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.
It's time to read a classic picture book aloud to your little children. Petunia is a charming story that has delighted children for generations.
Petunia is a silly goose who finds a book. She thinks that owning a book will make her wise. Unfortunately that's not true and she becomes puffed up with prides and dispenses terrible advice that brings harm to the other animals on the farm.
A terrible accident humbles Petunia who decides to learn to read so that she can discover true wisdom.
Yes, Petunia learns a life lesson that just happens to be biblical: Pride is bad; humility is good.
Once you've read Petunia aloud to your little ones, it's time to have some hands-on fun together.
Here are some suggestions:
Petunia is a silly goose who finds a book. She carries the book everywhere she goes, knowing that books are valuable. Pretty soon, Petunia thinks that she is wise because she owns a book.
Thinking that she is wise because she owns a book and puffed up with pride, Petunia dispenses advice wherever she goes in the farmyard. Unfortunately, her advice is terrible and brings harm to all the other animals. A terrible accident humbles Petunia and she realizes that owning a book doesn't make one wise. She decides to learn to read.
This book is a sweet story about pride, humility, wisdom, advice, and books. The life lesson Petunia learns is one that the Lord wants everyone to learn.
However, you children won't know they are learning a life lesson when you read them this delightful tale.
Would you like to read a delightful story about a San Francisco cable car named Maybelle?
Maybelle the Cable Car by Virginia Lee Burton, author of The Little House and Katie and the Big Snow takes us on a trip to San Francisco during a time when cable cars were threatened to become obsolete.
Bill the Bus is convinced that he is the future and he doesn't need cable cars around anymore.
But some people wanted to keep the cable cars around.
What would happen?
You'll have to read the book and find out.
Your children will love the story and the enchanting illustrations. After you read the book aloud, it's time for some hands-on learning fun.
Here are some suggestions based on Maybelle the Cable Car.
Maybelle the Cable Car by Virginia Lee Burton is another delightful story from the author of The Little House, Katy and the Big Snow, and MIke Mulligan and HIs Steam Shovel.
Maybelle is a cable car that lives in San Francisco. She has been part of the enchanting city since the early days when it was so small that everyone knew everyone. She remembered the terrible fire and how the city was rebuilt. Cable cars, created to climb up and down the steep hills, were becoming obsolete as the story opens. Maybelle's nemesis, Bill the Bus who makes fun of the cable cars.
The people of San Francisco learn of the news that they are going to phase out cable cars and there is quite a mixed reaction. A movement to save the San Francisco cable cars begins and when a vote is taken, Maybelle and her friends win. They even get a fresh coat of paint.
Cable cars are an iconic part of San Francisco. In fact, they are one of the first things people think of when San Francisco is mentioned.
I love the way Virginia Lee Burton brings these cable cars alive.
Lyle and the Birthday Party by Bernard Waber is a classic picture book about a loveable crocodile named Lyle who lives with an American family.
This is a great book to read aloud to your little lambs. When you finish reading it, try out some of the hands-on learning fun suggestions in this blog and make some memories.
The story begins with Lyle helping the parents plan their sons party. Lyle helps decorate, blow up balloons, and hangs streamers. As the party goes on, his struggle with jealously over the son’s birthday party intensifies. Eventually his shame over his behavior comes across as sickness and it lands him in the hospital where he reaches out with kindness to the other patients. At the end of the book, he is surprised by a party in his honor. Lyle is a good example of overcoming jealousy by being kind and generous to others.
Your little children will love this book! They will want to hear this classic over and over again.
Lyle experiences planning a party, going to the hospital, and being surprised by his own party. What fun!
Here are some activities you can do with your little lambs after reading the book aloud.
Lyle and the Birthday Party by Bernard Waber is a classic picture book about a crocodile who lives with an American family. Lyle is a loveable crocodile and displays admirable traits for children to imitate.
Lyle lives with Mr. and Mrs. Primm and their son Joshua. The book opens with Lyle helping Mr. and Mrs. Primm decorate for Joshua’s birthday party. The party is fun. Everyone enjoys themselves, but Lyle is struggling with jealousy. Later, he is so sad and ashamed of his jealous behavior that Mrs. Primm thinks he is sick. After some funny adventures, Lyle ends up in the hospital where he reaches out with kindness to all the other patients. Soon, he is feeling much happier and the doctor thinks he has recovered from his illness. Lyle gets to go home. A few days after his homecoming, Lyle is surprised by his own party—it’s been three years since the Primms found him.
