As February quickly approaches, now is the perfect time to share with you a new unit study on Thomas Alva Edison, who happened to be born in February! My kids love anything science and invention related, so last year they were elated when I came up with my Famous Inventors/Inventions unit study. Of all the people we learned about, Thomas Edison was, by far, their favorite, so I think it was only appropriate that I would write a new one focusing only on him.
Have you ever recoiled in horror at the thought of the amount of work it would take to use unit studies? Do you imagine overly crafty, resourceful women merrily dancing their way through the library and craft store in an effort to collect bountiful resources for an in-depth look at topics you’d never even considered learning about before?
Good thing you have me. 🙂
Unit studies just don’t have to be that complicated. (Unless you prefer them to be, which is an entirely different post altogether.)
I’ve got 11 kids. I homeschool. I blog. I’ve got a house to take care of. And I am not crafty. At all. But…unit studies have made our homeschool vibrant, fun, and relaxed.
Want to know how I do it? Continue reading “How to Use Unit Studies in a Relaxed Homeschool”
Thanksgiving will be here in a mere two weeks. There’s something about the start of the holiday season that inspires me to get together with my kids to come up with fun and frugal ideas and activities to do together. This may not sound like much, but I assure you that I am not normally a crafty person, so this is big.
Last week we just finished our Thanksgiving unit study, and we had so much fun that I’ve decided to share with you some of our favorite activities and books. What better way to prepare for a holiday season that’s going to pop up before you know it, anyway? Continue reading “Fun and Frugal Thanksgiving Ideas for Kids of All Ages”
Imagine the beautiful island of Hawaii 500 years before it was ever known by that name. Imagine a world at one with nature and all that belongs to it. Imagine a place of unimaginable warmth and beauty.
Welcome to The Kingdom of Oceana…
Have you ever wished you could escape your daily life just for a little while to visit someplace magical? Recently I’ve had the privilege to do just that. Continue reading “The Kingdom of Oceana- Review”
(Click here for a downloadable PDF of this unit study and others.)
I can’t believe that summer is already almost over! Sniff. Every year it seems like it takes forever to get here and then it passes by in what seems like a heartbeat. So sad.
As much as I love this season, though, and really do not like the colder weather, seeing the autumn decorations that are already all over the stores has made me nostalgic for pumpkin bread, hot chocolate, and apple cinnamon muffins.
And since I happen to be one of those people who likes to plan ahead (which is an understatement…I have three years worth of unit study activities written down in my planner…), I thought that now might be a nice time to share another unit study I’ve written with you. Continue reading “Free Thanksgiving Unit Study”
In this day and age of advanced technology, we are exposed to the written word everywhere we look- on our phones, tablets, laptops, iPads, TV, and so on and so on. In fact, chances are very good that your kids are just as exposed as you are. And while this could be an awesome thing, there is one major disadvantage: it is putting a wall between us and our children.
Not only is it taking up too much of our time, it has stolen too many moments away from our families, as well. Continue reading “5 Reasons Why You Should Read to Your Kids”
The high costs associated with homeschooling are often one of the reasons people choose not to do it. We can’t afford it. We only have one income. We have too many children.
It’s true that there are a good many homeschool curriculums out there which are high quality, with the high price tag to prove it, but today I’m going to let you in on how we homeschool 10 kids for under $1000/yr.
Since we are a one income family of twelve, it is absolutely necessary that I am resourceful enough in acquiring materials so that homeschooling will not be a financial strain. At this point in time, we plan on homeschooling all of our children through high school, so it is crucial that I find something affordable that works for our family.
Believe it or not, this is easier than you think. In fact, $1000 is actually a high number. I believe that this year we were able to keep our costs to below $500 for curriculum for all 10 children, but I’ll say $1000 just to be conservative!
In no particular order, here are the 10 biggest tips to homeschooling effectively, but frugally. Continue reading “10 Ways We Homeschool 10 Kids for Under $1000/Yr.”
Of all of the fears I hear from would-be homeschoolers, the issue of multi-level homeschooling is very near the top of the list. I can totally identify with that because that was one of my very own when I started homeschooling. It’s true that educating several children of differing ages can seem like a nightmare if you are looking at home education through the lens of a public school atmosphere.
