Home Education, Reviews

How Unit Studies Changed Our Homeschool

As homeschooling evolves, there are more and more methods and styles surfacing. One of the newest methods is known as the Unit Study Method, and a lot of homeschooling families are loving it! The biggest reason is they practically fit any learning style. 

What are unit studies?

Unit studies are what they sound like… You are basically using the study of a particular topics or concept to teach across several (if not all) subject areas. Unit studies have changed the way I homeschool and I can’t say I’m ever going back. Plus, I want to tell you about one of the coolest resources you should check out for summer fun learning!

4 Reasons to Give Unit Studies a Try

Unit Studies give my kids a variety of ways to learn.

Whether we are studying butterflies, the ocean, or a certain culture, my kiddos get a variety of ways to learn about the chosen topic. Through books (especially living books), field trips, videos, and hands-on activities, they never get bored.

Not to mention, a variety of ways to learn is super important when you’re homeschooling multiples.

Unit Studies have the ability to cover any and every subject.

At first I wasn’t sure how I was going to get those “tough subjects” in. As I started researching and finding resources, I quickly realized that it would be easy.

For example, we are currently doing a Butterfly Nature Study using a resource from Holistic Homeschooler. In this resource, she provides over 20 pages of printables that touch science, handwriting skills through copywork, reading, and geography. When you come across a resource like this, it’s like hitting jackpot!

Unit Studies open the door to deeper understanding.

With almost every unit study we did last homeschool year, my kiddos have been intrigued to want to learn more about the subject or was led to want to discover something else.

Best part about this is it shows that their minds are hard at work, and they are eager to learn more or learn something new. With Holistic Homeschooler’s Butterfly Nature Study Packet, my kiddos learned how to identify butterflies. Now when we go outside, they are on the lookout for butterflies and get super excited to be able to identify them!

Unit Studies make education flexible.

Going back to the Butterfly Nature Study… the flexibility of this resource is amazing. I am homeschooling three kiddos (at the time) with a six-month-old baby in tow so it’s important for me to score resources that meet various levels of learning.

The ability to have printables on hand for my toddler, preschooler, and fourth grader has made learning about butterflies and their nature smooth. When we can group learning together, it makes it so much more fun!

A Unit Study You Should Try

As you can probably already tell, the resource I want to tell you about is Holistic Homeschooler’s Butterfly Nature Study Packet. Upon receiving this resource I knew it was going to be a perfect fit for our homeschool because I’m homeschooling multiples from toddler to fourth grade.

Anytime a resource offers printables that all the kids can use, I’m all for it. The Butterfly Nature Study Packet comes with beautifully made printables, two of which I decided to print and laminate {the butterfly anatomy and life cycle pages} so the kids could practice identification with what is now a reusable resource.

The fact that this resource aligns with the Charlotte Mason method means that my kiddos are seeing real life pictures of butterflies and the life cycle process. There is also a list of living books that can be found at the public library to incorporate.

This really brings learning to life and helps my children learn about the nature of a butterfly in a realistic way. This resource also fit perfectly with some other resources I used for our unit study of butterflies. Its a win-win and that’s why I recommend that you check out Holistic Homeschooler’s Butterfly Nature Study Packet. You’re welcome. 🙂

Psst… if you’re looking for ways to incorporate unit studies into your homeschool, I recommend checking out my free unit study lesson plans page. It is chocked full with {free} resources you can use from printables to videos!

CHIME IN: do you use Unit Studies as part of your homeschooling? If so, what are some of your subjects/topics to study?

Home Education

How to Make Your Homeschooling Journey Just as Unique as Your Family

It’s no question that homeschooling is on the rise. More and more families are choosing to home educate their children for whatever reasons; however, there is also another epidemic on the rise.

As families make the transition to homeschool or decide to skip traditional schooling all together, they are hitting some bumps in the road. Many of these bumps stem from the attempts to make their homeschool look like the school system so many are familiar with.

Other parents get caught up in the comparison game of trying to measure up to the family who makes homeschooling look like a piece of cake. And even then, some parents are simply overwhelmed with the amount of information out there and try to model their homeschool by all they see.

Understanding Uniqueness

In the most recent years, I’ve become an advocate and promoter of “homeschooling your way,” but that doesn’t always make the most sense to people. What I’m saying is that your homeschooling journey should be just as unique as your family.

