One Week Off: Space Exploration
Brought to you by Castle Heights Press - The Next Generation, these unit studies were put together mainly by the children of Kathleen Julicher, author of several homeschooling science books. Even though these are unit studies, they are designed for families who do not normally do unit studies. The idea is to take a one-week break from the normal school schedule and do something different. But it's no vacation - every day is filled with things to do. Monday is planning day, Tuesday and Wednesday are research and writing days, field trip on Thursday, with wrap-up on Friday. These studies are open-ended; dozens of questions and suggested activities let you decide what topics you will research so that you can use any available library materials. (The studies do suggest several books, internet sites, and places to write for free information.) An essay and a notebook are to be completed, which will hone writing skills. In a rut? Take One Week Off!
What is a "unit study"? Briefly, it's a thematic or topical approach to teaching as opposed to the traditional by-subject approach. Rather than teach each subject separately, a unit study attempts to integrate many or all subject areas into a unified study - usually centered around a particular subject or event. Obviously History (the study of events) and Science (the study of "things") are well-suited to unit studies, and usually form the "core" around which other subjects are integrated. Subjects like Bible, Geography, Government, English (writing), and Reading/Literature, Music, Home Economics, Life Skills, and Art, are usually easy to integrate around a core topics. Remaining subjects (Math, Phonics, Grammar, Spelling) can be integrated to some extent via related activities. Each, however, has its own "system" (progression of skills, mastery of "rules") which must be followed to some degree. Since one of the additional advantages of a unit study curriculum is the ability to use it with students of varying ages and skill levels, these subjects are generally taught apart from the core curriculum. This may be as simple as assigning pages in a grammar or spelling book, or using a separate "program" for Phonics and Math. Unit studies also tend to be more activity-oriented than the traditional approach, a real boon to kinesthetic learners. Advocates of the unit study approach site studies showing that children learn best when learning is unified rather than fragmented and when learning is more participatory than passive.
Unit study guides are like one unit of a curriculum unit study. They are meant to be used for a shorter amount of time to study a specific topic using this approach.
Talented homeschoolers are increasingly developing and producing unit studies not just for their own families, but to share with others. This is so exciting to me! For years, public school teachers have had outlets to share the products of their research and labors with fellow teachers. Now homeschoolers are doing the same - allowing others to reap the benefits. Each author has her (or his) own style - each unit study here is unique in its execution and focus. Someday, I hope this section will be brimming over with units! What a learning experience to see another perspective on a topic! For busy moms who like the unit study method but can't prepare their own from scratch, this section could become a treasure trove!
Although we receive a lot of "prospects" for this section, we try to limit our selections based on the following preferences. Basically, we avoid "no help" studies that give you little more than an outline to follow with suggested resources. Preference is given to studies that are "exciting and inviting", products of obviously thorough research and compilation, ones that provide some "meat" or base to work from (either a couple of basic resource books, or self-contained), and interesting, educational activities that are not just "busywork."