Project-based homeschooling curriculum

Published by Lori Pickert on August 10, 2012 at 07:52 AM

This time of year, many homeschooling parents are cracking open their catalogs to order what they hope will be the perfect homeschool curriculum. They hope that they can plan a perfect year, with the perfect blend of all the elements of a good education. They aren’t just limiting themselves to books and kits; they’re also scanning Pinterest for ideas for their learning space. They’re juggling a million different ideas and they’re maybe breaking into a light sweat.

Many people land here searching for “project-based homeschooling curriculum.”

I know what they’re really looking for. It’s not a box or a binder that has a map and a plan and a rubric inside. They’re hoping for a glimpse of what happens inside that idea called “project-based homeschooling.” They’re looking to peek through the window and get a feeling for what a typical project looks like or a typical day. They wonder what will happen if they explore down this path.

They rub their sleeve at the frost on the glass and squint and aren’t sure what they see, because they’re not entirely sure what they’re looking for. It sounds good. But what is it really like?

The project-based homeschooling curriculum doesn’t come in a box or a binder. It doesn’t look like a knitted sweater you can take out of the box and pull over your head. It looks like a pair of knitting needles with conspicuously missing yarn. You pick up those needles and wonder if you’ll really be warm in December.

The project-based homeschooling curriculum is built slowly, by hand. The materials are gathered along the way. The gathering and the building are the curriculum. The process is the curriculum.

They say that cutting wood warms you twice: once when you split it with your axe and again when you bask by your fire. In the same way, project-based homeschooling is twice the learning. You learn about your project and along the way you learn how to learn. Instead of dumping it out of a box, you have to go out and build it from scratch. It warms you twice.

Reggio educator Vea Vecchi said, “I hesitate to give advice. Our research is really an adventure, often exciting and diverting, and how can I give advice about going on an adventure?”

So, people landing here looking for the project-based homeschooling curriculum, that’s all I can offer you. The certainty of challenging, engaging work — and the promise of adventure.

To learn more about project-based homeschooling and get started on your adventure, check out the 10 steps to getting started with PBH.

If you are wondering how PBH can be combined with a regular curriculum, project-based homeschooling can be combined with ANY homeschooling approach from classical to unschooling. From the book:

“This book posits a simple idea — that children need the opportunity to direct and manage their own learning — and then suggests ways that we adults can help them do that.”

“Whether you’re a Latin-loving classicist or a relaxed unschooler or somewhere in-between — the point of project-based homeschooling is to devote some time to helping your child direct and manage his own learning.”

“If you follow a more traditional curriculum, you'll need to set aside special time reserved for project work.”

“If you're a more eclectic homeschooler, project learning could be the main focus of your curriculum, possibly meeting most of your learning goals.”

“If you unschool, you probably have plenty of free time for exploration, but remember to make a deliberate and purposeful effort to support your child to dig deeply into her interests and challenge herself to extend her ideas.”

To read about how my family uses a negotiated curriculum, click here.

 

17 comments

Comment by Angie on August 10, 2012 at 08:32 AM

Beautiful post! These are words I'll be focusing on as we begin our "school" year-

"The project-based homeschooling curriculum is built slowly, by hand. The materials are gathered along the way. The gathering and the building are the curriculum. The process is the curriculum."

Comment by Lori Pickert on August 10, 2012 at 09:48 AM

thank you, angie :)

Comment by patricia on August 10, 2012 at 10:41 AM

I also love these lines:

"The gathering and the building are the curriculum. The process is the curriculum."

I think that many parents don't realize that homeschooling is about the whole family learning. Parents want to buy curriculum so they can be the experts, and the kid the learners. They don't want to worry whether there will be a sweater for winter (or a kid who can get a job, or into a good college, or…)

But to really dig into the sort of project-based homeschooling that you're talking about, Lori, the parent has to be willing to jump in with as much curiosity, uncertainty and excitement as the kid, don't you think? For the kid, those feelings surround the topic of interest at hand; for the parent they surround the process. Parents have to be willing to let go of past ideas of what learning looks like, to embrace something new, and to have faith that the process will work.

Sounds sort of scary, but how can we expect our kids to be brave, bold explorers of the world if we're not willing to do that ourselves?

Comment by Lori Pickert on August 10, 2012 at 12:29 PM

 

it’s really a way of learning that demands authenticity — the parent *can’t* proceed if they aren’t willing to do the same learning and face the same challenges as their child. in order to help their child become a learner, thinker, maker, doer, they have to walk the same path.

“For the kid, those feelings surround the topic of interest at hand; for the parent they surround the process.” — except i would add, project-based homeschooling is also about helping children learn to focus on the process so that they become aware of their own thinking and learning.

“I think that many parents don't realize that homeschooling is about the whole family learning.” — i don’t think *all* homeschooling is about the whole family learning. :) in fact, just recently i’ve had multiple parents tell me that one of the reasons they love pbh is because their spouse is really getting involved for the first time!

