Science continues to be our nemesis in our homeschool, but we are blessed to review yet another program from the TOS Crew this semester! Funtastic Unit Studies provided us with a hard copy of their book Science Unit Studies For Homeschoolers and Teachers in exchange for our honest review. This is a supplement for my middle kids that I may use as our sole science with my younger students because it’s easy to implement.
Science Unit Studies
To be quite honest, I think that calling these units “unit studies” is a bit misleading. I think that the term “unit studies” is understood in a specific way in the homeschooling community and this book doesn’t address that terminology. Homeschoolers usually think of “unit studies” as being a complete curriculum covering all academic subject areas surrounding a single theme. A book of “science unit studies,” I’d have expected, would take a science theme such as insects and not only provided science learning and activities for it, but also insect language arts, math, art or music, history, even religious topics with it. This book doesn’t do that.
But once you recognize that this book is really a book of science units (not necessarily “science unit studies“), at least for getting past my own brain blocks regarding terminology, then it’s quite useful as a singularly science resource. It’s divided into two sections by grade/age level including 10 units directed towards ages 4-7 and 10 units directed towards ages 8-13. The age groups are probably pretty accurate, though in my personal opinion if you want to use this to count for a middle school curriculum you will need to supplement the activities with outside reading. There is no suggested reading supplement list; but that’s okay. You’ll just need to access whatever your local library has on hand for every subject.
Most of the projects are super easy to complete with items you have on hand. There’s a supplies list at the beginning of every unit which lists every item needed for every activity in the unit. It’s a very thorough list, though I do wish it was broken down and listed again with each activity. I can take the big list shopping (if I need to) and prepare for a unit, but then daily when I’m preparing for an activity it would be easier if I didn’t have to pick out the supplies for today from the instructions.
There’s no lesson plan, which makes it easy on someone like me to just skip activities where we don’t have the supplies or my students are disinterested. It wouldn’t be a bad idea to include a suggested schedule, though, as I wasn’t ever really sure how many activities to expect to complete in a single day. It’s up to the reader, really, but it would be nice at minimum to know how long each activity should take so that I can plan accordingly.
To give an example of the activities, we did the insects unit for 8-13 and these are the activities we completed:
- list animals and classify
- learn scientific classification with index cards
- paper bag and balloon activity to demonstrate exoskeletons
- wet paper towel activity to demonstrate exoskeletons
- insect hunt
- draw the lifecycle of a butterfly (complete metamorphosis)
- keep a “pet cricket” (we only had it for a few days)
- draw the incomplete metamorphosis of a cricket
- draw the parts of an insect based on a cricket
- camouflaged toothpicks in the grass
- camouflaged insect hunt
We skipped a few of the activities such as the purchase of mealworms or night time activities, simply for time and desire’s sake. It’s not set up in such a way that you will need to do every activity, and you can read the information then just move on for anything that’s listed. I like that, but it also makes it easy for me to say, “Let’s pretend we did this. What do you think would happen?” instead of actually getting the experiments done.
My middle school aged kids didn’t retain a lot of the pertinent information, such as the scientific classification levels, and I think it’s simply because the information is presented once with a quick activity and then it’s finished. If they had also been reading living books related to those who’d created the system, or some of the living encyclopedias out there today, and we’d made any effort to review the information from the rest of the unit each day, then maybe they’d have had more fun and retained more information.
I think it’s doable as a main outline for middle school science for sure, and if you use this text to create actual science unit studies in the traditional understanding then it would certainly be effective. The younger kids’ units do include more art activities, and in my opinion for what elementary science needs to be it would be plenty. My twins are only semi-interested and we can draw a unit out for longer, doing an activity two or three days a week as they have interest.
All in all, this is a good little book and a great fit for homeschools where the kids are interested in science subjects and Mom needs easy activities to go with it. I think it’d be a great guide for Charlotte Mason style homeschools, as it provides a small amount of information based on a subject and then two or three activities to help solidify the information, but it’s not so overwhelming and full as to prevent the usual style of learning – life, and reading. In fact, I think it encourages that type of learning and provides specific and doable experiments for those of us who are less science-driven and may not think of them on our own.
You can grab two free units from the book in order to draw your own conclusions as to whether this would be a good fit for your homeschool, and don’t forget to check out the other Crew reviews!