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Unit studies, also known as Thematic Studies, are really useful in a homeschool situation as a way of including a variety of subjects within an overall topic.
Unit studies are usually built around one topic. Some unit studies are based on a period in history, a specific event or a historical character. Other unit studies are built around various scientific discoveries or inventions. Unit studies can be built on anything you or your child can imagine.
It can be easier to teach different ages the same topics with multi-level unit studies and they are popular among homeschoolers wanting to keep all of their children on similar topics at the same time.
Within the topic, you can incorporate science, reading, spelling, writing, art, geography or any other subject.
I typically create my own unit studies because that is the best way for me to completely individualise them to what we want to learn. Occasionally we use pre-planned unit studies as well.
How To Write a Unit Study for Home Education
- Decide on a topic. This could be anything but try to include your children in deciding and think about what they are interested in. Some ideas for a unit study are Vikings, Rivers, Toys, Christmas, Castles, or the weather. The possibilities are endless.
- What are the Goals? What’s your end goal for this study? If you have more than one child then you can customise the goals specifically for each child. Think about what you want your children to be able to achieve by the end of the unit study.
- Gather your supplies. It can be really tempting to go online and just spend a fortune buying all the books you can find on the topic you have chosen. DO NOT DO THAT! It can get very expensive if you do. Use your library and books that you already own. Trust me in a few years and after numerous Unit studies by using the library instead of buying all the books you will thank me when you realise how much money you didn’t spend.
- Look for suitable videos to go along with your topic. These are great as an introduction to the topic and lead to discussion and conversations. This will help with your children’s listening and speaking skills, and encourage critical thinking skills.
- Different Subjects. Decide how you are going to incorporate all the different subjects within the topic.
- Field Trips. Think about any field trips that could be included
- Activities. List all the activities – Do you want to incorporate some cooking or crafts?
- Resources and Supplies. Make sure you have all the resources and supplies that you need to complete all parts of the unit study.
- Write your schedule – write a plan of what you want to cover. How long will you spend on the unit each day or week?
Remember with a unit study it is best to try to cover a broad spectrum of subjects such as writing, spelling, history, geography, art, music etc. Unit studies tend to have a lot of hands on learning incorporated into them. I have found that in most unit studies that I make myself that I tend to not include math and keep that separate as it can sometimes be very difficult to incorporate into your unit study.
You have decided that you and your children are going to do a unit study on a particular topic but now you are sat there thinking “How do I create a homeschool unit study? What do I include? How long will the unit study be?” and lots of other questions. I have some questions that I ask when planning a unit study that may just help. Hopefully these questions and activity ideas will help you expand your unit study topic idea so that you will be able to include history, geography, science, literature, reading, writing, arts and other ideas.
Why make your own Homeschool Unit Study?
The best answer I personally can give for this question is that I can personalise what is included to suit my child and their learning style.
Questions to help you brainstorm your Homeschool Unit Study
First write down the unit study topic. Next start asking yourself some questions that can be applied to the topic.
Where in history is …….?
Can we investigate the time period?
What was happening in the country and other countries at the time?
What was the culture?
What is the history of the topic? Has it developed over the years?
Is there a particular town, City or country associated with the topic?
Can this area be compared to another area?
What is/was the geography of the area like?
How did the geography of the area affect the people, clothing,food and resources?
What was written in this time period?
Is this person famous for some written work? (if studying a person)
Is it possible to read primary sources from the time period?
Are there historical fiction books of the time period or of the character?
Is the topic scientific?
Look up scientists of the time period
Were there any scientific inventions in the time period?
Are there any science experiments relating to the topic that can be planned?
Can we find out about what it was like- clothes, houses etc to draw
What was the music like from the time period?
Any recipes from the time period? – Cooking
Find some appropriate videos which show the culture, music and customs of the people
Activities that would work with nearly any Homeschool Unit Study
I know that when creating my own homeschool unit study I try to incorporate between two and four activities. I have a goto list of activities that we like to do and I just choose a few from the list that I think I can easily incorporate into this particular unit study. Your list will probably be different over time as you get to know what type of activities your children enjoy.
- Draw map or make a map using paper mache or salt dough
- a science project
- a craft project
- Make a stop motion video
- write a story using a writing prompt
- make a diorama
- take a field trip
- make an authentic period recipe
- make an authentic period game
- recreate a famous piece of art
- create your own board game
- watch a movie
Homeschool Unit Study Topic Ideas
Example 1: Unit Study Topic – Seasons
What could be included?
- Cycle of our seasons
- Northern/Southern Hemisphere seasons
- Animals and seasons – hibernating and migrating
- Seasonal food – planting, growing, eating
- Solstices and equinoxes
- What is your favourite season and why?
- What is your favourite seasonal food?
Fun facts: In India there are 6 seasons – find out about them.
Example 2: Unit Study Topic Choose a famous Inventor
What could be include?
- What was the invention
- What year was the invention created?
- What was the inventor’s life like?
- How complex was the invention?
- What was the need for the invention?
- How did it change or help the world and people?
- Is it still in use today?
- Is the modern day version of the invention the same or has it changed?
Other ideas for Unit Studies
- Animals – just about any animal can be used to create a unit study
- Periods in history, eg. Victorians, Ancient Greeks, Tudors etc
- Planes – about the history or the development of a certain plane
- Famous People in history
- Villages/ Towns or cities
- Land forms
- Use a fiction book
- History of Computers
Nearly anything that you can think of can be used to create a unit study. Have a look how I planned my very first Unit Studies for Home Education