“[H]ow can we expect our kids to be brave, bold explorers of the world if we're not willing to do that ourselves?” — i recently had an interesting e-mail conversation with a parent who really wanted to embrace letting her teenage daughter plan her own curriculum but she (the mom) was struggling with believing she (the daughter) could do a reasonable job. she finally had an epiphany when she realized that she had always bought her curriculum and never designed it herself — of course, she was hesitant to believe her daughter could do something that she herself was intimidated by. once she realized that, she set out to design a curriculum of her own (for something *she* wanted to learn) alongside her daughter. she wasn’t ready to let her daughter face a challenge until she was ready to face it herself.

Comment by patricia on August 10, 2012 at 02:19 PM

Love that story. Fantastic.

Comment by Jennifer on August 10, 2012 at 03:33 PM

So far, that's been one of my favorite aspects of home schooling. Since I've been investigating home schooling, I've explored the things I've wanted to explore, but have held off from -- learning French, learning to knit -- and learning to explore things I *wasn't* good at in school. Knowing more about education and how things can work has enabled me to explore on my own as well as supporting my daughter's exploration.

Comment by Lori Pickert on August 10, 2012 at 06:01 PM

we’ve talked on the blog before about how many of us are reformed perfectionists and school bascially trained us away from doing anything we didn’t immediately excel at. what a sad thing, when education pushes us *away* from learning challenging things! but the thing that is generally rewarded at school is to excel, not to ploink away at something you’re not great at just because it’s interesting, or fun, or exciting.

a homeschooling life designed to encourage children (and parents) to learn for the sake of learning … that is a very good thing.

Comment by jacinda on August 10, 2012 at 03:47 PM

I love this post Lori..beautiful words and images, especially the empty knitting needles and wondering whether you'll be warm in December. it demands that I renew my trust in my children regularly and practice being present with any anxiety that I have - it's mine not theres :-)

Comment by Lori Pickert on August 10, 2012 at 06:02 PM

thank you, jacinda :) xoxoxo

Comment by David on August 11, 2012 at 06:36 AM

Love the Vea Vecchi quote!! I was fortunate enough to meet her in April when I was in Reggio Emilia. A truly inspiring person.
"....how can I give advice about going on an adventure?” LOVE IT! :)

Comment by Lori Pickert on August 11, 2012 at 07:59 AM

i know, it’s one of my favorites. :)

i was able to see her speak at a conference. love her.

lol your comment in the forum, david — you need to come around more often! ;o) 

Comment by christina on August 11, 2012 at 03:38 PM

This post is really hitting home. I'm new to the whole project based homeschooling, but it seems that this is a little bit how our homeschooling the last two years have been...which makes me feel a whole lot better about those last two years. Especially since I've never felt like we've fit in anywhere...group wise. I look forward to incorporating even more PBH into our days.

I'm so happy to have found your blog and book Lori!

"how can I give advice about going on an adventure?” this is so good!

Comment by Lori Pickert on August 12, 2012 at 07:06 AM

 

thank you, christina! and welcome — maybe you’ve found your community now. :)

be sure to join the forum if you haven’t already; there’s lots of good support and conversation there around specific PBH issues. i’m so happy you’ve found us!

Comment by April W on January 23, 2014 at 06:03 PM

Guilty... I totally Googled "Project Based Learning Homeschool Curriculum" lol! Glad I did because it led me here! I just started homeschooling my daughter this year (first grade) and have already found that we are both bored and frustrated with the daily workbooks. We do science experiments weekly, along with art projects and those are the two days we both look forward to the most. I think I googled "curriculum" because I want an idea as to how to fit in all of the required subjects while doing only projects. We are in Florida and required to keep a record of our days and a portfolio. I guess I am paranoid about the evaluation at the end of the year and them asking "Where is your math? " etc.... I think I am in good hands here though :) Thank you for the encouragement. It is exciting yet daunting... just like making the decision to homeschool was initially!

Comment by Lori Pickert on January 23, 2014 at 07:35 PM

 

busted! ;o)

happy you found us, april. :) there’s a free forum as well as the book. i ran an independent school for seven years so i’m well versed in connecting project work to state learning standards. let me know if you have any questions! :)

Comment by Erika on August 25, 2014 at 10:01 PM

I don't know if you'll see that I've replied, but I wanted to mention since I'm in Florida, too.. there is an option to enroll your child in a private "umbrella school" in Florida. According to the state, you are a private schooler and according to the umbrella school, you may not have to report anything specific. It's basically a way to allow parents more decision-making control regarding testing/portfolios/curriculum. One that is free is https://sites.google.com/site/floridaunschoolers/

Comment by Lori Pickert on August 26, 2014 at 07:50 AM

thank you, erika!

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