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Using Unit Studies to Give Your Students a Great Advantage!

I recently received this question about unit studies from a homeschool mom, and would like to share the correspondence.

For those in the Phoenix area who are interested in Unit Studies, I have a workshop on July 8 that will cover these areas:

  • What is a unit study
  • Why a unit study approach gives your kids a huge advantage
  • How a unit study meets the needs of all the ages and learning styles
  • How to develop your own unit study

My responses are in italics and bold.

Holly,

I have a question for you..what are your thoughts about:

..doing an in depth study in only ONE subject a month, or two weeks,
etc.?

Basically, that is called a Unit Study, and is a very common teaching
style.

Perhaps we could really dive deep into it instead of touch the
surface each day a little bit.  Right now, using My Father’s World, we do Bible,
then spelling, vocab, LA, History and Math each day.

But what if we purchased Apologia Science Zoology 1 Flying Creatures
of the Fifth Day. Now I have not seen the curriculum, but wouldn’t you think
it could encompass math, Bible (being Apologia), history of the world,
spelling, vocab, LA, art, etc?

I like the way you think!  That is the heart of a Unit Study
approach–tying several subjects into one theme and going in-depth.
That is actually an effective method that incorporates several avenues
to the brain, and thus the subject will be learned more thoroughly and
retained more permanently.

Apologia Zoology would be an excellent base for a unit study.  Math
would probably be pretty light and would have to be “forced”.  (You
may be able to do some very basic foundational math concepts with the
material such as counting, sorting, etc.  However, the target reading
level audience for the material is 3rd-6th grade, which gets into a
lot more solid math.  )

I recommend still having a structured math program, unless you are
able to create your own, with the needed sequential skills, that would
match a grade level textbook.

(I have taught quite a bit of math, up through pre-calculus, and it
would take a LOT of work for me to create my own math program to tie
in to the Zoology book.  I would need to look at and understand the
grade level concepts and be able to manipulate that information with
the science info in a way that made sense to the student, and convey
the skills and applications with a mastery focus.  Word problems and
math facts problems would need to be created for the practice, with
enough variety to give a flavor for the things that a student is
likely to encounter on tests or the real world.   That is more than my
brain could handle in the amount of time I would want to put into it
day after day.)

I think there would be some good Biblical concepts, and you could
certainly bring in other Scriptures. (Find the references in the Bible
to birds–some are metaphors for God or for people).

 Depending on what your goal is, it may be an intro and a
corroboration of the Scriptures, but may not take the place of the
kids learning to read and understand the Bible for themselves.

Plus, you could make vocab tests, spelling tests and the like from the curriculum.

This is absolutely a great way to integrate and broaden the
understanding of the concepts and the new vocabulary spelling words.
You could expand the language arts as follows:

1. Handwriting practice: Have the student copy certain paragraphs from
the text,

2. Grammar: circle all the nouns and verbs etc on the handwriting
sheet. Use a different colored pencil for each part of speech

3.  Creative Writing:  Rewrite the paragraph by changing or adding
adjectives

4.  Summarization:  Write the paragraph in your own words

Other tools:  (you won’t need to apply all of these in the same
session!)

* Outline the chapter
* Do additional research on a topic
* Give an oral presentation to the family at the dinner table

Art:  Make drawings of the animals studied

Music:  Find and learn some songs about birds (or write your own)

History:  Read about people who dreamed of flying, and ways they tried
to invent flying machines.  Make a timeline of when those inventions
were made.Research migration paths of various birds or the bird families in
various parts of the world.

Careers:  Find out about people who deal with birds, visit some of
them and interview them (more Lang arts skills)

The Zoology book is typically a semester in length used just as a
textbook.  With adding in the other subjects, you could easily make it
the focus for a whole year or more.

Add in some field trips to the zoo or a bird farm or a pet store.

Branch off into the area of human flight, and you get another whole
rich area to explore.

With a unit study, you are really only limited by the time you want to
spend on a topic and your imagination.

Right now I feel like we just barely touch each subject, but what about an in-depth study basically using one book for $35?

You have some wonderful ideas!

Covenant Home School Resource Center is a distributor for Apologia.
Call the office to see if they have this one on the shelf.  They have sales on different items each month.

I have a workshop that I do on creating your own Unit Study, which is
what you are suggesting.  It will be July 8.  You can see all the details here.

Blessings,

Holly

Holly,

Your response was just the response I was looking for and the
encouragement I needed to change our curriculum.  Thank you so much!

Tracy

Hi Tracy,

Thanks for the positive feedback.  I am glad that you are a visionary,
and seem to be excited about going beyond a textbook.

Let me know if I may be of further assistance.  (The resource center  has some books that tell how to design your own unit study, if that
is of interest to you.)

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