You may have noticed I haven’t written much so far this school year — Ben’s first year of high school. There’s a good reason; it hasn’t been going very well. I wasn’t sure what I should say about that, so I’ve just remained silent.
I honestly didn’t foresee writing this post. Even though our homeschool has very much been driven by unit studies forever, it was never my intention to homeschool high school with the unit study method. Not because I didn’t think it could be done. Not because I don’t believe that unit studies are a very effective method of homeschooling. I know that homeschooling with unit studies works.
No . . . it’s not the method I doubted. There’s really just one reason I didn’t consider continuing unit studies in high school:
I wanted things to be easier for me.
I can be quite selfish.
When I began transitioning Ben to a more traditional approach to learning in 8th grade, I did it because I knew that record-keeping would be easier if he used more textbooks and fewer unit studies. I knew that transcripts would be easier to create if I could just name a certain textbook for each class, along with his grade for the pre-written tests that would go along with that.
I researched and talked to homeschool companies and designed what I thought would be the best compromise between our delight-directed unit study method and traditional high school. I bought curriculum (and a planner!), Ben and I sat down for a teacher-student conference to discuss it all and he seemed excited. We were ready to go in September, starting slowly so as not to overwhelm. And 3 months later, I had a revelation . . .
What was easier for me was not working for Ben.
He was unmotivated, bored, struggling to pay attention, constantly complaining, and generally unhappy. You’ve heard the saying, “If mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy. ” Well suffice it to say that goes double for high school-aged teen boys. And when homeschool students aren’t happy, mama isn’t happy either.
I was frustrated. I might have been a little angry, too. I thought we had a plan that would work well for both of us. I really, really didn’t want to have to piece together 4 years of high school, making sure that he had enough credit hours for all subjects. So I could do one of two things:
Attempt to force him to do everything I had planned out for him, or
Start over. Go back to our roots. Again. (this is not the first time we’ve been here)
Using Unit Studies in High School
So here we are, a month into the new calendar year, and a month into a new schedule. I came across this unit study based on The Pilgrim’s Progress and grabbed it during a great sale at Christmas-time. The book was already on Ben’s list of books to read so it made sense to start there. I really saw it’s discovery as providential.
He’s now been using it for about a month and he’s back to enjoying learning again.
The Pilgrim’s Progress All-in-One Curriculum contains all of the text of the book by John Bunyan, but the curriculum itself is built around the dramatic audio book (so track by track rather than chapter by chapter). This makes it especially attractive to Ben. He has always been a very auditory learner and audio books and radio theatre have had a place in our homeschool since the beginning. I see no reason for that to stop in high school.
In addition to the obvious literature study, Ben is also learning the nature and history of science by studying about a different scientist each week, history during the time period in which the book is set (middle ages, reformation), vocabulary and other language arts, and theology/Bible. It contains notebooking pages in the form of reflection questions for each lesson, and he’s doing map and timeline work, using the Book of Centuries and World Maps from Notebooking Pages. This unit study is divided into 39 lessons over 13 weeks, though Ben may take a little longer because the resource list of websites, books, and DVDs is exhaustive and he wants to read and watch it all.
I know many of you are wondering what else Ben is using for this year, so here is the short list of curriculum he started with in the fall that he will continue using:
Life of Fred Pre-Algebra
- Life of Fred: Elementary Physics
- Life of Fred: Pre-Algebra 1 with Biology
- Life of Fred: Pre-Algebra 2 with Economics
For me, I will be revisiting my Total Transcipt Solution by Lee Binz, along with several of Lee’s eBooks — How to Homeschool Ninth and Tenth Grade, Planning High School Courses, Creating Transcripts for Your Unique Child, and Delight-Directed Learning. I know from conversations with Lee I’ve had in the past that these resources will help me continue to homeschool Ben with delight-directed unit studies and created killer transcripts at the same time.
I’ll have to figure out what other unit studies to do when he’s finished with this one. Thankfully, I think he will be busy for the remainder of this school year. I believe we will use Philosophy Adventure next year. While it’s not exactly a unit study, it does incorporate several disciplines (philosophy, history, geography, writing, public speaking, and apologetics) in a style that is very unit study-ish and I think Ben will enjoy it. It’s been on my list for a couple of years now; I’ve just been waiting until I felt Ben was ready for it.
My goal is to continue sharing Ben’s progress with using unit studies in high school, and things I learn along the way as far as recording and documenting his learning in the form of a transcripts. So, stay tuned.
And if you have used unit studies in high school I would love to hear your tips and recommendations!
If you enjoyed this article, you might want to take a peek at this guest post: 10 Things I Did Right Homeschooling High School.