I am generally not a fan of unit studies. I like consistency in certain areas (namely math, science and sort of history), and to me a unit study does not provide that. So when Homeschool Complete offered us a choice of unit studies to review, I was on the fence. Actually, I was on the other side of the fence. As I looked over their website, however, I found a unit study for Eliana (age 7) about Pilgrims. We are currently studying that time period in history. Everyone else has something to read or do for history, but she doesn’t. What a great excuse to say “Yes!” to this unit study and spend a little extra learning time with my Ellie-Bear!
I had pretty much no idea what to expect, despite reading over the website. I thought it would be a bunch of links to websites where we had to read to learn (hard for me to do on a computer) or watch videos. Wrong!
(This is where I tell you that I have over 300 posts written which are languishing for lack of technical ability and time to get the pictures and other tech necessities to work properly! This picture is neatly cropped and tipped the right way, but when I insert it, it does this nonsense. Argh! Give me a pencil and a notebook. Sorry about this and the rest of the sideways pictures.)
The packet that arrived (we chose print over PDF, but both are available) contained enough material to make the week-long study in-depth enough for my 1st grader even without adding in the recommended additional materials.
It included a story to read over four days about the pilgrims. It asked her a couple questions and gave me some additional questions to ask to probe for understanding or to encourage narration.
It provided worksheets for her to fill out and printed activities for her to do. It also gave instructions for extra activities, such as a recipe.
It had paper versions of in case I didn’t have, for example, ten blocks…which we do.
It included a calendar, hundreds chart, number line, and more. There were songs, pledges, and a Bible verse.
There are guidelines at the beginning about how to teach throughout the unit as well as the skills that will be learned. It also breaks it up day by day in an extremely user-friendly manner.
I was concerned at first that there would be a lot of prep. This was generally not the case. It was quite simple to read each day’s instructions and do what it says as we go. I do recommend scanning everything ahead of time though, just to be sure. We’re good at winging it.
I was similarly concerned that I would need more extra material than we have, particularly library books. While there are book recommendations, and while we were not able to find them through our virtual library option, I easily replaced them with a Rush Revere CD about the pilgrims. Easy as pumpkin pie! As for the rest of the items we needed, everything was either readily available at home or could be replaced by other things. The included materials list helps you be completely prepared in advance.
How did we use the unit study?
Eliana and I did the unit study together and mostly alone. That’s kind of a treat around here. We did almost exactly what the program suggested, completely each activity as it came up. We did not, however, maintain the same pace that the program recommended. We stretched it out because that’s what our life demands–a little bit here and a little bit there.
We also did some improvising. Eliana is not at a place in math where she can do as many math problems as were presented on the worksheets. No problem–we saved them for the next day! She’s also not reading at a level where she could read the entire story herself. No problem! I read it to her and she narrated it back. I did have her read a few of the words.
The program recommends fun activities such as playing memory with math facts and matching fact families. This is too complicated for Ellie right now, so we made a memory match game out of the compound word activity sheet instead. She loves it, and we enjoy the playtime together and the diversion from her normal phonics activities.
(These are the “cards” we used for Memory Match and Go Fish. They were supposed to be glued on a sheet of paper, but because she did them without reading the words, many of them are backward. No problem! She cut them apart and turned them into a game. By changing it into a game, she is reading them more often.)
The unit study lends itself quite well to adaptability in order to suit your needs. And I was extremely happy to see that it didn’t have us jumping on the internet constantly. Oh, the sweet joy of learning without the internet!
A few more activities that are included in the program are as follows:
- Bible memory
- cursive handwriting
- calendar skills
- pledges (American, Christian, Bible)
- weather study
- artist study
- baking cornbread
- math skills on many levels
- art projects such as a diorama
- much, much more
(Even the map is included, so I didn’t have to find one. I did go online to show her some actual pictures after, for example, she drew this Mayflower.)
You will note in the photo that the course is designed for K-2. My Ellie is a first grader. She is at the head of her class, but also the last on her class–just a cheesy homeschooler joke. Much of the work included things that were too hard for her. While she’s sounding out words and is doing great with the subject of compound words that is taught in the program, she’s not ready for contractions, reading the entire piece on her own, or writing long sentences without guidance. We adapted for those things. I was very hands-on, and simply introduced concepts as they popped up, but didn’t expect mastery during a one-week unit study. She is also not advanced enough in math to do borrowing in double digit subtraction. We simply skipped it. But give that girl a recipe and you’ve got one mean cornbread!
(We skipped the above page. She’s just not there yet, and that’s okay.)
All this to say that if you want to take a week off or add something to your afternoons for a couple weeks, your child does not have to be at the same level as the program to benefit from the extra learning. Ellie learned quite a bit about pilgrims and, more importantly, improved her reading (and several other skills) in a fun way. She also had a great time with her mama.
I won’t be switching to unit studies full-time, but I would enjoy incorporating them more often into our school for a week or two here and there.
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