Over the past fifteen years, Valerie Bendt has written a number of books that help parents create their own unit studies with little fuss and bother. Now she has done us a big favor by combining those books into a single, 336-page volume. The four original books were How to Create Your Own Unit Study, The Unit Study Idea Book, For the Love of Reading, and Success with Unit Studies.
The "books" have all been updated since the original editions, and Valerie has added an introductory section, "Biblical Parenting or Schooling at Home" that gives you a good idea of what the Bendts' approach to homeschooling actually looks like. This is entire section is practical rather than "preachy."
"How to Create Your Own Unit Study" is the heart of the entire book in my opinion. This is a do-it-yourself guide for putting together your own unit studies based upon your family's goals and interests. Drawing on the educational philosophies of Charlotte Mason, Susan Schaeffer Macaulay, and Ruth Beechick, Valerie presents an approach to unit study that is more book-based than project-based. Throughout this section, Valerie passes on great teaching hints. I particularly appreciate her explanation of how to teach language arts with dictation and copying as primary activities. Six sample units give you specific ideas of how this approach works. The chapter titled "A General Guide to the Reference Section of the Children's Department of the Public Library" describes reference works the library has that will save you enormous amounts of time finding materials for your own unit studies.
"The Unit Study Idea Book" offers suggested resources and activities for at least 23 unit studies on topics such as a aviation, birds, Korea, Ancient Egypt, animation, sign language, study of the book The Swiss Family Robinson, and the Civil War.
"For the Love of Reading" introduces ideas about teaching reading then goes on to describe how to implement a real books approach to schooling. Although she is not outlining a complete language arts program, Valerie does present ideas for using literature as the base for other language arts lessons in composition and grammar. In For the Love of Reading, Valerie uses anecdotes from her own family to show how listening to stories can lead to story telling and then to reading. She gives suggestions about how to foster a love for reading and how to extend learning by writing and game playing. Although this is not a step-by-step instruction book, it is definitely inspirational.
"Success with Unit Studies" offers charts and "maps" to help children record and analyze what they are learning through their studies. Reproducible charts, patterns and examples make it simple for both parents and children to learn how to select and organize key information.
Unit Studies Made Easy is THE book for parents who want to create their own unit studies. Valerie has done the best job I know of in translating theoretical ideas into practical strategies with plenty of examples and personal "this is how we did it" stories. She also recommends lots of resources and includes publishers' addresses so you can easily locate what you need.