Techie Homeschool Mom offers a number of topical Online Unit Studies for children in about third grade through eighth grade. Mini-units consist of one module that should take a few hours to complete. Other courses consist of eight or more modules and will take much longer to complete. None of these studies is a complete, year-long course, but Ancient Egypt and Ancient Greece work well together as part of your study of ancient civilization. Some other courses should work well alongside your study of U.S. History and government.
Mini-units available at this time are St. Patrick’s Day, Easter, Stars, Helen Keller, Vincent Van Gogh, Thomas Edison, Martin Luther King, Jr., and United States Presidency. Lengthy studies available at present are Ancient Egypt, Ancient Greece, All About Elections, Solar System, Holidays Bundle (with 12 holiday studies), and Famous Birthdays (featuring two people each month such as Elvis Presley and A.A. Milne for January and Louis Armstrong and Annie Oakley for August).
While titles include some religious holidays, the treatment does not advocate religious belief. The focus is more on historical and cultural roots as well as current forms of celebration.
Courses are almost totally Internet-based. Lessons are presented online in the order they are to be completed. You can skip ahead if you want. Some lesson information is included within the course itself. However, for most of the course content links within lessons take you to other websites for resources, activities, videos, information, and tools.
Some units have hands-on projects but any resources needed are listed at the beginning of each study.
Online tools are an important part of these studies, so part of the value of these studies is that they introduce students to valuable web resources and tools. For example, a mini-unit on Memorial Day lets you know up front that students will be creating a digital illustration using Canva, a free online design program that is simple enough for children to use. (Canva tutorials are available on that site, and Napoli includes a short tutorial on it as well.)
In addition to the use of online tools, site creator Beth Napoli asks parents to create accounts with Instagram and Pinterest where they will upload projects. You can complete these studies without posting on these sites, but it should be motivational for children to share in this way.
I’ll outline two of the studies to give you a better idea how they work.
Memorial Day, a mini-unit, takes students to at least five sites for videos and a few sites for articles or information to read so that they can learn about different aspects of Memorial Day and honoring our soldiers, both those still alive and those who sacrificed their lives. This study elicits very patriotic feelings. Napoli posts questions within these studies for users to answer or comment back, adding a “community” element to each study. For example, in the Memorial Day study, one of the questions—actually two questions in one—that she asks is, “Does your family have any Memorial Day traditions? Do you think most Americans celebrate the true meaning of Memorial Day?” Responses to this one seem to be posted by parents, but any student able to type a response can post. The responses are quite interesting.
Ancient Greece is one of the longer unit studies. During this study students will create a time travel journal using the free online program Emaze. As with Canva, there are tutorials to get parents and students started. Napoli also instructs students to use Grammarly, a free site that checks for more than 250 types of errors.
Eight hands-on projects can be done in this study, so resources needed for each project are listed up front. In addition to household items, you will need resources such as red self-drying clay, plaster cloth (aka plaster gauze), leather shoe laces, spray paint, and a glue gun. You will want to plan ahead to obtain some of these items.
Students will read a book about ancient Greece, choosing one of the seven options listed and linked on Amazon on the site, or they can choose another book on the topic. (Napoli also includes links to free trials of Kindle Unlimited and Audible, but these have limited trial periods, and all books are not available through them.) Of course, you can always get a book from the library. The Book Club section has students answer questions and interact with others regarding the books they are reading.
Geographical aspects of modern Greece are brought in with Google Maps. A video that follows next takes students through a quick historical tour of how and why the boundaries of Greece have changed through history.
A short article with an illustration and a link to a story take students back to the Minoan civilization. Then a video about an ancient palace on Crete further explores ancient architecture and building methods, leaving students to ponder whether this might have been the fabled Atlantis.
The study then jumps up to about 800 B.C. and the formation of city-states in Greece. Students read an article written for children about the city-states, then they explore an interactive map.
Next, a video teaches about the Spartans. Napoli tells students to take the short quiz attached to this video. Another video teaches why the Spartan army was so powerful.
After this, students visit Athens with an article and two videos.
Periodically, students are reminded to create entries for their Travel Journal. They are also reminded to read their selected book and answer a general question that could apply to most books students might choose, questions such as, “What do you think happened just before your story started?” They post their answers online.
The study continues in this fashion covering education, clothing, food, city life government (particularly that of Athens), entertainment, pottery, architecture, the Acropolis, Greek inventions, Archimedes, the Olympics, the language, Greek warriors and weapons, wars, Greek gods, and Greek heroes.
Among projects encountered along the way are creating a Greek costume, making fried pancakes with honey and sesame seeds, creating a Greek vase, building a model of a Greek temple, conducting an experiment, creating greaves, making a Hoplite shield, and constructing a Spartan sword.
The study wraps up with a final project to create an Ancient Greek Symposium. Students can create invitation using Greek letters, dress up in items they made, show-and-tell some of what they have learned, exhibit other things they have made, direct mini-Olympic games, and serve Greek food.
As you can imagine, this will take quite of lot of time to complete. I expect it would be the most fun if more than one family member or else a class group works on the study, getting together to work on projects, and gathering to put on the Symposium.
The Online Unit Studies are more specifically laid out than most other digital unit studies I have reviewed. While students can choose which book to read, other activities are laid out sequentially, and students should do all or most of them. I love the way Napoli links to online tools then gives an assignment that helps students learn how to use the tools in interesting ways while learning useful information. Sites linked in the study seem very appropriate for children, although I did note one link in Memorial Day with a caution for sensitive children. Studies require students to read, write, and respond in other ways demonstrating their learning, so these studies are much more than entertainment and fun activities.