Advice for active journaling

Published by Lori Pickert on August 13, 2010 at 02:18 PM

Stacey left this comment on Curating Their Experience:

Okay I have the next stage of the question. I’ve been keeping a “learning” journal for my son for about two months now. But I have found that it is more reflective than active. Pretty much I sit down every week or so and write about what we've been doing and what we want to do, need to change, and some new ideas. But it hasn’t really become part of the daily life I know it should be. I’ve read the project/learning journal post but I wonder what people have done internally to make the practice more consistent.

My (lengthy, sorry!) answer is below. Would anyone else like to add their experiences/thoughts?

And feel free to start new discussions or make any other comments/ask questions/etc. — this is open thread!

There are several reasons why you want to use your journal on more of a daily schedule than a weekly one.

1 - You want to be jotting notes about things as they happen and getting down exact words that are said during conversations, questions as they pop, etc., rather than your remembrance of what happened at the end of the week.

2 - When you write about the whole week’s events, there is a tendency to frame or edit what happened — writing it down like a story, choosing the most important parts to write about. You are imposing your thoughts and ideas to give what happened a structure.

Instead, you should be getting down as much raw data as possible with as few preconceived ideas as possible. If you wait and reflect on the raw data, you may be able to see questions, patterns, connections, repeated ideas, etc., that you missed the first time around.

You cannot always anticipate or even recognize what is happening; collecting raw daily data and then reflecting on it thoughtfully can help you see things that you weren’t expecting or weren’t yet ready to see.

3 - It is incredibly easy to forget things if you don’t write them down as they occur. If you practice making daily notes — even about things that do not seem very important — you will begin to collect this data without needing to plan to do it first. It will simply become a habit.

I use post-it notes for this; they are easy to transcribe later (writing in my journal or typing on the computer) or, if I don’t have time, I can just keep them in post-it form and perhaps move them around my journal as I think about them. (Date everything!)

4 - Never underestimate your ability to forget!

5 - If you write at the end of a week (or more), then you are writing about the past. When you make daily notes, you are writing about the present, as it is happening. Your goal is to stay on top of what is happening right now while connecting it to the past and making hypotheses about where things might be headed. To keep the project moving, stay current.

5 - Your goal is to extend your child’s work and help him dig as deeply as possible into his ideas, projects, research, questions, constructions, etc.

To do this, you need to keep on top of your job of supplying him with materials he needs/asks for, helping him remember his own questions and plans (frequently, perhaps daily!), and creating an environment that supports what he’s doing and also helps him remember.

This requires constant, ongoing attention; thus, daily note-taking rather than weekly/bi-weekly/etc.

6 - You want to send a powerful message to your child that you think his work is important. Let him see you documenting his work; let him see you journaling - again, almost daily. When you pick up the camera to photograph his construction, when you watch him play or make, when you talk with him and make notes, when you leaf through your journal and remind him of his question or his plan, you are sending a very strong unspoken message that his work is important to you .. and he will believe it is important.

Now, as for making it a daily practice, I think it helps to start by simply cataloging how he spends his days, then observing him at play (e.g., building with blocks) and making notes, noticing what he asks about and talks about during meals and making notes, etc.  Simply begin to build the habit of paying attention and then documenting what you see/hear/notice.

The goal of project learning is to support your child to become a self-directed, self-managed learner .. and for you to discover how your child learns and how you can best support that learning. This is how you start.

35 comments

Comment by Luisa on August 13, 2010 at 04:03 PM

I'm glad this question came up about journalling. This will be the first year we'll begin homeschooling our 2 oldest ages 9 and 7. Last year year we were homeschooling our 3 younger kids ages 5, 3 and 1. Now all the kids are home! :) I had thought about using a journal to document them. But thought it would be more work for me to think back at the end of the week and try to remember what they did. It felt more like an assesment.
My personal approach on journaling for the kids is I keep 1 journal that's it for all 5 children. A few times a week I jot down something they did, made, said or experienced. It may be one or two particular kids I write about or all five. All the same it's documented for our family. If need be a portion of it can always be photocopied.
I actually wrote a post about my journals I'm going to link it otherwise I would copy and paste it but the comment would be longer.
http://thislittlekitchen.blogspot.com/2009/10/journal-journey.html
Thanks again!

Comment by Lori Pickert on August 13, 2010 at 04:21 PM

luisa, thank you for sharing your approach!

