Why Unit Studies?
First, follow this link for a glimpse of WHY we homeschool with unit studies. While it is not my video, it certainly says what it on my heart! Turn up the volume and sit back and watch this beautiful message:
Now, since it is that busy time of the year when summer is just beginning to wind down and our thoughts turn to the upcoming school year, I thought I would share some of my thoughts on curriculum and unit studies…
Home schooling and curriculum choices - decisions, decisions, decisions! When first beginning home schooling years ago, we decided to continue using the curriculum that the kids had been using in private school. It was an easier choice than looking at all of the many catalogs and selecting materials that we knew nothing about. We thought we had done enough just deciding to homeschool them!
After using the same standard textbook curriculum for a few months, I realized that my children, while making excellent progress, were very bored and needed greater challenge. They were making excellent grades, but their retention of the material did not last beyond several weeks. They could drill, memorize and make perfect test scores, but don't dare ask them about the material next month! The answers were something like, "Oh, Mom! That was several chapters ago, I don't remember!"
Something had to change. I expected more than that from my children and from myself. There had to be a way to capture their natural interests to open up the path to deeper learning and understanding - better retention. After reviewing the various curriculum options available and talking to many other homeschooling families that I knew, I decided to try the Unit Study approach.
What is a unit study?
It is defined as an in-depth study of a topic (space, trees, cars, etc.) that takes into account many areas of the topic, such as geography, science, history, art, etc. It is a complete immersion into the topic so that the student will see things as a "whole" instead of bits and pieces learned throughout their education.
Instead of learning about whales in the third grade, the oceans in the fourth grade, explorers in the fifth grade, and sea life in the sixth grade, for example, the student learns about all of these during a unit study of the ocean. He/She is exposed to the geography, spelling and vocabulary, and plant and animal life of the ocean. In learning these things, the student will develop and sharpen skills like reading, writing, researching, and so on. In the educational field, a unit study is often times referred to as "cross-curriculum", or crossing over many lines of curriculum (science, geography, history, etc.)
More and more homeschooling parents are beginning to use the unit study approach as a primary instructional method, leaving behind the piles of textbooks and workbooks for each child. Unit studies can be more interesting and captivating than standard textbook/workbook curriculum. They encourage the use of imagination, creativity, and analytical thinking. Another advantage is that they can be worked on together by the whole family, teaching all of the children the same unit simultaneously while varying the assignments based on the child's capabilities. This saves the parent time and money, instead of having to buy, assign, teach, and check separate workbooks and text materials for each child.
Would you like to learn more about the basics of unit studies, as well as how to create your own unit studies? Follow this link to learn more.