October 27, 2017

Reality Teaching Through Unit Studies



Have you ever wondered what makes reality TV shows so successful? I think it has to do with the fact that we can put ourselves into a situation and experience the challenges the participants face...and learn along with them without being hurt or embarrassed ourselves. Unit studies, in the same way, teach information by helping children relate to concepts, while at the same time provide safe opportunities to confront the challenges those concepts bring with them into real world.


Our Family’s Decision to Use Unit Studies
When I made the choice to use unit studies for homeschooling, my decision was based solely on the fact my kids were willing to participate in the lessons, not because I loved doing teacher prep activities.  But, over our 14 years of using unit studies, I learned to embrace the intensive teacher prep side, because in  the end the prep made our lessons quicker and more effective. 

Teaching More in Less Time
The reasoning behind the effectiveness of unit studies is how they approach the process of delivering learning material to students.  The unit study approach allows parents to prepare specific educational encounters for their children based on how best their children will connect with the content.  These encounters contain a great amount of information, as well as practical knowledge, but moreover they provide experiences which touch the hearts of children and help them synthesize difficult concepts into their own knowledge base.

In this video below, I explain how my children learned about communism through one of these planned encounters while we were doing a unit study on Russia.  This lesson is one we all still remember vividly, and which brings me to tears (I can’t tell you how many takes of this video I had to shoot before I captured one without bawling), because of how deeply the lesson impacted us all.



Knowledge vs Facts
Contrary to popular belief, real knowledge isn’t being able to memorize facts and regurgitate them on a test.  Instead, real learning of knowledge happens when a student is able to take the information presented to them and create ties with it to their heart and life. Facts are great to know, but if a child cannot synthesize those facts into useful tools for thinking and solving more complex issues in their everyday life, then they are of little use.  


Special Education Homeschooling Bonus
Kids who often struggle with how information is presented in traditional education models, usually thrive and learn concepts much quicker in this more interactive learning environment.  Part of the reason for this shift has to do with the fact that you, the parent, can choose specific learning activities/encounters you know your child will connect with.


In our homeschool I choose activities that focused on reenactments, building structures, making costumes, and taking field trips.  But, activities involving singing, dancing, and coloring were quickly crossed off the list of possible activities.  The beauty is you can pick and choose whatever you want from a unit study, and leave all the rest, which I give you permission to do if you happen to be one of those people who feels every activity must be done so your kids are getting the best education.

10 Unit Studies to Consider
If you are looking for some ways to incorporate unit studies into your homeschool, here are 10 free unit studies to get you started:

For more unit study options, check out the SPED Homeschool Pinterest board.


Unit Studies in High School
And, for those of you who think unit studies are just for the elementary grades, you will want to check out this video on how unit studies can be used through high school.





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