Comment by Lori Pickert on August 13, 2010 at 04:59 PM

totally random --

if you have little kids, maya has a great post up about making a travel felt board.

we had a *huge* felt board made with yards of felt from the fabric store stapled onto a bulletin-board wainscoting at school. the kids drew whatever they wanted on felt and we cut them out (with sewing scissors -- you can't cut thick felt with school scissors!). no sewing required. as i commented on maya's post, it was like their drawings came to life, because they could animate them .. and combine stories with their friends. it was awesome.

Comment by sarah :: greenclogs on August 13, 2010 at 05:57 PM

I just read Luisa's approach and I'm going to try that because I'm honestly not organized enough to maintain separate notebooks and be looking for the right one all the time. I need to jot in a central place and then sort it out later.

This is the area where I really fell down in the last year, and I'm making sure that I don't this year. It helps so much if we can go back and get reconnected with our earlier ideas, work and inspiration. I'm hoping to see the project work really take off this year after a year of much needed meandering.

Thanks for the food for thought, as always.

Comment by Lori Pickert on August 13, 2010 at 06:30 PM

sarah, do you mean separate notebooks for each kid?

again, got to pitch the post-it notes .. if you have two kids doing different projects and you want to keep track of them separately, you can have a working notebook where you stick your post-its and then separate them out later. just a thought. :)

"It helps so much if we can go back and get reconnected with our earlier ideas, work and inspiration." YES. both reconnecting re: remembering *and* connecting .. an important element is to not have a lot of one-off activities but to stick with one thing for longer .. so the project helps you weave all those threads together.

as i recall, you didn't just *meander* last year. ;^)

Comment by amy k. on August 13, 2010 at 08:28 PM

this is so fascinating to me and so cool.

I have to say for me at this time, intensive journaling takes me away from being engaged and produces an insane amount of guilt and perfectionism on my part. (chasing the naked 3 year old is also part of the reason it makes it hard)

I feel like the daily journaling, while incredibly valuable, is ONE way to document, but not the only way, and like all homeschooling kids learn in unique ways, all homschoolers parents/teachers document and record in unique ways, I don't think one method or system works for everyone.

I take a lot of photos and tend to talk a lot about what they do and take notes when I can—but I do feel they learn and are continuing to learn regardless of my journaling and note taking. It's still happening, even if I don't write it down.

they are young still (almost 6, almost 8, and 3) so the meandering and loss of focus might become a challenge as they get older and I might want to keep tighter notes regarding topics not explored, but for now, I take a much less formal approach. This is not to say I am not paying attention, I am intensely, but for me the journaling is not how I asses what is going on.

Just my thoughts, I love this whole journaling approach, I hope that is communicated here.

Comment by Lori Pickert on August 13, 2010 at 10:05 PM

amy, absolutely journaling is not the only way to document, and elsewhere on the blog i talk about other ways (e.g., photography, video, audio, etc.). and also somewhere i talk about how journaling doesn’t have to be writing down a lot of text but can be quick note taking, a photo, a sketch, etc.

i do think it's important to document as the work is happening rather than after several days.

"I do feel they learn and are continuing to learn regardless of my journaling and note taking. It's still happening, even if I don't write it down." absolutely - but what we're talking about here is helping kids extend their work - sticking with it longer, digging in deeper - something that is much more likely to happen with support. when ideas and questions and plans are piling up, it's hard to hold them all in your memory. or maybe that's just me. :^)

you can’t give the same level of attention and support to *everything* that a child is interested in, wondering about, and learning about on their own - *that* learning just keeps on happening, too, even if you aren’t focusing your attention on it. but choosing something to focus your attention on helps your child do deeper, more complex thinking and learning.

i’ve done projects with children as young as 3 (and even older 2yos) and they are plenty capable of - and very engaged in - working on something that really interests them longer and more deeply than your average one- or two-week unit or theme. that kind of deeper work is rarely going to happen by itself without support, and documenting/journaling is one way to give that support.

i wouldn't say it's a *formal* approach ;^) - i *would* say it's deliberate and purposeful. you can scrawl notes on post-its, you can snap a picture with your phone - it doesn't have to be *intensive* ;^) - but the important part is throwing up some kind of net to keep everything from just sliding away into the past and being forgotten. and the goal is simply to help your child stay in one spot longer and dig deeper.

(and for people who haven’t been reading here long, here’s a post about that -

http://www.whiteoakschool.com/camp-creek-blog/2008/11/11/getting-beyond-the-surface-of-learning.html )

thank you for your comment, amy! good discussion. ;^)

Comment by Cordelia on August 13, 2010 at 11:06 PM

I really agree with everything you say, Lori, but I certainly sympathize with the pressure these days to make everything we make a perfect thing of beauty and creativity. It really is hard to begin something if you feel you can't do it all "the woman who does everything more beautifully than you." Know what i mean?