Yes, you may use the same curriculum as another family. You may be involved in the same COOP group. You may even choose the same kind of schedule as someone else. With all those similarities, there is still a level of uniqueness that every homeschooling family should embrace.

Uniqueness doesn’t mean that you’re doing things completely different than someone else. It means that you are homeschooling according to your family’s unique dynamic. The question now becomes – How do I do that without falling into the latest systematized epidemic?

Focus on What Matters

At some point in your homeschooling journey you’ll hear these words. Focus on what matters. What matters can sometimes be clouded by the many trends that run through the homeschooling community. From the “best” curriculum to use to what “method” you’re using can seem like the most important things. However, I beg to differ.

I believe the things that will keep a homeschooling family grounded are embracing your unique family dynamic. A homeschooling family of seven will look very much different than a homeschooling family of two. These are things that should be used as fuel along the journey.

Know Your Why

This is one of the single most important ways that makes your journey unique and your own. It’s all about the why. Again, families decide to homeschool for similar reasons, but embedded in those reasons are personal experiences, values, morals, and beliefs that come alive when voiced in your why.

If you haven’t done so already, I highly recommend writing down why you homeschool and keep it somewhere you (and your family) can see it. Update it as often as needed and allow it to keep you encouraged.

Find Your Rhythm

I love using this analogy because I love music, and I see our homeschool journey as a big song. There are times when we’re dancing or singing off beat, and there are other times when we have to change the song completely. Either way, my husband and I are always making an effort to keep our family in rhythm and in tune.

There are lots of aspects that go into finding your rhythm, but a few important ones are:

  • loving and trusting yourself
  • being content in the season you’re in
  • understanding your child/children’s learning style
  • breaking free from any hindering systems (like homeschooling from a school-system mentality)

Explore Curriculum Options

This is another area that I could go on a full blown tangent about. The curriculum marketplace for the homeschooling community is on the rise and much of it looks a lot like the very system that we want to keep our children from. This is where finding out how your children learn best comes in.

With knowing that, if becomes much easier to incorporate whatever learning tools and resources necessary. For example, if your child cringes at the thought of doing textbook work or a stack of worksheets, then perhaps that kind of curriculum is not the best option (at the time). If your child is a hands-on learner, then it certainly makes sense to give the opportunities to use their hands… and there are resources for that.

When it comes to curriculum, I see so many mamas get bogged down by spending bookoos of money only for it to not work. The trick is to not worry so much on what to use to teach your child versus using your child as the guide in knowing what to use.

Organize & Plan Your Way

This is another area that allows your uniqueness to shine. I love seeing the various ways that homeschooling families organize and plan. Some use binders while others use folders. I’ve seen some families plan four weeks at a time while another can plan an entire semester at a time.

I also advise mamas to use their strengths in this area. If you’re OCD, use that! If you are a minimalist, use that! You may not see planning and organizing as your strong suit in general, but I know you have some strengths within you that can make up for what you’d consider a weakness. And if all else fails, don’t be afraid of the “h” word!

Don’t Be Afraid of the “H” Word

The “h” word I am referring to is H-E-L-P! As a six-year homeschooling mama, I have to admit that I wouldn’t have made it this far without some kind of help. Whether the help came from my husband, a COOP group, online support, or having mentors – it was totally necessary, and still is.

I even dedicated an entire chapter in my book, Just for Today’s Homeschooling Mom, to this topic because asking for help seems to do something to our thought process. For some reason, when we need help we have to go through the merry-go-round of negative and incompetent thoughts.

The fact of the matter is we all need a great support system. There are no benefits to staying quiet and dealing with any stress, intense moments, and/or anxieties that may arise. But here are benefits to seeking out help and using it – especially if you’re new to homeschooling!

Speaking of which, I have an amazing masterclass for homeschooling moms who are looking for help with getting (and staying) on a path to homeschooling successfully. Jumpstart Your Homeschool Journey is self-paced, packed with seven videos (plus one audio), and comes with lots of complimentary resources for you to use years on end! There is also a live group mentor program offered three times per year that goes with this masterclass (February, July, December).

Take advantage of this resource, or anything else I have to offer! Can’t wait to connect with you!! Cheering you on!

Home Education

The Importance of Staying Focused on Goals and Priorities for Your Family

As a busy homeschooling mom of five, I find myself constantly trying to “do it all”.  Can you relate? Focusing on education, housekeeping, healthy meals, kids’ activities etc. can leave us worn out and exhausted.  It is impossible to do it all. This is why staying focused on goals and priorities are important.

