Project-Based Homeschooling {Book Review}

I’m so happy Lori Pickert of Camp Creek Blog has returned to the Internets this summer. She took a break, understandably, while she was writing a book. Now the book, Project-Based Homeschooling, is finished and available and she’s back with a new website. The blog is back, the forums are back, and I couldn’t wait to read her book, too.

During my first stint of homeschooling, Lori’s blog and ideas really inspired me. I kept reading even when we enrolled the boys in a local charter school, because there is plenty to delve into there whether you’re homeschooling or not. Anyone who considers themselves the ultimate guardian of their children’s education—and I never felt I relinquished that role just because they went to school—will find ideas to think about and act upon. Now that I’ll be officially homeschooling at least one child this academic year, I’m excited to really dive into project-based learning.

In fact, one of the reasons I felt like I could adjust to schooling the boys is because the school stated it had a project-based curriculum. Unfortunately, over the past three years I’ve realized that schools and individual teachers within schools may define that term very differently. Ultimately, I don’t feel that my children were experiencing true project-based learning. I feel I was completely misled, and I’ll leave it at that.

Because this particular blog began as a documentation of parent/child explorations of open-ended, process-oriented art activities, the quote I want to share with you from Lori’s book pertains to art:

Draw and paint and create alongside your child if the spirit moves you. Don’t worry about being “better” than he is. Art skills are no different from skills like reading, writing, cooking, or driving. You aren’t afraid your superior reading skills will make your child reluctant to read…Draw and paint together. Enjoy each other’s company. Your competence will inspire, not inhibit him, especially if you communicate your confidence that he’ll steadily grow as an artist, designer, and builder.

I was so thrilled to read this that I emailed Lori to thank her for writing it (and the book as a whole, too). That’s another thing about Lori—she is entirely accessible as a mentor. At any rate, this entire blog was built upon the idea that my children and I were being creative together. At a time in my life when I was not finding time to be creative on my own because of the needs of my children, being creative alongside them saved me in so many ways. I would read (online, usually) how parents mustn’t draw the same things as their children, mustn’t let them see our work while they were still working, lest we harm their fragile self-esteems or unduly influence their natural development of artistic skills by tempting them to copy our styles…that sort of thing.

That never felt right to me. While my kids and I were enjoying drawing or painting together, we were all of us, from the toddler right on up to me, inspiring each other, giving each other new ideas, marveling at each other’s own unique ways of seeing the world.  It only ever felt good, for all of us. I consider myself very in tune with my children, and not once did I feel I was doing them any sort of harm by sharing the joy of making art alongside them. It became a wonderful family activity, actually.

Art-making is only one part of Lori’s book, which is all about how, at home, to implement project-based learning—the deep investigation of a subject of the child’s choosing, with support from an adult mentor who walks the fine line of supporting without directing, encouraging without coercing. I am so excited to make this type of learning part of our home education.

{As always, I bought the book myself and my opinions—and biases—are all my own.}

6 thoughts on “Project-Based Homeschooling {Book Review}

  1. Lori

    thank you so much, amy!! 🙂

    re: being accessible as a mentor, i think it’s vital. you need a supportive community when you start wrestling with big ideas like helping your children direct and manage their own learning. hopefully the new site and the forums and my availability will support anyone who reads the book and needs or wants that help to try the ideas.

    re: the specific issue you touch on — drawing or making art with your children — i think the people who have the greatest success with project-based learning are those who aren’t afraid to embrace the same things they are championing for their child: investigation, experimentation, risking failure, trying big things, sharing with others. the best way to help your child become a thinker, learner, and doer is to actively think, learn, and do with them!

  2. Michelle

    Oh I so don’t worry about being better than my kids at things. Especially art. My 4yr old draws better the I do. 🙂
    But that’s another reason to do projects with them. Like Lori said, to experiment with them and to show your own imperfections. I think sometimes a flawed example is even better, since it encourages them to take big leaps without fear of “failure.”

    Can’t wait for my copy! Wait . . . There’s s forum? How did I not notice the forum??

  3. Rachelle Doorley (@TinkerLabTweets)

    Lori’s book sounds amazing. I never bought into that “don’t draw with your children” philosophy either. I think it’s a holdover from the world of art teaching where teachers instruct a room full of children on “how to make ‘x'” and then everyone makes the exact same thing. If the teachers don’t make art, the kids won’t copy them. How’s that for throwing the baby out with the bathwater? Teachers could easily work alongside their students, but they have to be mindful about how they do it. They can share techniques, difficulties, inspiration, but it should always come from a place of personal investigation rather than instruction. Great post, Amy.

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  5. amy (mamacout)

    love this post! i spend so much time with my kids and other homeschool kids – there is no way i could know everything. these kids are too smart. they kinda blow me away daily. out homeschool co-op goal is to create a community of learners. we all rely on each other and are more than willing to change course and follow a new idea as far as we need to.

    i am so glad i found your blog! we seem to have so much in common! i look forward to following you and digging deeper into your archives.

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