The boy is back in conventional schooling this year, but I still journal around his (ever-present) Interests-programming and fishing right now. Two things really helped me get away from trying to "make" a journal as opposed to keep a journal First, the post-its. You can only be so obsessive about tiny bits of dog-eared sticky stuff. I carried pads of them in my pockets while we walked and rode trains (because big questions and ideas always semed to come while we were out.) I still have them all over the house. The other was my realization that contemporaneous record-keeping was mostly a way of keeping me in the observing vs. meddling mode. It doesn't much get in the way of his work, he thinks it's a handy way to "keep track of questions to research later." He sometimes asks me when he has a question or thought he wants to get back to whether I have a post it on me. Once, we spent an hour or so wandering in search of an office supply store so we could capture this flood of new ideas. Mostly, iIt gave me something to do while he thought and worked, it slowed me down so I wasn't tempted to give off the cuff answers. All of the control freak "i know how this should turn out" energy that made my work (the journal) challenging needed to be kept away from his work, too. Also, I often printed something, a screenshot of a search he did, a page he spent sometime with and made notes on it. Not pretty but it was a good memory prod. it also kept him from getting sucked down every internet rabbit hole if he printed the page. When he had a question, seemed to need some background on something, I didn't need to interrup and he didnt' need wander away from his main thoughts. I scribbled stuff like "wonders where this mountain range is? get map of that area" or "Samuel wants to write to this guy" "His question: what is wild-type?" in the margins. "

One more thing, though. Full disclosure. I didn't/don't journal about his project work every day, becase he didn't/doesn't work on his main projects evey day. Big chunks of time pass that involve more mundane learning and exploration into bits of this and that-usually some new skill or bit of something comes back to the big work, but I usually let that part just drift by. I try to do it whille he's working or shortly thereafter, but I find I need to restart my habit from time to time. I hope watching me tackle my imperfections turns out to be a valuable learning experience.

Comment by Lori Pickert on August 14, 2010 at 12:08 AM

hi cordelia :^)

mm, i think i do know what you mean - the pressure to not just use your journal as a tool but also to make it look like, say, a scrapbooking page? or something like that?

(i love sylvia btw! haha)

i suppose i don't even think of it in those terms. i'm focused on the work and a journal is a tool. it can be used many different ways depending on how people prefer to do it, but the goal remains the same. it isn't something you ever need to show anyone, if you know what i mean. i think i wrote somewhere else here on the blog, "it doesn't have to be pretty". ;^)

you make a great point re: documenting helping you observe rather than meddle .. it is like a constant quiet reminder to look and listen before you jump in and speak or suggest.

"it slowed me down so I wasn't tempted to give off the cuff answers" - i love that!

and "memory prod" is the perfect phrase .. for me, those quick snaps of one of the boys working would do a better job of reminding *him* of his questions/plans/etc. than my notes. somehow he would "read" the picture and it would jumpstart his memory.

we don't do project work every day, either. :^)

and i *do* think watching us tackle our own imperfections .. problems .. questions .. challenges, etc. is great for them! and it works best if we talk it out in front of them. another habit .. my kids are used to me saying, "well, that didn't work the way i hoped it would..." ;^)

thank you, cordelia!

Comment by Lori Pickert on August 14, 2010 at 12:14 AM

How the Woman Who Does Everything More Beautifully Than You Gets So Much Done — What’s her Secret?

http://my.opera.com/KayFour/blog/show.dml/434082

Comment by Cristina on August 14, 2010 at 03:28 AM

I'm glad you reminded me of doing this. I used to keep a notebook for each of my older two, but I fell out of the habit when I started formally reporting my third. (NY homeschool regs) Now that I'm back down to reporting two kids, I should return to keeping journals. It really is so much easier if you write it as you go rather than rely on your memory at the end of a busy week.

Peace and Laughter!

Comment by Elizabeth on August 14, 2010 at 04:27 AM

I gave my daughter her own project book this weekend. So far, she hasn't put much in it. She wrote down her plans to go to Barnes and Nobel and buy all the American Girl Christmas books (I guess she forgot we have a library) so she can read up on all the Christmas crafts and traditions with a particular interest in celebrating St. Lucia Day. I happen to know where I can find a lot of information on this holiday and I've even got crafts and foods bookmarked. Should I show them to her? The second thing she put in there was drawings of all the fruits, vegetables and flowers that she wants to plant when we buy our piece of dream land. When I saw the list I told her that it made me think of a whole bunch of questions that I'd like to research myself (which is true because I'd like to know about planting requirements). So, I guess now what I'll do is invite her to sit down with me as I go through my seed catalogs and start my own research on that very subject. I'll remind her of her page in her project journal and see if she wants to put anything in there. Is there anything else I can do? Also, I've been wanting to start my own holiday notebook as I'm pretty bad about having the holidays sneak up on me. I don't want her to think that I'm taking over her project. Surely, it can't be a bad thing to work on similar projects side by side?

