Friday, January 25, 2013

Planning a Unit Study

I like doing unit studies with my kiddos, but if I don't plan well then it just doesn't happen. Planning is key for having a successful time of learning and fun. Seriously, all my great ideas just go POOF! if I don't get them down on paper or at least in a folder.

Using a combination of tools to plan a unit is the best way for me. I love all the forms and binders that I see other moms use. They are so neat and tidy. I've always dreamed that I could do it like those other moms.

I have come to accept that I am not those other moms, my kids are not their kids, my life is not their life. I find myself comparing my weaknesses to their strengths, but I have many strengths and I need to just use them and quit comparing. God knew me when he gave me these kiddos and He knew me when he called me to homeschool them. I am no surprise to Him! So rather than being frustrated that I can't do things like others do, I'm going to show you how I've learned to operate in the strengths He has blessed me with.

Using a variety of tools to create my units that work with my many moods and differing capabilities on any given day helps me to still feel successful, even on days when I am not my best.

First, I just decide on a theme. Sometimes I think it up all by myself. Sometimes I find inspiration in a book or a website or the most addictive thing I've ever encountered, Pinterest.

Once I've decided on a theme I start looking for books that fit the theme. Most of the time I just search my local library catalog online. A benefit of doing this is the catalog lists all the subjects that any particular book covers, which then gives me new ideas of units to do next.

After choosing books, I look for things like lapbooks, coloring pages, other printables to bring more depth to the study. Then I search for crafts, recipes and large motor activities such as walking like a penguin and trying to walk with an "egg" on top of our feet to see how hard it might be for emperor penguin daddies. Last, I try to find videos on YouTube or movies to rent that will add depth to our study. Now, I'm ready to put it all together.

After I've gathered all these materials, I compare my collection with our state standards to see which standards I've covered and if there are more that would be easy to include in that particular study. I know many moms start with the standards but working backwards suits me better. I do start with standards when I'm doing individual learning activities, but not with a themed unit plan.

All these things are not new ideas, but where I differ from some other moms is my organizational method. I have a file box that I use for these units. I place all the books in there along with folders filled with printables. On the outside of the folders, I write things I don't want to forget, such as a category of items that I haven't found activities for yet, where to find certain items in my stash for that study, or a shopping list for things I need.

Once I've started my folders, I go to the different websites and blogs that I like to use for ideas (many of them I've listed below) and start making a Pinterest board with great ideas for the hands on stuff. This always leads me to more printables.

Here's the really good part... After I've done all of this, I create a blog post for my unit. It brings everything together for me and I can't lose it! So, I have my file box, my Pinterest boards and my blog post to keep me on track.

I know that blog posts are more fun with pictures of the kids actually doing the activities, so after we've completed the unit I will come back and edit my post to include an "after" section. This will serve as a reminder of all we're actually accomplishing, helpful for those days when I feel like a failure. I know I'm not the only one who has these days, but they still get to me when they come.

Hopefully, me sharing this will help somebody to find a way that works for her, rather than always comparing her weakness to other moms' strengths, as we are so prone to do.

Here's my list of favorite resource sites:

Delightful Learning - Awesome blog for Five In A Row ideas and motivation to document our learning with pictures as we go. I also love the way she does Project Life albums with their school work.

Teachers Pay Teachers - Lots of free printables and thousands of printables to buy at a reasonable price for every possible subject you could imagine

CurrClick - Another website for free and cheap printables

Homeschool Share - Lots of free lapbooks and units, especially if you're looking for literature based units

Spell Out Loud - great ideas

Confessions of a Homeschooler - wonderful K4 and K5 curriculum, units to teach about artists and composers, and an outstanding geography curriculum. Plus recipes, menus, and much more.

These are just the ones I can think of right now. I have a more thorough post coming up soon. Hopefully you find this post motivates you to stop comparing and enjoy schooling your children, using the unique strengths God gave you and not focusing on the weaknesses.

Tell me, what strengths do you have and what system have you implemented to use those strengths for a successful homeschool experience?

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