In this post I will share my simple guide to the homeschool unit study, including how to create your own, and some amazing homeschool curricula that uses a unit study approach.
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What is a Homeschool Unit Study?
A unit study is a method of learning through a set of curated books and experiences centered around one topic, or theme.
Many homeschool families enjoy using unit studies to deep-dive into topics of interest. Unit studies can be used in a variety of educational environments (remember projects in elementary school?). They are even used by unschooling families as a part of child-led and interest-led learning approach.
How Do You Do a Unit Study?
There are many different ways to do a homeschool unit study, and I think the great thing about them is the flexibility to go as in-depth as you want. You can make them last a day, a week, or a month, depending on your child or children’s interest levels.
Typically, we use unit studies to add seasonal content to our homeschool. We generally spend 2 weeks on our unit studies, but there are some things we do that could be considered units that we spread over the whole year. There is no wrong way to do a unit study.
What Topics Make a Good Homeschool Unit Study?
The short answer is, any topic that interests your child or children will make a great homeschool unit study.
We have some seasonal unit studies we revisit every year or most years.
Some of these include:
- Advent and Christmas
- Valentine’s Day
- St Patrick’s Day / Ireland
- Holy Week and Easter ( <– grab my resource!)
- Solar System
- Autumn Leaves
- Garden (the couple weeks when we get our garden in!)
- Math Week (We usually do a math week every winter and play tons of math games!)
- Saints and Feast Days
We also love to build little unit studies off of our read-alouds. For example, we had to study coconuts, iguana, and sea lions these past couple weeks as we read Nim’s Island.
Are Unit Studies Important?
Unit studies can be a really fun and engaging way to learn. They can also be like beating a dead horse. Sometimes its totally okay to just go to the Pioneer Village and not do a whole unit study about it. Other times, when it is really a topic of interest or you need to change up your daily routine a bit, it can be fun to do a unit study the week before you go.
If you have educational trips coming up and you want to encourage learning about it, but don’t want to do a whole unit study, you could consider adding a living book on the topic to your Morning Basket (here’s a post all about how to do that!) or use the technique of strewing.
How Long Does a Homeschool Unit Study Take?
A unit study could take anywhere from a day to a whole term or year. The length of the unit study typically depends on a series of factors:
- Attention span
You should also consider how many ways you will address the topic. Will you include language arts, geography, math, history and so on within the unit study?
How to Create Your Own Homeschool Unit Study
A simple way to create your own unit study is: Topic, Time, Spine, Resources & Experiences.
- Topic: Pick a topic.
- Time: Get a general idea of how much time you’d like to spend on it.
- Spine: Choose a “spine” – choose a living book or a non-fiction resource to consult and give a bit of a scope to your learning. This can be as simple as a picture book to pique your child’s interest.
- Resources: Select books and resources: the library is a great place to go for this, but don’t underestimate your own house – you may have related toys or games, the internet may have printables or videos, etc.
- Experiences: Add in hands-on learning activities or field trip experiences.
- Assess, move on, or dive deeper: depending on how your kids are feeling they might want to learn more or they might be inspired by a related topic or need a complete change of pace.
Say you want to do a homeschool unit study on money. Your kids have been interested in it, and you’d like to help them learn about making good money choices.
- First you decide you’d like to learn about money, specifically your own currency but with some other general world knowledge.
- You decide you’d like to spend a few days on this, or a bit longer if needed.
- You choose a solid resource about money like this one from Usborne that you think will be age-appropriate for your kids.
- You find a few additional resources at the library, pull out a toy cash register, print off some cheques and budgeting sheets.
- You plan a trip to the mint, as well as the bank to open bank accounts for your kids, and let them make cash purchases next time you’re at the store.
- When you do all that, your kids are super interested in money and budgeting, and they are inspired to try a little entrepreneurship. So you also get them another great book about starting a business for kids (this one is cool!) and go from there! Or, you got one day in to all the cool stuff you had planned and everyone thought it was boring. So, you decide to shelve it and try again next year when they are older.
You Don’t Need to Do It All
The place where unit studies can go horribly, horribly wrong is when you plan too much for your child’s interest and attention span. We have so many amazing resources available to us, that trying to “do it all” gets overwhelming fast.
Say it is spring, and you find some frog spawn. That is so, so cool! You print off pages about the life cycle of a frog, you look at books and even watch some videos. Then, the interest wanes and a bunch of resources you had planned “go to waste.” That is totally fine!
It is ok to leave things “incomplete” and not exhaust every topic. In fact, it is great! We know that we are always learning and if the topic hasn’t been exhausted, you’ll revisit it again at some point and learn more.
Best Homeschool Unit Study Resources
There are many pre-made homeschool resources or curricula that take a unit study approach. Here are some links to posts where other bloggers listed their favourites.
Big List of Homeschool Unit Study Curriculum by Tina’s Dynamic Homeschool Plus
100+ Free Unit Studies by A Mother Thing
Comprehensive Unit Study Curriculum by Cathy Duffy Reviews
There is no wrong way to use a unit study in homeschooling. You can use a unit study in addition to your usual course load, or instead of another course load. Unit studies can include all areas of learning, or be more selective, such as a history unit.
Some examples of unit studies include weather, a specific geographical location or an animal or ecosystem, a topic like geometry, and so on.
Unit studies are flexible and can be as broad or narrow as you like. Some things to consider are if you are applying the topic to a wide range of methodologies or keeping it more limited. You should also consider the time you have to devote to the unit study.
Unit studies can take a day, a week, or several months depending on the ages, interest level and resources you have available.
Free Printable Unit Study Planner
To help you keep your unit studies organized, I have created a free printable unit study planner. You can use these for pre-made unit studies or for creating your own unit studies.
If you prefer digital planning, I highly recommend using Pinterest to plan your unit studies. While you’re there, follow me to catch all my free printables and unit study resources!
This printable contains:
- 1-page colour version
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How to Access the Free Printable
- Drop your email in the box below.
- Check your inbox and click through to the PDF.
- Save it to your computer or phone.
- Print it off at home or at your local printer.
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- Watermark free version may be available on my Etsy shop.
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