Realistic goals and priorities are key.  It is easy to get caught up in all the flurry of everyday life and the many opportunities as a homeschooling mom to the point that the whole family becomes worn out from all the activities.  

Sometimes stepping back and taking a good look at what your family needs and what is extra is a good place to start.  Having a plan or at the very least an understanding with your spouse is one way to avoid the overwhelmed feeling.

First let’s talk about what areas of life are good to have a plan in place.

What Goals and Priorities Need to be Focused On?

A few examples of where to set goals and priorities are:

Staying Focused on Homeschool Goals and Priorities

In this post, we are going to focus on homeschool goals and priorities.  

Homeschooling is as varied as the weather.  No matter what your style, it is a good idea to have a plan or a list of necessary goals to achieve for your year.  

Curriculum Goals

I like to write mine in a list form for the whole year and then break it down from there.  I state my goals as simply as possible. For example: “Teach Joshua to read” or “Work through Botany textbook”.  I then break that down into doable steps such as, “Joshua should know all letters and sounds by the end of December” or “Chapters 1-6 should be finished before Thanksgiving”.  

For more ideas on setting curriculum goals you can check out my post “How to Create a Homeschool Schedule that Works”.

Extra Curricular Goals

For me, extra curricular goals are where things become stressful because it requires packing up the whole family and running to piano, swim lessons, sports, etc.  

Are these things important?  That is for you to decide! What does your child want to do?  What skills do you find important for your child to learn? Which activities will not negatively affect your family time or your budget?  

We have a strict rule that we do not commit to any activities on Sundays.  We go to church, hang out as a family, visit the neighbors, and rest on Sundays (it’s also my day to plan the school week).  We do not go to sports practices or games.  

Set your family priorities and then accept what falls into those priorities.  It’s ok to say no to the activities that do not! Also, keep in mind that these goals and priorities will change as your family grows and changes.  Just because you are saying no this year, does not mean you can’t return to the idea next year. Examine your family’s goals and priorities every year and make decisions that are best for where you are currently at.

Character Building is School Too!

One of the pluses of homeschooling is the amount of time we are able to spend with our children.  This means we have time to not only teach the core subjects but we also have time to work on their hearts and attitudes and character.

I believe this will serve them well.

Work these goals and priorities into your school year as well.  Community service activities, sibling bonding, kindness etc. They are as important as learning to add and subtract.

Foster a Love of Learning with Goals and Priorities

When you have goals and priorities in place for your school year, you will find that you can say “no” to what doesn’t fit and relieve some of the pressure.  You can look ahead to what needs to be accomplished without feeling as if everything has to be finished “now”.  

Most importantly, when that pressure and overwhelmed feeling is gone, you can teach your kids to love learning and encourage them to grow into the wonderful people God created them to be!


Hi!  I’m Heather from Lessons from Home where I write about faith, parenting, and homeschooling.  I also write about grief as my family struggles to heal from the loss of my beautiful 8 year old daughter.  I’d love for you to follow me on Instagram and Facebook!

Home Education

A Stress-Free Approach to Homeschooling to Consider for 2020

You don’t have to be homeschooling long before you start hearing terms like approach, style, and/or method. Truth of the matter is getting caught up in trying to strictly homeschool according to one of those can be a little stressful and quickly lead to burnout.

Over the past six years of my homeschooling journey, it’s safe to say that I’ve dabbled with a bit of everything out there. Shucks, I even wrote a book that has an entire chapter dedicated to homeschooling methods and styles.

Choosing an approach, style, and method in and of itself isn’t a bad thing IF you know how to properly incorporate it into your own homeschool style. Too often, though, what ends up happening is that moms try to fit (and shape) their family into a style instead of the other way around (tweaking a method to their unique family dynamic).

I want to chat with you for a moment about a stress-free approach to homeschool to consider for the upcoming year. This approach can fit with any other style and method that you choose. The point in me sharing this particular approach is to help you think of your home education journey outside the box.

The Holistic Approach

The term holistic gets tossed around and slapped on everything, but it is certainly a good way to look at your child’s home education. In and of itself, the term holistic simply means thinking about the big picture. 

In terms of homeschooling holistically, it means to consider more than just the academics. A child’s education becomes one that is filled with the development of emotional skills, social behaviors, spiritual beliefs, and community connection.

