Mark Andersen and his family live in the Alaskan wilderness. Since the death of his older brother Jamie, the lonely Mark has created a most unusual friendship. Mark has secretly befriended Ben, an Alaskan brown bear who has been chained up since he was a six month old cub. When Ben's owner decides to sell him, Mark pleads with his father to buy him. Although reluctant because he believes Ben can never really be "tamed," Mr. Andersen finally agrees as it may be the one way to save Mark from the same death that claimed Jamie. Is Mark's life in danger (as many fear) or does a true, genuine friendship exist between the two?
Unit Study Curriculums are "complete" curriculums based on the unit study approach that are intended to be used over a longer span of time (typically a year or more). They generally have an organized structure or flow and incorporate as many subject areas as possible. Typically, organizational materials and methods are provided along with some instruction for use. Broken into logical segments or "units" of study, they are intended to comprise the core of your curriculum.
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.
If you like the unit study approach and you like the American history series by Peter Marshall and David Manuel, you will definitely want to check out this product. Chris Roe, author of study guides to accompany books in the Trailblazer series, has turned her attention to an American history-based unit study for the elementary grades. The America series consists of three books. Land of the Pilgrims' Pride (1492-1789) is based on The Light and the Glory for Children. From Every Mountainside (1787-1837) features From Sea to Shining Sea for Children. Let Freedom Ring (1837-1860) coincides with Sounding Forth the Trumpet for Children. Mrs. Roe selected this Marshall/Manuel series because of its easy-to-read format and its emphasis on our nation's history from a Christian perspective. Each book is an 11-week unit study, so using all three would amount to a school year's worth of study. Besides American history, the unit studies incorporate lessons for reading/vocabulary, Bible, English grammar and writing, science, geography, health, music and art. (As with most unit studies, a separate math curriculum must be used.) In addition to the Marshall/Manuel books, five or six other books are read with each unit study. Most would be available at the library, and we are offering them as well. Required books for grades 3 and 4 are sometimes different than the ones needed for grades 5 and 6. Suggestions for more good reading material are also provided. In addition, Mrs. Roe has included a list of books recommended for 1st and 2nd graders if you are trying to stretch the study to include younger students. Each student must also have a spiral-bound notebook for writing his daily assignments. In English, grammar cards will be made by the student, or purchased separately. Mrs. Roe's personal experience as a homeschool teacher shows through in a couple of ways. Each week's section begins with a supply list of all that you will need that week. As much as possible, common household items have been used, but items that you may need to pick up at the store are listed in bold print. "Notes to the teacher" are sprinkled throughout and are shaded in gray so that you may easily scan for these to ease your preparation for the lessons. Two science lessons begin each week's lessons. These are designed so that you can do science either two or four days per week. The remainder of the week's study is broken down into day-by-day lesson plans. The lesson for each subject is laid out. Therefore, if you like the order that the subjects are listed in, you can go right down the pages for each day's lessons. Lessons include some background information, discussion questions, and activities. Although you can "wing it", you would be well advised to look through the questions and activities beforehand, adding to or modifying as you see fit. The first 10 weeks of each study are laid out in similar fashion, with the 11th week designed for wrap-up discussion and activities. An answer key to the discussion questions and other helpful teaching information is included in the back of the book.