Lastly, for the past couple of weeks I've noticed during project times that my daughter wants to start a new craft with me instead of working on past projects. she spends her project time instructing me and sounding an awful like Martha Stewart as she explains how to do the craft. (She loves Martha Stewart). I'm trying to get her to dig deeper with her interests but she prefers doing something new. Any thoughts on this?

Comment by Elizabeth on August 14, 2010 at 04:36 AM

This might seem like a silly question but do you have any ideas or resources for 18 month olds? I started journaling my son's activities and it's pretty simplistic - Loves to throw out recycling and take out the trash with his daddy, loves the same 3 board books, loves to climb on everything he can, etc.

Comment by Lori Pickert on August 14, 2010 at 02:56 PM

cristina, agreed!

elizabeth, i would approach it like this. sit down and talk about her plans that she's recorded. ask her how you are going to buy all those books. ;^) ask her where else you might be able to read the books without spending so much money. give her a chance to suggest the library before you do.

rather than pulling out the resources you already know about right away, save them until she has exhausted what she's doing. let her get the books at the library. you might suggest she talk to the librarian about her project; the librarian will then probably suggest other books on the topic.

once she has completely explored those books and if she comes to a standstill or the project begins to slow, then you could have a brainstorming session about other places you might find information. again, give her the opportunity to suggest the internet.

"So, I guess now what I'll do is invite her to sit down with me as I go through my seed catalogs and start my own research on that very subject." instead, i would suggest you simply move forward with your own research and let her see you doiing that -- without inviting her to sit with you. you are setting a great example of self-directed learning, and generally if you are doing something interesting, children will naturally join in. if she doesn't join in, i wouldn't worry about it. if she is really interested, she will find her own entry point.

it is difficult to *share* a project and still allow the child to lead; if she has her own specific interest, she could follow that while you followed yours. but be careful not to overburden yourself with trying to support too many different projects! generally, one at a time is challenging enough. :^)

(of course, she should be working on whatever she wants during that time -- you should just not attempt to give every single interest the same high level of attention and support.)

re: similar projects side by side .. if you started a holiday notebook, she would probably watch everything you did very carefully and probably would copy it as well. if you want to encourage and support her to have her own ideas and plans, it would be better to allow her to take the lead on this one.

re: not finishing past projects, a few suggestions:

- when she leaves off with a project, spend some time talking about what she wants to finish/add/do with it later. write it on a post-it or in your project journal. the next time you are working on projects, spend some time at the beginning reminding her of her plans, talking about what materials she needs and her specific ideas, etc.

- encourage her to sketch her ideas/plan before she starts and post that on the wall.

- let her see you finishing multi-step projects!

- if she doesn't want to work on something anymore, or if she hasn't touched it for a long time, say "are you done with this?" and let her know you need to clear out space for new projects. "did you do everything you wanted to with this?" is a good question - but you shouldn't be *forcing* her to "finish" anything - just gently encouraging her to follow-up on her own plans and satisfy her own goals.

- make sure works-in-progress are displayed prominently, and give them your attention - take notes, take photos of her working, ask her about her plans, ask if she needs any materials or anything else from you, etc.

- make sure she is sharing her work and plans with others - family members, friends, etc.

re: being martha stewart (lol), you might ask her if she wants to write a book or do a video teaching how to do a favorite craft. it sounds like she has a yen to teach!

it is a real challenge to encourage children to dig deeper, so don't be discouraged. try different things and note which work better with her (your son will probably be completely different -- just warning you now ;) and keep at it. the st. lucia day idea sounds promising. there's history, there's crafting, there's literature .. lots to dig into! good luck and let me know how it goes. ;^)

next topic!

re: 18mo's, his main activities should be play, play, and more play, and reading aloud of course. :^)

if you want to lay in the groundwork for future project work, i would concentrate on

- independence: as much as possible, give him the opportunity to get his toys when he wants them by himself and put them away again/clean up by himself. low shelves, baskets, etc. when you help him clean up, you can talk it out, "we'll put the blocks back in their basket..."

