Project-Based Learning: How is this different from traditional learning?


As a child, I didn’t really seem to learn how most teachers taught. I was not the “sponge” they anticipated…or the sponge they told me I should be. When a teacher talked at me, or lectured at me, it was rare if I understood anything that was said. I began to realize I still had to learn these things, even though it was really hard for me. I challenged myself to find a practical use for everything teachers were throwing at me: this experience also influenced me as a teacher.

Now, standard classroom models would specify that I, the teacher, give students a question, then give the students the answers, ask those students to memorize the answers, and then give students a test to ensure they’ve memorized information. This is what I call “teaching what to think.”

While this can be a faster, more predictable way for teachers to ensure they’ve checked all the mandated boxes, it does not allow students to use logic or reasoning skills. It is teaching to the test. I firmly believe this is why we see and hear from so many young people who cannot function well alone; they seem to truly need someone to give them the answers. They’ve been expected to parrot from elementary to graduation, but suddenly, in higher education and then in the workforce, these same parroting students are expected to have unique ideas and employ reasoning and logic as part of problem solving. Because I want my students to not struggle with this, I do what I call “teaching how to think.”

As teachers, parents, and parent-teachers, we aim for students to:

  1. value the study of the discipline
  2. engage with the content
  3. persist when the work gets difficult
  4. grow from guidance and critique
  5. connect theory to application and practice

Simply asking students to memorize content to pass a test does not meet any of the five aims of education listed above. So, what do we do differently to ensure students receive the quality education they deserve?


Aim to have students value the study of the discipline: Discuss what experiences we, as teachers, have to the discipline. If you’re teaching your child math, why not include consumer math? Simple grocery store calculations can make for a much more exciting math lesson than worksheets and times.

Aim to have students engage with the content: Provide an example of how your curiosity evolved into to a question and the pursuit of an answer, describing how those connections were made and the excitement and rewards of doing so. Better yet, participate in the inquiry by asking students a question you do not know the answer to. Ask your child which product has the lowest price per ounce. While it may be printed on the grocery store shelf, ignore it. Work out the problem together, and then double check your answers. Find an ingredient for which you don’t have a recipe, and research in the store using your smart phone from where the item comes, and how it’s used. Find recipes together, and decide if you’d like to try something new together!

Aim to have students persist: When the work gets difficult and to grow from guidance and critique, we can take share our own vulnerability and growth. Oftentimes, parents hide this vulnerability from their children. In turn, children will balk at the idea of trying something new and possibly “failing.” They begin to believe that if they cannot do something correctly the first time, they should not do it at all. Understanding that all people must experience growth is paramount. I always say “If you’re comfortable, you’re not growing” because growth is uncomfortable. Demonstrate not only a process but the thinking through the process. For example, project a problem on a piece of paper and talk aloud the process of solving it. Verbalize the weighing of alternatives so the patterns of thinking are illustrated on the way to the answer. In doing this, students get to eavesdrop on your thought process. If you’re grocery shopping and discover the store does not carry some of the ingredients you need, what are your options? Helping children to develop these reasoning skills will benefit them not only as an adult, but also as a child because they begin to uncover solutions to problems without asking you; they trust their own process!

Aim to have students connect theory to applications and practice: We can integrate personal connections as resources. If your child has questions about bridges, do you happen to know an engineer who can help? Can you show your child how learning the formula for volume will be beneficial as an adult? Why should your child learn history? Help them form these connections. Students will learn to form them on their own as they grow older, but right now, they need your examples.

If you’re interested in learning more, please check out my course catalog to see how I use the Project-Based Learning methods in my classroom! 


Jumping In

Since it’s summer, how fitting it is that I am standing at the edge of a metaphorical diving board about to cannonball.

Today I’m elated to announce that I’m starting a new adventure of taking full ownership of my teaching platform. I am no longer affiliated with Outschool, or offering courses there anymore. I’m terrified and thrilled and everything in between!

