Overview: Project based learning is designed to help all children succeed. Discover how you can easily implement a project based approach into your homeschool.
Traditional learning approaches fail 30% of children.
John Holt once said…
True learning — learning that is permanent and useful, that leads to intelligent action and further learning — can arise only out of the experience, interest, and concerns of the learner.
Have you ever heard the saying…
You can’t change someone who isn’t ready to change?
Well educating our children is exactly the same thing. If a child is not motivated and ready to learn whatever it is we’re trying to teach…
Of course they’re going to fail!
A Real Life Experience
Halie, one of the mamas using Learning Through Experiences, experienced the meaning of true learning when she tried to teach a weather unit to her preschooler.
She wanted to try out a weather theme in the spring, since they had been experiencing a lot of different types of weather.
Her son seemed to be noticing it a bit more — pointing out rain, clouds, sun.
As part of this theme, she checked out A Rainbow of My Own from the library.
Her son usually doesn’t sit for books except for a couple at bed time, but this one was read throughout the whole day.
It rained the day after she first read A Rainbow of My Own and he immediately ran outside to look for rainbows.
So they ended up focusing on rainbows for most of their weather unit.
Her son started lining up different materials– math cubes, colored popsicle sticks, Pompoms, anything he could find — to make rainbows.
They still read the book often even though her son has moved on to learn about other things.
He was ecstatic when he first saw a real rainbow after a storm, and he still checks outside every time it rains in hopes of seeing another one.
Her son also loves finding the rainbows on the wall made from the chandelier in the afternoon sun.
He has other interests that were more obvious, but that one random book sparked a lot of learning that wouldn’t have happened if Halie didn’t follow her son’s lead. She initially wasn’t even planning to do much with rainbows!
This is the beauty of a child-led, project-based approach to learning. If Halie would have focused on the typical weather types her son would have missed out on these great learning opportunities that he directed and was 100% ready and motivated to learn.
Not only did he learn about rainbows, but with project-based learning, other subjects are integrated into the learning.
By learning about rainbows, Halie’s son used literacy skills while reading, STEAM while building rainbows from different materials, and science while observing rainbows outside and on the wall.
What is Project Based Learning?
In simple terms, project-based learning is following the child’s interests and letting them decide what to learn and how to learn it.
Instead of planning weeks or even months ahead, you take your child’s curiosities and turn them into unit studies.
You use their questions to decide what to do next and the types of activities you present to them.
Their questions guide the learning.
One of the best things about project-based learning that makes it so successful with children, is that they get to learn about the topic — their curiosities — instead of separate subjects.
Think about it…
Not many children are going to want to sit down to learn about inferring, fractions, or grammar.
But with project-based learning, those topics are integrated into the learning of their interests.
When a child wants to learn about a certain interest, nothing stands in their way. If they are interested in learning how to cook, they will learn about fractions so they can be efficient at cooking.
How Will They Learn Important Skills?
I know what you’re thinking though…
But how will my child learn all he needs to learn — you know those important “life” skills — if I don’t sit down and teach it to him?
That’s a very valid question. I want to answer it with another quote from John Holt…
Of course, a child may not know what he may need to know in ten years (who does?), but he knows, and much better than anyone else, what he wants and needs to know right now, what his mind is ready and hungry for. If we help him, or just allow him, to learn that, he will remember it, use it, build on it.
There is no such thing as being behind or learning gaps. We’re all behind or have learning gaps when being compared to another person.
What we should be focusing on is building a strong love of learning and teaching our children HOW to learn.
Because when they know how to learn, there is no obstacles standing in their way. And with a strong love of learning on top of knowing how to learn…
Success is inevitable.
Benefits of Project Based Learning
First lets take a look back to the past at the philosophies and ways of thinking of accomplished educators that came before us.
Like John Holt and Marie Montessori who pioneered a new way of learning.
Montessori once said
The greatest sign of success for a teacher, is to be able to say “The children are now working as if I did not exist.”
These two educators didn’t just see education as passing knowledge onto the child.
They saw the living potential…the eagerness…the natural curiosity and the will for learning that children already had ingrained into their little minds.
They revolutionized education as we knew it and made the child the center of their experiences.
Now you don’t have to follow a strict Montessori way of learning to respect the vision that these two educators had when it came to looking at the child as a capable learner and putting their unique interests first.
Today you can see the ripple effect of these great educators everywhere.
Just look at all the Montessori schools around the world. And other similar, but newer philosophies like Reggio.
And not to mention Anne Frank, Julia Childs, Prince William and Prince Harry, and the founders of Google are all products of a Montessori, child-led education.
Having a child-led education doesn’t just happen in Montessori or Reggio schools.
It’s real life.
It can happen in your homeschool. Your child can be the leader of their education and experience all the amazing benefits of project-based learning…
1. Learning is inevitable
Project based learning uses a curriculum that is tailored to your child’s unique interests and learning timeline so your child will engage and seek out the learning opportunities on their own.
