Upskilling: Project-based learning

In a burst of COVID-19 lockdown energy I decided to raid our Book Closet and read, re-read, learn and re-learn from some of my home education pedagogical inspirations.

Project-Based Homeschooling: Mentoring Self-Directed Learners” written by Lori Pickert was the first book I picked up.

Like many of the books I have read over the past decade, “Project-Based Homeschooling” is full of practical advice. The “how to” is intertwined with the “why you should”.

One of the things that I like about this particular book is that project-based learning isn’t touted at the “only” way to home educate. Ms Pickert outlines all of the very excellent reasons why it should be part of a child’s learning experience, possibly making up the majority of their learning, but she doesn’t do so in a way that generates a feeling of pedagogical “tribalism”.
I appreciated that tone from the outset.

Here are the key points that I took away from my re-reading of this book.

  • Children should be given the opportunity to self-choose, self-direct and self-manage their own interest projects.
  • Our job is not to “teach” them, but to observe, support, give our attention to their work and mentor them.
  • We should align our daily habits, our routines and our values so that we can create a family culture that reflects the importance of the child’s project work. (And our own projects too!)

As Ms Pickert says:
“Make the space. Make the time. Gather the materials. Prioritize the experience. Commit.” p.39

Re-reading this book has been timely for me as Miss Oh has been working on a substantial passion project with one of her friends. She has been asking me for support with this, so I wanted to revisit the encouraging information about mentoring a child’s project before I began to help.
It is extremely important that I reduce the chance of any “foot in mouth” issues on my part that might lead to her becoming discouraged.

One of the simplest, and most important, ideas that we are implementing is that of regular “Project Time”. Miss and Master Oh have each chosen a day when they will get my full attention for their chosen project.
My responsibility, in my own words, is to show up and shut up.
Reflective listening, guiding them with questions, helping them note their ideas and then sitting back and watching what they come up with.
It sounds simple when it’s written down but, depending on your temperament, it can be incredibly difficult to do in practice.

But just like the Oh Waily kids, I need to practice my mentoring skills, learn from my mistakes and figure out what to try next when I mess up. That takes care of the ‘modelling’ aspect of this type of learning.

“This is how we master a skill, a tool, a material, a technique – through play, through practice, through making and fixing mistakes.” p. 37

Some other big ideas that I’ll be doing my best to implement include:

  • Let them make mistakes and then let them solve their own problems.
    Don’t “rescue” them, but don’t abandon them either. This is the point where you mentor problem solving.
  • Encourage them to do their own research.
    Don’t “help” in order to save them time, thereby robbing them of an opportunity for some great learning.
  • Encourage them to do “Fieldwork”.
    i.e. use community resources, visit with or contact experts, etc.
  • Model resilience when they hit frustration points.
    Use this simple, calm and reassuring response from the book: “Now we know what doesn’t work. What should we try next?”
    I love this so much because it gently directs back in to problem-solving mode without drama and links to the last idea…
  • Project calm acceptance that mistakes are inevitable.
    Then encourage them to understand that the response to mistakes is to try to find a solution in order to move forward.

There is a lot more to this book than I have distilled here, and a lot of very specific suggestions about what you can do to promote a great learning experience for your children. There’s more detail on why you should seriously consider incorporating this approach in to your home education toolkit and what benefits your children will gain. They are significant.

If you are interested in learning about how to implement this sort of child-led learning, then this book is a good guide. And if the following quote, one of my favourites, appeals to you then this might be a book that would sit well on your shelves.

“With a slow pace, an open and inquiring mindset, and calm acceptance that problems are inevitable, we set the tone for a thoughtful approach to meaningful work. We begin to create a family culture that values interests, intellect, perseverance, resilience, and sharing.”

Kindle VersionPaperback Version
Thanks for your support. ūüôā


listenI’ve spoken before about my journey to change my parenting style and I’ve recommended books that have been great stepping stones on the journey.

Today I am recommending another one.

It is “Listen : Five Simple Tools to Meet Your Everyday Parenting Challenges” by Patty Wipfler and Tosha Schore.

Like many of the other books it is centred on respectful interactions.  And as the title would suggest, many of the tools revolve around listening.  Listening to our children, allowing them space to deal with their issues, and helping them address those issues as best we can.