More than an entertaining picture book, Lyle and the Birthday Party touches on jealous feelings that most children struggle with and feel bad about, just like Lyle did. This book can lead to an honest talk about how to deal with jealousy and envy.
“Freedom!” William Wallace yells as endures torture in his quest to bring liberty to Scotland. I watch that scene from Braveheart and ask myself, “What is freedom worth?”
Why is freedom worth giving your life for?
And, of course: What is freedom anyway?
What does it mean to be free?
We often think of freedom as the absence of something: no slavery, no debt, no obligations, no responsibilities.
Instead, let's look at Freedom from another angle: "Freedom to..."
When the Founding Fathers spoke of inalienable rights, they were speaking of rights that God has given to men: the freedom to have our own opinions and talk about them, the freedom to worship, the freedom to protect ourselves, the freedom to pursue happiness.
If government refuses to acknowledge those rights, they will be sinning against the Lord. The Founding Fathers set up a government to protect the rights of human beings to make their own choices and face their own consequences.
As believers in Jesus, we have even greater freedoms.
Since my last child has graduated, I am enjoying the privileged of reading a number of books that I have long wanted to but never did. In this case, it is rereading an old favorite.
Today I want to tell you about Adam and His Kin: The Lost History of Their Lives and Times by Ruth Beechick.
This book is based on the stories in the Book of Genesis and is set in those Ancient Biblical Times. I have read that book dozens of times. I have read the stories contained in this book hundreds of times, going back as far as my own childhood. In spite of this, Ms. Beechick tells these stories in such a wonderful way that I almost felt like I was being introduced to these stories for the first time.
I love the story of Creation. I admire the intelligence Adam demonstrates when he names the animals. I acknowledge that it was sad that Adam and Eve were removed from the Garden because of their sin. However, not until I read the account of these events in Adam and His Kin did I experience so much depth of emotion in my reaction.
I recently pulled out an old book which has been gathering dust on my shelf for years. I’ve required my children to read it, but never read it myself. When the upcoming movie of the same title was announced, I decided that it was time to see what this book was all about.
Written by an American author, this book is actually set in the beginning of the first century AD. It’s a long book, divided into eight books and 81 chapters. It’s well worth reading every one.
If you’ve heard anything about Ben Hur; A Tale of Christ, you probably know about the chariot race. That’s how most people refer to it. “That’s the movie with the chariot race, right?” While the race is exciting and there is a bit of build up for it, the book is so much more. As a matter of fact, that famous race happens near the end of Book Five, a little over half way through the book.
Ben Hur; A Tale of Christ follows the trials and victories of Judah, a young Jewish man. Surprisingly though, we do not see our first glimpse of him until Book Two. Book One is all about three wise men coming together and following a star in search of a great king. I have to admit that I was confused by this. After all, what do the three wise men have to do with a chariot race? Then I remembered that the book is subtitled “A Tale of Christ.”
Our hero, Judah, has been raised next to a young Roman whom he considers a great friend. We learn very quickly that now in their older teen years there is tension in this relationship. Both young men come from great families. Both hold great promise and have much to live for, and lose. Messala, as the Roman is known, does all things for his and Rome’s glory, including insulting Judah’s culture, choices, and God.
"Coloring to learn in high school? You've got to be kidding! Young adults don't want to color—that’s for little kids!"
Hold on; just hear me out! I want to introduce you to some wonderful coloring books, yes coloring books, that high school students can using as effective learning tools. No, they won't be using crayons for these coloring books, they will need colored pencils.
I said this when I wrote this review nine years ago. Now, coloring is popular for teens and adults. Coloring to learn has always been popular in our house.
The teen years are an amazing adventure that can be filled with joyful exuberance one minute and angst the next.
So much is going on in the heart, mind, and life of a teen.
While there can be challenging moments, parenting teens is awesome! We can enjoy a deep friendship with our beloved sons and daughters while we pass the baton of faith to the next generation.
Let’s explore the teen years so we can understand and enjoy our teenagers.
A Time of Fluctuating Emotions