When people hear that I have eleven children and homeschool nine of them, I can tell by the looks on their faces what they’re imagining my days to be like:
A classroom of school desks with my children excitedly raising their hands in order to answer a question. Me standing at the front of the room wearing an apron with a duster in one hand and a pointer in the other. Classical music playing in the background while I conjugate Latin verbs with my 5-yr-old.
A classroom of school desks thrown askew as a slew of children parade around the room banging on pots and pans, protesting that day’s assignments. Me standing at the front of the room, hair falling out of a bun, dark circles under my eyes, pleading with them to please sit down and do their 3x each. The three-yr-old in the background, going through the makeup I no longer have time to apply, drawing cat whiskers on her own face with my eyeliner.
Although I have had days with features of each of these :), neither of these is an accurate depiction of what goes on in the average homeschooler’s school day. Thankfully, homeschooling does not have to fit the traditional school model, which is most fortunate for those of us who are homeschooling larger families.
Of all the homeschooling approaches I’ve tried, the one thing that has kept our days happy and manageable has been simplicity. The very first point I want to get across is that homeschooling does not have to take six hours a day. There are various reasons that a public school day takes that long, which is a post for another day, but suffice it to say that most homeschooling families do not spend nearly that much time on formal assignments.
While each family does it differently, and no one way is right or wrong, these are the routines that have helped with our family.
(This post contains affiliate links.)
– Focus on the three R’s- reading writing, and ‘rithmetic. Although this approach is often seen as being for younger children, it can work quite well with inquisitive older kids, too. My teenage son does not use any textbooks for anything other than language arts and math. He has no need to. He loves reading about and watching movies about WW2 and is an avid outdoorsman. It seems like everyday he is bringing one critter or another home from the creek to observe. (As a matter of fact, he lost two snakes in my yard just this week! His response to my alarm? “Don’t worry, Mom. There are only three venomous snakes in the state of PA, and these weren’t any of them.” That doesn’t exactly reassure me, but it does let me know that he’s been doing his research!)
– Teach your kids together with unit studies. Right now this has been the go-to method for our family. Since I do have so many children, I’ve found that it works better for me to separate the kids into two groups with separate unit studies, which they take turns doing every other day. After I work individually with each child on language arts and math (which is not really necessary, but I do enjoy the one-on-one time with my kids) I will read aloud to them, and then they will complete some unit study assignments together. The nice thing about unit studies is that they are cross-curricular; there is no need to teach each subject individually. Each topic explored will tie in one way with the next and everything from math to science to history to art (and so on) is almost guaranteed to be covered. Some of our favorite unit study curricula have been Konos, Five in a Row, Media Angels Creation Units, and various thematic units. I’ve also written unit studies of my own on Famous Inventors/Inventions, Greek Mythology, and the Little House series- all of which can be found here on my blog. It’s so much more relaxing to know that you can adequately educate all of your children either together, or in groups, as I do.
– Keep in mind that as children get older, they also gain more independence. While I do technically homeschool nine children, it has to be said that I am really only heavily involved with the teaching of six of them, and even that is not terribly time-consuming nor stressful because of the way we approach things. My older kids will occasionally ask for help with math (why is it always math??) and are pretty competent on their own with everything else. They know I am there if they need assistance, but my actual involvement with their school work is minimal.
The prospect of homeschooling multiple ages can seem intimidating and stressful at first glance, but once you’ve found a routine that is comfortable for you and your family, it can be one of the most delightful endeavors you’ve ever accomplished. Simply remember that homeschooling is not school at home. Focus less on that and more on keeping the home in your school, and success will soon follow!
Writing my own unit studies was never something I seriously considered doing. I was completely satisfied with the prepared resources I had purchased and assumed that it would never be necessary. However, when my children and I grew tired of the last unused unit study we had, I was faced with the option of forging ahead through something none of us wanted to do, or creating my own unit. The idea was rather daunting to me, but out of desperation, I decided to give it a go. Surprisingly, I discovered that not only was it quite easy, but I loved doing it.
