Rant: Coloring & Curriculum


We all have our pet peeves.  As homeschoolers, sometimes our pet peeves are a little unique.  At least, mine are.  This happens to be one of them.


Why oh why do worksheets for the early elementary levels have so much coloring?  I don’t get it: here kiddo, do your math worksheet and show my your answer by coloring in the numbers.  What, are you TRYING to make the kid hate math?  What goes through workbook designers’ heads?  Probably something like “hey, this has to be really mind-numbing for the kids.  Let’s fix that – let’s make them color half of it because kids love coloring, right?”


Wrong.  Some kids love to color in coloring books.  Some of them will spend an hour carefully selecting their colors, staying precisely inside the lines, and go on to have lovely detailed coloring books decorating their apartment as an adult.

My kid?  Scribble scribble done!  He’s even figured out that markers are the way to go.  Because you can lay down a block of color faster than crayons or colored pencils and call it finished.  He would probably watercolor every sheet if I let him because that’s even faster.


Every so often I see a small child happily coloring in a public space like a doctor’s office.  They’re calm, focused, and quiet.  I’m in awe.  Because none of my kids are like that – coloring is a fun past-time, but without a parent literally standing over them we end up with drawings on knees.  Arms.  Faces even (“mommy look, I did my own tattoo!”)  I once came back from a quick trip to the bathroom (I swear, I popped in and out like that!) to find that the Destroyer had traced his way around the room with a pencil.  Starting from the kitchen, all the way around to the front door.   The latest find was his “drawing” on his bedroom wall with a light saber.  My kid the geek.


By necessity, all markers and pens in this house are washable.  The set of gel pens I got for the Engineer was shared (how thoughtful!) with his little brother, who promptly decorated my kitchen table.  Bleach, Soft Scrub, and Magic Eraser later, we still have lovely purple lines in an abstract design.   And because he’s the Destroyer, they’re also engraved into the beech wood.  That takes talent and a whole lot of strong little toddler arms.


Back to the original soap box: coloring pages are not schoolwork.  They should be for fun – something the kids can do when they’re whining about being bored.  I do not require my kids to finish the worksheet if there’s a coloring component to it.

I found a cute set of short workbooks for the Destroyer at the dollar store.  They use stickers: sort the sticker fruits by color, put the carrot where it belongs in the picture, and count the veggies in the row.  It’s lovely.  It’s quick.  He thinks they’re amazing and fun, and I do too.  No coloring needed!  I wish they had a set for first and second grade, because the older two kids would be all over that.


Of course, stickers are also a controlled substance in my house.  So I’m not sure I really want to go there!



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