How To Create Unit Studies

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I believe the best part of homeschooling is the flexibility. For the most part – you can school when you want, how you want, where you want, and what you wan. Each day is a new adventure! Especially so when we create our own unit studies.

In my home it all begins with one question, “What do you want to learn about now“?  I give my son a few days to think about our next science or geography unit study.  He picks a topic – most times it’s been animals – bugs, wolves, alligators and other times more broad: planets, knights, oceans to our most recent unit study on flight and evolution of airplanes.

A few points to consider when creating unit studies to keep them interesting:

Duration

Once we decide what we’re going to learn about –  I decide how long the unit study will take.  Some have taken one week because there is nothing more I can offer about honeybees.  Others have taken two weeks, but due to my son’s attention span … we have never stretched a unit study beyond three weeks.

Resources

I live at the library!  Every time we go – we stock up!  I check out every single book I can find on that one topic.  Then we look for movies (National Geographic or Animal Atlas) .  Once  home I check out a few websites like Homeschool Share, Enchanted Learning, and ABC Teach for any free printables.

Vocabulary

As we read through our stack of books I write down the vocabulary words he does not know and encourage him to look them up in his (age appropriate) dictionary.  Later in the week he will write sentences using these words.  (I try to pick 10-15 words for the whole unit study).

Geography & Science

Whenever there are locations mentioned – we check those out spending a day studying the globe.  I print out a few black and white maps to label the appropriate hemisphere, continent, country, biome, etc.  We discuss language, culture, time zones, and weather.  If we started with a geographic region – then we discuss the animals, habitats, etc. living there.

History

When we see historical names – we also pull more resource books and read a few junior biographies.  (my son loves the Animated Hero Classics dvds by Nest Learning).  If there is a time “period” mentioned we check out a few more books.

Reading

After we’ve exhausted those resources I try to incorporate chapter books – currently his reading level includes Magic Tree House (the Teacher Guides are fantastic so do not forget them), and A-Z Mysteries.

Art

We pick up a few craft or art project books.  Most times we try to incorporate Legos or play dough for my tactile learner!  Our recent flight unit study my son put together a model airplane purchased at Michaels.  During our  Ancient Greece unit study we cut apart a Huggies diaper box, painted it white, and drew Corinthian columns for a Greek temple.  Projects do not have to be award winning as long as they are educational and fun.

After all the “paper work” we throw in a field trip for some out of the house fun!

TIPS -  Be sure to document all book & DVD titles, snap photos of art work or crafts to put in your folder – print out your resource list, staple it to your vocabulary sheet or slide into a folder with the completed printables, and you’ve created your 1st unit study!

Learning is so much fun and we have the ability to guide our children in the direction of their interests.  You do not have to work for a curriculum company to create a unit study.  We can customize lessons according to our children’s learning styles and most of all … have fun learning together!

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Stef is the wife of Thad and mom to two energetic superheroes! Stef is the author of Layton Family Joy and co-founder of The Homeschool Village.

About Stef

Stef is a homeschooling mom to two energetic superheroes. She believes in hands-on interest-led learning. Married to a busy traveling golf course architect, they have taken their homeschool on the road to enjoy many field trips. Stef is the Author of Educating Laytons, Conference Coordinator for The Titus 2:1 Conference, Creator of The Homeschool Village, and Homeschool Community Manager for The Happy Housewife.


This post may contain a link to an affiliate. See my disclosure policy for more information.

Comments

  1. Carrie says:

    Thank you so much for sharing this! I love the idea of unit studies, but would panic at the thought of trying to create some. :-) This makes it sound so doable. :-)

  2. This is great. Thank you!

  3. Becca says:

    Thank you for this succinct how to! Very helpful.

  4. Amber says:

    Thank you so much for posting this. I am going into 3rd grade next year with my oldest. She doesn’t learn like most curriculum wants her to learn. I have been discussing this idea with my husband and he was a little scared because he comes from an all public school background.
    I still want to use a curriculum for her English, Grammar, and Math. She is into studying things out so I think she will thrive in this free way of studying.

    Than you

    • Stef Layton says:

      Amber – your daughter will love the freedom and feeling like she has some choices in her education, not to mention getting out of the every day workbooks! We have curriculum for Phonics, Language Arts, Bible, & Math — so being a bit free for Science & Geography has made for an exciting day!

      Before we did this my son had no desire to read on his own. Now he can’t wait to crack open a book and discover what is inside! He no longer wants to play with his Leapster in the car – he’d rather read a science (topical) book.

      Best of luck!
      Stef

  5. Cheryk says:

    Ooooh, so you’re “one of those” library goers that takes every book available on a subject and leaves nothing behind for anyone else. Thanks. ;p

  6. Kelly says:

    How do you pick topics that all children will enjoy?

    I have two children that are very different but close in age, 6 & 7 years old. We are switching from a boxed curriculum to unit studies because we didn’t like doing the same thing every single day.

    Would it be hard to do two different unit studies at the same time if they couldn’t agree on what they wanted to do?

  7. Krysten says:

    Yup, this is exactly what I’ve been looking for. Thank you so much!

  8. Dana says:

    Thank you for this! It’s a great way for me, a beginner homeschooler, to figure out how to do unit studies! My son is definitely a kinesthetic learner, and doing a unit studies type of homeschool will, I think, work the best! Thanks again!

  9. Lynette says:

    Wow! This is a big help. Thank you so much!

  10. Carolyn says:

    I really needed this!! Next Fall I’ll be homeschooling a 1st grade boy who does very well in public school learning environment and a 5th grader who most would consider ADD. :) Thankfully my 1st grader is wiggle worm ‘boy’ enough to match up with his older brother! I really want to do Unit Studies using history as a base. Starting in Genesis and working our way through today (over a loooong period of time of course). From what I can tell Unit Studies will help me teach both boys at the same time, use their natural abilities to help them achieve academic success, and most of all have fun and have a desire to learn!! Thanks for sharing this!

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