If you’re like most spiritual-based home educators, then you’ve probably already figured out a way to incorporate Biblical studies and beliefs into your schedule. However, often times, the others listed are not seen as viable ways of learning unless you’ve already tapped into some philosophies such as Charlotte Mason, Montessori, or Waldorf.

How to Start Homeschooling with a Holistic Approach

When choosing to homeschool from a holistic perspective, I believe it is important to rid your mind of what typical learning and education should look like. In other words, there could possibly be some deschooling for the homeschooling parent that needs to take place. Most of us who have had any kind of traditional (public/private) schooling have been conditioned to see “school” from a certain perspective,

This perspective typically says that a, b, and c have to take place in order to reach x, y, and z. It leaves out individuality, room for natural growth and development, as well as learning outside the box. Of course there are states, providences, and countries that have placed strict rules and laws on homeschooling families, but even those can be abided by using this approach.

Once a homeschooling parent can begin to see their own style, understand the learning styles of their children, and have established their own sense of what education for their family will look like, the holistic approach becomes a walk in the park!

What Does the Holistic Approach Have to Offer?

Keep in mind that this approach is one that focuses on the whole child and not just the academics. When it comes to fostering the different areas of your child’s growth and development, the holistic approach can cover that and some.

Exploration

As with the Charlotte Mason method, exploration plays a huge role in a child’s learning experiences. They are able to take learning outside the home while tracking what they learn in notebooks and lapbooks. Exploration also helps children pay attention to the details around them.

Play & Expression

This is speaking the Waldorf method’s language, but its true. Play and expression are often seen through the lens of not learning; however, if you watch and listen closely, your children will disclose quite a bit of what they know during these times. Believe it or not, play and expression actually works on critical thinking skills!

Interest-led Learning

Many parents have told me that they aren’t sure how to handle allowing their children have control over what they want to learn. Another common concern is understanding how to plan for such a journey. Both are good concerns rightfully so, but the idea is to come from a position of pointing them in the right direction while embracing what they want to learn.

Customized Curriculum

That “c” word is becoming a stress-filled word the more that comes available for homeschoolers. It can be overwhelming sure enough when you have hundreds of curricula to choose from. From the major companies down to educational resource creating bloggers (like myself), there is almost too much to choose from.

My suggestion is to start with free resources by searching Google, Pinterest, and Teachers Pay Teachers. Keep in mind that worksheets and textbooks doesn’t always constitute a good education, and having more isn’t necessarily a good thing either. When you’re ready to spend money on some resources, spend SMART by asking yourself the following questions:

  • Does this purchase make sense?
  • Is it actually manageable and/or (low) maintenance?
  • Will it cause me to take action (as in will I actually use it)?
  • Will the purchase help me reach the educational goals set for my child?
  • Is this resource a waste of time (or not)?

With these questions and an idea of what your children would like to learn in mind, you’re now ready to begin piecing together a schedule, learning experiences, and opportunities to help foster their learning!

Confidence Boost

Homeschooling with a holistic approach can help boost your child’s confidence in so many ways. They are able to see that what they want to learn matters. Not to mention, their interest is already peaked so being able to go where their mind is leading is a plus.

Confidence is also increased when children are not pressured to finish a certain task or learning objective in a particular amount of time. Homeschooling allows us to take our time and go where our children’s needs lead.

The holistic approach adds to that by saying, “We don’t have to focus so much on math this week. Let’s do more art!” And boom – a child’s confidence is increased!

What Does a Holistic Approach Actually Look Like?

Of course I can’t leave you hanging with wondering how this actually plays out in the life of a real homeschooling family. Let’s use a real-life example from one of my children who is set and stoked about all things vehicle engineering. In other words, he wants to get involved in all steps from design to making the actual vehicle.

Here’s what my vehicle engineering lesson plan looks like:

  • Reading literature-based and/or living books about cars, their design, different makes, models, etc.
  • A field trip to local car dealerships and mechanic shops.
  • Learning about the different sizes and shapes of vehicles (math).
  • Studying the build of vehicles (science) and drawing some out (art).
  • Volunteering at a local dealership (connecting with community).
  • Notebooking/lapbooking the history of vehicles (history).

More could be added to this list, and usually as time progresses I usually do end up adding more. A trip to a car museum (the Corvette museum isn’t far from us), watching YouTube videos on how to build car parts and learning how they work are just a few more things that could fit here.

