How about Project Based Learning?

As you know, as a year round homeschool family, we are always in that mode. Its all about our perspective. Life is full of opportunities!  Sometimes we forget that I think.  Anyway…..

What can we learn? What can we do?

As my oldest gets older, I have been trying to find ways to encourage him to do more independent learning.  As I entertain this idea and search out ways to inspire this in him, I came across some wonderful ideas.  I wrote my thoughts on independent learning here and the great value it has.

Recently I stumbled across Project Based Learning and it really got me curious.

What is project-based homeschooling? It’s combining personal interests with long-term, deep, complex learning. It is a way of learning centered on making, doing, sharing, collaborating, and acquiring real skills.  Whoa – this sounds amazing!

I then came across a book called Project-Based Homeschooling: Mentoring Self-Directed Learners.  I haven’t read it yet; I need to order it but I have a pile of books growing taller each day and I want to be sure that when I do have it I use it (know what I mean anyone? lol)


In the meantime I had the opportunity to use and review these Project Based Learning worksheets, via Educents. These range in topic from: Create a Personal Budget, to Lemonade Stand, Kid in a Candy Store, and Class Field Trip to Space. There are lots more, in fact my son is eyeing up a couple for a Pizzeria and Ice Cream Shop. There is even one to Plan the Thanksgiving Dinner.



In the Thanksgiving Dinner project or kids can learn what it takes to plan a big Thanksgiving dinner.  Or, as we did, relate this to simply planning a meal, and build up from there.  This one encourages our kids to plan and includes lots of math! Who will they invite to their dinner?  With actual grocery store fliers and some handy conversion charts they learn to determine how much they need to feed everyone they invited to their dinner. On to purchasing the supplies and even decorating! They create a graph from a data table, they practice measurement, and decimal operations!

(who’s making the turkey this year? lol)



Ever wanted to own a candy store? My son has such a sweet tooth! And the Kid in a Candy Store project is such an exciting and fun way to exercise the imagination.  First, we will “design” and name the candy store. Next they get to choose what candy they will put in their store! We just finished reading Willy Wonka so as I am sure you can imagine this can get pretty wild. 😛  How about marketing materials? Commercials, newspaper advertisements,  candy displays for the store?  In some cases there are dimensions provided (in 1/2″ scale) for them to use. We calculate the cost of these displays and the profit potential. This is wonderful for introducing things like supply and demand as well since prices must be determined and set.  This is good for critical thinking skill development; even problem solving! There is also the opportunity to practice some graphing placing points on a coordinate plane, working fractions, and decimal operations. Sweet fun!!!



I remember trying my hand at a Lemonade Stand when I was younger.  These are like a rite of passage, if you ask me! In this project, there is a budget given for purchasing supplies for their lemonade stand. What are the essential supplies and how many lemons & limes will they will need to serve their customers? Here is some estimation work, critical thinking and problem solving… There is even a chance to do a cost analysis to make sure their business plan works.  And lots of work with fractions and decimals, some art projects as they design their stand and a chance to make a flyer to advertise their awesome lemonade too!


If we want to be a little silly, there is the Trip to Outer Space Project.  Makes me feel a bit like Ms. Frizzle personally….starting to sing, “Magic School Bus…” right now too!  My 5 year old son thinks this one is awesome and is hard at work planning his own trip (he wants to visit Saturn) My oldest one is really excited about this because of the scrapbooking activity and the writing exercise within the project. What fun, having the chance to plan and ten pack (and build) their suitcase for an out of this world trip. At the same time they get to practice their skills with volume, graphing, and decimal operations.



What a fun way to learn!


“If project work is left to simply happen when it happens, it may not happen at all. Your focus and attention create a gentle gravity that pulls your child back to his work. And remember: it’s work he wants to do. Setting aside time for project work is a way of honoring it and making sure it happens.” — Project-Based Homeschooling: Mentoring Self-Directed Learners



So as we re about to embark on this exciting project based learning in our homeschool there are a couple things we need to do (so I have read).


First and foremost is for my son to know what it is he really wants to learn. And of course, how that fits into our family’ lifestyle and daily routine. Since we school year round, we tend to have plenty of time to do and explore all things.  We also tend to be pretty relaxed as home educators. Another big bonus. I want my children to have time to explore these interests they arise; I want to see them expand their minds and imagine great things. To be kids. Having fun and learning as they play.


Its not about being intrigued by fish and then reading a book only to move on to the next thing. Its about going deeper.  Its going beyond the surface; identifying an authentic interest and sticking with it.  We need to make connections to encourage learning that is more complex and layered. We don’t want to just move on but to, go back and revisit things again and again. He can pull out that guitar again; he can get into that computer programming and design class.  He can pull out those cookie cutters and all the decorating tips to go along with it.  It has to be accessible; he has to be encouraged to follow these things – Sometimes he needs to be pushed a bit to stick it out too.

(did I mention my son is a bit of a perfectionist – it can be challenging at times for him to try something new – to stick something that he doesn’t see himself as a success at immediately)












As for me, I need to learn how to be that mentor that he needs as he explores these things. I need to find that middle ground where I am not hands off completely but I am not directing and managing everything for him.  I want him to own these things. To feel that his family is active and engaged; a co-learner and mentor — this ought to be a way where we can all see that he is making his own plans, having his own ideas, and solving his own problems.  My place, is near his side, as a trusted helper.  When he needs me of course. 🙂


“Children, even when very young, have the capacity for inventive thought and decisive action. They have worthwhile ideas. They make perceptive connections. They’re individuals from the start: a unique bundle of interests, talents, and preferences. They have something to contribute. They want to be a part of things.

It’s up to us to give them the opportunity to express their creativity, explore widely, and connect with their own meaningful work.

Many parents and teachers readily agree that children have these abilities, but they want to believe they can (and perhaps should) blossom naturally with no interference from adults. Traditional educators think this will happen in the child’s free time — presumably sometime between the school bell ringing in the afternoon and bedtime, in and amongst homework, extracurricular activities, team practices, and play dates. Many parents want to believe it will happen if their child has adequate free time. They hope their child will drift naturally away from the TV set and the video game console toward literature, nature, and science. They know that their child is intelligent and creative, and they expect — or hope — that deep thinking, rich exploration, and a strong work ethic will follow.

We can do better than that.

Rather than expecting children to seek out a balanced life all on their own, we can help them live it. We can create an everyday life that prioritizes what we value most. We can help our children grow up experiencing creativity, inquiry, and making ideas happen as part of their normal, everyday life, from their earliest days.”

We can help them live a life based on learning and doing. — Project-Based Homeschooling: Mentoring Self-Directed Learners



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