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Copyright 2002
The Teaching Home
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"Get Math Relief" is the subject line of the
e-mail accompanying and sponsoring this newsletter.

     You are welcome to forward this newsletter in its entirety.

     The Teaching Home E-Mail Newsletter #54
     Information, Inspiration, and Encouragement

      November 10, 2003  /  Cindy Short and Sue Welch, editors

Table of Contents

Unit Studies: Your Versatile Teaching Tool

All About Unit Studies
     A. Definition of Unit Studies
     B. Including Unit Studies in Your Tool Box of Methods
     C. What Unit Studies Can and Cannot Do
          What You Need To Teach Separately
     D. How To Know You Have Covered Everything
          Scope & Sequence
     E. Prepared Unit Study Curriculum
          Books To Help You Plan Your Own Unit Studies
     F. How To Include Several Children in a Unit Study
6 Steps To Planning Your Own Unit Study
     Step 1.  Determine the Duration
     Step 2.  Choose Your Topic
     (Steps 3-6 to be continued in the next issue.)
Plan Your Own Thanksgiving Unit Study
     Resources and Helps plus Already Prepared Units


     Unit Studies.  If you have not discovered the versatility of
unit studies and what they can do for your home school, we urge
you to read our current series and try at least a short unit
study along with whatever methods you are currently using.
     The coming Thanksgiving season is an ideal opportunity to
use a prepared unit study or try your hand at planning one.  We
have listed prepared units, suggestions, and resources below.

     No "One Right Way."  Let's remember that however
enthusiastic any of us are about any particular teaching method
or materials at any period of our home-school journey, there is
not only "one right way" for everyone.
     Unless we truly believe this, it is hard to disguise a judgmental
attitude that can be very discouraging to our fellow home educators,
whether they are beginners or veterans.

     Bottom-line Style.  We have chosen a succinct, cut-to-the-chase
style for our e-mail newsletter to fit this mode of communication
and to respect the limited time busy home educators have to read
     Therefore, we condense a wealth of information into a
small space.  For instance, the material in our 2-part unit
studies articles was compiled and condensed from more than
100 pages of research.  We hope that it is useful to you.

Pat, Sue, Heather, Holly, and Brian Welch
The Teaching Home is a 23-year-old, home-school family business.

     51 Teaching Home Back Issues Available
          The practical how-to articles and teaching tips never
     go out of date.
          Search for the topics you need; each issue is pictured
     with all articles listed.
          Buy Teaching Home Back Issues online at

All About Unit Studies

A. Definition of Unit Studies
     Unit studies are also known as multi-disciplinary, thematic,
integrated, or topical studies.
     A unit study integrates several subjects around a common
theme or topic.  Disciplines covered may include history,
geography, art, music, science, literature, Bible, and more.
     Unit studies involve research and reading from multiple
sources, but also utilize a variety of activities and projects,
experiments, field trips, and discovery learning methods.

B. Including Unit Studies in Your Tool Box of Methods

     There are many different methods that home schoolers can
choose from to educate their children.  Each method is merely a
tool in the hands of the home educating parent.
     You may pull several of these methods out of your tool box
and combine them in any way that meets your specific goals and
the changing needs of each of your children.
     Whichever curriculum or approach you choose, you can
incorporate other methods into it.
     Some of the ways that you can include unit studies in your
tool box of teaching methods are:

* For holidays, summer studies, back-to-school, year end, etc.
* For special interests, to meet specific needs, etc.

* To begin, to end, or between sections of schoolwork.
* One week per month, one month per quarter, etc.

Half Time
* Alternate unit studies with equal amounts of other study
   (in addition to basic skills instruction) either daily, weekly,
   or monthly.

Full Time
* As your primary curriculum for all subjects except basic skills.
   If you choose this option, plan carefully to include a full
   range of topics with adequate depth and detail (see following

* To enrich and integrate Christian textbooks or other
* Suggested activities and extra material included in quality
   textbooks can form the basis for a unit study.

