Wednesday, July 27, 2005

July Unit Study News from Amanda

Unit Study News
July 2005

Copyright 2005 Amanda Bennett

Amanda's Corner

Hello from the heat of July in the Tennessee Mountains! Yes, it is hot here, but not as hot as many of you are probably experiencing. I was caught in traffic recently, and the van was hot, and I had to remind myself that those cold days of bringing in firewood across the icy porch would be here before I knew it, and I had to smile. The grass is always greener on the other side, regardless of who has to mow it! :-)

My phone calls and emails have skyrocketed as we approach the start of a new school season. There seems to be more and more people joining us in our homeschooling efforts, and the time that it takes to answer them all. Homeschooling is becoming mainstream in American society today - and that is an amazing feat when looking back over the past thirteen years. We used to keep the kids in until the public schools were let out for the day, and now, homeschool families have the freedom to go and learn and experience life at its fullest! Take advantage of it and learn together - make some memories that will last a lifetime...

Don't forget to take advantage of some of the local store's back-to-school specials - those 10¢ spiral notebooks are perfect for letting the children record their daily writings and drawings for their unit studies. This is the time to stock up on all kinds of fun things! The inexpensive modeling clay is perfect for building replica scenes and towns during read-aloud sessions. I remember that we have created Plymouth Plantation and many other fun scenes over the years -- even fishing poles! We used the brick pack kind of clay, where the clay comes in primary colors in four sticks together in plastic wrap for less than a dollar.

Here at our house, we've got two that are getting ready to go back to college, and one that is almost thirteen and now taller than I am! We are looking forward to a GREAT year of adventure, and I hope you are, too.

Blessings to you and yours,
Amanda B.

Back to Learning Specials

Baseball Unit Study - Wind up the summer and get ready for the Playoffs and the World Series!
                                        The Baseball Unit Study is on special through August 18th for only $9.95

Pioneers Unit Study - What a great way to launch back into the school year by studying pioneers as they
                                    traveled across America and struggled to survive and help our nation grow! The
                                    Pioneers Unit Study is on special through August 18th for only $9.95

Don't forget that Christmas and Thanksgiving are on special for only $9.95 through the end of July!

ALSO - remember that shipping is free in July!

Homeschool Fair this Weekend in Largo, Florida!

Come on and join me if you can this weekend - it should be a blast! I'll be there, along with plenty of others, and we hope that you will join us to share and learn and shop together. The cost of admission is only $1.00 - imagine! Here's the link with all of the information - come join us:

Magazine for Homeschooling Families with VERY Cool Bonuses!

I am frequently asked about my recommendation for a good homeschooling magazine, so I thought I would share my thoughts in this newsletter. After homeschooling now for 13 years, I have seen plenty of homeschool magazines come and go, for many reasons. However, the one magazine that has caught my attention and keeps me reading is The Old Schoolhouse. I can honestly say that they present a broad spectrum of information and reading for all kinds of homeschool families, both novice and veteran alike.

It's never boring, and wow, do they go out of their way to bring us all of the latest! I met several of their writers/editors at the Florida Parent Educator Association conference in May - they were there to be the "eyes" for their readers, finding what was new and asking plenty of questions. I have been nothing but impressed with the magazine, and now they are offering 19 FREE things to help you save money when you subscribe!

Here's the promotional information - join me in the savings!

The Old Schoolhouse Promotional:

The first 5,000 new subscribers will receive 19 free gifts from popular homeschool companies with a paid two-year subscription to The Old Schoolhouse Magazine! And yes, it's true – even the shipping is paid for, making these gifts a $300 value.