I approach everything with a no-nonsense attitude. I have ten children at home and don’t have time for any unnecessary triflings, so I write my unit studies the same way- with a clear, concise plan unencumbered by extraneous details.
Today I am writing about literature-based unit studies because I find that writing a unit with a specific read-aloud in mind makes for an effortless transition into authoring thematic units on your own.
5 Steps to Creating Your Own Unit
1. Choose a book that both you and your children will enjoy. There is no point in opting for a title that neither you nor your children have an interest in, despite how popular it may be. If a good bit of time is going to be spent exploring a particular book, it had better hold everyone’s attention!
2. Decide how long you would like to spend on this particular unit and how many activities per day will be appropriate for your family. Every family is different. While some may enthusiastically dive into 4-5 activities per day, others may be content with only 1-2. You know what your children can handle. If you want a successful unit study, don’t overdo it. When deciding the length of time for each unit, I strongly suggest to let it work around the length of your chosen book. A 2-week unit study simply wouldn’t cut it for a 700 page book. I tend to tailor the time spent on a unit around how many chapters a book has. For example, if there are 23 chapters, I’ll more than likely make it a 5-week unit study since I usually read one chapter aloud per day, unless they are particularly small.
3. Do the math and begin browsing for ideas to explore. If you’ve decided to spend three weeks on a particular book and are aiming for three activities per day, simple math will tell you that for 15 days x 3 activities per day, you will need to come up with 45 ideas to explore. For a two-week study with two activities per day, you’ll need 20. This may seem like a lot, but there’s a rather basic way to approach this. If, like me, you are planning to read aloud one chapter per day, simply browse each chapter for the number of activities you plan to do. It is not necessary to read through each chapter thoroughly. Skim through and watch for any words or phrases that stand out to you. For example, if you are looking for two ideas per day, you may find “wolves” and “tree sap” seem to jump out at you in the first chapter. Never mind if they seem unrelated; the literature will tie them together. Jot down those two words and move on the next chapter, and so on, and so on…
4. Get creative and turn those ideas into lessons/activities. Once you’ve gone through the entire book and have a basic idea of what you’d like to explore, it’s time to create your lesson plan. Remember that unit studies are meant to be cross-curricular, so keep that in mind as you’re brainstorming. There are so many ways you could approach each idea; the possibilities are almost limitless. Going back to the “wolves” idea, just off the top of my head, these are the activities I can think of right here on the spot:
- researching wolves and writing a report
- watching a documentary about wolves
- visiting a wildlife sanctuary
- making wolf masks out of papier mache or simple paper plates
- researching what parts of your country, if any, are home to wolves and locating on a map where they are
- calculating how far from your state or city wolves can be found in the wild; how long would it take to get there if you were traveling at 60 mph?
I could do the same thing with “tree sap,” but I don’t want to bore you. And don’t get overwhelmed by ideas. Pick one! Which one is your favorite, or which one do you think your kids will enjoy the most? Go with that one.
5. Gather your materials, and you’re off! Once you have everything planned out, head to the library for any supplementary books that would be useful. Make a list of any art supplies needed and get them ahead of time. Once you have what you need, you’re ready to begin!
Watching your children’s faces light up doing something that you’ve created just for them can be an exhilarating experience. Don’t doubt yourself or your own innate creativity. You might just be astounded by what you come up with!
Learn Greek mythology as a family with these fun hands-on activities!
(click here to find a downloadable PDF of this unit study)
(Disclaimer- This post contains affiliate links. Please see my disclosure policy.)
(Image courtesy of vectorolie at FreeDigitalPhotos.net)
I’ve always been completely fascinated by Greek Mythology and was so excited to find D’Aulaires’ Book of Greek Myths, a beautifully illustrated compilation of classical Greek myths for my then-14-yr.-old daughter. To go with it, I purchased the Student Guide, which contains additional vocabulary, quizzes, and map work that were an awesome supplement to the book.
Recently, as I was going through some of our old homeschooling resources, I rediscovered the beauty of this book and decided to use it with my older elementary-age and middle school-age children; however, I knew that the student guide was probably not going to hold their interest. Since unit studies have been very successful for our family, I decided to attempt to create a study based on this book, and behold- here it is today.
