As a frugal mom of 11 kids- 10 who are actually being homeschooled- I’ve turned my money-saving skills into an art. I mean, really, who actually wants to spend thousands of dollars on curriculum each year if they don’t have to?
(Click here for a downloadable PDF of this unit study and other free resources.)
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?
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.
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.
(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.
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!
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.
– 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!