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I'm a wife to my "Mr. Right". A momma of five. A maker of slow food and simple living. A collector of memories, a keeper of books, and a champion for books that make memories. An addict who likes my half-and-half with a splash of coffee. A fractured pot transformed by the One Who makes broken things beautiful. I heart homeschooling, brake for libraries, and am glad you're here with me on the journey! Be sure to subscribe to my daily digest via email or RSS feed. Or, follow along with Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Google +, Youtube, or Pinterest.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Independent Projects: 2013-2014 Update

Towards the end of the last school year, in addition to her mom-assigned fourth-grade curriculum, my daughter began completing independent projects.  At the time, I hadn't really heard or read much about this form of child-directed, self-teaching, and was not exactly sure what it should look like or be like.  While I am an eclectic homeschooler and delve into the shallow end of "un-schooling" occasionally, I have never jumped head first into ANY ONE style of learning.

Project Based Learning 2013-2014 {Ideas for child-led homeschool projects} The Unlikely Homeschool

Independent project-based learning, while not exactly "unschooling", has been a wonderful addition to her school days.  She has been able to freely explore topics that she is interested in or passionate about while still maintaining the consistency of other forms/methods of learning.

This first few projects and presentations were a bit of a learning curve for the both of us.  Eventually, she and I tweaked the original guidelines just a bit.

  • I no longer require her to choose a new topic every month.  Most projects, typically, last only that long.  But, a few have spilled over into the first few weeks of the next month.  In truth, the time frame is not important.  I want her to exhaust a topic...for the most part, I want her to learn all she can and all she wants about anything and everything. I still give her a tentative completion date, but use this more as a guide than a hard-and-fast rule.  I am more than willing to give an "extension" if I sense that she wants to continue to explore and has been diligent with her learning time. 
  • After hearing her formal presentation, each audience member (usually family/extended family) is allowed to ask questions and is then encouraged to give two positive comments and one constructive criticism.  This has REALLY helped her to improve her public speaking ability and comfort level.  
  • Since project-based learning is very three-dimensional and difficult to keep record of, for the sake of school legalities, I have kept a brief log of most of her resources...next year, she will be assigned to do this...and a brief description of how the learned material was eventually presented to others.  I will be adding this log to her section of the annual homeschool portfolio at the end of the school year.
She just presented her final 5th grade project last night.  Here's a look at what she learned independently this year.

5th Grade Independent Projects 

Whole Foods vs. Processed Foods

After EXTENSIVE on-line research (youtube videos, blog articles, recipes, label reading, etc.), she made homemade versions of three popular snack items (Cheez-Its, microwave carmel corn, and ranch dressing dip) and conducted a taste test with family members to see if they preferred the store-bought or the home-made varieties.  She, then, showed the taste-testers a chart that she had made of the ingredient lists of both varieties.    

Project Based Learning 2013-2014 {Ideas for child-led homeschool projects} The Unlikely Homeschool

She also gave a thorough presentation of the harmful effects of processed foods, the processed food industry, and GMOs.  My favorite quote from her speech...

"If a tomato has been sprayed with so many pesticides that a bug won't even eat it, why would I want to eat it?!"

 Project Based Learning 2013-2014 {Ideas for child-led homeschool projects} The Unlikely Homeschool

Scripture Verse Memorization

In addition to memorizing and reciting the entire chapter of Psalm 23, she also put together a brief presentation for her younger brothers' benefit on how to correctly look up/find a particular verse in the Bible.  

American Sign Language

During her oral presentation, she explained what signing is and how it was developed in America, gave a few helpful tips to communicating with the deaf culture, and then demonstrated the sign for each letter of the alphabet as well as samplings from the following categories:  animals, sports, family, feelings, and food.  Her presentation, along with an ASL play we all attended together, has sparked an interest for all the other kids and I to learn some conversational signs.  

Crochet

After watching several "introduction to crochet" type videos, she spent a few weeks creating a one-of-a-kind infinity scarf.  (For future reference, dark brown is a REALLY bad choice of color to use when learning to crochet.  The dark fibers make it hard to see your completed stitches.)

Project Based Learning 2013-2014 {Ideas for child-led homeschool projects} The Unlikely Homeschool


Tot School

After spending a couple of weeks researching, planning, creating, and scheduling possible Tot School ideas, she "presented" her findings by testing them out on her baby brother.  She spent a half hour in the morning and a half hour in the afternoon ever day for two weeks teaching through play.  I don't know who loved it more, The Newbie or me!

Project Based Learning 2013-2014 {Ideas for child-led homeschool projects} The Unlikely Homeschool

When asked why she chose Tot School as an independent project, she said, "He'll only be a tot for a little while longer and I don't want to miss it."

Project Based Learning 2013-2014 {Ideas for child-led homeschool projects} The Unlikely Homeschool

Amy Carmichael

After reading three different biographies of Amy Carmichael, she wrote a biographical report about the beloved missionary.  During the presentation, she read her report, used a map to detail Amy's extensive travels, and shared a few personal stories from Amy's ministry to the people of India.  In addition, she also gave a few cultural explanations so that the stories of Amy's life would make more sense to her listeners.  

Project Based Learning 2013-2014 {Ideas for child-led homeschool projects} The Unlikely Homeschool

She's already cookin' up plans for next year's topics.  I can't wait to see what they are, but more importantly, what she learns from the process.

For more ideas to get started incorporating independent, project-based learning into your homeschool days, be sure to visit my Project-Based Learning Board on Pinterest.

8 comments:

  1. This is an awesome idea! My 12 year old daughter is an avid researcher. It would be nice to have her share it in a presentation. This is what we're doing next year!

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    1. I'd love to know how it goes for you. Be sure to stop back and let me know!

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  2. So wonderful! What age do you start your kids doing things like this? Are any of your little men doing this at their current ages (grade levels)?

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    1. Although we do quite a bit of project-based learning as a group, my boys have not yet done any independent projects of this nature. It always depends upon the kid of course, but I would recommend this type of learning for fourth and above. It kind of goes back to my firmly held belief that a child has to pass through the LEARNING to read stage (k-3rd) and be in the reading TO LEARN phase (fourth and beyond) in order to do any real independent learning from books or on-line. Otherwise, you, as the mom, are too involved and it can't be considered INDEPENDENT learning.

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  3. I think you are doing a marvelous job! This is such a blessing to see, and your young people will be so well equipped for any place they wish to go as adults. You are allowing them to think and do hand-on, to communicate and work together! Good job, Mama :)

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    1. Thanks for the encouragement. These independent projects have been a wonderful addition to her school days.

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  4. Were these studies in addition to her other subjects or were they more of a unit study? Did she have a set amount of time a day or weeks he had to dedicate to this?

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    1. Tanya, they were in addition to her regular studies. I typically gave her about a month to work on each unit. Because they were independent in nature, she was responsible for setting her own pace. She was required to do SOMETHING each day...read a book, watch a video, plan, etc. But, she determined how long to work on it each day. Be sure to read the original post for more of the details on how it all works.

      http://www.theunlikelyhomeschool.com/2013/05/an-introduction-to-independent-project.html

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