(a big part of helping children work independently is making their environment work for *them* - scaled to their size and abilities - and allowing them to make choices without having to ask permission first. and, of course, being able to clean up after themselves. if things are kept in a particular place, they will know where to get them where they want them and where to put them when they're done.)

- authentic art: as much as possible, avoid one-way-to-do-it and follow-directions crafting and explore free art with high-quality materials, allowing him to use his creativity at will.

- environment: let him experience being around you and your daughter while you work on projects and talk about them. being near older children who are engaged in learning will make him eager to get his turn. as much as possible, let him play with the same materials you are working with, at his own level. but he can also just play at whatever he likes in the same room with you.

- rich experiences: i'm sure you already do this, but take him out in the world with you everywhere and let him experience a great variety of people and places, foods and smells! :^)

thank you, elizabeth!

Comment by Stacey on August 14, 2010 at 07:57 PM

There is so much here to think about. I guess the part I am wondering is the internal getting myself started (is anyone sensing a theme in my questions lately?). The sticky notes sound great, they are top of my list. I guess I am looking at this notebook as part of mindful parenting, mindful living and like all other practices like that they are some times difficult to start.

There is something about being active and recording that is very different than any of my teaching and parenting experience. I don't think this is just me, as people we like to look back and review. We like to put our experiences and thoughts into context not just flinging them out there hoping that they come together in afterward. Then again it might just be simple like starting something new is hard.

Comment by Lori Pickert on August 14, 2010 at 08:12 PM

i do think starting something new is hard .. establishing new habits takes quite awhile, and getting out of one way of doing things and trying a new way takes real effort.

i think you're right about wanting to look back and review; it is a general human thing. i think you just need to change your image of yourself a little (or add to it) and think of yourself as a researcher. step one is collecting the raw data; step two is reflection/looking back and reviewing. just add in that first step where you don't think too much but just collect up those notes and photos and etc.

that way, you give yourself a chance to see things you might otherwise overlook.

i think a theme in this open thread is that it's possible to become stressed, perfectionist, and anal retentive about everything, if you are that sort of person -- even post-it notes, even just jotting down a few notes into a 15-cent spiral notebook!

to fight this tendency to want to "make it pretty" or make it make sense (and sorry, stacey, this isn't directed at you but at all the things that have come up in this thread!), i think one has to take some deep breaths and fight one's personal tendency to move in that direction or get mired down in overdoing/over-thinking. i've started writing a post about this...

that "giving them a context" that you mention is exactly what i was talking about in our e-mail conversation .. it is difficult to resist creating that context as you go, but you need to try, so you can let the story unfold in front of you. it might go in a different direction than you anticipated. something you didn't think was very important -- something you thought was quite marginal -- might end up playing an important role. if you get down as much as possible as it's happening, you'll be able to flip back and find those connections. if you dismissed it or never picked up on it, you can't.

this is an argument for doing raw-data collection and not an urge toward more perfectionism. :^) you can't capture everything! it's an ocean; you've got a teaspoon. just do what you can. ;^)

i really appreciate you sharing your thoughts as you explore these ideas, stacey, and i think it's beneficial for a lot of other people who haven't chimed in (some of whom have e-mailed me privately) — so thank you!

Comment by Kelly on August 15, 2010 at 01:27 AM

Ok, this is a bit of an aside - but I wish someone would start a project journal for me after observing me. Maybe I could talk the hubs into doing that? It would be extremely helpful for me.

One thing I learned last year (which was our first venture into project work and unschooling) was that I myself have a hard time going deep on any one topic. I tend to dabble in this, then move on to something else, etc. That was a huge revelation for me. As I am trying to change that, I see the value in keeping a consistent journal of the daily happenings with the girlys.

Comment by Lori Pickert on August 15, 2010 at 12:11 PM

lol, kelly - wouldn't that be great? imagine the insights we would gain. :^)

i'm a champion dabbler myself. my favorite hobby is "puttering". ;^)

i love that this is encouraging you to explore some of your own interests more deeply!

Comment by sarah on August 16, 2010 at 05:36 AM

i'm so glad that today i had internet access and that today i popped over here to camp creek :) tomorrow is the "charter offical day of school" and i do need [want] to keep track of what learning is always happening around here, not only for us to see what is happening, use for digging deeper and looking back on for inspiration, but for the state. keeping record, lets just say, isn't my best quality, BUT i did buy a cute new little book and am feeling extremely less daunted and incredibly more inspired to write in it, little or much, hiaku, sketch, question or short story...because of that cute little book and this thread. thanks, as always, LORI! xo

Comment by Lori Pickert on August 16, 2010 at 02:27 PM

thank you, sarah! :^)

Comment by Elizabeth on August 16, 2010 at 06:59 PM

Thank you so much Lori for all of your wonderful input into our project learning. Here's yet another question after all of that input. :-)

You mentioned that it's hard to have more than one project going at a time and so you suggested choosing one to work on. How do you choose the one project from many?

