Thursday, April 28, 2016

Project Weeks

re-post of "Project Weeks"

Okay, so we’re doing pretty well, getting a lot of family learning time in; but what about the one-on-one?  Yes, I know, if you do a lot of multi-age learning there are those times when it seems someone is clamoring for attention or their lack of understanding in a certain area is calling for your undivided attention.  It happens and it’s normal.
Ariel with her study of the Arctic Tundra

Taylor with one of his engineering projects

Our answer was the invention of project weeks.  These were weeks that I planned in our schedule where each child got to choose what they did for the week (or sometimes two weeks.)  This did several things for us.
  1. It allowed us to still multi-age most subjects most of the year, while allowing “ownership” of each individual’s schooling. It allowed individual students to delve deeply into something they were interested in.
  2.  It helped students gain organizational and time management skills, as well as express their uniqueness as an individual.
  3.  If there is a special need or circumstance, it allows Mom (or primary teacher) to spend the week with more time to focus on getting that one child or situation taken care of.  For instance: you have a child who is just NOT getting long division, you can focus on only that with them for the week and the other children can work on their projects.
  4.  It creates a very unique project which is suitable for science or history fairs or other showcase opportunities.  Maybe it’s part of another organization like writing and preparing an original story to memorize and interpret for NCFCA speech and debate, or maybe it’s working on the final project for an Eagle Scout achievement.   These weeks are perfect for focused attention on these kinds of activities.
Need some ideas on what to study?  First of all the subject is really only limited by the student’s imagination; but for starters, here are some we did in the past:  Zulu (complete with life size shield replica), Samurai, Roman soldiers, Sled Dogs, Owls, DNA, Metals, the Heart (which happened to be the month before my sister had a heart attack!), Roman life, Phoenicians, Egypt, the History of the Chicken, Training Goldfish, Hatching chicken eggs, and lots more I’m forgetting….

So how do you pull this off?  First, start talking about it several weeks before you want to do it.  Tell everyone to start thinking about a subject they are interested in learning about.  They will need to have chosen their subject before the week begins.  On Monday of project week spend 15-20 minutes outlining with each child what they will do.  This will largely depend on age and the subject matter they’ve chosen but here’s generally what we do:
  1. Read books and research on line about chosen subject.  How many and how much depend on the age of the student and the subject.
  2.  Have some way of gathering/measuring what they’ve learned.  They may keep notes in a notebook, make note cards, or even record findings on an MP3 player.
  3. The last piece is some way to showcase what they’ve learned.  It could be a completed lapbook, a display board, a web-page, or even an oral presentation.
We break this up into days and what each day should accomplish.  Like Monday-gather books/research, start reading, Tuesday-Finish reading and organize facts, Wednesday plan “booklets” to go into lapbook display and begin making them, Friday-put lapbook together.   This helps them with their time management and scheduling skills.  It also reminds them that though this is a fun week it’s NOT a week off.

What is really nice is if you have somewhere to then be able to show your accomplishments.  For several years, we were part of a homeschool group that ran a yearly science fair and history fair.  Often our “project” week assignments ended up being the project they would take.  Now we do NCFCA (National Christian Forensic Communications Association) Speech and Debate and often take weeks for readying for those events.

As the kids got older our one week of project week turned into often two weeks and one year we even planned a whole month.  The last year or two we’d gotten out of this habit but just this month I was reminded again of how taking a break from the regular and instead taking a focused week can help both teacher and student.  It’s a nice break, number one, but also gives such a sense of accomplishment.  These weeks  also can expose or highlight areas of both strength and weakness which helps greatly in evaluating where you next need to go.

I hope you’ll give project weeks a try and see what it can do for your family!
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