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A Project Week Idea
When my children were younger, we would always run out of time to do hands-on projects. By the time we got out all the materials and cleared a space for the activity, we had about ten minutes to work on it before we had to begin cleaning up. How frustrating!
It became easier and easier to push off those projects to “another day,” which of course, never arrived.
We tried setting aside every Friday as project day, but that schedule didn’t work for projects that required more than one day to complete; for example, making a salt dough map, which takes a couple of days to dry, or learning how to do paper maché. Don’t even get me started on the mess that makes!
Another thing that got pushed off the schedule was larger household projects. We would talk about repainting one of the girls’ bedrooms or removing the wallpaper that the previous owner put in the dining room, but we never got around to actually doing it.
That’s when I had an idea.
As Charlotte Mason observed, “No phrase is more common and more promising than, ‘I have an idea’; we rise to such an opening as trout to a well-chosen fly” (Philosophy of Education, p. 105).
The idea? A Project Week. Why not do school work for three weeks, then enjoy a project week, three weeks of school work, one project week, and so on. Since we homeschooled all year round, that idea seemed like it might work.
So we tried it.
And it worked beautifully!
We found that project weeks were great for sewing projects that cause much less stress if spread out over several days. And if you can leave the sewing machine set up for that week, life becomes much easier.
Project weeks gave me the margin to invite the children to help with larger home projects. Oh, yes, they were already involved in regular cleaning chores and such, but somehow I had not tried to involve them in any larger projects. I had always hurried through those in order to get done and get back to schoolwork. Now the children could be involved, and it was much more pleasant to take my time and walk through the work with them, knowing that I had a whole week to do this. Plus, I was actually getting those house projects done!
As the children got older, we learned that project weeks were also a great time to do more intensive science experiments that require a lot of preparation and attention.
Now, when we started this schedule, I thought project weeks would help insert short breaks during the year: three weeks on, one week off. But as we got into it, I discovered an added benefit: many of the projects we worked on could be counted as school work.
For example, one week our project was to remove the old wallpaper border from a bedroom and paint the walls. We turned that project into a life-skills lesson by having the children figure the square footage of the walls and determine how much paint we needed, select which color of paint they wanted, compare prices to get enough paint without going over budget, read the labels of the wallpaper remover to see how much we needed to get and how to mix it and apply it correctly, . . . not to mention the actual paper removing and wall painting.
We took one day to do the figuring, budgeting, and pricing. Another day was set aside for shopping and moving furniture. The third day we dedicated to the wallpaper removal, leaving two days for painting and clean up.
And the nice thing was that we were not knocking ourselves out, working from dawn to dusk. We could put in some good work and still have time to enjoy ourselves and the process together.
Of course, not every project needs to be something that you can count for school. Maybe you want to use that fourth week to visit extended family for a couple of days—family you don’t usually get to see more than once a year.
You might plan two or three day-trips to take during that week, going to interesting places near your house. There is a canyon, a botanical garden, a presidential house, and an archeological museum all within three hours of my house. Yet somehow we never seemed to squeeze those trips into our schedule. A project week could be the answer.
You could take a week to plant your garden in the spring, or clean out the garage and hold a yard sale in the fall.
You could take a week in the middle of the year to regroup and revise your school plans if you need to.
Or you might tackle a pottery project and actually get it done. (And see, we’re back to activities that could count for schoolwork. So many of them do!)
Well, that was the idea that worked so well for our family that I wanted to share it with you: three weeks of school work and one project week, year round. Perhaps three-weeks-on, one-week-off will become a happy rhythm for your family too.
Even if you don’t school year round, you may want to schedule a few project weeks during the year. With scheduled project weeks, you know when you will “get around to” doing that big experiment or larger project. Give it a try!
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I really like this idea and am considering how to best implement it here for my family. Do you maintain any of the daily work during Project Week such as handwriting? I am concerned about taking so many total breaks from daily skill building work. I also know that things don’t go as well if there is little structure or radical change to the structure so I am trying to think through all of these things. Do your children have a hard time getting back into the regular schedule the first few days of the week back from Project Week?
I look forward to getting a deeper look at this kind of rhythm.