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          The "Merry Christmas" motto is on sale for $32
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C. What Unit Studies Can and Cannot Do
     No one teaching method is perfect for all subjects and all
students all the time.  As you gain familiarity with each method
you will learn how and when to use it to greatest advantage.  In
areas that are not ideally suited for one method, you can use
another method.

What the Unit Study Method Can Do

For Effective Learning
* Make learning fun and relaxed.
* Present knowledge as a whole and demonstrate how different
   subjects are connected.
* Help students understand more easily and retain more
   information because knowledge is interrelated.
* Incorporate a hands-on approach for effective learning through
   experiences or discovery.
* Foster creativity.
* Generate independent thinking.
* Teach children how to use research skills to learn.

For You and Your Family
* Involve participation by the whole family, including parents.
* Save time and energy by including all students simultaneously.
* Be cost-effective; you can use the same resources for several
   children, and many of the resources can be obtained at your
   library or on the internet.

For Different Types of Learners
* Be equally beneficial for children diagnosed with Attention
   Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, learning disabilities, or
* Meet the needs of all your students at once, no matter what
   their preferred learning styles:
   * Visual learners can read, watch videos, study charts, and
      use other visual aids.
   * Auditory learners can listen to oral reading, tapes or
      related songs, etc.
   * Kinesthetic learners benefit from learning activities that
      involve touch and movement.
* Stimulate interest, motivation, and enthusiasm in even bored
   or reluctant students.

Some Considerations
* Are you willing to spend time and effort in planning and
   gathering materials?
* Will your unit study be solid academically, not just fun and fluff?
* Does your unit study cover included subjects comprehensively
   and in depth?
* Will unit studies alone provide a complete education for your child?

What the Unit Study Method Cannot Do
* Include all subjects equally within a chosen theme without
   seeming artificial or contrived.
* Thoroughly exhaust all the possibilities on any given topic.
   Set your limit of time or material for your present study and
   then study the topic again in a few years from a different angle
   or in more detail.

What You Need To Teach Separately
     Reading, language, and arithmetic assignments can be related
to your unit study, but these basic academic skills need to be
taught separately.
     Unit studies alone cannot provide a solid foundation in
skills that depend on a sequential mastery of each step before
others can be learned and understood, such as:
   __ Phonics for decoding (reading) and encoding (spelling).
   __ Math facts and skills.
   __ Grammar rules.
   __ Writing and composition.
   __ Penmanship.

* You can use a separate curriculum and daily lessons for
   systematic and progressive mastery of these basic skills.
* Unit studies can provide reinforcement, application, and
   proficiency in these basic skills.
* You may want to establish a routine of doing basic skills
   lessons first each day (30-90 minutes, depending on the age
   of your student), and then go on to your unit studies.
* You may also want to pursue a separate, methodical Bible
   reading schedule or curriculum in addition to the Bible that
   is incorporated into your unit studies.

     Phonics Stories Accelerate or Remediate
     Spelling and Advanced Reading
          Example:  EAR - "When Earl heard about the
     pearl buried in the earth, he yearned to search for it.
     He learned early that he could not earn his way into
     Heaven . . ."  Entire program $69.95

D. How To Know You Have Covered Everything
     A scope and sequence (see free online offerings below) is a
master plan for all subjects from K-12 that ensures that the
major areas of knowledge are studied thoroughly.
     Although most publishers cover the same major areas of a
subject, each may choose to include different details, which you
may do also.  You will want to consider your own educational
goals for your children in addition to any scope and sequence you
     Textbook publishers repeat and rotate topics within each
subject about three times during K-12, increasing depth and
detail each time.
     If you use regular textbooks and supplement with unit
studies, you will automatically be following a scope and
sequence.  If, on the other hand, you are doing the majority of
your teaching with unit studies, you can choose from the
following suggestions to make sure you cover all important topics
in each subject.

