If you know anything about me, it should be that I am not a details person. I sort of flail around and dabble until things feel right, then I settle in and enjoy. So this will NOT be a how-to series. For that, I will direct you along the way to folks who are much more skilled at this.
One thing I have learned is that all roads eventually lead to Oz. I'm going to share what my path looked like. Yours may (and probably will) look entirely different. Some paths are short and direct. Others (*ahem* mine) meander and even double back and confuse the crap out of you along the way. But it doesn't matter which path you're on. If you trust your instincts and keep on keepin' on, you'll get to where you need to be.
If you have no clue what project-based learning is, you can read this lovely overview Shelli wrote recently: What is project-based homeschooling?
If you want a how-to for getting started (more direct, less flailing route), Lori has a new quick-start guide on her site: 10 Steps to Getting Started with Project-Based Homeschooling
And don't forget her book. It's a must-have, I think: Project-Based Homeschooling: Mentoring Self-Directed Learners
Now. On to the questions.
In this post, I'll address a few of Deb's questions about how we got started with PBH. Later, in another post or two, I'll talk about supplies, documenting, environment, and keeping it all moving along. Again, I'm answering her questions based on how we handle things. This is by no means the right way or the only way. I'm hoping a few people more seasoned with this will chime in and offer some helpful comments.
1. How did you bring up the whole concept to your kids?
I had to think about this for a while, because I don't remember exactly how we first started. I think project-based learning is a natural way of learning, so in some ways we've always done this. When my oldest was two and was obsessed with dinosaurs and we came home with stacks of dinosaur books each week that she picked out . . . that was PBL (project-based learning). When we wanted to adopt a new dog and researched his breed and bought a book on teaching dogs tricks . . . that was PBL, too. It's all about finding an interest, feeding it, finding ways to dig deeper, and sharing what you learn. It's the kind of learning that attracted us (and many of you, I'm sure) to homeschooling in the first place. It's something we were already doing in small doses. We just shifted to doing more of it.
So, the simple answer is that I didn't bring up the concept to the kids. I set aside some time each week and told them it was their project time. What did they want to learn about? What did they want to do? What supplies did they need me to get ahead of time? I encourage them both to pursue their own interests during that time, and I'm available to assist. I try to keep it as natural and laid-back as possible.
2. How do you encourage them to find projects, especially at first?
My oldest was happy to pull out rolls of duct tape and library books and embroidery floss and get to work. She has always been very clear about her passions, and she's most comfortable as an independent learner. This style of learning fits her perfectly.
My youngest . . . eh, she's coming around. Her path is different, and that's ok. She's 5 and she's also the child who will run off and say she doesn't want to do or learn about anything. She wants her sister's constant attention, so separating them is a challenge; however, left alone long enough, she'll create an elaborate playscape on her own. And sometimes she doesn't know what she wants to learn about, but if I start noticing patterns in the things she's drawn to, I can spot the interest for her. Recently I noticed she started pulling out books about wolves from the library, she loves huskies, and she wants me to tape episodes of Dogs 101 on Animal Planet. So, we start there. I also find that the best time to ask about what she's interested in is NOT at project time. The best times to ask her sneaky sideways questions tends to be when she's in the bath or when we're in the car.
I really hope someone has a good answer for this one, because I sure don't. Other than this: if it's a true interest-led project, you won't have to. They ideally should want to work on it on their own. If it's a really good one, you'll find them working on it at different points throughout the day, not just at project time.
But not everything is ideal, right? Well, maybe they just haven't found the right interest yet. Maybe they just need time to play around with materials and explore ideas/methods and all of those things you do between projects. I think it's ok to remind (especially in the beginning) of a project they're working on. I think it's fine to suggest something or ask them questions, as long as you aren't pushing or nagging. Simply holding that project time (weekly, daily, or however often you set it at first) leaves the door open for them.
New materials can work wonders to spark creativity and encourage project work. My oldest has fallen into a lull with her interest in rocks. That's fine. Nothing wrong with moving on to a new interest, but I wanted to know if she was really bored with it or if she just forgot about it. So I pulled the out the rock field guide (which had been hidden under a stack of new books) and dropped it on an end table near where I know she likes to sit. Guess who was reading the rock field guide yesterday? And guess who was then explaining to her little sister about how ice is a mineral? I even said something about ice crystals forming somewhere and I swear she said, "*Boom* Mineral."
Projects fall off. They come back again. For me, the key is not to worry. About any of it. I pay attention, I poke and prod a wee bit, but I try not to worry. They're allowed to get lost and meander. Their paths lead to Oz, too.
Next time I'll talk about supplies and setting up our environment. If you have any questions about how we do things here, please ask. I'll try to answer in the comments or add your question to a future post.
Part 1 - Project-Based Homeschooling Q&A: Getting Started
Part 3 - Project-Based Homeschooling Q&A: Documenting & Forward Motion