There are so many ways to take in and retain information. Using just reading, writing and regurgitating onto a test may be okay in the short term, but for long term mastery we need to engage all of a child’s learning capabilities. Most curriculums focus on reading, writing and math. Yet we can learn through:
- communicating with others
- pondering and meditating on information
- hands-on work
- creating music and art
- using logical and creative thinking skills
- observing the world around us
When we help children develop their abilities in all learning channels, instead of focusing on primarily reading and writing, we help them enhance skills which will allow them to excell in problem solving, adapting to new situations, and out-of-the-box critical thinking. As the wonderful folks at movingbeyondthepage.com put it: “Today’s children will not thrive by simply mastering literacy and mathematics; they will need to be real-world problem solvers who understand how to access and manipulate all kinds of information in order to be productive.”
You have probably seen or heard that we remember 10% of what we read, 20% of what we hear OR see, 50% of what we hear AND see, 70% of what we explain to others, and up to 90% of what we actively experience.
Most of our homeschooling efforts are focused on helping kids learn to read and write, relying on just 2 methods of learning to educate them. Yet experience tells us that is the least effective way to master information. Hands-on, experiential learning sticks. Kids master and remember what they do.
Unit studies are the most effective way to get experiential learning and it is perfect for large families. A typical unit studies incorporates literature, language arts, history, geography, art and/or music, often some science and occationally even some math into one thematic study. For large families unit studies are the perfect sanity saver for mom. All age groups study the same thing at the same time, reading whole books, engaging in discussions, teaching each other, observing and listening, as well as actively experiencing the material through playacting or other hands-on projects.
Probably my all time favorite unit studies are from Progeny Press. Each one is a short (8 to 12 weeks depending on how in depth you want to go) unit study based around classic literature books. These are perfect if you don’t want to do a whole year of unit studies but do want to delve deeper into one time period.
If you want a full service, full year, everything done for you unit study, I love Sonlight Curriculum. It’s been around forever and has the benefit of being revised and updated extensively over the years based on feedback from thousands of users. It is a well balanced combination of structured learning and hands on experiences without requiring tons of prep work from mom or dad.
If you have a favorite unit study or resource for creating your own unit study, please share in the comments or on our Facebook group