Friday, May 16, 2014

The only thing missing from project-based homeschooling was... me.

Thanks to my good friend, Shelli, over at Mama of Letters, I was introduced to Project-Based Homeschooling with Lori Pickert. Project-based homeschooling is exactly as it sounds - using projects to further your child's education. However, these are not projects that parents have picked out or prepared for their children. These are projects that are child-led, based on the child's own interest and desire to delve deeper into a subject. 
"Project-based homeschooling combines your child’s genuine interests with long-term, deep, complex learning. It is the part of your curriculum when you mentor your child to help him learn how to direct and manage his own learning." - PBH
I purchased Lori's book, Project-Based Homeschooling, and read through it months ago. One of the first things I did after reading the book was to head to my local IKEA and buy desks for my girls. They needed some workspace that was dedicated solely for them. Previously, we'd been using the dining room table for all of our homeschooling (and we still do), but now that the girls have desks, they can leave out work to come back to later.

The desks were a great addition, but months went by with no real project work. Any time I suggested a project, it was shot down or met with whines and complaints. When I set aside project time, it lasted about 20 minutes, and seemed to produce nothing. Feeling stuck and out of ideas, I picked up Lori's book again.

It became obvious that when I read it the first time, I was not really focused on its message. I read through it, but absorbed little of the information. Reading it a second time was transformative for me as a mentor and educator. The missing link from PBH in our home was ME. I was not making myself available to my child during project time. I was sending her off on her own and hoping she'd come up with something. I also realized that I was not always present during moments of inspiration. My daughter would suggest a great activity or project, and I would dismiss it because it wasn't the right time or place... maybe we were driving in the car, or in the grocery store, or in the middle of a book at bedtime. I'd say, "Sure, honey, that sounds great" but that's where I'd leave it.

So, knowing that I needed to invest a little more of myself into PBH, I saw an opportunity for a project the other day and jumped on it. My eldest daughter found an old video of herself on my iPad, taken more than year ago, in which she proclaimed to have an "animal show" and she talked about dolphins and beluga whales. She immediately stated that she'd forgotten about her animal show and she wanted to do more episodes. The next morning, I asked her if she wanted to make another video after breakfast. She was ecstatic! She decided to talk about snails since we recently adopted a snail we found outside.

We spent TWO HOURS that morning making her video. She was engaged the entire time. She chose music, effects, and a background, and asked me to show her how to find information about snails on the internet. We made notes, she rehearsed her information, and told me how she wanted the "episode" put together. It was great! We were both thrilled with her finished product and she immediately wanted me to send it to all her family and friends. And as soon as we were finished, she asked when she could do the next one. If you'd like to see the video, click here.

That night, she asked to research information about Nile Monitor Lizards for her next video. As she pulled up Google, and I told her how to spell the keywords, she was looking over the search results and said, "This is so great! I'm learning how to use the computer!" THAT is what PBH is about.

PBH offers her practice with research, computer skills, reading, comprehension, narration, and much, much more. It's wonderful to see her so excited about learning more, taking charge of her own project and being proud about the work she's done. Who knows how many "episodes" she'll produce, but it's the process that has been a blast thus far.

Her second video was done today, and if you'd like to learn about Nile Monitor Lizards, click here.

And, if you'd like to learn more about Project-Based Homeschooling, here are some great links:

Shelli @ Mama of Letters has a whole section on how she's used PBH in her homeschool.

Lori @ Project-Based Homeschooling has a wonderful blog, forum, and master class for parents (and educators) interested in introducing PBH into their family or to their students.


  1. love this so much — that’s what PBH is! children digging into their deepest interests and developing their signature strengths *with* the active support of an engaged mentor. it’s based on relationships — parent and child, friends, collaborators, mentors, communities. <3

    1. Yes, Lori! And I totally didn't "get" it the first time around.

  2. Oh I think you put a name to our summer project curriculum! Excited to do a little more research to see how I can improve on our idea. My 6 year old wants to be a chef so we've decided to take the summer to learn about nutrition and cooking and incorporating local Japanese vegetables and fruit into our diet. He's so excited to help me meal plan and cook every night and I'm hoping it will incorporate other subjects like math, reading, history and geography. :)

    1. Christene, you have GOT to get a copy of Project-Based Homeschooling (or just check out her blog). Lori has GREAT advice about helping our children direct their own education.