unit study

How to Use a Rigorous Curriculum (Even if Your Kids Aren't Gifted)

I received this product for free and am being compensated for the time to write the review.  This is an honest review of the product.

Maybe you don't think your kids are gifted. That's okay, you can STILL use a rigorous curriculum designed for gifted students to stretch their abilities.


Use a rigorous curriculum? Just what do you mean, Rochelle?

What's a rigorous curriculum?


Let's define what rigorous curriculum means. It's a curriculum that's not easy, not comfortable, not your average mamby-pamby stuff.

I'm not talking impossible. I'm not talking tear-inducing rigorous.

I'm referring to the feelings YOU get when you look at the curriculum.


Are you nervous it might be a little too much for your children? Are you unsure if they'll get it? That you can do it?


You want a good balance of doable and scary. It's just like picking a book for your kid to read.

You don't want to hand your 5th grader an easy reader. Your child isn't going to stretch their reading abilities.

You don't hand him a 5" thick book on quantum physics either and expect him to understand everything.


You want a book that's easy enough to give confidence, yet hard enough to push their abilities and stretch their minds.

THIS is what I mean by picking a rigorous curriculum.

Is that clearer now?


But my children... gifted?

I would NOT consider my children gifted.

They're smart, just sometimes I wonder if they know what color the sky is.


I want them to be gifted, but I'll be honest, I probably am to blame for part of it. I haven't pushed them near as hard as I could.


I purchase rigorous curriculum, and have high expectations, but then sometimes, I just don't hold them to it.

And sometimes, yes, I even underestimate them.


What's a homeschool mom to do?

Stop underestimating them. Stop underestimating me!

I resolved to change, to do better, to push push push because ohmygosh, I only have 8 years left with my oldest!!!

Panic time! How in the world am I going to make sure he's ready for college and life in just 8 years.


Someone get the smelling salts, I'm going to pass out.


I sat down with myself, gave myself a good talking to, and started to think.

  • What were the areas my kids were struggling in?
  • What are they behind in
  • What could they do do better in?
  • Where do I want them to be at the end of their time homeschooling?
  • At the end of this year?


Then I took each piece of curriculum I had and evaluated it based on this clear criteria.

Some things were great, I just needed to enforce it better.

Some things, not so great.


I needed a different science curriculum. I love my Unit Studies, and I will keep doing them, I just find that it's so easy for me to drop things or not do them because I think they'll be too hard, or too time consuming, or whatever the reason.

Or I don't make it challenging enough.

Either way, it's lame.


An easy solution


Then came into my life, The College of William & Mary and their Center for Gifted Children (published by Kendall Hunt).

I saw, "for gifted children," and nearly clicked away, but then I got to thinking....


My daughter loves vegetables because I told her years ago she loved veggies. She proudly walks around telling everyone she loves veggies and she does! She tries every single one of them and eats broccoli.

I loathe broccoli.

The point is-- if I tell my kids they can do this science curriculum, then they may just believe me.

If I tell myself they can as well, then I'll approach it with a higher expectation and better perspective.

Sounds cooky, but guess what, it totally works.


Picking which unit study I'd try first was HARD. I have a 1st, 2nd, and 4th grader (the rest are preschool, toddler, and baby).

My 4th grader was the most behind, my 2nd grader is advanced, and my 1st grader is capable, but struggles with focus.


I picked the grades 2-4 level, What a Find! --  a unit study on archaeology. So cool.


Maybe you don't think your kids are gifted. That's okay, you can STILL use a rigorous curriculum designed for gifted students to stretch their abilities.


Oh the books are beautiful. They are jam packed with goodness. Instructions, dialogue, examples, problems to solve, documents, assignments, and handouts.

Maybe you don't think your kids are gifted. That's okay, you can STILL use a rigorous curriculum designed for gifted students to stretch their abilities.



Maybe you don't think your kids are gifted. That's okay, you can STILL use a rigorous curriculum designed for gifted students to stretch their abilities.


Maybe you don't think your kids are gifted. That's okay, you can STILL use a rigorous curriculum designed for gifted students to stretch their abilities.


Holy crow, I read the instruction manual the first time and thought, there's no stinking way my children are going to understand this. What am I going to do?

Some of it was hard for me to understand. It's for 2-4th grade! Maybe I'm not that smart after all. :-/


I was determined to prove myself right. My kids could do this! I just needed to give them the chance to try.


I read through the first lesson again and really pondered what it meant until I was comfortable with the topic: systems.


The next morning, I gathered the kids around the table, pulled out our white board and a marker and got started.

I love that they have us talk about a refrigerator, something each of my children are very familiar with (hello, they're sneaking food all the time).

We labeled all the part of the fridge, talked about what it does, what goes in, what comes out, what needs to happen for it to work.

Maybe you don't think your kids are gifted. That's okay, you can STILL use a rigorous curriculum designed for gifted students to stretch their abilities.


