Friday, September 25, 2009

Unit Studies: Lapbooking with Any Curriculum

When you are still new to the world of homeschooling you sometimes come across terms that are hard for you to clearly understand. And some things have so much information out there about it trying to sift through what is usable and relevant for your homeschool can be overwhelming. What I am going to do is take you through the steps of how to implement one of these terms today and that is a Unit Study. I will give some easy to follow guidelines on how you can also incorporate Unit Studies into any curriculum you are using.

  • Pick a Topic- For example lets say you are using a standard boxed curriculum and you are in your text in science and you come to a chapter on Insects. Your child has a particular interested in wanting to learn more about Butterflies but the text is more of a generalized chapter on Insects without going in depth with any specific one. This is a perfect opportunity to do a Unit Study on Butterflies. And you can do this with any subject from Science, History, Geography, Reading, even Math. Yes, Math can be made into a Unit also. Lets say you want to spend some time building multiplication skills. You could do games, charts, read books with word problems, and various other hands on activities on things to help master multiplication. This really works well for History. Lets say for instance you are learning about the Civil Rights Movement. You can pick key figures like Martin Luther King Jr. or Rosa Parks to do a Unit Study . This can even work for Bible curriculum. If you have an older child who wants to take a more in depth look at the Protestant Reformation they can. So just remember a Unit Study can be done on any topic you or your student chooses. Word of Caution: Not every Subject needs to be done as a Unit Study. Pick a few for the year, semester, or quarter and stick with that.

  • Gather Materials- In Classical Curriculum Living books and Original Source materials are the cornerstone of mostly all subjects. The Public Library is usually my 1st stop. I get picture books, non fiction, fiction, sometimes I can find a video or DVD to help accompany a subject. We just finished a Unit Study on Mozart and we were able to check out his music as well as some great children's literature about him. Utilize the FREE resources as much as possible. usually includes a a suggested reading list with there Unit Studies so if you are doing one of the topics they have listed then you don't even have to search for titles. Other things you might want to gather are art supplies for any special projects you are going to do in your Unit Study or for your lapbooking/ notebooking. Later this year we will be doing a Unit Study on Ancient Egypt in which we will be doing a paper mache model of King Tut. So I would get all the supplies needed for that portion of the Unit ahead of time
    • Lesson Plan- So you picked your topic, gathered your materials now based off everything you have you will now create a lesson plan for your Unit Study. Now a Unit Study can be as long or as short as you want it to be depending on how deep inside a topic you plan to go and how old your child is. An older student might spend the whole school year on a particular topic to fully research it. A younger student can spend anywhere two weeks to two months on the Unit Study. You decide its up to you. An example of I schedule my Unit Studies for History/ Geography is to break down our Topic into Subtopics and go over those during the course of the study. Ancient Egypt is a big Unit for us this year. Here is how I broke it down:

    Ancient Egypt

    People( Kings, Queens, Other Important People) 6 lessons 3 week

    Places( Capitol City, Land Forms, Bodies of Water, Landmarks) 6 lessons 3 weeks

    Culture( Religion, Government, Food, Clothing, Art, Music) 6 lessons 3 we

    Events( Wars, Death, Pivotal Turning Points) 6 lessons 3 weeks

    Total= 24 lessons , 12 weeks

    • Lapbooking/ Notebooking- Lapbooking is basically a Scrapbooking Method used in Unit Studies to create record of important information obtained while studying a particular topic. Notebooking is basically the same concept. Where they truly differ is that Lapbooking is a collection of Mini Books where as Notebooking is entire pages of collected data and or drawings. In your Lapbooking/ Notebooking is where you take your written assignments and even worksheets a compile them in there. I think that for the younger Grammar Stage child that Lapbooking takes the stress of lengthy writing assignment where as I think that Notebooking is for a more academically mature student probably in the Middle grades to High School grades. In Classical Education we call those two levels the Logic and Rhetoric phase. I will delve further into the Stages of Classical Education in another blog soon. Since I have children in the Grammar Stage(elementary grades) I use the Lapbooking approach quite often. In my resource links to the left on my page I have posted some of favorite FREE lapbooking sites.

    • Outside Activities- While doing all of your library reading and lapbooking don't neglect one of the most wonderful benefits of Homeschooling and that is flexibility of learning environment. Don't forget to include hands of Field Trips where applicable. As well as looking for apprenticeship opportunities and even actual lab classes. Like if you are studying Beethoven go and see a real Symphony performance instead of just reading about and listening to CD's. If your child is learning about Frogs go take a nature walk by a local pond and do some observations. If you have an older child learning about Human Anatomy and they want to go into deeper study try seeing if they can observe at a local hospital or mortuary.

    Wednesday, September 23, 2009

    Preschool Play: Keepin Toddlers Busy!

    I have compiled a list of my top 10 things to do with my toddler during our homeschool day. These are just some of the ideas that I have found to work over time. I have found some of the ideas from various blogs and videos here on the web. I'll include some helpful links at the end. The activities are things that I put into index card boxes or small totes to pull out one at a time during the school day.