Your NINETEEN free gifts include valuable resources from the following companies. Below is each one's value with shipping and processing. (You get ALL of these):

  • Apologia - Audio cassette lecture by Dr. Wile or the book, Reasonable Faith ($14 value)

  • Christian Book Distributors - One $10 gift certificate

  • Learning Resources– Free book and Learning Resources Reading Rods® Readers sampler ($14.00 value)

  • b. dazzle, inc. - One Award-winning Scramble Squares? Puzzle, brain teaser! ($10.95 value)

  • Sue Gregg Cookbooks - One demo CD and Whole Foods Recipes sampler cookbook ($10 value)

  • Miller Pads & Paper - $10 gift certificate plus sample paper ($14 value)

  • Backwoods Home Magazine - Six month subscription ($12 value)

  • Sara Jordan Publishing - Bilingual Songs: English-Spanish, Vol 1 Audio CD ($17 value)

  • Progeny Press – Choice of free study guide ($16 value)

  • Capstone Academics - Free Kit : HIGH SCHOOL GEOMETRY & BIOLOGY DVD lessons, Textbook, Teacher’s Guide ($14.95 value)

  • Cobblestone Publishing - 3 magazine issues, homeschooler’s choice – Science, Social Science and World Cultures ($15 value)

  • Explorers Bible Study– One “Let’s Get Started” Workbook ($14.00 value)

  • Answers in Genesis- One DVD:“Fearfully and Wonderfully Made”
    ($16.00 value)

  • Shiller Math - Exclusive set of comprehensive review tests and prescriptive answer keys - 24 files in all ($14 value)

  • Treasure Box Press - Sam's Science Adventures! Mini-Science Adventure Kit ($10 value)

  • BJU Press- Free Little Bear’s Big Adventure Activity Book ($8 value)

  • Rosetta Stone - Starter CD-ROM with first 6 lessons of 12 languages
    ($8.00 value)

  • Bible in Living Sound - Publisher’s choice of one CD from the 75 CD library of the Bible in Living Sound! CD features 6 complete stories ($8.00 value)

  • Bright Minds, The Critical Thinking Company - At Home - One $6 gift certificate

You get ALL NINETEEN of the above gifts, postage paid! But only to the first 5,000 respondents.

Heroes of Chivalry

NEW Hero Study from Amanda Bennett!

All new in Amanda's Hero Series! Do you and your family want to know more about the Crusades -- what they were about and who were the heroes of this era of history? This new history title from Amanda is about heroes from the days of knights and chivalry -- wonderful reading with so much interesting history threaded throughout the stories. With so many references in the news these days to the Crusades and past conflicts of Christians and Muslims, this book helps develop an understanding of these topics, along with building a strong background in history for your 8th - 12th grade student. Amanda has worked on this title to shape it into an informative and interesting study for your students to enjoy.

Based on a book written in 1905, Amanda has developed this new book/study on CDROM, updating the language, adding clickable Internet links to help study the people and places in-depth, along with illustrations.

"These brief historical sketches were written primarily for young people, though it is hoped that some older readers may find pleasure in renewing their acquaintance with heroes of chivalry whose names are familiar still, but whose deeds are only vaguely recalled. It is the purpose of the book to enliven the study of history by giving the adventurous details omitted in textbooks, and to enable the readers to form a more vivid and lifelike conception of the great men with whom it deals and the turbulent and picturesque times in which they lived."
 The Heroes of this title include:
                Roland and Oliver
                The Cid Rodrigo Diaz de Bivar
                Godfrey and the First Crusade
                Richard Cœur-De-Lion (Richard the Lion Heart)

Also included on the CDROM is a FREE BONUS:

The G. A. Henty book Winning His Spurs, an exciting tale about a young man
and his daring adventures on the Third Crusade with Richard the Lion-heart!

Order now to take advantage of the Introductory Sale Price - only $9.95 through August 15th. After this date, the regular price will be $14.95. Don't forget that you will receive your free bonus on the CDROM!

Heroes of Chivalry CDROM   $14.95
On Sale through 8/15 for only $ 9.95

Learning Links:

Hot Weather Craft for Kids - Refrigerator Magnets -
picture this using ocean animal shapes or rocket ships!

How to Make Snow Cones

What is a Hurricane?

Space Station Resources for Kids

Return to Flight - Space Mission Information

Greatest Pictures from the Hubble Telescope - Picture Gallery

Amazing Space - for Kids

Until next time, enjoy these dog days of summer!

