Thursday, April 30

How to Create a Unit Study for your Homeschool + Printable Pack

Unit studies are popular with homeschooling families because they provide a hands-on, in-depth approach to learning about any topic of choice.  This is a great way to provide individualized instruction for your students, allowing them explore the 'topic-du-jour,' and instills a love of learning!  It might seem daunting at first, but anyone is capable of creating a unit study in just a few easy steps....

There are five basic steps to creating a unit study, and to help you stay on track, we've created a Unit Study Planner!  You can find it on the Subscribers-Only page or pick it up here.

Pick a topic.
  • Keep a running list of ideas - this could include science, history, geography, literature, career, or just about any topic of interest! You could have one list for the entire family to work together, or each child could have a separate list for individual work.
  • After choosing a topic for this unit, begin scouting resources to learn more.  Our preferred method is to choose a novel as the basis for the unit - such as The Red Menace for our McCarthyism unit - but you might want to pick a movie or field trip for the base.  
  • Elementary units are going to be a little more free-form than those for upper grades (our novel studies tend more toward the middle and high school range), since work requirements are different for younger children.

Decide when to start and how long the unit will last.

  • Our unit study planner covers the length of the year, with room for five units - one each season and two in summer.  Since we use them as a supplement to regular curriculum, this is a nice pace.  If you're using units as a full curriculum, you will probably want to add more.
  • Generally, a full week, or a month of Fun Fridays is a great pace for unit studies.  Our experience has been going full-time when the kids were younger, but switching to Fun Fridays as they got older and needed to stay more on track with their school.
  • The planner includes pages for monthly, weekly, and daily unit study plans - this way you can choose the schedule which works best for you!

Choose resources and activities to flesh it out.
  • Our family is comprised of book nerds.  We love to read, so it makes sense that a novel would be the base for our units.  
    • When we were roadschooling, however, our unit studies were based around our location.  We even got to spend an entire summer studying the Revolutionary War while visiting locations in VT, NY, MA, and PA!  If you ever get this option, even for a few weeks, this can be an amazing way to do unit studies.
  • Books
    • The library is your friend!  Gathering books for the topic is a family affair (if you're doing a family unit).  Students should have some say in what gets chosen, and they get the added benefit of learning to use the card catalogue (virtual or otherwise).
    • We usually take a big bag and fill it with various fiction and non-fiction books related to the topic.  Even with older kiddos, don't skimp on using illustrated children's books.  These are wonderful for teaching vocabulary and concepts, and are just fun to read together!
  • DVDs
    • For students with difficulty reading, or younger students, this is a great method to impart information.  This might be a long movie or several short video clips.
  • Hands-On Activities
    • Depending on your topic, this might look like a STEM kit, newspaper article, or Lego build.  A quick search will often help you turn up several options!
  • Field Trips
    • Roadschooling isn't for everyone, but day trips are a fun way to change up the pace and reinforce the concepts they're studying.  Try to plan one or two for each unit.
Make a plan of activities scheduled by day / week / month.  
  • How detailed your plans are will depend on the length of your full unit.  A one-day fun study will cover considerably less than an in-depth one-month long study.
  • This should include the core schoolwork (language arts, science, history, math) and the fun stuff (activities, movies, and field trips).
  • You may want to use a regular curriculum in addition to your unit study for math, particularly in the upper grades.
  • While it's good for students to understand how to research using internet resources, try to include hands-on research using the encyclopedia and library.  These are still valuable skills.
  • A creative (or non-fiction for some kids) writing assignment is a fantastic way to wrap up a it gives you something to record the study.
  • Don't forget to include vocabulary, spelling, and art!
Decide how you’ll record your unit.
Depending on the age of your students, this might be by creating a lapbook or notebook for elementary students, while upper grades may want to complete a portfolio that includes work samples and photographs.  (You might even let them blog!  Each of our boys has his own private blog for recording events and projects.)

Creating a unit does take a bit of research, but it can lead to some amazing learning experiences with your kids!   We've put together a unit study planner to help you get started, and it's free for subscribers.  Not quite ready yet?  Check out the Novel Studies page, where we've created several unit studies, each with a novel for the base.

Not sure where to start?  Check out these pre-made unit lesson plans!

Pick up the Unit Study Planner for FREE on our Subscriber Freebies page!  Not yet a subscriber?  Sign up here!

SchoolhouseTeachers has a fantastic collection of unit studies included with membership!  They span every subject and a wide range of topics, and the page is continually updated with new ones.  Access those unit studies here.  

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