Tag Archives: Unschool

Mystery of History

Mystery of History Review

If you’ve been following our adventures lately, you know that we have made the switch to unschool. So you’re probably wondering why an unschooler would be doing a review of a curriculum product.

Well, I will be honest with you – I was offered the opportunity to review Mystery of History before we made the switch, and we did start using it before then. I will also tell you that Mystery of History is the only curriculum that we are still using – even as unschoolers.

The great thing about the textbook is that you really can personalize it to fit your family and your goals.

Each week begins with a Pre-Test designed to give your kids confidence. My kids always enjoy seeing how much they already know. We just do this orally as a group.

What we especially LOVE: Easy one to two page summaries of a time period that usually focuses in on one person {three a week}. If this summary ignites an interest, then I find us a more in-depth biography, historical fiction, or other non-fiction resource. If not, then we appreciate the glimpse into another life, another culture and then move on.

After each summary, there are Exercises offered for further exploration – usually 3 to 4 options – that are divided into appropriate age range suggestions.

There is also a review activity for each week – and every other week, this review is a quiz that reviews ALL of the material from the beginning of the semester.

One of my favorite features of the program is the Memory Cards. Each child makes one card to represent each chapter that are then put into index card binders. In this way, you have a mobile time line that a quick flip through will remind you of the order of events. {And, if your family enjoys more time line work, there are suggestions each week for building onto a more elaborate time line).

I also really appreciate that there are only TWELVE dates that are recommended for memorization. I love that the author shares my belief that it is much more important to enjoy the flow of history rather than learn a lot of dates.

This book could easily be used on its own for a year or longer as your history resource.

If you combine it with Illuminations, you will have an amazing powerhouse that will cover your history, literature, and Bible readings seamlessly (pretty much everything except math). This could easily fit into any Classical, Charlotte Mason, or Unit Studies program.

When I first read the product description of Illuminations, I thought that it was only a schedule and book list. Boy was I wrong! Also included in this superb resource are the Study Guides to go along with all of the literature selections. Wow!

It also includes copywork, a spelling curriculum, AND more graphic organizers than you can imagine. (You will need to purchase other textbooks to be able to use the other parts of the program.) What’s great is that the graphic organizers are used for the literature assignments which makes a great jumping off point to learn how to use them effectively.

If your family is looking for a new history program (or one to get started), then I highly recommend Mystery of History. I am looking forward to enjoying their products for many years to come.

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Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of Mystery of History 1 from Bright Ideas Press to facilitate this review. All opinions are my honest and unbiased review. I also participated in a BETA test of Illuminations for which I did receive a gift for my feedback. The links within the post are affiliate links. If you purchase products through them, I will receive a small commission.

grocery shopping for learning consumer math - unschooling

Handi-Skill Spotlight: Surviving the Grocery Store

Not sure what a Handi-Skill is? Perhaps a better name for this series would be Real World or Real Life Skills.

As we start out on our unschooling journey, I’ve had my eyes {and mind} open to finding unschool opportunities for those basic skills that I feel are necessary. I would say that Consumer Math is probably one of the most important to learn before going out on their own, and going to the grocery store has to be the most natural real world math experience there can be!

grocery shopping for learning consumer math - unschooling

I know it’s easier to go to the grocery store without the kids. Oh, boy do I know it! But, if they don’t go, they are missing out on a valuable learning opportunity. Or, maybe you always take your kids, and you are looking for ways to occupy their attention so that you can get the real work done. I want to suggest that perhaps they can be a bigger help than you realize – especially if they are school-age.

First, a couple of warnings:

  1. Do not attempt this when your kids are hungry, tired, or sick. You will both leave frustrated.
  2. Do not attempt this when YOU are hungry, tired, or sick.

In Christian Unschooling by Teri J Brown (p32), she shares how she encouraged her children to practice consumer math. She handed them each $10, and they were to buy their lunches for a week – and that they should be healthy. {I kind of forgot that last part – oops!} This could even be used with younger children – perhaps giving them $5 to choose their snacks for the week.

I’ll be honest, the idea of my kids holding up a line at the grocery store makes me VERY uncomfortable. I don’t like it. I want to take the money right out of their hands and do it for them. But… they won’t learn anything that way. So, I decided that this might be worth a try. {Plus, knowing that they really would only have one or two bills to work with on this first try made it a little easier to let go.}

When you teach a child something you take away forever his chance of discovering it for himself. Jean Piaget

This might seem like a simple exercise, but let’s break down all of the thinking skills necessary to make this a successful outing.

Price Comparisons

We had a few instances where they had to decide which package was a better price – which meant dividing it out and determining how much it was per ounce {or per item}. Then, even if it was cheaper for the larger one, you have to determine if it is enough cheaper to warrant getting it. For example, Monkey decided to get Pork & Beans. She could get the larger can for about a penny less per ounce, but that was not enough of a savings to warrant having to open a large can when she only needed a small one.

In the breakfast aisle, there was a particularly unusual case. Due to an extra savings that we were eligible for, the larger box of Pop-tarts was actually cheaper than the clearanced smaller package. Four extra pop-tarts? Score!

Kid learn which is the better buy

Clearance normally indicates a rock bottom price, but you should always check.

Making Tough Choices

Monkey also wanted to get some frozen pizzas. So, we looked at one brand {which is not her favorite} and determined that 5 pizzas {with coupons} would be $4ish, and she divided it out to be 81 cents per pizza. Then we looked at the french bread pizzas {which she prefers}, and she determined that it came out to $1.75 per pizza. So, I asked her – does eating 1 french bread pizza fill you up twice as much as the other kind? She decided that it was not worth the extra cost.