Amanda B.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

New book on the Crusades is finally ready!


In all of the packing and getting the newsletter ready, I forgot to mention that my new book, Heroes of Chivalry, has just been released and is on sale for the next few weeks. You can learn more about the book here:


All new in Amanda's Hero Series! Do you and your family want to know more about the Crusades -- what they were about and who were the heroes of this era of history? This new history title from Amanda is about heroes from the days of knights and chivalry -- wonderful reading with so much interesting history threaded throughout the stories. With so many references in the news these days to the Crusades and past conflicts of Christians and Muslims, this book helps develop an understanding of these topics, along with building a strong background in history for your 8th - 12th grade student. Amanda has worked on this title to shape it into an informative and interesting study for your students to enjoy.

Heroes of Chivalry CDROM   $14.95
On Sale through 8/15 for only $ 9.95



Getting ready for a Florida Homeschool Fair this weekend!


Packing boxes and looking forward to seeing so many friendly faces in Largo this weekend! I'm including the description and location details at the bottom of this blog entry -- come join us if you can! The admission is only $1.00!


I'll be having special sale prices for this fair, and hope to see many of you there. One of the first fairs that I ever attended as a writer/speaker was the one that Valerie Bendt sponsored in Tampa, and that's when I first met my dear friends Jane and Steve Lambert of Five in a Row! Valerie's books and her encouragement got us started with unit studies, and she was my first publisher. That fair was probably ten years ago -- and many smiles and miles have passed since then. This should be a great crowd, so come on down to the fair if you can. For those of you that can't make it, we'll be thinking of you!


Homeschool Fair 2005 in Largo

If you homeschool in Florida, then you do not want to miss Homeschool Fair 2005. An annual homeschooling event with over 75 vendors of curriculum, support, clubs, groups, organizations and services to YOU, the homeschooling community. Saturday, July 30 from 9:00 am to 3:00 pm. First Christian Church of Largo, 1645 Seminole Blvd. in largo. Please do not call the church. For more information please call Mazie Middleton at 727-733-8456 or e-mail her at or visit the web site at

Organization: Homeschool Fair 2005
1645 Seminole Blvd
Largo FL 33770

For more information contact:
Phone: 727-733-8456
Click to 


Until next time,

Amanda B.


Monday, July 18, 2005

Last Day of Big Unit Study Sale, and it's working...

I can actually see my desk!


Today is the last day of the sale, and we've stayed busy packing, as well as clearing a path through all of the boxes that were unloaded into my office. My next trip will be to go to the Largo, FL homeschool fair on July 30th -- and that should be a great one to wind up the season. Both Valerie Bendt and I will be there, for those of you interested in unit studies.


Check out the sale at


The first part of the summer has flown by, and now I plan on enjoying some of the sights and sounds of family and farm life for a while. I am still working on several major book projects, which I will share with you ASAP.


I read in the newspaper that a school district in Arizona is doing away with textbooks for their high school students. They are switching to laptop computers, with the idea that teachers should not just push the students through the textbooks -- they can use the computers to actually teach them -- imagine... 


I'll write more later, but now I've got to get back to packing orders, making a birthday cake, and listening to the kids discuss their weekend...  Ah, sweet summertime!





Thursday, July 14, 2005

Kids, Money and Business (Part 2)


These steps also provide the opportunity to teach your child how to develop goals – saving for next month’s museum visit versus saving for a college education or capital to start their own business. After helping them develop some short term and long term goals, you can sit down and help them devise a plan to meet these goals. Between allowance, earning money by helping others, or perhaps a part-time job, they can begin to realize their goals and appreciate the value of work and accomplishment. There is a helpful website that calculates how to reach certain goals at:


            Reach Your Goals by Saving!


We have an older game, called “Stock Market” that we play together as a family. There are many types of games like this available now, teaching the idea of money, finance, risk and wise decisions, all in a game format that the whole family can play together. The two newest on the market are based on Robert Kiyosaki’s Rich Dad Poor Dad, and they are called Cash Flow for Kids and Cash Flow 101. They provide an excellent way to learn the very important basics of sound money management and learn key principles of business. His books and games also encourage education for entrepreneurship, which I also strongly encourage!