While I did use this particular title as the backbone of the activities included, this study is very flexible in that it will work well with any Greek mythology book of your choosing. I sincerely hope you enjoy it as much as we did!
Greek Mythology Unit Study
– D’Aulaires’ Book of Greek Myths- Ingri and Edgar Parin D’Aulaire– (I highly recommend this book above all others, as it is the foundation of all of the activities listed here.)
– Any book from the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series- Rick Riordan
– Any book from the Heroes in Training series- Joan Holub and Suzanne Williams
– Tornadoes– Gail Gibbons
– A Komodo Dragon Hatchling Grows Up– Katie Marsico
– About Arachnids– Cathryn Sill
– Komodo Dragons- Giant Lizards of Indonesia – James Martin
– Komodo Dragons– Thane Maynard
– Extreme Weather– National Geographic Kids
– Scorpions– Elizabeth Raum
– Scorpions!– Laurence Pringle
– Classic Starts- Greek Myths– Diane Namm
– Vultures– Sandra Markle
– Pegasus- Marianna Mayer
– Disney Storybook Collection
– Vultures– Wayne Lynch
– Vultures– Lynn M. Stone
– Mythological Creatures– Lynn Curlee
– Greece! Rome! Monsters!– John Harris
– movies- The Lightning Thief and Sea of Monsters
mythology idol Titan
god goddess bountiful
Cyclopes universe sprite
nymph trident lightning
invisibility helm thunderbolt
iridescent throne ambrosia
nectar underworld ichor
mortal immortality strait
forge volcano chariot
discord pain panic
famine oblivion prudence
irreverent grotto constellation
pomegranate eternal wizened
lyre satyr muse
spellbound sacrifice offspring
centaur pegasus chimera
1. Read a section of D’Aulaires’ Book of Greek Myths together daily. (Literature, History)
2. Select several vocabulary words each week and practice writing them in cursive. (Language Arts)
3. Read one of the Percy Jackson and the Olympians books as a family or independently. Write a book review when finished. (Language Arts)
4. Watch the Percy Jackson movies after reading the books. Write a paper highlighting the many differences between the books and the films. What did you think of these changes? (Language Arts)
5. Discuss the Gaea concept still held by some people in modern times. Is this biblical? (Social Studies, Critical Thinking)
6. Research pantheism, Wicca, and other pagan religions. What does the Bible say about these practices? (Social Studies, Bible)
7. Draw a cyclops. (Art)
8. Discuss the trident, the lightning bolt, and the cap (helm) of invisibility. Write an essay about which you’d choose and why. Read it aloud when finished. (Language Arts)
9. Draw a picture of Argus with his 100 eyes. Why is this a good quality for a guard? (Art, Critical Thinking)
10. Zeus would often disguise himself as animals or other objects when coming down to Earth. can you think of a time that God took another form? (Ex.burning bush) What would you disguise yourself as? (Critical Thinking)
11. Take a trip to a blacksmith shop. (Field Trip, Social Studies)
12. Hephaestus’s forge was in a volcano. Research volcanoes. (Science)
13. Build a clay volcano around an empty water bottle. When finished, pour in some baking soda, red food coloring, a little dish detergent, and vinegar. What happens? (Science, Art)
14. Try the same thing as above, but pour in some soda and Mentos candy instead. Did you get the same reaction? Why do you think that is? (Science)
15. No one knows where Aphrodite came from. Write your own myth explaining how you think she came about. (Language Arts)
16. Who does Eros remind you of? (Cupid) Draw a picture of him. (Art)
17. Make some beaded jewelry. (Art)
18. Cupid is the Roman name for Eros, and Venus is the Roman name for Aphrodite. Learn the Roman names for the Greek gods. (Language Arts, History)
19. Act out the story of the apple of discord. (Art, History)
20. Discuss the meaning of pain, panic, famine, and oblivion. (Language Arts)
21. Learn how to weave or watch a weaving demonstration. (Art, Life Skills)
22. Athena turned Arachne into a spider for being prideful about her weaving. Learn about arachnids. Where does the word “arachnid” come from? (History, Science, Language Arts)
23. Use blocks, Legos, or clay to build a representation of Poseidon’s underwater palace. (Art)
24. Learn how islands can be formed by earthquakes. (Geography, Science)
25. Draw your own rendition of Python. (Art)
26. The dragons of Greek mythology are mythical creatures which may have been based on dinosaurs. Today the earth still holds an island which is home to real dragons. Research the Komodo dragon and write a report or a fact sheet on them. (Science, History, Language Arts))
