View Full Version : WANTED: unit study expert!

09-18-2010, 10:19 PM
i've been thinking that i really want to try unit studies w/my 7 yr old. i think it sounds interesting and will help me get my head under control-i've been really struggling w/what and how to teach! also i was hoping that it would make it easier for my 4 yr old to participate-he wants to "do school too" so badly! but i'm having a hard time wrapping my brain around the concept. i was thinking about keeping the online math and everything else coming from the unit study-is that right? do i have to worry about gaps in his learning? he's really interested in science-especially bugs-so should i focus on that? do i break it up into different types or do just do bugs in general? how do you organize it all so that you know which way is up? i'm one of those unorganized people that wants so badly to be organized that i drive myself INSANE trying to get there. i can't seem to get myself to think outside of the box. my hubby and i decided to blame that on the way public school taught me to think-lol. but i want to make sure i don't pass that problem onto my babies. any advice would be greatly appreciated!!

09-18-2010, 10:24 PM
one more thing-how long should we spend on each unit study? ok-two more things! lol can we just do unit studies and online math?

Theresa Holland Ryder
09-18-2010, 11:56 PM
I don't think I'm a unit study expert, but we have done some unit studies over the years both with a co-op group and on our own.

How long any certain unit study is depends on how broad the topic is and how deeply you want to cover it. A unit study on butterflies is probably going to be shorter than a unit study on insects in general.

I love these books: Great Science Adventures (http://www.commonsensepress.com/GSA-sample_lesson/gs-lesson.htm)

Peg Hoenack's Musical Appe-Teasers (http://pegsmusicworks.com/index.php?cPath=23)(Carnival of the Animals, Peter and the Wolf, Peer Gynt)

There's lots of other stuff like these around. :)


09-19-2010, 06:51 AM
We haven't done unit studies either, but I have a thought on the worry about "gaps". In public school at age 7, basically kids are learning math (addition and simple subtraction) and language arts (learning to read, reading level books, working on handwriting and maybe getting a few thoughts on paper like a journal entry on "what I did on the weekend"). That's pretty much it. If they are lucky they get music or art (mostly cut and paste type stuff) thrown in there too, but it's all very limited. At least, that was our experience.

At home, your kids are getting *so much more*. You've already mentioned computer time (which includes typing even if you aren't doing a formal typing lesson) and science, and think about all the other stuff you do. You probably learn history, home ec (helping in the kitchen, doing chores), social studies, health and a host of other "subjects" that you cover without even realizing it. Education doesn't only come in the form of formal lessons, but it can be hard as adults to "deschool" ourselves of that idea.

When I hear concerns about "gaps" from people who don't homeschool I wonder what they are talking about, when the ps system routinely graduates kids who can't spell, can't read, and can't perform basic math, not to mention have no historical perspective or science background. It truly astonishes me.

09-19-2010, 09:14 AM
I like to use unit studies occasionally these days to liven things up, but I definitely did more of them when my oldest was younger.

The various Five in a Row (http://www.rainbowresource.com/prodlist.php?sid=1284901974-481837&subject=2&category=6487) books offer unit studies based around classic children's picture books--you read the same book every day for a week and do activities related to what was in the story. For instance, Cranberry Thanksgiving is broken down into the following sections:

Social Studies: Geography - New England
Social Studies: Relationships (grandparents, nicknames, disagreeable people, judging by appearance)
Social Studies: History - Thanksgiving
Language: Setting
Language: Repetition
Language: Poetic Prose Description
Language: Poetic Device - Onomatopoeia
Language: Layout of a Manuscript
Language: Vocabulary
Language: Elements of a Good Story
Language: Figurative Language - Simile
Art: Partial View
Art: Light and Dark
Art: Warm Palette and Sihouettes
Math: Measuring Skills
Science: Seasons
Science: Starch
Science: Leavening - Chemical Reaction

It can be as involved as you want--I read the selected book with my K-er and then pick and choose a couple of activities to do with it (we usually hit the social studies ones, at least) over the course of the week.

Another nice thing about unit studies is that you can base them on your kids' interests. My daughter did a big unit study on Australia last year, using many library books & dvds plus print-outs from abcteach (http://www.abcteach.com/) and Enchanted Learning (http://www.enchantedlearning.com/Home.html), among other things.

09-19-2010, 09:18 AM
Forgot to say that Homeschool Helper (http://www.homeschoolhelperonline.com/units.htm) has a slew of unit studies, based on literature, science, history/geography, etc. I don't like the new Google ads in the middle of the website, but I guess they had to do what they had to do to keep it going.

09-19-2010, 10:07 AM
When I hear concerns about "gaps" from people who don't homeschool I wonder what they are talking about, when the ps system routinely graduates kids who can't spell, can't read, and can't perform basic math, not to mention have no historical perspective or science background. It truly astonishes me.