When I began writing unit studies for publication, the children were very interested in the publishing process and how the business worked. As they grew older, they would occasionally accompany me to speaking engagements. There, they would help with setting up the tables, selling books, and learning to have fun while working.


Growing up in a homeschooling household also gave our children the opportunity to see just what treasures books can be! They joined in on shopping for special books at garage sales and library sales, and what an education they received from these outings. One of our children developed her own used book business, offering the books for sale on her self-made web page! She experienced success at this business, and learned how to create web pages as part of the process. She then went on to build her own small business developing web pages, and still has this income resource when she finds free time while attending veterinary college.


We are firmly committed to helping each child discover and utilize their unique God-given gifts and talents, and what a blessing this has been! One of our children developed a deep appreciation of the outdoors and plants. While he was still a child, he began reading and learning about plants, wildlife, and life in the country. When we moved to the farm, he finally got to pursue his dream – planting trees for a business of his own. When I walk into his room these days, he is surrounded by all kinds of college-level books on woody ornamental trees, plant propagation, business basics, and botany books. As a senior in high school, his whole life is before him, and he has already moved light-years ahead in preparation for his future.


His business is now on the Internet (, and he has been immersed in learning about business law, practices, and financial management. He enjoys reading books by Robert Kiyosaki (Rich Dad, Poor Dad), the Uncle Eric series of books by Richard Maybury, and other books on personal financial management.


Where do you begin with your own family? First, I would recommend that you locate some of the Uncle Eric books, which are written for grades 7 – 12. These books share so much basic knowledge about money, business and economics in a very un-intimidating manner. I’m not sure who has learned more from these books at our house – the parents or the children!


    A list of our favorite books on business and finances for the whole family can be found at:
    Books to Teach Kids About Money


Next, take some time to read the book Rich Dad, Poor Dad, by Robert Kiyosaki. We found the audio book version of this, also – and listen to it while running errands. Then everyone gets to chime in with their thoughts or ideas. I’ve learned so much from this personally, and I know that the young people around here can stand on their own two feet with most financial decisions that they might face. They have learned about the value of money, the importance of using it wisely, the concept of interest and time-value of money, and so much more.  


Whether collecting baseball cards or books, the ideas of business and the wise use of money go hand in hand. The learning adventure, once again, becomes a fun-filled family adventure. With the advent of eBay, the market place for collections and collectibles has made the world of business available to families around the world. EBay offers a free online tutorial in how to use the EBay marketplace. Take the tutorial as a family, and then begin to visit garage sales and library sales, or whatever it is that interests your family or children. This can provide an educational experience as well as a profitable one for the clan. Start with small items, so that the lessons learned are basic, and to make sure that mistakes made in the beginning are small ones.


What do YOU think about money?


How comfortable are you with your knowledge of business, finance, and economics?


Consider forming a family finance education plan for the next few years, taking the children up through high school. Here are a few helpful links:


Teaching Kids About Money


Teaching Kids Economics – Free Federal Reserve Bank Materials Online


Rich Dad Poor Dad


Cash Flow 101 and Cash Flow for Kids (click on “Games” on the left hand side)


I hope these thoughts and links help you with your own entrepreneur-wannabe kids. The world is waiting for a new generation of ethical, moral and bright entrepreneurs!


Until next time,



Kids, Money and Business (Part 1)


What child has not wanted to have a lemonade stand to earn money, or asked you what he/she could do around the house to earn some money? Chances are, you know a child that fits this description, and have to smile just recalling these episodes. While we have had more than our share of fun money-making ventures when the children were small, we are working now to prepare them for a successful life as adults, with academic preparation as well as providing a sound and practical financial education.


While we learn about so many things in our early years, there are a few things that I wish I had learned about when I was younger. Things like the importance of saving money (the power of compound interest), how to get the most out of each dollar, what does it mean to earn or pay interest on money, what is debt and what does out family think about it? All of these questions, and they aren’t typically addressed in many families across the country. The children are exposed to a limited degree in high school economics, and perhaps they begin to figure out taxes when they earn their first paycheck as an hourly employee (WHY are they withholding all of these taxes, Mom?!)


