Encourage Independent Learning from Home: Part 2

The Independent Project Plan

In the previous post, I used my teacher brain to create a plan for each of my kiddos around a topic that they were interested in. This post explains my plan of attack for when the inevitable happens: my kids start to lose interest.

In the last post, I referred to the giant box phenomenon with kids and how they could have the latest greatest toy at their disposal, but a giant box and a few rudimentary materials like scissors, tape, and markers will get the award for time-on-task every time.

And why is that? As humans, there are few things more satisfying than creating something new or coming up with solution to perplexing problem. And kids are mini-humans that just need a little structure, a push in the right direction, and space to take risks with their learning.

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Full disclosure: What I’m about to share is purely theoretical. I have successfully done similar things with classes of 20+ lower and upper elementary students, but I sent them home at the end of each day.

My goal here is to help unplanned homeschool parents like myself quickly get something going. Email me in a week and I may find me voluntarily quarantined due to the temporary insanity caused by multiple projects going on in my house simultaneously. Time will tell.

Now that you have read my disclaimer, here’s the project plan. It’s really quite simple with just 4 items: the idea, steps, materials, and presentation.

First, the project idea. What would your child like to create based on the learning of their topic? In the example of my one son choosing roller coasters as his topic, he decided he wanted to make a model roller coaster. I then pushed him a little further to think of an objective or mission for his build. Something that ties it to STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) or even the Arts. He might choose to create a roller that demonstrates kinetic energy (one of the new words he learned in his reading). Or perhaps build one in his roller coaster tycoon video game and explore and track the business side of owning a roller coaster. Or maybe he will let his right brain take over and create a music video explaining how roller coasters work.

Regardless of what he chooses, he will need to incorporate his new learning from all of his reading about roller coasters and make it visible in his project and presentation, which we will get to.

And as mentioned in the last post, my job will be to tell him what he needs to do but leave the how he does it left for him to decide.

For simple project ideas, check out Independent Learning Bingo.

Now that your child has an idea, it’s time to get some basic steps and the materials they will need on paper. This is to help them think through their idea from design, to construction, to initial testing. For example, will they draw their design? What materials will they need? How will they know it works? Requiring your child to think through the project versus diving in is a great lesson in and of itself. Just keep in mind that it is not important that they try to think of every little thing, only enough to, once again, provide a little bit of structure and nudge in the direction of their choosing.

It’s also extremely important that once they have a basic plan, they have the space to roll with it. A huge part of learning how to innovate is to have the space to take risks, fail, and go back to the drawing board with the lessons learned from the failure.

Independent Project Plan: Steps and Materials

Tip: Grab a box with your child’s name. Use this to store materials for their project when they are not working on it.

And finally, the presentation. How and to whom will your child present their awesomely amazing project? Maybe they want to do a live demonstration, video or powerpoint? Whatever your child chooses, it is sure to be a success as long as them demonstrate their learning journey! And remind them to grab pictures to include in their final presentation. We all love before and after pictures, and this is no exception.

I hope you find these simple learning templates helpful. Please email me with feedback, ideas, or changes that you made.

Be well and enjoy this unexpected time together!