Overview: Homeschool unit studies are a great way to accomplish homeschool work while allowing your child to pursue their passions. Learn how to write them today.
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I’d like to welcome Surya from Teach Me I’m Yours. She’s going to be sharing how to create your own unit studies.
Unit studies are a great way to accomplish your schoolwork while allowing your child to pursue their passions. There are unit studies that you can buy where all the resources are ready for you and you can just open and go, but today I’d like to talk about creating your own unit studies. Creating your own unit studies for your homeschool opens up endless possibilities of what you could study and how you can study it.
Unit studies are also great if you are trying to teach multiple ages at once. You can often cover several subjects together as a family, which cuts down on your overall school time and work.
We’re going to talk about how to choose topics, what subjects to cover, suggestions for gathering resources, and scheduling the lessons for your DIY unit study.
Let’s get started!
What Will You Study?
There are so many topics you can cover with unit studies that it can get overwhelming – I mean you can literally study anything, so how do you choose?
One of the reasons I love incorporating unit studies into our homeschool is because it allows for child-led learning. So, my favorite way to decide what to study is to ask my kids!
Related: The 4 Pillars of Natural Learning
They are going to be the ones learning it, so they should like what they are learning about, right?
Now, my girls are in elementary school, so sometimes when I go to them and say “What would you like to learn about?” they just stare back at me because the choice is too big. You can narrow it down by picking three to five age-appropriate topics then giving your child(ren) the final choice. This is also a great way to do it if there are certain topics that you want to be sure that you cover during the year.
I’m big on examples, so let’s have an example. If my daughters were not sure what they want to study, then I might suggest this list of ideas for early elementary:
- American Inventors
- Early American Figures
For this post, we’ll use the Horses Unit Study example because my one daughter is obsessed with horses.
Choose the Subjects to Cover
Now that we know we are going to be creating a unit study around horses, let’s talk about what school subjects we want to cover during our unit.
Do you want this unit to cover most (or all) of your school subjects? Or do you want to just use it to cover a few (maybe science, history, language arts)? Either one is fine, but some units lend themselves more easily to some subjects than others. Also, math is easier to incorporate in the younger grades, but still doable in the upper grades.
For our Horses unit study, I made a list of the school subjects I thought would be pretty easy to incorporate and made a few quick notes about ideas for covering those subjects. Here are some ideas to get you started:
Science could be covered by talking about mammals and also the characteristics of other animal classifications.
Geography can cover where in the world horses live today and where they used to live in the past.
Speaking of the past, we can learn about famous horses throughout history and also the different ways horses have been used over the ages.
Reading can be covered by seeking out some great horse books (picture books, read alouds, and/or chapter books (independent reading) depending on the age of your kiddos)
For spelling, we can work on equine vocabulary – both spelling and just learning new words.
Math can also be incorporated with a little work: we could calculate how much a horse will eat over a period of time, compare and contrast different breeds of horses in a graph or chart, or convert units (hands to feet, etc.)
Art could be learning how to paint or draw a horse from a drawing book or YouTube video.
Here are the ideas I was able to quickly come up with for covering different subject areas during our Horses Unit Study.
Gather Resources For Your Unit Studies
This is the most fun part! Well, except actually doing the unit study.
Most unit studies consist of some sort of reading on the topic, a visual aspect (movie or documentary), an interactive lesson or lessons, and a project. But, one of the reasons I love unit studies so much is that you can really let your child’s passions and interests dictate what goes into the unit study.
Got a budding artist? Incorporate more art into our unit studies.
Does your child love to create? Use Legos, clay, dough, blocks, etc.
Here are more ideas to include in your unit study:
- building blocks
- art/drawing supplies
- lapbooks (lots of free ones available online)
- illustrated encyclopedias
- field trips (near and far)
- meet with local experts
- create a timeline
- make a movie
- write and assemble a newspaper (can just use construction paper and cut & paste for younger kids)
- create a board game
- cook a recipe having to do with the topic
The list is endless!
When I create unit studies, I like to use a core book, also referred to as a spine. I usually use Usborne encyclopedias for these. These books are amazing because they have so much information in them and you can get the versions that also have internet links. Usborne has done such a great job of finding high-quality videos and websites to accompany so many topics it’s absolutely astounding!
For our horses unit study, I’m including:
- a lapbook
- videos from YouTube and Curiosity Stream (horses in general and the history of horses)
- pages from our Usborne Encyclopedia of Animals
- drawing lessons from drawing books we have and YouTube
- horse problems in our math work (we can use our play horse figures for addition/subtraction and number representation and I’ve created some word problems for my older daughter)
Get Your Unit Study Organized
Once you decide what activities and resources you want to include in your unit study, it can be helpful to make a list. Write down what books you want to buy or get from the library. Is there a lapbook you need to download and print? Write it down. Do you need to buy/rent/bookmark a movie or documentary?
If you are going to be cooking make sure you have all the ingredients for your recipe. There is nothing like going to make your recipe and finding out you’re missing flour.
A simple list on a piece of notebook paper works fine – no need to make it fancy or involved. Just cross off or check each item as you gather it. Once you have everything collected, it’s time to put the unit study on the calendar.
Schedule Your Unit Studies
Once you have all your materials collected, bookmarked, and organized it’s time to schedule your unit study. You can really schedule the lessons to suit your family’s style. Here are some suggestions:
Schedule all of your lessons in one week for a themed week of study. This can be fun to do, especially if you need to change up your homeschool routine.
Include one subject each day from your unit study. This is a good way to stretch the unit study out and include other subjects that you might not be covering in your unit study.
Show your child(ren) what you have gathered and let them decide what you do when. This is a great way to let your child have some authority and increase their engagement. It will also clue you in to the types of activities that excite them and the ones they aren’t too intrigued by. This can be useful for planning future unit studies.
Unit studies are meant to make homeschool more exciting and inviting for your children (and you). They don’t have to be perfect. They don’t have to be super fancy or involved. Creating your own unit studies is a way to let your child’s interests lead your learning. Letting your child learn about topics that interest them is a great way to connect and build a strong relationship. Focus on building that connection and your unit studies will be amazing. Have fun!
Ready to get started? Download our Unit Study Planner by filling our your info below.
About the Author
Surya is the owner of Teach Me. I’m Yours. where she shares ideas and resources for keeping homeschooling simple and exciting all at the same time. When she isn’t homeschooling her three girls or running behind on housework, she loves to read and travel.