We did project-based homeschooling and talked about the Coast Guard for 10 months straight.

We started project-based unschooling with Gus was 3. That sounds so fancy, and it really wasn’t.

Let’s put it this way instead: When Gus was 3, he developed a passion for the Coast Guard, and I did my best to find books and activities that would answer the questions he was constantly throwing at me about rescue swimmers, winch lines, and shipping channels on the Great Lakes.

It’s called parenting, am I right?

There’s a plethora of information online about project-based homeschooling. Lori Pickert, who wrote the book and coined the term, runs a fantastic website and forum dedicated to educating and supporting PBH families. I highly recommend visiting her site and reading everything she’s ever written. Seriously, everything. (If that sounds overwhelming, start here).

My approach to project-based homeschooling is based on Pickert’s ideas. To use Gus’s Coast Guard project as an example, I:

A. Observed Gus at play, documenting his interests and activities. (I wrote in our learning record something like: Arranged wooden blocks on a tray to make ‘map for a deep water rescue.’ or Climbed on the couch and jumped off pretending he was ‘a Coast Guard rescue swimmer.’)

B. Organized Gus’s thoughts and displayed them in a prominent place. (We have an ongoing list of questions written on a large chalkboard in his bedroom. There is a bulletin board in the playroom where I hang Gus’s photos, drawings, and story dictations.)

C. Assisted Gus in his investigations and inquiries. This often takes the form of “strewing” certain items where Gus can find them (like library books on his current interests). It also could be a provocation, such as setting out open-ended materials based on an expressed interest or question (like real maps and a variety of drafting tools, for example). As Gus gets older, he’ll take on the investigative work himself (choosing his own projects, locating his own books, and so on).

D. Repeat A-C. Natural learning is non-linear. It’s messy. One question leads to another which leads to another.

The Coast Guard project started with one question, and it lasted for 10 months straight. Gus asked, “Are there tow-truck boats for stuck boats like there are tow trucks for stuck cars?”

“Yep,” I said. “I think the Coast Guard would help a stuck boat. Let’s see if we can find a youtube video…”

We read countless books about the Coast Guard. Gus learned everything about boats and helicopters; learned how to read maps; drew his own maps; learned how to tie sailor’s knots, including a Boline; learned left and right by first understanding port side and starboard side; practiced basic first aid; learned water safety; learned about the shipping industry of the Great Lakes; built and floated paper boats; built giant cardboard boats; met and interviewed a retired Coast Guard coxswain; toured a Coast Guard base and met a real rescue swimmer; watched documentaries about Coast Guard rescues; understood the mechanics behind a winch line; and so much more.

Want to learn more?

Project-Based Homeschooling.com

5 ways I find time to write as a busy mom

5 Ways I Find Time To Write As A Busy Mom

In the years before children, I actually journaled a few times a week. I also regularly showered and had uninterrupted conversations with my husband. Imagine the luxury.

The time for that disappeared when Matt and I brought home Gus, our first squalling bundle of joy. By the time Henry arrived three years later, any aspiration I had to authorship I funneled into writing in baby books and sending suggestive text messages to Matt at work.

And then everything changed.

I went through some big changes in 2016 that rocked the way I thought about the world. In the end, I walked away with a new sense of wonder and a desire to create something beautiful.

I wanted to write again.

And the baby wanted to nurse. Like all day long. And the four-year-old wanted an apple, chopped up, now, and to not be wearing these scratchy pants, and for me to crawl around with him on my back.

So we do all of these things. And I am still able to write.

Here’s how I do it.

1. I give my smart phone a break. 

Internet addiction is real, people. Put me in front of a screen and I’ll come up for air an hour later, blinking and glassy-eyed, having accomplished absolutely nothing. When I want to write, I put my smart phone away.

Just buy a cheap flip phone (or dig your old one out of the drawer), swap out your SIM card, and leave the smart phone at home when you can. I do all of my best writing out of the house, in the moments between things. This is the time I would have previously spent scrolling my newsfeed. Of course, there are internet restriction apps that you can use to block certain websites for set amounts of time, but I like the mental freedom that comes with using a dumb phone.

2. I bring my journal everywhere. 

Have you heard of bullet journals? They can be gorgeous. Not mine, of course. Mine has crushed-up Cheerios from the bottom of the diaper bag stuck on it.

It’s ugly, yet fabulous. It’s a blank lined book turned calendar, planner, homeschool record, and writer’s journal all in one. I toss it in my bag, and it’s there when I need to jot down a quick idea or when I have time to write at length. A few nights a week, I get on the computer after the kids go to bed to transcribe, edit, and post what I’ve written. This is also one of the times when I catch up on emails, news, and social media.

3. I don’t play with the kids at the park. 
The picture below was taken on hike I took with the boys recently.  I wrote an entire blog post that afternoon, walking along beside them.

Hiking the prairie

A post shared by Alice Christopherson (@aliceinwondermentblog) on

Now that I carry my journal with me everywhere, I can write when the kids are engaged in independent play. I don’t mean that I scribble away every chance I get. Most of the time, it’s more important to be with them, listening, talking, and poking sticks in the mud. But sometimes the kids are involved in something that is all their own. It usually happens out in nature or at the playground. I take those opportunities to write.

Yes, I am that weird, homeschooling mom chasing her children across the park with a leather-bound notebook in hand. Yes, writing and walking can be difficult. And yes, I do get strange looks from other parents.

But so what.

4. I schedule time to write. 
When you homeschool or stay at home with young children, silence is a rare commodity. There are a few times a week, however, when I can find some quiet (or at least some ear plugs). This is when I schedule time to write.

For example, when Henry naps, I play 45 minutes of audio stories for Gus and get some writing done. Every Wednesday night, Matt and Gus go swimming, Henry goes to bed early, and I write.

5. I wake up early.
For the first time since 2011, none of my children are waking me up at night. It is ah-maazing!

And because I’m so refreshed and rejuvinated, I’ve been doing the unthinkable.

I’m choosing to wake up at 5 AM.

If that sounds miserable to you, just imagine waking up, showering, drinking an entire cup of coffee, and writing for an hour… all before the first child starts climbing up your legs.

What about you? If you work from home or work part-time, how do you find time to get everything done?