     Use one or more of the following as a guide for your unit
study topics and main points to cover.
1.  A publisher's scope and sequence.
2.  A list of concepts that you want to teach in each subject
3.  Textbooks.  The table of contents can be copied and used as a
* As you study each topic, check it off.

* Feel free to vary the order of topics or the age at which they
   are taught.
* History can be taught 1) chronologically, 2) from less to more
   difficulty, or 3) from higher to lower interest (e.g., family
   history, Bible history, American history, etc.).
* Cycle through subjects like the textbooks do, repeating topics
   every few years.

Free Online Scope and Sequence
The Typical Courses of Study by World Book
A Beka
Bob Jones University Press
     For an example of how most textbooks repeat subject
     matter at different grade levels, see the site below and
     click on a subject such as "Heritage Studies."

E. Prepared Unit Study Curriculum
     If you buy and use a prepared unit study, you will still be
able to choose which activities to do and how in-depth or lengthy
you want your study to be.  You can adapt it to your family.
     Pre-written unit studies can teach you how to plan your own.

Unit Study Curriculum & Helps
Konos Curriculum. Christian character based.
     Konos offers a free download of a sample week of their
     curriculum.  This will acquaint you with how a unit study works.
The Weaver Curriculum. Bible based.
Education Plus. Keys units to Bob Jones University Press texts.
Advanced Training Institute.  Bill Gothard.
Alta Vista
Five in a Row. Preschool
Steward Ship
Amanda Bennett's Unit Studies
Learning Adventures. Includes sample lesson plans.
Kathryn Stout's Design-A-Study. Scope and Sequence unit study
     helps in online catalog.
"The Home Education Copy Book" by Kathy von Duyke

F. How To Include Several Children in a Unit Study
     Unit studies can be used by families with children in
different age groups, adapting material to various levels and
learning styles while maintaining a unified theme.
     There is a group "chemistry" that comes from interaction
with other learners which can enrich the bonds of common
experiences and provide motivation and enjoyment in learning.

* All children can participate in family oral reading, discussions,
   video viewing, field trips, and many projects.
* Teach to your oldest children, stopping to explain as needed to
   your younger children.
* Reading, writing, and vocabulary assignments for each child
   focus on the same topic, but at different skill levels.

Teaching Assistants
* Older children can show and explain things to younger ones and
   help them with projects.
* Your older child might even be able to plan a short unit study
   for your family.

Unit Study Co-Ops
     Co-ops can be very helpful, encouraging, and enjoyable for
sharing unit studies.  A co-op can be as small and informal as
just two or three families.  Here are some suggestions.

* You don't have to do every unit or everything in a unit
* Divide the planning so that each mother plans, prepares, and
   presents one aspect of the study.
* Meet together one day a week to combine your studies or to do
   a project, view a video, go on a field trip, hear reports, etc.
* Co-ops can furnish accountability and help keep you on schedule
   if that is needed or desired.

     Social Studies – History – Good Citizenship
          Do you value patriotic education?  Young Patriots web site
     will help.  Assignments, Explorations, Learning Games.
               "Wow, it is excellent," teacher.
               "I learned with fun," student.
          Accurate, unrevised historical facts.  Character
     development.  Increases student/parent discussion.
     Free Trial:

6 Steps To Plan Your Own Unit Study
     The following steps will guide you in planning a unit
study.  Some steps, however, may be taken in a different order.
For instance, you might choose your topic first, which would then
help determine its duration.

Determine the Duration
     Whether you are using unit studies exclusively or mixing
them in with other teaching methods, units can be as short and
simple or as long and complex as your family's interest and
available study time allow.  Here are some considerations.

The Long and Short of Unit Studies
* You can vary the length of your units from as short as one day
   (e.g., Veteran's Day) or one week to as long as one semester
   or one year.
* Average units are 4-6 weeks long.

