Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Free Shipping ends tomorrow at midnight!

Just a quick reminder that the free shipping offer ends at midnight on May 31, 2006. Take advantage of this special now and get ready for a fun school year!



Amanda B.



What is a Unit Study - Part 1

What is a Unit Study?
Part 1

Nothing in education is so astonishing as the amount of ignorance it accumulates in the form of inert facts.”
Henry Adams, 1907

                Just exactly what is a unit study? After all, they are in all of the catalogs, talked about in the magazines, and people in the support groups rave about them. What are they? Why can’t we just all use textbooks for curriculum? Just as with clothing, shoes, or so many other things in life, even for curriculum,

We all know that there is no such thing as “One Size Fits All!”

This generation of young people is much more visually oriented – unlike in generations past where television wasn’t around and life was centered on small town life and waiting for the mail – the stimulation to learn came through reading books and newspapers, local people sharing their experiences, and learning by doing. People would share their experiences about wars, travel, and life in general. Through books and newspapers, people could travel to places that they never thought they see in person, learn about people around the world, and gain a better understanding of our country and the rest of the world – all by using words to help them create pictures in their heads and a better understanding of life.

These days, with video games, DVDs and so much more, kids are typically very visually stimulated. Just think about a trip to your local huge mega-store. How many TV monitors are suspended along the main aisles, blaring away with the latest products, movies, music, etc? If you go through the electronics department, you can usually find crowds of kids around many of the demonstration game display monitors or computers, waiting their turn to try out the latest games. Even a trip to the local grocery store provides entertainment from continuously running commercial monitors and TVs running the latest movie releases.

So, in this day and age of so much visual stimulation and entertainment, how is it that we still rely primarily on textbooks to educate our children and excite them about learning? The textbook approach works well for some people, and not as well for others. Unit studies provide more of a hands-on approach, using all of the senses and keeping the student’s mind looking for answers and understanding.

           “Unit study” is the name given to a type of curriculum tool where one topic is taken and looked at, or studied from many different aspects. They are called “cross-curricular” in approach, looking at the given topic across many areas of learning including science, history, geography, literature, and others. A unit study can be called a thorough look at a single topic, as if you could pick up the topic in your hand and spin it like a globe, looking at the various components in all three dimensions.

We forfeit three-fourths of ourselves in order to be like other people.”



Until next time,

Amanda B.



©2006 Amanda Bennett

Monday, May 29, 2006

What is a Unit Study - Part 2

What is a Unit Study – Part 2

©2006  Amanda Bennett


“Unit study” is the name given to a type of curriculum tool where one topic is taken and looked at, or studied from many different aspects. They are called “cross-curricular” in approach, looking at the given topic across many areas of learning including science, history, geography, literature, and others. A unit study can be called a thorough look at a single topic, as if you could pick up the topic in your hand and spin it like a globe, looking at the various components in all three dimensions. 


            How does this compare with textbook curriculum? First, understand that textbook curriculum is broken down by segments or areas of specific knowledge. For example, a textbook curriculum for a third grader might include a science textbook, a social studies textbook, a language arts textbook, readers, a math textbook, and perhaps a health textbook, along with many assorted workbooks that accompany these textbooks. Each textbook contains summarized information regarding key topics that the publisher has chosen to be important for that particular age and grade of learning, summarized in the publisher’s scope and sequence.


            With that said, I must say that I was educated using a textbook approach in both public and private schools. There was not much that I looked forward to during my years of schooling, with the exception of our weekly library visit, which was very brief. I loved to read real books, and I tolerated textbooks – the faster I could get through with them each night, the more time that I had for “real” reading. I was an excellent student, and made good grades – but I was never really challenged to think or wonder or reason.


It wasn’t until I arrived at engineering college that I realized just how short-changed my education had been. When I had my first exam, there were two questions and five blank pieces of paper – no “True/False” questions, no “Fill in the Blank” questions, no “Circle the Correct Answer” questions – time to panic! I had been educated all those years to memorize the bolded words, answer brief questions at the end of the chapters that were about the bolded words, and regurgitate information that had absolutely no real meaning in the big picture of life. I had to learn how to think, really think and reason, when I got to college, and I look back now and wonder what I might have done if I had been educated in a different way.


