Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Project Books

As an unschooling mom it is really exciting to see some of the things that I believe in start to happen with my kids. Echo is getting to the age where she is just interested in everything! Something that many unschooling parents do as a way to spark interest is something called strewing. This involves leaving interesting materials around for your kids to stumble upon in the hopes that they will find something that fascinates them. The materials you strew could be books, art supplies, building supplies, dress up clothes, a science kit, anything really! It seems as though strewing is starting to pay off in our house even though I didn't even do it intentionally.

Lately Echo has been really in to what she calls "project books".  You see, I am starting to collect a lot of books on projects and activities for kids. Echo saw me reading one of these books one day and she has been obsessed ever since. Our favorite of the project books is called Tinker Lab and it is great for younger kids (while also having a ton of projects that would appeal to older kids). If you have kids I highly recommend this book! The projects start out very simple and build in complexity, I think we will use it for many years to come. Lots of kids activity books seem to be mostly things that kids need a ton of supervision with which means that the parents end up doing the projects while the kids watch but this book is great about having projects that kids can actually do themselves!

Practicing drawing circles on a circular form (paper plates)

I tend to gravitate toward the art projects (obviously) but there are a lot of science and engineering type projects as well that we are starting to delve in to a bit. Some of the projects are very simple (like drawing with sidewalk chalk) but it's nice to have the suggestion written down with pretty pictures next to it because when Echo sees it she gets excited and wants to try it!

Echo has been practicing tracing shapes with sidewalk chalk

Echo regularly comes to me asking to do a project from her project book. Then we take some time to flip through the book and pick out something she wants to work on. Seeing how excited she gets about this is extremely gratifying. Her enthusiasm for learning new things is amazing and it's easy to see how her unschooling educating is coming together.

The projects can be messy, for example the goop we made in the above pictures (a cornstarch and water mixture that she loved playing with!), so it's nice that the weather is warming up and we are often able to work outside.

Monoprinting was a big hit!

The Tinker Lab book also has a huge section on how to set up your project space that I found really helpful. We ended up moving a desk down in to our living room so that Echo would have a place to work where Clover couldn't mess up what she is working on (now that Clover is crawling she is in to everything!).
Finished prints
We have a lot of good "project books" but so far Tinker Lab is our favorite. I have done a ton of different projects with kids over my years as a teacher but I love having these books on hand for inspiration. I think the best benefit of having the books out and available however is that the projects don't come from me. I don't set something up and say "this is what we are doing today". Instead, Echo can peruse the books at her leisure and choose the projects that excite her most. This is what unschooling is all about!

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