I agree with hockeymom. I taught high school economics and when given a simple scenario the MAJORITY of my students couldn't come up with an answer, even if all they had to do was something as easy as multiply or divide, which they had learned to do in third grade. I would eventually have to tell them what method to use, then they could find the answer. So, so sad. FWIW, I truly think it is far more important for our children to have problem solving skills and to have the ability to make connections across subjects (which is SO much easier in homeschooling than in traditional schools which separate subjects and teach them in isolation) than it is to make sure all the boxes are checked. The fullest tool box in the world doesn't do a person any good if they don't know whether to use the hammer or the screwdriver.

If it will make you feel better to follow some sort of guidelines, however, you might try doing an online search. Most states post their education standards broken down by grade and subject. I glance at mine about three times a year, just to calm myself when the panic sets in :)

Also, we did unit studies for dd in kindergarten, so I don't know if my experience will help you, but I second Fiddler's suggestion of FIAR. We didn't follow the lesson plans, though. Once you get the hang of it you can use other books that you and your kids like. The one thing we do that they suggested was to get a large wall map and make discs representing each book and place the disc in the proper location. (After reading The Story About Ping-or something like that-we placed a little duck on the Yangtze River, etc...) We also used the Magic Tree House books for unit studies. My dd didn't read them in order, which drove me NUTS but it didn't seem to bother her. Some she really loved and we would spend a few weeks doing activities and reading library books (the dinosaur one comes to mind) and others she didn't care for at all, so after finishing the book we just went on. These books increased her vocabulary significantly. There is a website for them that includes some activities and fun stuff: http://www.randomhouse.com/kids/magictreehouse/. You can also buy a teaching guide and other cool stuff. Check amazon for those.


09-19-2010, 11:43 AM
We do Unit Studies. After a year of doing them on my own and spending a FORTUNE on every one of them, I was so excited to find a curriculum that did it for me. :p
So, we have used Moving Beyond the Page for the last 4 years.
I tried Five in a Row, but it just didn't do it for me.
MBTP incorporates everything but math, handwriting and learning HOW to read.
It has literature, language arts, science, social studies/history. It's all literature based and hands-on.

09-19-2010, 11:45 AM
i am having an EXTREMELY difficult time getting the ps way of thinking out of my head. i know that the way it's done in ps doesn't work but i keep thinking that i have to do it that way. it's just silly. i wish i could just relax about it!

09-19-2010, 12:20 PM
First of all, it is NOT silly. It's how you grew up (I assume) and it's what society expects. There is very little way of understanding how homeschooling works and HOW it is so different until you do it for awhile. I am new at it too so I'm certainly no expert, and I have panic days like everyone else, but I really think you need to cut yourself some slack. Give yourself time to figure it out. Homeschooling isn't a 8-2, M-F venture; it's a lifestyle--regardless of how much "table work" you do or when, or what your educational philosophies are. Be kind to yourself, and don't expect to get it all figured out right away. I take great consolation in the fact that our many wonderful experts here admit to going through rough patches or switching things up occasionally (sometimes frequently!). The thing with homeschooling is that it's an intentional way of living. We don't just throw our kids to the wolves, we live our lives *with* them. That means we have more opportunity to experience the good and the bad, and more opportunity to learn from those experiences.

I'm not sure how long you've been at this (is it your first year/first few weeks?), but maybe taking a breather is in order. Set up a simple routine, a couple hours in the mornings say, and take the afternoons to play. Follow your child's lead, chase the rabbit trails, read and play. There just isn't any way to "mess up".

09-19-2010, 12:33 PM
it is my first year and we've been at it it for a a few weeks. i am so glad i found this site-i really don't know what i would w/out all of you! i've overwhelmed myself w/all the different ways to homeschool and resources to use, to the point that i'm obsessing! i just want to be able to have some kind of a general plan. but i'm working on relaxing and eventually i'll figure out how to do it. i hope!

09-19-2010, 01:04 PM
Yeah, I know all about obsessing! :) There is a crazy lot of information out there, but at some point you might just have to step away for awhile until your head clears.

If you are just starting out, I might suggest setting up a simple routine of math (1-2 worksheets per day maybe, depending on the situation) and LA (spelling, handwriting, grammar--wherever your child is and whatever you think needs to start happening). That's it. An hour or two, tops. Shake it up when it gets boring, do some math on the computer or play games like math bingo. Follow your child's lead the rest of the time, go to the library and pick out whatever books they want on whatever topics interest them. Then read them together. Go to museums in the middle of the day because you can, go to the zoo if you have one, play at the park, go for a nature hike. Make a treasure hunt--your 4 year old can play too! Talk about the season, just have fun. The rest WILL come. It will also change and evolve--our experts here assure us of that! :)

Unit studies sound like an awesome way to expand. Like any other method, they can be whatever you want. Read about a subject, do a bit of writing about it, draw some pictures, answer some questions, turn math into word problems about your subject (There are 14 dinosaurs on the plain. If a T Rex ate 6 of them, how many would be left? ha ha). And if something isn't working, you get to tweak it. Nothing has to be set in stone. We recently tried lapbooks and even though lots of people love them, they left us cold. That's okay--we'll do something new for our next unit. It's one of the great benefits of homeschooling! :) And at 7, your child may have lots of ideas that they would love to explore that you can incorporate. How awesome is that!

