Unit Studies

There are so many different ways to teach and not all of them work for every child.  I am not going to “pick” one style of homeschooling; I will be dabbling in all of them to see how B and I like them.  The hubs and I continue to take advantage of learning opportunities in everyday life just like all parents do.  Because, regardless of whether your child goes to an institution for learning or stays home, every parent’s job description includes “teacher”.  But we pay attention more, now, and stop what we are doing to explore further into something B is interested in or to answer his questions.  It is so wonderful to teach him something and them see him go on to share the knowledge he has learned with others later.  It lets us know it is sticking with him!

Even though learning will happen all on its own throughout the day, B needs learning directed by me, as well.  Last month, I started out with subject specific teaching.  I alternated Math and Language Arts every other day and we did Science everyday.  Not a lot, just enough to keep him in the habit of working and so he does not lose everything he learned from 1st grade.  Although he did not fight me on doing work, it was boring for him and me.  Plus it was just like work at his elementary school.  So I stopped that and starting thinking about the style of HSing that attracted me the most  – unit studies.

With unit studies, you pick a subject your child is interested in – baseball, princesses, dinosaurs, LEGOs, baking, whatever – and learn about it.  While learning about the subject, you find the math, reading, writing, science and social studies within it.  Math is in the measuring of ingredients and doubling or halving a recipe, comparing the sizes of dinosaurs or using multiplication to find out how many LEGO bricks are in a structure your child built.  You and your child will read books from the library and research found on the internet.  Writing will happen when your child journals about all the things he is doing and learning or penpaling with an expert in the field or another child with the same interests.  Think of all the new spelling words you will come across while learning about your subject?  The beauty of unit studies is that you don’t pick a “school” subject and try to make it interesting, you take something your child finds interesting and turn that into learning.

As part of supply gathering, I bought some great maps at Costco for $7/each.  They are over 3′ x 4′ and laminated.  I have one of the US and one of the World hanging in the upstairs hallway.  I bought one of the Solar System, too, but returned it.  It was covered so much in these cartoon characters and descriptions of who they are, that you couldn’t see the Solar System, itself!  The US map includes pictures of all state flags and the World map includes pictures of all the country flags.  I’ve learned from years of being B’s mom that my suggestion of or push towards something is turnoff #1 to him.  So I put up the maps and didn’t say a word.  I noticed B was disappearing for 10 – 20 minutes a couple of times a day and I would find him in the upstairs hallway.  I didn’t mention the maps; just told him I was curious where he was.  Then I woke up one morning to find a yellow thumb tack in each of the 2 maps exactly where we live.  :o)  When I came downstairs he said, “Did you see the tacks in the maps, Mama?”  “Yes. Why are they there?”  “It’s where we live, of course!  Didn’t you KNOW that,” he asked.  Last weekend we were driving to a reunion with my elementary school peeps and B called out from the back seat, “That building is flying the Texas flag.  And if you take off the star, it would be the Checky flag.”  I look over my shoulder and we were passing a Texas Roadhouse restaurant, in fact flying the Texas flag.  When we got home, he showed me the other flag he was referring to, the Czech Republic flag, and I could see the similarity without the star.  He not only made us proud, he made us confident in our decision to HS him.  He let us know, he IS learning, he IS going to be OK.  So, maps has turned out to be our 1st unit study.

I got something off Freecycle last week and made him hold my phone and use the GPS and tell me where to go.  A workbook I bought last month to look through for ideas actually has a whole section on maps.  We are visiting New England soon and I’ve shown him on the map where it is and all the states we’ll go through to get there.  I am going to have my dad go over the route on the map with B and then have him be in charge of navigating.  Outside of maps, there is so much history to see and learn about in New England!  We are currently reading a fictional book about an 8 yr old boy, two 14 yr olds, and a freed slave who happened to be on the Dartmouth during the Boston Tea Party and are trying to escape the city to Philadelphia w/o being caught by the Red Coats.  He is really interested.  And that will make him interested in Boston sites more than just showing up at the city, pointing them out and trying to get him to listen to a tour guide explain why a place is famous.  I am currently looking for free, printable coloring pages online for New England.  If you find any good ones, leave me a comment with a link, please.  Thanks!


  1. Carol Amie says:

    Love it. That's how we've approached our preschool plans at home and it really is a great fit for Colin's personality. Erin likes a more predictable, traditional method that I'm going to have to work on getting myself interested in, but for C, this has been fabulous.


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