I have realised that I write a post called ‘Changes Afoot’ each and every year. I guess that’s because the children are always growing and maturing and thus the most effective way of learning for them also changes. This year’s changes began with T13 saying he wanted to focus on science and could he please drop history to give him more time to focus on said science. This has been coming for a while, so I wasn’t surprised. One thing I love about home schooling is its flexibility. That said, Gary and I didn’t think immersing himself in just science and maths would be good for his all round education. So being the queen of compromise, we worked out something which gave us both what we wanted – T13 emersed in science, whilst learning history at the same time.
Enter Biographical Studies
We have always learnt history through the people who were actually there and this term would be no different. We have reached the seventeenth century in our world history studies, so I googled famous scientists of this era, hoping to find one scientist in the first half of the century and one in the second half. I came up with Galilei Galileo and Isaac Newton. T13 has already studied these two scientists off his own back but was very excited to be doing further study.
I suggested he did a unit study on each scientist, which means he would research all about the time and place in history they lived and how that affected the work they did. He agreed. The girls love history and absolutely don’t want it to end, so I suggested they each study a person of interest who lived during that century. L12, who enjoys anything art related chose to focus her studies on Rembrant and Vermeer. C is unsure at the moment but will (hopefully) decide closer to the time.
Unit Studies rather than Project Based?
The children asked me if this would be project based. The answer was no. Project based learning, at its core, is the development of some sort of end product. For example, we have studied middle age fashions creating doll costumes as the end product and we studied about medieval feasts with the end product being a feast which was as authentic as possible. For me project equals end product.
The goal in studying these famous people of the seventeenth century wasn’t an end product. It was a means of studying a period in history in a way which would appeal to my science loving son. Yes, his study would be all about Galileo but I wanted it to include lots of other information. Enter unit studies. Unit studies allow the student to dig deep but also swing wide. T13 could therefore look deeply into his scientist of choice in addition to learning about the society in which that scientist lived.
During any given year our homeschool will usually include mummy led unit studies and student led projects. This year I have decided to step back from the unit studies. I believe my older children are ready to learn independently. In order to make sure they cover all I want them to, I will be writing up a rubric relating to each biographical unit study. Between now and Christmas we have two five week terms. This means each child will have five weeks per unit study, learning about two well known figures.
Extra Required Reading
I do have a few requirements which all the older children have agreed to. The first is that over the next three months they will listen to the unabridged diaries of Samuel Pepys, each lunch time. He wrote during the fire of London and during the great plague and I figure just by listening to this (long) piece of primary evidence the children will absorb what life was like in London during the seventeenth century.
In addition they have a relatively small reading list to get through. I have purposefully kept this list small this term to allow for more reading around their chosen famous person:
And that is how history is happening in our home for the next couple of terms.