My kids got it! They totally blew me away. Like completely and utterly. My 4 year old was even joining in on the conversation, and sometimes I'm not quite sure she knows her own name.

My 1st grader was 100% involved in the discussion, and so were my older kids.


We brainstormed other systems. They came up with a TON (you can see part of our list to the left of our fridge picture)!


When my 4-year-old named sand as a system, the other kids quickly realized that no, sand is not a system. Using the system parts they just learned, and the new vocabulary, they explained why sand was not a system.


They decided that sand was part of 2 other systems: the desert and ocean.


My Proud Mama tears were shed that day. Inside, of course.


I absolutely adore the problem-based study. It presents a problem to my kids. Since What a Find! is about archaeology, the problems are what an archaeologist would face every day.


Maybe you don't think your kids are gifted. That's okay, you can STILL use a rigorous curriculum designed for gifted students to stretch their abilities.


Then we brainstorm what we need to know to solve the problems, the materials needed, the information needed, and any other important tidbit.

After that, we go about finding that information, come back, present it, and move forward with the next bit of problem until we are at the final dig where we put it all together.


It's really got my kids thinking, processing, and solving problems. They're getting it and doing fantastically.

I'm feeling more and more confident with their abilities as we go through each lesson. THEY are feeling more confident.


I'm realizing, they can do this. We can do this. I'm profoundly excited and relieved to know that my kids are capable of this high caliber curriculum.

I realized I wasn't pushing them to their full potential. I was staying safe.


Adding in more rigorous curriculum

Once we're done with this unit, we're adding in history and another science unit.


With the remainder of our curriculum and plans for the year I've decided each one will be given the full push. If it's not stretching my kids it's getting the heave-ho.

I only have so much time with each of my babies.

I only have so much time to teach the what they need to be able to do, understand, and know before they're moving out.


I know it sounds dramatic, and maybe I am being a bit dramatic, but we mothers know it's true. We don't have a lot of time even to teach them basic character habits, and as homeschool moms we have an even bigger job in front of us.


Your Turn

Give your curriculum a good thorough going over. What could be improved upon? Where are they struggling? What's not challenging enough?

William & Mary has science, social studies, and language arts curriculum to challenge your kids at just the right level.


Be sure to follow William & Mary so you can connect with them and find out more about all they have to offer. Facebook & Twitter.



10 Insanely Easy Ocean Science Experiments

  Are you looking for some easy ocean science experiments? Don't want a ton of materials and spend tons of money and time gathering supplies for each experiment!  Get excited, because we could be besties.


Are you looking for some easy ocean science experiments? Don't want a ton of materials, money, and time gathering supplies for each experiment? Done and done.

Here are the 10 ocean science experiments we did, for reals with our unit study.

Honesty time-- I lurv science and I lurv science experiments. I don't love getting them all together and buying the most random materials that I will NEVER use again, or have to specialty order and shipping costs more than the freaking product. And I'll NEVER use it again!! And we're eating beans for a month because we've blown our school budget.

So I love simple, easy, cheap experiments that teach the concept, let the kids learn and explore and get excited about the topic.


You'll see all the experiments we did, along with instructions, explanations, and pictures (when I remembered to take a few shots).

Like seriously, I forgot to take pictures of the density experiment, so I will re-do it just for you when the kids are sleeping. The sacrifices I make for those I love (that's you, in case you were wondering).

Salt Water Density

The beginning of the unit study we started learning about and discussing the actual ocean.  How big it is, what it's made up of, and more. Salt water and its density seemed like a natural place to start.

Materials Needed

  • Egg
  • Two clear jars/vases/bowls
  • Water
  • Salt
  • Small toys
  • Whisk

1. Fill one jar with plain water.

2. Fill another with water and then add salt. We put in about 1/3c at first. I really wanted this to work, so I put in probably closer to 1/2c. I hate when science experiments don't go as promised. :-/  Stir like crazy.

Our water was lukewarm and Little Miss (8 y.o.) suggested we use hot water to help it mix better.

3. We had a selection of toys, little sea creatures, a medium sized rubber shark, a mega block, and a knight. We started with the knight. I asked them what they thought would happen when I put the knight in the plain water. Then I dropped him in. He sunk. The mega block floated. Then the remaining items all sunk.

Then we added the egg. It also sank.

4. Then I started with the egg in the salt water. They were so excited to see it floating! We added the remaining ingredients and they all sunk. Wah-wah-wah.

The kids suggested adding more salt, and that still didn't help.

This was when I attempted to discuss density. Things with higher density sink and things with lower density float. The salt makes the water more dense making it so that more items are less dense than the salt water, meaning more things can now float.

Why is this important? The kids thought it would help the fish swim and float better. Sweet Cheeks (4 y.o.) thought it would make it so they can float while they sleep. Cute!

