can also provide suitable means to apply
the project method. This type of “
education” appeals a great deal to young boys,
who are often frustrated by the “sit down
and study” type of education that is common in more traditional education.
The typical steps in the project method
are as follows:
1. Brainstorm about possible projects
that you and the children would be
interested in doing, and then
2. Set goals together, and discuss some
of the reasons that this particular
project is worthwhile. Make sure you
all have sufficient motivation to follow through!
3. Plan the project as much as you can,
but allow some flexibility. Sometimes
projects wind up taking on lives of
4. Determine what materials you will
need to execute the project, and
either purchase or create them. Be
sure to involve children in every step
along the way.
5. Begin the project. Try to work
together as a team. As with most
projects, there should be a leader,
but tasks should be delegated based
on the skills, talents, and interests
of each person involved. Consider
having one of the children be the
“leader” in a project once in a while.
It doesn’t always have to be an adult.
6. Follow through. Be sure to complete the project. One of the worst
things you can do is to continually
start projects and never finish them,
which teaches the exact opposite of
what you are trying to accomplish.
One of the problems I see with a lot of
homeschooling mothers is that they love
the idea of doing these types of projects
but somehow either doubt their ability to follow through or simply feel that
they don’t have enough time to do them.
In my opinion, these kinds of projects
can be even more educational than having the children sit around a table doing
bookwork all day. Once children get involved in an interesting experience, they
may also read books about the project,
write in a journal, keep records, and even
use math skills as a natural part of that
project. It may be beneficial to set aside
more traditional education for a time in
order to try something a little different.
Finally, I know that some of us, in-
cluding me, are much better at thinking,
planning, and dreaming about work-
ing on projects such as these than we
are at actually carrying them out. In
Bill Bryson’s wonderful book, A Walk
in the Woods,
1 which talks about his
experiences on the Appalachian Trail,
Projects . . . . can teach
effective goal setting,
and evaluating skills in a
environment . . . .
he writes about the two people most
responsible for the building of the trail:
Benton MacKaye and Myron Avery. He
describes MacKaye as a “well-meaning
visionary.” Bryson stated that nothing
happened for quite a while after Mac
Kaye came up with the original idea, because “MacKaye occupied himself with
refining and expanding his vision until
he and it were only tangentially connected to the real world.” It was Avery
who took over, mapped the trail, located volunteers, personally supervised
its construction, and walked every inch
of the 2,000-mile trail himself. Thinking and dreaming are great, but until
you start to actually do a project, not a
whole lot will be accomplished!
When used correctly, projects can add
spice to your curriculum or even constitute the bulk of your educational efforts.
They can involve and inspire those who
are resistant to bookwork and provide
a framework for the use of books and
writing experiences. They can be used as
additional exercises to supplement unit
studies or provide a break from more
structured experiences. Above all, they
can teach effective goal-setting, planning,
executing, and evaluating skills in a natural, family-centered environment, which
will not only help your children prepare
for adult life but also will give you the
gratification of knowing you can come
up with interesting projects and follow
through until they are completed.
Mary Hood, Ph.D., and her husband, Roy,
homeschooled their five children since the
early 1980s. All have successfully made the
transition to adulthood. Mary has a Ph.D.
in education and is the director of ARCHERS for the Lord, Inc. (The Association
of Relaxed Christian Home Educators). She
is the author of The Relaxed Home School,
The Joyful Home Schooler, and other
books, and is available for speaking engagements. Contact her via her website, www
1. Bryson, Bill, A Walk in the Woods, Random
House, 1998, pp. 38–41.
Expert advice to help your
child crack the exams!