The Best Homeschool Resources All in One Place!
If you're looking for a homeschool unit study curriculum or just wanting to know more about how they work, then you have come to the right place! Here you will find an interview I did with Amanda Bennett (the queen of unit studies in my book). I asked her all the questions I had about homeschool unit study curriculum and she gave me the straight answers I was looking for. I hope you enjoy this interview.
1. What are unit studies and what makes them different from traditional, packaged homeschool curriculum?
I am often asked to explain just exactly what a unit study is, usually by newcomers to homeschooling or frustrated textbook parents. Well, first let me tell you what it is not. A good unit study does not involve dry reading or memorization, busy work, endless worksheet completion, and bored children. A good unit study involves learning about one topic in an interesting and engaging way that will captivate the student and make them want to learn more and continue to think about the things that they are learning. From cell phones to Ethiopia to catapults and elephants, unit studies can open up the world to your child, one topic at a time.
As the process of “education” has developed through the ages, people have slowly but surely categorized and compartmentalized almost everything in our world into specific areas of learning. These include science, history, geography, art, and many others. However, to a child that is eager to learn, the world is viewed as whole pieces, not segmented bits and parts. When they see the vast ocean, they see it as teeming with whales and dolphin, full of sunken pirate ships and octopus and seashells, covered with rolling waves. A unit study tries to work from this viewpoint, taking one topic at a time and explaining the way that it works as a whole to the child who already sees it as a whole. They don’t see the ocean as history, geography, marine biology, etc.
2. How do unit studies work?
A unit study works by capturing their attention and helping them understand the pieces of the whole as they fit together. When they learn about the oceans with a unit study, they learn about whales and dolphins, how the oceans flow, how explorers traveled the oceans with currents and wind, and how big and wide and deep the oceans are and how all of these components work together.
Unit studies encourage the use of imagination, creativity, and analytical thinking. In a typical textbook curriculum, the “facts” are simply memorized and regurgitated, only to be forgotten soon after the test. Unit studies teach children how to find the answers to their questions of how something works and why it is that way. They learn to seek the information that satisfies their need to know. They learn how to investigate, explore, and find answers.
3. What are the advantages and disadvantages to using a unit study approach to homeschooling?
The best advantage of all can be seen when you compare textbooks with unit studies. Textbooks are written from the perspective that everything in the world fits neatly into one of several categories, like science and geography. They are basically collections of information that are read, memorized, and repeated for a test or exam. The main problem with textbook learning is that the student becomes very well trained at memorizing information, but unfamiliar with how all of this memorized information applies to the real world. By coming from a different perspective and teaching the child about a complete topic, unit studies offer the advantage of helping the child grasp the big picture and then apply what they have learned to other areas and other topics as his or her education continues. If we can teach our children with interesting materials, challenging them to think, reason, analyze and dig deeper for further information, we will find them to be well educated and ready to move on to a lifetime of challenge, questions and adventure.
4. How much parental involvement is required/needed when using a homeschool unit study curriculum?
These unit studies have been written in simple, ready-to-use format. Everything has been done for you—the research, planning, and preparation—all you have to do is open up the study and get ready for your child to take off on a new learning adventure!
5. How did you get started creating homeschool unit study curriculum?
I’ve always believed that learning should be an exciting adventure—SHOULD BE but that’s not always the case, is it? I can honestly say that learning was not exciting to me UNTIL we switched from textbooks to unit studies. When we made this change, a breath of fresh air moved through our lives, and nothing has been the same since that time. With the change came the realization that education was more than books or homework or hours spent in sheer boredom. When researching about the way we learn, I came across this quotation:
“Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.” William Butler Yeats
This one thought was a home run—as fast as we can pour facts into our children’s minds, they seem to disappear just as quickly. Unit studies can change this; the retention, the adventure, the challenge of living life to each one’s personal capacities, and much more.
After 18 years of homeschooling our three children, I’ve learned quite a bit about both unit studies and education, and written more than 100 unit studies. It is so rewarding to write with a team of amazing developers to create our studies, and I thank the LORD for His grace and guidance along the way.
6. What types of learning styles do unit studies cater to?
At our house, we are all quite different in our learning styles. One child loves to take notes, another hates to take notes but has complete recall of spoken words. And still another learns better if he is actively in motion while we are learning. So, I had to teach to several types of learning styles at the same time, and unit studies have certainly made this possible. As I develop unit studies, I write to accommodate a multitude of learning styles, including:
Visual Learner – learns by seeing, visual stimulation helps this learner own the information.
Kinesthetic Learner – learns by physical action and direct involvement with the information, through games, activities and hands-on learning.
Auditory Learner – learns by hearing the words, very attentive to spoken instruction as opposed to written instruction.
Combination of Learning Styles – learns as a combination of learning styles listed above. For example, I tend to be a visual learner, as well as an auditory learner – it depends on how tired I am!
7. Any advice for new homeschoolers or those thinking about making the jump to unit studies or thinking about using a homeschool unit study curriculum?
Begin simply, with one unit study—find one that looks like it will fit with your family’s lifestyle and give it a try. Try a unit study over the summer, like our new Olympics 2012 unit study—the Olympics begin in late July, and offer a phenomenal learning opportunity!
8. How are your unit studies different than some of the other unit study programs available on the Internet or in catalogs?
That’s a difficult question for me to answer—I’ve only used my own unit studies. However, based on what I hear from customers, here are some things that set USAB studies apart:
Thanks for this opportunity to share, Heidi! Your questions cover a broad range of those that we are asked so often, and I hope that you and your readers feel free to let me know if you have other questions. My email address is email@example.com or you can find me at our Facebook page: www.facebook.com/UnitStudiesByAmandaBennett.
Thanks to Amanda for sharing all about homeschool unit study curriculum and how it can work for our families. I have used some of her units and have been very pleased.
Here is a very SMALL sample of all the homeschool unit study curriculum packages that she has available:
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