Ever feel like as a homeschooler, you’re doing everything wrong? I’ve got news for you, homeschool moms. Homeschooling is actually the origin of Project-Based learning. Educational professionals are finally catching on.
Every few years, educational professionals and curriculum specialists latch on to the next big thing. I should know – I was one, for a very long time.
As a former secondary educator and adjunct college professor, I can tell you that professional educators are serious about their jobs. They love their students; they love creating an engaging educational environment for their students. But there are outside restrictions – limitations – that make the ideal circumstances difficult to reach. Large class sizes, an emphasis on educational testing and standards of learning, and a focus on customer service in addition to student success makes the traditional classroom problematic.
And yes, most educators are aware of that.
Enter educational trends. Some movements are decidedly better than others, both in theory and practical application. Take whole language, for example, which dawned during the mid-80s. This context-based approach to literacy education focused on memorization and meaning rather than sound and phonemic awareness. Ultimately, it provided little improvement in reading education and was abandoned after a two-decade-long run.
What I’ve been noticing lately, though, is a shift toward more practical application:
Educational specialists are taking a cue from homeschool moms, and it’s really, really cool.
Project-Based Learning has been the next big thing in education for the last ten years or so. The idea is to create real-world problem-solving situations in the classroom, and through that, provide learning opportunities more valuable than traditional schooling practices. Educational theorists argue students are better prepared for college, and better prepared for professional lives, too.
What strikes me as interesting in this whole situation? We could have told them a long time ago it’s the most authentic way to learn.
Homeschooling is the epitome of Project-Based Learning. Looks like educational professionals are finally catching on.
In Project-Based Learning, students learn through investigation – a process that lasts anywhere from several days to a month. They work with an exciting, complex question: the goal is to solve a problem or find a solution to a challenge they want to explore.
Does this remind you of anything you do in your homeschool? It should – we do it naturally by the lives we lead. Our children learn in the ultimate inquiry environment: there’s no outside pressure telling them what, when, and wherefore. They can dive into whatever topic they please.
There is a “Gold Standard” of Project-Based Learning, an ideal manner of implementation developed by educational experts in the field. But if you look at the elements which encompass this Gold Standard, you’ll find you’re looking at the learning at your dining room table. Leave it to homeschoolers to take the educational lead.
Project-Based Learning focuses on comprehension and the development of particular thinking skills.
The goal is the development of intellectual dexterity: critical thinking, communication skills, collaborative skills, and executive functioning.
Project-Based Learning relies on meaningful education.
Students immerse themselves in practical application, searching for answers to problems that will matter in the grand scheme of things.
Project-Based Learning requires continual discovery
Students ask questions, search for resources, and apply them in the way they need.
Project-Based Learning is real-world learning
Students solve problems and issues that are relevant to their own lives.
Project-Based Learning fosters ownership in education
Students make decisions about the progression of the project. They take control and responsibility for what they do, when they do it, and why.
Project-Based Learning encourages self-reflection
Students stop to think about the discoveries they are making, and how effective the process of inquiry is as they move forward over time.
Project-Based Learning offers the opportunity for revision
Students review and make changes to the work they’ve done to make sure their efforts are in line with the project’s end goal
Project-Based Learning results in a public product
Students present their solution beyond the classroom, in many cases, putting the answer into practice in the community at large
Those field studies you do in the sunny months of summer?
The letters to the editor you wrote and sent out a few months ago?
That catapult you built to figure out the right height for pitching a cantaloupe into the treetops (okay, I know I’m exaggerating, but you get the idea I hope)?
That is Project-Based Learning.
It’s what we’ve always done as homeschoolers.
Good thing the educational system is starting to catch on.