I know that I've previously mentioned our plans to move to a more interest-led education for Henry. However, it turns out that I have just enough neurosis to keep me chained to certain subjects and checklists. (Plus, I just want to do it all, and I want him to know everything. Is that too much to ask?)
I heard about Project-Based Home schooling a few years ago, and immediately bought the book by Lori Pickert. The thing is, after reading the book, I still wasn't sure how to implement this new way of doing school. We were knee deep in The Well Trained Mind way of doing things at that point, and this was kind of a 180. The other thing I should mention is that Henry is not the kind of kid that wants any of his interests to be "ruined by school." He's been firmly in the "I hate anything that looks like required learning," phase for a while. I'm not sure if it's residual from his year at a Montessori school, in which he decidedly did NOT like to learn, or if I've done something to "squash his love of learning," (a catch phrase I love about as much as the infant version, "break his spirit.") or perhaps it's who he is. (BINGO.) It took me a long, LONG time to figure out how to finesse a project out of him. I also took Lori's Project-Based Homeschooling Master Class over the summer, and it was just the inspiration I needed to let go and let Henry lead the way. (I highly recommend it if you need that extra push. ) I decided at that point that I was going to give Henry more free time to explore what his interests actually are, away from my constant attempts to turn everything into a project. I was just going to let him be.
I backed way off the project thing for a while, and just tried to follow his lead when it came to what curricula to buy. He was open to the online thing, so we signed him up for a class. It turns out it's just like me teaching him, and it requires work, so that's of course a "NO!" as well. This kid, I tell ya.
Then we decided to get Henry an iPad for his 9th birthday. Of course we obsessed over whether this was a good decision. Was he old enough? What would the limits be? Is this a one way ticket to a teenager locked in his room playing Call of Duty and plotting mass murder? Thankfully one of Henry's parents is not an anxiety ridden freak, and we came to the conclusion that we can, for now at least, keep the bad parts of technology in check, while teaching Henry how to use the good parts for creative fun.
Henry immediately got more into music upon receiving this iPad. (This has always been his "thing," but being the well-intentioned mother that I am, I've managed to turn music into another thing that needs to be done in the form of formal lessons. I'm learning, I promise.) He downloaded numerous music making apps and proceeded to produce his first record, with 7 songs. This in turn has inspired him to start a "DJ project." He just completed phase 1, which was to research and learn about various D.J. tools and figure out what he needs to get started. This just arrived, and he's onto phase 2. (Music creation and hopefully a live performance)
If you would like to know how this miracle of a project came to be, here is what I can say I did that made the biggest difference.
1. I backed off. I had to stop treating any little tiny thing he showed a slight interest in into the great big dream project I longed for him to have. This one came to him, and I could not have convinced him of this otherwise. It had to come from him, and really that's the whole point. Lori does say to be aware and ready to help nurture a project. I took this to mean "pounce on any interest and bug incessantly until he agrees to something."
2. I didn't call it school. This is pretty obvious. If you have a kid that doesn't value learning for learning's sake (and really I think kids do value learning, it just doesn't look the way we want it to look.) calling something school is the best way to squash the interest.
3. I was open to non traditional or non academic pursuits. I kept hoping he'd get into astronomy, or history of something that would look good on a college transcript. It was short sighted, and kept us from getting to something that he was actually passionate about. Also, anything can be a learning opportunity. We gave him a budget for this, and he had to use lots of intellectual tools and reasoning to even get this project started. You may have to be creative when presenting it as a learning fulfillment, but I don't think it will be too hard. Life is learning.
4. I got over my fear of technology. This is the world we are living in. I had a nice talk with my BFF about this the other day, and she helped me to see that it's just scary for us because we didn't grow up with technology. Yes there are times when it can be too much, but any job our kids have in the future, technology will be a part of it. I'm so glad we decided to get Henry the iPad, because it's led to some wonderful, creative endeavors.
5. I took the PBH Master Class This class jump started my new resolve to let go. The book was informative but this 6 week e-course was really what helped me to re-frame our home school to a more interest led as opposed to rigorous and classical approach. Lori provides students of the e course with a private forum to discuss the road blocks we face as well as the opportunity to inspire each other to go all the way with PBH. Lori is also active on the forums and really coaches you to think about learning in a PBH way.
6. I found Julie Bogart. I really think this is what got through to me. I've always romanticized the idea of "Unschooling" or "child led learning," but I could never figure out how to let go enough, and more importantly how to trust my child. I really credit my discovery of the amazing Julie Bogart, (who I will be writing extensively about!) with helping me finally realize my home school dream of nurturing a love of learning. I truly believe it's much more important to teach your children how to learn, and to nurture their creativity and curiosity than it is to fill their head with facts. Julie quoted a psychology textbook about learning on one of her popular scopes. She read, "Emotions and cognition cannot be separated and it's the combo of both that is at the heart of learning." Children need to feel an emotional connection to what they are learning, or it's not going to stick. What else can offer more of a connection than something the child chose his or herself as worthy of their time an attention?
(If you don't know Julie Bogart, start here.)
Now this is our first official project. I can't say I'm any sort of expert, or where this whole DJ project is going to end up. However, I've moved from working towards some end goal, to appreciating the journey as the real prize, and the dividends are growing exponentially.