"From the rising of the sun to the place where it sets, the name of the Lord is to be praised." Psalm 113:3

Friday, January 4, 2013

How Does a Unit Study Teach Language Arts?

Homeschooling Hearts & Minds Virtual Curriculum Fair Button

It's really pretty funny--I was just looking at my first post for the Virtual Curriculum Fair last year, and how I was soooooo excited for all of the things we were using.


Now we aren't using any of them.

Figures, huh?

Times change, circumstances change, kids change, we change.

This family, personally, has seen a ton of change this year--not all of it positive, at least that we can see from our perspective right now.  And a curriculum change is the very least of it.

I still love a lot of the things we were using last year--even at the beginning of this year--but for one reason or another, not a whole lot of is still working for us now, especially for my Firefly.

One of the big changes we've seen was in ME--how I had decided our school would run, how I wanted the days to go, how much I decided we would accomplish.

In about October, I threw up my hands and put schoolish-stuff back in the hands of He who it actually belonged to, and in doing that, sat down with Firefly and asked her what she wanted to learn about--what she was interested in.

"Dogs!" said she.

Ummm, OK--dogs it is.

Enter Amanda Bennett, my new best friend, and her wonderful Dogs Unit Study.

We've dabbled a little in Unit Studies before--Bug and I spend some time with Five In A Row occasionally, Heart of Dakota can be seen as a giant Unit Study based on history, and last Christmas, we first jumped on the Amanda Bennett bandwagon.  But this was our first, official, "this-IS-our-curriculum" Unit Study adventure.

And we are very officially immersed in all things dog around here.

And it's working out beautifully!  Firefly is (relatively) happy, I am (mostly) happy too, and our own dog, Max, is super-happy to be our guinea pig with all of the new, cool things that we are learning!

What is a Unit Study, anyway?  Well, it's summed up rather nicely (by my new friend) in this post, for those of you who may not have heard about this idea before.  I was pretty unsure how it would work, myself, and how much of the learning I could compartmentalize into a nice box to "check off" to say that it was completed.

(I'm learning, ladies and gentlemen.  It just takes me a while.)

All of this introduction gets me to the point of this post:  how does a unit study teach language arts?

Please remember, I'm from the old school that says we have grammar lessons, spelling lessons, reading comprehension lessons, phonics lessons, and writing lessons--preferably from a workbook.

Well, since we've begun our unit study learning about dogs, Firefly has kept a beautiful notebook, that is getting full-to-the-brim with doggy learning:  stories about dogs, the history and geography of different breeds, vocabulary related to dogs, idioms about dogs, journal entries, a reading list of dog-related stories and books she has read, creative writing entries, and on and on and on.  

Some of that, I'm sure, addresses Language Arts, in some form or another.


For example:

 canine vocabulary,
 making sentences with said canine vocabulary words (and talking about what makes a sentence a sentence),
 idioms defined (and "what is an idiom" defined),
 a writing assignment summarizing what we learned about Seaman,
and journal entries about different dog topics (working on sentences, paragraphs, spelling, etc.--and don't examine this entry too hard for all of that!)

AND (wonder of wonders), for a kid who Hates (get it?  hates with a capital H, haha!) to write, look at all of the writing she has done just in those pictures!  Most of it without rolling around on the floor and screaming!

No, it's not completing pages in a structured workbook.  It's not chapters in a grammar book.  And, yes, maybe we are continuing with our beloved spelling program just because I couldn't give up ALL control.

But it's vocabulary, reading, reading comprehension, grammar, writing, composing, and thinking.

And for now, that works for us!

What are you using for Language Arts in your homeschool?  Have you let go of the reins, like me, and gone more unstructured?  Is there that ONE program that you love, love, love?

