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Deep Dive Block Scheduling and Integrating Subjects

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“The solution, to me anyway, seems almost too easy. Students should have two long classes each day for six to eight weeks. They should come to school in the morning and intensely study a single subject—ancient history, a few Shakespeare plays, cell biology, a specific math concept, and so on. In the afternoon, another subject for a few more hours. When the term ends, they move on to another subject.” https://medium.com/s/story/the-insane-structure-of-high-school-762fea58fe62

I read this and it is not far off from what I was thinking of doing for high school. We already do a 4 day block schedule for middle school. History and science on MW and LA on TTh with math being the only daily subject and it’s worked well for us. For high school, I was thinking of 2 high school subjects for 6-8 weeks with math being a constant year long course. 

I also like the idea of integrating subjects. I have done writing across the curriculum and we are enjoying how Big History Project combines subjects and makes connections. I’m thinking the courses would either be project-oriented or look like a unit study of a topic they are interested in. I don’t mind losing the box altogether. 

Thoughts, ideas or experiences? 

 

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WRT integrated subjects, I saw this article recently. 

In August 2016 it became compulsory for every Finnish school to teach in a more collaborative way; to allow students to choose a topic relevant to them and base subjects around it. Making innovative use of technology and sources outside the school, such as experts and museums, is a key part of it.

The aim of this way of teaching - known as project- or phenomenon-based learning (PBL) - is to equip children with skills necessary to flourish in the 21st Century, says Kirsti Lonka, a professor of educational psychology at Helsinki University. Among the skills she singles out are critical thinking to identify fake news and avoid cyber-bullying, and the technical ability to install anti-virus software and link up to a printer.

"Traditionally, learning has been defined as a list of subject matters and facts you need to acquire - such as arithmetic and grammar - with some decoration, like citizenship, built in around it," Ms Lonka says.

"But when it comes to real life, our brain is not sliced into disciplines in that way; we are thinking in a very holistic way. And when you think about the problems in the world - global crises, migration, the economy, the post-truth era - we really haven't given our children the tools to deal with this inter-cultural world.

"I think it is a major mistake if we lead children to believe the world is simple and that if they learn certain facts they are ready to go. So learning to think, learning to understand, these are important skills - and it also makes learning fun, which we think promotes wellbeing."

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-39889523

❤️

 

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Perhaps it may depend upon how well a student responds to that particular style of learning in order for that method of teaching to be successful?

Sometimes it is the repeated slices of daily disciplines which are required, such is the case with math as you mentioned. Is math the only subject that requires this consistent and diligent nature of study? I think not. Perhaps it would work with some subjects, but not all, and certainly not only the aforementioned. My young man would definitely not appreciate this method to sufficiently conquer Latin—a whole lot of vocabulary to cover—or classical composition, to name a couple. Also, I believe the articles to be skewed.

Edited by Mom21
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9 minutes ago, Mom21 said:

Perhaps it may depend upon how well a student responds to that particular style of learning in order for that method of teaching to be successful?

Sometimes it is the repeated slices of daily disciplines which are required, such is the case with math as you mentioned. Is math the only subject that requires this consistent and diligent nature of study? I think not. Perhaps it would work with some subjects, but not all, and certainly not only the aforementioned. My young man would definitely not appreciate this method to sufficiently conquer Latin—a whole lot of vocabulary to cover—or classical composition, to name a couple. Also, I believe the articles to be skewed.

True, both of my kids have done PBL and block scheduling before and seem to prefer it.

Latin could be difficult to conquer, however aren't there immersive courses for some languages that would benefit from this type of scheduling? I would think speaking and reading a language for hours daily be almost as immersive as living there. 

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This is basically what we're doing this year, but I've been calling it Unit Studies.  It's how we used to homeschool and then when the 3 year-old was born, we did a year of AO and a year of SL (which were good years, too).  We are back to doing Unit Studies.  And I DID see all the news about how Finland is changing their national curriculum to teach like this!  I kept googling it and then linking it to Unit Studies and came up with all kinds of interesting articles.  

So, my plan this year (we started in January) is we do math, foreign language and then 1-2 Unit Studies or courses.  Mine aren't very integrated, though.  Just really hard for me to do that at the high school level, but maybe I can evolve into that this fall.  I think instead of integrated, mine are hyper-focused.

