I am an avid fan of homeschooling. Anyone who’s ever talked to me for even a few minutes knows that. I belong to a few homeschool groups, have taking some classes to teach myself homeschooling methods, and I like to think I’m somewhat active in the homeschool community on twitter. I love homeschooling so much, that one of the first things I have done in this house we just bought is make a homeschool (or project) room.
But wait, doesn’t your daughter go to traditional school?
She absolutely does. And it’s a testament to how much I love my hubby that he didn’t even hint at that question when I shared my plans for the room. I would love to be able to homeschool Mini, but there are a whole host of reasons that’s not something that’s going to happen. Plus, she likes her school and the immersion environment is not something I can give her at home. So, I have made my peace with it. But I am not one to give up so easily.
Introducing PBH – Talk About It!
It’s been over a year now since I met Lori on Twitter. Someone linked to an article, sadly I can not remember which it was, and there I stumbled upon her amazing book, Project-Based Homeschooling. Want to know how much I love that book? I brought it with me as my reading material on my honeymoon last year, THAT’S HOW MUCH. I remember sitting on the deck of the cruise ship, slowly sliding past the Tracy Arm Glacier, and talking with N about the kind of family culture I wanted. See, PBH is sooo much more than just a homeschool method. It’s a way that a family operates. And we made a decision right from the get-go that this was a foundation we wanted in place.
So, we talked about it. N and I talked, I talked about it with my parents, I talked about it with friends, and most importantly, I talked about it to, and in front of, Mini. Instead of answering random questions of her out of hand, I encouraged her to look it up, offering internet searches and library time. She caught on to my game fairly quickly, but didn’t seem too interested in doing the work herself. I was helped a long to a great degree, by one of Mini’s penpals, Amy‘s son. He wrote in one of his letters that his favorite class in his homeschool was Project Time.
“Mommy, what’s Project Time?”
Cue angel choirs, the first baby step has been reached. I wanted her to come to me. This was not another one of mommy’s ideas. I wanted it to be something that she was excited about. We talked about how I’d stopped just answering her questions, and that she was totally capable of researching many answers on her own. Projects, as I defined them to her, were things you wanted to learn more about. Not just a little bit, but a lot. I gave her some examples of things that I have or am teaching myself to do. Namely bread recipes and sewing.
She was intrigued and began to start looking into things on her own. Fortunately, Christmas was right around the corner.
A Place To Call Her Own
I love the idea of a family gathered around a table, all working on projects. Many families have project time very successfully this way. But not our family. I often need the table for large projects of my own such as a cookie or baking order. Plus, I like for us to sit around the table and eat as a family. Not so easy to do when random model and craft parts cover the entire surface. I didn’t want N and my stuff preventing Mini from working on something she wanted to do. So, her workstation was born. We re-purposed some cabinets from our kitchen remodel that didn’t get used, covered with a glass table top from IKEA, added a chair and voila! Project Space!
I have to say, it was probably one of the best Christmas gifts I’ve ever given. N did a great job of putting it all together, and Mini was stoked. Christmas holidays was a great time of painting, drawing, science-ing, and all that great stuff. The table had a ton of storage, which was awesome. Although, a lot of it was fairly deep storage which meant a lot of “out of sight, out of mind” began to happen. Had we stayed at that house, some additional shelving I think would have been needed.
Not There Yet
PBH is a process. It started with making some really definite choices about what kinds of things were going to be important to our family, and it’s on-going. Every day we have to remake those decisions, one way or another. So, we had mostly everything in place. Mini wasn’t really engaging in deep project work. She sure played a lot of Minecraft, and I know she’s learning a lot from that. But, something was missing. Projects were still largely a “mommy idea” and not something that she took ownership of.
Until one day, on the way home from school near the end of last year, we had a breakthrough. Somehow, the topic of homeschooling came up. And Mini said that sometimes, she really wished she could be homeschooled. They would do a unit in school, she told me, but just when she was really getting into it – they changed! All the books on the topic vanished, and that was that.
I told her it didn’t have to be that way, that’s why she had a workstation! She could still go to traditional school AND have the benefits of homeschooling. Any time there was a topic that she learned about it school that she wanted to explore more, she just needed to tell me, I would add it to the list. That night, we talked a lot about projects, and worked on a list of topics she was interested in. Then, armed with the list the following afternoon, we hit the library. She took out books and pored over them, coming up with random facts and thoughts.
