Adding Project Time to your Homeschool

ProjectTimeWhat is your vision for what your children’s homeschooling will look like?  I’ll be the first to tell you my vision for what I’d like it to look like is in many ways pretty far from reality. Darn it I guess I could even say my vision is just about unrealistic! In my mind’s eye I see something that is a cross between Unschooling (completely child led and super unstructured method of education) and Classical Education (super structered and pretty distant in definition from Unschooling) with a dash of Charlotte Mason (lots of high quality books and nature walks) tossed in.  I seriously over simplified those definitions I know… just go with it!  Clearly those three styles of homeschool are pretty far apart so to say integrating them together is a challenge is a huge understatement.  In fact a pure Unschooler would likely tell you you really CAN’T integrate Unschooling with anything!

Despite how incompatible it all is I do think I’ve got something of a good mix happening in our homeschool.  Let me tell you about our day.  To begin, my boys have a checklist of homeschooling assignments that they have to complete mostly on their own each and every day.  I’m right there if anyone gets stuck of course but over the years my 8 and 10 year olds have become pretty independent in some subjects.  They are able to complete subjects like math, spelling, typing, poetry memorization, and history without too much supervision on my part.  While they work through those subjects I am free to work with my five year old and tend to my toddler.  We come together to study the Bible, science, writing, civics and things of that nature.  (Just a note… we don’t do all of these subjects every day!)  Once all of these things are completed comes the glorious part of our day… PROJECT TIME!

Project time is a special time of day set aside for my children to pursue learning or creating anything their imaginations can dream up.  They have full access to a cabinet full of art supplies.  They understand how to get onto our library’s website where they can look up and request books to be placed on hold so they can pick them up during our next library visit.  With supervision they can look up things on the internet too.  In many ways the sky is the limit for them at this time.  Periodically I meet with each child and we brainstorm a list of things they’d like to do or learn during project time.  I’m pretty free with allowing them to make their own choices but I do get the final veto if need be.

What do my kids work on during project time?  It depends! They go through phases where different projects hold their attention while others fade away and that is totally fine with me.  I do try to get them to finish what they’ve started if I can.  These days my boys like to get into the arts and crafts materials in order to create scenery for their model railway.  They enjoy making Minecraft mods or creating custom games in Skrafty (something like computer programming).  They’ve gone outside with safety goggles, a hammer, nails, and some scrap wood in order to just see what they could bang together.  Ezra was into the Erie Canal for a time and he was trying to make a canal lock with Legos, gears and some of my Tupperware (and real water).  Noah will spend hours watching various how to draw videos as he perfects his drawing skills.  Sometimes they read great books.  Often times the great books lead them into creating great crafts so they can have awesome props to reenact those books.   My eight year old has a great pottery wheel and he loves to get messy and create me lots of pen holders.  Some days I find them simply kicking back listening to a great audio-book.

I can’t forget Joyanna!  She’s my 5 year old daughter.  She also enjoys a turn at the pottery wheel.  Her big passion is painting and she’ll do that every chance she gets.  She also enjoys how to draw videos and will saddle up to the computer next her big brother to give her hand a try.  She too loves audio books, especially those related to American Girl dolls.  Project time is just as precious to here as it is her big brothers.

Is it messy?  Yes!  Does that drive me crazy?  You bet! Nothing like trying to get meal on the table only to realize it is covered in pottery clay and modeling glue! Did it/does it always go smoothly? Absolutely not! We got here deliberately. When I begin this experiment called project time a few years ago it just didn’t pan out very well at first.  My boys weren’t quite as self driven then as they are now and the messes would often be just about out of control.  Back then I ended up having to limit the choices.  It was this or that or nothing at all! Sometimes I’d even have to tell them a certain choice wasn’t going to be available for a while because they clearly weren’t able to handle it.  With guidance and time (years I’m talking probably 3 years here) we now have a pretty self-directed and open ended time for projects that everyone loves.

With the time and space to drive their own learning my children have surpassed their mother in my areas.  They have skills I don’t

In my mind if my children aren’t given the opportunity to pursue their interests, problem solve, create, and enjoy learning than why homeschool?  This time of our day is everything that you can’t find in 99% of the traditional schools in this world.  Yet we also spend time every day with structured learning.  It is a great blend over all.  It is a careful balancing act that has taken years to come to fruition.

Comments

  1. Love this! We have done project time on and off over the years. You’ve inspired me to make an effort to include it again.

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