For you, community, this means greater affordability, as my costs are significantly reduced without the overhead of Outschool’s cut. The consistency and quality of teaching that you have always received from my courses will remain. When we communicate, it will be with me, your instructor, and not a helpline or customer service representative acting as a middleman. I will be able to answer your questions on payment myself, and I will now have the flexibility to offer payment plans (which are already live on my site!), and coupon codes periodically. There will be no waiting on approvals for class listings if you request new times.

My site has been undergoing some changes as I’ve tried to streamline and organize the enrollment process. Let me know what you think! If something does not feel intuitive to you, I’d love to hear it. As we continue together on this adventure in education, and there is something you feel is missing that could complete your experience, I would love to hear that as well.

I hope these changes thrill you as much as they thrill me! If you ever have any questions, as always, please feel free to reach out.

Thank you for being a member of this community.

Also, to clarify,  I will still be teaching with Open Tent Academy! If you’ve enrolled there, your classes are not changing. If you haven’t checked it out, click here, and I’d love to answer any questions you may have.

What is active learning?

As a child, I struggled in school. Oftentimes, teachers taught using worksheets and silent, passive observation from myself and my peers. I realized early on that this was just not a great way for me to learn. I knew I was “surface learning”, but when it came to subjects that interested me and I researched myself, I somehow gained a much deeper understanding of the subject matter. I began to apply my “fun subject” methods to my “not-as-fun” subjects as I got older. I saw huge changes: math concepts didn’t seem as foreign, even with dyscalculia, and new concepts across a broad range of subjects began to make sense. What was I doing differently from my teachers? Perhaps this was an anomaly, I thought. But..what if it’s not?

As it turns out, the research supported what I learned as a child and teen. In 2013, the term ‘deeper learning’ was adopted by the Hewlett Foundation to describe the concern that America’s schools are failing to prepare learners adequately to overcome tomorrow’s economic, technological, and societal challenges. After gathering leaders of the education community to discuss these issues, the Hewlett Foundation identified six outcomes or abilities associated with deeper learning:

  • Master core academic content
  • Think critically and solve complex problems
  • Work collaboratively
  • Communicate effectively
  • Learn how to learn
  • Develop academic mindsets

What are the main differences between deeper and surface learning?


What, exactly, is active learning, and how do we as Parent-Educators facilitate Active Learning?

Active learning was first defined by Bonwell and Eison (1991) as “anything that involves students in doing things and thinking about the things they are doing”. Growing from developments in adult, cognitive, and educational research, active learning responds to traditional lecture formats with more engaged activities that invite students to participate in learning, including developing conceptual awareness, applying knowledge through experience, and transferring skills across contexts. Active learning helps students to ascend Bloom’s Taxonomy from remembering and understanding to analyzing and creating.

Active learning may be distilled into two kinds of activities:

  • Doing things: Activities like discussion, idea mapping, and debate require students to construct knowledge through higher order thinking (such as recalling, applying, analyzing, evaluating, synthesizing, and verbalizing concepts). This contrasts knowledge passively transmitted to students solely via listening, transcribing, memorizing, and reading.
  • Thinking about the things [students] are doing: Although not always explicitly noted in active learning literature, metacognition—students’ thinking about their own learning—promotes active learning by acquainting students with their own learning habits. Metacognition promotes students’ ability to self-assess and self-regulate themselves as learners. Metacognition often happens through student feedback methods, which open up student-instructor dialogue about teaching and learning methods.

What works in my classroom:

My classes are almost all virtual (online using Canvas and Zoom). For my classes, I really try to consider what my students already like when planning. If your child enjoys Pokemon, there’s no reason we can’t learn word problems with Pikachu. Learners would also be encouraged to create these word problems to share with the class. I also employ many of the strategies below.

