Friday, September 27, 2013

Beginning a Unit Study: Destination ENGLAND!

When we began contemplating the home education journey, a second method that I knew I didn't like and didn't want to use (the first being Charlotte Mason) was the unit study method. Too much work for me, too unstructured, too non-schoolish.

If there's one thing I need to get used to in life, it's eating my words - because we are now going full-steam ahead into - you guessed it! - unit studies. 

Unit studies can be extremely intimidating when they are taken to extremes. By "taken to extremes," I mean the type of manic unit study in which every single school subject is tied to the same unit study topic. For example, if one studied apples, then one would study apples in science, read about apples in history-literature-poetry, write about apples for language arts, draw apples in art, copy passages about apples for handwriting, sing about apples for music, and.... you get the picture.

These unit studies usually come with insanely complicated crafts - and lots of them! - which makes me cringe even more. 

I find that type of unit study to be unpleasant at best, because it is a huge, burdensome, time-consuming nightmare to pull together (over and over again with each new topic) and an incredible amount of work - not to mention that one really can get tired of apples!

And of course, if that type of unit study is something that you enjoy... go for it! (And then publish it on your blog so I can use it for free without having to do all the work!! Mwa ha ha!)

However, I have found that there is a much more common type of unit study, and that is a unit study that is used for only one or possibly two subjects - history and/or science. In this type of unit study, the entire family learns about the same subjects at the same time. For example, the whole family would study the Civil War, or the human body, or whatever topic - all together. Different levels of literature are used per student level, of course, but the family remains unified by topic - rather than, say, the first grader studying the Civil War while the third grader is in Ancient Greece and Rome and the seventh grader studies the Vietnam era (and etc.). 

Science and history can be linked in unit studies or studied separately. When convenient, other subjects can be tied in - for example, while studying the Civil War, it's a great time to learn songs of the Civil War or food of the Civil War. But this is only taken as far as is convenient for each family. 

We are currently using a real-books unit study curriculum for history/science/geography/literature. It's a lot of fun, and I'm enjoying it! This unit study goes country by country and studies the history/geography, science, and culture of that country - mostly through living books, and also through the occasional recipe, game, or craft. It's very simple, which is great for someone like me who gets overwhelmed very quickly by more complex unit study curricula.

The first country that we are studying is ENGLAND, and I'm very excited about this. Being a life-long Anglophile and lover of all things English, England is pretty much my favorite country! Using our curriculum and a host of other online searches, I've come up with a decently long list of topics that we'll be enjoying, and I am excited to share them with you soon! (As this will be a unit study for K-6, I will not include topics that would be appropriate for older students, like hardcore history studies or more complicated literature like Austen and Dickens.)

And, of course, it would be possible to spend the rest of our home education years studying nothing but England and still have more yet to study. England has one of the richest cultures in the world, and plumbing the riches of its historical and cultural gems would be a lifelong study. We will study only a small sample of all the wonderful things that England has to offer. 

Even in just doing the preparation for this unit study, I am finding how poor my K-16 history/geography education was. I actually thought that "Great Britain" and "England" meant the same thing! Oh, goodness. It's lovely to fill in the (many) gaps in my own education while working with my children!

When I started this blog post, I had my list of topics ready to share with you all. However, as we get further into this study, I keep adding more topics... and more topics... and more topics. To keep from having to come back continually to update this entry, I will simply wait to publish the unit study details until we're pretty much done with it. Wait for it - I'll post it before Christmas! (Remind me if I forget.)

In the meantime, I'm off to do a unit study.... on apples. After reading this apple collection at Raising Arrows and this apple book collection at Raising Mighty Arrows (check out her apple activity list as well)... well, it was too much for me. Apples, here we come!

Oh, and England too. Forgot about that part.

The first week's library book load for our unit study on England !

Have a wonderful and blessed weekend, everyone! 

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