Unit Study Fails


Have you ever noticed it’s a breeze to get your child engrossed in a video on a new topic, but a Herculean task to engage them in more “serious” learning? Things like videos or documentaries are not bad, but they can sometimes deliver knowledge on a platter, without really stretching your child’s “mental muscles.”  Sure, post-video, your child might dazzle you with some new facts at dinner, but are they really exercising their brain to its full capacity? Are they developing skills in understanding, application, critical thinking, and holistic learning? It’s like fast food – it might fill them up for now, but it doesn’t nourish real learning or critical thinking.

This is the BIG problem that many parents also have with the concept of “unit studies.” In fact, you’ll often see people saying things like, “XYZ is just a unit study.” And they’re right. Historically, most unit studies are set up in a similar fashion to what you might find in a documentary. Many unit studies are enjoyable and enlightening, yes, but they lack in pushing your child’s cognitive boundaries. They present information without truly challenging young minds to connect, think, and apply new concepts. It’s a linear parade of facts and figures, completely devoid of what is needed for genuine intellectual development. “Here’s some information… moving on… here’s some more information…”. Quite honestly, textbooks do that, too.

Campfire Curriculums is totally different in our overall approach. Campfire takes a “brain fitness” approach, intermixed with moments for your child’s mind to rest. New lessons in Campfire units often build mental strength by getting the brain in gear, not lulling it to sleep. In regular Campfire units, learning is sequential and cumulative. Mastery of concepts in Lesson 1 is often a prerequisite to tackling the more complex challenges in Lesson 2 (etc.).

Like working out, no pain no gain.

Students don’t just passively absorb information; they actively apply what they’ve learned in practical, real-world scenarios. It’s about guiding them through tough concepts, helping them grasp and utilize these ideas effectively.

A word of caution, though: Campfire isn’t a walk in the park. Unlike some other unit studies where ticking off a checklist is sufficient, Campfire demands (and helps teach) critical thinking and consistent intellectual growth from the youngest learners on into adulthood. It’s a rigorous preparation for life’s challenges. We certainly give moments of “rest” for the mind and “strictly informative” content, as all educational professionals would. Just like taking a break after a workout is necessary, so is this. We aren’t opposed to the concept of documentaries, strictly informative unit study days, intermixing some of that in our own units (etc.). Even textbooks do the same. We are opposed to education that relies solely on that, and can weaken your child’s mind.

While it might seem easier to let videos “entertain” your child into learning or to use the kind of unit studies that don’t really dive deep, true benefits only come from engagement. Campfire sticks with that active approach – not because it’s easy for kids, but because it genuinely prepares them for the critical thinking ahead.

Their minds, like their bodies, thrive when tested well, and the results make the effort totally worthwhile.

It’s not just about gaining knowledge; it’s about shaping thinkers and doers for tomorrow.

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