27. Orion was killed by a scorpion sent by Apollo. Write a report or fact sheet on scorpions. (Science, Language Arts)
28. Study the Orion constellation. Orion’s belt is very easy to locate. Look for it the next time you are out on a clear night. (Science)
29. What is a lyre? Listen to music from one. (Music)
30. Read about Hermes. Can newborn babies really do what the story tells us he did? Why or why not? (Critical Thinking)
31. Hades was not only Lord of the Underworld, but he was also rich beyond measure since he owned all the jewels under the earth. Where are precious stones found? Learn about this process. (Science)
32. Visit a cave that is open to visitors which exhibits geological finds, such as crystals. (Field Trip, Science)
33. Cerberus was a three-headed dog who guarded the entrance to Hades. Paint a picture of him. (Art)
34. Persephone was stolen away by Hades to become his bride. Discuss stranger danger. (Safety)
35. How did the Greeks use the story of Persephone and Demeter to explain the seasons? Find out how the seasons really occur. (History, Science)
36. Using a globe and a lamp or large ball as the sun, give a visual demonstration of how the seasons are caused by the tilt of the earth’s axis. (Science)
37. Dionysus, the god of wine, was raised around leopards and tigers, who were very fond of him. Make some paper plate leopards and tigers. Eat some grapes as a snack! (Art)
38. What does it mean that dolphins are the most human creatures? Read about dolphins. (Science. Critical Thinking)
39. Prometheus was said to have modeled man out of clay, while his brother Epimetheus made animals. Make some people and animals out of clay. (Art)
40. The story tells us that Epimetheus gave all of the good gifts to the animals and didn’t leave much for Prometheus to bestow upon the humans. In what ways are animals more gifted than men (speed, better sight, smell, hearing, endurance, etc.)? In what ways are humans superior? What is the most important thing we have that the animals do not? (Science, Critical Thinking)
41. Draw Prometheus and the eagle. (Art)
42. What does it mean to “open Pandora’s box?” (Language Arts)
43. Define greed, vanity, slander, and envy. Do you see these in the world today? (Language Arts)
44. Compare the biblical flood to the Greek flood. Study worldwide flood legends. Why do you think it is that secular geologists ignore these stories and insist that no worldwide flood ever happened? (History, Critical Thinking, Social Studies)
45. Write an essay on tornadoes, hurricanes, or typhoons. (Science)
46. Read the story of Helios. Why is it dangerous to look at the sun? Does this story make a good case for why it is best to obey your parents? (Science, Health, Safety)
47. Write about a time you did not obey your parents and something bad happened because of it. (Language Arts)
48. What are centaurs and satyrs? (Language Arts)
49. Draw the transition of Tithonus from man to grasshopper. (Art)
50. Write grasshopper facts. (Science, Language Arts)
51. If a pregnancy lasts nine months and Selene bore 50 daughters, how many months was she pregnant altogether? How many years is that? (Math)
52. In Greek mythology, satyrs live 10,000 times longer than humans. If the average human life span is 85 years, how long would the average satyr life span be? (Math)
53. Listen to a recording of a shepherd’s pipe. (Music)
54. Read the story of Echo and Narcissus. How does Echo’s punishment fit her name? (Language Arts)
55. What does “narcissistic” mean? How does this fit Narcissus? (Language Arts, Social Studies)
56. Make a set of reed pipes using drinking straws. (Art, Music)
57. In the Greek Olympics, winners would be awarded with a laurel wreath. Why? (History)
58. Define cunning, savage, and vulgar. (Language Arts)
59. Why was Chiron different than the other centaurs? Why do parental care and discipline make such a big difference in a child’s life? (Critical Thinking)
60. What word is derived from “Hygeia,” and what does it mean? Who was Hygeia? (Language Arts, History)
61. Re-enact a doctor’s visit. Assign roles of nurse, doctor, patient, receptionist, etc. Be sure to take measurements of height and weight, check temperatures, and give eye exams! (Health, Social Studies)
62. Learn about the Nine Muses. Write a list of their names and what they do. Memorize them. (Language Arts, History)
63. If there were nine Muses… (Math)
-How many eyes altogether? Fingers? Fingers and toes?