Then we discussed why we thought the egg floated when the other objects didn't. The kids and I talked about perhaps it was because there was "liquidy stuff" inside the egg and there's liquidy stuff inside fish too and maybe that's why. Especially since the toys don't have food and blood inside them.


We veered off course a bit and I showed them how taking the Mega Block and a crumpled piece of paper I could put the block into the water and the paper would stay dry. They each had a turn trying it themselves.

We talked about how if you tilted it the water would go inside and the paper would get wet. When they pushed the block into the water I had them go slowly so they could feel the air pressure pushing against their hand.

In the video, Ocean, it briefly mentioned the old methods of exploring the ocean. At one point, explorers would be lowered down in a wooden box that had no bottom to it. This was how they were able to stay down there for a short time without the entire box being enclosed.


Captain (9 y.o.) pointed out water displacement and brainstormed why he thought this was happening.


I loved that despite the lackluster results of this experiment (only the egg floated when I wanted more to float), so I guess it wasn't a flop, really, we were able to get our brains working and thinking about all sorts of things related to what we were doing. To me, this is the essence of science. Curiosity, thinking, and exploring.

Layers of the Ocean


  • Mason jar
  • Water
  • Corn syrup
  • Rubbing alcohol
  • Dish soap (blue)
  • Vegetable oil
  • Food coloring (black, blue, green, purple)
  • Funnel
  • Spoon
  • 5 Small bowls
  • Measuring cup
  • Baster

1. Measure out 3/4c of each liquid. Pour into individual small bowls.

2. Add food coloring to each bowl and mix:

  • Black food coloring to the corn syrup.
  • Blue to the dish soap.
  • Blue & green to the water (keep it lighter than the dish soap).
  • Blue to the oil.
  • Light light blue to the rubbing alcohol.


3. Add the ingredients slowly and carefully in the following order:

Corn syrup [wc_fa icon="arrow-circle-o-right" margin_left="" margin_right=""][/wc_fa] dish soap [wc_fa icon="arrow-circle-o-right" margin_left="" margin_right=""][/wc_fa] water [wc_fa icon="arrow-circle-o-right" margin_left="" margin_right=""][/wc_fa]  oil [wc_fa icon="arrow-circle-o-right" margin_left="" margin_right=""][/wc_fa]  rubbing alcohol

4. Add labels to each layer. Done!

Sunlight Zone - rubbing alcohol

Twilight Zone - oil

Midnight Zone - water

Abyss Zone - soap

Trench Zone - corn syrup

Discuss the density of each liquid (relate it back to salt water density experiment). Ask: would salt water be on the same level in this jar as plain water?


Are you looking for some easy ocean science experiments? Don't want a ton of materials, money, and time gathering supplies for each experiment? Done and done.


I'm not going to lie, I got pretty ticked at this experiment. The dish soap got too dark. Grr. We put 2 drops of red! 2 drops! We were trying to make it purple. Instead, it turned red on top and black everywhere else. Tip: if you have blue dish soap, DON'T dye it at all.

Then the water. Oh the water. It just blended in with the soap. The vegetable oil was separated nicely, though it did bubble up. Then the rubbing alcohol kinda blended in, but made swirls as well.

I let it settle and am hoping to see some separation in the morning. But really, I'm just ticked I wasted 3/4c of dish soap.

Well, the kids did enjoy it, though admittedly, they were sad that it didn't look all awesome and separate. I followed the instructions from Steve Spangler science on how to do the liquid density experiment, but apparently I don't have the correct skill set.


I may do this paper and water jar version instead. Depends on our time and energy level.


We then read the book Down, Down, Down: A Journey to the Bottom of the Sea. It shows which marine animals live in which ocean zone with beautiful illustrations.

We used our plastic sea animals along with the book to determine which zone they are in and made a chart to match.


Shark Buoyancy


  • Toilet paper roll
  • Marker
  • 3 pennies
  • Balloon
  • Vegetable oil
  • Bowl
  • Water
  • Tape
  1. Draw a shark on the toilet paper roll (or cut out a shark on paper and tape it on).
  2. Tape 3 pennies, equally spaced, on the bottom of the toilet paper roll.
  3. Fill the bowl with water.
  4. Ask: what's going to happen to the shark? Drop the shark in the water and watch him sink. Discuss.
  5. Fill a balloon with vegetable oil, tie closed.
  6. Place the balloon inside the toilet paper roll, evenly.
  7. Observe: it's much heavier now! Ask: what's going to happen to the shark? Place the shark in the bowl of water and watch him float. Discuss!

Are you looking for some easy ocean science experiments? Don't want a ton of materials, money, and time gathering supplies for each experiment? Done and done.


Are you looking for some easy ocean science experiments? Don't want a ton of materials, money, and time gathering supplies for each experiment? Done and done.

