Unit studies are one of the most exciting ways to learn in an homeschool setting. While they may take some preparation, they are well worth it in fun and learning. This is how to put one together.

Create your own unit study? Yes, you can

There are so many fabulous homeschool resources available that you might be able to find a unit study for almost any topic desired, but what if you want to craft your own? At one point that is how many of the teaching materials came to be created. You might have experience, expertise, and interest in a topic that you want to teach your children, but fear taking away time from core subjects, or maybe schoolwork has become a little boring for all involved. Making and implementing a unit study can be the answer to all those concerns.

This is a loose guide to inspire your own creative ability to plan and follow a unit study.

  • Outline the process of putting together your own unit curriculum
  • Give you pointers on creating unit studies
  • Suggest guides and supplies I found helpful when I homeschooled my children

Unit Study

Defined: an in-depth look at one topic while integrating all the academic subjects in that study.

Find Resources In The Local Library

Your local library is a free resource for many of the materials and research you will need to create your own studies.
Your local library is a free resource for many of the materials and research you will need to create your own studies.

Use Classic Children’s Literature

There is an entire method of teaching based on this idea alone. Using the classics to teach good language skills in integral to all academics, but there is so much more you can do with these good stories! Many are filled with historical background and characters to branch off into history stories, geography, and more depending on the particular books.

Laura Ingalls Wilder Unit Study
Laura Ingalls Wilder Unit Study

Laura Ingalls Wilder is a captivating writer, and her stories include real history. These beloved books are ideal for a unit study

Topics…which one will you choose?

Unit Study Topic Tips

PICTURE THE OVERLAP OF SUBJECTS

Almost anything can be a topic which provides a foundation to a unit study.

Try to narrow down the focus to a children’s interest, a famous person, or an era. Anything that holds either interest or importance is a good place to start for building your theme.

Then do some mind mapping. Imagine that subject in each of the core studies: is there a correlation in math problems, or are there uses of math in that particular subject.

Poultry as the study topic, for example:

  •  Is math used for computations of space per animal in the chicken coop?
  • How about feed rations?
  • In English: How are chickens used as metaphors or similes in writing, and why?
  • Geography: Where did the domesticated chicken originate?
  • Science: breeding fancy chickens.

REFINE AND FOCUS

Sometimes it is better to refine the topic into a manageable size… “rivers” might be too broad a topic, while “Rivers of Ohio” might be a better focus.

CENTER ON SOMETHING YOUR CHILD ALREADY LIKES

star wars robots

Star Wars triggers interest in astronomy

Desire oriented learning brings immediate involvement with a subject. Or center on something you believe your child will like and be interested in, we often don’t know if we like something until we try it . Desire oriented learning helps the student branch out easily into more challenging, less liked, areas of study.

This is the whole point of many unit studies. It is also what makes this such a powerful tool for learning. Choose a favorite book or a specific year, or something far-out like Orson Wells “Attack from Mars”. Begin exploring science through the lens of science fiction to engage young minds.

Science And Star Wars

American Educational Complete Astronomy Study Unit
American Educational Complete Astronomy Study Unit

Science can be difficult for some homeschooling parents to incorporate, but a unit study will create an avenue into this important part of your studies.

Unit Study Inspirations: Make Your Own

There are quite a number of ready made unit studies to be purchased on Amazon, from homeschool sites, and through many curriculums. This is a sampling.

Putting together your own might start with one of these, or it might be tailored to a topic within one of your children’s interests.

Empowering You With Confidence To Begin

Ready to go with a guided study, all the work done for you is a great time saver and confidence builder. Homeschool doesn’t have to be hard for the teaching Mom. So many resources to sift through might be the only work needed to put together a really stellar year of fun and learning.

This type of unit study was what I liked to add in after the Christmas holidays, when no one is very interested in buckling down to rote work. It can also include lots of field trips to museums or science exhibits.

If you decide to study birds, it can be used in all seasons to build habits of observation, note taking, and related skills.

Birds of North America Unit Study
Birds of North America Unit Study

This has to be one of my favorite topics for a unit study- birds are so fascinating and the possibilities for a great unit study are endless.

Homeschool Tip: Set A Schedule

Include a start time and schedule projects. Decide on the length of time to devote to the unit study.

Activities: Units almost create themselves once you put these components together

Many resources are available through membership fees, and homeschool conventions are also a good source for finding unit study ideas and supplies.

  1. Field trips to match up with your learning focus
  2. Lapbooks and Journals to record and collate your child’s work
  3. DVD’s of documentaries or pertinent movies.
  4. Create a book list of reading materials
  5. Add research and mapping skills by encouraging self-study in these areas of the topic
  6. List artists related to topic (i.e. John Audubon for his bird studies if topic is ‘American Eagle’)
  7. Brainstorm writing assignments highlighted in the topic. Science centered? Then, “what is a research paper?” might be a pursuit in English branch of the unit study

Unit Study Tip: Hone In On The Topic

In your study: focus, focus, focus. Then branch out to topic-related activities inside each discipline of study.

Writing Driven Study

Writing, for some students is quite challenging, but incorporating it daily into the backbone of your teaching can overcome the natural tendency to fear the blank page.

Don’t be discouraged if you have a tardy writer. I had a son who I almost despaired would ever learn to write reports and essays. Eventually, he “got it” and in college turned out to be quite gifted in poetry and writing. This type of method, where writing is seamlessly leading learning is a more painless way to teach.

Whatever teaching method you choose as your homeschool’s main one, try out some of the others occasionally, especially if your child is having some trouble tackling the concepts.

Study Driven: A Framework for Planning Units of Study in the Writing Workshop
Study Driven: A Framework for Planning Units of Study in the Writing Workshop

This is a book about writing. A method that uses the same type of thinking that drives unit studies: find out what is in the real world, study it and use it as a way to gain academic skill. Not a book about creating unit studies per se, but a book that will help with the very necessary part of an education: writing well.

Homeschool Moms Discuss The How-To

Learning Resources

Homeschool Help Online

Take a favorite book- discover Hobbit trails in math, science, and history.

Literature as a Starting Point

What child, or teacher for that matter, can resist delving into the world of the Hobbit as J.R.R. Tolkien created him? My children and I loved this book and the studies in this teaching guide. It covers vocabulary and reading comprehension in a wonderful way.

Study Disciplines you will want to cover – Use these as headings for your plan

  • Science
  • Math
  • Writing and Grammar
  • Literature
  • Art and Music
  • Geography and Social Studies
  • History

The Hobbit: A Teaching Guide (Discovering Literature Series: Challenge)
The Hobbit: A Teaching Guide (Discovering Literature Series: Challenge)

A fun way to study a favorite book. The hobbit is loved for good reason and makes an excellent basic topic for a unit study.

What About The Great Outdoors?

Use Your Camera: Document, Create

Don’t overlook how much your digital camera can add to both creating the unit study materials and documenting the work and activities. If you don’t have a camera already, consider buying one. Of course, many phones come equipped with a perfectly adequate one.

Making A Botany Unit Study

This writer has tremendous amounts of super helpful information on all aspects of homeschooling.

Have you thought about using a vacation or daytrip as a basis for teaching history or a complete curriculum for a couple months?

  • What’s All This Fuss About Unit Studies?
    A unit study is a teaching method where you choose a topic and try to accomplish as many academic subjects around that topic as possible. It is a very appealing to home educators for many reasons: you accomplish more in

Ever made your own unit study? – Did your children enjoy it?

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