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Project Fair 101 -- our first time with our elementary age kids!
Christine Whiteman, 4/13/2010

Christine Whiteman is a homeschooling mother of two delightful girls. Her piece here reminds me so much of earlier years for our own family, when all of our children also benefited from just this type of homeschool project fair. Having an event like this really us to focus in and create a meaningful and in-depth project-- having an audience and a deadline, as well as a fun culminating event with lots of other kids participating, is a real recipe for success. And these sorts of events really build momentum-- notice that Christine shares that her girls are already thinking ahead to their projects for next year's fair! I hope this inspires you to jump in and take part in any local homeschool project fair in your area-- or to start one!

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           In early March my family and I travelled to Grove City, PA to the Grove City Homeschool Project Fair, organized by Gaye Welton.  It was our first project fair experience, so we were a little nervous about what to expect.  We all had a great time and learned so much!  The fair itself is the climax of a journey involving research, writing, organization, presentation and, of course, the opportunity for your kids to immerse themselves in a topic that they want to learn more about.  Since there were over sixty-five entries from kids of all ages, my girls had the opportunity to see a wide variety of topics, presentation styles and displays.  As a mom, I really enjoyed seeing the displays and written papers prepared by other kids. 

                The Grove City Project Fair is structured so that each child is competing only against himself or herself.  The children are judged by two parents attending the fair, and at the end of the competition the children are given a ribbon based on their score of Good, Superior or Excellent.  This system avoids competition against other students and also avoids hurt feelings, but still offers some constructive criticism and praise for excellent work.   Since you , the homeschooling mom, are not the one scoring your own child’s work, the project fair is valuable both to you and your child in that there is a third party looking objectively at your child’s work....

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First Peg, for Best Learning
Rachel Conner, 2/4/2010

Rachel Johnston Conner was an early homeschool graduate (PHAA 1995), a journalist, and now a homeschool teacher with her own children. Rachel is also teaching writing at a homeschool co-op program in her area. Several of Rachel's early writings are published in my anthology of homeschooled children's writing, Writing from Home (see our online store)including her insightful paper on the French and Indian War (at the age of 12, Rachel was playing fife in a reenactment group in Pittsburgh) and an amazing historical fiction story based on her knowledge of that time. Rachel was also one of the very first homeschoolers we knew who had successfully taken an AP exam-- and one of her older sisters, Ruth Johnston, taught AP English Literature for many years in our AP Online program. Another older sister is Ellen McHenry-- see the link to her amazing site Basement Workshop on our sidebar. As you read Rachel's thoughts on young children's learning, I think you'll also be able to translate this core idea to older children, and even to yourself-- we all learn in this way.    

So many times being a good teacher is as simple as knowing where to start. The average “American on the street” can read a book just fine, but most of them would be at a loss (and rather intimidated) to know where to start to teach someone else to read.

A good teacher isn’t born knowing where to start, either. I remember wanting to teach my child to read, but wondering how I could start out. Thankfully I found some hints to get me going... a good teacher learns along the way! And a good teacher uses the tips and tricks found in books, from friends, from other educational methods ... and creates knowledge for the students step-by-step.

One of my observations about homeschooling so far is this: Kids need a “first peg” to hang their hat on, when it comes to learning a new field of knowledge. Then they need time to learn that “first peg” well -- a lot of time, like six months or a year. After they have had time to learn the first peg and then they have rehearsed the first peg and it has become solid knowledge, then they are ready for a few more “pegs” on their mental peg boards....

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