Low on Cash and Worrred that Homeschooling Witll Cost Too Much? Unit Studies Could Be the Answer You Are Looking For!
© Beverley Paine, March 2008
Robin wasn't working the first year we started homeschooling. Living on really low we slowly built up our business was intimidating and stressful. In addition to that we were typical owner builders living in a half-finished house! Not exactlyt the best time to start something completely unheard of like homeschooling our children!
With a newborn baby, a four year old as well as our six year old daughter, homeschooling often felt like we'd taken on too much. I worried that our decision would ultimately harm our children - jeopardize their education. We couldn't afford school books or expensive learning materials, and everyday I felt guilty that we were denying our daughter access to learning aids and programs her friends were using at school.
However, as it turned out, none of that was necessary! My fears were unfounded.
After fiddling around trying to find my feet for a few months we gradually relaxed into an unschooling style of home education, with a huge emphasis on unit studies. What are unit studies?
Simply put, my children or I would chosse a topic that I thought they needed to learn about, or in which they were highly interested. I would then compile a learning plan using low cost or free resources. Unit studies typically span several subjects of the curriculum and make efficient use of materials and time. Because the children were usually engaged in one or more creative activities the time passed quickly: everyone enjoyed doing unit studies.
Through doing unit studies I slowly began to identify my children's individual learning styles - that is, the dominant ways in which they each learned, as well as their strengths and weakenesses. It was easy then to devise activities to challenge and help them grow, or make learning flow seemingly effortlessly.
Most of the time the children didn't realise they were doing 'school-at-home' because they were fascinated by the topic or really interested in the activity. Unit studies allowed us the flexibility to choose materials that best reflected their abilities, needs, developmental stages, academic levels and learning styles.
Our little toddler grew up thinking that life was education - as an adult he is truly a life-long learner! The flexibility of unit studies allowed me to teach each of my children at the same time by offering either the same activities or content at different levels of expertise or by covering different aspects of the chosen topic at the same time. It was relatively easy to adjust the content and materials to suit each child. An added bonus was that the older children often tutored the younger children, or vice versa! Homeschooling evolved into a truly cooperative adventure.
One of the lasting benefits of using an unit study approach is that memory and skills retention is enhanced. I put this down to the high interest level and the huge array of different activities - true holistic learning at work. My children weren't aware that they were studying science or social studies, it was simply doing projects on things that interested them. Life and learning were in context and that made a huge difference to their motivation.
So you don't have to spend a fortune on curriculum or books or learning materials if you don't have the money. By using an unit study approach to homeschooling you can save yourself a lot of money.
If you want to know more about how to write your own unit studies take a look at Beverley's Practical Homeschooling Book - it's inexpensive and packed with useful and practical ideas to make unit studies easy and accessible.
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Together with the support of my family, my aim is to help parents educate their children in stress-free, nurturing environments. In addition to building and maintaing this website, I continue to create and manage local and national home educating networks, help to organise conferences and camps, as well as write for, edit and produce newsletters, resource directories and magazines. I am an active support of national, state, regional and local home education groups.
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We began educating our three children in 1985, when our eldest was aged five years. In truth, we had helped them learn what they need to learn as they grew and explored and discovered this amazing world since the moment they were born. I am a passionate advocate of allowing children to learn unhindered by unnecessary stress and competition, meeting developmental needs in ways that suit their individual learning styles and preferences. Ours was a homeschooling, unschooling and natural learning family! There are hundreds of articles on this site to help you build confidence as a home educating family. I hope that your home educating adventure is as satisfying as ours was!
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