By Jessica Hulcy
Urban myths are rampant, and so are homeschool myths about unit studies. Unit Myth #1: Units are harder for moms to do, because they require loads of supplies. Unit Myth #2: Units require a mom to be actively teaching every second of the day with no chance to change the baby or start dinner. Unit Myth #3: Units require costumes and messy activities that are a waste. Unit Myth #4: Units are not really school; they are just fun and we do not have time for fun. My kids have to pass the SAT and get into college, so I need to be serious about their learning! Let’s get to myth-busting about units!
Supplies: Household or Substitute
Unit Myth #1: Units require loads of supplies that busy moms have to go and get. Not only is that an inaccurate statement, but it flies in the face of one of the reasons I began homeschooling—to teach my children to think outside the box AND to climb out of the box!
First, let’s address the accuracy of “loads of supplies.” The truth is well-written unit activities usually require common household supplies like glue, construction paper, scissors, or yarn with plenty of room for substituting. Kids should be the ones that help moms come up with supply substitutes, which help the kids with critical thinking and thinking outside the box. No dowels? Use pencils. No leather for a cowboy vest? Use a brown grocery sack turned inside-out and fringed. No cow eyeballs lying around your home to dissect? Ask your kids, “Who would have cow eyeballs or where would we get some to dissect?” Then let them come up with the resource. Why pay for critical thinking workbooks when there are tons of critical thinking opportunities which actually lighten a mom’s load?
Unit Myth #2: Units require a mom to be actively teaching every second. Not true. First, good units weave classic literature and interesting information books into the unit. Since kids are all studying the same subject, it allows older ones to read to younger ones and in turn allows moms time to start dinner. Further, great teachers understand that “telling-teaching” is the worst way to teach children. Not only do moms not have to be instructing 24/7, they should not be. The best teaching method allows children to figure things out on their own much of the time.
The KONOS Cooperation Unit has an activity of making a lighthouse which actually lights. These non-instruction/discovery learning activities are designed to let the kids learn on their own. I gave my kids limited parameters: The lighthouse had to light; the kids had 15 minutes to complete it; they had to work together, and they could not use the electric saw! Using an empty baby food jar, a paper towel tube, wire,a bulb robbed from a flashlight and battery from the alarm clock, they met their 15 minute deadline and cooperated! Even if it had not lit, think of all the resourcefulness they used as they cooperated. Amazing!
Optional Activities and Costumes
Unit Myth #3: Units require activities and costumes. While activities should be the backbone of units, and costumes enhance everything; there are varied ways to do activities and different degrees of making costumes. Understand that no activity or costume appears on the SAT; yet thinking while doing and making costumes not only render learning memorable but also build brain neuron connections used to pass the SAT.
If units are multi-level, then each activity is like a bus which every age child climbs on to ride. Like a bus moves forward making stops for people to get off, an activity moves forward as students exit the activity because it has exceeded their interest or learning level. Mothers are the best judges of when each of their kids have exceeded their learning level or lost interest. While dissecting a cow’s eyeball, a five-year-old may learn the “juice” coming out as it is sliced is aqueous humor and locate the iris and lens and then exit the bus. A ten-year-old stays on the bus with his older brother, until he has labeled all the parts of the dissected eyeball and taken apart an old camera, comparing how it works to how the eye works.. The thirteen-year-old stays on the bus even longer, writing a comparison paper on the eye and the camera. Each student takes his level of knowledge away from each activity.
Mothers are the gatekeepers of what activities their children do and to what degree costumes are made. A king’s crown can be fast and simple using construction paper with drawn jewels or more elaborate using cardboard and fabric with glued on jewels. No mother should be curriculum driven. That is why in the front of many KONOS books, there are Permission Coupons which read, “Free pass to skip any activity or other assignment. (Feel free to reproduce as needed.)”
Fun Enhances Learning
Unit Myth #4: Units are merely fun, not real learning. Ever notice that politicians and pastors always open their talks with a joke or a laughter evoking story? They are not only grabbing your attention, but it is a fact that laughter is brain fertilizer for learning and remembering. Laughter releases endorphins into the brain which increase retention of the words accompanying laughter. Therefore, fun and laughter are not a waste of time in lieu of learning but, rather, they are a necessary, enhancing component of learning. In addition, fun makes kids love learning. Isn’t that what it is all about . . . creating a love of learning for a lifetime?
Jessica Hulcy, co-author of KONOS Curriculum, the first curriculum written for homeschool, is an educator, author, and formerly popular national homeschool speaker prior to her near-fatal wreck in 2009. A graduate of the University of Texas, mom to four grown sons, and “Grandear” to grandchildren, Jessica lives with her husband Wade on acreage in Texas. Jessica and Wade started the ultimate online help for homeschooling moms called Homeschool Mentor. Visit www.homeschoolmentor.com and www.konos.com.
Copyright, 2014. Used with permission. All rights reserved by author. Originally appeared in The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, the family education magazine, September/October 2014. Read the magazine free at www.TOSMagazine.com or read it on the go and download the free apps at www.TOSApps.com to read the magazine on your mobile devices.