This is the fourth installment in my Tressays Virtual Homeschool Conference. Let’s chill. EDITED: I didn’t spell the title right! How embarrassing!
I thought I would take a break from all the academic discussion and talk a little bit about homeschool projects. You can go to a hundred different homeschool blogs and find some amazing project or lapbook or costume that a family is working on to supplement their learning. Some people really enjoy doing such projects. I think that is great! Keep on keeping on! This blog post is for the rest of us.
I am not a hands-on learner. I do not enjoy projects. I didn’t even enjoy them when I was a kid. In elementary school I spent so much of my time making dioramas, posters, and painted ceramic molds. They all turned out very nice because I was a perfectionist in those days. (I am not sure what happened and why that changed.) However, I remember that I didn’t enjoy it very much. The height of my frustration with project learning came in the 9th grade. I was in a world history class and had to make something that would be used by an ancient civilization. I had no partner because I hated group learning even then. I chose to make a basket. I traded babysitting with my neighbor who made baskets. (It was not an even trade. Her kids were brats.) I made this beautiful heart-shaped basket. It was large. My teacher was not impressed on presentation day and proceeded to fill it with rocks. To his amazement, and mine, the basket held. He kept my basket forever. I never saw it again. I am still angry (can you tell?) and still don’t understand the purpose of that assignment.
Fast forward some years. I am now a homeschooling mom. I still hate projects, but it seems that this is what I am supposed to do. Everything on the internet shows me examples of young children’s work. Cute things they made. Projects that accompanied history lessons, math lessons, english lessons, you name it-there is a project for that. I felt terrible that I was just making my kids write narrations and do their math out of a textbook. I knuckled down and tried to get excited about projects for my kids.
This is one of the first projects we tackled. We were studying Ancient Egypt out of The Story of the World Vol. 1. The activity book is full of ideas to do with your kids while you are studying the ancient civilizations. I picked this one because it would be fun and meaningful. Right? I could say, “Look at what my kids made! We are great homeschoolers! They are really learning.” I remember the day we made this. (The kids don’t.) It was a messy day. It took us most of the afternoon to mold these items. I am not sure if the kids had fun or not. Maybe they did. Did it enrich my kids at all? Well, I dug them out of my “save forever” box this morning and showed them to the kids. “Do you remember these?” My daughter smiles and says, “We made those? Huh.” My son says, “Barely.” I could show you more from our study that they don’t remember.
Oh, lapbooking. Lapbooking is the thing in the homeschool world. You take small bits of information, write it on little bits of paper, and glue it on a manila file folder. If you are a really cool mom, you will buy colored file folders and use those! This was my first and only attempt at lapbooking. We were studying the Vikings, and I thought it would be a great way to learn about them. The kids were frustrated with the cutting. My son didn’t enjoy coloring. They would glue on their item and be merrily on their way leaving little scraps of paper all over for me to clean up. I think lapbooking can be a fun way to learn. I don’t think it is all bad. But my kids didn’t get all that was promised to me out of it. They know more about Loki from their reading and The Avengers than they do from this lapbook. Freckle Face made a lapbook at co-op. He seemed to enjoy it, but the teacher had all the pieces pre-cut. All he had to do was write and glue. I don’t even know where that lapbook is, and he never asks for it.
Along with the Egyptian cats, I brought this book down from my “save forever” box. “Do you remember this?” I asked my son. “YES! Let me see that! I haven’t seen that in forever,” he says. He proceeds to take it from my hands and spends the next few minutes looking through it. “I loved this thing,” he said. This was just a blank drawing book that I bought at a homeschool convention from a paper company. I gave one to each of the kids. It may have been for a nature journal, but I don’t remember. (I love the idea of a nature journal, but we never did one.) Instead, the kids filled it with their stories and drawings. I saved all the books. These books are more a representation of my kids than any lapbook ever will be. The books show who they were when they made them. They are more precious to them than the lapbooks ever will be.
Before you think that I am against anything remotely creative, I will add this picture. One day my daughter was complaining that we never do art. (It is a valid complaint. We don’t.) So to appease her, I searched at Deep Space Sparkle and found this project for her. I supplied her with everything she needed. I gave her the instructions to help her get started and sent her merrily on her way. I think she did a brilliant job. It is a very pretty picture. She loves it so much that it is still hanging on her wall. I didn’t need to be overly involved, and she made something lovely.
The point of this post is to free you from any guilt that you are not a good homeschooler if you don’t like doing projects. If you like projects, I think that is great! Keep on! But if you are like me, and projects make you miserable. Don’t worry about it. Stop stressing. Your kids are still going to learn. It took me a long time to free myself from that guilt. I thought my kids were missing out. I forced myself to do projects with them. Instead of turning our homeschool into this glorious learning environment, it sent me spiraling to burnout. Once I realized that lapbooking wasn’t the be-all end-all, things were better. My kids still learned. They drew pictures and wrote stories. Freckle Face has even made a card game. They are doing things that they want to do. Most importantly they still ask questions.
I wish that someone had told me a long time ago not to sweat the projects, so I am telling you. Making a popsicle stick bridge isn’t going to turn your kid into an engineer any more than making cupcakes will turn me into a professional baker. If they want to make a bridge, give them the stuff and let them. But don’t convince yourself that you are holding them back if you don’t do it. You aren’t. I promise.