Which leads us to the next question that I am asked frequently – “If I use unit studies, won’t there be holes in my child’s education?”


“Example isn't another way to teach, it is the only way to teach.”

Albert Einstein

To be continued next Tuesday, in “What is a Unit Study Part 3”



Amanda B.


Saturday, May 20, 2006

Kids, interests, and their concept of time

Hello there!

I have noticed that children can learn so much about things that
they are interested in -- they remember every small detail about the
fish that they caught and helped Dad clean. They remember with
clarity the time that they toured the Corvette factory and can share
their adventure to the last detail with anyone that asks. They can
name the stars and major constellations after spending nights in the
backyard with Mom or Dad and a telescope. While investigating an
interest in baseball, they can tell you all about Babe Ruth, Satchel
Paige, Hank Aaron and more, but they can't necessarily tell you the
years that they played.

With my own crew, I learned that there was an age or level of
development where they could begin to put things in order time-wise -
understand the concept of the American Revolution coming before the
Civil War, for example. Before they reached this point, their
interests were more pressing in their minds than the order that
things happened. To help them begin to understand the concept of
time, timelines are invaluable.

For example, the study of baseball started our study of the Civil
War, as we discovered that the game was spread from north to south
in prison camps during the Civil War. While they were fascinated
with baseball/softball at the moment, the Civil War caught their
interest -- what was it, why were Americans fighting Americans, etc.

While working on Gardens, we discovered that Gregor Mendel (Father
of Genetics using sweet pea plants) worked on his research across
the Atlantic Ocean during the Civil War and had his paper presented
to the European scientific community in 1866, right after the end of
the Civil War.

All of this to say that sometimes the interest that they are
following can reveal other areas of interest that become a
fascination. I quickly learned that it is more fruitful to follow
that interest, pointing out connections to other things that have
been studied. It is helpful to have them create timelines as the
study progresses, so that they can see the overlaps - Mendel's work,
Baseball, Civil War, etc.

I've noticed that this gives them a framework on which they
can "hang" the information. They also can see that nothing happens
that is just science or history or art -- God weaves the events
together in such amazing ways.

The timeline also helps them learn that events are happening all
over the world simultaneously. In 1862, in the middle of the Civil
War, President Lincoln signed the bill authorizing the building of
the Transcontinental Railroad (Trains). In 1863, the first section
of London's Underground Railway opened. Also in 1863, both Henry
Ford and Henry Royce were born -- to later become leaders in the
development of the automobile...

I have an analogy that helps me understand a child's mind -- a
child's mind is similar to the storage area on the top of an old-
fashioned rolltop desk. There are all kinds of cubbyholes and nooks
and crannies to be filled. When children are young, they can put all
kinds of things in those compartments, and know all about each one.
They know just where each morsel is, and know just how it relates to
other pieces (baseball to civil war to trains). As they grow older,
they begin to sort and arrange the information in the desktop, based
on time, interest, etc.

So, there you have my theory about kids and interests and their
concept of time. But who am I to tell you that? You know firsthand
that they don't understand the concept of wait, or not right now, or
just a few more minutes! <smile>

Amanda B.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Free Art Book for Kids on Impressionists - perfect for summer


Just a quick note to share that the free offer this week at homeschoolestore is another favorite from Chicago Review Press:


Monet and the Impressionists for Kids

This is the same publisher of the fun science experiment book that we talked about a few weeks ago. With 150 pages, it is full of all kinds of things for kids to read and do, and this summer might be a fun time to kick back and let them be creative while they learn!

Hope this helps. Keep an eye out for their free weekly specials - especially over the summer. More and more titles are being added all the time - mine too!

Amanda B.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Patriotic Holidays Unit Study - includes Memorial Day!


Memorial Day is approaching quickly, and this is the perfect time to introduce your children to a fun way to learn more about American history while having a great patriotic adventure!


The Patriotic Holidays Unit Study contains four one-week studies, and is now downloadable right to your computer. You and your family can learn about each holiday the week before or after the holiday, and make some wonderful memories. These patriotic holidays are so important, and so many children don't have a clue about the meaning and story behind each one. The holidays studied in Patriotic Holidays are:

Memorial Day (May)

Flag Day (June)

Independence Day (July)

Veteran's Day (November)


Here's the link to the Patriotic Holidays Unit Study. If you want to purchase the downloadable format, there is a link to that in the ordering section at the bottom of the page.


