Which Way To Go, Prepared Curriculum Or Unit Study Resources, Or Both?

I recently had the opportunity to share with many home school families about a unit study sale and it led to a discussion of my approach to curriculum and whether or not to include unit studies.  It was such a fun discussion, I wanted to share the topic here as it may bless more who read it: 

January 30, 2010

Wanted to tell everyone who uses unit studies, I just found out about a unit study sale from Amanda Bennett Books, INC. 

She has lots of unit studies on CD for sale for $5.00 until tomorrow.  These normally run $14.95

Her website is http://unitstudy.com/index.htm

Be Blessed!


January 31, 2010

Here are some of the responses I received about the post on the unit study sale:

“Thanks,… I just placed an order and am looking forward to our “Gardening” unit study this year.”

“Thanks for the information. I have been looking for an affordable way to purchase a few unit studies and see if my daughter likes them. This website had a great number of choices. I can’t wait for the 4 that I purchased to get here so that we can begin.”

January 31, 2010

I am so glad this has helped so many.  I have received several responses from folks who were able to benefit from this sale.   It is still good through today, so I hope many more who want these can get them.  The website again is  http://unitstudy.com/index.htm

I had been looking for affordable prepared unit studies and planned to order some from different homeschool families, including the wonderful ones presented by Sharon Gibson.  But we were still recuperating from moving and holiday expenses, and I didn’t think I would be ordering for a few months yet.   I have found so many great unit studies, but affording them right now has been the issue.

I have been doing my own unit studies with our children for two years, but it takes me hours of research and then takes hours of putting it together in a teachable way for my kids who are on 5 different learning levels.   I spend a lot on ink for the printer too (to the dismay of my husband). I don’t know exactly how much it is costing me to do it myself.   I am not complaining.  I just thought perhaps I could do some of the preparation myself and find a short cut for some of the subjects we want to study.   We still have workbooks, but they can get boring, especially for my energetic boys.   But this spices things up, and the children love doing unit studies.  

We had been talking about getting a pet, a dog, once we get our yard fenced, and I thought that we could do a unit study on dogs before we get one.  We had three dogs on our farm in Indiana, but haven’t had one for nearly two years.  The ones who remember are older now, and could be more responsible in choosing the kind of dog we will get, and taking care of it.  It seemed like a good idea to study about them.  So a month ago, I came across the Amanda Bennett Unit Studies about Dogs and had hoped to order it in the spring.  

This sale makes it a very affordable way to get several subjects.  We bought dogs, gardening, baseball, and several more.  The shipping was free too.  The ad said shipping would be $1 , but then at checkout, it said there was no charge. 

My children and I are excited and looking forward to recieving their new projects.

Thanks for so many nice responses.

Be blessed.


January 31, 2010

I have recieved so many great emails and responses.  Below is an example of some more of the emails I recieved about doing unit studies:

“Thanks for the heads up on the sale!  I’ve never used a unit study before and would like some tips on how you incorporate it into your day?  I’m using Bob Jones curriculum now and it has everything spelled out for me.  How do you know if you are covering grammar skills/math skills/etc. that they need to know? I’m very interested in doing unit studies…….I just don’t know enough.  I do have Bennett’s Unit Study books I picked up at a yardsale on Lighthouses and Sailboats for like $1 each (great price)…..they are really interesting…….I’m just afraid to jump from curriculum to unit study…..if you can help in any way I would be greatly interested.”

“Thank you for the information on the $5.00 cds. I have never officially done a unit study in my 19 years of homeschooling six children. I have always been an Abeka fan as I like the structure of it. I am excited to be getting the six that I ordered.

 I too would love to know how you incorporate the unit study into the day of workbooks.”

“Thanks Melinda – your information is much appreciated.  I think I will start this method with just once a week and move on with more confidence.”

What Great Questions You Have!

This is an adventure for me and my family.  I am glad to share this adventure with anyone interested along the way.  We are learning from others on their adventure too. Please understand that I am no expert.  My kids are still young.   We have been so blessed to learn from those with young children and those with grown children.  And we feel blessed to be a part of a great home school network of families sharing their hearts and experiences.

In my opinion, using a prepared curriculum has its advantages and disadvantages.  And I agree, using unit studies in the beginning can seem intimidating, as they are more broad and loose in what they cover, especially when you are concerned with state learning standards.   For this reason, we also use a prepared curriculum too.  Each year, I buy grade appropriate curriculum, and it helps me with knowing what is expected nationally at the different age levels.  But we don’t stick with all of it. 

I use the prepared curriculum as a guide, but loosely  I feel guilty about that at times.  It is expensive, and I have to decide if I am waisting our money.  I also wonder if my children will get behind their peers in the school system, because I am not as diligent with keeping with the workbooks and “standards” as I thought I would.   But so far, when my children have taken the national standardized tests, they score above their peers in the public school.  So I am cautiously confident that we are headed in the right direction.

