Homeschooling High School: Project Based Studies

If you really can do what you want and call it what you have to, then so much becomes possible. Following inspiration from Heather Woodie, we created a project based science course for my 9th grader.

She was interested in cob and natural building and so we created a reading and research plan that would help her learn the history and practice of natural building techniques culminating in a summer of building her own cob oven and bench.

The 9th grader as 1 year old meeting Castro the cat in a cob house.

All year she read natural building books and took notes using the IEW idea of noting things in her reading that are “important or interesting.” We visited natural building sites around town and did soil tests. In the early spring we started digging a foundation and collecting urbanite. (The city was repaving lots of roads on the peninsula, and a neighbor was tearing out an old driveway!)

In the spring she had the opportunity to present her research and annotated bibliography at a science fair. Both of the judges happened to be priests from parts of the world where natural building methods are much more common than they are in the United States. We built slowly over the summer and made our first pizza in the oven in August. We still need to build a permanent roof for the oven.

All told she earned a credit and a half in earth science and physics with a good mix of hands-on and bookish learning. Her coursework was shaped by her interest and her lab work resulted in an authentic, student-led project.

Our job in all of this was to work as mentors, to cast a vision of what is possible. We suggested books to read and made sure there was time in her weekly schedule to read them. We checked in and kept the project moving forward. We kept notes of the work being done. We got our hands and shoes muddy as we built. And we hauled a lot of urbanite!

Homeschooling High School Mission #5

  • Read “Earning Credits with a Project Based High School” by Heather Woodie
  • Poke around the archives here and read about Project Based Homeschooling and Lori Pickert, one of Heather’s mentors. Lori’s work is endlessly inspiring and creative. Watching her raise and educate her sons made me a better mama.
  • Think and talk to your teen about possible projects. What subjects would lend themselves to a less traditional approach? How will you document the project? What will your role be?

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