If I know my daughter, then she has to be in "the mood" to work on a project. Who doesn't? I know when I don't feel like sewing, I don't and choose instead to read or plan out our dream house etc. That being said, there are also projects that I have to work on, like it or not, (learning to cook for our current dietary restrictions) that I try to schedule during the week and I make a date with myself to do that project for a specified time. So, with my daughter do I tell her we need to work on the project that she mentioned before during our specified project time? This is how it played out on Friday.

Project Time

me: So what project would you like to work on right now? We could finish writing your fairy book, Lavender's Promise, we could finish your preparations for your fairy tea party or you could work on your St. Lucia celebration plans.

daughter: no, not right now thank you. I just finished watching a Martha Stewart podcast that showed me how to make fish out of leaves. I want to make a fishing game out of construction paper right now.

me: thinking to myself " What would Lori do? I wish Lori did phone consultations" Okay, sure we'll make fish. (Thus abandoning the other projects and adding another one to the basket.)

daughter: proceeds to make fish all the while instructing me in a Martha Stewart tone to the same.

So, to restate my question. If you've chosen the project, let's say the St. Lucia celebration project, does it go against the project-learning methodology to say that's the project we're going to work on for that specified time?

Thanks again for all your wonderful input. I"m learning a lot. I'd comment on more but my break is over at work right now and have to get back to it. :-)

Comment by Lori Pickert on August 16, 2010 at 08:10 PM

lol phone consultations -- i'm already struggling to keep on top of all the e-mail i get! :^)

in a nutshell, here are my recommendations (i've generalized these; i know you're already doing some of them, e):

1 - have a set project time. i am writing a post about this right now. some people are resistant to having a set project time, but it creates a situation where you both know it's coming up and therefore you start to naturally turn your mind toward doing project work at that time. of course, she can do project work whenever she wants to, but during the set time you're available to her.

2 - there is no forcing to work on the project, ever. if she never wants to work on it, that's a signal that it's not a deep interest and maybe you should start thinking about supporting something else. if she is testing the waters by seeing if you're going to *make* her work on her project, stay neutral. ;^)

3 - you don't have to be her slave during project time. if she wants to do X, *you* don't have to do X. project time does not equal "mom does whatever i say" time. if you support/encourage/document *project work*, she will naturally be inclined to do more of it. so pick up the camera, your notebook, and pay close attention when she's working on the project, and go back to your own thing when she's doing random activities. yes, OF COURSE, you should appreciate/enjoy/react to all work, project or no, but hopefully you get what i'm saying -- there is a way to create an environment that subtly rewards deeper work, and rewarding that work with your attention tends to create more of it.

4 - whenever things don't seem to be going well, try changing it up. you can try backing off -- don't mention anything, just go to your work area and start doing your own thing, don't fall into the trap of suggesting/asking too much. or if things have stalled, you might go the other direction and sit down together to review everything that's gone before and talk about it. anything can re-spark an interest; just feel free to change up whatever you were doing before if things stall.

5 - don't be afraid to start all over. maybe the interest was short-lived; maybe it wasn't rich enough to sustain a longer period of work; maybe she wasn't as interested as you thought. you can always just clear the decks, cleanse the palate, and start looking/listening/thinking again about a deep interest that might be worth exploring. there is no BAD learning, no BAD working, so don't worry about "wasted" time. you're just hunting for engagement and strong interest so you can encourage deeper working; if it peters out, just try again! :^)

hope this is helpful; it's all off the top of my head -- i may add more later!

Comment by Stacey on August 16, 2010 at 10:28 PM

Hmm the last comment got me thinking (and you are all welcome to tell me to be quiet whenever you want) about how we don't really do projects. It seems like we are just endlessly researching and find new information not doing anything with what we learn. On one hand that's what adults reading non-fiction do, but I know Alder and I talked at one point about making our own book about volcanoes. Now that we've read every book in the library about them maybe I should start working on the project side of things.

I have to say that this past week of asking questions here has really been helpful. I am starting to grasp further the ideas of projects and the parents role. I know that often the internet is looked at as a way to not look into things deeply but I think that is a partial statement. I think that "places" like this where it really becomes a conversation is exactly the opposite. The discussion here could never really happen anywhere but the internet since homeschooling by nature is not a group activity.

