Monday, July 31, 2006

American Government now downloadable!

Lots of you have been patiently waiting and asking about getting my American Government Unit Study downloadable  - IT'S DONE!


Follow this link:


American Government Unit Study


This is the new edition of this study, just in time for upcoming elections!



Amanda B.


Last Day of Christmas in July Sale!

Just a quick reminder that the big sale on Thanksgiving and Christmas Unit Studies ends tonight at midnight! Learn more at:


Christmas in July Sale



Amanda B.


Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Unit Study Adventures ~ Taking Care of the Caretaker Part II


Block off your “self” time on the calendar FIRST, then add all of the other appointments and demands later. Preserve your appointments for yourself -- protect this time and use it for your own well-being.

This time is so important, yet so easily sacrificed when other "more important" things crop up. Just as you try not to interfere or make demands on a working spouse's daily work routine, protect this time for yourself as part of your "work" schedule. When I was young, I remember my mother getting up before daylight, quietly going to the kitchen and making coffee. She would sit at the kitchen table with her coffee, looking out the back window into the woods, enjoying the silence for a while, before all of the children woke up and broke into her quiet time. I never understood just how important this time was until we had our own children, and now I appreciate her exasperated look when one of us would awaken early and wander out before daylight!

§         Take time to make time. Begin by blocking off an hour each week that is YOUR time, no exceptions. Even if you go and sit in the library and read a magazine -- just go!

§         Use your time for your needs, not others. What makes you feel better -- reading, catching up on letters, sewing, quilting, walking?

§         Read or listen to audio books -- to help broaden your horizons, add some perspective to your daily life, and open new areas of interest.

§         Try to get up early every morning to have some quiet time before everyone wakes up – read the Bible, pray, and listen.

§         Check out videos from the library that interest YOU -- travel tapes to places that you have dreamed of visiting (Scotland, Australia, Great Britain, Africa, etc.), or perhaps videos that teach things like painting, quilting, cooking, and more.

§         Keep a journal -- write in it every day. Not only does it help you see all that has been accomplished and record the daily happenings -- the simple act of journaling provides a constant steady reminder of the passing of time. As homeschoolers, we tend to get wrapped up in marking time by years until graduation, instead of enjoying the value of each and every day.

§         Make time to see just how far you have come. Go back through picture albums occasionally. Look back over goals from years past. See just how far your family has come, and you will also notice some new directions that need to be taken.

§         How can you help others? Along with hobbies, it is important to many of us to give back to our community. Can you read to the elderly, sew nap quilts for the abused children's home, help out at the library from time to time?

I hope that these suggestions have helped you to see the importance of taking care of the caretaker. When you get some time to continue your own personal growth, you will probably have more patience with your family and your homeschooling efforts. Remember to seek help and support when you are feeling stressed - you are not alone and your needs are very important! As they say around our house, "when Mama ain't happy, ain't NOBODY happy!"

As you begin to take care of your needs, your children will learn a valuable lesson -- that everyone has needs that are very important. As parents, our needs tend to get pushed to the background and set aside, and this isn't healthy for the individual or the family.

As I head off to the call of waking children, thanks for sharing a cup of coffee during my quiet time this morning! Here are some thoughts to ponder as you go about your busy day:


"The finest qualities of our nature, like the bloom on fruits, can be
preserved only by the most delicate handling.
Yet we do not treat ourselves nor one another thus tenderly."

Henry David Thoreau, Walden

"To laugh often and love much - to win the respect of intelligent persons and the affection of children, to earn the approbation of honest critics - to appreciate beauty - to give of one's self, to leave the world a bit better,  whether by a healthy child, a garden patch or a redeemed social condition; to have played and laughed with enthusiasm and sung with exultation - to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived-- that is to have succeeded."
Ralph Waldo Emerson

Take care of YOU, and God bless!

Amanda B.

Why Unit Studies?

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:


Raising Small Souls


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.


Amanda B.

Christmas in July SALE!

From now through the end of July, we are offering a special package:


Thanksgiving + Christmas Unit Studies -
Christmas in July Package

Only $ 18.00  

Save more than $10!


Have fun as you prepare for a memorable and very special holiday season, and enjoy the savings NOW!



Amanda B.


Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Taking Care of the Caretaker - Part 1


We hug them, love them, teach them, and share with them - wiping away tears, assuring them that monsters are not in the closet or under the bed, even helping them through algebra. We are our children's caretakers and we care for them so deeply and completely that we sometimes forget to care for ourselves. If we get too stretched out and burned out, we aren't as effective at taking care of others very well.

One of the things that I learned through my early years of homeschooling and being a full time mom was that I had to take care of MOM first. One of the best analogies for this is the statement that is made when you are going through the safety talk before takeoff on an airplane - when the oxygen masks drop in an emergency, the adult should put their mask on first, then assist the child with theirs. We can't help them if we are incapacitated - that's my interpretation. And this holds true in all that we do, particularly when it comes to parental well-being and the individual feeling of fulfillment.