When I look back on how little we knew when my husband and I got married and bought our first house, life insurance, a car, etc – I am determined that our children will have more knowledge than we did as they make such important decisions. We had no idea of what was involved in buying or selling things of value, of what it meant to have a 15-year mortgage instead of a 30-year mortgage, of the importance of making our money work for us for the future. We were clueless when it came to making business decisions, understanding contracts, the importance of finance, and so much more. We had never been taught these things in school, or by our parents. I guess that everyone figured that we would learn on an “as-needed” basis – yikes! We were determined that our children were not going to have to face these same decisions without an idea of how to make good financial and business decisions.


When we began homeschooling, we focused first on their academic lessons. As time went by and we became more comfortable with a lifestyle of learning 24/7, we worked to incorporate some financial lessons into their learning. In addition to the family game nights of Monopoly and the Farmers’ Game, they learned about portioning their earnings or allowance into categories such as church, savings, and spending.


We started talking about some of our financial choices and decisions as a family, so that the children could listen to our reasoning and how we arrived at our conclusions. The children learn from us all of the time, whether we are discussing the science of gravity or the concept of earning interest or investing wisely – we are their models, in both our actions, words, and thought processes. From the simple ideas of saving money for something that they would like to purchase and the importance of comparison shopping, to the complexities of the time-value of money and understanding how to make money work for you, we have a tremendous opportunity as homeschooling families, to provide our children with a sound financial education.


To get them started on the road to financial wisdom and hands-on learning, consider some of the following steps for each child when they are old enough to handle the responsibility:

·          Checking account - joint, in both the child’s name and one parent’s name

·          Savings account – joint, in both the child’s name and one parent’s name

·          Give them the gift of a share of stock to help them begin to learn to read the financial page, interpret the columns of data, and have some fun in the process, watching their stock change in value. Our favorite stock to give them has been a share of Wrigley Company stock (Wrigley Gum manufacturers!) Not only has it been a good investment financially, it is a company with familiar products. As an added dividend, the company sends each shareholder a gift box of Wrigley product(s) at Christmas time each year!

·                    US Savings Bonds – which can be purchased at your local bank. They can begin to see how money has a time-value, watching the date of maturity on the bonds, and developing an understanding of saving for the long term.


(To be continued...)


Until next time,

Having a Unit Study Sale to find my desk!


Hello again, after some time away to travel and work. I returned to an office piled high with too many things that need attention, so my solution is to have a sale and clear up some of the overstocked inventory that surrounds my desk - keeping it simple you know... ;-)


Here's the link to the big sale:


Join in on the savings and help clear a path to my desk!



Amanda B.


Wednesday, July 6, 2005

Digital Photography Fun

By Amanda Bennett


 Often when I speak to a group about using unit studies, I emphasize the added value of using a camera to record progress while working on a unit study. The pictures are priceless as time goes by, and the documentation of the projects and efforts can be used in the unit study journals. In the past year, I have gone “digital” with our photography, and what an amazing world we have discovered! From nature pictures to baseball pictures, from pictures to email to the county extension agent to help diagnose a crop problem to sharing family photos across the miles – what a powerful tool. And to think of the rolls of film that WILL NOT take up residence in the bottom of my purse or my top dresser drawer! ;-)


Here are a few links with digital photography tips and ideas, and let me know if you’ve got some to suggest:


Top Ten Digital Photography Tricks


Digital Photography Tips


Until next time,

Amanda B.




Monday, July 4, 2005

Family Traditions - For Today and Tomorrow

Family Traditions – For Today and Tomorrow

By Amanda Bennett


“Hey Mom, don’t forget that we’re going out for pizza after this last game of the season – it’s a tradition, remember?” “Dad, when are you going to get the bales of hay and pumpkins for your autumn masterpiece? Can I go, too – it’s a tradition, you know!” 