This same layout is used with my son who loves trains and my daughter who is into volcanoes! Yes, they may be a time for worksheets and textbooks, but they certainly aren’t the main focus of our holistic homeschool!

CHIME IN: Do you have a holistic homeschool? If so, what’s yours look like? If not, does this sound like an approach you’d like to try? Let me know in the comments below!

Home Education, Spiritual

5 Ways to Use the Bible as the Main Textbook in Your Homeschool

At the top of most homeschooler’s list of “reasons why we homeschool” is the freedom to include more of our belief systems into our children’s educational journey. This simply translates into, “I want my child to grow up with a strong foundation and faith in the Most High God.” And rightfully so!

I consider myself a seasoned homeschooler; however, something that always boggled my mind was how to effectively and consistently use the Bible as the main textbook in my homeschool. Sure, I’ve heard it could be done – shucks, I even talked to Anne from Homeschooling Torah about it! Even still, I have struggled to actually do it consistently.

So, what I’ve come up with to help us both out are five ways to use the Bible as the main textbook in our homeschools. Perhaps having an exhausted list in one location with practical examples will help us get (and stay) on a track of using the Bible a lot more than we already do! My prayer is that us, and our children, will be greatly impacted by doing so!

Start the Day with the Word

This kind of start to the day has been named so many different things from circle time to morning basket time. Regardless of what you call it, including the Bible during these times is a great place to start.

If you have smaller children who are not yet reading, picking a Scripture or two to read and talk about works perfectly. For the older kiddos, invite them to do the reading and include their thoughts in the discussion about it.

Starting the day off with the Word is definitely a way to start it on a good note.

Use a Devotional

If you’re like me, you have every intention on starting every day with a prayer and maybe even a Scripture or two. The question then became, “What can I pray about and what Scriptures should I read?”

For this I created a family-style devotional. I included a monthly prayer that is to be read every day, the shema (part of Deuteronomy 6), and a chapter of Scripture to be read throughout the week.

I had no idea at the time that each month’s prayer and the weekly chapter readings would match perfectly to what’s going on in life. After going on two years of using this book, the same is still true!

Bible Journal

Designating a Bible journal time in your homeschooling schedule is another way to incorporate the Bible. If you choose to do this as a family (which actually isn’t a bad idea), try picking a topic to journal about each week. There are tons of options from the beginning of Scripture to the end.

For younger children, some go-to topics may be creation, Proverbs, or the fruit of the Spirit. For older children, consider topics that get them thinking like concepts from Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and even Job!

Then, after journal time, everyone can discuss what they journaled about.

Teach Core Subjects

Did you know that the Bible has every core subject (and beyond) that you can think of? Sometimes we can get overwhelmed and bogged down by all the curriculum options out there, but as Anne suggested in our video – you don’t need all that! You can simply start with the Bible, and pray earnestly for wisdom from the Father to use it.

She also gave some pretty awesome practical tips for using the Bible:

  • Use Scripture to teach young children how to read.
  • Grab sight words from Scripture.
  • Use a pad of paper to write out vocabulary words.
  • Use story-telling and re-telling as Language Arts.
  • Older children can use Scripture to write research papers, essays, etc.
  • Use Scripture for diagramming (older children).
  • Use the numbers given about tribes and people groups to add, subtract, etc.
  • Use Scripture as a history and geography lessons (mapping).
  • Genesis covers pretty much every field of science.
  • Learn foreign languages through Scripture (Greek and Hebrew).

This list could seriously go on and on! How awesome is it that we can find SO MUCH in Scripture alone?!

Let the Spirit Guide You

I know we all feel much more at ease and comforted when we have things in order – down to what we’re going to teach our children and what we’ll use to teach it. However, think for a moment about the weightier matters in life… in other words, what is going to matter most.

At the end of your child’s homeschooling days will they honestly say, “I succeeded because my mom used the Abeka curriuclum!”? Or do you think they’ll most likely attribute their success to the fact that you kept them home to educate and nurture them in the first place?

I’m willing to bet it would be the latter. My prayer is that we stop stressing over the little things and realize that YHVH has given us all that we need. Of course there’s nothing wrong with having and using a good curriculum to help guide us, but not that expense of being stressed out. I’d like to leave you with a quote from Anne-

“YHVH’s Word is sufficient, and the Spirit of Yah wants to be your teacher!”

CHIME IN: What are some ways you use the Bible as the primary textbook in your homeschool?