Category Archives: Inspiration

On documentation

Today was wonderful. After spending the morning with the kids and some friends I got the rest of the day to myself to plug away at my preparations for the start of the semester. I was excited to see that the first email from the PBH Master Class had arrived (PBH = Project-Based Homeschooling.) I read the email in full– getting more excited as I went along.

The focus this week is on documentation. And perhaps not so oddly, that is most certainly one of the topics of great concerns for the grads I am working with this semester. The email was really focused on process (another love of mine)– specifically observational writing, photography and video. But all this in the context of journaling. Of course, that always brings to mind a lonely teenager writing poems at her bedside (been there done that.) But this is, in many ways, a tool for orientation– for reflection. And I know how valuable it can be from the perspective as a designer. And it is certainly something I am excited to be more rigorous about.

What I never considered before and really learned today was the value it brings in the PBH context. As a parent, observing and journaling becomes a tool for encouraging. Lori (from PBH) writes:

Using your journal sends a whole series of messages to your child without your ever needing to say them out loud:

Their work is important and worthy of attention and support.
You are investing time and energy in them.
You are working on yourself.
You are using a tool to help you focus, remember, and plan.
You are paying attention.
You think it’s important to remember questions, plans, and ideas.

And so on. Without you explicitly saying anything, your child picks up on the fact that you care about the work she’s doing:

My family thinks I’m important.
My work is important.
My opinions and my ideas are important.
They think so, and now, so do I.

This is so terribly valuable for me. It feels so liberating– this way of being with my kids. Not as an entertainer, not as a teacher. But that my work is the work of supporting them. And that I take it seriously. And when I take it seriously, they will too.

So after I scanned the email I headed over to the PBH forum. There are two posts in our dedicated class space. I’ve only got through one because I am brimming with ideas. The most profound is that PBH and the Reggio approach are so closed tied to Design Thinking (one of my other works in the world)– it just is astounding. I knew that on a surface level, but once I started diving deeper– it was mind blowing. I have had experiences before where I’ve learned something from a practitioner who works with children– only to have the realization that the methods are also highly effective with adults. It seems to be the same case here. The tools and the methods of PBH and the Reggio approach will be incredibly value to me when I enter a classroom with Design Graduate Students at the end of this week. And I am so excited to share what I am learning with them!

On a final note, I love that we are already practicing some of the tools of PBH. Just today D was talking about how he wanted to learn everything he could about Ninja’s. I nudged him to articulate some of his questions as he was headed out the door. As he spoke, I wrote his questions down on the chalk board so we could explore them more closely another time. He also asked me to write a reminder and go tape it to his bed reading: “D wants to be a Ninja.” Ya know– in case he forgets. (See images)

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Last, I am posting this amazing 15 minute documentary on Documentation in the Reggio School. It was one of the things shared on the PBH forum today. So excellent!


Stop Motion with Hotwheels

D and I made our first stop motion with a trial version of Smoovie. We were inspired after discovering LEGO stop motion videos like this one. The program worked great and was easy for him to understand. The only problem was that with the trial version you can’t export so I had to make a video of the screen with my phone to be able to share. I am still researching other ways to do stop motion– a program simple enough for a preschooler to get the idea.

Our first subject, of course, is a hot wheels monster truck jam.

Spy comics

We were inspired by James Sturm’s book called Adventures in Cartooning so we started working on our own comics. The book walks you through setting up your own comic at the end, so that was a perfect start to our project. We’d also been reading a “how-to” book on being a spy by Perry the Platapus. You can see the influence there.

What I learned from this was that our kids get intimidated by our (grown-up) way of drawing. D, in particular, gets discouraged by my drawing skills. After he expressed his feeling about this, I took on his drawing style and things went much smoother. I even borrowed many of his visual inventions like the hot cup of cocoa and the window. His work are the first and last pages. Mine is the middle page.

D asked to handle the camera while I narrated the story.

Robin Hood and Her Merry Girls!

For the second year in a row we had the great pleasure of attending a play put on by the School Free Players– a group or ambitious young homeschoolers. This years production called Robin Hood and Her Merry Girls, was written and performed by these talented young people. And for the second year in a row our crew sat totally focused and full of laughter as we watched. D & E are obsessed with the wonderfully hilarious pig character– Robin Hood’s germ obsessed sidekick!

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Act 1 

Act 2 


We recently checked out a great book from the library that was all about drawing robots. Its served as great inspiration for 2 weeks worth of robot projects. We started out just drawing robots and giving them names. Then we did a project with cut shapes– building up our robots piece by piece.  But by far the most loved project was building robots from our recycle bin. Oh man this was fun. D and I had a great idea to attach our robots to monster trucks so they could roll. Genius! It totally worked.

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The decline in opportunity to play has also been accompanied by a decline in empathy and a rise in narcissism, both of which have been assessed since the late 1970s with standard questionnaires given to normative samples of college students. Empathy refers to the ability and tendency to see from another person’s point of view and experience what that person experiences. Narcissism refers to inflated self-regard, coupled with a lack of concern for others and an inability to connect emotionally with others. A decline of empathy and a rise in narcissism are exactly what we would expect to see in children who have little opportunity to play socially. Children can’t learn these social skills and values in school, because school is an authoritarian, not a democratic setting. School fosters competition, not co-operation; and children there are not free to quit when others fail to respect their needs and wishes.

—Peter Gray, “The Play Deficit”

Wow, she can sing!

I was so excited to listen to this recording! Singing is the daughter of some friends of ours whose unschooled kids have been a huge inspiration to us in our decision to keep our kids out of school. Proof is in the pudding.