Unit studies are like gift bags filled with treasures inside.
As we pull off the tissue paper, suddenly the bag has turned into Mary Poppins's carpet bag and out pours one thing after another.
We start with a topic such as birds. We read lovely books on birds, go bird-watching with our field guides and sketch book, learn bird calls, make a bird feeder for the back yard, write a poem on birds, learn to care for a pet bird, calculate how much our bird eats, and learn how they fly!
Go over my ideas and list all the school subjects that we covered. (See answer at the end of the article!)
But, now, just as the gift bag seems empty, our little one says, "We know how birds fly. So, how do planes fly?" Ah, airplanes! We begin to pull out more treasures of knowledge about flight. Our joy in learning just grows and grows!
We talked last time about living books because they will be the foundation of our unit studies. Now, let's talk about how to plan a unit study.
Step # 1: Choose a Topic (See last post)
Step # 2: Choose Living Books (See last post)
Step #3 Rhetoric, Writing, & Research
We love unit studies in our house!
Even when we use a textbook we add so much "stuff" that is could be labeled a unit study. We have always built our school around living books, well-written books that are wholesome and interesting to read. If you want to take the unit study plunge, then I recommend starting with living books as the core of your unit study.
This is a two-part post. Today we will talk about choosing your topic and books. In the next post, we'll focus on adding all the bells and whistles to make it a unit study.
The best thing about unit studies is that the whole family can learn together!
Step # 1 Choose a Topic
Start with a topic that interests the entire family. Your son might love rockets and trains, but your daughter would rather learn about butterflies or flowers.
Try to find topics that appeal to everyone. What about studying oceans, birds, knights & castles, kings & queens, Robin Hood, King Arthur, Colonial times, The Alamo, traveling west in a covered wagon, inventions, or trees?
You can choose the topic and share the topic enthusiastically with your children. Or you can make a list and let the children choose a topic.
Jimmy and Shine each walked over to their school drawer and pulled out some books and a bright yellow folder.
Jimmy opened the folder, scanned a page, and closed it. Tucking the folder under his arm, he grabbed several books and workbooks out of his drawer.
I turned toward Shine who was removing her schedule from her folder and looking at it with a puzzled look.
"Is today Tuesday, Mom?" she asked, glancing in my direction.
"No, it's Wednesday," I replied.
She smiled. The puzzled look was gone. She scooped up her books and headed to the dining room table to start her math.
Three things that make our school year flow smoothly are lesson planning in the summer for the whole year, making personal schedules for each child, and creating weekly assignment folders. After I finish lesson planning for the next school year, I make assignment folders for each of the children.
Here's how I do it.
I started using schedules in college so that I could get all my homework done and make sure I had enough time to study for exams. You see, I was a little nervous about succeeding in college.
Creating a schedule each semester worked perfectly for me, but I made an surprising discovery: I liked living on a schedule. Now, my schedules were never rigid and I was always flexible. If I needed to switch things around, I did. You see, I believe that a schedule is my servant, not my master.
I love the patterns and life rhythms that my schedule created. When I scheduled English homework on Thursday mornings, I got my homework done. I didn't put off the things I didn't like, I steadily followed my homework schedule and never had to pull an all-nighter. I was grateful. I love my sleep.
When I began homeschooling, I started a basic flexible schedule. By the time I was homeschooling five children of various ages, my schedule proved to be an invaluable tool in my homeschooling tool belt.
Here's how we used weekly schedules in our home school.
Are you thinking about homeschooling?
It was a very long time ago that I was in your shoes. It was the 1980s and homeschooling was still unusual and quirky. However, when I met homeschooling families, I was so impressed by what I saw in the children's manners, character, and ability to think and communicate. They were impressive!
If you are thinking of homeschooling, I would talk to some families that homeschool and love it! Find out why they enjoy educating their children at home.
In addition, you and your spouse should talk to one another and the Lord about the possibility of homeschooling. This is a big decision--make it together.
Once you decide homeschooling is for you, here's some advice on how to get started.
Curriculum can have a big impact on how well you and your children enjoy homeschooling and how easy it is to learn.
Curriculum can also be a big investment financially. Here are some steps to making that important decision of picking out the best curriculum for your family.
Step #1: Pray
God created you and your children. He knows what materials would work well with your family. Do not leave out prayer when making curriculum decisions. Ask God to guide your to the right curriculum choices and to speak wisdom through other people.
I set aside a day at the end of each school year. I evaluate the previous year.
We spend lots of time praying for our children and the upcoming year. We ask God for discernment and wisdom before beginning to plan the year ahead.
Step #2: Assess Self & Children (Teacher & Students)
You’ve seen the good fruit in other families and you like the idea of hanging out all day as a family, but you are wondering if homeschooling is a good idea.
Possibly you feel that God is calling you to homeschool (or you husband wants you to) and you don’t like the idea.
Whatever your situation, if you begin to homeschool you will need some reasons to homeschool over the long haul. It will not always be easy or flow smoothly. Determining why you are homeschooling will help you persevere no matter what circumstances arrive.
In addition, relatives, close friends and complete strangers will come the big questions: "Why are you homeschooling?" and "Aren't you worried about their socialization?" Be ready to answer these questions graciously and calmly.
Here are the reasons our family has embarked on the homeschool adventure.
Obedience to God's Word
The Bible makes it clear that the responsibility to teach and train their children belongs to parents, not the church, nor the government. You are free to delegate this responsibility to a public or private school but keep in mind that as a parent, you, not the school, have the ultimate job of educating your child. If they do not receive a good education, the blame is on your shoulders. Delegate carefully.
"Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it" (Proverbs 22:6 NIV ©1979).
"Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord" (Ephesians 6:4 NIV ©1979).
"My son, keep your father's commands and do not forsake your mother's teaching" (Proverbs 6:20 NIV ©1979).
"Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the LORD is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commands are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up" (Deuteronomy 6:4-8 NIV ©1979).
Parents are responsible to equip children for the life God has called them to live. They are to train little ones academically, socially, physically and spiritually. Part of a parent's duty to their children includes developing their character, preparing them with practical life skills, teaching them to handle their emotions, and equipping them for long-lasting relationships.
When parents put their children in a public or private school, they are delegating a portion of their children's education to someone else. It does not alleviate their responsibility for their education nor their accountability to God. Their education must still be closely supervised by their parents.
In our home, we decided not to delegate our responsibility to a school but rather to teach our children academics at home. We combine our areas of teaching and training: spiritual truths and character building are interwoven with academic time. Social training takes place as well when we learn to interact as a family in a way that honors God. There is so much to learn! Learning is not restricted to "school hours" but takes place everywhere and any time!
We live a lifestyle of learning.