For example, from January - February, dd14 did Algebra 1, German and Short Stories/Creative Writing.  It was great!  She read something like 50 short stories.  She read Ray Bradbury to Edgar Allen Poe...  She did so much creative writing in those two months that filled an entire spiral notebook AND a journal.  We've been doing this thing called Share-a-Story, where we write a short story together...one day, she writes...the next day, I write...  Anyway, so much fun that she doesn't want to stop the story, even though that unit is over.  Lol.  (Now I'm trapped in her short story forever.)

Over the spring, we are doing:

  • Everyone does math
  • 1 day a week foreign language so we don't completely forget everything
  • We are going to read a fantasy literature series together
  • PE - going out and playing baseball, kickball, pickle ball, working on basketball skills, soccer, archery, etc.  (We started this already and the kids are having a blast)
  • Home Economics through projects - sewing projects...cooking...stock market simulator....budgets...they're opening checking accounts...etc

This fall, we are doing a BIG unit study - it will probably take us July to November, I'm guessing.  My plans for the fall:

  • Math
  • Foreign Language
  • Native American Unit Studies - this is going to include 1 credit Contemporary Native American Literature + 0.5-1 credit Native American History - the literature I'm running like a book club format.  (My high schoolers are all combined.)  Reading a chapter and then discussing together in a group.  
  • Psychology Unit Study

Honestly, we really like homeschooling this way - there aren't 3 million components to juggle.  My kids and I get overwhelmed when we have too many moving parts in our school.  We also get bored after about a semester of doing something.  This relaxed schedule also meshes well with football season and Nutcracker season (screaming inside my head).  My son plays competitive high school football and two of my daughters take Russian ballet, so by December, I'm ripping my hair out.

Drawbacks to this...yeah, no one homeschools like this.  I think they used to.  When we first started homeschooling about 10-11 years ago and fell in love with unit studies, there seemed to be more people teaching like this.  So, there aren't a lot of resources and it's hard to put things together.  Like I said, I fell off the unit study bandwagon about 3 years ago when the baby was born.  But, I'm back on this year.  He's older now and I have more time to prepare these.

Oh, another thing (sorry, I feel like I wrote you a book), I had to almost reteach myself how to put unit studies together this year.  Ugh!  How embarrassing!  I think I even read some of my OLD posts on this forum to relearn how to put them together.  *slapping forehead with palm*  

Good luck with your planning!

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15 hours ago, Plum Crazy said:

For high school, I was thinking of 2 high school subjects for 6-8 weeks with math being a constant year long course. 

 

I spent HOURS with my calendar trying to figure out how long these unit studies would be this year.  I picked 6-8 weeks, too, initially.  6 weeks was pretty short, 8 weeks was ok.   

I concluded that I would not trap myself to a time limit.  If it's a short unit study, that's great, but if we really want to delve into something, I'm giving myself permission to spend as long as we want on it.  Schooling year-round, my kids are racking up some massive credit hours.  I'm graduating my oldest in December, because if I didn't she would have something like 36 credit hours (which is ridiculous).  So, for this fall, I really want to immerse ourselves in these two unit studies that I have planned, because I feel like they're important and we are all very interested in these topics.  I'm giving myself permission to take the entire fall if I want to.   

(And I've given up worrying about credit hours.  Like I said, my oldest graduates in December and it all worked out in the end.)

Edited by Evanthe
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13 minutes ago, Evanthe said:

This is basically what we're doing this year, but I've been calling it Unit Studies.  It's how we used to homeschool and then when the 3 year-old was born, we did a year of AO and a year of SL (which were good years, too).  We are back to doing Unit Studies.  And I DID see all the news about how Finland is changing their national curriculum to teach like this!  I kept googling it and then linking it to Unit Studies and came up with all kinds of interesting articles.  

So, my plan this year (we started in January) is we do math, foreign language and then 1-2 Unit Studies or courses.  Mine aren't very integrated, though.  Just really hard for me to do that at the high school level, but maybe I can evolve into that this fall.  I think instead of integrated, mine are hyper-focused.

For example, from January - February, dd14 did Algebra 1, German and Short Stories/Creative Writing.  It was great!  She read something like 50 short stories.  She read Ray Bradbury to Edgar Allen Poe...  She did so much creative writing in those two months that filled an entire spiral notebook AND a journal.  We've been doing this thing called Share-a-Story, where we write a short story together...one day, she writes...the next day, I write...  Anyway, so much fun that she doesn't want to stop the story, even though that unit is over.  Lol.  (Now I'm trapped in her short story forever.)

