have been, if my mother had let me work on something that was of interest to me instead of repetitively coloring and cutting pumpkin after pumpkin.

Certainly not all of my childhood experiences were like this one. I have many good memories of being homeschooled. I also believe that my mother did the best she could and I don’t fault her for making me color and cut out pumpkins. We are very blessed to live in this time when there is support for homeschooling. My parents didn’t have that experience and had to figure it out on their own.

Help others out by sharing something you have learned as a teacher from an early school memory of your own.

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