June 14, 2017
I did a presentation last weekend at a homeschool conference. It was my first homeschool conference speaking gig.
After doing that presentation I was going to write a little post with a follow-up idea, a thought that presented itself to me as I chatted throughout the day with people who had attended my talk.
And as these things go for me I can't write anything short and sweet. I surrender.
I can't write about homeschool practice without writing about homeschool philosophy, and this slows me down a lot.
So that one post idea has evolved into a short series.
My presentation was titled: Project Based Learning as a Mindset and Methodology for Homeschooling.
I video recorded this talk and I will be making it available, in this series, along with presentation notes, in the coming weeks.
I feel inadequate as a presenter, I have very little experience in that realm. When you're presenting an idea live, in person, you can't hide behind weeks of editing. You make mistakes you're not even aware of making. You might say misleading or confusing things and not have a chance to clear that up. I feel pretty insecure about that presentation.
My goal in doing this talk was not to convince anyone of my position, but to present the idea well. I wanted to take a somewhat abstract idea and help it make sense to people, in the practical details and application.
My definition of project based learning is that the projects are self-chosen, self-managed, and self-directed (I borrow this definition from the work of Lori Pickert) - with the help of invested adults, mentors, teachers. This assistance and engagement is a key part of the process, as I explain in my presentation.
This lands project based learning squarely in the realm of interest-led and freedom-based learning.
Interest-led learning is an abstract idea, so is freedom education. Homeschool philosophy, and the beliefs I have about life and learning, are abstract. Life is full of abstract ideas - love, sacrifice, faithfulness, beauty, logic, democracy, courage, the list goes on and on. All of it abstract and yet made real, we could say made incarnate or embodied, by living and doing.
This is how I think about and how I "do" homeschooling. Homeschooling is the living breathing thing that is the expression of ideas I have about the meaning and purpose of life, the purpose of education, our relationship with God and each other, etc.
Homeschooling incarnates, it embodies, my life philosophy. Even when I can't necessarily give words to that philosophy.
This isn't a radical idea. The big things we do with our lives: our vocations, callings, careers, long term relationships, all of it, incarnate our beliefs. Whether we are aware of it or not.
More accurately, and more distressing if you ask me, is that the small things in our life, our daily actions and responses, incarnate our beliefs. And it is the collection of these small and daily actions that build those vocations, careers, and relationships.
This is a wake-up-call truth for me, because what I see in my life, in action, is not necessarily what I want to believe. My stress, pettiness, and anxiety reveal the truth of my beliefs. Thankfully, they are also signals and signposts that give me the chance to examine an unwanted and unwarranted belief and do the hard work of making adjustments, changing my mindset.
This is the work of life: the revelation, examination and transformation of self.
Our actions animate ideas, bring things to life. And we have a choice about what we animate.
Homeschooling for me is as much about a commitment to the practice of a philosophy, a way of thinking and approaching life, as it is about providing my kids a certain type of education. (Of course providing that "type" of eduction is part of the philosophy.) The philosophy is the heartbeat and the thing that fascinates me most. This is probably why I find discussion of resource choices (what math program to use, etc.) tedious and boring.
An hour long presentation can't even begin to unpack all that. Unless the presentation was about that specifically, and it wasn't. It was about a practical application of an idea, how to incorporate both a mindset and method of project based learning in your homeschool. But in one hour I could barely unpack those ideas alone.
The world of ideas, in this case as related to education, intrigues and fascinates me. It's my interest-led learning. But I am also very practical and pragmatic. Show me how this works.
As a homeschool writer I've always tried to do both, I can't just do one or the other. But making this connection between idea and action is a tricky thing because as I'm explaining a practical idea I want to loop back to the foundational principle underneath.
I am more experienced doing that in my writing than I am in presenting. In truth, I think I like to hide behind my writing. It feels safer here, less chance of error. I can edit my way out of sounding stupid, I can edit my way to clarity.
But in the past couple months it's been clear to me that speaking and stepping out from behind the safety of writing is my next learning curve. Exposing myself in perhaps uncomfortable ways (like video) is an important part of my growth and development and taking my work as a writer to the next level.
And getting beyond self, beyond ego, beyond anxiety, in the process.
I had to practice my philosophy of life and learning in making that presentation. It was an interest-led, project based growing experience for me to present on interest-led, project based learning. Pretty trippy eh?
I really did not feel so great about my presentation. You know how sometimes you do things and you are "in your element" and the feedback, internally or externally, sets off positive chemical reactions in your brain, flooding you with good feelings. That didn't happen to me.
I received some positive feedback following the presentation (I want to do a follow-up survey to find out what I could do better) but internally I didn't feel like I nailed it.
But for so many reasons, that's ok.
Isn't it great when you get a chance to practice your own learning philosophy?
How I feel about something does not indicate the truth of the situation or how successful I was. The practice of vulnerability in safe environments is important. Growth happens outside of our comfort zone. Mistakes are ok. You don't have to be perfect (neither does anyone else). The goal is to show up and do the work - to make something and share it.
I am so grateful for the chance to grow, for the opportunity to do the work, to make something and share it, to be released a little more each week, each month, each year from the clutches of ego. It's not about me. I'd like to repeat this for the freedom it brings, it's not about me. (Feel free to tell yourself the same thing.)
I'm a co-creator with the Divine, a sometimes reluctant, very-limited-in-imagination partner to the energizing force, you could say God, that seeks to set people free.
Free to receive love, fully. Free to love in return. Free to serve.
I feel in my bones this is part of the message I have to share. This is my calling.
I bear witness to the herky-jerky process of knowing this freedom in my own heart. I (imperfectly) create a family life and homeschool environment that nurtures these truths. I proclaim it to others, with writing and living that feels inadequate to the task.
This was the heart behind that presentation and why I agreed to do it in the first place. And feeling not so great about the experience (though that may change over time) is such a great lesson in remembering it's not about me. I use my hands to be faithful to the tug in my heart and to give flesh to the ideas in my mind.
I do my best to animate an idea, bring it to life, and I let it go.
I'm going to share the video recording of that presentation with you. I'll let go of my need to edit the heck out of it so I sound better than I actually am. I remind myself, if I believe in freedom that means I practice freedom. Freedom from myself. Is that not one of the most sweetest freedoms there is?
And here is one of the deep paradoxes of the self-directed learner.
It's actually not about self, in the way people often think about self (selfish, self-focused). It's about tapping into, channeling if you will, the fullest expression of ourselves, not to glorify self, but to express the Divine in our lives for the benefit of others. To know and express a facet of the Divine that only you possess. To make God incarnate. That's the point.
Imagine the effort of drilling for water in a dry land (doing the work in the soil of our lives), the gushing of the water when the Source has been found and the life-giving affect that water has on the surrounding area. Is this not the meaning of it all? Man, this makes me excited. Talk about animating.
I warned you this would get philosophical. I can't talk about the practice without the philosophy. I can't do it any other way. Life, homeschooling, writing.
Next up in this series: I will share the video, my presentation outline and a few other thoughts on project based learning. And then I will get to the idea I wanted to share all along, a super-practical, life giving tip to help you on an interest-led, freedom-based homeschooling path.
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