Homeschool unit studies

In case you missed it here for feel like reading it there, here’s my story about learning disabilities on HuffPo.  Also, I’m talking about virginity over at Eat the Damn Cake today, and there’s a bit about being homeschooled.

The kids in Hebrew School were learning about the Revolutionary War. They had a unit on it. That meant they’d spend a long time, months even, on the topic.

My brother Jake heard about it, and he wanted to study the Revolutionary War, too. Mom was excited. She loved learning about, well, everything. Little Gabe seemed fine with it. I was less excited, because I knew I was going to have to look at a lot of old guns.

And I was. And I did.

Every day, we all got together and read about the war. No, not just the war. What was going on before the war. Historical fiction about and from the perspective of just about everyone who was there at the time. Generals, spies, Native Americans, hog farmers, small-time clergy members, shopkeepers, black kids, white kids, British kids, the Hessians, the people who were terrified of the Hessians, indentured servants, Quakers. I’m going to stop now. We had a few text books that we referenced, a bunch of maps, several cookbooks, and a calendar full of trips to Philadelphia, historic sections of Boston, where the streets had real cobblestones, and nearby Trenton, where the old barracks were preserved. There were a lot of rusted, heavy muskets there. Jake was happy.

I liked Felicity, though, the American Girl Doll growing up in colonial times.

(I think I owned a dress like that, in my size, for a while…source)

The kids in Hebrew School finished up their unit and moved on to the Civil War. But we were far from done. Jake wanted to go to reenactments. Gabe was into it. I opted out.

Jake’s birthday featured a theme party, and I wore a bonnet and a linen dress. Dad cooked pumpkin stew with ham. It was amazing.

We watched movies about the late 1700s. I objected to the presence of bright pink lipstick in “Johnny Tremain.” The book was a lot better.

Our unit study took over our lives. We learned how to harvest ice and make salt pork. There wasn’t really a reason for that.

And then Jake got into the War of 1812. I went back to reading fantasy novels and practicing piano. Eventually he moved on to the Civil War, and spent years there. By then the kids in school were probably covering Vietnam. But they probably weren’t as interested in the evolution of reconnaissance as Jake was.

Homeschool unit studies. The whole family gets dragged into them. Everyone learns something, even if they don’t actually end up with the Felicity doll.

And I wasn’t complaining. Before that, I’d been able to name at least thirty dinosaurs off the top of my head (my favorite to say aloud was pachycephalosaurus), and I was having nightmares every night about being eaten by an allosaurus. Thanks a lot, Jake.

(We collected the action figures, too. They were really, really cool. Just like us. source)

*  *  *

P.S. Good article in the Times about a different model of school, designed by the students. Check it out.

6 comments to Homeschool unit studies

  • Cool. I think Unit Studies are hugely relevant for families that lean to the unschooling method because, they hinge hugely on self-starting and self-motivated learning. We use mostly all unit-study based learning in our home (our kids are all under 6, mind-you) and I find it sparks further desire to learn and explore, as you alluded to in your post.

  • PS – I was at Chapters and I actually finally “got” the title of your blog – didn’t realize there was a book … 😉

  • Grace

    Unit studies! Woot woot! I probably only ever did two, since they wore my mom out, haha. I remember that Johnny Tremain movie; I think my sisters and I were all fairly outraged.

  • kate

    I should add that none of these unit studies was ever called a “unit study” in my house, growing up. It was kinda just everyone following Jake’s interests. For some reason, he always had these very concrete, developed interests that worked well for this type of exploration. My interests were more like “write another story.”

  • Kj

    Pachycephalosaurus is my favourite dinosaur too!!
    My son likes pteranodons best, but I like old ‘pachy’; and ultrasaurus. Ultrasaurus just sounds like some kind of superhero…

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