Project-Based Homeschooling

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I’ve been very taken with Project-Based Homeschooling by Lori Pickert. I highly recommend it as food for thought for any parent, and inspiration and guidance for those who have an unschooling bent. Pickert is obviously deeply influenced by Reggio Emilia, so her philosophy is profoundly child-centered but her suggestions ring of practical experience and pedagogical know-how.

I’m still reading the book slowly, taking notes as I go along, but it’s stirred me enough to strive for some changes.

Yesterday I sat down with Biggie and told him my plans. We each get dedicated “project time” every weekday. Biggie, being eight, gets eighty minutes after morning affairs. JB, being two, gets twenty minutes after lunch. I get sixty minutes after JB’s nap.

During Biggie’s project time, he gets to pursue whatever interests him–even if nothing interests him that day. And during that time, I’m completely at his disposal to aid, guide, converse, document, and support.

Of course, he may choose to work on his “project” outside of that project time, but my personal commitment is to give him undivided attention and lack of judgment for those 80 minutes every day.

We began, yesterday, by picking out our first tool: a notebook. I had a crate of blank ones of all different kinds and sizes that have accumulated over the years. I gave Biggie the time to leisurely sift through the collection and pick out the ones he wanted to claim as his.

He picked two: a pocket Moleskine and a larger journal with grid paper. I picked out a small spiral-bound journal with blank pages for JB, and put it and the Moleskine in my messenger bag for excursions. I have trouble sticking with journals, so I explained to Biggie that I do better with pages in pads that I can rip out and scan into Evernote.

And we wrote our first entry: “What interests me?”

Biggie was clearly animated by these changes; he was hopping out of his skin with enthusiasm and didn’t complain about the writing. We shared our entries, and I asked him to note which items on his list he wanted to prioritize.

Today we’ll start our first “project time.”

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Lori Pickert has a web site, forum, and blog dedicated to her approach: Project Based Homeschooling. If unschooling appeals to you, I would also recommend the Exploring Unschooling podcast by Living Joyfully (Pat Laricchia).

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