Project-based homeschooling: Planning

Published by Lori Pickert on December 2, 2008 at 03:28 AM


Don’t plan ahead — plan along.

Plan the environment.

Plan time to observe and document.

Plan one-on-one time. 

Plan to supply resources as they are needed/requested.

Plan time to collaborate.

Plan time to reflect.

In a traditional curriculum, all the planning is done ahead of time, and determination of success is based on how closely the learning follows the plan, how well the student learns the facts pre-chosen by their teacher.

Learning through projects doesn’t require less planning, just an entirely different sort of planning. Rather than planning outcomes, which can’t possibly be predicted, the adult plans to observe the children, document their learning, give them what they need, collaborate and reflect on the project’s progress, assess the children’s learning, and determine how best to support it.

Deciding that you won’t pre-define what your children will learn opens up the possibility that they will learn so much more than you ever imagined possible. We owe them that possibility.

In our work, we speak of teacher planning, understood in the sense of preparation and organization of space, materials, thoughts, situations, and occasions for learning. — Carla Rinaldi

It is true that we do not have planning and curricula. It is not true that we rely on improvisation, which is an enviable skill. We do not rely on chance either, because we are convinced that what we do not yet know can to some extent be anticipated. What we do know is that to be with the children is to work one third with certainty and two thirds with uncertainty and the new.

…We can be sure that the children are ready to help us. They can help by offering us ideas, suggestions, problems, questions, clues, and paths to follow; and the more they trust us and see us as a resource, the more they give us help. All these offerings, merged with what we ourselves bring to the situation, make a handsome capital of resources. — Loris Malaguzzi



Comment by shannon on December 2, 2008 at 01:54 PM

What a fantastic post...I might print this out and frame it!

Comment by allie on December 2, 2008 at 03:39 PM

I feel like I am still evolving my planning style. I used to have a planning sheet that listed the different areas of the classroom and I planned what I would put on the table for the children to work with. Yikes.
Those are wonderful and inspirational quotes:)

Comment by Lori Pickert on December 2, 2008 at 03:58 PM

thank you, shannon! :^D)

allie, that sounds really familiar! :^) most of the teachers i’ve worked with are super-planners! i’ve said many a time that the teaching ability must be carried on the same gene as anal-retentiveness. ;^)

Comment by estea on December 2, 2008 at 09:11 PM

i suck at planning. one of the reasons i failed teaching!

spontaneous-eruption learning is such a wild ride. it's addictive.

still working on planning environment, though. so many materials to cull to our best-quality essentials. so many *deals* (territorialism!) to banish. sigh.

Comment by Lori Pickert on December 2, 2008 at 09:50 PM

planning as you go along is more about paying attention to what’s happening (documentation) and figuring out how you can encourage it to continue/expand (teacher as co-learner).

i agree, it is addictive!

i need to highlight your forum post about culling. :^)

Comment by greenchickadee on December 2, 2008 at 10:32 PM

Did you read MY post from today before you wrote this? I think you were writing it for me, right? You were weren't you? :) So, I'm thinking my December schedule will be the above . . . forget the books. Thanks!!!!!

Comment by Theresa on December 2, 2008 at 11:14 PM

This is definitely the mode of planning I have moved into over the years. It started out as a default because my kids never followed my detailed plans anyways. But now it is by design.Rather than micromanaging, I feel my time is better spent creating a rich environment and observing my children for those sparks of interest so I can be there to add good fuel to the fire.
I am so going to have to write a blog post on this, too!LOL!

Comment by Lori Pickert on December 2, 2008 at 11:30 PM

greenchickadee, i didn’t, i swear! :^) but you know, any time you’re taking a natural break -- the holidays, summer, etc. -- is a great time to try a new approach. ;^)

enjoy your month!

Comment by Lori Pickert on December 2, 2008 at 11:33 PM

theresa, micromanaging is the perfect term .. i have this mental image of children being herded down those fenced walkways at the stockyard.

