By Charity Lovelace
I once read that the key to being successful was to "find a need and fill it". Our home business, Useful Units Publications, began as a result of a need in my own life. As the homeschool teacher of two active sons, I found that the "unit study approach" best met their need to learn through discovery and experience. Unit studies are a thematic, subject-integrated teaching method that incorporates lots of hands-on activities and projects. However, I was frustrated in my efforts to find a unit study curriculum that met our needs for a reasonable price. I tried adapting and customizing existing curriculum. We hobbled along. At some point I realized that it would just be easier to do it myself. I began to write our own science-based unit study curriculum. We soared. The boys thrived. Homeschooling was a delight.
Soon friends began asking me to assist them in their unit studies. I was offered a column writing unit studies for a homeschool magazine. Positive feedback from the column poured in. I realized that I was not the only one searching for truly useful unit study curriculum. And thus, our unit study curriculum business, Useful Units Publications, came into being.
How would I advise those interested in writing educational materials? Ask yourself these questions:
What background/skills/knowledge do I have that others might want to know? Who would want to know it? Who would be teaching it? How is the material most effectively taught? Through print? Video? Cassette Tape? Seminars? What needs do I see going unmet in the educational community? Take a stroll through your local teacher supply store. What holes do you see? Ask the owner what people frequently ask for, but are unable to locate.
If you are a musician and a math hobbyist, how about putting math drills to song? If you are a bird-watcher, you could write a Guide to Bird-watching for Children. Videotapes of the "inside story" of skyscrapers, motorcycle racing, fire stations and garbage trucks are enormously popular with pre-schoolers. Sell them to local daycares and preschools. Package them with coloring books, inexpensive toys and dress-up accessories to create themed "kits." Make board games that provide creative alternatives to drill and testing. What local themes are waiting to be developed? A local Alaskan teacher is having success on a national level with a curriculum she wrote about the Iditarod. I could go on, but I'm sure you have ideas of your own at this point.
The possibilities are endless when you find a need and fill it!