We are gearing for a patriotic summer! We are planting red, white and blue flowers in pots for the front porch, along with big pots of bright red geraniums. We hang a HUGE airplane kite in our great room, pull out all of the Uncle Sam collection and of course, the red, white and blue bunting will be hung soon. Now, if I could just remember where I put the parts for the homemade ice cream freezer...



Amanda B.



Thursday, May 11, 2006

More Favorite Children's Books


Here are a few more that I forgot to include:

Girl of the Limberlost

Black Beauty

Swiss Family Robinson

The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling
When I was researching the lighthouse study, I was suprised to discover that Kipling's family had sent him to a lighthouse to write "Captains Courageous" - apparently he was driving his family up a wall! Is that why all of the kids said, "we can understand why they sent him away to a lighthouse to write a book!" What did they mean by that?! ;-)

Stuart Little by E B White

My Side of the Mountain and the others in this series (and now I am blessed to be living on "my side of the mountain!)

The Bobsey Twins series

The Secret Garden
The Railway Children

Little Women
Little Men

Swallows and Amazons series

The Borrowers

All Creatures Great and Small -- and others from James Herriot

Caddie Woodlawn

The Indian in the Cupboard

Ready to Read? I think I hear the bookmobile coming...

Amanda B.

Favorite Books of Childhood


Just curious - what books have your kids enjoyed for summertime reading? Better yet, what did YOU enjoy for summertime reading when you were a kid?

Way, way back in the dark ages when I was a child <smile>, the town's bookmobile made rounds to our local recreation park every other week. I LIVED for those visits! I think I read every Marguerite Henry book in print, along with any and all books about space and pioneering adventures, and books about Australia, and mysteries. To this day, in my mind I can still hear the clanking of the card-stamping machine in the bookmobile, building up my pile of books that were carefully carried home in the basket of my bicycle. Treasures!

Our children have enjoyed reading through the summers -- we lighten
up the studies over the summer and focus on pleasure reading and pursuing new interests. From Dr. Doolittle to all of the Little House books, and the Avonlea adventures along with Anne of Green Gables. They read through so many of the older Childhood of Famous Americans - - the ones that are now out of print, but some of the best ever written. We read about pioneer life, survival skills, quilting, seashell crafts (when we lived on an island), and all kinds of books about animals and nature. There is a series that I believe is called the Square Foot series, with titles like Square Foot of Backyard, Square Foot of Pond, etc -- fun!

OK, your turn - what did YOU read, and what have your children enjoyed?

Amanda B.

Tuesday, May 9, 2006

Questions about Heaven - Kids AND Parents!


Last night I began reading "90 Minutes in Heaven" and could NOT stop reading until I finished it in the wee hours this morning. I had heard about this book from so many people -- something that I just "had" to read, so popular that WalMart is stocking it, a book that says so much to our hearts and minds about heaven...

The book is by Don Piper (pastor) and Cec Murphy (great Christian writer), and available in paperback. It is the story of Don's auto accident and what happened in the 90 minutes when he was declared officially dead -- an amazing heart-wrenching story that ultimately answers so many questions about Heaven and much more.

If your children are like mine, they have many questions about Heaven. What a gift full of answers for the whole family. I'm getting my family to read it, took a copy to a friend that just lost her grandmother, and I got a copy for my mom who is beginning to wonder more about Heaven as she gets older, so I can keep mine here
by my side.

This is the book that everyone should have that has lost a loved one, for folks and their families facing cancer or other problems, for anyone facing a tough time in their faith walk, and on and on.

Having had my own interesting experience when we were hit head-on by a drunk driver, you cannot imagine how comforting it was to read about his experience and his recovery from a horrific accident. I read some of it aloud to my husband last night, and we were so touched by what was said. As I am writing my own story of 23 surgeries after 2 accidents, God has used this book to help me better understand why some of the things happened the way they did, and how our reactions were typical as we adjusted to a "new normal."

OK, enough - I just wanted to let you know that if you or your children or spouse or parents have questions about Heaven, this is the first book that I've read that is a perfect fit.

Here's the link, in case you want to learn more:
90 Minutes in Heaven

Amanda B.