Tradition – just the word sometimes sounds old and from past generations, doesn’t it? Yet, it has been family traditions that helped many a family stay together and strong over the past years, and probably for generations to come. Traditions are so important in families – the sense of security and love that is felt when observing traditions as a family will stay with our children for the rest of their lives. As homeschooling families, we have a unique opportunity in today’s society to enjoy a wide variety of traditions for all kinds of events and observances, and integrate them into our learning lifestyle. These traditions are woven into the fabric of our family, making it stronger and memorable for everyone.


As a child, I grew up in a family filled with love, children and plenty of traditions. My parents worked to build the strength of our family with some traditions that were simple and yet special. We lived far away from any relatives, so our traditions had to be based on our immediate family, and what a blessing those traditions were. My parents didn’t realize that these traditions would get us through some very tough times, and keep our family close through thick and thin, over many years and generations yet to come.


Early on Sunday mornings, my dad would drive to Krispy Kreme to get hot doughnuts for our family while Mom got all of us ready for church. To this day, when I bite into a warm Krispy Kreme doughnut, I remember Sunday mornings and my dad’s smile as he came through the door with those warm doughnuts. It was a very simple tradition that meant so much then and even more now. When we are visiting my childhood hometown, we still visit the same shop, and share smiles and memories that cross generations.


When I was a young teenager, our family lost my father to cancer when we were all from 8 to 15 years old. Yes, it was tragic and it was heart-rending, and we drifted in and out of being convinced that our happy family life had ended. However, my mother worked hard to keep us safe and housed and educated, but she strived even harder through it all to maintain our family traditions, and these added much-needed cement to our family through some very trying times. We still belonged to the family, the family was still strong, and these traditions gave us a sense of security and predictability in a world that had changed very quickly. Traditions became the ties that we needed as we grew and changed – while some things never changed.


There are many kinds of traditions -- seasonal traditions, holiday traditions, weekly traditions, and special occasion traditions. They provide a wonderful time for coming together as a family. Daily prayers, family reading time in the evening, Sunday soup and popcorn prepared by Dad, the welcoming of summer with a water balloon fight, preparing our hearts and home for special holidays, and so much more.


The variety of traditions is infinite, and I’ve heard of some very unique family traditions in all of my travels around this great country. But that is one of the things that make them special – they are YOUR family’s traditions, unique to you all.

Sometimes traditions can span the miles between family and friends. Years ago, family members and friends began choosing which NFL teams would win the Sunday games. We named this process “Football Picks,” the object being to see who could pick the most winning teams, This tradition now is carried on by email for a collection of friends and family across the country, and it is a simple and fun celebration of the season, crossing miles and keeping everyone in touch.


Here are some ideas for traditions that your family might enjoy:

  • With the end of a sports season or a church performance or other special occasion, have an ice cream sundae party at the local ice cream shop. Sometimes a tradition like this can be a “floating” tradition – one of recognition for feats accomplished.

  • With the birth of each child – plant a special tree, have a flag flown over the US Capital building (contact your congressman to do this), hold a special family celebration to welcome the new family member, and don’t forget to take plenty of pictures.

  • With the marriage of each child or sibling – have a flag flown over the US Capital building, or plant an evergreen tree to mark the occasion.

  • When having a holiday get-together or family reunion, try to find a ceramic plate that can be autographed with a permanent marker, then have everyone sign the plate and bring out the plate at future get-togethers for sharing memories and smiles.

Whether for birthdays, seasons, holidays, or other special times, traditions make up an important part of family life. Traditions will be passed from generation to generation, perhaps changing a bit as time goes by, but the core values and family love will carry along with the tradition.


Why are traditions important?


They help families come together

They remind us of times together in the past

They give children a sense of security and predictability

They help our values and character span generations

They remind families that love and continuity go hand in hand

Traditions can be old and many are new

Traditions give children something to anticipate, a perspective on time passing by


What are your favorite traditions?


Ask your children about their favorite traditions.


