As a classical homeschool, we don’t typically use unit studies; however, since we take a break in the summer months, unit studies can be a great way to keep some learning going, focus on a topic of interest to the kids, and “break things up” a bit.
If you are a unit study homeschooler usually, then this isn’t the best method to use to “break things up” a little. But if you typically use other methods like classical or a boxed and don’t use unit studies typically, you might find the summer, or a school break, is an excellent time to try out a unit study.
What is a unit study?
A unit study is an all-in-one form of schooling through one topic. For instance, you might choose to study Volcanoes. While studying volcanoes you will read about them (reading), write about theme (writing), do some appropriate math problems about volcanoes (math), do an experiments (science), and study the history of volcanoes (history). Additionally, you might locate areas with active volcanoes on the map (geography) and maybe even animal life around volcanoes (additional science). You might draw a volcano (art) or do a craft. Usually a unit study is pretty flexible.
You can do one that is specific to a grade or, as is one of the advantages to unit studies, you can do it with the whole family and just “dig deeper” for the older students and keep it simple of the little ones. The nice things about unit studies is that there is a theme and you are learning a LOT about a subject but getting all your subjects covered.
Some people really like this set up and some do not. It really is a personal choice. But if you haven’t tried one, a unit study can be a fun way to try something different and break up the monotony of what you are doing. Whether you chose the summer to try one or just do a couple throughout the year to break up your regular schedule, you should definitely try one sometime. You might be surprised how much you like them.
Where Can I find Unit Studies?
You can find many unit studies online. There are providers such as Unit Studies by Amanda Bennett and Konos Unit Studies that are major providers of homeschool unit studies. You can also find websites that have unit studies that are free to use, put together by other homeschooling moms. Or you can put together your own unit study. They are actually pretty easy to do once you get started. Just pick a topic and gather some information. You may find that putting together a fun unit study on something that your children finds interesting is an excellent way to break up the monotony and keep them interested.
If you haven’t tried a Unit Study, and seen one to have a good idea on what is typically included in a unit study, it might be a good idea to purchase a unit study to look at it and get a feel of one. This is the best place to start with a unit study approach to your homeschool day. Once you have done one, you will get the feel on whether this is something that would work well for you, your students and your homeschool.
Make Your Own Unit Study
Yes, you can put together your own unit study. There are many resources online to help you do just that – put together your own unit study around any topic you and your students are interested in. However, there are some basics to include in a unit study that you are putting together.
- Pick a theme (ie. Bugs)
- Determine which subjects your plan to include in your unit study (ie math, science, geography, reading, art, history)
- Research your topic and determine what you would like to include
- Put together your topic
For instance, in this example of the bugs theme you might have counting bugs for math, collecting bugs for science, making a felt ladybug for art, locating where different bugs are found on a map, discussing the history of the firefly for history, and read a few books about different types of bugs, including nonfiction and fiction. You might even learn a fun bug song (or just sing The Itsy Bitsy Spider). Obviously this would be for a younger child.
You could also expand this for an older child. For instance, you might not really have math and bugs in your unit study but you might dissect a bug for science, study bugs from a specific region of a country for geography discussing the various reasons that certain bugs thrive in that particular region, you might read about the history of a particularly unique bug and do a book report or PowerPoint presentation, and learn to draw or do a mosaic of a type of bug for art. You can make the theme as broad or as specific as you want and can even just narrow down a topic for your older children while keeping it simple of the younger children and therefore making it easy to use for multi-age children.
Unit studies can be a great way to mix up your homeschool, utilize child-led interest topics, or just have a fun summer study.
Do you use unit studies in your homeschool? How do they work for you?