64. Orpheus’s wife was killed by a venomous snake. Research them. Do any live near you? Learn what to do in the event of a snake bite. (Science, Health/Safety)
65. The story of Orpheus claims that he found the entrance to Hades at the end of the world. Does the world really have an end? What does this tell you about how the Greeks thought the earth was shaped? (Science, Critical Thinking, History, Social Studies)
66. Radamanthus, a son of Zeus and Europa, was so wise he became a judge in the underworld. Who is the true judge of all? (Critical Thinking)
67. Learn about the American judicial system. (Social Studies)
68. Locate Crete and Thebes on a map. (Geography)
69. Pelops participated in a chariot race to win his bride. His opponent lost because of an intentional malfunction of the wheel and axle. Study simple machines. (Science)
70. Pelops initiated the first Olympic games. Watch an Olympic event. Videos of these can be found on YouTube.com (Social Studies, Physical Education)
71. Host your own Olympic games. Plan events, make your own medals, and don’t forget a laurel wreath! (Physical Education, Art)
72. In the tale of King Midas, he grew a pair of donkey ears. In what other story did a character grow a pair of donkey ears? Read “Pinocchio.” (Literature)
73. King Midas’s servant was so desperate to tell someone about the king’s donkey ears that he dug a hole in the ground and whispered it into there. Unfortunately, some nearby reeds heard it, so they whispered it to each other over and over again. Soon, everyone knew the king’s secret. Play “Whisper Down the Alley.” (History, Language Arts)
74. When an ancient Greek passed away, a loved one would place a coin under his/her tongue. What was this for? (History, Social Studies)
75. Read about Pegasus, and write a report. (Language Arts, History)
76. Study the chimera and the different meanings of the word. (History, Language Arts)
77. Melampus could understand animals and once overheard the conversation of some vultures having a meal. Write a report on vultures. Include a drawing or picture of one. (Science, Language Arts, Art)
78. If Melampus wanted 1/3 of the kingdom for himself and 1/3 for his brother, how much did that leave the king with? What portion of the kingdom did the brothers now possess? (Math)
79. Read about Heracles’s labor of retrieving the apple from the Garden of Hesperides. Eat an apple while doing so. (Language Arts)
80. King Minos’s half-man/half-bull son, the Minotaur, had to be kept in an underground labyrinth. Do a maze or make one of your own. (Math)
81. King Minos used a conch shell to find out where his servant, Daedelus, was hiding. The conch shell has long been thought to allow people to hear the ocean when holding their ear up to one. Is this true? What can really be heard? (Blood circulating through the ear) (Science)
82. Oedipus was able to solve the Sphinx’s riddle. Read some riddles aloud or make up some of your own. (Language Arts)
83. What is an Oedipal complex? (Social Studies)
84. Draw a harpy or a siren. (Art)
85. Jason defeated the fire-breathing dragon in order to get the Golden Fleece. Discuss fire safety. (Safety)
86. Visit a local fire station. Bake them cookies. (Safety, Field Trip, Life Skills)
87. Artemis once sent a huge boar to avenge her anger against a king. Write oa report or a fact sheet on wild boars. (Science, Language Arts)
88. Draw Atalanta hunting the boar. (Art)
89. Atalanta was very fast and won many races. Have your own race. (Physical Education)
90. Achilles was invulnerable except for on his heel. What is an Achilles tendon? (Science)
91. Read about the Trojan War. (History)
92. Build a model of the Trojan Horse using items from around the house. Be creative! (Art)
93. Look at pictures of the architecture in ancient Greece. Does any of it look similar to famous buildings in the US? (History, Social Studies)
94. The gods and goddesses would often commemorate heroes by placing constellations in their honor in the sky. Make a chalk pastel night sky scenery. Be sure to include your favorite constellations! (Art)
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