Getting Started with a Homeschool Project Group

Art Activities for Homeschool - Outdoor Art with Nature - An Everyday Story

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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

Art Activities for Homeschool - Outdoor Art with Nature - An Everyday Story Art Activities for Homeschool - Outdoor Art with Nature - An Everyday StorySince 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.

Art Activities for Homeschool - Outdoor Art with Nature - An Everyday Story

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?

14 comments on “Getting Started with a Homeschool Project Group”

  1. Jules

    I’ve been following your project group photos on instagram and they are really inspiring. This is definitely something I want for my children. I am feeling more confident though about approaching some people in our homeschool co-op. Thank you for all the inspiration and support.

  2. Sammy

    Thank you for this. It’s very informative and inspiring. I too want something like this. It looks incredible.
    And Happy Mothers’ Day to an extraordinary mum 🙂 🙂

  3. Shannon

    Do you feel the 90 minutes is enough time for them to complete projects? How to wrap up the time after the 90 minutes is up? I don’t have a separate “studio” so our group would take place basically in my kitchen, so I’d have clean up afterwards, I don’t have a place where in progress projects could remain. Thanks for all the inspirations-I’m wanting to do this with a current group.

    • Kate

      Sometimes it’s enough and sometimes we have to wrap the kids up and finish the session. If we have to wrap them up, we talk about what we can do during the week and make plans for next week. The kids usually keep their projects in the studio on a shelf. You could have a large basket or something similar to keep the projects in, or maybe the kids could take them home to work on them and bring them back again, if you don’t have space to keep them.

      • Shannon

        Great suggestions! Love the basket idea! I may even be able to find a shelf somewhere! Thank you for sharing!!! ?

  4. Amanda Holt

    Thank you for sharing this part of your homeschool journey. I’m currently working on putting together a group of like-minded families and I would love to approach our time together similar to what you have described. So excited to hear more on this!

    • Kate

      Thanks Amanda 🙂 It is such a lovely group – definitely something we look forward to each week.

  5. Jane Ndukwe

    This is a fantastic idea. I’ll like to start a home school project out here in Nigeria. I would certainly appreciate every guidance I can receive on this project, thank you.

    • Rachel senbanjo

      Hi Jane, whereabouts in Nigeria are you? I am in lagos and doing project based work with my children! Rachel

  6. Laura

    I’ve happily stumbled across your lovely blog this past week and have enjoyed reading many of your posts. I have taught early childhood undergrads a course called the The Project Approach which is a Reggio-inspired take on inquiry based learning. I’ve tried to incorporate the philosophy into my current preschool classroom but have met some resistance and I am now happily looking forward to leaving the school setting to begin homeschooling my 5 and 2.5 year old children. This post is timely as I can appreciate the importance of providing a dynamic project group and having like-minded peers to collaborate with. In my location, New Hampshire, US, there is a small but passionate group of homeschoolers who celebrate the child-centered learning that our public schools have completely lost touch with. Considering our current political circus here, it would appear that this mindset will not be changing anytime soon!!!

    Anyways, I appreciate the commitment you have made to your children – your passion is evident. Thank you also for taking the time to share your journey with us all. The more people who can embrace the hundred languages, and truly listen, the better off the next generation will be!

  7. Alaina

    Thank you for posting this, it is perfect timing for me! I’ve been reading your posts about the home school co-op with interest for a long time, and thinking how much my older son in particular would enjoy this kind of learning. I had just made the decision to just go for it, and up pops your post! Just right to show the other families I hope to involve.
    Always love your blog. Alaina xxx

    • Kate

      Thanks Alaina 🙂 I hope the other families are excited to get started too. It really is such a wonderful experience for the kids.

  8. Melissa Kate

    Oh Kate, so inspiring time after time. Thank you! I read Lori Pickert’s book on project based learning a couple of years ago now and after reading more on the Reggio style, of children learning through each others discoveries, I thought we might be able to combine them both so we could be part of project group with our home education. Having an only child I really want this group learning experience for him. This post has reinvigorated me to put in some effort to find like-minded families who want a similar experience for their children. Thanks for sharing your journey so openly with us all. <3

  9. Stef Metcalfe

    Thanks Kate,
    I run a Reggio inspired nursery in the uk and always enjoy your posts. This is perfect timing as I am just setting up a simple art atelier and can share your experiences in project work with my staff team. I am sure they will feel inspired-you have a knack of explaining things in such an accessible way!
    Stef at Secret Garden Nursery

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