Friday, August 27, 2010

Unit Studies: Your Questions Answered

Have you tried unit studies yet?  Why not?

Unit studies are a wonderful way to homeschool. Whether you are teaching one or ten, using unit studies will add fun, hands-on learning to your homeschool. Some of you are wondering how to go about doing that. You have lots of questions and concerns. Read on, and hopefully those issues will be answered and you can go about the business of making your homeschool more exciting than ever.

“What exactly is a unit study?”

A unit study is a method of teaching in which you choose a topic and then dig in deep to learn everything you can about it, incorporating every subject you possibly can: history, geography, science, art, music, even language arts and applied math. Instead of touching on a lot of topics and barely learning about them, you’ll be digging deep, where real learning happens. And you’re doing this with all of your children together, all learning about the same topic at their age-appropriate levels.

“I feel overwhelmed and out of my element.”

Many moms are overwhelmed with homeschooling. The last thing you need is a new twist, right? Wrong. The last thing you need is a child who equates learning with dread, drudgery, and disappointment. Don’t let your child’s boredom weigh you down-that is overwhelming. Toss the textbooks. Ditch the workbooks. Follow your child’s interest, try a unit study, and watch your child go from uninterested to enthused.

“But won’t there be gaps in their education? I feel more comfortable if my kids are learning the same things the kids in school are learning.”

In this age of information, there is no way you are going to cover everything, no matter what curriculum you use. You had gaps in your education, and so did I. If you try to cover everything, your child’s education will be a mile wide and only an inch deep. You’ll produce students who think they know everything about everything, but really don’t know much about anything.

“I’ve seen lapbooks. Are they the same as unit studies? I’m not very creative, and I don’t like messy projects!”

Lapbooks can be unit studies. They can also be a creative way to make a keepsake for more traditional unit studies. Homeschool teachers are often concerned that they won’t do the lapbook correctly. “Do I cut out the mini books or let my 7-year-old do that?” There is no wrong way to do a lapbook. Say it out loud: “There is no wrong way to do a lapbook!” And yes, expect a mess, but kids love a good mess! Though lapbooks aren’t the tidiest form of learning-scissors flying, crayons drawing, and glue sticking–they are great hands–on learning tools. Remind yourself that this season of learning will pass all too quickly!

“Planning and implementing a unit study takes too much time.”

Who has extra time to sit around and plan a unit study? The reality is that you probably don’t have the time. The good news is that you don’t have to bear the burden. You can spend as much or as little time as you want planning unit studies. Or you can just not plan them at all. Many unit studies by many different authors are out there waiting for you to discover them. You are sure to find some that will pique your child’s curiosity.

We hope you can now see all the benefits to homeschooling with unit studies. Why not add some fun, hands-on, child-led, creative, real learning to your homeschool? Your children will thank you, and you just might find yourself enjoying teaching more than before.

by Ami Brainerd and Marcy Crabtree

(published by The Old Schoolhouse®, August 12, 2010)

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