How Do I Do School Without Worksheets?

I have four very creative, very active daughters. If they were ever to attend a public school, they would definitely be the kids getting in trouble for talking, wandering around the classroom and not staying on task. We’ve been homeschooling for seven years now. When my third daughter started school last year, I thought that I had enough experience with active kids and keeping them interested in school. She apparently thought that she would prove me wrong. I needed to completely reassess how to we did school. She left me asking myself, “How do I do school without worksheets?”

worksheet struggles

Don’t get me wrong. I was not sitting her down at a table with with a bunch of boring text based worksheets. I had gotten her some very fun school programs that had silly pictures, fun activities, cutting & pasting, and other things like that.

But every time I would pull out a piece of paper, she would go nuts. Like totally bonkers. Whining, crying, refusing to sit down, the works.

Paper turned my incredibly creative, imaginative, kindergartener into a child who was hating school.

After a couple weeks of trying to fight through it. I gave up.

And something amazing happened.

My happy little girl returned.

I couldn’t just let her not ‘do’ school, but I knew that we couldn’t keep doing it the same way.

I started creating games for her that let her talk and express her ideas while she was learning. We did puzzles, drew silly pictures, made silly jumping activities, anything except pull out a piece of paper and a pencil.

Now we talk about everything. Even driving down the road turns into conversations about the hows and whys of life around us. Last week we got stuck in traffic next to a wooded area. We talked all about the colors of autumn, why trees fall down, what happens to trees when they die, what sort of things were out of place in the area (trash, a fence), what kinds of animals lived there, were those animals nocturnal. It was a huge educational conversation and not once did we have to involve a worksheet.

We’ve played with lots of play dough, explored sensory bins, and done scavenger hunts in our yard.

From the outside looking in, people might think that she isn’t learning a lot. But she is learning a lot more about life than any piece of paper could provide. She is learning to have quality conversations. She is learning that she can discover more about topics that interest her, like kitties and dolphins.

She is learning how to read even though she is still scared of ‘books’. Amazingly she is not afraid of fun, silly emergent readers that we find on Pinterest, but a professionally printed books, brings out the worst in her for sure.

Maybe you are new to homeschooling, maybe you are a veteran homeschooler who is having a tough time getting the kids to do their work. Maybe you have a child in school who is constantly getting in trouble.

Try something new. Get them moving. Get them talking. Help them create something with their hands.

School does not have to be boring. It is possible to do school without worksheets.

I know that I’m not alone having a child who needs extra activity while learning. Your child does not have to have a sensory disorder to need more sensory input. I have one child who has ADHD. And my eight year old who has so many other needs, also has ADHD and sensory challenges.

However, no matter if a child has ADHD or a sensory diagnosis, they can definitely benefit from using tools and tips that are designed for people with sensory disorders. I’m excited to be joining up with Project Sensory to raise awareness of the sensory needs for typical kids and kids with sensory disorders.

If you need ideas for non-worksheet activities for school this free printable list from Project Sensory is perfect.

Download 100 Sensory Activities for Home or School


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  1. I was told once about my youngest, if he is questioning the world around him and you (being me) are answering or finding out the answers together, he is learning, feed his curiosity and his thirst for knowledge. It will one day come out in his speech, conversations, and when he is ready his writing.

    My son went through the schooling system with home and outside assistance due to his high spectrum dyslexia and dysgraphia and low spectrum dyscalculia. He was always praised for his insightful conversations and contributions to topic discussions and being able to put across someone else’s point in another format that could be understood. He was also highly praised for his poetry, he could take what he knew and turn a phrase!

    He is now 11 and going into our high school system (your grades 6-12) while his reading is slow, his reading comprehension is off the charts (thanks to an advanced world knowledge) and his writing is that of someone several years older (if you ignore the spelling hehehe).

    I put a lot of it down to answering his questions, even though he would answer the same question in 5 different ways to get a true understanding, allowing his curiosity of the world to guide his interests, letting him lead his learning and helping/guiding where I could and a couple of fantastic teachers that really got him at school.

    And as for worksheets – bah – he would take one look at them and not know where to go….if you want to use the information on them, break them down into fun task cards – one bit of information at a time – no where near as scary, includes fun borders and clip art – a lot less confusing – and it makes it more fun. Sometimes all those words, activities on one page is just too much for some kiddo’s, and that’s okay.

    As mums we know our kiddo’s best and we need to follow our hearts. Okay long reply – sorry bout that – but I thought I’d let you know where several years down the track of following your heart can lead you 🙂 Each child’s learning journey is different and so too is their destination but they do get there 🙂

    1. Thanks for sharing your story! I absolutely believe that every child learns differently, so great job recognizing that your son just needed to explore!

  2. Thank you!!!!! On the day I had tried to get my daughter back into doing worksheets after giving them another break, and feeling like we weren’t doing anything of value(she also does nothing but talk and ask questions in the car) I wad stressing about that, and then I got your email with this in the header!!!!! Thank you!!!!! We’re going to take it easy with ‘book work’ and just trust that she’s learning so much more than she would if she was forced to sit down in the class room!!!!!

    1. I am so glad this could be an encouragement to you today! I went through that same phase of feeling like I wasn’t doing enough, but when I sit back and listen to my kids have conversations with other people it’s easy to recognize how much they are actually learning. Please, let me know if there is anything that I can do to help you find a method of learning that is enjoyable and effective for your daughter!