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Day 60 – Presentations: Lessons in Project Based Homeschooling


Today the girls presented on the things they have been studying for the past few weeks. Sera had been studying Meerkats; Amelie had been studying Deborah Sampson.They also spent a good chunk of time reading quietly.

For her project, Sera designed a board including pictures and Meerkat facts. If you don’t know Sera in real life, you may not know of her extreme love of head bands. She wears hers like an 80s aerobics guru. Or Richie Tenenbaum.  Or the hipster who lives across the street. She is clueless about these associations, however; this is just her own personal style. And I LOVE it. But even I have to admit: the combo with the tie-dye shirt really creates quite the “unschool” picture.

During her presentation, Sera included the full taxonomy of the Meerkat. I was so impressed! We had given her no guidelines; she did all of the research herself. It was so encouraging to see that learning is not only happening, but really sticking with the girls. It probably has more to do with my high school science teacher’s catchy taxonomy song than with my teaching abilities, though!

Amelie presented on Deborah Sampson, a woman who disguised herself as a man in order to fight in the Revolutionary War. Unfortunately, I either lost or misplaced the pictures I took of Amelie actually presenting. But I still have these pictures from an earlier post when she was first creating her project:

Deborah Sampson

Amelie created figures out of air dry clay–including a gun and a cannon–and then gave an oral report about the life of Deborah Sampson. These figures are now on her shelf where she is currently hoarding displaying a thousand other air dry clay creations.

I prefer book research to internet research for the girls, but sometimes this is not always possible. For example, there is very little information in print about Meerkats–in our ENTIRE library system we only found one or two books. So Sera did most of her research online. However, Amelie was able to find several books about Deborah Sampson so she obtained her information through book research.

Amelie’s most interesting discovery was that Deborah Sampson adopted an orphan girl whose mother had died during childbirth.

Today was a good example of Project Based Homeschooling. I had read the book before beginning our school year, and it really helped me believe in unschooling. The basic concept behind this method is that kids do all of the work. They should be given the freedom to explore their passions, to have free reign over their projects, to try, to succeed, AND to fail. In her book, Project Based Homeschooling, Lori Pickert writes:

Real project work is work that is chosen by children and done by children, with the help of attentive adults who are there to mentor, facilitate, and support.

This is an example of a project taken from the book:

A group of children age three to five are working together to build a large, three-dimensional whale. Two are crouched on the floor looking at a book, shouting out information and ideas to others. Two are arguing about fin design–they decide they will each make one fin he way they prefer and they’ll use both. Another decides to make krill for the whale to eat, so he sits down and begins cutting paper into tiny pieces. An adult sits with them, making careful notes about their plans: what they need (more cardboard, tape, paint), what they plan to do (build the fins, the teeth, the tail), what they disagree on (whether their whale should lie on the floor or hang from the ceiling). Later, she [the adult] can use her notes to help the children remember all of their plans. One of the children walks up to her and asks her to write down the colors of paint they will need; he lists them. Another says he wants to measure how big the whale is–he would like it to be life-size. They begin to discuss the best way to measure, and one of the children runs to get a book from the bookshelf–he remembers which book mentioned the exact length of their whale, even though he can’t read yet.

Pickert writes:

Can the children make a life-size whale? The adult isn’t telling them, “You can’t do that. It would be huge. We don’t have room.” The adult is going to wait and let them go through the lengthy process of figuring it out on their own.

If you are considering unschooling but would like some concrete, practical ideas, I highly, highly recommend Project Based Homeschooling. I like this method because it does not require extremely structured learning but it also does not result in a free-for-all situation. It is a good balance for our family.

Subjects covered today: Nature, Reading, Biography, History



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