Monday, August 3, 2015

Funtastic Unit Studies {Schoolhouse Crew Review}

My kids love science and hands-on activities, and one is also a very visual learner.  I have found that interactive unit studies are a big hit in my house.  When I had the opportunity to review Science Unit Studies for Homeschoolers and Teachers from Funtastic Unit Studies I was thrilled!  The book was written by Susan Killbride to promote a love of science and learning.  She is a homeschooling parent (with a degree in biology) who wrote these unit studies for other homeschooling parents, but they could be used in classrooms or co-ops too.  I had never heard of the book before, but it's always fun to try out new-to-me resources and share them here, and this is one I'm particularly excited to share!

Science Unit Studies for Homeschoolers and Teachers

There are 20 chapters in the book, divided into two sections.  The first half contains ten chapters written for children ages 4-7 years old.  The second ten chapters are for children ages 8-13.  As with any curriculum, those ages are just a general guideline.  It is suggested that you do the units in order, but that is not necessary.  This flexibility is important to me, because we are relaxed and delight-directed homeschoolers, and we love choosing science topics based on current interests.

How Did We Use It?
For the purpose of the review, we were asked to complete at least one unit.  All of the units are great, but I am going to share the first one we did, which was Dinosaurs and Prehistoric Life from the first half of the book for 4-7 year old students.  Emory is five and has suddenly developed an interest in dinosaurs and paleontology, so this review with this specific unit study was perfect timing.

It was very easy to use.  I just read through the entire chapter to get a feel for the lessons and how to present them, then picked up the items we needed from the store.  The lessons are neat, clean and easy to follow.  They aren't really scripted, but have enough information that even parents without a strong science background can teach from it naturally.  The way the units are designed, it would take about 2 weeks to complete them, but that obviously depends on how many days you teach science each week, and how many activities you decide to do in one day.

Throughout the unit, just a few of the things we did:
  • learned how dinosaurs are named
  • made dinosaur eggs that "hatched" as we washed our hands (top/middle picture)
  • sorted and classified dinosaurs based on different characteristics
  • learned about extinction
  • ate a fun dinosaur snack
  • pretended to be paleontologists
  • built and painted our own dinosaurs
  • learned about different fossil types 
  • invented our own new species of dinosaurs
  • watched shows about dinosaurs
That's just a sampling.  I don't want to give it all away, but there are several more activities included! 

Science Unit Studies for Homeschoolers and Teachers

What Materials Do You Need?
You'll need access to a copier for some activities in some units.  As for the rest of the supplies, it will depend on the specific chapter and the topic being studied.  At the beginning of each chapter is a list of household items.  I only needed a few items, and everything was easily obtainable from Walmart.  I did have to read through every lesson again when planning my shopping list though, because the list doesn't give details as to what the items are used for, and I needed to know if items could be substituted with something I already had or if I needed multiples for siblings.

Is it Adaptable?
Yes.  I occasionally tweaked lessons in regards to how I presented the content, and even the materials I used.  The activities in the Dinosaur unit were very hands-on and almost like play, but they were still educational for everyone.  My 8 year old participated in several of the activities without it feeling "babyish" to him, and I was able to make it preschool-friendly for my 2 year old as well.  I thoroughly looked over both Plants units (I almost chose Plants first because we were learning to garden) and I could definitely see the jump in depth of content from the younger to the older unit, so I believe the material is age/skill appropriate.  Both units could be adapted for wider age ranges if necessary, or taught simultaneously to two age groups with larger age gaps than I have.  This is actually true for all of the units, though not every 4-7 unit has a "matching" older unit.  There aren't many movie/book suggestions for the units, but this is good for me because I don't have to feel obligated to an author's suggestions.  I just created a book basket with a variety of fiction and non-fiction at all different levels, so all of the kids had their own material.  The book basket is something that can be done with every unit to meet specific needs, which makes it easy to personalize.

Final Thoughts and Recommendation
The cover is a bit simplistic, but don't let that fool you.  The content is fabulous.  The science is presented easily enough for anyone to understand and teach, and is interesting enough for kids to enjoy.  It's not always open-and-go because of the hands-on nature, but I found it very low prep for the most part, and that is a big plus for me.  Obviously the second half of the book contains more detailed content, and there are chapter tests if you want to check understanding, but I appreciate the variety of activities throughout the units.

I love that Funtastic Unit Studies for Homeschoolers and Teachers is not a "read and repeat" type curriculum.  It's not centered on study guides and worksheets.  Instead, these units are about interacting with your children and allowing them to observe and discover on their own.

Overall, I really like this book.  So much so that I'll have it on the shelf with our curriculum for the year.  It's so versatile and can be used as a supplement, or as a general science curriculum if all the units are completed.  It can be used in homeschools, science clubs, co-ops or classrooms.  It's ease of use and diverse content selection make it a useful tool for any homeschooling parent that loves unit studies.  I've already started recommending this book, and will continue to do so!

Science Unit Studies for Homeschoolers and Teachers

The author shares two free science unit studies from this book on her website, so you can get a feel for the layout and style of the content.  There's a unit from each half of the book so you can see how the content is presented to both age groups.  She also has other freebies on her website to accompany other curriculum she's written, and I even received a free activity when I signed up for her newsletter!

Funtastic Unit Studies Review

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