Homeschooling 101: Skip The Busy Work

This series aims to help out parents who have been thrust into homeschooling by the COVID-19 outbreak.

Yesterday I said to take extra time to practice skills your kid is struggling with, today is the counterpoint:

Homeschooling 101
Drill the skills that need work, not the ones they have down.

There are some advantages to homeschooling, one of them is that a child can and should work at their own pace, not at the average space of a whole classroom. Busy work certainly sounds good when you’re trying to do your job at home while the children are simultaneously learning at home, but trying to get kids to spend more time drilling skills they’ve already gotten down will be a Pyrrhic victory, if its any victory at all. They might put up with it at school but they have the consolation of their peers around them going through the same thing, that’s not working for either of you at home.

If you see, and can quantify, that your child does not need to work on a particular skill, give them a choice between continuing to practice the skill that they already know and practicing a skill they have trouble with. Odds are that younger children will resist both options unless you make the skill they’re frustrated with especially engaging (like you’ll take time to work through it with them or make a game out of it).

What about assignments? If they know it and can prove it, do the bare minimum, keeping an eye out for new skills being introduced so you don’t have trouble down the line. Reach out to the teacher* if there’s a lot of assigned work that your child is already competent in, ask if they can test out of it or do an alternative assignment instead. Since your child’s teacher is no doubt as overworked as you are, try to make it easier on them, make one or two suggestions of your own of the alternative work, ones that won’t take a lot of effort for the teacher to grade.

The goal is to learn not to stay busy.

  • Why do I keep saying to reach out to the teacher? Because I’m a homeschooler, we don’t have a teacher outside of ourselves that will have to grade our child’s work, your child is beholden to a larger system, so you will have to touch base with them. It may happen that they will insist on assignments that you don’t think your child needs, but they are familiar with your child from the classroom and may see a weakness that is not being picked up on the tests. Anyway, if the teacher insists and it is both work the child is proficient in AND work they hate doing, you’re going to have to resort to bribery.

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