Sunday, May 7, 2006

Free very cool science experiment book!

In case you missed it in the newsletter, you can download the entire
160 page great book for $0.00 through tomorrow morning, when
homeschoolestore.com will switch to a new free book offer.

No, you don't have to print the whole thing! That's the beauty of
downloadable books -- just print the pages of what you want to use.

Here are the details:

Super Science Concoctions was $12.95   only for this weekend: $0.00
Kids explore a world of amazing science—from capillary action to density to emulsions to plastics—all while making fun mixtures they concoct themselves! More than 50 science mixtures, using household ingredients! This is a real find - 160 pages of science fun and wonder - and the cost to you is $0.00!

Have fun - using books like this to explore and have fun at the same
time can bring science to life for kids AND parents.

Amanda B.

Friday, May 5, 2006

Amanda's Unit Study Newsletter

Unit Study News

May 2006

By Amanda Bennett

Newsletter Sections:

Amanda's Corner
Going Digital
Our Legacy - Making It Count
Fun Family Book Picks for May
From My Summer Book Pile
Learning Links

Amanda’s Corner

Happy May to you! It's that time of year again, when homeschool lessons begin to take a different rhythm - the rhythm of summer and fun and investigating as they explore the great outdoors. Use this time to get away from home and visit some new places, even if it's just a park on the other side of town. We all need time to enjoy the beautiful spring show of flowers and nice weather.

May also brings a very important holiday to Americans - Memorial Day. It's a holiday that should mean so much to us, as we honor and remember all of the people who made the ultimate sacrifice for my family, and your family, and your grandmother's family, and on and on. For generations yet unborn, as George Washington said to his troops before the Battle of Long Island in 1776:

"The fate of unborn millions will now depend, under God, on the courage and conduct of this army...We have, therefore, to resolve to conquer or to die...”

Take some family time this month to learn about Memorial Day. The Patriotic Holidays Unit Study has a one week unit study on Memorial Day, as well as one-week unit studies on Flag Day (June), Independence Day (July), and Veteran's Day (November). These days we all need to know and understand the cost of freedom that has been paid, and the next generations will benefit if we can share this knowledge and its importance with them.

What we share with our children is part of our legacy, and they can share it with their children and the chain of love and family will be even stronger. Don't miss the article on Our Legacy, below!

Until next time,

Amanda B.

PS - No shipping charges on orders placed from now through the end of May! 

Going Digital with Homeschool Curriculum!

We are happy to announce that we’ve teamed up with HomeschoolEStore.com and now offer the LOTS of unit studies as secure eBooks on a new website that specializes in digital homeschool curriculum.

Click on the titles that are downloadable to see previews:

Horses Unit Study
Oceans Unit Study
Baseball Unit Study
Gardens Unit Study
It's My Birthday Unit Study
Unit Studies 101
Unit Study Journal
First Steps in Faith

NEWS FLASH - they now have a special HELP section that walks you through the download process AND tells you how to save your study on CD! Great for folks who need techno-geek help!  :-)

Don't miss their F*R*E*E books - a new title each week!
This week has a fun book, perfect for a May adventure:

Super Science Concoctions was $12.95   only for this weekend: $0.00
Kids explore a world of amazing science—from capillary action to density to emulsions to plastics—all while making fun mixtures they concoct themselves! More than 50 science mixtures, using household ingredients! This is a real find - 160 pages of science fun and wonder - and the cost to you is $0.00!

Our Legacy - Making It Count

Recently, I was reading a wonderful book about family legacies, and it brought back so many memories. As a child, I remember my father and his brothers sitting around and swapping tales of their childhood and their ancestors - oh what stories they could tell! I loved to sit and listen, and the memories of their tales still resonate in my mind today. I have shared them with our children, and this has given them some insight into their heritage. I try to tell them the way that my dad and uncles did, and enjoy watching their faces as I share. They need to know where they come from, and what a treasure these stories have become.

After seeing the importance of our own family traditions (Family Traditions for Today and Tomorrow), I started making an effort to remember and share the things that I had heard and seen over the years of my own childhood. We used to have big vacations with relatives on both sides of my family, everyone piling into the station wagon (the dinosaurs of SUVs), and heading for some relative's country home. If you've never had the chance to read the children's book The Relatives Came by Cynthia Rylant, try to find it and share it with your clan this summer. It is a perfect description of our adventures, and similar to those that we've taken with our children.  The childhood visits with our extended family have given us all a deeper bond and what a legacy!

