Today the kids and I (and a few homeschooling friends) are packing up and heading to The Bodgery, our favorite neighborhood makerspace.
Except that it's not exactly in our neighborhood, being over two hours from home. That's how much we love this place: enough to drive two hours each way to get a chance to play.
Because unreasonable drive or not we wouldn't trade our membership for anything.
This is where we spend a day or more at a time a couple of times a month, working with wood, metal, and fabric, creating whatever we can dream of.
And despite the fact that we skip spelling and math and creative writing on the days we are here, it's very much central to our homeschool.
Creative, free form making has been a key component of our homeschooling rhythm since our kids were old enough to wield a glue gun or swing a hammer. And when you add the community of a makerspace like the Bodgery to the equation it gets just that much better.
The kids are inspired by other people projects—from fine woodworking to motor-controlled go carts; delicate needle work to 3D-printed prosthetics—and make connections with mentors and makers in the community.
Why including "making" in your homeschool? Below are my thoughts on the value of project-based learning for our family. Written in 2015, it applies as much today (if not more) than it did when I first wrote it.
When I was on the brink of turning thirteen I'm pretty sure I only knew that "forge" was a verb that had something to do with your parent's signature, and "quench" was how you satisfied your thirst after a long bike ride.
And a blacksmith? That was someone you saw at Old World Wisconsin on the fourth grade field trip. Not a real person in the real world. And certainly not me.
But around here, life (and learning) is a little different than it was when I was a kid. And I mean "different" in a really wonderful way.
Because as positive as my public school experience was growing up in the '70's and '80's, for us this is school: my kid with a red hot piece of iron and a hammer on a June afternoon.
Our homeschooling mission is to dig in and do whatever we're imagining.
Even if on the surface it doesn't seem "academic".
Or "practical". Or "realistic". Or even possible sometimes.
That thing you've been dreaming of? Whatever it may be? Yeah. That. Let's get to work on it. Today.
Make a plan and make it happen. That our homeschooling path.
A model train layout based on the history and geography of the Driftless region, a small wooden car that runs on a lawnmower engine, lots of from-scratch candy making, fresh baked bread, a peroxide-powered rocket, a battle bot, a tree house, and a blacksmithed sword are all on Sage's current project list.
Will he finish them all? Probably not. But will he learn a great deal along the way? Absolutely.
So yes, he could spend his time sitting at a desk memorizing facts and taking tests. I'm certain there are things he'd know more about if he did. But are they the things that he is driven to learn about? Are they the things that would feed his insatiable hunger for knowledge?
I am certain they are not.
Instead, his time is spent literally fanning the fires in his blacksmithing forge as he figuratively fans the fires of his passion for knowledge.
The forge may not look academic, but it is feeding his love of learning each and every day.
And instead of constantly seeing how he compares to his classmates in any given subject, he sees his own dreams taking shape by the power of his young hands.
We learn by imagining, planning, and doing without limits.
We learn through our passions and interests; through trying, failing, and trying again.
Sure, we sit down and crank out some spelling words or practice our cursive now and then, but that is the exception, not the rule. Instead we learn – not by constantly looking at where we fall short – but instead by believing in ourselves and knowing we can do whatever we put our minds to.
It's learning with not only our heads, but also our hearts and our hands.
And for us that's learning of the best possible sort.