Comment by Elizabeth on August 16, 2010 at 10:28 PM

Thank You Lori! I'm thinking I know where to go with this. Me going to work has been quite an adjustment and we're still adjusting to the new albeit temporary routine. I think what was happening for both of us is that project time turned into "emotional connection" time. If project time is going to take place in the way you mentioned above, then the first thing I need to do is make sure that we have "connection/cuddling time" right before. You know, fill up her love tank. I'll play whatever she wants, read whatever she wants etc. And then it will be "project time". I think I will have to explain to her what happens during project time. I'll be observing and documenting her work and be at her service should a need arise. If I'm not observing, documenting or getting what she needs, then I will be a stone's throw, or in her case, a pom-pom's throw away doing my own project work which at this time is usually sewing or ripping out stuff out of magazines to put in "our dream house" book. I think I will have to tell her that project time is for all of us to do our own project work.

As far as her own projects go, the ones that seem to have promise for more in-depth learning are the ones she does daily during her free time; fairy illustrations for books she wants me to transcribe and cooking.

Comment by Lori Pickert on August 17, 2010 at 03:05 PM

stacey, yes. *doing* something with what you learn is key. the final stage of learning something is being able to teach it to someone else. you can make a book, a poster, a model, a large-scale construction (e.g., a child-size barber shop), a video, a play/skit, and on and on.

this is why the studio is so central to project work as it is done in a reggio-inspired way -- children learn *by* making representations (2- and 3-dimensional) and they learn by using them to show others what they know. in other words, if they are making a model of a boat, they will refer again and again to research (books, photos, sketches from field work, etc.) to make sure they are making a proper representation. they can continue to add details and extend their work for a long time, and they will uncover new questions that need to be resolved.

also, there are the secondary and tertiary learning opportunities. in other words, when you are making a model of a lunar rover, you are learning primarily about lunar rovers. but you are also learning about how to, say, model clay. or make paint stick to aluminum foil. and finally you are learning how to persist, how to ask others for help, how to find answers to problems that arise, how to try alternative solutions, and etc.

"I know that often the internet is looked at as a way to not look into things deeply but I think that is a partial statement. I think that "places" like this where it really becomes a conversation is exactly the opposite." i agree! :) this is, essentially, a big project that we are all collaborating on. and i don't necessarily have all the answers, but i do try to facilitate the conversation. ;)

thank you for your great questions; they are a valuable contribution to the discussion!

elizabeth, that is a very interesting insight. children usually love that undiluted, one-on-one attention they get during project time. and sometimes maybe they enjoy it so much they don't want to let it go to concentrate on their own work! giving her a lot of one-on-one attention before work time is a great idea. maybe you can segue into talking about work, then have your work period, then talk again after. then you can discuss plans for what to do next .. which gives you a nice starting point for next time.

it's perfectly fine to sit with a child during project work and, say, transcribe a dictated book (for pre-readers) or cut out heavy cardboard (for a small child) or teach a child how to make slip when making clay models, and etc. but they should be working independently during some of their project time and if they seem too dependent on you (or seem to think they get to control you ;), then definitely shake things up with a little change.

thank you, elizabeth, for sharing your experiences!

Comment by jen on August 20, 2010 at 12:46 PM

Oh, I can't tell you how relieved I was when I got to Kelly's post and saw that I'm not the only one! I was just telling my husband the other day that I *need* to figure out how to be more of a project finisher . . . so I can teach the kids follow-through by example, not just words.

Comment by Lori Pickert on August 21, 2010 at 04:45 PM

that's a great goal. :)

it's also good to remind ourselves when our kids get "done" with something before we want them to be "done" that we ourselves don't always carry the football all the way into the end zone.

balance! it's all about balance! :)

Comment by sarah :: greenclogs on August 25, 2010 at 05:42 PM

I need help. How can I keep my kids (ages 8 and 12) from fighting and bickering with each other All. The. Time? The 12 yo says something sarcastic/critical, the 8 yo blows up, and everything goes to crap. Rinse and repeat all day. I honestly don't like them very much right now and can't let this go on. I'm working with him on his tone and baiting tendencies, as well as his apparent need to critique her every move. Jeff and I are both working with her on her lack of emotional control and sensitivity to every slight. But they are killing me right now. It doesn't help that it's 95 degrees by 7AM and it's just too hot to go anywhere (of course they'd still just fight there too). I can't homeschool if all I do is referee fights. I'm in a terrible mood all day because they're so unkind to each other when they've not been that way prior to the last 6 months or so. This isn't how we treat each other around here and it has to stop. Ideas?