2. Works for EVERY child
Project-based learning allows the child to learn in a way that works best for them, so it works for every child. Which means, there’s no reason to have 30% of our children failing.
3. Child is in charge
So I know this is an odd benefit, but most of us want a child who is independent and confident, right?
Letting your child be in charge of their learning — among other things — is what builds that independence and confidence.
And not to mention, having your child in charge of their learning will ensure your child is engaged.
Don’t worry though. They’re not completely 100% in charge of their learning.
You control the environment…
The environment controls what is learned…
Your child controls when and how it is learned.
4. Unknown learning journey
This is my favorite benefit of project-based learning. You never know where the learning journey is going to take you.
One week you could be learning about a little bug your child found outside. This could lead to learning about other animals in your neighborhood which spreads to your state, your country, and eventually animals around the world.
Learning about different animals in the world could lead to learning about adaptations, animal anatomy, and even weather.
Your child’s questions guide the learning journey, which is very unpredictable.
Don’t worry! In the next few weeks I’ll be showing you how to handle the unpredictability and get the planning and prepping done in less than an hour a week.
Just because the learning is unpredictable, doesn’t mean you have to stress out about planning the night before or on the spot.
Remember you control the environment, which can be planned and prepped ahead of time.
Ready to get started? Click here to download our getting started guide.
Your Role in Project Based Learning
There are only two ways that I see it.
You’re either the professor or the learning guide.
The professor is the one who worries if their child is learning everything they need to learn at the right time. They’re frustrated and guilty because no matter what they plan, their child just won’t pay attention. They feel like they’re failing their child.
The Learning Guide
The learning guide is having fun and is learning right alongside their child. They’re confident that their child will go out into this big ol’ world ready for whatever life throws at them.
They’re going on adventures and building a strong love of learning within their child.
They go to bed every night, excited for the happy, bountiful learning experiences that will happen the next day.
Whether you know it or not, your child is learning every moment of every day.
But the problem is we sometimes forget that our child has only been on this Earth for a short time and almost everything is still a new experience for them.
We try to prepare them for their future at an early age when in reality, we need to be preparing them for right now.
Preparing and experiencing the right now is what builds and prepares them for their future.
The more you try to control what your child learns and when your child learns it, the more you’re limiting their true potential.
If you want a confident, independent child who loves learning…
You need to start following their lead.
Which is the hardest part of this whole project based learning approach…
Trusting the child and their unique learning journey.
So if you’re suppose to sit back, trust in the process, and let your child learn on their own…
What is there for you to do?
1. Create an encouraging environment
I’ve said this a few times already, but you’re in control of the environment. What you place in your environment and the experiences you give your child, is what ultimately decides what your child will learn.
If it’s not in their environment, they won’t learn it.
2. Be the guide
Ask questions to extend their learning or help them think in a different way.
Instead of being the teacher, be the learning buddy. Learn right alongside your child.
Go on their beautiful learning journey together. Who knows, you may even learn something new too!
3. Spark new interests
This goes back to number 1, but your job is to spark new interests by strewing which basically means leaving little invitations to learn around the house.
This can be as simple as leaving a book about dinosaurs laying on your child’s bed.
Getting Started with Project Based Learning
You may be thinking this is great, but how do you even get started, especially if you’ve been following a traditional approach to learning.
I’m not going to lie. At first, the transition may be a challenge because your child is not use to the freedom.
You’re going to need to ask more questions, give them more time, and support them a bit more at the beginning.
But once they get a taste for learning about their own interests, the rest will fall into place.
The first thing you want to do is define your child’s true interests. For older kiddos, you can just ask them what they want to learn about. Ask questions that dig a little deeper to find out what they really want to know about that topic.
If you’re not sure what they really want to learn about, head to the library to pick out books.
For younger children, pay attention to what they play with, what they discover (especially out in nature), and the books they want to read over and over again.
Then you can test the interest by setting out a few invitations for them to explore. This could be a science experiment, an art invitation, or simply a book to explore.
If your child interacts with the invitation and begins asking questions then you’ve found a true interests. For children who are old enough to plan ahead, ask them how they want to learn more about their interests. If you’re child doesn’t know, continue setting up invitations to explore, learn, and create.
Pay attention to the types of invitations your child is drawn to. Some kids learn best through creating their own representations or using different art mediums. Others learn best through science experiment type activities.
My daughter learns best through her imagination, so we do a lot of small worlds and dramatic play set ups. As she gets older, I think she’ll enjoy writing and putting on plays to learn about her interests.
Then rinse and repeat. Keep providing invitations until your child moves onto another interest. This can last anywhere from a day to months.
Take your child’s ideas for learning seriously. If they have their own ideas for learning or a project they want to create follow their lead.
Trust me, your child is much more capable of designing their own learning opportunities than you think.
If you’re ready to get started click the image below to download our Getting Started Guide.
Hey Beautiful Mama!
I’m Amanda! With over 11 years of teaching experience, I quit my dream job to homeschool my kiddos. Now I’m sharing our days and my experience, so you can raise a child who is confident, independent, and most importantly loves learning.
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