Issue 74 | October 9, 2014 | Motivate with a Unit Study!


In October, studies are usually well underway, daily life has fallen into patterns, and motivation is sustainable. But have you ever noticed how the drive to study can diminish significantly in January? Especially for us in the northern climates.  For a number of students, it can work to set the books aside a focus on the Unit study for the dark month.

For other students, unit studies have been the key to salvaging an entire high school career.   Read about one NARHS graduate, regardless of his limitations, reached his goal by focusing on his passion.

Unit Studies can Motivate!

A student once came to me who was 17-years old but had completed almost no high school credits.  He was a very intelligent young man, but his mental processing speed was deeper but slower than that which was compatible to classroom learning. 

He had also tried on-line courses but their deadlines also didn't work.  He needed an educational course of study that would allow him time for in-depth study, and time for his mastery pace.  Home school was the only answer. 

He also entered my life owning a passion to know everything about World War II.  


He was already on his way to becoming quite the expert about many aspects of the war.  While reading The Winged Watchman he found an error that most people would have overlooked.  A British pilot had been shot down over Germany during the daytime.  My student asked what date the story took place and we found it to be 1944.  It was then he explained to me that the pilot had to be an American pilot not British.  Because once Pearl Harbor had happened in 1941, America had entered the war.  America made an agreement with the British that they would run the day raids, while the British would fly at night. 

That gives you an idea about how detailed was this young man's understanding about World War 2.  I was convinced he had the intelligence to complete a high school education.

So we decided to put together a unit study on World War 2 and it looked like this:

1 English credit, Read 12 books about great leaders, battles, and events of World War 2.   Write 12 2-page book reports, one on each book.

1 history credit, Read about the battles in the Pacific and develop a power point presentation explaining the who, what, where, when and why of each battle.

1 science credit, Research the technology of World War 2 (bombs, artillery, air craft, chemicals, scientists). Include a works-cited list.    Create a display board of each and create a time line that shows when each of these was introduced into the war.  Explain how the war would have been different without them.

1 credit fine arts.  Collect the music that was written during World War 2 that expressed the mood of the culture.  Collect the lyrics and information about the instruments used from America, Germany, Italy, Britain, Russia, Japan and any other significant nations.  Explain how the lyrics reflected the concerns of the citizens at that time.  Study the composers and give details about their involvement and influence on the culture.   Become active with the community group that creates and presents re-enactments of World War 2 events.

1 credit U.S. history.   Study the entrance of the U.S. into World War 2. What caused the U.S. to take that step of involvement?  What influence did the U.S. have in the war's outcome?  Who were the leaders of the nation and how did their lives influence the decision?  In what ways was the American day-to-day life changed during the war years?  How has the U.S. been affected by the war since then?  Read 4 selections of literature written during that time period and tell what you learned about U.S. culture occurring then.

We wrote a course description of each segment of this unit study using GOALS-BASED GRADING TOOL FOR SELF-DESIGNED COURSES.  There were 5 segments so we filled out objectives for each of the units.  Then we easily assigned weights and grades according to our unit objectives.