Unfortunately, a move kind of shook up our whole routine. We slipped out of project time for a number of months now. And between boxes and vacations not much has happened to further the breakthrough we made.
A Step Further – The Project Room
Armed with a new house that featured a partially unfinished basement that just happened to have a small room blocked off with a TON of shelves, I got to work! Mini was gone for two weeks, this was my chance.
This is the room. N put her desk together (hidden behind the doll house) and the rest was up to me. First thing I did was gutted the room. As I moved the boxes out I put the ones that had craft/project type stuff in it in one particular area, and then stacked the rest out of the way. We still need a lot of the shelving for storage, but I cleared one whole level for project supply use.
Next I set up my new desk right next to Mini’s. A huge part of PBH culture is modeling that for your kids. What better way to do that than working on my own projects right next to her?? As I was gutting and organizing, I put in an Amazon order for a few little things I wanted to spice it up a little. A lot of the supplies would be things we already had, but weren’t getting used. My goal was to set them out, easy and accessible, and then fill in the gaps later as true project work emerged.
I gathered all the supplies I could find (I am sure there are more, but this is definitely a good start!) and put them on my desk. Sidenote – is my desk not awesome?! It’s about 4 1/2 feet wide, with a shelf on top, and little swing out table. I am in love with it.
The supplies were fairly basic:
- pencils and pens
- crayons and felts
- Tape (not all is pictured)
- more tape
- even more tape (tape is the official mascot of PBH)
- paint and brushes
- random craft bits I found from the dollar store, etc
Included in this are a few more invested supplies, these are for areas that I know Mini has a deeper interest in, and I was comfortable shelling out additional money for them:
- microscope (not pictured)
- story cards (Story World and Fairy Magic – suggested by a mom on Facebook)
- I Wish I Knew That Science (thanks Misa for the suggestion on that one!)
- story cubes
With the supplies sorted, and my having a general idea of how I wanted to group things together, I hit up the dollar store for some organizational tools. I went for really nice ones, because I wanted everything to have an air of importance if that makes sense. Then came the fun of putting it all together!
Look at all those lovely supplies, just waiting to be explored!
The room itself is not yet done. I’d like to fix it up a little, decorate, make it less basement and more fresh feeling. But here’s a shot of the room anyway.
Bonus shot of our two adorable kitties, Salem and Nameless, who seem to love the project room too. Mini was very surprised, and absolutely loved it. I’ve given her one of my shopping list sheets, and told her to have fun exploring the room over the next little bit, making note of any supply she wishes we had in there. We talked about how if the list was too long or pricey that we’d come up with a fair budget and she could prioritize what she needed most.
Driving her home from her Dad’s house today, a major topic of conversation was how much Minecraft she was going to play when she got home. It’s been about three weeks since she’s played it, and I get that she’s missing it. I said nothing, and waited for the surprise. She loved hearing that anything in the supply area she could use whenever (with a note on wearing appropriate clothes for painting!) I walked her through each cubby, as I know it’s not exactly super bare bones and I didn’t want her to be overwhelmed. After we talked about each, and I reaffirmed that this was all for her use, anytime she wanted (time allowing), she looks at me with the biggest smile, tells me she’s going upstairs to change into comfy clothes, and then coming back to write a book!
As I suspected, the notebooks, story cards and cubes were a huge hit. She spent a while sorting through the cards, selecting features for her story. I listened to the ideas come as she looked at the pictures, the plot slowly expanding in her mind. It was just amazing to see, won’t lie… there might have been tears. I left her to it for a little bit, and then came back down to see what she’d been up to. Barely looking up from her writing she starts telling me about this story, and all the characters she’s putting in. Page after page was filled with beautifully descriptive notes about the story. With her permission I’m sharing a couple here:
… walls made from the sturdiest stone with bars and gates built with the strongest steel imaginable.
The king is a fair and just man with a cat only he can clearly understand. This cat thing is getting in the way of people seeing who he is clearly.
I am so very excited to see where this leads. I sat with her for a little bit, taking some notes about what she was doing. I didn’t want to interrupt too much. I am going to treasure that moment for a long time I think.