Along with stories of the past few generations, I have also researched and found some family history that has made history come ALIVE for our children. We learned about our Scottish clan and it's history, used the Internet to see the clan castle as well as researching the clan history. The boys loved it when they discovered how the clan leader won the favor of the king -- it involves swords and battles and other gory things that I won't go into right now. We followed a great-great grandmother coming to America on a sailing ship, bound and determined to find and marry her fiancĂ©.  From tales of the Civil War to victory gardens in World War II, the children now have their own roots and a personal feeling for American history, in a way that a textbook cannot match.

As I've gotten older, many of the relatives that had so much to share have now gone on to Heaven, and I miss them, especially in the summertime when the fireflies make an appearance. When we were children we would be busy chasing fireflies while the grownups reminisced on the porch and kept a watchful eye on our antics. Take advantage of the time that you are given and share. They will remember for a lifetime. If you don't have family to visit, begin to build a family journal, writing and sharing all that you can remember of your extended family. Have the children help, adding pictures and looking up dates of birth on a timeline of American history - they can see who was alive during the Civil War, who fought in the world wars, and much more.

Dig in and go visiting this summer! Even if the visits are by telephone or meeting family at a halfway point for a lake picnic, get them together with your family and encourage them to share. Perhaps the children can come up with some questions that they would like to ask, and then tape the conversations and enjoy. This is all part of your family's legacy!

I recently read a fascinating book, full of ideas to help you build your own family legacy - I highly recommend it, and yes, I've even gone to the basement and pulled out my own "blue plate":

Making the Blue Plate Special, by Florence Littauer, Lauren Littauer Briggs, and Marita Littauer
Three beloved authors. One of the great Christian families of our times. Who better to share the art of family memory making than the women of the Littauer family: Florence, Marita and Lauren? Through personal stories, anecdotes and vignettes-like how the "blue plate" became special-the Littauers show how ordinary items gain importance and grow in sentimental value over time. These warm and wonderful ladies show you how your family can enjoy shared memories and create traditions that will stand the test of time.

Fun Family Book Picks for May:

Baseball Math: Grandslam Activities & Projects
By Christopher Jennison
Girls and boys alike will love this completely and updated version of the best-selling Baseball Math packed with new players, new records, and new statistics. Realistic activities and projects, involving baseball card profits and losses, score keeping, team travel budgets, schedules, fantasy leagues, player salaries, and more, help kids sharpen math skills from simple calculations to geometric concepts. Kids really get in the spirit of the game as they design their own fantasy ballpark and join in a whole-class project based on the popular baseball poem "Casey at Bat." Grades 4-8.

Misty of Chincoteague, Paperback
By Marguerite Henry
Nobody could capture the Phantom. She was the wildest mare on Assateague Island. They said she was like the wind, that the white "map" on her shoulders was her mark of freedom. Paul and Maureen Beebe had their hearts set on owning her. They were itching to buy and tame her; and worked hard to earn the money she would cost. But the roundup men had tried to capture her and for two years she had escaped them.... Pony Penning Day holds a surprise for everyone, for Paul not only brings in the Phantom, but her newborn colt as well. Can Paul and Maureen possibly earn enough to buy them both? Recommended for ages 9 and up. A 1948 Newbery Honor book.

King of the Wind: The Story of the Godolphin Arabian, Softcover
By Marguerite Henry
He was named "Sham" for the sun, this golden red stallion born in the Sultan of Morocco's stone stables. Upon his heel was a small white spot, the symbol of speed. But on his chest was the symbol of misfortune. Although he was as swift as the desert winds, Sham's proud pedigree would be scorned all his life by cruel masters and owners. This is the classic story of Sham and his friend, the stable boy Agba. Their adventures take them from the sands of the Sahara to the royal courts of France and, finally, to the green pastures and stately homes of England. For Sham was the renowned Godolphin Arabian, whose blood flows through the veins of almost every superior Thoroughbred. Sham's speed-like his story-has become legendary. Recommended for ages 8 to 12. The 1949 Newbery Medal Winner.

