Teaching Outside The Box
I still remember the day my favorite teacher took our science class outside to look at clouds while teaching us how to identify their various kinds and the approaching weather each foretold. It sounds so simple, but that day Mr. Lawrence closed the textbook, taught outside the box (and the classroom), and got me excited about learning!
That’s what unit studies do! They open up a world of possibilities and help you make learning (and teaching) fun!
Most of us begin homeschooling our children in the same manner we were taught, with textbooks. Textbooks have their place, of course, but as a chief resource they translate poorly to the homeschool environment.
Think about it. In school, teachers assign each student a textbook for every class they will take. Each will teach a group of students, all roughly the same age, from one textbook. Now add up all the textbooks from all those teachers. Each teacher doesn’t have to teach from every one of those books; he or she is only teaching from one. Yet, somehow, we think we can…and still remain sane!
Another aspect of this scenario is that homeschool families have children of varying ages. Add to this the fact that textbook companies determine your 2nd grader should learn about this historic time period and those particular science topics…and your 3rd grader…and your fourth grader…Okay, so, let’s do the math. If you have three children, and you take into account only history and science, that means mom and dad will have six different textbooks to keep up with, for those two subjects alone!
Have no fear…unit studies are here!
Unit studies provide you the opportunity to teach all your children history and science, (and other subjects as well) at the same time, regardless of their ages. Don’t worry, there’s nothing written in stone that says certain grades have to study specific time periods or science topics. So relax! You’ve just crossed six textbooks off your list, made your life easier, and saved enough money to go on a date with your sweetheart!
Best of all, unit studies offer an “outside-the-box” innovative method of incorporating creative, hands-on assignments and activities to truly engage your children in the learning process. While learning about the colonists your kids might make and play some early American games, while learning about Indians they could build a model Native American home, and when learning about weather and discovering the characteristics of frozen precipitation they could grow their own crystals while making rock candy! The possibilities are endless. Whoever said serious learning couldn’t be fun?
Are unit studies for everyone?
I believe they are; one family may just utilize them differently than the next. Some homeschool families choose unit studies, like we did, as their main curriculum. Others use them to complement their curriculum with creative hands-on activities or as an occasional respite from “school as usual.”
That’s another nice feature. They’re flexible! You may do a mini-study that lasts as little as one day or a week, or you might choose to spread its content over several weeks. You can even tailor unit studies to meet your children’s individual interests.
However you to choose to use them, unit studies are sure to energize your homeschool, make you an even better teacher, and get your kids genuinely excited about learning!
Sharon Gibson is the founder of Homeschool Legacy
and author of Once-a-Week Unit Studies