Are you looking for some easy ocean science experiments? Don't want a ton of materials, money, and time gathering supplies for each experiment? Done and done.


The oil in the shark makes him buoyant.

Application and explanation:

ASK: What is holding us to the earth? (gravity). What is gravity?

There is gravity on land AND in the ocean. All the animals in the ocean are being pulled down, just like you are. Gravity holds us to the floor, and all our houses, cars, and toys, too. It also holds the ocean and the animals in the ocean down. But they aren't on the bottom of the ocean floor like you're standing on the floor!

What are they doing? They're floating.

How is this possible? Buoyancy!

ASK: What in the world is buoyancy?

Gravity pulls us down and buoyancy pushes us up! So the fish have made it so they can balance, or float. Many of them have a bladder, kind of like a ball, inside their bodies that is filled with gas. Think of a balloon when it's filled with air. The balloon is that bladder and the air in the balloon is the gas inside it.

Sharks don't have a bladder filled with gas. So what is helping them float? Their bodies do not have ANY bones, instead, they have cartilage. This cartilage is less dense. Remember, when we saw how less dense items floated easier in the water? Your ears and tip of your nose is made out of cartilage, too! Sharks also have a very large liver, and fins that help them steer and stay afloat.

Their bodies are still pretty heavy, of course, heavier and more dense than water. Their fins help them to move forward all the time. They never stop moving!

Their liver is much larger than ours. It's filled with oil, like what we just used in our experiment. It is similar to the bladder in the fish we just talked about. It gives the sharks neutral buoyancy. That means that it's not getting pushed up and it's not sinking down, but staying at the same level.

All of these things combine to help sharks stay afloat and not sink to the bottom of the ocean floor! Pretty cool, huh!?

The kids really loved this one. Their favorite part? Wiggling their ears with wonder as they realized that sharks were made of the cartilage.

How Whales Stay Warm


  • Crisco
  • 2 Ziplock baggies (sandwich or quart size)
  • Rubber band (big enough to fit around hand)
  • Bowl
  • Water
  • Ice
  1. Fill bowl with water and add lots of ice. You want it cold!
  2. Scoop a bunch of crisco into the first ziplock bag.
  3. Place the 2nd bag inside the first.
  4. Place your hand inside and secure both bags onto your hand with a rubber band.
  5. Squish the crisco around your fingers and hand. Use your free hand to do help. Don't worry, your hand will stay grease free!
  6. Place your free hand into the ice water. Yikes!
  7. Now, place your crisco hand into the water. It's not freezing!

The fat keeps the whales warm!

Are you looking for some easy ocean science experiments? Don't want a ton of materials, money, and time gathering supplies for each experiment? Done and done.


When I worked at a wilderness therapy program, we lived and hiked in snowy mountains. We'd hike and sleep in near-blizzards. We only had a tarp, sleeping pad, and sleeping bag to keep us warm (besides our clothes). No tents! We ate bacon at every meal. We added butter to our hot chocolate and anything we were making. We ate as much fat as we could every day to help keep us warm.

I still was freezing cold, so I'm not sure how much it helped, but I'm alive so it must have helped some!

They loved this experiment! They were shocked that their hand didn't get cold at all! It was a pretty cool feeling.


Maybe I'll slather myself in crisco when I head to the cold pools this summer? Get a wicked sunburn at the same time. Win-win, right?

You know I'm kidding, right?

Tide Pool


  • Roasting pan
  • Rocks
  • Sand (optional)
  • Plastic sea animals
  • Water (of course)
  • Clay/Play doh (optional)

Create a tide pool with your rocks. Look at pictures of real tide pools to see what they look like. Layer and build your rocks. Add sand, if you have it and want to.

You can also use play doh or clay to build up your tide pool.

Add in plastic animals in various locations of your tide pool. Try to add those that would actually be in your tide pool and leave out those that aren't.

Fill with water as the high tide comes in... and then empty as the low tide goes out. Then fill again and play!!

We watched a few videos on tide pools. [insert links]


Water/Shoreline Erosion


  • 9x13
  • Sand
  • Water
  • Water bottle
  1. Place sand on one side of the pan. Make it a steep slope
  2. Pour water into the other side, until it's halfway up your sand slope.
  3. Place your water bottle on the end with the water. Push the bottle down to create small waves. Do this, consistently and evenly for 1 whole minute. Write down what you observe.
  4. Push again with your water bottle for another minute. You may make your waves bigger, or keep them the same size. Make observations.


Ocean Bottle


  • Empty ketchup bottle (or other narrow-necked bottle with lid)
  • Corn syrup
  • Blue food coloring
  • Vegetable oil
  • Long spoon

Fill the bottle 1/4 of the way with corn syrup.

Add a few drops of blue food coloring and mix with spoon handle.

Slowly pour in vegetable oil until the bottle is halfway full.

Put cap on. Make sure it's real tight.