You know those moments when you question are you doing the right thing?  Sometimes I make the mistake of comparing my home school to the regular public school and to other home schools.  I’ve been on their web sites, across the country, and seen the classrooms, read the curriculum and schedules, and so on.  I am impressed by the web sites at times and wonder if my kids are “missing out”.  I’ve checked into buying some of their programs (very unrealistic and several thousands).   They have a variety of resources and many variables that I am not able to factor in.   But given all this, are they successful?  Some children do well, and others suffer. Many kids are highly medicated, stressed, and fall through the cracks.  Overall, the family systems in our country seems to be declining.  So I have chosen to home school and go about educating my children differently for my family.   So I read as many home school sites as I can too.  What do they use?  Do they keep a schedule?  If they do, what kind of schedule, rigid, loose, etc.  How many kids are they teaching? What curriculum do they use?  Again, so many variables and so many opinions about what works and doesn’t work.   But over all you read these great success stories of home school families and the different methods or “non”methods they’ve used, and their kids are graduates, missionaries, college graduates, doctors, or what ever they want to pursue and they are happy and so on. 
You know there is value in home schooling.  That is why you are making all this effort to do it.  You and I want a better outcome for our families.
So I look at it this way.  How can I blend the “requirements”, and the fun of learning together?  If I only give my kids curriculum workbooks have I lessened the joy of learning?  If we only play all day, have I lessened the efficiency of learning? Will the children have to make it up, learning certain skills elsewhere, at a later time?  It is really a balancing act.  And so many more questions that I don’t have all the answers to.   For my family, I have to keep in mind, what works today may or may not work tomorrow, and will need to be flexible and adjusted as needed.  Being flexible is one of the many benefits of schooling our children at home.
For our family, unit studies bring us together in a way.   All of the kids can participate in learning about a subject together.   For example, this month we have been doing one on robots.  They are having so much fun with it.  Even though they are different ages, they can all learn about it together.
The children don’t want to do workbooks day in and out five days a week.  They don’t like repetitive work.  It becomes monotonous and “boring” and it makes it more difficult for everyone.  So I try to do the workbooks on either Tu and Th,  or on MWF, and the unit studies and more free time on the opposite days.  Another way I change it up is to do the workbooks in the morning, and the unit studies and or science experiments in the afternoons.  They like this way the most as they have something to look forward to.  They love both science experiments and the unit studies/lap books. 
The nice thing about unit studies it that it is cross curricular.  It incorporates six or more learning areas instead of just one. 
I read that learning from unit studies are more like how we learn as adults and in the real world, vs. just book /academic learning.  I know there is a whole movement that only uses unit studies to teach.  But I am not yet that confident in my teaching and skill assessment of the kids, so I use a blended approach.   We blend lots of material into our learning adventure.  Sometimes it is just a pursuit of what we are interested in.  Other times it is a more formal lesson in the “rules” of reading, writing, and math.  

Both prepared curriculum and unit studies have a place in our home school. 

I have seen many sites also where public school teachers were requesting home school unit study materials they could use in their classrooms, because of the many advantages in teaching this way.  Also children have higher scores and retention of what they learned from doing unit studies which incorporates several disciplines (i.e. math, reading, writing, art, history, geography, science, spelling, etc.) on a given topic  vs. learning one discipline and its “rules” at a time. 

Here are some additional places you can find some great unit studies and how to use them.  Prices vary and some are also free:

unit studies free guides


home schooling at about.com units study


unit study 101

I also use worksheets and coloring pages from several internet sites to go along with our unit studies.  Enchanted Learning and Dover have great resources for this.

………and I have more, but don’t want to overwhelm you with too much info.  Just let me know if you need more.
I hope this helps and you can find the balance that works well for you and your family.  Have a great time on your home schooling adventure!
Be Blessed!
Please share.
This entry was posted in Curriculum, Unit Studies and Lapbooks on by .

About Melinda Weiser

I am a sinner, saved by grace. I am on a journey and offer to share my story with the hope that it will bless you. My one desire is to bring glory to my creator. I am a wife and the mother of 6 children, plus two in heaven. I enjoy homeschooling, research, teaching, homesteading, natural gardening, grass based farming, cooking, fresh raw milk, herbs, children, midwifery, and music. I am a writer, biblical mentor, and also work part time in the healthy foods and vitamin business www.weisernaturalfoods.com I have a BSW degree from Kansas State University, and trained professionally as a medical social worker, biblical counselor, tutor, and vocal performer. Thank you for stopping by to read about our homeschool and family life adventures. Be blessed!

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