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Common Questions or Statements of Misconception with High School Students and Unit Studies:
- Common Question: I have high school students who plan to go to college! Are unit studies as core going to be “enough?”
- Common Statement: You can use unit studies, but it depends on what you want for your child and what their aspirations are (inferred meaning: only if they’re not going to college).
The Real Answer:
My husband created Campfire Campfire Curriculums and is actively involved in creating, writing, and developing each and every Campfire unit that is published. He comes from a very rigorous educational background, has multiple degrees, and we also have some children who are planning on attending colleges or universities, as well. I, myself (his wife, lol) come from a very similar background. However, we neither encourage nor discourage college education, and we have blogs and podcasts which express that neutrality.
It might help to share why people often ask, “Is a unit study enough?”
- Many people ask this question because, as far as we know, there was not much in the world of “homeschool unit studies” that really went DEEP into a topic, prior to Campfire. Many (not all) unit studies, inherently and intentionally, were invested in sharing a topic overview and fascinating focus. Like skipping a rock across water, many provided an overview or summary of different parts within that topic without diving super deep into every single aspect. This can be intentional and a great way to spark a child’s interest, lightly showing how all things connect in a general sense. It’s like a grand overview and “sampling,” but it leaves it in the parents’ hands to “go deeper” and “educate more” or “cook the whole meal,” so to speak. Because this can be a common (and intentional) setup among many unit studies that have existed over the decades, it has become a normal question for parents to wonder, “Are unit studies enough?” If such was the setup, our answer would likely be, “no.”
If such was the setup, our answer would likely be, “no.”
- The important thing to remember is that Campfire does NOT function like that, at all. Neither do ALL unit studies out there. Each unit study program is going to be unique, so that’s the first and most important thing to remember. Unit studies DO NOT all function similarly, any more than textbooks are all the same. That is a flawed thought process that needs to be put out of parents’ minds. Buy a 2nd grader textbook and a college-level textbook, and you will have two VERY different things in your hands. Buy a picture book and an adult’s archaeological study book, and they will be two very different things (even though they are both called “a book”). A standard unit study (with a setup intentionally made as referenced above) and a Campfire unit study will be two VERY different things, as well.
Unit studies DO NOT all function similarly… that is a flawed thought that needs to be put out of parents’ minds.
- Unit studies, as far as Campfire defines them, are studies that teach a particular topic, but they also include cross-curricular concepts and interdisciplinary teaching. This is something that Ivy League universities do, as well, and is considered a SUPERIOR form of education, even across university standards and career fields. You can see the following link for more on that. It really explains it SO WELL. Go HERE. We highly encourage it!
Ivy League universities do this, as well, and it is considered a superior form of education…
Let us try to help by giving a real-world example. Below is a 10th grade high school science textbook table of contents from a homeschool curriculum that is deemed more “rigorous” by many and has a long-standing reputation (A Beka). Now, their setup is going to be different than Campfire’s approach, obviously, because one is a textbook and one is a unit study. One puts it into a year-long format and segments the learning (it is independent of any other school subject) where the other has a variable format and combines other school subjects to show how all fields overlap and intertwine. This will hopefully help to show you how things compare when in textbook form vs. in unit study form.
10th Grade Science Textbook Table of Contents:
- Ch1: The Flowering Seed Plants [study of living things, observing seeds, etc]
- Ch2: Structure and Functions of Leaves [external structure of a leaf, photosynthesis, fall coloration and wilting]
- Ch3: Flowers, Fruits, and Seeds [Structure, development, fruits, seeds]
- Ch4: Stems & Roots [Woody stems, herbaceous stems, anchors]
- Ch5: Plant Varieties
- Ch6: Fearfully and Wonderfully Made
- Ch7: Bones & Muscles
- Ch8: Nervous System [brain, neurological health, senses and sense organs]
- Ch9: Nutrition and Digestion
- Ch10: Circulation and Respiration
- Ch11: Endocrine and Reproductive Systems
- Ch12: Disease and immune system
- Ch13: Natural History & Scientific Investigation
- Ch14: Evolution vs. Science
- Ch15: Introduction to Ecology
- Ch16: Mammals
- Ch17: Birds
- Ch18: Reptiles
- Ch19: Fish
- Ch20: Arthropods
- Ch21: Invertebrates
- Ch22: Design and Function of cells
- Ch23: Heredity
- Ch24: DNR
That is set up as a standard textbook, with a “science for a year” glance of 10th grade high school. Now, obviously, if you go to another textbook-styled curriculum, their 10th grade science (or their biology-focused unit) will likely cover DIFFERENT (although similar) aspects as the one above. Each textbook will be unique, just like unit studies will be unique. They don’t just replicate one another.
