Friday, February 27

Unit Studies

The idea of teaching with unit studies has always appealed to me. I've seen it done so beautifully. Yet I start to panic at the idea of not getting everything in. Unschooling is another method that looks so natural and intriguing. But the very idea sets my heart to thumping erratically. I need to know what's coming next. I need to know that I have all the bases covered. Unschooling may sound like a lazy method of teaching, but I know that it is quite the opposite. To do properly, it probaly requires more self-discipline than any of the other methods out there, certainly more focus.

With Unschooling, you wait for the student to express interest in a subject and then you pursue it and explore it. With Unit Studies, you study topic by topic (can still be student led) and build complimentary lessons around those topics. When I've tried to pursue this, I've been overwhelmed by the sheer amount of information out there and couldn't decide which angle to go with. Also, I was easily side-tracked and wouldn't necessarily put as much effort into the school day. I didn't have enough direction.

Cadron Creek has taken the stress out of pre-planning your unit studies by creating literature studies based on classic children's stories. We used their book Further Up and Further In, based on C.S. Lewis' Narnia series. If you've been intimidated by unit studies before but want to give them a try, this guide is gentle and easy to follow.

We started each week with what was listed as the first assignment in most of the chapters: Vocabulary Words. The boys were given a handful of key words to look up so that they could understand them when they came up in our reading. Next, we read one chapter of the book. On the second day, we focused on the rest of the chapter's instructions. These included Bible, History, Science, Geography, English, Art, or Critical Thinking. Some chapters came with instructions for all of these topics. Some only came with a couple. Some chapters lasted a week while others lasted only one day.

There were many instructions we just could not follow. For example, chapter one recommended watching a video or a live performance of a mime as an Art lesson. Neither of these things is available in my small town. Many of the instructions just weren't appealing to us. One lesson instructed us to study the invention of the vacuum cleaner. Informative, but not something that intrigued us.

I found the bible lessons very interesting and engaging, though I was never sure how to fit them into our week. Some chapters would have several different Bible instructions but only one day of other subjects. Was the Bible to be completed all in one day or were we supposed to string it out several days and do everything else in only one day?

Knowing how to plan out a week is something necessary for me as a mom to 4 kids. We have other things that need finished and I need to know how our schoolwork is going to fit into our day, week, month, etc. I don't need to know every detail to the minute, but a general guideline is something I require. I'm just not ready for the relaxed atmosphere of unschooling or open-ended unit studies. I see the benefits, but it doesn't fit my personality.

Also, while the topics covered in this book ARE very interesting, it could not be considered a complete curriculum. My books says that "...It covers a variety of academic studies including history, mythology, geography, science, literature, practical living, health and safety, cooking, and even a little art and music. Further Up and Further In is a well-rounded scholastic program needing only math, grammar, and spelling curricula to complete the student's course work." However, there were many weeks where hardly any of these topics were covered. One week's history says to "Learn about Armor." Interesting? Yes. Complete? No.

Many days had instructions to read a biography or other book to supplement the lesson. I'm not sure how this is supposed to look. Do you pause all the studies to pursue the book or overlap the book with your next chapter and it's instructions?

As a curriculum, this just would not work for me. However, as a summer program, this would be INCREDIBLE! I can't imagine how fun this would be to pursue as a summer lesson book. As we pursue the next books on our TOS adventure, we will shelve this one for a few more months. But my boys will be thrilled to pieces to stop all studies for a little while and explore the world of Narnia with this book as a guideline.

For other opinions on this product and others by Cadron Cree, see The Old Schoolhouse Crew.

1 comment:

Rose said...

Your product reviews are the ones I always take the time to actually read completely. Very helpful.

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