I learned early in my adventures at home that I had to make time for myself. I would have one night a week that I would go to the library, without the children, to read and enjoy the silence! It can be so difficult to make time for ourselves when there are so many other pressing needs that get in line ahead of our own. Just as in days gone by when folks would talk about having to "prime the pump" to get it working, we parents are the same way. We have to read, rest, relax, get some alone time so that we can focus on our own needs - we have to refill our own wells from time to time - re-priming the pump so that we are at our best.

You say, I don't have time to read -- consider getting some audio books from the library. Perhaps you aren't sure of tapes that you can listen to while driving the children back and forth to various activities? We have thoroughly enjoyed some great audio books in the car -- Cheaper By The Dozen, The Five Little Peppers and How They Grew, The Hobbit, Danger to Windward, the Mitford series, and so many more. Try to get the unabridged versions of audio books, so that you can hear the author's words in whole, without losing some of them in the editing process.

Hobbies -- who has time! Most of us don't have time for them, but we need to try to make time. To do something recreational, relaxing your mind, taking it off of all of the other worries and stresses of the day -that is what I'm talking about in a hobby. Granted, most of us don't have time to go take up golf or tennis, but we can possibly find time to take an evening pottery class once a week or join a quilting group that meets twice a month. Someone mentioned the idea of volunteering as a docent at a local museum, or finding a ceramics shop where you can go and paint ceramic figures for fun and gift giving.

I know - it seems to be impossible to even consider finding time for yourself with soccer practice, ballet lessons, support group events, and not to mention the orthodontist and pediatrician! Here's an idea that works for me -- a friend once told me that her mother had taught her to write a check into her savings account every payday, even for a small amount, before paying any other bills. This way, she would get her priorities in order and build a good habit early in life. Well, this idea can also apply to our own personal daily and weekly schedules. Block off your time on the calendar FIRST, then add all of the other appointments and demands later. Preserve your appointments for yourself -- protect this time and use it for your own well-being.


(To be continued next week)


"When you recover or discover something that nourishes your soul and brings joy, care enough about yourself to make room for it in your life."
 Jean Shinoda Bolen, M.D., "Windows of the Soul"

Take care of YOU, and God bless!

Amanda B. 

Tuesday, July 4, 2006

Keeping the Hands-On Part of Unit Studies Simple

Activities and field trips have played a key role in our unit studies. The more hands-on that the study is, the better they seem to retain the information. Now, I’m not talking about extravagant or complex activities or field trips. Here are a few that we have enjoyed over the years for many of our studies.


Surrounding the child with the theme of the study is always a helpful way to stay focused on the current topic, but even at bedtime? This is one of the best projects that we began as we worked on unit studies! I would watch for inexpensive fabric at a local discount store that went along with the theme of an upcoming unit study. Using the fabric, I made a pillowcase for each child to use during the study. For example, we had cowboy pillowcases when we studied the West, autumn pillowcases when we studied Thanksgiving, fruit and flower pillowcases for Gardens, and so on. My linen closet shelves are quite colorful! There are pillowcases with bugs, whales, stars, sharks that glow in the dark, planets, dogs, horses, maps and many more. We still use these to this day, and have fun remembering all that we did and learned during the studies.


I also purchased inexpensive flat twin sheets to use for tablecloths that we made while working on a unit study. After placing cardboard between the sheet and the table, the children would develop a collective tablecloth that contained their spelling words, maps, sketches, handprints, and who knows what else! By letting them use fabric paint and indelible markers, I could wash these tablecloths in the washing machine, and enjoy them for years to come.


After volcano experiments, developing a litmus test from purple cabbage, carving bars of soap into famous ships, watching meteor showers in the middle of the night and shuttle launches from the swing set, I can honestly say that the hands-on activities and field trips were the icing on cake of learning. When studying oceans, we explored a tidal basin with manatee. When volunteering for a local vet, one of the children turned her attention to animals and this eventually developed into a career in veterinary medicine.


You never know when your unit studies will uncover a gift or talent in a child. When studying nature and leaves, one child became fascinated with the different ways of propagating plants, which eventually turned into a fascination with botany and all things of the outdoors. He went on to college and has established a thriving tree business with his father, loving every moment of doing something he truly loves.


As a parent, I can say that this is one of the best rewards that you will experience as you homeschool – watching your child discover and pursue the gifts and talents that God has given them.  This is an indescribable blessing – and one that I hope you all get to experience. Get ready for a wonderful time of learning and exploration, and a shower of blessings!


Happy Independence Day, and remember to thank a soldier!



Amanda B.


Monday, July 3, 2006

New Sailing Ships Unit Study - Now Downloadable!

Just a quick note to let you know that Sailing Ships is now in downloadable format, and here's the link:

Sailing Ships Unit Study

Hope this helps!

Amanda B.

Free Patriotic Holidays Notebooking Pages - Download Now!

Happy Independence Day!

Hope you all have a terrific patriotic week, and enjoy the holiday as we celebrate our freedom. To help celebrate, the free product at 
is a new product - Patriotic Holidays Notebooking Pages. From me to you -- enjoy!


Amanda B.