Here is how Campfire’s approach is different and also already covers the same topics listed above:
- Ch 1 & 4 comparison [Campfire’s focus is on the root system, aeration, macronutrients, micronutrients, chelates, root hairs, respiration, fibrous roots, Casparian strips, pollinators, carbon/nitrogen, observing plant roots, yield and crops, pests, DNA extraction, preservation, observing roots and seeds, etc. See: Gardening unit]
- Ch 2 comparison [Campfire’s focus is the same, re: fall coloration, chromatography, etc. See: Thanksgiving unit which goes over this in detail]
- Ch 5 comparison [Campfire addresses different plant varieties and “companion planting” for pollination, but does not yet focus specifically on things like how fungi is formed or the development of fruit from flower ovaries. See: Gardening]
- Ch 6 comparison [Same. Taught in numerous Campfire units]
- Ch 7 comparison [Overview in different Campfire units, but not a direct focus as of yet]
- Ch 8 comparison [Same. See: Campfire’s Resurrection Day unit, Core Connections]
- Ch 9 comparison [Similar. Campfire has a higher focus on evidence-based studies and analyzing medical criteria and effects on different parts of body systems. See: Natural Medicine]
- Ch 10 comparison: [Similar. See: ER unit]
- Ch 11 comparison: [Campfire does not yet cover this concept. It would likely need be an individual unit to address human reproduction]
- Ch 12 comparison: [See: ER, Natural Medicine, Veterinarian, and Thanksgiving]
- Ch 13 comparison [Covered in too many Campfire units to mention]
- Ch 14 comparison [Heavy discussion of this in Campfire’s Zoologist Faith Talk section]
- Ch 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21 comparison [See: Campfire Zoologist—also note that Campfire teaches on Ethology as well as many other additional topics which are NOT covered within textbooks]
- Ch 23, 24 comparison [Not yet covered by Campfire, but will be]
- As you can see, the same topics are covered in the unit study approach as in the textbook approach. Just like two textbooks would slightly vary but also cover similar topics in their own way, so too do Campfire unit studies and “year-long structured textbooks.” There are a few chapters that this science book covers that Campfire does not, yet (such as development of fungi, and human reproduction). There are also many concepts which Campfire covers which the textbook does not. However, each covers many of the same overlapping ideas and focuses.
- It is also Campfire’s belief that your child’s education and future career will not be hindered if they do not understand one thing in one particular field, etc (such as the basics of how fungi is formed). This is why it is acceptable to choose one science textbook or unit study over another (where one might teach on the topic and one might not). If every single topic had to be covered in every single curriculum, then every child in the world would be failing (unless all curriculum was identical, which it is not). This is true whether you opt for a textbook-styled approach, a unit study approach, or any other approach. Obviously, all children are not failing merely because educational programs have similar but different focuses. Some curricula chooses to put a higher emphasis or focus on different areas, and that’s okay!
- Campfire, also, puts a higher focus on real-world application, which textbooks do not. Instead of just reading then filling in the blanks and dumping the information, Campfire’s approach is to have the student learn the information and then actually apply it through note taking, hands-on learning extensions or activity options, and multiple learning styles where they have to put the learning into action. This helps the student to actually retain the information for life, which is when it is most applicable and helpful to a university attendance or career. Some other curricula makers disagree and take a different approach. Sometimes they focus on an overabundance of terminology and memorization. Sometimes, other curricula focuses on repetition. Again, ALL curricula will be different–regardless if it’s “textbook” or “unit study.”
- Campfire also often includes many college-level concepts that are NOT covered in primary or secondary school textbooks. This is because we job shadow professionals or experts and are obtaining higher-level education and details, which we then share within the units when we write them. We also have a higher emphasis on note taking which is going to be especially beneficial to those who are college- or career-bound.
- There is one caveat we have to mention for full transparency, and that is that Campfire is a newer curriculum, so it does not yet have all fields covered. For instance, there are many Campfire units which teach chemistry, and we already have outlines for other concepts within chemistry that we want to teach but haven’t, yet. Or, for example, we haven’t yet taught on DNR in detail but are planning on doing so. The same is true for parts of history that we have or haven’t covered already. Learning is a never-ending process, and we hope to continue that process for children AND adults forever (Remember: Campfire is designed for the ENTIRE family, including adults). As for what we haven’t yet covered, those concepts will continue to be covered with each unit that is released. If you are looking to see if your particular subject focus is covered, we have a UNIT OVERVIEW at the bottom of our products page which will help!
Campfire is the missing piece!
- Also remember, Campfire was not originally designed as a Core Curriculum. It was designed to provide something AMAZING that was completely lacking in the homeschool community–to fill a missing piece of the puzzle. And that, it does! Obviously, it has evolved to include EVEN MORE. Core Connections have been added in and expanded because we saw the connections were too priceless to NOT make. When we were job shadowing one career field, it so beautifully taught SO MANY overlapping school concepts, that we just had to make the connections and teach even more for those who wanted to use it for further schooling. So, we spend extra time on each release to ALSO include core school subjects (this is included for free, as a courtesy). That’s what makes the curriculum so unique. Some parents use the Core Connections Companion and utilize Campfire as core, but others do not. This is why you will see some parents say, “I only use it as an extracurricular with Dad, or on weekends [using the 30-minute main guide].” where others say, “I use it as my core [also utilizing the Core Connections Companion].” This is why you will see us encouraging the use of other curriculum and also encouraging you to use it alone. It’s whatever you want! The Core Connections option is the missing link that a lot of newer customers often don’t see. It’s designed with flexibility, so you can do either setup! We do not have a preference if you use Campfire units as your core curriculum or as an extracurricular, joined up with your other favorite curricula. My husband’s heart behind creating the curriculum is so different and unique. We are just happy and feel blessed that any family can use it in any way that they want, as best fits their setup! The flexibility that is designed within it is one of the most special aspects of Campfire. That is why you see SYW pages, different-colored side bars, different activity options/learning extensions, and Core Connections.
- While we used “science” as the example here, you can apply the same concept to history, language arts, etc. If you are interested in how we build upon scientific concepts or historical concepts and language arts (etc), we have posts on that, as well! Just ask!
We are so passionate about children learning and applying concepts to real life and the real world, so that naturally includes cross curricular concepts (hence the Core Connections Companion that started being included for free).
This is the official answer to the question about using unit studies for high school students!