Thursday, October 6, 2016
The Value of Projects, and Why We Don't Have "Grade Levels" Anymore...
The core idea of project-based learning is that real-world problems capture students' interest and provoke serious thinking as the students acquire and apply new knowledge in a problem-solving context. The teacher plays the role of facilitator, working with students to frame worthwhile questions, structuring meaningful tasks, coaching both knowledge development and social skills, and carefully assessing what students have learned from the experience. Advocates assert that project-based learning helps prepare students for the thinking and collaboration skills required in the workplace.
I think it also teaches follow-through, and allows varying methods of approaching varying topics. For my kids at least, hands-on learning is as important as book-based learning, and their projects will/do reflect that.
The Boy is already at work on his... the restoration of a 1940 Ford step-side pickup. He is essentially an apprentice: working under the tutelage of someone with vastly more experience; learning each part of what it takes to entirely rebuild an older vehicle from the smallest to the largest parts. It feeds his greatest passion as well, working with automobiles, and he knows it will provide him with valuable skills for his future. His plans for the immediate future, outlined further below, reflect his knowledge that this is what he wants to do.
As for The Girl, it seems likely, at the moment, that turning our yards, back and front, into a wildlife habitat will be her project (with my assistance/mentorship). But, she doesn't have to decide right this moment, as she has a few years left ahead of her as far as really homeschooling goes.
So...grade levels. I've pretty much abolished them as I think they are unnecessary for us. Instead, I'm coming up with a checklist of what each kid needs to complete to graduate, since as a private school, we set our own graduation requirements. Mine are as follows, though they are still a work in progress:
Language Arts: Be able to write effectively, and communicate orally with ease. This means they can write strong essays with different approaches, communicate properly with mail and email, and enjoy a discussion of literature, along with discussing other topics. My goal is to get them into an upper entry level English class at the junior college without trouble or remediation.
Math: They need to work up through Algebra 2, mostly if not all at home, and then do a semester of personal finance (or in The Boy's case, for his certificate program/associate's degree, Business Math). Each will also take an upper math class at the junior college, toward transfer credit (The Girl), or an associate's degree (The Boy).
History and Science: Historical and scientific literacy is my goal here. We delve more deeply when needed, and skim other topics as desired. They don't need to know everything about every field of science, or every point in history, but need to be familiar with how things work, and how they fit together.
Project-Based Learning: They will each complete a major project (see above).
Volunteer Work: Each will complete a minimum of 100 hours community service, which is actually pretty easy to do, since they already have numerous hours with food banks, puppy petting, and bicycle repair.
As I said, this is a work in progress, so we'll see what I come up with!
The Boy is in a period of transition. While he will continue some learning at home, he is getting ready to shift toward more junior college classes, moving forward toward an associate's degree in automotive technology. He'll be sixteen in the spring, and is, I think, mature enough to handle this challenge and period of change.
On the flip side, The Girl says she will not be ready to start at the junior college until she is about sixteen, which is fine. She'll be (as far as we know) doing her undergrad work there, before transferring to the local university for biology/wildlife studies.
I have come to really feel comfortable with this hybrid approach as they get older. They are no longer dependent on only my instruction, which is definitely a transition, but a good one.