Amanda Bennett's innovative and inexpensive unit studies are available either on interactive CD-ROMs (purchased through distributors such as CBD or Amazon) or as direct downloads of PDF files from the website. CD-ROMs are in PDF format and will run on Windows or Mac computers.
Amanda Bennett began writing unit study guides many years ago and has transitioned from printed books to PDF format so that she can incorporate interactive weblinks and keep the information continually updated. In addition, parents can easily print out whatever pages they need from a guide or have students easily do online research. While some publishers have made the transition from print to digital format with little change in the product, Bennett's unit studies really take advantage of the computer connection, making the digital studies much better than they were in print.
Studies are available for grades K-12, although all guides do not cover all levels. While some guides might be used for a wide span of grade levels, you need to exercise discretion as to how much to expect from children; a first grader would not complete all of the same activities as a fourth grader.
These are not comprehensive unit studies covering all your subject areas other than math and phonics. Instead, they are guides that present lesson plans for in-depth development of each topic. These studies might supply your science and social studies curriculum as well as some work within language arts. They are not organized for particular skill development for which you still need your core math and language arts instruction. Many guides feature daily lesson plans specifically for both lower and upper levels, but all guides offer a range of activities suitable for learners of different abilities. Even guides for one-week studies are generally over 100 pages in length, so there is a lot of content provided even if you use it selectively.
Most of these guides have Christian content. For example, the Oceans study includes "History of the oceans in the Bible," and Christmas, Easter, Creation Camouflage, Expedition Israel, and Thanksgiving are just a few that are thoroughly Christian.
There are four series for Amanda Bennett's resources: Download N Go series, Passport Geography series, Unit Study Adventure series, and Heroes for Today series. The Passport and Download N Go guides are all so easy to use that you can just pull one up and get started without any preparation. You might want to review Unit Study Adventures in advance to select appropriate activities.
Download N Go
The Download N Go series includes more than 48 individual studies, each requiring only one week for $8.95 each. You can purchase individual studies or collections of studies that bring the cost of each week’s study down to as low as $6 each. These unit studies are designed for children in grades K through 4. Among the diverse assortment of titles are Amelia Earhart, George Washington, Davy Crockett, Astonishing Animals, Dolphin Days, Expedition Africa, Expedition China, Crazy Cartoons, Creation Camouflage, Kite Capers, Roller Coasters, Simply Soccer, Summer Surprises, Winter Wonders, and Tremendous Trees.
Each Download N Go study integrates lapbook construction with step-by-step guidance. Printable lapbooking pages are at the end of each study. Even though these are not as detailed as dedicated lapbooking packages, as long as you refer to the weblinks regarding lapbook construction you should have all that you need.
While no other books are required, suggested reading lists are included. Some spelling/vocabulary words are included, with optional, more difficult words for older students. Weblinks throughout the study include links to videos, pictures, information to read, and extra hands-on activities. Some comprehension and written response questions are included in the study along with opportunities for children to draw or color.
Each study uses the topic as a jumping off point to related topics. For example, the study of Amelia Earhart also encompasses the history of flight, the Wright brothers, compasses, world geography, and heroes. It’s surprising how even the Hoppin’ Popcorn study manages to bring in the study of some Midwestern states, Pueblo Indians, microwave ovens, weather, and other topics in addition to popcorn-related science, nutrition, and cooking.
Younger students will need a great deal of parental assistance while independent readers might be able to work through many activities independently.
You can use Amanda Bennett’s collections or customize your own collection of topics to create a complete year-long curriculum from these studies. You might also mix them with Passport Geography studies.
Passport Geography series
The Passport Geography series offers one-week virtual tours and studies of countries around the world. There are four titles: United Kingdom, France, Germany, and Italy. These studies are presented at two different levels: Scout for grades K-6 and Explorer for grades 7-12. You can purchase only one level for $8.95 or a “combo” with both levels for $12.95. Lapbooking is included at Scout level while Explorers spend more time on research and writing.
