I am on a few Facebook groups for homeschooling high school and project based learning and as I browse through comments and links it seems that there is this notion that every project has to be BIG. The big projects can be fun and they can be super impressive, but I find that the little projects are the ones that make an impact on our learning.
This fall I intentionally pared down our curriculum to two electives (Social Justice and Personal Finance) and kept our basic core (math, science, history, language arts) to allow us time to dig deep. We are sticking to our one subject a day (in addition to math) and when the girls feel like they want to create something that ties into the subject at hand, I am doing my best to say yes.
For example, they are working on week #5 of Science Shephard: Meteorology, which seems like it should be a no-brainer in this house. But Lilah really never realized the reason for seasons (the Earth’s tilt and it rotation around the sun). After we watched the video explanation of this, I asked her if she wanted to do the paper mache project she has been talking about; making a globe. I asked her to put an axis on it and the equator. Suddenly science was F-U-N!
This was done outside and the mess stayed outside. The globe was set to dry in the sun. It will take an entire day to dry. Painting cannot be done the same day which means that we will not get an entire week’s worth of science lessons done in one day and this is okay. I have to remind myself sometimes that it is quality over quantity. I want her to understand this concept, not just check off the box for the week. So we will wait for the paste to dry and she will spray it with my sealer to harden it a bit more and then she will paint. It takes time to complete a project. Time I have to allow for.
My mantra this year is NO UNFINISHED PROJECTS! Last year many things were started but only a few were completed. This year that will not happen. Right now we are working on several “projects”
The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe Lapbook/Notebook
Grace’s ongoing dog project (which is deserving of it’s own post)
Finishing up loose ends for our dinner at the homeless shelter.
Our quotation journals
Those are five big things. It would be very easy to push aside the notebook since the girls are not that into it. But this is one of those things that I would like to see completed, as it is their summary of the book and something I think they would like to look back upon. The best projects are those you do not have to remind them about (like Grace’s dog book, or Lilah’s globe) but there are still some those that start strong (like the lapbook) but then fade in intensity. The key is making them fun again to finish strong. Sometimes that can mean we take our work out of the house to the library or to Starbucks and sometimes it means work when inspiration strikes, possibly at the expense of time spent on another content area.
I am curious to see where project based learning takes us this year. We have been moving in this direction all along but this year I finally feel like I have the confidence in myself and in our homeschool to let them go and explore and pursue their interests. It helps maintain the balance that I need between my curriculum requirements and theirs.