I'd love to hear about your experiences, and I'd love for you to read about some others joining the Virtual Curriculum Fair with me.  Check out what they have to say here:

href="http://homeschoolheartandmind.blogspot.com/2013/01/nurturing-novelists-building-strong.html" target="_blank">Nurturing Novelists = Building Strong Writers by Susan Anadale @ Homeschooling Hearts & Minds

Building Blocks of Education--Learning to Read  by Kristi Kerr @ The Potter's Hand Academy

Finding Our Way Through Language Arts by Christy @ Unexpected Homeschool

How Does a Unit Study Teach Language Arts? by Nicole @ Schooling in the Sun 

Our Language Arts Adventure by Linda @ Homeschooling6

2013 Virtual Curriculum Fair-Playing with Words:  The Language Arts by Leah Courtney @ As We Walk Along the Road

Virtual Curriculum Fair-Playing with Words by Karyn @ Teach Beside Me

Virtual Curriculum Fair ~ Language Arts by Dawn @ Guiding Light Homeschool

Writing Help in a Critical Thinking book? by Missouri Mama @ Ozark Ramblings

Virtual Curriculum Fair: Foreign Language Immersion in the Homeschool by Tonia @ The Sunny Patch

Formula for Reading by Erin @ Delighting in His Richness

Words and Learning by Annette @ A Net In Time

A Custom Designed High School English Credit by Tech Wife @ A Playground of Words

Virtual Curriculum Fair 2013: Still Loving Language Arts by Pam @ Everyday Snapshots

Word Play by Lisa @ Golden Grasses

Loving Language Arts by Kristen H. @ Sunrise to Sunset

Learning Language Arts ~ 2012-2013 School Year by Laura O in AK @ Day by Day in Our World

Virtual Curriculum Fair - The Language Arts Department by Joelle @ Homeschooling for His Glory

Playing with Words:  The Language Arts by Christa Darr @ Fairfield Corner Academy: The Story of Our Life

Playing with Words:  Language Arts by April @ Coffee, Cobwebs and Curriculum

What Language Arts looks like in our house - Are we doing it right? by Hillary M @ Our Homeschool Studio


  1. Even when you know in your head that learning isn't limited to workbooks and core standards, it can be hard to get past that mentality, because that's the way most of us were taught in school. You are doing a great job of helping your child to develop a true love for learning, something that workbooks won't do---it will serve her well throughout her life.

    Thank you for sharing your experiences with the Virtual Curriculum Fair!

  2. We love Amanda Bennett! It gives us an opportunity to have fun together and learn the same thing together.

  3. Wow, I love her notebook!!! I'm always afraid to go pure unit study, for the very reason you mentioned. I'm such a "check list" type person. I mean to every summer, but... This looks like SO much fun, though!! Thanks for sharing!

  4. It's definitely been hard!--but well worth the try! I'm looking forward to trying the next one--I think we are moving into Horses...

  5. Kristi, we've had a blast once I stopped worrying about checking off the boxes...maybe try it during a down time when you haven't put as much pressure on yourself. It's definitely gotten my daughter more interested in school, though, so I feel like having her engaged is worth its weight in gold.

  6. Her notebook is fantastic! We use Amanda Bennett's unit studies, but not as our core. For instance this year her Elections 2012, Inauguration 2013 and American Government studies are making up the spine of our history for this year. We intersperse with additional videos, projects, reading, etc. we (read I) am unable to give up formal grammar so we are using Growing with Grammar. My 4th grader is doing formal spelling, and my 8th grader is using Lightning Lit & Comp for her language arts/writing program. I enjoyed hearing your thoughts on this and seeing how your daughter is trying getting her language arts...and hardly knows it! ;) Thanks for linking up with us over NOBH!

  7. i love doing unit studies. :)

    They are a good and creative way to learn.

  8. I love lapbooking as well, but we are doing History lapbooks and not a subject of her choice. I am a bit too controlling as well. I fear that she will not be challenged enough doing only unit studies. But I love how relaxed it feels when we are doing them. Great post!

  9. We have that exact notebook with the cute puppies. I haven't tried Unit Studies yet. I've read and purchased some stuff in the past but haven't actually gone through with it. Although I've used MFW and am now using HOD.
    Firefly has great penmanship. Looks like she is really enjoying this style of LA.



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