Monday, February 6, 2012

Busywork is NOT Universal!

One of the great things about homeschooling, is that we can streamline our children's education - keeping what we feel is important and/or useful and leaving out the busywork. However, what many people don't seem to understand is that busywork does not mean the same thing to everyone. What is busywork to one child is necessary for, or greatly enjoyed by, another. I've seen many people get offended by someone saying that 'X' is busywork, because 'X' is something they do a lot of & their kids enjoy or need. Just because 'X' is busywork for family A, that doesn't mean that it is also busywork for everyone else. Family B might find it quite useful.

So, what is busywork? Simply put, busywork is work that does not enhance or improve the person's learning experience and only takes up their time. In other words, anything that your child gets something out of, isn't busywork. If your child enjoys and learns from applying the knowledge they've learned about mummification, by mummifying something, it is time well spent, not busywork. If your child learns best with worksheets, they are not busywork. If your child needs lots of review, those extra pages of Math problems are not busywork.

Now, for us, excessive practice of concepts is busywork. My kids grasp & master concepts quickly. Once they master something, they don't need or want much review. So, we don't do extra pages of Math problems, unless they need it. I often have Jay do only part of a page of his Math, once he has proven mastery of the concepts covered. If he doesn't do a good job on the page, he has to redo the incorrect problems and do extra problems for the needed practice. As long as he's doing them properly, though, I see no reason to make him to unnecessary work. Dea only has to do the odd numbers on her Algebra assignments (it's a college text, so the lessons have anywhere from 70 - 130 problems).

Science experiments may be extras to some and busywork to others, but to us, they are an important part of the learning process. We do a lot of hands-on projects, especially in the lower grades, like making pyramids, making mummies, building longhouses, making dreamcatchers, building castles, etc. Now, some people might see that stuff as silly, stupid, busywork, etc. However, with my kinesthetic learners, that stuff is an opportunity for them to apply their knowledge, prove their comprehension/mastery of a subject/topic, and enjoy the learning process. We make models. We make posters. We create things. We design things. We take things apart to see how they work. We experiment with new ways to do things or new materials to use. We like to get involved, get our hands dirty. That's how they learn best. So, this stuff works for us.

Some people prefer worksheets. After reading about something, instead of building it, testing it, etc., they prefer to answer questions on a worksheet about it. To them, the stuff we do might be busywork.

Some people use penmanship programs, expecting their kids to do pages of penmanship workbooks daily. Some chose to work on penmanship through dictation & copywork. Others don't do anything formal for penmanship, because that kind of work would be busywork for their kids. That is not meant as a slight against those who choose to work on penmanship formally. It's simply a difference in style, preference, and needs.

Some use flashcards & drill Math facts. Others see rote memorization as busywork and choose more entertaining ways to help their children master Math.

It's not that one is superior to the other. It's not that one is right & the other wrong. It's nothing more than the fact that people are not all the same. We don't all have the same interests, tastes, or needs. We don't all learn the same things at the same pace. We are different. Therefore, when it comes to education, no method or material will work for everyone. There is no universal 'perfect' scope & sequence. There is no universal 'correct' method. There is no universal 'best' curriculum. Not even the meaning of 'busywork' is universal, because there are so many differences among us.

Remember, just because someone says something is busywork, that doesn't mean you shouldn't do it or that it is useless/dumb/pointless/unnecessary/etc. It just means that it isn't useful to them.