If you’ve been reading for a while, you’ll be familiar with my love of this book; Project-Based Homeschooling – Mentoring Self-directed Learners, by Lori Pickert. I bought it with Esmé in mind at first, but after reading it, I realize that you can apply the principals across the ages. It’s more about a lifestyle, or a family culture, and so it applies to older kids, adults, and the youngest among us too.
Hawksley, for example.
Ever since he’s been mobile, he has scooted, crawled, walked and then ran straight for the nearest broom
He finds them in other people’s homes, in stores, in gas stations, in libraries, and janitor’s carts wherever there is one to be found. He is gleeful whenever he discovers one, and can spend a very long time ‘working.’ He considers himself a skilled sweeper now, and takes great pride in fetching me a broom whenever I ask.
What to get him for Christmas then? In a home where we go minimal or not at all when it comes to presents for babies?
A broom, of course!
Which brings me back to project-based learning. When we pay attention to our children, and what naturally attracts their attention, we begin to see the things that get them excited about life and learning. In Hawksley’s case, that’s a broom. Right now, anyway. And in line with Lori’s teachings, we’ll let him run with that passion until he moves on to something else.
It’s not about playing in to childish fixations, passing fancies or silly obsessions, as some people might think. Instead, it’s about meeting our children where they are in the moment. Sharing in their excitement, and showing them that we respect the way their brains work.
For Esmé, it’s all about bugs right now. She has lots of other interests too, but that’s the one that we’re working on right now, the thing she is most passionate about. This includes books about bugs, drawings, research, talking about bugs. Looking for bugs, collecting bugs, telling stories about bugs. Math about bugs, pretend cooking with bugs, and wearing her ‘entymologist lab coat’ nearly everywhere. She’s nearly four, and so all those things make sense.
For Hawksley and his genuine and prolonged interest in brooms, project-based learning means letting him seek out brooms wherever we go, and letting him ‘work.’ It means inviting him to get our broom for me, or asking him to sweep up with his. It means being more patient with the mess while he expertly spreads it around and then plows it across the floor with the dustpan. It means documenting this work, just as we document Esmé’s.
I’ll be interesting to see how his interests change as he grows. And Esmé’s too. Can’t wait to find out!