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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Why Design-A-Study?
How does it work?
I have several children of different ages. Will this take a lot of time?
What if my children have special needs?
What if I’m on a tight budget?
What are the six subject books?
Is this a complete curriculum?
How else does it differ from a curriculum package?
Can these books be used to develop a custom-made classical curriculum?
Are these materials written from a Christian perspective?
What other resources do I need?
My state requires documentation of a curriculum. Will these books count?
Can I use these materials for all my children—my little ones and my teens?
If I have a curriculum already would Design-A-Study books still be useful?
Are the Design-A-Study books unit studies?
How do I keep records with Design-A-Study?
What about testing?
Since there aren’t daily lesson plans, how do I use each book?
How do I pull it all together?
Why do you suggest using movies? Shouldn’t we be encouraging kids to read more?
Can Kathryn come and speak to my home group?


Why Design-A-Study?

Teaching is about inspiring and equipping children to become what they, as unique individuals, are capable of becoming. That means finding ways to teach to their strengths, building up weak areas so they won’t be a future hindrance, and maintaining a child’s joy of learning. The Design-A-Study books equip teachers to do just that. The teaching suggestions encourage curiosity, discovery, and understanding. Standard* concepts and skills are outlined in a manner that allows them to be accomplished in a wide variety of ways. Now kids can enjoy those many activities too often delayed until “there’s time.” Tangents can be followed instead of being squelched in order to complete tedious assignments. Once the teacher can see the objectives, it’s a simple matter of working toward their completion by using experiences and resources meaningful to the child.

*Concepts and skills listed are taken from national standards used throughout the United States. Return to top

How does it work?

Each book includes a detailed, multi-grade overview of one subject—either Kindergarten through grade 8 or through grade 12. This makes it much easier to not only teach to the needs of each child, but also to work with a group of children of various ages—the typical homeschool situation. Frequently, curriculum packages for a single grade require students to do a little bit of everything and then review and add a bit more depth the next year. However, with all levels laid out concisely in one volume, the teacher can chose when to target a topic, can begin at whatever level is best for the student, and can continue to work to the depth that the student’s capabilities allow. She can also work on the same topic with kids of various ages without making it too hard for the young or too easy for the older children. These materials, then, provide just enough structure—a framework that lets you fill in the details with a mix of experiences and resources suited to your individual situation.

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I have several children of different ages. Will this take a lot of time?

Not necessarily. The books include activity ideas that your children can do together and others that can serve as guides for independent study. Teaching Tips & Techniques offers suggestions for lesson plans that take into consideration your children’s ages and learning styles. Because the Design-A-Study books allow you to mix and match resources, you can use games, software, self-checking materials, videos, and anything else your kids find appealing as the vehicle for accomplishing standard objectives. In this way, some children could be working independently, others could work together, and one could have your undivided attention. At other times, all the children can work together with one in charge, giving you a break. The workshop tape Make It Easy On Yourself expands on this answer and includes a number of specific ideas and examples. Ultimately, this approach to teaching will encourage your children to practice how to learn, and save you the exhaustion of trying to force them to do what they find too confusing, too boring, or too tedious.

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What if my children have special needs?

These materials are ideal. You can see the big picture since each subject book covers concepts and skills from grades K-8 or K-12. Then you can target any areas your student is ready to work on and use approaches especially suited to his learning style and ability. All the books allow you to act as a tutor, making adjustments to suit the student’s pace. The Natural Speller, a complete spelling program, works well with children with learning disabilities, including dyslexia.

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What if I’m on a tight budget?

These books will allow you to spend less on curriculum so that your children can benefit from such extracurricular activities as music or art lessons, sports programs, and field trips. Two of the books, Natural Speller ($22) and Comprehensive Composition ($14) are complete for those subjects for all ages. Because kids write on their own paper instead of in the books, they can be used with every child year after year. That alone gives you a huge savings. Each book covers a subject for either Kindergarten through grade eight or through grade 12, so, again, for a small investment you have books to guide you year after year. And even though some of the subject books need to be supplemented, you can use resources from libraries, resource centers, and free Internet downloads, so, again, these books can really stretch your dollar.

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What are the six subject books?

English: Natural Speller, Comprehensive Composition, Critical Conditioning
Social Studies: Guides to History Plus
Science: Science Scope
Math: Maximum Math

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Is this a complete curriculum?

It is a curriculum framework which also includes everything you need for spelling and composition. It gives you the What to teach and How to teach for English, social studies, science, and math which are supplied by any curricula, but then lets you decide which literature, which informative sources for history and science, and which types of materials to use for extra math practice. It gives you everything you need without being restrictive. This is why you can easily make adjustments to suit the students and the circumstances. For homeschoolers, this is a great advantage. Field trips, family vacations, the desire to investigate something—perhaps the family’s history or maybe just the family pet—can all be become the focus of study. All you have to do is refer to the Design-A-Study books for specific concepts or skills that can be covered. Then, whatever has been accomplished can be checked off in the books to assure you that the fun activity did indeed “count.”