Thanks for letting me vent.

Comment by Lori Pickert on September 13, 2010 at 03:47 PM

hi sarah :)

i meant to post an open thread for this weekend and move your question there, but time got away from me. i will try to post an open thread this weekend & repeat your question so you can get other responses!

FWIW, here are *my* ideas...

1, retraining. set a simple rule that if they aren't getting along, they have to separate to their own spaces. then ignore all you can and give positive attention to everything good (or even neutral) that happens. when they are being hideous, send them to their corners.

2, structure. set up a solid structure for the week giving each of them time "alone" with you (i imagine kit will be involved ;). during that time, give them a big beam of undivided attention. make this rock solid so they can absolutely depend on it.

3, talk to them each separately and ask what you can do, if anything, to make the situation better. really listen to what they say. they might want something that would be fairly easy to give, and they might have concerns that you don't realize they have.

let me know how it goes!

xoxoxo

Comment by sabrina on September 20, 2010 at 04:01 AM

I was wondering if anyone is using a IPhone app like Evernote to take notes and assist in journaling about their kids learning. I find that even if I write stuff down I have the notes everywhere, in my bag in a notebook in the car stuffed in my wallet...I am hoping to use Evernote to compile everything in one place and then digitally or by had transfer it to a "notebook" But wondering if anyone is already doing this...

Comment by Lori Pickert on September 20, 2010 at 04:43 PM

sabrina, what a great question! .. we need to move this up to the next open thread (probably at the end of this week) so more people see it and have the opportunity to respond.

i haven't used evernote myself, although i am guilty of emailing myself things to remember about 200 times a day. :)

Comment by sarah on September 20, 2010 at 04:54 PM

i use my iphone or ipad with the built in note for keeping a running journal of the day. i have right now the 'learning record for september' and 'questions' notes. i just add to the note as the day goes on or the girls will write into the note a question or what's going on.....we answer the questions straight from the note, but i email the 'learning record' to myself so i can keep it and jump off it and look back at it and not have to write it all out again ;)

Comment by Lori Pickert on September 21, 2010 at 03:53 PM

sarah, i was using my iphone notepad a *lot* and then one day i accidentally deleted an important note. and while i was freaking out and trying to "undo" (with the power of my mind) i managed to delete a second note. then i just set the phone down and backed away to whimper in the corner.

emailing it to yourself .. mm, wish i'd thought of that! :)

thanks for the great suggestion!

Comment by Lou on January 28, 2016 at 12:53 PM

I would like a little clarification. I have a sketchbook, it's really an "everything book" so it could be called a journal. I have journals from when I was 9 years old until now (I'm 42), with a few gaps over the years. At one point I took yard sale stickers and numbered them all so they are in order. I loved to draw and write as a kid and ended up going to fine art school and then they were called sketchbooks. Anyway, so I know how important it is to have a sketchbook/journal/project/everything book. I got everything books for my boys, and we used scrapbook paper and stickers they like to decorate the outside, taped a zippered pencil pouch on the outside, like mine has (just rip it off when the book is full and put it on the next book) and they have them to use. They sort of use them, my 6 year old has a page for things he wants (hubby calls it the "Wishing Scroll and the reason I have a job") and a page for Minecraft mod ideas, one for family addresses - we use post it's to stick out so we can get to those pages quickly. I think I missed the part before reading this post, where I was supposed to be keeping a book FOR them. It would feel weird for me to grab one of their books and write in it, because it's THEIR book. So, I need to get a separate book for each kiddo, could be just a composition book, that I write in, that is for them? And I could use the posties - so I don't pack the books around all the while - to capture ideas, then just pop the posties in the books later. Then they maintain their private books and then I am doing the journalling of their thoughts, ideas, questions and possible project ideas. Would this be good enough? Does this sound right?

Comment by Lori Pickert on April 5, 2016 at 07:56 AM

of course you wouldn’t write in THEIR book — absolutely right.

what you need is a system for keeping track of their work and interests so you can give them consistent support — and for the moment, bounce their ideas back to them and remind them of what they wanted to do, while they are getting in the habit of pursuing their ideas and plans.

if they want to journal, great — but it isn’t something you should force. what often happens is that kids see you journaling and they will begin to say, “write this down! take a picture of this!” they are beginning to see the utility of journaling. then they may take over keeping their own journal — or they may find other tools and other ways of remembering their plans. making this process visible helps them see how it works and eventually take over.

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