Turn the bottle on its side, tilt it slowly so the capped end is down at a slight angle. The corn syrup will crest in the bottle's neck.

Cornmeal Currents


  • Mixing bowl
  • Water
  • Cornmeal (a pinch)

Fill the mixing bowl with water, almost to the top.

Sprinkle the cornmeal into the bowl.

Blow steadily across the water surface (not into the bowl). Make sure it's not too gentle or too forceful (you can experiment with wind intensity later).

The cornmeal will be swirled around by the currents just as in the ocean. The northern hemisphere is clockwise and the souther, counter clockwise.

Deep-Water Currents


  • 9x13 pan
  • Water
  • Ice pack (or baggie of ice)
  • Food Coloring
  1. Fill the 9x13 with an inch of water. Make sure the water is room-temperature (or slightly warmer).
  2. Set the ice pack (or baggie) against the edge of one side of the pan (inside the water).
  3. Place 1 drop of food coloring right in front of the ice pack and 1 drop on the opposite side of the pan.
  4. Observe and discuss.

The drop near the ice pack will move forward  because the cold water is pushing the warm water away. The drop on the other side stays there because the cold water keeps it from moving.


Penguin Camo


  • Mason jar
  • Water
  • Craft foam, black & white
  • Glue stick
  • Scissors
  • Black paper
  1. Cut a 2" square out of the black and white craft foam.
  2. Glue them together and cut out a penguin shape.
  3. Fill the mason jar halfway with water and place the penguin, black side down on top of the water. Hold the jar under a light source (lamp, lightbulb, flashlight) and look at the penguin from the bottom of the jar. It should be easy to see.
  4. Now, turn the penguin over, white side down. Now look through the bottom of the jar again. This is the way penguins swim! It's much harder to see now because the light and the white blend together, making it harder for predators to see from underneath.
  5. This time, place the jar on top of the black paper. The black paper represents the darkness of the ocean. Take a look from above the jar to see how the black side of the penguin helps blend into the water from this angle!


That wraps up all our ocean science experiments! We had so many great conversations with each experiment and it's always a treasure to hear them talk about and relate other things to the new things they've learned.

As we've studied the ocean these have really added a great depth to their understanding and grasping of each concept. I highly recommend doing as many of these as you can.

If you're on the hunt for even more experiments (simple ones) with accompanying explanations I highly highly recommend the book Awesome Ocean Science! There are many experiments and activities for many aspects of the ocean. It covers all the topics, not just the water portion. I learned quite a bit just thumbing through the book! Seriously, go check it out. You'll thank me later. ;-)


Let me know which one your kiddos loved the most! Do you have any other fun ocean experiments for us to try?


Ocean Unit Study Vocabulary, Writing, & Geography

  You're all set for the ocean unit study, but need to know the nitty gritty details. Here are the vocabulary, writing, and geography portions of this unit study. Learn an easy and fun way to do map work and vocabulary. Plus, writing prompts!

Here are the vocabulary, writing, and geography portions of the ocean unit study. Learn an easy and fun way to do map work and vocabulary. Plus, writing prompts!

Let's jump right to it.

Ocean Vocabulary

  • abyssal plain
  • algae
  • anemone
  • barnacle
  • basalt
  • buoyant
  • continental shelf
  • colony
  • continental crust
  • continental drift
  • continental slope
  • coral
  • coral reef
  • deep sea trench
  • dorsal fin
  • echolocation
  • estuary
  • faults
  • glacier
  • invertebrate
  • jelly fish
  • lagoon
  • mantle
  • mid-ocean ridge
  • migrate
  • ocean
  • oceanic crust
  • oceanography
  • octopus
  • pectoral fins
  • plankton
  • rift
  • school
  • sea
  • sea mountains (seamounts)
  • sea star
  • sediment
  • shark
  • shore
  • tide pool
  • waves
  • whale

Add words as you come upon them and you'd like to add them to your list. Also, remove words that you don't need or want to cover.

How to learn vocabulary

Our kids fill this Vocabulary Word Map  for each word. You can create a word search puzzle as well for a fun review and recognizing the new words. A fun addition to this puzzle would be to make the word clues the definitions of each vocabulary word.

For the ocean vocabulary, we didn't do the antonyms and synonyms in the word maps.

We're just covering a few terms a day, and some days more than others.


Writing assignments

Here's some prompts to get the brain juices flowing (gross).

  • Write a story about your new pet (you can see this in the Ocean Unit Study main post)
  • Write a letter to an organization that works with the ocean or sea life
  • Write a magazine article about an important issue with the ocean/sea life
  • Write a magazine article about your favorite marine animal
  • Write a research paper
  • Write a poem about the ocean
  • Write a story for a young sibling/child
  • Write an email to your grandparents about all you've learned
  • Write a newsletter to your family about all the things you've done and learned

Just so you know, we will NOT be doing all of these writing assignments. For now, we're doing the pet story, and the research paper. After that, I will let each child pick one more writing assignment. But really, that's only if we haven't petered out and decided we were done with the unit study.

