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This week for homeschool project group, the kids spent the afternoon at the National Arboretum. We had prepared a scavenger hunt and brought along some art materials – plasticine, watercolour paints and oil pastels – for the kids to create and explore.
We are in-between projects at the moment, so our hope is to spark an interest among the children by being out in nature. We intend to spend the next few sessions outdoors, offering experiences to the children, exploring and observing.
There are six kids in our project group – 8,7,7,5,5,& 3 years old. We meet once a week for about an hour and a half. Two friends and I decided to start the group because we wanted our kids to have an opportunity to work together with other children on collaborative projects which would allow them to practice and develop essential life skills like, negotiating, problem solving, listening to and expressing opinions, sharing ideas, leadership and co-operation on a regular basis with children other than their sibling.
How we Choose Areas to Explore
Since starting our Homeschool Project Group, the kids have explored simple machines, microbes, decomposition, Ancient Egypt and most recently, pollination. You can see more of what we have been up to in my Instagram feed.
We (the three parents) talk a lot about what opportunities we would like to offer the kids. These are based on things we have observed from our children as well as conversations we have had with the kids over what areas they would like to explore more deeply.
When talking about selecting a project, Malaguzzi says,
Sometimes we pursue something that already belongs to them [the children, i.e an interest they already have], but other times we follow something new. The teachers [or parents] need only to observe and listen to the children, as they continuously suggest to us what interests them, and what they would like to explore in a deeper way. ~ The Hundred Languages of Children pg. 65
This is how we approach our homeschool project group sessions. Once we have decided on a general topic, we brainstorm some possible directions to take the project.
From there we will take turns facilitating a session. Some sessions will be very child-led as the kids work on their projects – carrying over from previous weeks – other times, it will be more adult-directed as the children are invited to participate in activities and explorations.
I attended a workshop recently introducing the Reggio Emilia Approach and the presenters talked a lot about intentionality. This was a real sticking point for me; the idea that projects are not entirely emergent in the present moment. That in fact, much consideration is done prior to starting a project where the educators discuss over-arching ideas/questions that they would like to explore in more depth with the children. They then continually revisit these ideas as the project develops.
It is true that we do not have planning and curricula. It is not true that we rely on improvisation, which is an enviable skill. We do not rely on chance either, because we are convinced that what we do not yet know can to some extent be anticipated. What we do know is that to work with children is to work one-third with certainty and two-thirds with uncertainty and the new. ~ Malaguzzi pg. 63
For our project group, we try to have an idea of where the children might take a topic or interest but are also continually reflecting and discussing opportunities; 1/3 known, 2/3s unknown.
I am planning on sharing more about our homeschool project group; what happens in the sessions, what materials we use, what kind of explorations we create for the children, how the children document their learning and how we continue to nurture an interest throughout the week, but for this post, I just wanted to give you an idea of how and why we got started and how we choose an area to explore together.
If you’re thinking you might like to start a homeschool project group with some friends, here’s a few things we thought about when we got started:
- like-minded adults with a similar approach to how children learn – this is so important! Our project group couldn’t work without this.
- a regular space to meet so the children become familiar with the environment – we usually use our homeschool studio
- a decent amount of time to play and explore – we decided on 90 minutes
- meet regularly so the children can maintain connectedness with their learning – we meet weekly
- we adults regularly discuss the direction of the project as well as take-turns facilitating sessions – we have a private Facebook group where we share ideas
Do you think you might like to start a homeschool project group with some like-minded friends?