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How else does it differ from a curriculum package?

Each subject book covers either Kindergarten through grade 8 or through grade 12 rather than requiring you to buy materials each year. Also, since kids work on their own paper, you can use the books with every child, every year. While there are activity ideas and teaching suggestions for using each book, daily lessons plans are not included. This is deliberate. It’s important to work with students at a pace suited to their particular needs. Teaching Tips & Techniques offers suggestions about lesson plans and schedules which includes consideration of a child’s age and learning style.

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Can these books be used to develop a custom-made classical curriculum?

Yes. Because these books provide a framework, they can be used to prepare a custom curriculum. Since the concepts and skills are compatible with any prepared curriculum package, the Design-A-Study books can also be used as a reference to make adjustments to (that is, customize) a complete curriculum package. The teaching suggestions in every book emphasize the classical goals of discovery, reasoning, and analysis.

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Are these materials written from a Christian perspective?

Since national standards are neutral, anyone can use these materials. They provide a framework that can be completed however the teacher sees fit. The author* is an evangelical Christian so there are some activity choices from a Christian perspective.

*Author’s note: As a Christian I wanted a framework that allowed me to incorporate a biblical worldview into every part of life, encouraging my children to love the Lord. Christians have shared with me that these materials have helped them do the same. Yet, families who aren’t Christian have told me that they appreciate these materials because they have had difficulty finding nonChristian homeschooling resources and want the freedom to teach their beliefs. Return to top

What other resources do I need?

For English—Natural Speller and Comprehensive Composition are all you need for spelling and composition, and Critical Conditioning provides questions you can use for reading comprehension. You will need to supply the literature to be read. Besides books for reading, you would also need to provide the young with a phonics program and a handwriting model or program. At the high school level, Movies As Literature can be used as a complete one year English course without supplementation.

For math: Maximum Math provides sample problems for K-8 and instructions for making more problems for the student. Additional practice problems can be added via Internet, software, games, or workbooks according to a student’s needs.

For science: Science Scope provides explanations of anything that might be difficult to find, but is primarily a K-12 listing of points to be covered. Arranged by topic, concepts and skills are then listed by grade so that a student can begin at the appropriate level and move forward as far as ability allows. This also makes it easier to teach multi-levels since you can very quickly see what understanding is expected for each child in the group. One or several points in any list can serve as a working outline for students to find information on their own using the library or Internet. You can also begin with content—a science video, appealing library book, or a project, and turn to the appropriate section of Science Scope for follow up discussion in order to be sure that essential points have been comprehended. How and why to teach children to use the scientific method is included, along with tips for directing their thinking and developing their analytical skills as they make observations.

For social studies: Guides to History Plus includes guidelines for covering standard objectives in geography, American history, and world history. It contains discussion questions, activity ideas to extend studies into other subject areas (serving as a framework for unit studies), and a listing of supplementary software, books, and movies. However, it does not provide the actual content. Once you choose an area of study, you are free to choose materials that not only appeal to the age and ability of your children, but also those written by authors you find trustworthy.

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My state requires documentation of a curriculum. Will these books count?

They should. The objectives (concepts and skills) listed in each of the six Design-A-Study subject books are based on national standards. You can photocopy the lists from each book, check off any you’ve worked on for the year, and send them in (along with the book title) as documentation. Movies As Literature can be listed as an English course.

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Can I use these materials for all my children—my little ones and my teens?

Yes. Each of the six subject guides cover either grades K-8 or K-12. However, many of the Kindergarten objectives and teaching suggestions can be used with three and four-year-olds. Teaching Tips & Techniques includes information about preschoolers, teens, and all ages in between. Each subject book has tips for teaching the young in order to build a foundation in observation, vocabulary, and thinking. For example, sometimes parents think of composition as a middle or high school level course. However, Comprehensive Composition contains plenty of activity ideas for building a solid foundation beginning as young as four.

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If I have a curriculum already would Design-A-Study books still be useful?

Yes, each of our books makes an invaluable reference.

• Refer to the teaching tips and lists of concepts in order to make adjustments to the packaged curriculum you are using.

• Glean teaching ideas to help in your approach to a subject, especially if students are bored or discouraged.

• Refer to the checklist of concepts and skills to be covered in order to determine a student’s strengths and weakness in the subject.

• Refer to the lists of concepts and skills in order to determine whether or not to postpone study.