Over the spring, we are doing:

  • Everyone does math
  • 1 day a week foreign language so we don't completely forget everything
  • We are going to read a fantasy literature series together
  • PE - going out and playing baseball, kickball, pickle ball, working on basketball skills, soccer, archery, etc.  (We started this already and the kids are having a blast)
  • Home Economics through projects - sewing projects...cooking...stock market simulator....budgets...they're opening checking accounts...etc

This fall, we are doing a BIG unit study - it will probably take us July to November, I'm guessing.  My plans for the fall:

  • Math
  • Foreign Language
  • Native American Unit Studies - this is going to include 1 credit Contemporary Native American Literature + 0.5-1 credit Native American History - the literature I'm running like a book club format.  (My high schoolers are all combined.)  Reading a chapter and then discussing together in a group.  
  • Psychology Unit Study

Honestly, we really like homeschooling this way - there aren't 3 million components to juggle.  My kids and I get overwhelmed when we have too many moving parts in our school.  We also get bored after about a semester of doing something.  This relaxed schedule also meshes well with football season and Nutcracker season (screaming inside my head).  My son plays competitive high school football and two of my daughters take Russian ballet, so by December, I'm ripping my hair out.

Drawbacks to this...yeah, no one homeschools like this.  I think they used to.  When we first started homeschooling about 10-11 years ago and fell in love with unit studies, there seemed to be more people teaching like this.  So, there aren't a lot of resources and it's hard to put things together.  Like I said, I fell off the unit study bandwagon about 3 years ago when the baby was born.  But, I'm back on this year.  He's older now and I have more time to prepare these.

Oh, another thing (sorry, I feel like I wrote you a book), I had to almost reteach myself how to put unit studies together this year.  Ugh!  How embarrassing!  I think I even read some of my OLD posts on this forum to relearn how to put them together.  *slapping forehead with palm*  

Good luck with your planning!

 

I love this! Thank you for laying out your plan.

I used 6-8 weeks since that’s what the article had,  but realistically we always take longer than I planned and we school year round. So I guess I should shoot for 8-10 weeks but adjust if we want to go longer. 

The share-a-story project sounds like something I did in high school with my friends for fun. I should give that a try with my kids. 

I always have preferred unit studies to separate subjects. I think it’s just how my brain works. I like picking a theme and then figuring out how I can tie the other subjects into it. It also helps us when we go down rabbit trails because even when we wander a bit from the planned path, it’s all related to our main theme. 

I hope to give them the ability to plan and do projects all on their own at some point. My middle wants to focus on learning all 3D art modeling programs and my youngest is working on mastering macarons and dog training.  One of my goals for high school is for them to start their own business.

I’m finally settling into the idea that I’m homeschooling high school and picturing what I want for them.  Of course that will change from year to year as they grow, but at least I’ll have a goal post to show me the way.  

 

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5 hours ago, Evanthe said:

For example, from January - February, dd14 did Algebra 1, German and Short Stories/Creative Writing.  It was great!  She read something like 50 short stories.  She read Ray Bradbury to Edgar Allen Poe...  She did so much creative writing in those two months that filled an entire spiral notebook AND a journal.  We've been doing this thing called Share-a-Story, where we write a short story together...one day, she writes...the next day, I write...  Anyway, so much fun that she doesn't want to stop the story, even though that unit is over.  Lol.  (Now I'm trapped in her short story forever.)

Over the spring, we are doing:

  • Everyone does math
  • 1 day a week foreign language so we don't completely forget everything
  • We are going to read a fantasy literature series together
  • PE - going out and playing baseball, kickball, pickle ball, working on basketball skills, soccer, archery, etc.  (We started this already and the kids are having a blast)
  • Home Economics through projects - sewing projects...cooking...stock market simulator....budgets...they're opening checking accounts...etc

This fall, we are doing a BIG unit study - it will probably take us July to November, I'm guessing.  My plans for the fall:

  • Math
  • Foreign Language
  • Native American Unit Studies - this is going to include 1 credit Contemporary Native American Literature + 0.5-1 credit Native American History - the literature I'm running like a book club format.  (My high schoolers are all combined.)  Reading a chapter and then discussing together in a group.  
  • Psychology Unit Study

Honestly, we really like homeschooling this way - there aren't 3 million components to juggle.  My kids and I get overwhelmed when we have too many moving parts in our school.  We also get bored after about a semester of doing something.  This relaxed schedule also meshes well with football season and Nutcracker season (screaming inside my head).  My son plays competitive high school football and two of my daughters take Russian ballet, so by December, I'm ripping my hair out.

 

Wow, this is amazing. I love this idea...

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I love this idea for literature, history, and for lots of electives.  I am not sure I could stuff high school science into my kid that fast though.  Is the idea to do all of high school biology or chemistry in a couple of months for 2-3 hours a day?  I am just not sure we would have any retention.  Just curious how science is handled for the high school level.  I could definitely see it working with younger kids in science but I am not sure how to do the traditional high school sciences with this approach? (Or do you just ditch traditional science paths and study other science topics in bursts?)

I love this idea and would have thrived on it as a kid.  I liked to dive deep and explore tangents and such.  My kids seem to have much shorter attention spans.  I am not sure if they would enjoy several hours of one subject or if they would totally space out.

Edited by CaliforniaDreamin
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1 hour ago, CaliforniaDreamin said:

I love this idea for literature, history, and for lots of electives.  I am not sure I could stuff high school science into my kid that fast though.  Is the idea to do all of high school biology or chemistry in a couple of months for 2-3 hours a day?  I am just not sure we would have any retention.  Just curious how science is handled for the high school level.  I could definitely see it working with younger kids in science but I am not sure how to do the traditional high school sciences with this approach? (Or do you just ditch traditional science paths and study other science topics in bursts?)

I love this idea and would have thrived on it as a kid.  I liked to dive deep and explore tangents and such.  My kids seem to have much shorter attention spans.  I am not sure if they would enjoy several hours of one subject or if they would totally space out.

 

That is a great question. Multiple hours of chemistry does not sound interesting at all.

 I’ve just started researching this, but there are PBL high schools where science is learned through the projects. They do seem to ditch the traditional scope and sequence for science in favor of hands-on real world application. For example, one of the projects I saw was a study of Ebola. They didn’t just look at the virus, but the history, how it spread, how researching it can help with other viruses, then they studied one other virus, and what kind of products or treatments could be made to treat and prevent transmission. It’s biology, but as Evanthe said, hyper-focused.

I’ve never been one to require rote memorization of names and dates for history. I prefer big picture thinking where they figure out how one thing leads to another. It is a different way of looking at things which is a little bit scary. With the internet and the large number of jobs that don’t exist yet and creativity and original thinking being sought after, this just seems like a more natural way of interacting with the world we currently live in.  

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I find the idea intriguing as well, but I don't know how I could pull it off or if my kids would balk. I'm not good at thinking outside the box and they aren't either very much. Also, as a PP suggested it might not work well for things like math, foreign language, and science. But it sounds so engaging and fun ... maybe I could pull it off and do those 3 subjects traditionally in the morning and have our afternoons free to do a block subject at a time.

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27 minutes ago, Momto5inIN said:

I find the idea intriguing as well, but I don't know how I could pull it off or if my kids would balk. I'm not good at thinking outside the box and they aren't either very much. Also, as a PP suggested it might not work well for things like math, foreign language, and science. But it sounds so engaging and fun ... maybe I could pull it off and do those 3 subjects traditionally in the morning and have our afternoons free to do a block subject at a time.

 

I've fallen down the rabbit hole and found a few PBL projects from High Tech High in San Diego that integrate Spanish, math, art, humanities and even chemistry. They do a lot of work near or about the border which is not something I can do, but I'm seeing there are ways to work it into plans even if I keep some subjects separated.

I found an intense maritime project that included humanities, biology and math. They had to chart a course of navigation using longitude, celestial navigation, traditional devices and making their own sextant. Research a famous voyage and write a paper. They created their own ship using 2CAD design and kept a captains log for their progress and more. It ended with becoming part of the crew on a tall ship that sails from one port to another. I can do most of that with a little planning. It's like a high school version of the pirate unit study I did last year. 

Luckily, I still have over a year to get this together since my kids are in 6th and 7th currently. 

Edited by Plum Crazy
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8 hours ago, CaliforniaDreamin said:

 I am not sure I could stuff high school science into my kid that fast though.  Is the idea to do all of high school biology or chemistry in a couple of months for 2-3 hours a day?  I am just not sure we would have any retention.  Just curious how science is handled for the high school level. 

 

I'm doing this with science, too.  No, you can't do an entire year of science in 2 months (we can't, either), that's why I'm willing to take as long as we feel like with a topic.  Also, after last year (we had a science disaster), I refuse to use science textbooks anymore - unless it's our biology textbook (which the kids liked).  I used a science textbook and we had the absolute worst year of science ever...in 11 years of homeschooling.  My science-loving daughter began to hate and dread this science course.  I posted about it a few weeks ago on another thread, but I still feel like a complete failure.  So, we are back to living books for science.  

I am open to the possibility of integrated science again...we tried this a few years ago and it was really complicated, so I chickened out and went back to separating all of our science stuff.  I think I'm willing to try it again.  I really need to spend some time reading and researching before I could put something like that together.

The way we've done school has always been strange compared to other homeschoolers.  I think I feel more confident now that my oldest is graduating in December.  She is getting ready to take the SATs and is scoring very high on the practice tests.  She's also taking an AP Biology course at an enrichment center and she has a 101% GPA in the class (it actually was 103%, but the teacher stopped giving extra credit - lol).  Anyway, I'm probably feeling more confident lately because oldest has turned out ok.  I guess I didn't completely ruin her education!  Willing to take more educational risks with my younger ones...

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5 hours ago, Momto5inIN said:

I find the idea intriguing as well, but I don't know how I could pull it off or if my kids would balk. I'm not good at thinking outside the box and they aren't either very much. 

 

We've always had the opposite problem.  None of us can fit in the box!  (We've tried)

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5 hours ago, Plum Crazy said:

I found an intense maritime project that included humanities, biology and math. They had to chart a course of navigation using longitude, celestial navigation, traditional devices and making their own sextant. Research a famous voyage and write a paper. They created their own ship using 2CAD design and kept a captains log for their progress and more. It ended with becoming part of the crew on a tall ship that sails from one port to another. I can do most of that with a little planning. It's like a high school version of the pirate unit study I did last year. 

 

That is really, really cool!!

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@Evanthe 

Are there pre-planned unit studies that you liked using with your kids in middle school? I’m kind of fascinated with Finland’s educational system, and I have been thinking about how to replicate it at home. I wondered if MBTP is similar to what they’re doing in finland, but at the end of the day, MBTP doesn’t really appeal to me much.

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There is a private high school in our region that uses a modified block schedule. Not exactly what you are talking about here, but they do 3-4 subjects a day, every other day (M-W and Tu- Th) Friday is quizzes, tests and finishing up. We’re going to do a version of this next year.

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On 4/13/2019 at 4:26 PM, EliseMcKenna said:

@Evanthe 

Are there pre-planned unit studies that you liked using with your kids in middle school? I’m kind of fascinated with Finland’s educational system, and I have been thinking about how to replicate it at home. I wondered if MBTP is similar to what they’re doing in finland, but at the end of the day, MBTP doesn’t really appeal to me much.

 

Hi, wow, I think we've used them all!  We did two volumes of KONOS (that was probably the best unit study curriculum for us).  We did a lit study from Moving Beyond the Page.  Someone tried The Prairie Primer (she didn't like it, but it's a great curriculum).  One of mine did Beyond Five in a Row (but that's more for older elementary age).  We've done units from Homeschool Share...  For middle school, I put most of what we've done together myself.  

And about MBTP, yeah, we never really got into that curriculum, either.  It is just way too expensive for us.  It also starts off too quickly.  My kids were all late bloomers, so no one was able to write without crying until they were older (lol).   

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1 hour ago, Evanthe said:

 

Hi, wow, I think we've used them all!  We did two volumes of KONOS (that was probably the best unit study curriculum for us).  We did a lit study from Moving Beyond the Page.  Someone tried The Prairie Primer (she didn't like it, but it's a great curriculum).  One of mine did Beyond Five in a Row (but that's more for older elementary age).  We've done units from Homeschool Share...  For middle school, I put most of what we've done together myself.  

And about MBTP, yeah, we never really got into that curriculum, either.  It is just way too expensive for us.  It also starts off too quickly.  My kids were all late bloomers, so no one was able to write without crying until they were older (lol).   

Ha! Yes, same here. Thanks for the info. Also, did you work together on these? All ages? 

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