At a certain point, your child will have to set out into the world and be on their own. We all worry about our kids and will they be able to survive on their own. I think homeschool parents worry a bit more than others because if our kids are messed up and don’t succeed, we have no one else to blame but ourselves. One skill every adult needs is the ability to learn on their own and do projects completely on their own without outside influence. Last year, my kids had their own independent projects with mixed results. I learned a lot from our independent projects last year, and here is what I learned, and some advice on how to do independent projects with your older kids.
Yep, it’s one more part of the Homeschool How-To series.
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What didn’t work for our independent projects
1. I gave them too much freedom to start.
This is their very first time trying this out and of the three children, I would only call one project reasonably successful.
The two unsuccessful independent projects had the least guidance.
My daughter was given a blog, but no guidelines. She would write as inspiration struck, and then hit publish. She published some brilliant pieces of work, and she produced some real junk. She didn’t edit, and she didn’t reread.
She needed more guidance.
My son had a book, but it didn’t give structure and timeline.
2. I didn’t do my research ahead of time.
I had some ideas, but I didn’t plan. I knew my daughter wanted to write. One son wanted to be an inventor. The other son wanted to be a chef.
I didn’t look into options ahead of time, just said: “Let’s see what works.”
More Homeschool How To’s
What kind of worked for independent projects
1. I listened to their feedback.
I learned what was working and what wasn’t. After feedback from Superman I learned the coding book just was not working for him. I did research and found a monthly subscription kit, EEME. The kits were good, but not enough for what I wanted. It was one project a month…. To truly work, he needed more consistent work.
2. I revised plans as we went
After listening to their feedback on their independent projects, I revised our plans. That worked and helped, but this goes back to what didn’t work in the projects, of not enough research and not enough guidance.
What really worked for the independent projects
1. Batman’s cookbook
Batman got a World of Warcraft cookbook for Christmas last year, and so he started cooking one recipe a week from it. Some of those recipes were HUGE hits. He made some absolutely amazing honey bread. Like, I could eat the whole batch. Some of those recipes were not so good, but it wasn’t the recipe, just not our taste. He’s enjoyed the cookbook so much, he’s talked about getting the Game of Thrones cookbook solely because it’s the same author. I’ve explained why this works is because he knows what it’s referring to, and he probably would not enjoy the Game of Thrones cookbook as much. I did just find a Hearthstone cookbook, which is another videogame my boys play to possibly get for him.
2. Having specific goals
Having specific goals helped a lot. In the fall, Batman had the goal of learning to make Tiramisu for Jeff’s birthday. He spent 2 months learning all of the steps. It was a lot of hard work, but well worth it. That project worked best. His working on bread worked somewhat, but I did not have a specific goal in the spring for his work.
5 Steps for planning an independent project
- Look to their interests. Our long-term independent projects are all geared towards their current planned careers.
- Find where you want your kids to grow.
- Set specific goals.
- Once you have specific goals, create timelines. Each month I am meeting with my kids to set their schedule.
- Follow up and revise your plans as you see how your kids are doing.
Our plans for Homeschool Independent Projects this year
This year I am going in with a better plan.
Superman’s independent project: He is going to work through 42 Electronics engineering and programming (see my full review), and continue to work on the EEME projects. In the fall he will complete the first set, A, and will start on B.
Batman’s independent project: He is going to work through a bread making class I found as part of a homemaking course, and I think I will have him work systematically go through the World of Warcraft cookbook. Once he has a better idea of what he wants to focus on for cooking, we’ll work on narrowing that down.
Princess’ independent project: The two of us have talked extensively about her arc for the next few years. This coming year she is going to work through Cover Story (my review of Cover Story) and create a magazine that builds out the world lore for the book she wants to write. Her goal is to have a book published (probably independently) before she graduates high school. I am potentially giving her extra reading to do this year to see how different book worlds are built. She will ultimately be working through One Year Adventure Novel and its sequel of the Fantasy books.