Creating a homeschool unit study doesn’t have to be hard. Here are some tips for creating your own. Have you heard of unit studies? Have you purchased a homeschool unit study curriculum lesson before? Have you tried planning your own?
Unit studies are the main learning approach in our home education program. I talk about them all the time and try to educate others on the value of this homeschool style. About 30% of the people I talk to do not know what a unit study is. 50% of my followers want to incorporate unit studies, but feel overwhelmed by the process. Today, I’m going to share with you how I create my own unit studies. I hope this helps you try something new, feel confident in organization and planning, and save a little money in the process.
The Benefits of Creating a Unit Study
Many homeschoolers are on one income. We have to be smart and choose carefully when it comes to resources. There are so many amazing and beautiful educational products out there, but it’s hard to know what to invest in and what will prove fruitful for our children in the long-term. By creating your own unit studies, you can narrow down the materials to purchase while giving your child a well-rounded education.
I have received numerous messages, emails, and inquiries about my planning process that I recently wrote and published a short book! I decided to consolidate everyone’s questions and give my thorough explanations in the form of a guide. How To Plan A Unit Study: A Guide is available as both an e-book and a paperback book with free printable companion planning templates in my shop!
What Is A Unit Study?
I define unit study as a well-rounded and thorough lesson into a particular topic. It is a way to incorporate as many subjects as you can under the umbrella of a theme. With the proper planning, you can study a topic while exploring: reading, writing, math, science, history, art, handicrafts, nature, geography, and other life skills. There is no right or wrong way to go about this, the freedom lies in your creativity in catering the lesson to your family!
What Are The Benefits of a Unit Study?
It’s difficult to find any thorough information regarding the long term effects of this learning approach. So, I will be sharing my own personal experience along with other anecdotes I’ve found in my research:
- Understanding: Because unit studies incorporate multiple subjects, they provide a full and expansive view of the topic of study. You are showing your child the ‘big picture’. Instead of focusing on one tiny aspect of the world, unit studies allow us to see how many things fit together. This gives our children a different perspective and a deeper understanding of the information.
- Engagement: Through varying activities and resources all tied to an idea you’re facilitating, children stay more engaged! They do not grow bored or distracted because they are immersed in the theme through games, books, hands-on activities, art, and more!
- Memory Retention: Children will retain the information they’ve learned because they had an active role in the lesson. Studying the big picture and growing a deeper understanding of the content promotes long term memory retention. Instead of learning one small piece of an idea, they are building a strong foundation to add on throughout their lifetime.
So now you know what a unit study is and a few ways they are beneficial; but how do you plan one? First, I start with an idea. If it is your first go, simply ask your child what they would like to learn about. When we are learning about something we enjoy, we are more engaged. When we are more engaged, we have more fun and remember our experience.
Once I have chosen my theme, I brainstorm all aspects that can tie into the study. For instance, my son enjoys learning about the ocean. When creating a unit study, I would start by building an idea web of topics associated with ‘the ocean’. I may jot down: geography, mapwork, boats, nautical signaling, animals, migration patterns, weather, etc. Just because you jot it down doesn’t mean you have to actually teach everything. It simply gets your brain warmed up and gives you some options of engaging activities and important lessons to facilitate to your child.
Once you have a plan in place with your theme and topics are written down, it’s time to gather materials. I always start with books and my children love helping! First, we raid our home library, then we reserve books from our local public library. I try to incorporate read aloud, picture books, SSR books, poetry, living books, encyclopedias and information texts. This gives my children a well-rounded selection of titles that will keep their interest and also spark discussion.
Next, I select hands-on materials. I may choose some life-cycle models for animals, science projects for the weather, maps for migration patterns and mapwork, etc. This is also when I gather the art supplies we will need for projects, paintings, and nature journaling.
Now that you’re set to go, all you have to do is start! Pick a day and ease in slowly. Try not to put too much pressure on yourself or your children. The first day of a new unit study for us usually looks more like a discussion than action. We talk about what they already know, what they would like to learn, we read, we draw, we familiarize ourselves with our theme and prepare to dive in. Preparation is key to any big endeavor! You may want to start with something your children are already interested in to help make your first unit study experience more rewarding.
Navigating a Unit Study
If you find that yours or your child’s interest is waning, shelve the unit study for a while. Sometimes, my children need a break for a day or two to shift gears and come back to the unit study refreshed. Sometimes they genuinely lose interest in the topic and we wrap it up early. Sometimes we find another topic more applicable to our studies and need to spend time on that presently. If you find that you need to take a break, it does not mean you failed or that unit studies aren’t right for you. It’s all about balance and timing; homeschooling is trial and error as is parenting.
A unit study can last a week, a month, or a year. It’s up to your family! You have the creative freedom to make your child’s education come alive! The main goal of creating a unit study is to incorporate as many subjects as you can to give your child a full, well-rounded learning experience that they will remember forever!