articles / Homeschooling

Unit studies: Our impromptu science unit

With my step-mom being a literacy specialist and me having a degree in writing, literacy is a top priority in Josiah’s education.

If a child can read and comprehend well, then they can also write well and learn about everything. Think about it: If a child has a difficult time with reading and reading comprehension, then they are not going to do well reading textbooks for other subjects. That means because they struggle with literacy then they are doomed to struggle with science and history and any other subject because they struggle with comprehending the written material.

Now obviously there are other ways of learning besides just reading things out of a textbook, but what about supplementary reading? What about reading the Bible? What about when they go to college and the professor tells them to read the text and then supplements with lectures? They will have to know how to read and understand the textbooks in college or else they won’t succeed.

*Sorry, I got off on a tangent…back to what I was originally writing about.*

When developing my curriculum for Josiah, I’ve worked to weave in the different subjects together so the lessons compliment each other and he gets an overall better understanding. For example, this week we’ve been working on the letter “M.” So, our social studies lessons have been about where we live and studying maps (letter M). Also, we’ve been working on recognizing and writing the names of our family. Not only is he reviewing past letters while doing this, he’s practicing ‘M’ because his dad, Jimmi, has two M’s and Samuel has an M. It’s something little, but the social studies lessons have complimented our language arts lessons. It has also affirmed his understanding and shows that ‘M’ exists for a purpose and outside of LMNOP.

Like I said, literacy is important. So, one of the things we’ve started is reading small chapter books. Not only does this help with lengthening his attention span, it also helps with his listening skills and auditory reading comprehension and retention. We read one chapter a day and from one day to the next, he has to recall what we read about the day before. I wasn’t sure which book we were going to start with, but I ended up picking out a Magic School Bus chapter book on whales.whale watch

I hadn’t planned on doing a science lesson on whales. As a matter of fact we just got done going over what plants need and what animals need. I think the next science unit was supposed to about the moon, but an opportunity has presented itself. Since we are reading a book about whales, why not do a small unit on whales? Now obviously, the book is fictional, but it does give scientific information about whales. In the first chapter, Josiah has learned that whales are mammals, not fish. So he’s being introduced to the concept of mammals (and eventually reptiles and so on). He also learned that there are two different types of whales: Toothed-whales and Baleen-whales. So he’s also learning about classification.

As a Preschool/Kindergartener, he’s obviously not going to learn everything there is to know about whales, but the whale unit is laying down a foundation for things that will be studied in more depth in the later years.

Since we’re reading the book about whales and one of the specific whales they talk about in the book is Orcas or Killer Whales, today he started watching a documentary on Killer Whales on Netflix (sidenote: Netflix has an EXCELLENT selection of documentaries and educational movies for schooling. Just make sure you screen them and make sure they’re age appropriate). Tonight, just for fun, we will probably watch Free Willy. He may not comprehend everything that he sees on the documentary and he may not learn much from Free Willy, but when we’re reading our book it will help with his understanding of the book. Also, when I have him watch the documentary again when we’re almost through with the book, he will understand the documentary better because of what he’s read in the book.

It’s all about creating building blocks for them to build onto each year and through each unit. It’s also all about making sure they understand what they’re learning actually has a purpose and exists outside of the classroom. Working to teach across the curriculum by intertwining science, social studies, and language arts isn’t always easy and often requires a little bit more effort, but the child will have a deeper understanding of the concepts being taught. And it’s like killing two birds with one stone. By reading a semi-fictional science book we’re doing language and science all at the same time! And Josiah just thinks he’s reading a fun book!


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