These studies at both levels include many weblinks. Some are great and some not worth bothering with, but they have been chosen from sites safe for children which presents some limitations. There are more links than you are likely to be able to use. Some links cover similar information—helpful in case another link doesn’t work.
One of the major aspects of these studies is that they teach students how to research particular topics. Even though students are not starting from scratch to find their own websites, they still have to assimilate information. Often they are presented with a particular question with the answer to be found through a weblink. Older students should maintain a notebook or journal for answering questions as they proceed through the study. They will also research and write an essay from information they glean. Younger students will compile most of their work in the form of a lapbook.
Scout level students begin each day’s study by copying a scripture verse, while Explorer level students conclude each day with reflection upon a scripture verse.
History, geography, and cultural studies get the most attention. Science coverage should be sufficient for lower to mid-elementary grades and likely for upper elementary grades. However, you will need to cover science more thoroughly and systematically for junior high and high school. Explorer level studies require a significant amount of reading, research, and writing, so they might provide sufficient coverage for language art credit for junior or senior high. (There’s no instruction in grammar so you will need to consider whether you need to provide comprehensive instruction or just review with a resources such as Daily Grams.)
There are not yet enough studies in the Passport series for a complete school year, but you could combine these with Download N Go studies for younger children or the lengthier Unit Study Adventures for younger or older students to create a full year of unit study.
The Passport and Download N Go guides are all so easy to use that you can just pull one up and get started without any preparation.
Unit Study Adventures
The Unit Study Adventures guides offer four-week studies rather than only one week. These were the original unit study guides that Amanda Bennett first produced, although they have all been revised and updated within the past year. They are also the ones that first got me excited about the idea of short-term unit studies in digital format.
Each guide shares the same organizational structure which includes lists of recommended resources for both reference and reading; spelling/vocabulary lists and a few assignments for each day (for each of the two levels when appropriate). Many assignments have weblinks for reading and research. The studies rely more on books, internet, reading, research, and writing than on crafts and activities that are common to most unit studies. Still, some of the guides have project suggestions, and some of the internet links are to websites with project ideas, coloring pages, and other activities.
Guides suggest daily learning activities for either grades K-6 or 7-12. given such a wide age span covered by any of the activities, you definitely need to select those appropriate for each child, providing assistance as needed.
Guides seem to range from about 80 to well over 100 pages. Some guides include notebooking pages.
Extensive book lists indicate which books might be appropriate for various grade levels. But there are far more books listed than you could possibly use, so you will certainly be able to locate a number of choices that should work for you. You will want to scout out books in advance so they are on hand when you start each study.
The 20 titles available at this time are American Government, Auto Racing, Baseball, Christmas, Digital Photography, Dogs, Easter, Elections 2012, Gardens, Horses, Lighthouses, Oceans, Olympics 2012, Patriotic Holidays, Pioneers, Sailing Ships, Scrapbooking, Space, Thanksgiving, and Trains.
Heroes for Today
Heroes for Today are collections of historical stories about heroes or heroines. These might serve as adjuncts to a unit study. Titles in this series are Heroes of American History, Heroes of America, Heroes of Invention, Heroes of Chivalry, and Heroes of Christianity.
Unit Study Basics
Parents new to unit studies might want to invest in Unit Studies 101 to learn the "why" and "how" of unit study. It explains everything you need to know to create your own unit studies. It also includes printable forms plus "starters" for ten unit study topics. Weblinks in this PDF file shortcut the research for actually getting started with unit studies.
Parents will probably also want to invest in the Unit Study Journal another digital book of reproducible forms to be used along with Bennett's Unit Study Adventures or those you might make up yourself. These forms are essentially organizing and recording tools for parents to use for planning a study, recording details about resources to use, making schedules and assignments, planning field trips, and making reading lists. A few completed samples are included. Unit Studies 101 and Unit Study Journal can be purchased as a set for $29.95
Prices for Amanda Bennett's unit studies are incredibly low given the amount of detail and structure provided. These studies are a great way to experiment with unit study with minimal investment, and they provide enough structure for the inexperienced parent so they are not overwhelming. Check the website for sample pages from some of the studies.