Project-Based Homeschooling Mentoring Self-Directed Learners by Lori McWilliam Pickert was the book of the month for the March 2016 Montessori on a Budget (MOAB) book club.  This is my review of the book. *Note: I bought my own copy.

Project-Based HomeschoolingThe basic premise of the book about using project based learning at home is that an investigative attitude is essential for work and lessons. This is not a “recipe book” but a collection of strategies for children to manage their own learning with the adult as a guide on the side.  In my gifted education master’s degree classes we learned to be guides on the side, not sages on the stage for child-centered learning.  Lecture learning is adult centered and boring for children who are passive learners in that model. However, in homeschools project based learning can be a lifestyle and therefore effect lasting change that is difficult to maintain in schools.

Project-Based Homeschooling

The best feature of project based homeschooling is that the materials can be left out (organized, but readily available) and near the main family living areas.  At school, we had to put everything away each day and then pull it all out again which made for less than spontaneous learning opportunities.  The children would ask, “Can’t you leave this here?” and as much as I wanted to, it was not possible.  At home the answer is yes! The author explains how to keep the learning accessible yet not overtake study areas, and when and how to finally wrap up the long projects.

Does project based homeschooling mean children can do anything they want? No, there is space for lessons and guidance.  It is a question asking model, with children asking questions such as, “How can I learn about this topic?” Parents provide answers and work in lessons as the children expresses interest.  It does not mean just anything goes, and not all the learning is immediately turned over to the children. It works in multi-age settings, too. Incidentally, the question asking model with multi-age learners is also a component of Destination Imagination problem solving.

The author discusses how in some cases schools can effect dramatic changes that help education, but these are mostly based on one person’s personality. If the leader leaves the institution, the changes end. They are dependent on one person’s leadership. She reviews usual professional development and how the children’s learning improvements are discussed, but teachers are not given opportunities to learn using the methods themselves. The new ideas are often one-size-fits-all curriculum.  The teachers are taught by a sage on the stage. This approach cannot effect the quick and effective changes possible in a homeschool setting.

The author states many children do not realize education is for them! They feel it is “being done” to them and they have to put up with classes. Project based learning at home is dependent on the interest and participation of the children, so they are engaged and care about lessons. The learning can be sustained. The power struggles over lessons are fewer as the child is trying to solve a problem or question and wants to know the answers.

All parents are really responsible for a child’s learning, whether or not they attend school. 

I feel this is really true and we certainly learned things outside of schools hours.  This doesn’t only mean scheduled activities and lessons, but helping a child learn about his or her educational interests.

The skills learned in projects are transferrable to future learning, and helps prepare children to become lifelong learners. They never have to stop learning this way. It prepares children to live lives of learning.

The book has many suggestions about documenting work, taking notes on what the children are learning, and when to take photographs along the way.  Suggestions about how to encourage children when they might be stuck or frustrated are provided, tips on working with teens, and checklists of ideas for projects are included. For instance, appropriate field trips that are pertinent to the area of study can reenergize the project. Kinds of materials to buy are included with suggestions about saving money. Ideas about when to be playful, dramatic, and celebrating final outcomes are discussed.

Children need support to learn, think, and do. The idea is to focus on helping the child make his or her ideas happen. Beginning with small steps, this book will help families who are interested in using this educational method.


The bubbling snowman is easy to set up. Begin with a cookie tray and arrange different size lids to create a flat snowman. We drew a face on one lid using a sharpie marker. Be sure the lids are upside down so they can be filled with baking soda.


Mixing colors in the kitchen with a few common ingredients provides an engaging activity for children. This is one they are sure to want to do over and over as it will be different each time.

How to Easily Grow Garlic to Spice Bread at Home

This post is about how to grow garlic to spice bread at home. Have you noticed garlic scapes on any menus? Garlic scapes are the leaves that grow from a garlic bulb.  Do you happen to have some garlic in the pantry?


Free PDF. There are 3 pages of directions: one for a microwave oven, one for using a solar oven, and one for the microwave approach. Children can read the directions and prepare the S’mores for the family. Sneak in some summer reading!


Gummy candy, anyone? We used a candy making kit found online and I purchased my own materials.  So the most interesting thing we learned was that seaweed in its dried and powdered forms can make gelatin for making gummies.

Penny Cleaning Science Experiment Using Kitchen Staples

Did you know things like ketchup, salt, vinegar, and lemon juice will clean and brighten pennies? If your pennies are all bright and shiny, you can keep them in water overnight to allow them to darken for this experiment. Warning, children might like to do this over and over!