We do usually continue our Scripture Memory at breakfast and our Literature read-aloud at lunch or snack time. Those just seem to be a part of who we are as a family now. 🙂
As far as routine goes, we do keep a somewhat similar flow to the day during project weeks, it’s just that we replace the morning book work with the project(s). So morning chores, breakfast, and Scripture memory are all done as usual, then we gather to do the project(s) during the morning hours, have lunch (with reading aloud if possible), and either have the usual free afternoon to pursue individual interests or continue working on the project for another hour or so as needed.
I haven’t noticed a problem with daily skill building work since we go year round. Those short breaks seem to be much less of a disruption than taking several weeks off in the summer. “Rhythm” is really a key word; our family is so used to three weeks “on,” one week “off” now that we automatically get into the corresponding mind-set.
Of course, feel free to tweak the Project Week idea to work for your family and situation. You could easily add a 5-minute copywork component or work some handwriting into the project or whatever you want to do.
Love this! Thank you!
Thanks for sharing your ideas, Sonya. Sounds like you have incorporated a lovely idea. 🙂
I really like the idea you present here! Thanks for sharing – now my wheels are turning. :o)
This is such a neat idea! I am always putting off stuff I need to do or don’t do things because I would have to clean up projects just as soon as I get them out (like you mentioned). I also always feel stressed to get “book work” completed I tend to not do all the things I would like for us to do or accomplish. This is something I am really considering as I am currently planning my next school year. Thank you so much for sharing the idea!
This is just what I needed! Thanks! Wish I’d been able to read this before gardening season.
Thank you for sharing this great idea of project weeks. I will figure out a way to implement it in our schooling. I really want to DO more projects with the kiddos.
This seems like such a lovely idea. I’m curious how you handle the Christmas holiday. Does your family take more than a week in December? And if you do, are you still able to fit in enough school weeks in a year?
Thanks for this idea!
You could take more time in December if you want to. If we figure a school year as 36 weeks (180 days), you would need 12 cycles of three-weeks-on, one-week-off. That’s only 48 weeks total (36 weeks on, 12 weeks off). So you still have 4 more weeks of extra time off that you can use whenever you see fit. (And that’s calculating without counting any of the “off” weeks as going toward school work. If any of the project weeks counted as school work, you would have more “off” weeks to use whenever you wanted to.)
This.is.genius! “Sabbath” schedule schooling is a thing. 6 weeks on 1 week off. Even with attempting it, I still find us getting behind in household needs, visiting family, etc. We rush through our to do list and yet never manage to get close to finishing it. I think I need to pull our calendar out and take a look at this 3 weeks on 1 week off idea.
To go all year round is absolutely impossible for us.
How can you manage school in the summer when it’s hot and everyone else is on holidays or at least on “holiday modus”?
Have you always gone all year round since you homeschool?
For us, there are camps, outreaches and conferences in the holidays where we love the children to attend.
So I’m hesitating to plan too many project weeks, because we NEED 36 weeks of school.
(Swiss curriculums are quite loaded in the upper grades, especially in Mathematics and foreign languages!)
hmmm…. 3 weeks on, one week off sounds since and I’m a bit sad that it doesn’t work for us.
However, I could surely plan 3 project weeks per year.
Better than nothing.
Maybe we can increase next year to 4 weeks….
Thanks for the idea.
Hot summers usually find people in Georgia spending time inside in the air conditioning, so I figured, “Why not do schoolwork, since we’re inside anyway, and take advantage of nicer weather during other seasons to enjoy a holiday?”
We’ve always gone all year round—even when we lived in a cooler climate—in order to guarantee the most flexibility in our schedule. I didn’t want to feel pressured to “finish” in nine months and then try to think of other things to keep the children occupied during the summer; then spend a month in the fall reviewing what they forgot over the three-month break. (Besides the fact that adult life isn’t scheduled like that.) So it just made sense in my mind to go year round with more frequent, smaller breaks. And we loved taking vacations when no one else was on break during the year; our destinations were not nearly so crowded.
As I mentioned in another reply on this discussion, if you do three-weeks-on, one-week-off, you end up with 4 extra weeks of “off time” left in a year. Those four weeks plus the 12 “off” weeks in the rotation give you a total of 16 “off” weeks during a year that you can use as you see fit. It sounds like you already have some great ideas for using some of them during the holidays. And I’m glad you’re thinking of trying out some project weeks during your year. Let me know how it goes, Yasmine.
Thanks for sharing. I love this idea. We will definitely try this. I first project will be a house move. Your wall paper lesson has given me some great ideas. God bless you Sonya
Wonderful idea! Thank you!
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