While homeschool worksheets, especially free homeschool worksheets, may seem like an attractive answer to a homeschool, they have some limitations, as well as some possibilities you may not have considered. This article discusses the virtues and drawbacks of homeschool worksheets.
Types of Homeschool Worksheets
The word worksheet in and of itself does not tell you much about what kind of learning goes on with this resource. First of all, you can have a variety of exercises on paper worksheets, like:
- crossword puzzles
- word searches
- math problems to solve, either in equations or word problems
- paragraphs of text with follow up short answer questions
- cloze (fill in the blank questions in which context clues provide hints)
- pictures to color
- origami, paper airplane, or other paper folding directions in which the worksheet is used to construct an object
- sheet music to perform or analyze
- games and game pieces
- instructions for activities
Homeschool worksheets could be in color and include images and photographs, although many Note that in some of these cases, you would need something other than the worksheet to complete the activity, whether glue and scissors, a piano, a magnifying glass, math manipulatives, etc.
Homeschoo worksheets viewed on a computer have expanded possibilities. In a pdf worksheet, you can include music, photos, and movies. And in worksheets done in more sophisticated programs, you can do more sophisticated things. For example, I wrote nearly 1700 worksheets for use in the music notation software program Sibelius. Printed out, students can do music theory worksheets, play sheet music on an instrument, compose, analyze scores, and do other music-related activities. Used within the program, students can listen to music and compose music that they can hear.
The Role of Homeschool Worksheets in a Curriculum
Zion Academy of America, an accredited homeschool distance learning solution, has an entire curriculum based on workbooks, therefore printed homeschool worksheets. Since it is accredited, this may seem to elevate the status of worksheets in people’s minds. However, even with the most creative array of worksheets, a homeschool worksheet curriculum is not a full curriculum.
- Texts that are too long to fit on a homeschool worksheet, including plays, novels, epic poetry, works of history, and even longish short stories. You’re unlikely to find The Tragedy of Julius Caesar taught on worksheets – you need a text. And any work in copyright cannot legally be reproduced on worksheets.
- Laboratory activities. You need other resources, such as a magnifying glass, a microscope, levers, pulleys, wheels, mirrors, magnets, etc.
- Math problems. You need math manipulatives and materials such as rulers, compasses, dice, templates for drawing geometric shapes, Cuisenaire – rods, protractors, measuring cups, scales, thermometers, etc.
- Music instruction. You need other resources such as recordings; instruments such as a flutophone, recorder, keyboard, kazoo, drum, tambourine. You’re unlikely to find any lengthy piece of music taught on worksheets – you need published sheet music. And any work in copyright cannot be legally reproduced on worksheets.
Selecting a Homeschool Worksheet
Here are some criteria for selecting homeschool worksheets:
- Review the source. If it’s a source you know, you may only give the worksheet a quick glance, but if it’s a new source, check the material and answers carefully for accuracy and fairness. If it’s not a field you know well, check other materials from the same source in a field with which you feel more comfortable. One approach is to complete a sample worksheet yourself. If you find a lack of clarity or question accuracy of facts or correctness of answers, imagine what it might be like for your child.
- Define your purpose. If you’re looking for the introduction of material, you need something different than if you’re looking for an opportunity to review material that’s already known.
- Think about your child. A child who can figure things out for him or herself from written text can handle a different kind of introduction to a task than one who works best from a demonstration.
- Sample before ordering. As with any other investment, a test drive before purchase (if there’s a cost) is a good idea.
Of course, you could consider making up worksheets yourself . . .