Sharing ideas, teaching tips and resources for the homeschool journey.
I was introduced to literature based unit studies at the same time as a Charlotte Mason Education. For me these two methods were a perfect fit for each other. Literature based unit studies used short lessons, that taught a variety of subjects, using living books. And Charlotte Mason combined history, geography and literature using living books. I was too much of a newbie to know there was a conflict of styles. I just loved them both.
Typically a unit study is a theme, or topic, based teaching method that incorporates a range of subjects and learning styles. It has a holistic approach to learning. Children can discover the many facets and deepen their understanding of a topic. Art, science, literature, social studies and more can all be taught using one core topic.
However the term unit study has a broad definition. They vary in length, some last months, others last a few hours.
Charlotte Mason wanted children to find out ideas and make connections between subjects for themselves. However when using unit studies children's learning is directed by the teacher and they are required to learn the connections between different topics even when arbitary.
Charlotte Mason also liked lessons to be kept short. She gives an example of a year long unit study based on Robinson Crusoe and how the children were wearied by this study. She said,
"But one thing we can be sure of. The children developed a loathing forever afterwards, not just for Robinson Crusoe, but for every other subject dragged in to illustrate his adventure."
Busy work is another "no no" in a Charlotte Mason education, and unit studies are prone to making forced connections on topics that can become silly lesson fillers.
If you want to know more read Jimmie's Collage and her comments on Charlotte Mason and Unit Studies.
Whilst unit studies may not be for the putitan Charlotte Mason home educator they are still something that I believe can be melded together to make a rich resource for your children.
As an eclectic home educator with strong Charlotte Mason leanings this is how I use, and choose, and create the occassional unit study in our homeschool.
1. Choose a unit study that is short on a simple topic - possibly a historical biography, science or geography topic.
2. Use living books as part of your unit study.
3. Avoid busy work.
4. Don't try too hard to make connections on topics and watch out for "rabbit trails" that are boring your children.
5. Use unit studies as an occassional boredom breaker rather than a steady diet.
I love unit studies because the whole family can work on the same theme together. It’s an excellent one room school house resource. It reduces teaching time and encourages group work.
Used wisely unit studies can inspire a wonder of learning and give mum and the kids a holiday from regular school work.
My children loved deviating from the school routine to spend time creating and working on a project (unit study). They didn’t think of it as work, it was fun.
Short term projects gave them a sense of accomplishment and they had something special to show visitors.
Five in A Row
My Father's World
History Revealed by Diana Waring
Australian Book Traveller is a literature based unit study which combines Australian history, geography and picture study. (Free Download)
Wombat Stew Literature Unit Study is another literature based unit study that covers Australian animals, science and art. (Free Download)
Australia Flags and Emblems Set is a themed study of important emblems and flags of Australia.
Mary MacKillop Lapbook is a historical biography unit study of a remarkable woman in Australia's history.
Prime Ministers of Australia is a chronological history study of Australia's Prime Ministers