I wasn't homeschooled myself except for one year (8th grade), we just began homeschooling our children about a month ago, and lately I have spent countless hours reading, researching, and flipping through curriculum catalogs trying to choose what might work best for us.
So when I came across an application to join This Old Schoolhouse's 2011-2012 Homeschool Crew (where I get to try out and review various homeschooling materials here on my blog) I thought it would be a great opportunity to gather up some hands-on information on what kinds of materials my children (and I) would like to do and find most useful for our family!
I made it to the second step of the try-out process, which included being provided with a unit study to do with the children.
Our unit study was called "The Curiosity Files: Dung Beetle" put out by This Old Schoolhouse and available as a downloadable e-unit study at their online store here for $6.95, currently on sale for $1.00!
According to the website info for the Curiosity Files unit studies, these are aimed at the 8-13 year old crew, but I didn't know this when I started out the project with the kids!
For my advanced-reader first grade boy and my bug-enthusiast kindergarten girl, we managed to wade through most of the new vocabulary, abbreviated the workbook pages and drew a lot of pictures of the things we "observed".
The unit study begins with a lesson about dung beetles which held the attention of the children very well, especially when supplemented with a big hand-drawn dung beetle visual thanks to the drawing I transposed onto the white board.
Following the lesson are several pages of fill-in-the-blank type handouts, blank pages for observations, copywork of relevant Bible passages, and several pages of suggested activities. Most of the activities include some sort of supplemental information, activity, or video you can look up online, which we did several times! Also included are activities or suggestions designed specifically for children with certain learning disabilities or varying learning styles. While I didn't use any of those suggestions myself, I could certainly appreciate the abundance of possibilities for all types of learners!
Although the unit was aimed at an older group of students, there were several activities that could easily be modified for the younger crowd, making this a great unit study for those of us who are teaching several children of different grade levels or abilities. I think this would ideally be used for kids in the 4th-6th grade levels, adding in a student or two above or below that range for bigger homeschooling families. Finding things that I can use to teach all three of my older kids at the same time is very important to me as is finding things that teach science with a biblical worldview, both of which were integral in this unit study.
For me, it would have been helpful to have had the activities grouped together by age or grade level and to have that specifically stated somewhere at the top of each page for easy reference. I'm terribly unorganized at this point in my homeschool career and I can't say exactly when that's going to drastically change! I kept having to flip back and forth, jumping around to find the (sort of) age appropriate things in the packet.
Even so, we had SO much fun doing this study! I am always wary of mess-inducing art projects and this thoroughly broke me out of my shell! We had dung-beetle drawings everywhere, made models of dragonflies from modeling clay and dowels, and even made a model of a compound eye out of egg cartons and paper-maché! Talk about potential for mess! I thought I was going to have half the newspaper stuck to the table top by the time we were done! We had a blast, and I have to admit I did particularly enjoy using my new hot-glue gun.
The compound eye model before we broke out the paper-maché
I have to admit, though, every single one of my kids thought the goop was horrid! They had the most fun putting on the egg carton pieces and cutting the strips of newspaper with their scissors. They were VERY serious about cutting those strips! Goop, however, is right where the girls drew the line. Josh stuck with it for about 10 minutes before the gooeyness suddenly overwhelmed him and he started gagging. Weird kid. Shhh!!! Don't tell anyone, but I had flashbacks to 5th grade and totally enjoyed finishing it all by myself! Considering I'd have never thought of doing anything like this on my own, we all had fun AND learned some new things, I'd say the Dung Beetle Project was a success!
Whether or not I land a spot on the Homeschool Crew this year, I am very glad I was able to have the chance to participate in the process and have access to a new unit study full of new information and fun ideas.
*TOS also offers several other topics in the Curiosity Files ebook format, including Platypus, MRSA, Quicksand, and the very intriguing Zombie Fire Ants!. These titles and more are also available for purchase in a bundle of 9 unit studies for a discounted price!
**If you are interested in checking out this unit study or other products for homeschoolers, head on over to This Old Schoolhouse Store! They offer a wide variety of products from ebooks to dvds, planners, art supplies, new homeschooler bundles, and even a dollar spot!
***For reference, my children are 7, 5, 3, and 7 months! Grade levels 1, K, and Pre.
****Just ONE more thing! If you haven't "liked" This Old Schoolhouse on facebook and you are a homeschooler go do it now! They not only keep you up-to-date on their latest sales, they also pose various reader questions on their wall for wider feedback from other homeschoolers.