Many of the objectives listed are covered for several years. This knowledge alone can allow you to relax. Once you realize something that is now especially difficult will be covered again later, you are more likely to give your child a break from it instead of feeling compelled to complete every bit of the curriculum.

• Use the lists of concepts and skills as a checklist for annual record-keeping.

• Allow students 12 and up to refer to portions of the books as working outlines in order to find information independently. This method also allows students to choose the resources they find most appealing—texts, library books, periodicals, videos, Internet sites, etc.

• Add discussion questions or activity ideas from these guides as a supplement to studies.
• Refer to Guides to History Plus to create your own historical unit studies, or to supplement studies in history with any of the literature, movies, or games listed.

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Are the Design-A-Study books unit studies?

Guides to History Plus does include a framework for creating your own historical unit studies, but with the exception of The Maya, no. However, for anyone using a unit study approach, the six subject books do make planning and teaching easier. The teacher can quickly note concepts and skills to be worked on within a unit study, feeling secure that the students are growing in skills and understanding of concepts, not just memorizing interesting bits of information. The teaching ideas in each book can be used as a regular reference as well in order to help each child get the most out of his experiences.

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How do I keep records with Design-A-Study?

Notations can be made directly in the books, or the checklists of concepts and skills can be photo-copied and placed in a planning notebook to record what has been covered each year. Since it is not necessary to assign grades until the high school level, I suggest keeping the focus on working toward mastery of some objectives and exposure to others. I also find it helpful to maintain annual lists of books read, movies watched, activities and projects completed, field trips, and any extracurricular (outside the home) activities as a reference for future planning.

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What about testing?

Testing can be done in a variety of ways. Standardized tests can be used diagnostically, or to verify the teacher’s observations. Oral or written tests can be made from questions in Guides to History Plus or entries in Science Scope and Critical Conditioning. In math, tests can be made based on information in Maximum Math, or mixed review practice pages from other sources can be used as tests.

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Since there aren’t daily lesson plans, how do I use each book?

The first few pages of each guide will give you instructions on the best way to use the book. Please click here to see some sample pages. Also refer to the suggestions listed in response to the earlier question “If I have a curriculum already would Design-A-Study books still be useful?”

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How do I pull it all together?

These books are quite flexible, so you have many options. Teaching Tips & Techniques offers guidance in lesson planning and daily schedules. Each book suggests teaching and activity ideas for its subject. In Guides to History Plus and Critical Conditioning you will find additional composition topics, and the activity portion of Guides to History Plus lists ideas in a variety of subject areas so that you can regularly integrate several subjects while focusing on a particular culture or period in history.

Having options makes “pulling it all together” quite easy. For example, if your family takes a trip you can look in each book and gather ideas to cover concepts and skills in various subjects using the trip as the focus for content. Map skills: the kids help plan or chart the route. Math: let them calculate miles, figure out the tax and total on food orders, and guess the distance to something ahead if it’s a car trip and the odometer can be used to check their estimates. Refer to Maximum Math to make up oral word problems for them to figure out during travel. Library skills: they can gather books to read about the areas they will be traveling through, or the final destination. History: tours, tourist center brochures, and library books can be used for historical information. Questions from Guides to History Plus can direct discussions. Science: Any visits to science museums? Caves? Beaches? Simply refer to appropriate sections in Science Scope to direct a discussion or a hunt for information. Reading comprehension: Listen to books on tape while traveling and use Critical Conditioning to lead a follow-up discussion. Composition: Let them write about some aspect of the trip. Spelling: have a spelling bee during the drive using the words in Natural Speller.

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Why do you suggest using movies? Shouldn’t we be encouraging kids to read more?

Movies can be used to encourage a love of stories, which, in turn, can encourage more reading. Using movies is a fun and fresh approach to the study of literary elements, which helps motivate students to dig in. It is also an ideal approach for students with short attention spans or learning disabilities.

Every story has a purpose. Movies, because they are usually about 2-3 hours in length follow the structure of a short story. That is, they are told from one point of view with a single major plotline and a few well-defined central characters. This simplified structure makes it easier for students to dig deeper into story elements. Too often, students don’t enjoy classics because they only look at the plot—the action—missing the comments about life, or changes within a character. If the story is set in an historical or unfamiliar setting, it may be too difficult for them to imagine the story. Again they are left to figure out the plot without enjoying the subtleties. Movies show the people and setting, motivating many kids to enjoy the book on which a movie is based after seeing the movie.

Finally, while learning to critique literature, students develop the ability to reflect on underlying messages, analyzing them from a moral point of view. This is an important habit to instill since it can be a safeguard against absorbing almost subconsciously the unwholesome messages Hollywood and books sometimes promote.

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Can Kathryn come and speak to my home group?

Click here to see our speaking engagement information.

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