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Unfolding of a Unit Study + Meso-America {printable}

Posted on July 24, 2012 at 5:25 PM

I think the longer you homeschool the more you rebel start making your own pathways. It's no secret we absolutely love unit studies. I am not an "all or nothing" girl when I homeschool and I try to encourage ones I lead to not be either. Taking an all or nothing approach like only using textbooks, or only lapbooks or only unit studies, I feel, can burn you out or not make you spread out and enjoy the flexibility of other approaches. I enjoy my unit studies because I do use workbooks and lapbooks and some laid out lesson plans. I don't have all of my children use only one math program or one language arts program no more than we choose only one approach. I do think most of us tend to favor one approach over the other one.

After I homeschooled for a while and moved away from comfort zones, I find a delightful zone. Are you there yet?

I think some shy away from unit studies because they may feel it is so time consuming. True, at times there may not be "day to day" lesson plans but that is the very thing that makes me breathe and be able to wiggle. It's really weird I know, because my personality by nature is structured, routine and I have to be organized. But there is a wild side about unit studies that draws not just me, but my boys back each year. I believe what some may feel is mayhem or chaos in subjects is actually unchartered territory and I am so up for a challenge every day.

I want to give you a glimpse into the way our unit studies develop so that you can see the freedom and flexibility of them. Maybe it will help you take a plunge on the wild side.

What comes to my mind in how the information and approach is processed. The way we learn a unit study is like a funnel. There tends to be a lot to start off with and I strive to funnel it to bring it down to my family.  I divided the process of a unit study into just 4 steps to make it easy for you to see the progression.


Immersion. This really is the step that takes the longest. So take long. Do not set up strict requirements like "only x number of days or weeks to cover this".

I journal or write lesson plans sometimes AFTER we finish or as we go along.  Immersion means to jump in wholly into this topic. It also means that you investigate the interest of subtopics that would fall under this very broad and general topic. I had use the Rain forest as an example in explaining about my unit study printable {by the way I have fallen in love with that printable.} But let me share our newest unit , Mesoamerica, that we just started so you can see how this develops. We may want to cover the Aztecs and Mayans in the Mesoamerica unit and we may or may not want to cover the Incas. We have not studied any of these cultures in depth so it's all up for grabs so to speak. Too, we may decide to just focus on one culture like the Aztecs.

At this step, look at your reference books you have on the subject. Investigate with your children websites, library book and hands on activity to immerse you and your kids in this subject. As mentioned in a previous post about unit studies, I do tend to investigate on my own before introducing the topic. I think teachers should teach, even teens. I believe in independent learning but I still believe that even in highschool they need direction and supervision. I tend to be a hands-on parent and teacher.

This is the step we are on right now with Mesoamerica. I don't have to rush my boys because this is the step where they can learn about any topic they choose. It may also be the only time they cover some topics they may be less interested in but may want to be familiar with to some extent.



My sons gathered up these books in the picture above without any preparation on my part. This is all we have in our home, besides of course our wonderful reference history books. It really is enough to build a very in-depth unit study.

I don't feel compelled to go the library every time.

Separation. Aww, now sanity and my much need organization at this stage. There is where after immersion, your subtopics have emerged. After days or weeks, hopefully not months as I feel that is too long to spend on Step 1 because you lose your main topic or Unit Study, subtopics or themes have emerged. You separate what is most important to learn. Points of interest YOUR family or your child finds interesting want to now be investigated. Because we are just two days in the immersion process it is hard to say right now. I do know my youngest, of course, is interested in the games using the rubber made ball.  Leave it to teens to be interested in the gory details of human sacrifice. But I do see a teachable moment of comparing the valueless, vain and God dishonoring sacrifices of human blood made to pagan Aztec gods to the most valuable sacrifice of human blood ever made by Jesus Christ. I also see the topic of a floating garden for some science. Pretty creative if you ask me to have a floating garden. This time period would also be good for some art study. The physical geography of these countries influences the dress and the food. I see quite a few subtopics to pursue.

We can narrow down our choices after we tasted what we wanted to in the immersion step. The separation step can take just a few days to a week to narrow down your focus.

Investigation. Satisfaction here. Here is the delight of learning for intrinsic value. You are now investigating ONLY subtopics you have narrowed down. This is where you keep from getting overwhelmed and not discussing, investigating and writing about EVERY topic you discussed in immersion. This is also the step where each child can be on a different point. If you have older kids it is easier to have separate topics. If they are younger, stay on one subtopic at a time. This is where a child learns because of intrinsic value. It means something to them because THEY chose it.

This is the step where you use day to day lesson plans if you want to write them out.  You now have fine points you have narrowed down.

Not that learning has not taken place up to this point, but this is the step I make sure some learning does take place. Assign vocabulary words, recall back facts they have read about. Write reports and do our lapbooks or notebooking pages.

Hands on activities are here also.This is where you can "show the world" what you learned, i.e. lapbooks and notebooking pages.

Personalization. This is more of a step for me as the teacher. Up to this point I can see what each of my sons were interested in and tie it to something they have learned in the past. This is not really something I can "show the world" as far as what my sons took away from this unit because it may have been something personal my sons shared. It may be a point we learned that I can use to reach their heart. It may not be so private if it was just more information. Whatever it is, I want to be sure as the teacher they "own  it". If they picked the subtopics they already WANTED to own it. So it comes easier to point out something to make it apply to my family or Christian values. In other words, make it matter by tying this unit study to something that is personal for my family.

That is it generally. It is not as daunting when you can put it into 4 basic steps.

Because we are just a few days into our unit, I created a printable for our Meso-America Unit. Not all printables will become part of a lapbook or notebooking, but they might. Since this unit is just starting we have the option of deciding. Another facet of unit studies I find attractive.

You know I have to share with you. This is a card game I created about the Aztecs. Part of the cards are true and false and the other part, your child supplies the word. The answer key is attached too.

Download Aztec Printable Game Cards with Pocket here.

Unfolding of a unit study is a process that once understood moved me from comfort zone to delightful zone. I don't give up the comforts of laid out lesson plans, I just take them with me. Abandon snoring boring curriculum in favor of an unchartered unit study, you might like it.

Our new bee homeschoolers need some love since August is around the corner. So I have an article in my how to series coming.

Also, some new Student Planner Covers for the girls are coming.

I was inspired by this today,

"When things just don't work out as good as you really thought they would... It's not rotten, it's not over, it's not finished, or the end. All it means is something better is waiting for you around the bend."

~Doe Zantamata~

 Hugs and you know I love ya,


Categories: Unit Studies, New Bee Articles-Homeschool Approaches, Dynamic 2 Moms Learning Printables {all topics}