When my older kids were much younger (around the time when they were in K and 2nd grade – Small Fry was just a tiny baby back then, and Dragonfly wasn’t yet even a thought), we loved doing unit studies together. This was before my time with the Homeschool Review Crew, and before I really knew anything about homeschooling that didn’t consist of buying workbooks from Lakeshore Learning and having us just work through the set each year. (They hated that, by the way.) Because I knew nothing about doing school any other way, or where to find resources, when I first learned about unit studies I was very intrigued. I “wrote” a few of my own unit studies for us to do, always revolving around a book. We did one on penguins with Mr. Popper’s Penguins as the backbone. We did one on newspapers using Henry and the Paper Route as our basis (that one was my favorite – we did so many cool things, including touring the local newspaper office and making our own paper). That time was one of my absolute favorites as a homeschool mom.
So when the opportunity to review a new (to us) set of unit studies designed for older grades (5-8) arose, I was interested. These unit studies, from Creation Illustrated, have been a neat way for the big boys to remember the early days of our schooling careers (now that they’re older, a strict unit study option isn’t always sufficient). For this review, we received two unit studies: Pine Trees and Snow Unit Study. We focused on Pine Trees because we have lots of them where we live. In addition to the unit studies, we also received access to Winter ’18 Digital Edition and Fall ’17 Digital Edition of Creation Illustrated’s magazines.
Because Seahawk is in 8th grade and Munchkin is in 6th grade, they both fall into the suggested age range for these unit studies, so I had them both work on it. I started by downloading the files and printing two copies – one for each child. The file is only 16 pages (including the answer key), so it wasn’t a hardship to print two copies. I printed the cover of the study on its own page and then did the rest double-sided. Each of the aspects of the unit study is presented separately, and it didn’t take very long to work all the way through it. The boys worked on one subject within the unit study each day or two, depending on how long or involved the subject was. Subjects included are Vocabulary/Spelling, Bible, Geography, Science, Math, Writing/Penmanship, Art, and a Puzzle. There is also a full page of reading supplements and educational video links to help further understand the topic at hand. We just started at the beginning and moved through in order, and didn’t use many of the links.
The first page was Vocabulary, and while the boys knew several of the words, there were several others that they didn’t, so I helped them find the definitions. This lesson was two pages. The first page was a list of the words with space for students to write the definitions; the second was the definitions and the kids wrote in the words. We did this over two days.
Moving on to the Bible portion, there is a list of Scripture references that all deal with pine trees of some sort. Students are instructed to read the verses, determine what the tree in the verse was used for, and then whether it was a pine or a fir. There are also “extra credit” critical thinking questions on this page.
Geography is fairly straightforward in a study like this – what kinds of pine trees are located where in the world? Science is similar, teaching students to identify different types of pines based on their needles and cones. Math includes several story problems around pine trees, including one that we used for real life learning a year or two ago: determining the height of a tree using right triangles and a known height (a person, for instance).
Writing and penmanship go together. Rather than being copywork, students are instructed to write an essay based on what they learned using their very best handwriting. For art, similar story – students draw a picture of their favorite pine tree, using what they learned to make sure the needles and cones are scientifically correct. The last bit is a word find puzzle for fun.
The Snow Unit Study has many of the same components (subjects), including activities that are much the same as in the Pine Tree study. I will say that I like the Bible study better in the Snow Unit Study though – it has students do similar activities (read the Scripture that mentions snow, and then determine whether that usage is literal or symbolic), but then it goes a step further. Kids are instructed to choose their favorite verse from the selection and memorize it, and even offered the idea of making a bookmark decorated with snowflakes showcasing that verse (either to keep or bless someone else with). The science portion talks all about the water cycle, which is a good thing for students to grasp and goes perfectly in a unit study on snow. There’s also a hands-on project on the science page to make snow-looking crystals. We don’t get much snow around here, which is why I chose to focus on Pine Trees for this review, but I definitely think my boys would find the Snow Unit Study really neat, so we’ll definitely be doing that one soon as well.
There is a lot of good information in this unit study, but I’m not sure it’s quite as involved as the ones I made up when the kids were little. I wouldn’t feel comfortable using this as a core curriculum for the upper grades, but it’s a really fun supplement/extra little something if you want just a little bit of information on a specific topic. The whole thing could easily be done in a week or two, depending on how much your student does each day, but in my opinion you would still need to do “regular” studies as well. This wouldn’t be enough to be an “everything school day” like the unit studies I did when the big kids were small.
The digital magazines (which admittedly, I haven’t spent tons of time with) look really neat. They’re chock full of gorgeous pictures and great articles reminding us to appreciate and glory in God’s creation. Each article is riddled with Bible verse pullouts, driving their points home. It really is a beautiful thing. Purchase of any of the unit studies (there are eight altogether, not just the two I mentioned here today) automatically includes a link to the digital magazines, or you can purchase just the magazines for $4.99. On top of the articles being inspiring, the pictures would make amazing collage components (or good pieces for any other art project you have in mind). From the little I’ve seen so far of these magazines, I’m very impressed with them.
Sixty members of the Homeschool Review Crew are reviewing Creation Illustrated this week. Some are focusing on Pine Trees (like I did) and others are focused more on the Snow Unit Study. Make sure to click the banner below for more information on both of these unit studies.