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Unit Studies Made Easy: A Guide to Simplified Learning at Home Review by Christine Field

By Valerie Bendt
333 W. Rio Vista Court
Tampa, FL 33604-6940

Unit studies, we've all done them. Have we done them well? Valerie Bendt gives us the complete help we need to use this simple, effective teaching method. Our desire to instill a love of learning in our children is fostered through this method.

A few years ago, Mrs. Bendt had four books out. They were: How to Create Your Own Unit Study, The Unit Study Idea Book, For the Love of Reading and Success with Unit Studies. This latest volume, Unit Studies Made Easy, combines these other four volumes and adds a thought provoking section on Biblical Parenting.

Let's walk through one of the units to illustrate how she suggests organizing a unit study. The unit starts with Scripture, Proverbs 6: 6-8 ("Go to the ant, O sluggard). She suggests some books (including the Character Sketches books from the Institute in Basic Life Principles), including possible coloring books and pages on the topic. Next, she suggests keeping a record of the terminology used in the unit. Several activities are proposed, including keeping an ant farm and making games. One was an ant colony game that required the children to make up questions and answers based on their reading in library books. Language arts consisted on copying dictated sentences and passages. They also read some poems about ants and gave the children an opportunity to write their own poems about ants.

There you have it! A unit study is not that hard, is it? There are several things I really like about this book. Mrs. Bendt reminds us to look at some overlooked sources for our unit, such as trade organizations to write to for information, picture files and films from the library and reference only books from the library. When I scan the reference (non-circulating) section at my library, my mind is bombarded with ideas and sources!

I also like her reference to the work of Charlotte Mason and Ruth Beechick. In the units, a great emphasis is placed on dictation and narration, as well as original writing by the child. In the section on For the Love of Reading, Mrs. Bendt shares her tips for a natural, literature-based approach to teaching reading. Since the publication of that original book, she has also created her own reading program called Reading Made Easy: A Guide to Teach Your Child to Read.

Mrs. Bendt is an experienced home teacher with six children. Her writing is informative, encouraging and interesting. This book should be on every home schooler's bookshelf, no matter what style of teaching is used. Who knows, even the most devoted work book addict could be persuaded to try unit studies after reading this book!

-- Product Review by: Christine Field, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine