Curriculum Review: Intellego Unit Studies

We will be schooling year around here, but with Spring in full swing there is a certain feeling that we are approaching the end of the school year. Our social studies/science co-op will wrap up at the end of May and I’ll use that as an opportunity to switch over to our summer school schedule. I’ll also use the schedule change as an opportunity to evaluate what has worked (or not worked) for us this first year, so I can plan accordingly. This week’s writing prompt over at The Homeschool Classroom  – what resources have not worked for your homeschool – got me thinking ahead a little bit on what hasn’t worked for us (so far), so I wanted to evaluate one of our resources that we started off the school year with, but have not continued using at this point.

We started our Fall with a full schedule of material to cover – Math, Reading (with Five in a Row), Language Arts, Story of the World and Elemental Science (both in our co-op), and I had ordered three unit studies from IntellegoGeography:Maps for K-2, Civics:Symbols of America for K-2, and Science:Astronomy for K-2. After our first 6 weeks of class, we did not continue to use our Intellego unit studies. Our reasons for not continuing with the unit studies were more for scheduling and not reflective of the quality of the materials.

The main reason we did not continue with the unit studies had to do with our schedule. I think our school was a bit overloaded for Kyri’s age – there is a limit to how much you should schedule for a young kindergartener (she turned 5 in November), and I honestly put too much on our schedule. Can you tell I’m a first year homeschool mom and just want to do it ALL (smile)? On paper, it looks like it will all fit, but realistically, two hours of schoolwork a day is MAX before whining sets in. This gives us time to do our core subjects – Math and Language Arts are a must. We do our Five in a Row reading two or three days a week, and Mondays and Tuesdays we do our Story of the World (SOTW) chapter reading, additional selected readings that go along with SOTW, and Elemental Science book readings. Additional selected readings for SOTW and Science are spread out through the week, and Wednesdays are light days because we spend the morning at co-op. After a couple of weeks of trying to cover our Intellego unit study topics at the end of the week, and feeling stressed that the work was not getting done, I didn’t even both to put them on the schedule.

There are some pros and cons that I have come up with while mentally evaluating the Intellego unit studies – these are subjective so what I find doesn’t work for us may be right up someone’s else’s alley.

Pros:

– The unit studies are well organized. I found the outline of materials (organized into chapters and subchapters) and the progression of lessons, very well done. For example, for the Geography:Maps study, the lessons start with maps and the many different types available, and goes through cardinal directions, hemispheres and the poles.

– The table of contents allow you to navigate to each lesson with ease. This is not just one very long pdf – it is designed to be easily navigated through the chapters and subchapters.

– The unit studies are interactive web-linked pdfs, meaning they are filled with links to external websites which contain videos, activities, reading, etc. Had I put together my own unit study, I would have had to go in search of all these sites and would most likely not have found half of them. Some of the links are expired or may have moved, but Intellego is very good about keeping them up to date, and make it easy to report if one is found.

– There are suggestions for fun activities (example- I had never even heard about Letterboxing until reading in the Geography:Maps unit study).

Cons:

– Like I mentioned above, the unit studies are interactive pdfs, so most of the material is online material. We don’t do a lot of online schooling, with the exception of Starfall, so being online can be more of a distraction. It is also easy to lose Kyri’s attention if I am fiddling with a website trying to get something to load or trying to show her how to play an online game. More than once, she has wandered off while I was getting something set up online for her.

– Because it is primarily an online unit study, there are no book lists to go along with the units. We do A LOT of reading here for school, and honestly, I think we get a lot more out of our reading than we do from online activities.

– The KWL (Know, Want to know, Learned) worksheets did not really work for us. At the kindergarten level, a lot of what we are doing is new, so I did not include in the lessons we did cover. These might be helpful for older students, however.

I think when I was first planning out our school year, I had intended the Intellego unit studies to be supplemental material. The unit studies cover a lot of material, and to be fair, should not be relegated to a 20 minute session one day a week. I really do like the unit studies, and want to make them work for us. In order for that to happen though, I need to give them the space on our weekly schedule that they require. Because our summer school schedule does not include a social studies or science lesson plan (our co-op is following a traditional 36 week school schedule) my plan at this point is to use the three Intellego unit studies we have purchased as our Social Studies and Science material over the summer. I am going to use them knowing their pros and cons (from our point of view). What this means is that I will need to plan ahead a little better each week.

Some modifications we will make:

– We love reading actual books, so I will follow the topic outline in the units studies and request books from the library that cover these topics. We can do our reading through the week and plan to use the online activites included in the unit studies for reinforcement and fun.

– I will go through the online links BEFORE our lesson time, and have the ones we will be using opened up and ready to go on the laptop, so there is no lag time. This should prevent me from losing Kyri’s attention.

I think the Intellego unit studies are well designed, and I do want to make them work. They did not work for us during the school year with everything else I had on our schedule, but I am going to try them again this summer. With the modifications I mentioned above, they will hopefully be a great resource for us to use.

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