Class projects are an important part of every homeschool. They not only allow our children to gain a deeper understanding of a particular concept, but they help them develop necessary life skills. In particular, class projects help our children learn how to manage their time and resources to tackle a potentially overwhelming task. Class projects also give us as parents a great opportunity to teach our children some project management skills.
Tips for Teaching Project Management Skills to Kids
1. Make sure your child understands the class project.
Imagine yourself as a small child standing right next to a big adult elephant. Probably all you can see is a thick, gray leg. You probably don’t even realize what you are looking at.
Sometimes a big project, like an insect collection or state report, looks like that elephant to our children. Their minds may be fixated on one part of the project with thoughts like “I have to catch bugs?!” or “I have to write a paper?!” running through their heads. But they haven’t yet comprehended exactly what the project is all about. They need you to sit down with them and explain what you expect and how you plan to grade the project. The rubric you use to grade a project should help them to understand the scope of it, so it will be helpful to share the grading rubric with them.
2. Help your child break the class project up into individual tasks.
Once, when I was overwhelmed by a project in school, my teacher told me, “elephants must be eaten one bite at a time.” I don’t think that the quote was original to her, but her words stuck in my head because they so vividly pictured what we all know—overwhelming tasks are much easier to handle when we break them up into smaller chunks.
As an adult, you are probably a pro at breaking up large, overwhelming tasks. Instead of thinking, “I have to have my house spotless by the end of the week,” you think “today I’m going to clean the guest room. I’ll start by dusting the dresser.”
Your children likely haven’t developed those project management skills yet. Some may approach a project like an insect collection, think “I need to go outside and catch twenty bugs,” and head outside without planning what to do with the insects they catch. They may think the project doesn’t sound hard and that it’s not due for a long time. But the project isn’t going to work out well with either mindset. That’s why your children need you to help them figure out how to break up a project into manageable tasks.
3. Give each of those tasks a due date.
It might be possible to eat an elephant bite by bite, but you probably don’t want to do it all in one meal. Ideally, you want to spread those bites out over several days. You’ll want to help your children do the same thing with their projects. Help them come up with a reasonable project schedule by starting with the project due date and working backward, estimating the time each task will take.
4. Keep track of progress.
It will be helpful if your children have a way to track their progress. A chart or a checklist will help both you and your children know exactly what has been accomplished and what still needs to be worked on.
5. Teach your child how to adjust the plan when things don’t go as planned.
Life happens, and projects often don’t go as planned. Maybe it rains all week, and your children can’t go outside to catch insects. Maybe someone gets sick or your computer crashes. There are all kinds of problems that could arise to throw off a perfectly planned schedule. But don’t let your children get discouraged. Instead, teach them how to adjust their plan to fit the needs of the moment.
6. Celebrate Success.
When your children finish a major class project, be sure to celebrate. Not only have they learned more about a certain subject, but they also have learned a lot about how to manage a potentially overwhelming task. They have gained some fortitude. Those life skills are worth celebrating!
Finding Supplies for Class Projects
Class projects often require specific supplies. Check out some resources for homeschool projects to help you search for the necessary supplies for your project.
Managing Preschoolers During Project Time
Preschoolers and toddlers are good at introducing chaos to your homeschool day and will likely try to “help” with class projects too. Here are a few tips for homeschooling with little ones that may help you and your children during project time.
Homeschool class projects are an important part of a child’s homeschool experience. Be a coach and a cheerleader as your children work through these projects. Ultimately, the project grade doesn’t matter much—they are going to learn something, and that is definitely a homeschool win!