    1. String Beads

    2. Lacing Animal/ Shapes Cards

    3. Mini Figures- Things such as farm animals, dinosaurs, lizards, frogs, occupational people, etc.. work well in the boxes. We usually have a theme that we are studying and we use the mini figures to count with as well as tell stories or talk about what they do, eat, or live.
    Example: This weeks theme could be Farm Animals. We will read storybooks about farm animals, color pictures of farm animals, do puppets, play matching games with farm animal cards, flannel board stories, and use the mini figures to practice counting to 10, and also talk about what sounds the animals make( MOO, OINK, BAA BAA!) You can also match up each animal with its baby.

    4. Legos or Duplo blocks

    5. Wooden Puzzles- our favorite are those Melissa and Doug puzzles. They are very sturdy and the paint is non toxic. Plus they are oh so cute. You can start with the chunky puzzles with handles till they can get with the more advanced ones.

    6. Starfall is a free online complete phonics program with printouts included. No membership necessary. It is very interactive and engaging. The only skills the child will need to have to get started is the ability to point and click a mouse.

    7. Flash Cards- you can have anything you want on hand. I found some great flash cards from the dollar store. You can even print some form your computer onto some heavy card stock paper and laminate it with clear contact paper from the hardware store. We keep around flash cards with ABC's, 123's, shapes, colors, insects, animals, etc..

    8. Books on CD- we are constantly checking out books with the CD from our local library. This is an activity that your toddler can do to while you are working on math or some other subject with your older child. Sit them on the couch with the book and pop in the CD and they will read along with the audio voice. They love that noise it makes when it is time to turn the page.

    9. Play Dough- I mean it gets no simpler than good old fashion play dough. I make mines on the stove using a salt dough recipe. It is cheap and non toxic for those toddlers who still like to lick everything.Here is what I use.


    2 cups flour
    2 cups salt
    4 tsp of Cream of Tartar
    2 TSP of oil
    1 cup of water

    I heat all ingredients on the stove until it begins to come off the sides. I then dump it out onto the counter or wax paper and knead it into a ball. Then cut it into 4's. I just use regular food coloring adding it to the center of one of the balls making sure to not touch it directly when kneading it. Then I just store it in plastic sandwich bags when not being used.
    *** Be careful it is hot when you pour it out of the pot****

    10. Alphabet Lapbooks- I have found quite a few excellent lapbooking sites for preschoolers. I have listed my favorites in the Resource section on the left. We are currently doing the alphabet lapbooks on homeschool share.
    One of our favorite tools for finding activites appropriate for my toddler has been One of our favorite channels right now is
    Check it out. You might find some useful tips that can work in your homeschool.

    Tuesday, September 22, 2009

    First Day Back: What's New This Year!

    This year is our 3rd year of homeschooling. I have a 5 year old daughter who is doing 1st grade level and a 2 1/2 year old who is starting Preschool level work. Although I am not new to homeschooling this will be our 1st year following the Classical Method outlined in "The Well Trained Mind" by Jessie Wise and Susan Wise Bauer. I took the last two months of our summer and basically wrote my enire curriculum plan for the year and gathered my materials. I don't think I spend more than $300.00 this year for both kids. Did you know the average Public School education cost the state about 5,000.00 a student. We are no where near that are we?

    This is also our 1st year on an early schedule. The beauty of homeschooling is that you can set your own schedule to works best for your family. I was starting pretty late last year and notice it was blocking up my day so I have made an effort to get up earlier this year and kick things into gear so we can be done with academics by 1:30 at the latest. So far it is working great. We wake up at 8:ooam and the children do there chores(clean there room, make beds, and brush teeth, sometimes put on clothes) and then we eat and sometime around 9am or 9:30am we get started.

    The last big change we have had this year that has been a God sent is incorporating Workboxes into our organization process. There is a woman who has a program she started called workboxes to better organize the homeschool student to get them to be more time efficient and work more independently. Here name is Sue Patrick and she started the Sue Patrick Workbox System. Here is her website:
    Here is also a link for others who have implimented the system and they have posted pics as well:

    Although the system is for sale I being the resourceful budget concious person I am decided to create my own based off her concept with materials I had lying around or got from the dollar store and target. The things I do different is I use Magazine holders rather than the racks and I don't have my children clock there time in and out. I don't want to stress time more than completion of assignment and comprehension. I just made some labels on the computer and laminated it with clear contact paper and put a velcro tab on the back. So when she finishes a subject she rips the tab and places it in the bag. This way the child can keep track of there progress during the day. They always know how much they have left as well as being able to start on subjects that don't require your direct instruction while you try to lay a baby down for a nap or get your toddler settled in with some play dough or coloring sheet. My preschooler has some index card totes that I call his workboxes also that hold his beading strings, lacing cards, matching cards, dinosars and frog figures, and other things. When my 1st grader switches to a new workbox he gets a new workbox too. This has been like the "Wheel" so far in this house and we are only 3 weeks into the school year.
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