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Friday, July 31

Funtastic Unit Studies : Review

Funtastic Unit Studies Review
Science Unit Studies for Homeschoolers and Teachers, a product from Funtastic Unit Studies, has twenty lessons, ten for children ages 4 through 7, and ten for ages 8 through 13. While lessons could be done with a single child, they are a lot more fun (and practical) when done as a family or group. Both sets of lessons address life, physical, and earth science topics. While it might be best to use the chapters in order since they build upon one another to some extent, we chose to jump around and explore different content areas at our whim.

The Product
The unit studies for Ages 4-7 are:

  • Our Senses
  • The Human Body
  • Dinosaurs and Prehistoric Life
  • Animals
  • Insects and Their Kin
  • Fun with Magnets
  • Stars and Planets
  • Health
  • Beginning Plants
  • Animal Ecology
The unit studies for Ages 8-13 are:

  • Insects
  • Microscopes and Invisible Creatures
  • Atoms and Molecules
  • Matter
  • Chemistry Fun
  • Weather
  • Force and Motion
  • Simple Machines
  • Light and Color
  • Plants II
Each chapter begins with a list of materials needed, but you can pick and choose which ones you'd like to do. Many of the materials are easy to find (and you probably have them around your house already), but others require a little advanced planning (like buying a microscope, slides, or iron filings).

The lessons are broken up into "parts", and there are about 6-7 parts to each unit. Within each part is about 2-6 different activities that you can do. The material is introduced at the beginning of each part, and then the activities are listed separately. It is very easy to read through the lessons while planning, and this makes collection of the materials very easy.

Although the units are "designated" for certain age groups, they are not inclusive to those age groups.  The boys are eight and eleven, but worked out of both sections easily.  As a homeschooling mom, I am used to tailoring things up and down to their levels, and I’m sure that you are, too!  It just comes naturally.  We worked out of the units that they are currently interested in.  In the upper level lessons, the activities and content can be a bit challenging for your eight or nine year old, but it at least introduces them to new concepts.  The harder activities, such as a research paper, can be set aside for older students.
With younger students, you could work through the lessons, using this as your primary science resource. Lessons include basic science concepts along with many hands-on activities.  Occasionally, a supplementary resource such as a “Magic School Bus” video is recommended for additional content or reinforcement.  …and y’all know how we feel about Magic School Bus!  It’s all about teaching through multiple channels at this lower level…audio, visual, and hands-on.

Once you get to middle grade level, students will need more content, but this could be used to supplement your core resource. Many science textbooks or real book approaches could use the depth and variety of activities provided here, so combining this with another resource should work very well as long as they address similar topics. The upper level lessons include a multiple choice test at the end of each chapter/unit. These can be used if you want to take a test grade, or to determine how well your student absorbed the material taught. There is also an answer key provided in the back of the book.
Our Experience
Something we did with the weather unit was to choose short living books and picture books to read with each part. I tried to choose a non-fiction book and a fiction book, because my Charlotte Mason style always includes literature as its base. The parts are designated so clearly, and the narrative materials so concise, that it's easy to pick the issue and/or topics to easily choose the books.

We were studying lighthouses, since it's summer time, and decided to focus on the weather unit for a while.  I asked them why they didn't choose Light & Color, and was told that lighthouses are important for guiding ships during bad weather, so we should study that unit.  I love the reasoning...

The boys researched the concepts presented in the introductory material, and then we pulled out our supplies to perform the experiments.  While some of the units require things such as a microscope (which we do have), this one required only basic household / kitchen items.  We happen to own a weather station, though, and the boys wanted to use it to perform the experiments.  They each kept a weather journal for two weeks, but it's that time of year where the weather just stays the  I wish we had done this experiment a month ago, during the storms, when the weather fluctuated drastically each day.  If you're doing this one, I recommend it during the spring or autumn.

As fate would have it, on the one week that we really WANTED to study the clouds, this is what our Oklahoma sky looked like.  Coming on the heels of storms and flooding, it's a much-needed sky, but not really conducive to studying the cloud formations!  The heat and humidity were perfect, however, for creating condensation!

Pros & Cons
One thing I really liked about the book is that the lessons are very approachable for a teacher who has very little science knowledge. The lessons are broken up into bite-sized segments, so you can do a little each day and finish a whole chapter in a week or two. You can also add to the lessons with books from the library, internet research, videos, lapbooks, etc. and stretch a chapter to last a whole month or longer! There are many "activities" for each chapter as well. Some are science experiments, but there are other fun types of activities as well (such as keeping a weather journal, playing shadow tag, and making healthy snacks).

One thing I didn’t like is the illustrations.  I would love for the them to be professionally drawn, and possibly even add colored photographs in future editions. It would really add to the quality of the book and make doing the activities/experiments easier.

Want to try Science Unit Studies for Homeschoolers and Teachers yourself??  See a sample chapter from each grade level!
Funtastic Unit Studies Review
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