Rex’s hardest decision was a little more cut and dry – logically, albeit not emotionally. He desperately wanted some powdered sugar donuts.

learning about tough choices - consumer math

But, at $3 a bag, that put him over the $10 budget. He immediately saw that it was not a good option to put back his corn dogs, but he wanted me to allow him to pull $1 from his own money. Let me tell you – he was so angry at me when I told him no – that the exercise was in making decisions and making the purchases fit inside the $10.

Working Together

They both wanted to get Pop-tarts, and the best choice was definitely the 12 count box. But, they both wanted to have more than one kind, so we suggested that they might want to work together and swap some packages when we got home.

This thought had never even occurred to them! But, once suggested, they eagerly agreed that made sense. {Although I do not hold any allusions that will last for an extended length of time.}

Planning Ahead

What they purchased had to last a week – a whole week. Now, yes, they know that mom and dad have back-up food {ie PB & J and Rice}, but they needed to plan out how long what they were purchasing would last them.

Rex knew that he needed to plan on 2 corn dogs for a meal because 1 just does not fill him up. So that had to be accounted for when he was deciding how much to get.

I anticipate being able to help them learn the coupon process in the future as well – that way they will be able to stretch their money even further.

Estimating

They kept a running total as they went to make sure that they didn’t go over their $10. They knew that we would make them put something back instead of rushing in to the rescue. {And, I am happy to say that they both came in under with a little bit of change left over.}

Working with Money

Not only did they need to have an idea of how much everything should cost {so that they knew if it all rang up correctly, they also needed to have an idea of how much their change should be – and count it to make sure that they got back the right amount.

By practicing {and Mom not stepping in}, they will get faster and less trepidation when trying to give the money to the cashier. This was probably the most stressful part of the trip for me.

People Skills

Oh, could this be where those social skills come in? We chose to go through a real lane instead of the self-checkout lane so that they could get practice handing the money to a person {ie not balled up in a bunch but lying flat and straight} and receiving change from a real person. This way human error was a possibility – necessitating counting the change. :)

For this to work, Mom {and Dad}, you have to be willing to let them make a mistake. You have to be willing to let them experience the consequences of their actions. Definitely guide, but it has to be their decision. For example, had Rex chosen to get the donuts, we were going to let him – then he would have been missing his “real food” in about two days. And, on the flip side, it also makes any successes their own!

I know that some of you are probably very nervous about handing over $10 to your kids. And, let’s be honest, $10 for a week of lunches at home, really is quite a lot. For us, our grocery budget {for 4} is $70 a week for food, so forking over $20 of that was a little stressful. But, I do think that the skills they will learn from this process is definitely worth the sacrifice. And,  on the plus side, no more complaints about there being nothing “good” to eat – it’s all in their hands.

For some further ideas on how to incorporate math into your unschooling life, I highly recommend Joyce’s article Unschooling Math found, coincidentally enough, on An Unschooling Life.

How have you incorporated math into your everyday life? Or does it just happen naturally? Please share your experiences in the comments!

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Making clothes for Dino

Back to Unschool

When the kids were younger, we had a very laid back learning style. We read books together, checked out books from the library on a multitude of subjects, visited forts and parks, and pursuing self-created projects and experiments {in addition to the ones mom found}.

Monkey was making a dress for her Build-a-Dino.

Over the last few years, however, something very odd began happening. Even though we have been successful – indicated not only by their high test scores {required by the state} but also with their ability to delight others in conversation when we were out and about – I have started sliding into “school at home.” I was trying to schedule all of their subjects and direct what they were supposed to study – I began “teaching to the test” of college admission. And the result of my hard work? The kids gradually losing their innate desire to learn….there has to be a better way!

This was an amazing field trip, but they were pretty much ready to go when we got there.

I started thinking about what has worked in the past, and what caused my change. I realized that is was FEAR. I was afraid that the kids would not be able to succeed after high school, and although I would not have called us unschoolers, I began researching how unschoolers get to college.

I discovered a lot of articles and websites that helped to alleviate my fear and reaffirm that we can continue to pursue our path and have college success – not to mention, the possibility that college is not necessarily a requirement for adult success. Want some examples of what I found?

I also came to the realization that every amazing thing they have accomplished – from tasting all of the spices to committing large chunks of time to art – have been due to their own passions. They have been motivated to learn them – they are unmotivated to learn something just because some arbitrary person says that they need to. But, on the flip side, if it turns out that they do need to learn it in order to accomplish their own goals {ie college}, then I have no doubt that they will succeed.

Sitting and reading with their cousins.

Now I am embracing the Unschool philosophy, and we are in a period of deschooling right now to encourage them to reignite their love of learning for themselves, and it is going pretty well. I’m learning to say “Yes!” more often, and they are learning to be excited by the possibilities again.

But, I’m sure you’re asking, “But, Gidget – what about that beautiful planner you were just telling us about?” Well, I am happy to report that I have found a way to use it for my own record-keeping. Instead of using the squares to write out what I want to do – I am using it to record what they have done. I’m also continuing the lists of books and field trips. This will help me when I write my end of year review {required, once again, by the state} and when I help them create college portfolios….assuming that is the path where God takes them.

I believe that every family has to find the path of homeschooling that fits them best, and I am so happy to have found our way back to ours.

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