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Try a Project Approach

Kathryn L. Stout, B.S.Ed., M.Ed.
Published: October 1997
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Well, we've all been back to homeschooling for a month now, and many are probably already looking for more things the kids can do on their own. Instead of more workbooks, try a project approach. Here are two that my kids enjoyed.

For children age 6-13: combine science, composition, and research skills.

Let the student choose an animal to study. This can be connected to history by having him choose an animal that would be found in the geographic area of the culture being studied.

The student should choose resources he finds appealing (library books, software) to answer the following questions in his own words. He can organize his answers into a short report and add at least one illustration. The illustration can be drawn as part of art, or could be one he finds to cut and paste (or print using computer software).

  1. What is the classification of the animal?
  2. What does it look like? (Include a picture, make a drawing, write a description, or draw and label a diagram.)
  3. How is it born? (egg? live?)
  4. What does it need to survive? (living conditions, diet)
  5. How long does it live? (average life span)
  6. What eats it? (if anything?)
  7. Where are these animals usually found? (geographic regions and type of climate and/or vegetation - deserts, ponds, forests)

The student should give an oral presentation of this information to the family. This not only gives him a sense of importance as the teacher, but provides practice in public speaking. The audience should respond positively. If you want to make any corrections to his work or speech, save it for a general teaching session. Even then, keep the comments neutral by incorporating them into points everyone should remember when gathering information or making a presentation. If he is critiqued during his presentation he is not likely to want to do this again!

Finally, have each student place his finished report in a family notebook that has index tabs dividing each classification. Entitle the notebook Vertebrates and Invertebrates. The Vertebrates include amphibians, birds, fish, mammals, and reptiles. The Invertebrates include arthropods, coelenterates, echinoderms, mollusks, sponges, protozoans, and worms. With all students contributing regularly, it won't take long to build a valuable family resource.

For your older students - ages 14-17, combine research skills with a look at the financial realities of life after home school.

Time spent on this project can contribute to requirements in any of the following subjects: consumer math, economics, English (career study), health, or home economics.

Research
Have the student chose a career. He should be realistic and choose one in an area of interest in which he also has the necessary aptitude and/or skills. (This avoids the choice of being a major league ball player with instant riches, for example.) Career books and interest/aptitude tests are available in libraries, book stores, and some colleges. For those in Delaware, Delaware Technical Community College has made available an interest/aptitude test and follow up look at career descriptions all via computer. The service is free but does require an appointment.

Students should note the training necessary for the chosen career-vocational training, college degree, level of expertise (music performance, sports performance), in order to incorporate prerequisites into his high school curriculum, if possible.

Next, have students find an advertised position, entry level, in the newspaper or by contacting a placement agency. If nothing is available in his chosen field, he must accept something for which he could qualify, even if it has nothing to do with his career choice. After all, in reality, many people work at jobs in fields different from their training or original area of interest.

And Record
Now students should begin a notebook. List the job title, annual salary, and benefits to be provided by the employer. Find housing by looking in the newspaper. Would the location make it necessary to have a car to get to work? Once housing is selected, record the monthly rent on a sheet listing monthly expenses. A separate list should be made for one time purchases and should include the amount to be left as a deposit.

Some expenses are set-rent and taxes, for example, others can be adjusted by becoming frugal (no air conditioning to keep electric bills low) or eliminating it all together (can you manage without cable TV? Without a telephone?) Have the student fill in an estimated cost for each item based on figures from your own household. Once he subtracts the totals from his salary, he can decide whether it will be necessary to make adjustments. Is there enough money left for the total listed for initial costs? Can any of those costs be altered? In the list of monthly expenses what can be eliminated? What costs can be lowered? How? After making adjustments have him fill in his revised costs.

For those who enjoy decorating, the report can include pages with pictures of furniture for each room (cut from catalogs) and the cost of each item. Since this is a one-time cost, some students may decide to look for a furnished apartment, or shop at garage sales, or begin saving money now!

INCOME AFTER TAXES: _______________(monthly) _______________(annual)

Monthly Expenses: Estimated Cost Revised Cost

Rent ______________ ____________
Electric ______________ ____________
Telephone ______________ ____________
TV cable ______________ ____________
Car insurance ______________ ____________
Car repair ______________ ____________
Parking ______________ ____________
Gas ______________ ____________
Food ______________ ____________
Clothing ______________ ____________
Personal grooming/hair cuts ______________ ____________
Contributions ______________ ____________
Entertainment ______________ ____________

If not included in rent:
water/sewer ______________ ____________
school/property tax ______________ ____________

If not included in salary:
health insurance ______________ ____________
medical insurance ______________ ____________

Other ________________ ______________ ____________

Initial Expenses
rent deposit ______________ ____________
furniture ______________ ____________
linens ______________ ____________
kitchen utensils/cookware ______________ ____________

TOTAL EXPENSES $______________ $____________

Total Income - Expenses $______________ $____________





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