Why And How

unit study

When others learn that we do not buy curriculum, but that I design ours myself, they often stare at me as if I’ve grown a third eye, and  ask me, “Why?” or “How?”.    My answer to both questions is, “By the grace of GOD”.  However, upon request, I can explain a bit more.

We pulled our oldest out of public school kindergarten 16 years ago.  At that time we just used some cheap workbooks for language arts and math along with plenty of books to read to finish up that school year.

Over the following summer, I poured over curriculum catalogs taking in all the information I could.  I could not decide on anything and truthfully, we couldn’t afford anything either.  As August approached we still did not have curriculum.

That same summer our son went to Space Adventures Vacation Bible School.  His head stayed in outer space even when the week long program was over.  Outer space was his favorite topic of conversation and play.

We went to a used curriculum sale and I was talking to some experienced homeschool moms about our lack of school books when one of them asked my son, “What do you like to study?”  Of course he replied, “Outer space!”  He then shocked me with, “I’m going to start a space club!”  She then told him that astronomy was one of her favorite unit studies and a space club sounded like a marvelous idea.

I had to have these moms explain what a unit study was.  I had not seen anything like that in my catalogs.  She invited us to her house so she could show me how they did school.

Her coffee table was covered with library books and notebooks.  Apparently, her kids picked a subject they were interested in, and checked out everything the library had on it.  Then they read, bookmarked pages, and took notes.  They made trivia games and art projects that related to their topic.  Their spelling and vocabulary came from those library books too.  When they got tired of one study, they picked another. They were only spending money for paper and art supplies.  Those kids were smart.  Everyone seemed happy with their homeschooling. She even had a son who had graduated and was attending college.  Smart and happy and going to college is what I wanted for us, too.

These moms assured me that since I had at least graduated from high school,  I was capable to teach my  children what they needed to learn.  And that I could do it without spending hundreds of dollars. They told me I would want a large map,  dictionary, thesaurus,   grammar guide,   good pencil sharpener,  Bible and  Bible dictionary.  I mentioned that I did not have a Bible dictionary and could they recommend one.  One of these sweet moms went out to her car and got hers.  She gave it to me , not let me borrow but gave it as a gift!  She showed me how to use it for a space study.  “Look up a word such as “stars”, then look up the Scriptures for copy and  memory work.”

That August we founded the Space Adventure Club.  I even found a math workbook that had a rocket on the cover and cute space pictures on the worksheets.  We borrowed library books about the solar system and space travel.  We made a telescope, a solar system model and a mini planetarium.  We wrote and memorized Scriptures about stars. We learned of ancient ideas about the heavens.  We watched space themed movies. We researched space careers.    We sang space themed songs.  This unit study idea was working well.

The next study club was Nature Scouts, followed by a series of different clubs.  This is how we schooled for the first couple of years.  I had to add spelling as a separate class because my son was able to spell difficult words but was having trouble with the more common ones.  We picked up a used grades 3-12 spelling course and have stuck with that same one for all the years since.  We have also been given or bought some phonics readers as the other kids have started their road to reading.  We have added current events to our non-unit study list of classes.

There was one year when I made the mistake of comparing my homeschool to others. I thought what they were using would be best for us too.  That year we spent over $700 for three children  to learn with a “regular” curriculum.  We hated it!  The following year, we ditched the idea of regular curriculum and went back to our unit study approach.

It’s been years since we’ve called our unit studies clubs,  but our studies are still made like those were.  For the past six years I have designed our unit studies based on historical period timelines.  We have also added technology,  free web resources,  to how we homeschool.

So now you have my answers to “why” and “how” we homeschool like we do.

betty jo

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15 thoughts on “Why And How

  1. Tisha

    I’m so glad you shared this! I’ve been wish listing on amazon, and have over $200 of used books on that list that I was going to buy. I think I’ll check out the library and try this instead!! You are fulfilling that calling as a great mentor, and I’m glad we have become friends!

    1. Betty Jo Post author

      Tisha, thanks for your kind words. I’m so surprised to be able to help. About the books you have on your wish list…if the library does not have them, they may have a way to order them for you. Ours is wonderful about doing that for us. Thanks too, my friend, for reading the blog again.

  2. G'ma Becca

    There are so many cool things on which you can spend money when you homeschool, but it isn’t necessary. There are some things that matter, and others that don’t. The library is such an amazing resource!

  3. Lori @Leadership Couples

    Oh, how you sparked my memories. I’m a “graduated” homeschool mom – our kids are grown. They homeschooled till college, and still talk about the fun they had learning by following their interests. We used a math book (Saxon) and various language study books, but otherwise school went according to the kids’ desires.

    Our son now has his own successful business based on one of his interests – video production. (financially he now earns more than we do! – if you’re interested here’s his website: http://yourlocalstudio.com I work part-time for him. Be nice to to your kids! LOL)

    Hubby and I were traveling back from a conference this past week, and talked about homeschooling. We decided the best gift we gave our kids through homeschooling was the ability to learn. I really didn’t “teach” them – rather I was a facilitator, and guide.

    Thank you so much for sharing – you’ve got me wanting to take a walk through our photo albums to revisit those years…

    1. Betty Jo Post author

      I only have 1 graduate so far and he’s still in college. Thanks so much for sharing a little of your story. It’s so encouraging. When I get a free minute or two, I’ll be linking over to your son’s page. I’m quite curious! 🙂

  4. Sylvia

    Very inspiring post, Betty Jo! This is what I call unschooling at its best!! Thanks for linking up with us at Friendship Friday! I appreciate you taking the time out of your busy schedule. Your friendship means a lot to me!

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