Project-based learning is a homeschool approach were all learning opportunities are centered around a specific project or idea. We’ve used a project-based learning approach a number of times, with great success. It does take a bit of planning on my part, but I find that once we get started, my children get really excited and make the project their own.
How To Implement Project-Based Learning
Generally, our projects will take us through an entire week. My kids are 5 and 8 and I feel like we can introduce longer projects as they get older, but anything longer gets stale and anything shorter feels rushed. Also, it’s great to start the week with a new project. Everyone gets very excited and starts contributing a ton of ideas. It’s also nice to end the week with a sense of completion. Fridays are for finalizing our project and sharing it with others.
This week’s project for my boys was derived from a show on Netflix called Carmasters: Rust to Riches. If you haven’t seen it, this very creative auto mechanic shop takes in the old rusted out vintage cars and makes them entirely unique. It’s very well done and a show we all enjoy. My 8-year-old has amazing attention to detail and I started noticing that after the shows, he would start building models of the cars out of LEGO or drawing fantastics renderings of them. I decided to build on this interest through a project-based learning packet.
I generally start out with these packets because they resemble a book that is all their own and gives them a starting off point. I think that anyone taking on a new project can feel a bit overwhelmed, but when provided scaffolding to get started, the project owner will flourish and really make it their own.
Introducing the Project to Your Kids
Our first step in this project-based learning endeavor was to choose our favorite build from the show and make a model of it out of LEGO. It’s nice to start Mondays off with something fun to get them started. Once this is built, we write about it. Depending on the day, and how everyone feels, this may look like my son tell me about the vehicle, me writing it down and him copying it. If he’s feeling more motivated, he just gets right to it. Sometimes he even does two days worth of work in one day.
After the writing, we generally take a quick break and give ourselves a pat on that back!
During the project, my son chose one car to draw a diagram of with various parts labeled for his writing that day. I thought it was amazing and it’s still my favorite part of this project.
Incorporating Core Subjects into the Project
For math, I thought that we could learn about perimeter and area. This is going to be an ongoing focus for us for a month or so, so you’ll probably see it integrated into quite a few of our projects. I created some worksheets (free math printables, there is a link down at the bottom of the page) that showed how to figure out perimeter along with some graph paper. I asked him to trace the vehicle on the graph paper and then we figured out the perimeter together. For the second vehicle, I asked him to do it himself.
Project Based Learning & Diving Deeper Into Their Interests
For history, we spent some time learning about vintage vehicles. We have these great vintage car playing cards that have a ton of information on them, so we read these and did these additional card game worksheets (also free math printables, available here) for two-digit multiplication and some greater than/less than/equal to work.
We also took at trip to the Forney Museum of Transportation here in Denver to get a better understanding of what life was like during different eras of vintage vehicles and trains.
Project-Based Learning Provides Structure to Our Week
For us, project-based learning provides a sense of structure to our week, while still staying in a child-led learning mindset and being intentional about what and how I am teaching our kids. I don’t know if this is technically considered unschooling, but this is what works for us and brings joy to learning for our entire family. If you’re interested in applying a project-based learning approach to your homeschool curriculum, here are some resources that can provide you with ideas to jumpstart this learning approach and below are some free printables that we use to provide a bit of structure.