Ask your children about their favorite parts of Independence Day, and listen to their answers -- you might be surprised at just what they remember, as well as what the holiday means to them.



Now that I’ve given you some ideas, perhaps you can begin to reflect on some of your family’s traditions and possibly create some new ones. Recognize them and get ready to enjoy this season of fun and fellowship, laughter and celebration, thanksgiving and blessings.


Well, we are off for the hometown Fourth of July parade -- wish you could join us! Happy Independence Day!

Until next time,


Copyright 2005 Amanda Bennett


Amanda Bennett is a writer, speaker, wife, and mom of three. She and her family live on their farm in Tennessee. To learn more about Amanda’s books and unit studies, visit her website at


Saturday, July 2, 2005

Power of Homeschooling Part 2


Boring Textbooks = Bored Kids + Bored Mom.


So, what do you do next? First and foremost, remember that every child is a blessing, uniquely gifted by God. Unit studies help us to help them discover their own gifts and talents, as they learn about the world while we are right there beside them. I’ll never forget the time that the chemistry experiment blew silver nitrate all over my brand new white curtains, and just how our daughter looked when it happened! I will never forget the thrill of the kids when they met some of the astronauts in person, and heard about some of their space adventures. To use unit studies is to begin a trail of discovery for both you AND your children – a powerful journey of discovery.


Give them a chance to follow their interests and you might just be surprised at the outcome. With unit studies, our children have obtained a better understanding of the way things work, the history of the world, their own abilities, and much more. I am always asked about “holes in their education” if unit studies are used. First, I ask the audience if anyone ever remembers completely finishing a textbook when they were a child – not many hands have ever been raised. I share my personal experience that we never finished a textbook when I was a child, and I was so disappointed – the “good” stuff was always toward the end of the book! The concept of education is not just to fill their heads up with any and all information available – that would take hundreds of years in these days of ever-expanding information. The concept of a good education, in my opinion, is teaching the child to be able to think, to help them build a sound foundation of learning – a strong tree of knowledge where they can place more information over the course of their lives.


 I will never be able to teach my children about all things, BUT, I will teach them how to think, to investigate, to research and dig for answers. In the years ahead, it is my opinion that this will be a priceless education for those who will be successful in a rapidly changing world. Unit studies can do just this, and that’s my intention when I write them and use them – getting the child to think and explore, letting curiosity get the best of them. Try to help them develop a love of learning and enjoy the wonder of the world – it’s quite an empowering accomplishment.


As powerful as homeschooling can be, it is not a result of all homeschooling families being just alike. Realize that you will never be “just like” other families in your homeschool group or those at your state convention. I’ve traveled all over the country as a speaker at homeschool conferences, and I’ve met all kinds of people. I am frequently asked by many parents, “Are we like typical homeschoolers?” I have to smile at this point – I don’t think I’ve ever met a “typical” homeschooler. That would be like having a “normal” day of homeschooling, whatever that is. Enjoy the uniqueness of your family and your approach to homeschooling. Some families use textbooks, while others use unit studies. It isn’t as important to follow the crowd anymore, now that the crowd is just you and your clan – what a blessing this is for all of us. Our family has done so many things since we started homeschooling – we’ve traveled all over, met some amazing people, and followed our dreams to all kinds of places, and I can honestly say that we’ve never had a boring day – and certainly not a “normal” day, and that is not our goal.


As a former corporate engineer, I am well-aware of the concept of having goals and a mission statement. What is my mission statement these days? To help the children discover their own gifts and talents, whether in botany or veterinary science, athletics or orthodontics, who knows what the future holds! Now, as a homeschooling mom, what is my goal? To work myself out of a job by helping them become self-motivated learners – to have them out there, learning and challenging and thriving within the realm of their own very unique gifts and talents.

Until next time,


Copyright 2005 Amanda Bennett


Amanda Bennett is an author/speaker and has homeschooled for more than thirteen years. Visit her website at to learn more about her books. She and her family live on a farm in Tennessee, enjoying the days of adventure!


