I've come to realize that my life as a homeschool mom will never reach some sort of "finished" status. I'm never going to make a year's worth of plans that we live out and don't alter. This homeschooling thing is like a living organism or maybe it is just becoming such a part of our living, it moves and changes and grows as we do.
My newest alteration? Project Based Homeschooling. I'd been eyeing that book for some time, alternately adding and removing it from my Amazon shopping cart. I was concerned it would be too overwhelming, and require that I scrap everything we are already doing for a totally new approach. That, I do not need. But on the advice of a few homeschooling friends, I decided to go ahead and read it anyway. Boy, am I glad I did!
Right off the bat, the author tells you that changing everything you're doing is not the point of the book. This is not a purist approach that requires you to do everything in a specific way, right this minute, or you're doing it all wrong. Book like that stress me out (there is one very popular homeschooling book that really made me feel that way). This concept is something you can implement in small ways, a little bit at a time. You don't have to throw out all your curriculum and become a "project homeschool."
The idea is to give your kids time, space, materials and support to pursue their own interests - at their pace, with the materials and resources that they want, and the outcomes are directed by them. So instead of me assigning a project for science or history or what have you, they might decide to do a project on tigers. What form that takes is up to them. They might read about tigers, get books from the library, ask to visit the zoo, watch a documentary or YouTube videos. Then they might sketch tigers, make tiger puppets, paint or paper mache tigers. What they do with it is up to them - the parent is there to assist, get materials, support, encourage, remind them of their questions and ideas, take notes and photographs, etc.
The amazing thing about this is that my kids already do this stuff, to a certain extent. They are constantly coming up with random things to make. This simply gives them some deeper focus to something they did naturally.
My biggest take away, at least to start, is that I can give my kids a space to work, open access to a variety of materials, and work "project time" into our regular routine - and let them take it from there. And I really think they will - I think they're going to take off like a couple little rockets.
I get the security blanket of still doing reading and handwriting and math and even history and science, as part of our "lesson time." And they get project time to pursue their own interests, in their time, with the resources they want, with me there simply to support and help when they need it. It sounds like a great big WIN-WIN to me.
I told my boys about the concept and they were THRILLED. We were all so excited we wound up rearranging the furniture in our "school area" upstairs (which is a bedroom-sized loft area). We moved the small tables so they have their own desks, magnet boards will be hung later so they can have space to display their notes, sketches and pictures. I cleared a couple of shelves that will soon house more art supplies. And in the afternoon, we will have "project time" as a regular part of our day.
And what does my inquisitive little 8 year old want to dive into for his first project? The Loch Ness Monster. He wants to sift through the evidence and see if he can figure out if the creature is real or not. I refrained from telling him that if scientists can't come to a clear conclusion, he probably won't either. He'll get there on his own. In the meantime, based on tonight's flurry of ideas, I think I see a giant Nessie hanging from the ceiling in our future.
I'm excited for this new direction. I feel like it is the best of both worlds that I want our learning to inhabit - more structured academic learning, and self-directed learning. I think dedicating time and energy to both will give us a pretty well rounded learning environment.