  • Large-Group Discussion – Students discuss a topic in class based on a reading, video, or problem. The instructor may prepare a list of questions to facilitate discussion.
  • Sequence reconstruction – Instructor gives students jumbled steps in a process, and asks them to work together to reconstruct the proper sequence.
  • Error identification – Instructor provides statements, readings, proofs, or other material that contains errors. Students must find and correct the errors.
  • Concept map – Students are provided with a list of terms and must arrange the terms on paper, drawing arrows between related concepts and labeling each arrow to explain the relationship. Alternatively, students can use software like MindMeister or to project their maps on a screen or share with the class.
  • Categorizing grids – Instructor gives students several important categories and a list of scrambled terms, images, equations, or other items. Students sort the terms into the correct categories.
  • Interactive Lecture – Break up the lecture at least once per class for an activity that lets all students work directly with the material.
  • Active Review Sessions – Pose a question which students work on in groups or individually. Students are asked to show their responses to the class and discuss any differences.
  • Inquiry Learning – Instructor presents a major concept and then asks students to make observations, pose hypotheses, and speculate on conclusions.
  • Brainstorming – Instructor provides a topic or problem and then asks for student input. After a few minutes, the instructor asks for responses and records them on the board.
  • Role Playing – Students use dramatic techniques to get a better idea of the concepts and theories being discussed. They might stage dialogue in a case study, act out a scene in a literature class, produce a mock debate of a historic issue, or present (within a safe context) problematic social responses requiring discussion.
  • Jigsaw Discussion – Students are divided into small groups that discuss different but related topics. Students then shuffle to create new groups with one student from each of the original groups. In these new groups, each student is responsible for sharing key aspects of their original discussion. The second group must synthesize and use all of the ideas from the first set of discussions in order to complete a new or more advanced task.
  • Learning Goals – Students create a list of skills and topics they would like to cover. They then choose the learning targets for these topics.

You’ll see these strategies and more used in my classroom. Learners are expected to engage, actively, in my classes…education is not about rote memorization. Rather, education is truly an enlightening experience that involves whole-body, whole brain learning.

Complete Enrollment

This form collects information necessary for communication pertaining to my classes (for you and your learners) and enrollments. I use an online classroom and Learning Management System (LMS) called Canvas. This has MANY more capabilities than the standard classrooms on Outschool. I am also able to have tech support after hours and on weekends using Canvas. This LMS yields a much more thorough and fun educational experience for my learners.

If you have more than one learner you’ll be enrolling, please complete for form for each child and use a separate email address for each; I’m unable to assign two accounts to a single email address. If the form won’t allow you to do this, try opening it in an Incognito tab. Once you complete this form, watch for an email from It will contain the link to register for your account. These are manually added, so please do not expect an immediate email. We must verify each submission before adding to Canvas. I do not have access to passwords, so please remember or write down the passwords you set. if you have questions about this form or anything else after enrolling, please contact me directly at as I do not regularly check the Outschool classroom since it is not used during our courses. All fields on this form are required.

By signing this form, you acknowledge I may send you important updates via email from time to time. I promise to neither spam nor sell your information. Thank you, and I’m excited to meet your learners!

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Free Online Education Info Session

Free Online Education Info Session.png

Are you interested in online education for your child, but you have questions? Join me for a 60 minute chat! I’ll provide you with great information like that can answer questions like:

  • What are online classes?
  • How do I decide if online education could work for my kids?
  • Can I really do this?
  • How do I know what will happen during class?
  • What if my child would like to take a class at their own pace instead of live?
  • How do online classes work for neurodivergent kids?
  • What’s my own workload requirement, as a parent, if my kids enroll in online courses?
  • Are these safe?

And others! You’re free to ask questions, and there will be a place in Canvas for you to post your questions ahead of time, if that’s more convenient than asking during the live session. You are NOT required to speak during the session, if you prefer; many parents type questions and answers, or just listen quietly. I can also share some information about how my classes are ran, and what I’m offering currently.

This webinar will take place using Zoom, and resources and information are posted in my Canvas classroom.

Saturday, June 16 5-6pm EST

To enroll, please click here.

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