Friday, July 1, 2005

Power of Homeschooling

The Power of Homeschooling

By Amanda Bennett


Empowering, enlivening, energizing – all words that bring to mind a sense of power and energy – invigorating. The power of homeschooling is all of that and more for our generation as parents, the generations that we are teaching, and many yet to be born. I don’t know about you, but homeschooling gave this small-town girl the confidence to think independently, not follow the crowd, and to speak up. While learning to think and wonder and not conform to an ever-changing society, a funny thing happened along the trail of homeschooling – the children learned these lessons, too! From veterinary college to mock trial championships, our children have been empowered by homeschooling, right along with their parents.


I used to be a typical working mom, employed outside the home, struggling to find any time to catch my breath, while juggling schedules, family demands, finances, and dreams of retirement. With the switch to the amazing position of homeschool mom, I discovered both the rewards and fascination of following our interests, from studying the stars to tracking the ocean tides, from planting a vegetable garden to learning to cook, from following the routes of the explorers to tracking the paths of the men that walked on moon, from learning to quilt like the pioneers to learning how to build a fire, and so much more. No one ever made learning “interesting” for me when I was a child, but I’ve discovered that this is a powerful gift that I can give our children on a daily basis – a gift that will keep on giving for the rest of their lives.


In the beginning, homeschooling was a nerve-wracking choice – am I doing the right thing, what will I teach them, what books shall we use, will they be able to get into college, and on and on. Then, through trial and error, we hit upon unit studies – and the light turned on, and away we went. The choice of homeschooling is a wonderful choice to make for many families, and the combined power of learning and following interests together is a life-changing force.


First, let me tell you just a bit of my story. We began homeschooling in the middle of a school year, so we chose to keep using the textbooks that the children had been using in school. That was an easy enough decision, but it quickly became obvious that they were well-trained in the use of textbooks – they read for bolded and italicized words, answered the questions at the end of the chapter, and memorized just well enough to take the test. There was no interest in schoolwork other than getting it done – no joy and certainly no curiosity. Another problem that I became painfully aware of was that there was not much long-term retention of the material covered in the textbooks.


Rote memorization of textbook material is no replacement for thinking skills and logic when it comes to leading a satisfying and fulfilling adult life. If the knowledge isn’t there to stay, there is no foundation or framework to build on for the rest of their lives. For example, if they memorize the names of the parts of a plant, but never get to take one apart and experiment with the pieces, studying them under a magnifying glass or microscope, how will the controversy of genetically engineered crops ever begin to make sense? If the framework isn’t there, the new information isn’t connected to anything, and it is difficult to use new information in a meaningful way.


With unit studies, we found a very powerful tool that has helped build a strong tree of knowledge for our children. Remember, your curriculum should be a shaping tool, NOT a vice grip. In my opinion, the strength of a unit study approach is that the student looks at a topic from all different directions. For example, when studying gardens, we look at the basics of plant science, the history of gardens, the gardens around the world, the art of Monet and other artists who were famous for their garden paintings, and much more.


To show the difference in textbook learning and unit studies, realize that nothing ever occurs in the vacuum of just being a historical, geographical or scientific event. When something happens, it happens in a particular place (geography), at a particular time (history), involving certain people (biographies), and has an impact on life in many ways (art, science, economics, etc).  However, when using a history textbook, events are presented chronologically, in a somewhat condensed and dry format. When we read about the first American landing on the moon, the typical history textbook will not include any information about the exciting scientific discoveries that were made to achieve this great feat. In this same textbook, we probably would not read about the astronauts and their individual contributions and sacrifices. The textbooks usually won’t include the thrilling descriptions of all that has been gained from putting a man on the moon – from the world of computers to the amazing breakthroughs in medicine. These exciting and interlinked accomplishments aren’t typically included in the brief paragraph on the American space program. See what we would have missed if we had relied on a typical history textbook to learn about the space program? And yet these missing pieces are the ones that open up the world to our children, and show them how to dream big dreams and understand how all things work together.


Boring Textbooks = Bored Kids + Bored Mom


And there are solutions!


To be continued…


Copyright 2005 Amanda Bennett