Pick and choose, but make sure you do at least one writing assignment. Writing is such an important skill to learn and it's not too early to start.

If you think of a different writing assignment, go for it! These are just to get your brain thinking. I'm sure you can come up with even better ones. Please share them in the comments! For reals.


Geography/map work

Here are the oceans, seas, and major rivers we're learning

  • Atlantic
  • Pacific
  • Arctic
  • Indian
  • Southern
  • Caspian
  • Black
  • Red
  • Mediterranean
  • Arabian
  • Amazon
  • Nile
  • Congo
  • Yangtze
  • Hwang ho
  • Tigris
  • Euphrates
  • Indus
  • Volga
  • Danube
  • Rhine
  • Mississippi

How we study geography

Head over to our world map and identify the oceans. Then the seas. Then the rivers-- this is easier with a world atlas (which we are in great need of-- here we come Amazon).

We also look at these with our globe...  Or would have, if Teddy Bear (almost 2) hadn't decided to throw it down the stairs because he thought it was a ball. Now it's dead. But we do have an inflatable globe that works in a pinch.

Just keeping it real.


After that we use this technique that I learned from Jessica Hulcy a few years back.

Index card map work

1. Grab an index card for each continent and ocean.

2. Have the kids draw an outline of the continent on an index card. Then, write the name in the middle. Do this for all 7.

Here are the vocabulary, writing, and geography portions of the ocean unit study. Learn an easy and fun way to do map work and vocabulary. Plus, writing prompts!

3. Write the name of each ocean on an index card. You may need two for a few of the oceans (i.e. the Pacific).

4. Place the index cards on a table, or floor. Arrange them to show where they are in relation to one another.


Here are the vocabulary, writing, and geography portions of the ocean unit study. Learn an easy and fun way to do map work and vocabulary. Plus, writing prompts!


5. Pick them up and place them down again, talking through it. Scramble them up, do it a few more times.

6. Have your children take turns doing it on their own, prompting ONLY when they get stuck. Encourage them to place them as best they can before asking for help.

When they get it wrong I pull the index cards that are placed incorrectly and have them work through it. If a ton are wrong, I'll scramble them all up and go through it again with them.

7. Do this until you feel they've got a handle on it.


You will also do the same thing for the various seas. Add the seas in AFTER they have the oceans and continents mastered. You may want to cut each index card in half to show the size.

Here are the vocabulary, writing, and geography portions of the ocean unit study. Learn an easy and fun way to do map work and vocabulary. Plus, writing prompts!


Now, pick up all the index cards, arrange the continents, the oceans, and then the seas.

Follow the same procedure done for the oceans.


[embedyt] http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dqNXLnIVYBk[/embedyt]

[wc_box color="secondary" text_align="left"]

Here's Animal, 6 (on the left), Little Miss, 8 (middle), and Captain, 9 (on the right). As you can see Animal is super excited, Little Miss has watched her fair share of YouTube tutorial videos. I could barely keep the laughter in, so please forgive any shaking of the camera. :)



For the rivers you can draw them on the index cards where they are on each continent.


Draw the river on blue construction paper, label it, and then place them on the continent index card. This way, you can also remember the shape and location. If you draw them on, it may not be remembered as well.


This is seriously the best way to remember the locations and relationships between locations.

We did this when we learned the 13 colonies and when we studied explorers. My kids learned it so fast. On top of that, I learned them and where they all are in relation to each other. I think that's my favorite part-- not just knowing what the state or country looks like, but where it is in relation to other locations.


We're going to re-do our index card mapping later this week, or next. We're going to put our continents on a bigger piece of paper and trace the continent from a printed map.

Why not just print them out? Well, it helps the kids learn the shape of the continent better and understand where things are in relation to each bump and point on the outline.

Then we'll cut out the seas into smaller pieces so they're easier to fit in where they belong. We haven't done the rivers yet, but now they'll fit even better on our bigger continent pieces.

When we get the new set done, I'll update this post.

More ocean unit study goodness to come

Now you're ready to go with your vocabulary, geography, and writing portions of the ocean unit study. Stay tuned for the next sections!

We've got ASL, art, science, math, and a final project still to go.





Homeschool: How To Get Started :: Which Method?

HS get started  

If you've spent any time at all researching homeschooling you have probably come across some strange words and heard the word method thrown around quite a bit.


For someone just coming in to the homeschooling world this can be very overwhelming.


You mean it's not enough to just say I'm going to homeschool? I have to now pick a specific way to do it?


It's not that bad, really. Once you get the vernacular down you're good to go. Bonus: you'll sound like a pro in all your conversations. That's all that matters, right? ;)


I'm going to break these methods down in the simplest form I can and then let others take over and talk to you about them.


