Letting Go of Homeschool Perfection :: Throwing Out the Unit Study

I recently stumbled across a deal where I could use some points I had saved up to “purchase” a professionally made unit study on space for free. Space is one of those topics that never fails to interest my kids, so I jumped on it. Then I opened it and had a look. Then I closed it again.

I don’t know that I can put my finger on exactly what it is about pedagogy that leaves me cold. Lists of objectives and rubrics and output expectations do that for me. It looked bland and forced and horribly uninteresting.

Instead I took myself off to Amazon and found this gem: The Jumbo Book of Space. It’s a meaty book, but written at an accessible level for Olivia and John. Olivia loves the inclusion of myths and stories, and John is thrilled by the experiments and activities. In fact, I am pretty pleased with the experiments myself. They have been easy to implement and for the most part have used supplies we have or can easily substitute.

So we’ve been curling up together each day and reading a bit from the book. When we come to an experiment we have the supplies for, we do it and discuss the outcomes. When we get to certain parts, we supplement with additional experiments or activities (from my Pinterest board) or maybe a Magic School Bus episode. If we have a picture book on our shelf that goes with the topic, we pull it out and read it. I still need to do a search and see what our library has to supplement.

Yeah, I would like to add lots more wonderful picture books to this study, but I am not sure what my budget can bear. Maybe I will pick two or three that are not-to-be-missed. I refuse to let our wonderful study get bogged down in my perfectionism, though. This one book can be enough.

Rocket balloon! Teaches about propulsion and so much fun!

Sometimes I feel like we need more output — a better display of “what we have learned” — some tangible demonstration. As of yet, though, no one has volunteered anything and nothing has struck me as interesting enough to suggest. I know there is a solar system model in our future, as they have mentioned that numerous times before. As for anything else, who knows? The conversations we are having tell me that they are learning.

For now they are learning exactly how I would learn something myself. If there is a topic that I find really interesting, surely there is a book out there to read on it, an activity or experiment to practice, and something to chat about with a fellow interested party.  Lather, rinse, repeat for a meaningful education. No pedagogy needed.



  • Stephanie says:

    I felt that way about Five in a Row! Awesome idea, but something just didnt work. I ended up making our own unit studies anyway and added our own books (thank God for the library). Our homeschool is Montessori based and so we just follow the kids intrests as they come up (and make sure there is some reading and math that happens daily). So far in the past couple of weeks we have learned about parrots, lizards, biomes, and now I am being told we need to learn about Korea! My only issue is trying to keep up! 😉 Happy Schooling!

    • Pam says:

      What a fun list! It also got easier for me when I realized that their wanting to learn about something didn’t mean that I had to PLAN an entire unit. Sometimes it just meant me finding a good book to read with them and that was enough.

  • Erin says:

    Oh yeah, very familiar feeling, this:)

  • Gillian says:

    We bought Further Up and Further In recently, a full blown unit study on the Chronicles of Narnia. And then we sold it for the same price.

    I like the flow of tailored-to-us, homemade unit studies, versus all the deadlines and expectations of the pre-made kind. I like having time to explore rabbit trails, not worry that I am not checking off all the little boxes in a unit study!

    Your space unit sounds very enjoyable so far – keep it up!

    • Pam says:

      Yep, yep, yep. Once I get into the box-checking it is hard to leave one unchecked. Then we get “behind” and things just spiral out of control from there.

      Seriously, though, what adult says, “You know I would love to learn more about X. Let me find a unit study to do?”

  • This speaks to me in more ways than you could possibly know. Thanks so much. I will NOT let my perfectionism ruin my children’s homeschooling experience!

    • Pam says:

      I need a LIKE button. Yes!

  • Tammy G says:

    I have so felt the same way, a need to have a physical representation of our work which leads me to getting bogged down in creating lapbooks. Your physical representation is this blog and your wonderful photos.The last time we did a lapbook I observed who was doing most of the work–ME. So no more mom motivated lapbooks here. The children recently told me “mom, we like when you read to us.” They were referring to several studies we have done from Queen Homeschool Supply. Just a simple study guide based on a book, some of the ideas we take and a lot we leave and the children always enjoy the lessons.

    • Pam says:

      Tammy, you are right, and I often forget — the blog is the record. And that is exactly why we stopped doing the lapbooks. I was the one driving the learning. No need for that at all.

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