From My Summer Book Pile:

The Awakening
By Angela Hunt
After nursing her dying mother, Aurora Norquest feels isolated from the living. But when bewildering dreams reveal her mother's untold secret, Aurora questions who is speaking during these wakeless hours. With love as his ally, can neighbor Philip Cannon help her to discern between truth and falsehood, whispers of guilt---and the voice of God? 320 pages, softcover from Nelson.

Bad Ground
By W. Dale Cramer
When 17-year-old Jeremy honors his mother's deathbed request to seek out his estranged uncle, Jeremy is hesitant. After all, his uncle was badly burned in the accident that killed Jeremy's dad. The boy finds the embittered man working as a hard-rock miner, and he also takes a job in the mines. Soon his faith is tested by his gritty co-workers, danger, and the possibility of love. 400 pages, softcover from Bethany.

Last Light, Restoration Series #1
By Terri Blackstock
Terror reigns when electrical power is cut off across the world-creating a global crisis that reveals even deeper darkness within human hearts. What would you do? Whom could you and your family trust, especially if there was a killer in the neighborhood? The first book in this exciting new series from Terri Blackstock.

Stealing Adda
By Tamara Leigh
Just because Adda Sinclaire writes best-selling romances doesn't mean she lives one! Adda can't shake the feeling that something's missing from her life---not her ex-husband, who ran off with another author and took their dog with him. And not a current beau, or her ability to put words on paper. Surely it's more than the Good Book . . . or is it? 416 pages, softcover from NavPress.

Learning Links: 

Benjamin Franklin - Make a Kite!

Ten Steps to Finding Your Family Tree Online

Tips & Tricks to Finding Your Family Tree Online

Grow a Tree - Family Ties for Kids

My Family Tree - Coloring Project for Kids

Kite Coloring Page

Kite Coloring Page

Memorial Day Coloring Pages

Memorial Day for Kids

Tuesday, May 2, 2006

Unit Study samples available online!


Follow this link to see samples of some of Amanda Bennett's unit studies:


Unit Study Samples


Hope this helps!



Amanda B.



Horses Unit Study is now DOWNLOADABLE!

To find the downloadable version and see a preview, follow this link: 


Horses Unit Study

Thanks to so many of you who have written and patiently waited for this
to be accomplished. We have quite an international crowd on this list,
and it is so much easier to download the studies - and no shipping!

I hope this helps, and again - many thanks for waiting.

Amanda B.

Learning Styles – Part One


How Can We Teach?    First -- How We Learn


            Years ago, when we first began homeschooling our children, our concept of education was quite typical of many parents. We were going to teach them with the textbooks that they had been using, going grade by grade – until they were ready to graduate. However, after just a few weeks of using textbooks at home, our outlook on education was gradually changing. In a short period of time each day, the children easily completed their “schoolwork” and were bored – now what was I supposed to do? We adjusted our schedules and I began researching options for curriculum.


Most bothersome of the textbook method was that their retention of the material was only short-term. While they could make excellent grades on the weekly tests, they couldn’t recall the material after just a few weeks had passed. They could memorize the bolded words, and other key information, but it was short-lived in their minds. Somehow, I was going to find a way of teaching and learning that increased their retention while they got more hands-on learning.


“Now that education is so easy, men are drilled for greatness,

just as dogs are trained to retrieve. In this way we've discovered a new sort of genius, those great at being drilled.”  G. C. Lichtenberg


            The textbook method was great for filling their heads with facts and other information, but I can see now why many people call it a form of “drill and kill” – killing the joy of learning, while producing more folks like me that were great at Trivial Pursuit, but not getting any closer to discovering what their own talents might be.


“Natural ability without education has more often raised a man to glory and virtue than education without natural ability.”    Marcus Tullius Cicero


The more I researched, the more that I learned about children and the learning process. I discovered that the lowest level of learning is that of rote memorization – the level that is utilized primarily by textbooks. This level is called the “knowledge” level – that of recalling data. These learning levels are summarized in a study that came to be called “Bloom’s Taxonomy.”


Next week we will take on learning styles and Bloom’s Taxonomy – Learning Styles – Part 2.  If you have any questions about my posts, leave them in the Comments link below this post, and I’ll answer them in the weeks to come.


©2006 Amanda Bennett