Unit studies (which I prefer to call integrated studies) are wonderful. Teaching all the kids all together, planning one stream of lessons for the whole bunch is smart and interesting, and you actually retain more information as you see how it is all connected. However, the thing that always has concerned me is the tendency to focus on facts. It is easy to get caught up in the activities and the topic and lose sight of the beautiful principles that hold it all together. How do you create a unit study that keeps the focus on the principles? Some things to remember:
- The overarching principle is the focus of the unit. This is the umbrella for all your lessons.
- The leading ideas point to the Principles. They guide your lessons.
- Lesson plans come from the leading ideas, which come from the principles.
- The facts of the lesson illustrate the principle, much like an illustrated sermon.
So this is it in a nutshell: principle—->leading idea—->lesson
For example, your study on WWII may discuss the Holocaust. Your study may have the overarching principle “God’s Principle of Individuality.” Your lessons could include the leading ideas like, “All men are created in God’s image,” “We are all responsible for our own relationship with God” and “Man has intrinsic value.” Your lessons would be guided from these leading ideas that reinforce the Principle. So your lesson might include studying a concentration camp story, reading up on the third Reich and their ideas that are contrary to the principle or calculating how many people lost their lives.
You could show that even as the prisoners lost their freedom they went to great lengths to maintain their individuality–sharing stories of their heritage, smuggling out personal items,writing stories during and after the horrific events. (It is interesting that the Third Reich went to so much trouble to document the Jews as individuals, taking photos, issuing numbers, keeping meticulous records.) Also there are many inspiring stories like Corrie TenBoom’s biography that are inspiring stories of individuals making a difference in the lives of other individuals during the war. And you can do scripture documentation, key sheets and word studies to complete your study. This is just scratching the surface of course, but I hope it gives you an idea of how an integrated study can work well using Biblical principles.
Do you see how the lessons come alive as you discuss the material in light of Biblical principles? Writing, reading, history, literature and sometimes math and science can be intertwined into a cohesive study that makes sense to all of your students. Have them study some things on their own and then share what they learn with one another. (They learn even more and you didn’t have to teach it yourself!) You will be amazed at what the Holy Spirit can prompt in your children.
It is almost like planning a traditional BPA lesson plan, only you have several subjects together instead of separate. Providential HisStory flows naturally between the subjects because everything has happened at some point in history.
I think the label “integrated studies” makes more sense for BPA families because the subjects are integrated under a principle and not a topic. If you think of them as integrated subjects that can keep you out of the “facts only” unit study ditch.
While this isn’t the only way to create an integrated BPA study, it’s the way that makes sense to me and I hope I’ve done a good job of explaining myself. Thoughts? Ideas? Please leave a comment.