What I love about this, is that it doesn’t insist on forcing the kids to stuff down their hurts, but rather focuses on helping them to unpack those hurts and emotions. ¬†The analogy of a backpack really resonates with me… we can either help them get those hard emotions out of that backpack and have a lighter load, or we can insist they stuff more and more emotions in that sucker and have a much heavier load.

I know which option I’m on board for working towards.

The integration of listening and playing, along with one aspect that I had missed in earlier books – parenting Listening Partnerships – makes it the most rounded, succinct expression of the basic tools to help our kids (and ourselves).

I love it and can’t recommend it enough if you’re looking for tools to help you set limits without punishment or threats, deal with your kids’ big emotions (including outbursts), understand the underlying reasons your kids act out, get a grip on your own emotional reaction to your kids’ behaviour and generally have an all-round better relationship that’s not a power tug-o-war !

Yes, I gave it a 5 out of 5 on Goodreads, where I am not alone in doing so.

I’ll be adding it to the sidebar here for anyone wanting to get themselves a copy*.

And for those who would like to get to know the authors a bit better, they have a website that you can visit.
It’s called Hand in Hand Parenting.

Happy reading!

  • yes, it will be an affiliate link, but it costs you no extra to use it and helps us pay for the blog. ¬†ūüôā

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – Roald Dahl

catcfMiss Oh Waily’s Review

It was a great book. I liked the book because it was funny and silly, and because Violet turned in to a massive blueberry.  I also liked it when Verucca fell down the hole and I liked it when Willie Wonka had a candy boat.

Charlie was my favourite character because he was the only nice kid.  I also liked Willie Wonka because he made a ton of chocolate and it was amazing. And I liked Grandpa Joe because he danced around the room when he got out of bed for the first time in twenty years.


Master Oh Waily’s Review

I thought it was really funny and nice.
The main part of the story I liked was the Oompa Loompas and how Verucca was thrown down the acorn chute by the squirrels.  The squirrels were very hilarious when Verucca went to grab one.  And I liked the fact that Violet Beauregard ate the chewing gum and she turned in to a blueberry, and how Augustus got sucked up a pipe.

I liked how funny Augustus was because he was so greedy.  Charlie was the best because he was so nice.


Book Review: Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids by Dr Laura Markham

PPHKI’ve had this book in paperback form for a couple of years now¬†and was making only a little headway with it as I picked it up, then put it down, then picked it up again. ¬†Then our holiday to Fiji rolled around and I really didn’t want to lug half a case of books with me, so I splurged on a digital copy as well. ¬†It goes by the title “Calm Parent, Happy Kids” in the Kindle version.

I spent most of my reading time during the holiday working my way through this book. ¬†It does take a bit of work because there’s lots to get to grips with. ¬†I know most of the advice may be old hat to many folks, but if you’re new or relatively new to peaceful parenting there’s plenty to ponder over.

Dr Markham also has a great site called Aha! Parenting if you want to get snippets of advice rather than read an entire book.

However, it is a well put together and thought out book that is well worth the time and effort to read.

The sections cover regulating yourself, fostering connection and coaching, not controlling.  Within each section there are further chapters devoted to specific aspects of the bigger, overarching theme.

I enjoyed it immensely and found a lot of ideas that I could put into practice.

For me the idea of self-care was a big one and has been a theme over the past little while. ¬†This book re-inforced for me how important getting balance in my life is. ¬†As the quote goes, “if mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy”. ¬†So a primary focus for the remainder of this year is getting some balance each and every day. ¬†The kids now know that I’m taking ‘me time’ most days. ¬†It’s nothing earth-shattering at the moment, simply some time out to do something nice for myself like read a couple of chapters of my latest book or indulge in a hot bath. ¬†These are small things, but they allow some personal space in a day filled with “Mum, can we…”, “Mum, could you do…”, “Mum, look at this…”, “Mum, come and play a game…”

There’s loads more great pieces of advice that we already do or try to do. ¬†I will, no doubt, expand on some of those over the next little while. ¬†In the meantime I will leave you with the recommendation of finding a copy of this book if you are interested in transitioning to a peaceful parenting style, it will give you both the whys and some useful¬†hows. ¬†It’s a great book to add to a parenting library and I’d give it a solid 5 stars. ¬†So good, in fact, that I have pre-purchased the digital version of her newly¬†released book – Peaceful Parenting, Happy Siblings.
I’m now looking forward to getting my teeth into that when it’s released in June! ¬†In the meantime you can get your hands on a paperback copy.