Later on, in a separate post, I'll tell you which one I use.  I don't want to color your opinion now. I know, I know... everyone wants to be just like me, so I don't want to set the bar too high. Har har har.





Today's post will be a bit different than the last two.


Less talking, more clicking!


I am going to give you a brief overview of each method and then some great resources I've found and used for each one.


You'll want to take your time checking them each out. I do recommend you look at each method before you make your choice!


Don't feel locked in after you've picked one though; most homeschoolers seem to evolve over time. I know I have. I'll share more on that in a later post.

*This post contains some affiliate links. This doesn't change the price for you, it just means I'll receive a small percentage (to pay for school supplies) if you happen to purchase the item through that link.*


Charlotte Mason


Charlotte Mason was a late 19th century British educator who was passionate about children's education. The Charlotte Mason method is known for its short lessons, the use of living books, narration, dictation, art, music and nature study, as well as developing your child's character.




The Charlotte Mason Way Explained -- A very thorough and easy-to-read book! Fabulous resource! Highly recommended.

Charlotte Mason in a Nutshell -- a quick explanation (more thorough than my blurb above)

31 Days of Charlotte Mason -- a 31-post series exploring CM

Charlotte Mason Homeschooling Headquarters -- lots of great resources for every aspect of CM education

7 Characteristics of Charlotte Mason Education -- a simple summary

Simply Charlotte Mason -- a great website for support, guidance, and resources.

Charlotte Mason's Original Homeschooling Series -- Charlotte's  6 books in one volume

A Charlotte Mason Education: A Home Schooling How-To Manual -- How to implement CM




Most like public school. You have your subjects divided up. Most use workbooks and traditional textbooks and tests. There are several online resources for education. It's easy for newbies to want to mirror what they may have grown up with or are comfortable with. It's not a bad thing at all. A lot may start out this way and then merge into something else as they become more comfortable with homeschooling.



Traditional Methods -- post explaining this method

Understanding a Textbook Method -- a quick overview

Confessions of a Homeschooler -- a fabulous blogger that I feel is mainly traditional in method. I use a lot of her things for my kids even though this is not my main method. She has great resources and helps for anyone, even if you don't use the traditional method! Worth a look at!


We're not talking curriculum today, but here are some samplings of traditional curriculum providers. 

Abeka -- Christian based curriculum and textbooks.

Sonlight -- Christian based, in a box, curriculum

Connections Academy -- online schooling, like public school

K-12 Online -- online public school (technically homeschool because it's done at home).  I've heard mixed reviews on K-12.



Classical education is based on the trivium -- three phases of learning. Classical works, latin, and history (taught in chronological order) are some of its predominant characteristics.  There is soooo much to Classical education that I truly couldn't get it all down in just a few sentences. Check out these many resources.



The Well-Trained Mind: A Guide to Classical Education at Home (Third Edition) -- an amazing book that covers all years of schooling. A fabulous resource for any homeschooler, even if you don't use the Classical method. Highly highly recommend.

The Well-Trained Mind Blog -- An accompaniment to the book. I can't say enough kind words about Susan and Jessie, the authors of TWTM. They go out of their way to help you understand and answer any questions and offer advice and support to you.

Classical Education for the Average Homeschool Family -- Great overview of classical education. Quick and easy to understand.

10 Reasons I Chose Classical -- blog post from one mother on her reasons for her method choice. 

Classical Homeschooling -- websste dedicated to this method

Trivium Pursuit -- another website!

Teaching the Trivium: Christian Homeschooling in a Classical Style - a book to check out!

The Core: Teaching Your Child the Foundations of Classical Education -- a wonderful book!

Trivium Mastery: The Intersection of Three Roads: How to Give Your Child an Authentic Classical Home Education -- another great book.

Classical Conversations -- a Christian academic program. I've heard lots of great things about them.

Classical Conversations: An Overview -- This is a great overview of what exactly is CC. I'd read this first, then go check out their website (the one right above this one).

Classical Scholar -- a website with resources.

Homeschooling With a Classic Twist -- a blog dedicated to classical education.

Living and Learning at Home -- another blogger that uses classical education.

10 Days of Classical Education -- a 10 post series based on this method, she has lots of guest posters contributing.



Thomas Jefferson/Leadership Education


Has 7 keys of learning, which are: classics, mentors, inspire, structure, simplicity, quality, and you, not them.  This method is to help your children become leaders and independent thinkers. TJED (as it's abbreviated) is becoming increasingly popular. It also has 3 cores of learning (similar to Classical's trivium).