“creating a rich environment, observing .. for those sparks of interest, adding good fuel to the fire” .. yep, that’s it! :^)

Comment by estea on December 3, 2008 at 12:19 AM

yeah, you know i should have said i suck at the herd-the-kids-down-the-chute planning methods my ed profs sold me. but still tried to do that with homeschooling for the first few years. epic fail. the co-learner approach feels so much more natural - - - but like Theresa, it became apparent by default rather than by any smart choice on my part :)

Comment by Chrissy on December 3, 2008 at 12:42 AM

Great Post! I think that when the kids find something that they are really into it is a great time to explore it further. :)

Comment by Lori Pickert on December 3, 2008 at 12:58 AM

i have been trying to think of the word “chute” all afternoon. thank you, external brain. ;^)

thank you, chrissy! and i have to say i agree. ;^)

Comment by nancy on December 3, 2008 at 07:32 PM

I'm still visiting...just haven't had time to comment. I really like this post. I think it's something I've realized as I've been home with children and lived day in and day out with my supper planner self. Which, yes, is what I am, but children have caused me to stop that and plan along or not plan at all and do something because it's fun and exciting. We still learn, just not the way I thought we would.
I do plan the environment, that is something that is constantly evolving as we figure out what we need and where it should go in order for those things to better serve us.
thanks for making me think...

Comment by Lori Pickert on December 3, 2008 at 10:02 PM

hi nancy :^) children are the best trainers of the plan-along approach, no doubt!

so true -- planning the environment isn’t something you do just once, then you’re done -- you have to constantly reevaluate whether it is doing the job you want it to do, sending the message you want it to send, and make any necessary changes.

Comment by brynn on December 4, 2008 at 03:41 AM

It is funny, as a former public school teacher that spent, what felt like, every spare moment planning engaging ways to teach math from a conceptually based, real-world framework, the word planning scares the dickens out of me. I have had enough of planning! But I realize this is so different because this about inviting exploration in a subject that the child has chosen as opposed to planning how to get someone interested in the predetermined content you have to force on them. It is a whole different direction. Still, I have a planning aversion from which I need to heal!

Comment by Lori Pickert on December 4, 2008 at 04:22 AM

lol, brynn -- i understand! we shall not use the p-word.

it seems perfectly reasonable me to think about what *might* happen and how we might best support that development .. but when it turns into a forced march, then something has gone awry.

but .. some people throw the baby out with the bathwater. if you don’t keep track of what is happening, then you can’t respond to it -- you can’t do your part, keep up your end of the conversation, provide resources, etc. (i’m not talking about you, brynn, of course.)

the idea is to get people who are addicted to their (don’t listen, brynn) *plans* to stop putting the cart before the horse and realize they can still play an active co-learning role even if they don’t plot it all out ahead of time.

Comment by Amy on December 4, 2008 at 05:39 AM

Going on the refrigerator.

Comment by Lori Pickert on December 4, 2008 at 02:52 PM

amy, that’s by far my favorite blog post praise. :^)

Comment by Jimmie on September 22, 2009 at 05:36 AM

I'm so enjoying browsing your articles. Thanks for sharing your wisdom online.
Question -- do you think this type of learning (project based) is doable if one lives overseas? I'm just thinking no. I mean, I love the idea of exploring and giving the child ownership. But if I don't plan ahead, we'll have no resources (speaking mostly of English books or some specific hands-on learning tools that are unavailable).

Yes, we can use the Internet, but I don't want my child staring at a screen all day. And yes, there are adaptations we can make, but so many things just don't exist where I am. We are masters at "making do." But when it comes to learning, I find I want my daughter exposed to as many resources as possible. There's no library to visit, and few parks and museums with educational focus on children.

It seems to sort of lessen the joy of discovery to locate books on Amazon and wait three weeks for them to be delivered. (Not to mention the exorbitant prices for shipping.)

Any thoughts on this? Feel free to email me. Or if you create a blog entry, I'll see it because I sub to your feed.

Comment by Lori Pickert on September 22, 2009 at 01:28 PM

jimmie, this is a great question to put up on the blog, so i will, and thank you for your advance permission. :^)

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