Happy reading!


Book Review: Goblin at the Zoo – Victor Kelleher

GATZAnd here are the continuing woes of Gibblewort the Irish Goblin, and now a firm favourite with the Oh Waily children.

Who were the main characters & what were they like?

Miss OWW:  Gibblewort and Daisy the chimpanzee.

Can you tell us what happened in the story?

Miss OWW: Gibblewort didn’t love the chimpanzee, Daisy, but Daisy loved Gibblewort.¬† Gibblewort got electrocuted by an electric fence twice when he was running away from Daisy in the moat.¬† When Gibblewort met Daisy for the second time he fell into Daisy’s lap, then Daisy grabbed bananas and stuffed them in to Gibblewort’s mouth.

Master OWW: He fell on a rhino after elephants threw him over their fence.  He flew over another fence and landed on something soft and then he grabbed on to the horns and he sat on one and then he got thrown over another fence.  Then he landed back in the lap of the monkey and got kissed again.

What was your favourite part of the story and why?

Miss OWW:  My favourite part was him getting stuffed in the face with bananas because they are so deliciously funny.

Master OWW:¬† When the rhino threw him over the fence and then the buffalo threw him back.¬† Because he said “Am I a living yo-yo, or what?”

Rating for this book.

Miss OWW: I’ll give that one a good 4 stars.

Master OWW:  5 stars.

Book Review: Goblin at the Beach – Victor Kelleher

GATBWho were the main characters & what were they like?

Miss OWW:¬† Gibblewort, is a Irish goblin. He was incredibly funny, even funnier than before.¬† He’s green and he’s got warts on his nose.¬† He hates baths.

Master OWW: Gibblewort is an Irish goblin. He is so funny because he rode a whale and a dolphin.

Can you tell us what happened in the story?

Miss OWW: Gibblewort rode a dolphin, he also rode a shark and the shark was trying to shake him off.

Master OWW: He fell out of a truck and he said “this isn’t the way to old Ireland”.¬† He said, “This is just a beach with lots of people running around in their underwear.”

What was your favourite part of the story and why?

Miss OWW:  My favourite part of the story was when he got stung by jellyfish because it was really stingy.

Master OWW:  My favourite piece was him getting a ride on a shark because he got bitten on his warty nose.

Rating for this book.

Miss OWW: I’ll give it 5 stars.

Master OWW:  5 stars.  It was sooo funny!

And to finish up here is Miss Oh Waily’s rendition of the hapless Gibblewort.¬† She drew him as a gift card for her brother, hence the folds in the paper.


Book Review: Goblin in the Bush – Victor Kelleher

GITBWelcome to the first book review by the Oh Waily kids.¬† We’re going to give these posts an interview styling, with the questions asked by me and the answers by the kids.

Who were the main characters & what were they like?

Miss OWW:  Gibblewort, an Irish goblin. He was incredibly funny.

Can you tell us what happened in the story?

Miss OWW: Gibblewort got posted to Australia by his friends because he was so mean.  He got pecked in the ear by an emu.  He got pecked by birds in a tree.  He just wanted to get to his soggy wet treehouse back home.

Master OWW: He got pinched by ants on the feet, then got pinched on the ear by a big cockatoo.  He got prickled by an echidna and he wanted to get back to his soggy old treehouse.

What was your favourite part of the story and why?

Miss OWW:¬† My favourite part of the story was him getting pecked on the ear and poked by the birds because they’ve got very pinchy beaks.

Master OWW:  My favourite piece was when he got pecked by the poky echidna, because he was hopping on one foot like this (insert image of small boy hopping on one foot).

Rating for this book.

Miss OWW: I’ll give it 4 stars because it’s not as good as Goblin on the Beach.

Master OWW:  5 stars.