You really CAN do this! :)

09-19-2010, 02:08 PM
we have a ton of boxes from my brief days as a seller-lol. so i think we're going to some exploring of medieval times and then make a castle! i think that will be lots of fun!

09-19-2010, 02:37 PM
When we started HSing we tried unit studies with added math W.S. It was a lot of fun but, required quite a bit of planning. The age of your son is the perfect time to explore unit studies. It will help foster a love of learning. As for bugs, you could do a whole year on them and still have barely brushed the surface. To make it shorter you can teach by Phylum? You can add in "Social Studies" by talking about bee farming or where the particular bug lives. More in depth science topics like biomes, populations, Habitat's, and Food chains, ect... there's tons of options. For the 4 yr old there are tons of free printables out there that teach abc's 123's using bugs and animals. I would also check out netflix (if you have it) and www.watchknow.com, PBS, Discovery for nature video's.

09-19-2010, 04:04 PM
I'm going to save myself a LOT of copying and pasting and just 'ditto' pretty much everything HockeyMom said, LOL.
Fiddler and Teri, too (I haven't heard of MBTP, but I am checking it out - thanks for the recc' Teri!!)

I was coming to write what HM said about starting with JUST math, LA and handwriting for now and gradually add in other stuff once that routine becomes comfortable. Unit studies ARE a great way to move on from there (like she said).
We only do science on Tues and Thurs, history on Mon & Wed and one craft/art project per week, one music lesson per week (dedicated - we often listen to music online while the kids are doing lessons, esp Math & Mozart), and are attempting to add a drama/creative demonstration at some point beofre the end of the year.

You DON'T have to get it all in every day, and you don't have to get it all in right now. There is PLENTY of time :)

HomeschoolShare's (http://www.homeschoolshare.com/levels.php) Unit Studies are neat, and lapbooking/notebooking is a great way to record what you've learned. FIAR was a great resource for us (buy them on ebay, not new if you plan to get them!!)

Anyway - just BREATHE :) You have plenty of time, and there will be adjustments in your thinking and expectations as you settle in to homeschooling. It's a learning experience just as much for you as the kids, and you can learn and grow together. It's a journey, not a destination! :)

09-19-2010, 06:36 PM
I absolutely second Hockey Moms advice.

A couple of things to consider. You could always just do one unit study a term and in between have some 'regular schooling' that you can be a little more at ease with filling in the gaps. As opposed to just purely unit studies.

I would consider purchasing your first one (in an ebook) once you've done one you can pretty much do them on your own if you wanted.

You could also just pick a topic, go borrow heaps of books from the lib ray and just see where it takes you. I have found many times that the more I plan for things the less interested the kids are. If we just wing it so to speak that is when they take off!

09-19-2010, 11:30 PM
Ok, i cant believe its a thread on unit studies and no one mentioned Intellego: http://www.intellegounitstudies.com They have tons of them, sorted by grade level now, and you can download them as pdfs. Really nice stuff. But unit studies didnt work that well for us, my boys couldnt stand the 'do a bit of this, now do a bit of that, now check out this website, now write something down'. And i cant stand crafty projects lol

09-20-2010, 09:39 AM
I think unit studies are definitely for a particular type of learner.
When my son was in Kindergarten, we were using Calvert at first. At age 5, he said to me, "I don't like that the science, social studies and reading have nothing to do with each other." So, unit studies it was.
By using a literature based unit studies, we don't have the issue of textbooks that are creation based either. Bonus. ;)
We do a lot of projects, some ARE crafty, a lot are not.
It is definitely NOT worksheet based though. They write quite a bit, but not by filling in worksheets. (He would also gloss over at the sight of a worksheet).
You can look at my blog and see some of the activities that we have done. We just finished our first unit for this year last week! So they are working on their end of unit projects right now.

09-20-2010, 05:14 PM
thanks for all the advice guys! cara, that intellego looks AWESOME!!

10-06-2010, 01:29 AM
I detailed several unit studies we did last year on my blog (ancient Greece, prehistoric man, whales and dolphins, ancient Egypt, etc.) They consisted of books from the library, games, DVD's, computer software - you name it. It was a big mishmash of fun. I think we did each unit study for about six weeks and just followed our noses. Now that I look back, it all seems to be a blur! It was a fair amount of work on the front end, but we were schooling six weeks on, one week off. During that week off I gathered up resources for the next thing Max wanted to learn about.

We tried the Intellego study on whales and loved it - it was nice to have some structure!

10-06-2010, 01:34 AM
Oh - Preference Projects (http://www.currclick.com/product_info.php?products_id=34770&it=1)from Currclick are fun, too, and seem age appropriate for a seven-year-old; you may want to take a peek at them, too!