Reflecting on the Success of Project Based Learning


I know this is usually my collage day, accounting our week of learning.  This week we have been busy getting over infections and working towards our presentation (which due to illness had to be postponed to next Tuesday).  I didn’t have the time nor the inclination to take any photos.  We did however, bring to a close our twelve or so weeks of learning using projects as our primary learning method and I want to document the successes and failures of this educational experiment.

First up, projects have been a huge success in our household overall.  Individually, they will need tweaking to make them work better for each child, but in the main, I think we have found a method of home schooling which works pretty perfectly for us.   It seems like all our home schooling over the past ten years or so has naturally led us to project based learning.

Bizarrely, backing off and letting them have more say and more freedom has probably been the steepest learning curve for me.  Having always been the driving force of our home school it is difficult for me now to know when I should step in and when I should sit back and let the child figure something out for themselves. One of my children would be quite happy to allow me to do all their work should I be so inclined and so I have to be particularly careful with that child to make sure they are working to the fullest of their potential rather than at half mast.

I have learnt that I very much enjoy watching my children each explore their own ways of learning, which are all so different.  It has been very interesting for me to discover that T12 wants me as far away as possible from his learning.  He will ask for help, but he likes pretty much total independence and has completely blossomed under that freedom.


This term he chose the War of the Roses to study and confidently set about researching on his lap top.  This was a new acquisition for his birthday and Christmas and it has been such a help to his school work we have decided to get L and C one before their birthday in October.  What astounded me the most was his 1000 word play he wrote documenting his learning, which he then filmed using his sisters and father as his actors.  This was a big undertaking for someone who hates writing and had never really operated a video camera before.  He figured out everything by himself and has learnt so much.  His film, whilst incredibly good given his lack of experience, was a little on the dark side.  Even though he had lit the area with all the lamps he could get his hands on, Gary could hardly be seen.  He is already trouble shooting that issue in preparation for his next film.  Also, he filmed in stages, filming each scene at different times of the day, depending when each actor was available.  The problem was that the lighting tended to be different in each scene and when they were pasted together there was a lack of continuity in lighting.  So again this is something he will address in time for his next film.

L11 has enjoyed the practical nature of project work, and coming up with ideas.  She, however, does not enjoy learning alone.  Whilst she wants to actually carry out the work herself, she needs my presence for moral support and simple company.  She has always hated being alone so this doesn’t really surprise me.  However, like her brother she has completed her term’s project almost entirely independently.  She doesn’t require my help, just my presence.

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Her project work has been all about preparing the medieval feast, which will be held at their presentation on Tuesday.  Given she is catering for 12 people at our feast, she has handled it fairly well.  L12 is laid back by nature and so long as she know what is expected of her she usually calmly delivers.  Her main beef has been that she has felt alone and a bit isolated for the duration of the project.  We are planning on counteracting that with some one to one time at the beginning of each day’s project time.  She has also asked if she could explore her artistic side a bit more.  My answer, of course, was that she could do as she wished for it was HER project!  I think at that moment a light bulb went on in her head, as she suddenly realised the potential in project based learning.

C11 has probably struggled the most with project work.  She says she enjoys it, and she certainly seemed to enjoy the research at the beginning, but she got bored very quickly, so that finishing the 12 week project was particularly difficult for her.  Having discussed it further, she has asked for more input in breaking down a project into manageable pieces and having accountability for finishing one part before moving on to the next.

Ribbet collage1D

Her project was on medieval fashions and to be honest I think she bit off more than she could chew, and I think she may have lost interest because it was simply too hard.  At the last-minute I had to step in and help and I feel she now does not think of the dolly’s clothes as her own creation, even though she did a lot of it herself.  She is so full of great ideas but they are often not terribly realistic.  I’m not really sure what my job should be.  Do I attempt to rein her in, but in doing so steal her joy and enthusiasm by taking full ownership of the project away from her, or do I step back and watch the inevitable upset which will follow as she fails to reach her self set goals?  I don’t know the answer.  However, I do know that this forthcoming term I will be striving to help her to set her sights on a fully and easily achievable goal.  She needs the confidence that success will bring, and she needs to know what she can achieve rather than what she can’t.  I will do everything in my power to set her up pre-project for success and enjoyment; but I am also going to back right off the moment the term starts and give her the space to succeed on her own.

I think I can confidently say we are now project based home schoolers.  It sits comfortably between more formal methods of learning and unschooling, and I really do think it suits our mix of personalities.  We’re all looking forward to next term learning along side each other.

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