KONOS features Bible-based character traits as unit themes in their unit studies for children in grades K through 8.
Subjects included in KONOS are history (primarily American history), Bible, social studies, science, art, music, drama, practical living, health, critical thinking skills, and character training, as well as some language and math. The authors suggest you use other math and language programs as needed. If you use all three volumes of KONOS, you will cover material typically covered in history and science programs in elementary grades with the exception of world history. World history gets spotty coverage in the elementary grades but is covered extensively in their high school program.
Because the authors believe children learn best by “doing,” this program is very hands-on—an ideal program for Wiggly Willys. The real strength of KONOS is in the number of activities from which you can choose. There are many more ideas than you can possibly use. Some people are overwhelmed at the choices, but the many alternatives allow you to choose how much time you spend, the number of hands-on activities, field trips, books, etc.—whatever fits your situation.
Lesson plans list materials and preparation needed, then recommend activities for younger, middle, and older children. The lesson plans are a tremendous help to those who are overwhelmed by too many choices and also to those who want just a little help in quickly sorting through all the ideas. KONOS lesson plans provide structure, yet they leave much room for individualizing. Parents who prefer a set structure and routine might have trouble using KONOS, while those who prefer variety will likely enjoy it.
While Volume 1 should probably be the first volume used with children in grades K to 3, any volume, including the third, could be used at any level. Each volume of KONOS can be used for two years. KONOS provides detailed background information for some activities but not all. Library books and other sources will be needed to round out the lessons. Detailed lists of resources and activities are under each heading.
It is necessary to plan ahead to get books and other resources that you will need. You might need to locate out-of-print books or arrange for inter-library loans. KONOS gives you so many titles to choose from that you should have no trouble finding appropriate resources if you are flexible about your choices.
Because KONOS covers history in a non-sequential fashion, you should use timelines to tie historical events together coherently. You can make your own, but KONOS sells beautiful, laminated timelines that include both biblical and historical figures; these timelines coordinate with each volume of the curriculum.
The KONOS Index ($20) is a separate book that shows which topics are covered where in each volume of KONOS. This is most valuable to those who have accumulated two or more KONOS volumes or want to use KONOS activities to jazz up their traditional curriculum. If you want to locate information on a particular topic the Index will help you find it quickly.
Those who like the methodology of KONOS but feel overwhelmed with what it requires from the parent or teacher should love KONOS In-A-Box. There are three 18-week (semester) unit studies derived from the original KONOS volumes. While the original volumes contain many units, each revolving around a character trait theme, KONOS In-A-Box volumes each narrow down to a single character-trait theme. The titles are Attentiveness, Obedience, and Orderliness. The Obedience unit I reviewed contains the teacher’s manual/curriculum (also sold separately), craft materials (e.g., copper foil, wire, brads, whistle, tapestry set, fake jewels), eight resource books, and timeline figures, all packaged in a sturdy cardboard case with carrying handle. Each KONOS In-A-Box study is laid out with detailed, daily lessons and comes with just about everything you need. No more frantic trips to the library and the craft supply store. KONOS In-A-Box covers the same subject areas as the original KONOS but is more comprehensive than the original, particularly in the areas of language arts and literature where students are taught how to write and to analyze literature. Again, math and phonics are not covered.
With KONOS In-A-Box there are still some choices to be made. The studies can meet the needs of students in grades K to 8, but you must choose which activities to require of older and younger students. For example, when it says, “Write five simple sentences on index cards about what you learned yesterday about light,” you might ask your third grader to write only three sentences, and spend time with your kindergartner on basic reading skills while older students write their sentences.
While some preparation time will still be necessary, it will be a fraction of that required for the original KONOS. If you’ve always wanted to try unit studies, but felt that it might be too overwhelming, this is a terrific way to try it out. Many families find that after using KONOS In-A-Box they can easily handle the regular KONOS volumes.
Similar in concept to KONOS In-A-Box is KONOS In-A-Bag. There are two units available in this format that KONOS calls its “New Culture Curriculum Series.” The two “Bags,” Russia: The Land of Endurance and Africa: The Land of Stewardship, couple country or continent themes with a character trait identified with each one. A detailed 200-page curriculum manual is included in the bag along with all the items needed for the study. For example the Africa tote bag includes the manual, a beautifully illustrated resource book, a map, and five craft kits with supplies for three children. The Culture series differs from the Box series in that the curriculum does not include the in-depth writing lessons or literary analysis.
Those with older students who would like to continue this style of teaching through high school might want to check out the four-volume KONOS History of the World, written for high school students.
KONOS Parent Helps
KONOS offers training resources that will help you learn how to implement the unit study method of teaching. All of their training resources are loaded with practical information and examples based on years of experience.
I recommend the book KONOS Compass: An Orientation to Using KONOS ($25) to anyone using KONOS at the elementary level. It gives an overview of all three volumes along with a comparison to typical state requirements so you can see if you are covering the necessary material. KONOS Compass also provides teaching information and sample lesson plans.
A visual option is KONOS: Creating the Balance ($125), a 6½ hour DVD presentation covering critical topics like the father’s role, multilevel teaching, planning and scheduling, dealing with toddlers, discipline, and how to choose library books. In addition it features two hours of KONOS author Jessica Hulcy teaching her children, including hands-on activities, so you can really see what this looks like.
For those who want more help than what I've described thus far, HomeSchoolMentor.com offers subscription-based training via videos and interaction with a cohort group as you work through one of the KONOS volumes together with other homeschoolers. Check out www.homeschoolmentor.com for free video samples.