Thursday, September 23, 2010

Unit Studies (General)

A Unit Study is an approach to learning in which the bulk of the school day revolves around studying one particular subject, and usually lasts between four and eight weeks.  This subject can be anything from the solar system to the human body, the rain forest to the desert, or an event that is happening right now.  This approach gives the teacher the option to study in-depth where there is a lot of interest, or just hit the high points when it is something that doesn't keep the children's interest or is very difficult to understand. As we are entering our second unit study, I have found several pros and cons for this approach.

  • Concepts are better understood by children when the information is repeated, or revisited, then built upon on a daily basis
  • Information is better understood and retained when it is discussed across the curriculum (Bible, math, history, science, etc.)
  • Finding books about a particular subject encourages children to think creatively (fiction, nonfiction, poetry, etc.)
  • The children know what to expect next, and look forward to what else they can learn about a subject
  • The teacher has the freedom to see what events are taking place in the world or what her students are interested in, and teach the things that they are interested in learning, while still reaching pre-set goals for the school year
  • The teacher can extend a study or follow a unforeseen path when there is a need or desire from the student
  • Varying ages can learn together, though the expectations are not the same
  • There is a lot of homework to prepare to teach a unit study, organization is key
  • It is still necessary to use textbooks in some subjects (spelling, grammar, etc.
  • Information must be found in many different places (internet, textbooks, library, etc.
  • It is difficult to plan in advance the many activities that a unit may require, so many options should be prepared
I have downloaded four of Amanda Bennett's unit studies, and have really enjoyed them. My children love making lap books, and they will have them to look back on in the future to refresh their memories of the things they learned. It also gives them a sense of accomplishment when they see their very own book! I've also gotten a lot of information ideas from KONOS, which is very detailed and filled with activities from across the curriculum.
So far, my children have enjoyed this approach and have really enjoyed learning so much about each subject. We've studied the five senses, and have begun studying the four seasons. Fall is upon us, and I have found that there is a vast amount of information to discover right under our noses! Although I planned this unit to take six weeks total, it appears that it will take eight. As long as there is interest and the desire to learn more, I am going to fill their minds with whatever we can find.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Unit Studies: The Four Seasons and The Five Senses

We are finishing up our unit about our five senses, and have begun our unit of the four seasons.  Our last sense to study was hearing, and we listened to Vivaldi's 'The Four Seasons' as well as took a nature walk to record what things we heard, and collected leaves along the way to make a bar graph at home. This was a great way to bring the two units together. It has been a great transition week, and the kids are still excited about learning.

To add to the excitement, we have planned our first "real" field trip to a nearby apple orchard/pumpkin patch at the end of this week.  We will collect more leaves (along with other homeschooling Moms, including Andrea over at ClippingMakesCents), pick out our pumpkins, go on a hay ride, and drink apple cider.  This will be a great introduction to fall, and we will begin studying it in detail on Monday of next week.

We have continued our study of explorers, and have learned about Lewis and Clark, Davy Crocket, and Daniel Boone.  I hope to continue this study, as well as hear more of the tall tales that go along with some of these men.  M5 has especially loved this side study in explorers, and M7 has really gotten into the tall tales.

A device that we have used quite a lot thus far is called a Playaway.  To describe it simply, it is a book on a mp3 player.  The mp3 player is about the size of a credit card, comes permanently attached to a lanyard that the child wears around his neck, and uses one AA battery.  All you have to provide are your own ear buds.  You can check these out from your local library.  There are many choices available in both children and adult sections.  The children version will either be several picture books on the player, or one chapter book on the player.  I try to find the books included on each mp3 player so that they can read along.

As we say goodbye to summer and hello to fall, I have begun looking for activities to enroll the children in to have an outlet for their energy.  I pray for the Lord's guidance as we search for what is best for each of them.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010


Finding that M7 and M5 were getting very overwhelmed with the amount of work we tried to fit in every day, and the amount of time between breaks, I made some changes to our daily schedule.  It now looks like this:

  • 7:30 - 9:00 - Bible, Prayer, Spelling, English, Math
  • 9:00 - 9:30 - Chores
  • 9:30 - 10:30 - KONOS/Science/History (rotating)
  • 10:30 - 11:00 - Art/Lapbook/Music/Game (depending on subject matter)
  • 11:00 - 12:00 - Lunch, Recess
  • 12:00 - 12:30 - Spanish/Typing (rotating)
  • 12:30 - 1:00 - Read Aloud
  • 1:00 - 2:00 - Quiet Time
If we have library day, or errands to do on a specific day, I make sure all of our subjects are covered between 7:30 - 10:30, and still have time to get our daily tasks finished when we get back home.  It's a flexible schedule because with a toddler in the mix, a first-time teacher, plus two elementary students, you never know how the day will go.

The typing class is only for M7, who is up to 6 letters and 12 WPM.  She uses this website, which is easy on the eyes, and not very distracting for a child.  I'm very happy with the results.  M5 will begin once he has completed the alphabet, which he's on task to finish in about two more weeks.  I'm still looking for the "perfect" Spanish software/program, so if you have any suggestions, please send them my way.