One of the keys to supporting project based learning is the ability to slow down and listen and observe. Observe your children at their work and play. Listen to their conversations. Keep note of the things they are looking at and talking about. To what do they keep returning? It seems simple, but as you observe and listen, their interests will emerge. You will begin to see patterns in their activity and talk, and here lies the basis of their project work, the foundations upon which you can support further building and deeper learning. I love the idea that by giving our attention to our children's interests, we can encourage those interests to blossom.
As we sit alongside our children, and involve ourselves in what they are doing, we give value to their work. Our attention says, "You are capable. Your work is important." One of the ways in which we can demonstrate our attention is by journalling. Noting down what we observe helps us to remember and to reflect. It helps us to see the patterns emerging in our children's play and in their conversations. I have tried journalling in the past, with varied levels of success. I used to have a notebook, and I would divide each page into four quarters, one quarter for each of my children. I would have a page for each day and jot down there things each child did, games they played, notable achievements and milestones, funny or interesting things they had said. I have also always taken lots of photos which get filed away in the computer grouped into folders, one for each school term. Photos can be a great way to document learning and, when I worry about how little we have done, I am always pleasantly surprised - looking back at my photos - at how many learning moments I have recorded and by how much, in fact, we have achieved.
Today I want to share with you a brilliant new tool I have discovered which has transformed my journalling. Perhaps you've already made your own similar discovery, but mine is EVERNOTE.
Evernote is brilliant, and has transformed the way I am documenting our learning. I know that it will help me to be a better mentor because journalling is such a key foundation stone to that process. So, let me explain how it is making a difference in our home education ....
1) Evernote is such a convenient tool. It is right there on my phone, and my phone is usually with me, whether we are at home or out and about.
2) With the same login, my husband can access the same pages, so he can add to the notes and his observations & photos of what is going on can be documented alongside my own.
3) Evernote brings together our notes and photos, which can be taken and uploaded straight away on our phones, saving a lot of time filing and sorting images.
4) Our posts are automatically dated by month.
RESULT: A comprehensive family learning journal right at our fingertips. I am loving it.
If this is something new to you, it is really easy to get started. Simply install Evernote on your phone, and once you are set up, you can create various notebooks .... So I have one for each child, one for myself, one for ideas, one for days out, one for nature study, one for books read, one for our Mustard Seeds group, one for our community allotment .... I am sure I will adapt these and add more as time goes on. You could add whichever are most suitable for your family. When I want to note something down, I simply click open Evernote, tap on the green + symbol at the bottom right (See above) to create a new note, and then click on Text Note (See below).
Then, where it says FIRST NOTEBOOK, I click to bring up my list of notebooks and select the notebook I want to file this note in:
I then title the note according to the subject, and jot down my observation.
I can then add a photo very simply by clicking on the paperclip symbol, then on photo and selecting the picture I want to insert from my album.
It really is the simplest thing to use, and I am sure there are loads more features I will learn to make use of as time goes on, but I just wanted to share how useful this tool can be for unschooling parents and for project based learners to keep a track of all the fantastic learning our lives are filled with each day. Maybe you can make use of it too? Or do share in the comments tools which you have found useful for journalling. I would love to hear about them.
"Young children have extremely long attention spans for things that truly interest them. If they are skating around and bouncing from idea to idea, it is often because we have trained them to be that way with frequent transitions and a constant influx of new activities. Adults often aren’t comfortable with children who stay with one thing for a long time. Grown-ups tend to value variety, and often they lack patience for a young child who “dawdles” over a fascination with dinosaurs, trains, or a rain puddle. We hurry them along, we bombard them with activities, we constantly give them something new when they were still perfectly happy with the old, then we complain about their short attention spans. Project-based homeschooling is about learning how to help children stay with one idea longer. They have their own interests, their own questions, their own fascinations. We just have to pay attention to those interests and help them find answers to their questions and make their ideas happen. Children can keep having a lot of different interests — we don’t try to keep them from getting excited about new ideas. We simply focus on supporting one strong interest so they can dig a little deeper and stay with it a little longer. We create a learning life that allows them to return to that interest again and again, over weeks and even months, until they are satisfied." (Lori Pickert)