* Alternate longer and shorter units for variety and to give
   yourself a break for planning a major unit.
* Take a break between your unit studies and do only math and
   reading or just one other subject.

Optional Time Periods
* Plan for a shorter unit, say 3 weeks, with the option to extend
   the study if it takes more time than you expected or if you
   want to study more.
* Be sensitive to notice when your children are no longer
   interested or the material has been covered enough, even if it
   means you will stop sooner than expected.
* Continue a study or branch off into a related area if your
   children are unusually interested, enthusiastic, and actively

Choose Your Topic
     Choosing a topic is an important step in planning your unit
study.  Considerations include:

* Your own adapted scope and sequence.
* Any requirements of your state law.
* Preparation for any tests your children are required to take.

Subject Areas
* Units normally focus on one aspect or area of a bigger subject,
   such as a period or event in history, a topic in science, a
   selection or author in literature, a character quality, a country
   or state, a Scripture passage (chapter or book), etc.
* A whole series of unit studies can follow some coherent
   pattern, such as the six days of Creation or the five senses.

Depth of Topic
* Don't make your topic too broad, or you might find yourself
   overwhelmed with too many choices and feeling that you did not
   cover the material thoroughly enough.
* Don't make your topic too narrow, or you might not find enough
   age-appropriate material to do a unit.

* Your family's interests.  What do you or your children want to
   learn about? Have a guided discussion and incorporate as many
   of your children's or spouse's ideas as possible.
* Adapt your study to include areas of interest to all your children.
* Almost any topic can be made appropriate for any age.
* Use a unit study to prepare for or to use after a trip or vacation.
* Determine and tell your children why the topic is important to
   you and to them.
* Consider short seasonal, holiday, or special day units.
* Ask your children what they already know about this subject or
   ask them specific questions to help you plan your unit.

* What special or unusual resources are available to you such as
   a nearby historical location, an event, a museum, nature, a
   friend's place of business, etc.?

     Please Thank & Support Our Sponsoring Advertisers!
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     by the fine suppliers who advertise in them.
          Please remember those that have advertised in our
     last issue (below) as well as the ones in this issue.

     E-Tap: Online Teaching Assistance Program

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     Operation Christmas Child. Shoe Box Collection: Nov. 17-24

Plan Your Own Thanksgiving Unit Study
     You might want to use one of the prepared unit studies as is,
combine it with another one, or use parts of it in your own unit
     Resources are free online unless otherwise noted.  Please note
that we cannot endorse all subject matter connected in the links

Prepared Thanksgiving Unit Studies
By Amanda Bennett (Christian, $15; also Christmas)
Thanksgiving Unit Study (Christian)
Bible Unit Study for Thanksgiving from The Teaching Home
   E-mail Newsletter #20.

Online Resources
Homeschooled Kids Online (Christian)
Annie's Thanksgiving Page (Christian)
Christian History of Thanksgiving
Thanksgiving Poster (Christian, $5) (Click on Posters.)
Life on Plymouth Plantation
Pilgrim Unit Study Resources
Virtual Tour of Plimoth Plantation
Song "Come, Ye Thankful People, Come"
Make a Cornhusk Doll
Old Thanksgiving Games

Sunny Side Up:  Difficult Assignment
     I had just helped our 4-year-old spell his name by asking
him to copy it as I had written it.  I turned the paper over and
said, "Now, let's see if you can write your name without
     As our son began to write his name, I noticed that the first
two letters were very crooked. Then I realized he had his eyes
closed and was writing his name "without looking"!
     Contributed by Renee T., Phoenix, Arizona
     You are also invited to submit your humorous anecdote.

God Loves You.
     Because we were separated from God by sin, Jesus Christ died
in our place, then rose to life again.  If we trust Jesus Christ
as our Savior and Lord, He will give us eternal life.
     "For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that
not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of
works, that no one should boast" (Ephesians 2:8, 9).

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