A Thomas Jefferson Education: Teaching a Generation of Leaders for the Twenty-First Century -- The book!  A must read! (Read this one FIRST)*

Leadership Education: The Phases of Learning (The Leadership Education Library) -- Read this one SECOND*

A Thomas Jefferson Education Home Companion -- Read this one THIRD*

*Rachel DeMille (eek!) visited this post and gave me this wonderful advice! She said taken out of order the Home Companion can be confusing. It's still a great resource, just make sure you read it in order for maximum understanding! I'm so grateful Rachel visited and shared this invaluable help!

Thomas Jefferson Education for Teens -- another book

Dumbing Us Down: The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling, 10th Anniversary Edition -- and yet another great book.

 A Thomas Jefferson Education --  the website with lots of great resources and helps!

TJED site freebies page!

TJED - Mothers -- a blog dedicated to tjed and mothers (duh), great resources for both aspects.

10 Days of Growing Leaders  -- a wonderful 10 post series for TJED/Leadership education.


- A TJED manifesto. Too cool for me not to post! (Click to make it bigger)


Unschooling/Interest-Led Learning


With unschooling you allow kids to discover, explore and learn what they are passionate about without it being like a traditional schooling experience. This method began with John Holt, a public school teacher that was fed up with the system and wanted more for his students and children.



How Children Fail (Classics in Child Development) -- John's first book that started it all

How Children Learn (Classics in Child Development) -- A must read!

The Unschooling Handbook : How to Use the Whole World As Your Child's Classroom -- another great resource for how it actually works.

 Sandra Dodd's Big Book of Unschooling -- a great resource, written by a homeschool mother that is an unschooler!

John Holt GWS -- John's website. Has links to articles and more.

 What is Unschooling? -- A blog post to explain it briefly.

10 Things to Keep in Mind About Unschooling -- a simple, yet lovely blog post.

Our Unschooling Journey -- a blog post sharing their unschooling story

 Unschooling: How We Learn Subject by Subject -- this is a great resource for you to get an idea of what unschooling looks like. Plus, this is a fabulous fabulous blog dedicated to unschooling! Worth a look!


Click on the picture to take you to the post on Winging It about unschooling.


Unit Study


Takes one main idea and builds a study unit around this covering all disciplines.


For instance, you want to learn about frontiersmen, you would study them with books, write a report, or give an oral report. You could learn about tracking animals, using a compass, make maps and track their journeys, go on a wilderness hike and document animals and plants you see. Then go learn about those animals and plants. Cook and bake foods that frontiersmen frequently ate, etc, etc.



What is a Unit Study? -- Very brief explanation

What is a Unit Study?  -- A bit longer explanation

How to Plan a Unit Study -- 4-part series (make sure you read all 4)

5 Easy Steps to a Unit Study

How to Create Unit Studies

How to Create a Great Unit Study

How to Fit in the Extras With Unit Studies


Now, you don't have to always make your own. There are some that are done for you already!

Unit Studies by Amanda Bennett. -- Fun unit studies! Great to use even if you aren't mainly a unit study family. From now until 4/13 there is a sale going on for many unit studies!

KONOS -- Wonderful curriculum!  Great for teaching the multiple children.

Homeschool in the Woods -- Great great unit studies based around history and time periods.

The Ultimate List of Unit Study Resources -- talks a bit about what they are and how to do them, then has an alphabetical listing of all sorts of free unit studies for you to use that she's curated from around the web.




Easiest one to explain! This is just as its name implies. You take a bit from each method you like and incorporate it the best way for you and your family.  There really aren't resources on this as you just pick your methods and combine them as you see fit. Done and done!  Ha!



 Whew! I'm exhausted. How about you?


Remember: DO NOT read these all today! Check out the quick explanations for each and then a resource for each one and then pursue the ones that peak your interest the most.


Take your time to go through them and write down things that stand out to you and any questions you may have so you can research that further. If you have questions, please post them down in the comments and I'll do my best to get you the answer! Also, let me know if any of the links gives you trouble and I'll fix them.

[Tweet "Check out this great list of resources for homeschooling methods!"]


Wait wait wait!!!


How do you pick? Is that what you're going to ask me?


Well... I'll break that down as quickly and as simply as possible.

STEP 1 -- Read about them (we've got that covered now)

STEP 2 -- Take notes as you read. What do you like about each? What don't you like about each? What questions do you have?

STEP 3 -- Take some time to think about it.

STEP 4 -- Research the answers to questions you have. Look for blogs and other parents that use the method(s) you're interested in.

STEP 5 -- Go with your gut. Oh, and use those goals and reasons to help guide you to what is most important to you and your children.

STEP 6 -- Keep in mind that you don't have to stick with it beyond today, next month, next year, or in several years. We change as people and so will our mindset, our values, our interests, and your children. You may like a certain method, but your child really is struggling with it. Can you tweak it? Or is there something else you know they'll get more out of? Don't be afraid to change.

STEP 7 -- Rinse and repeat as needed. Maybe eat a treat or 10.


I'll see you tomorrow!


All my best,