Are you a fan of unit studies? Unit Studies are an integral part of our homeschool life. We absolutely love them!
I didn’t even know what a unit study was until our second year of homeschooling. Since discovering them, however, we’ve used them for a variety of topics.
I won’t go into why unit studies are so fabulous, as that’s a post for another day. Suffice it to say, they are one of my top favorite ways to learn about most anything my kiddos are interested in!
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When I first discovered unit studies, I wanted to create these beautiful learning experiences for my children.
But I had no idea where to start.
I was completely paralyzed and overwhelmed with where to start researching. Thankfully, I found Everything You Need to Know About Homeschool Unit Studies in the used section at my local homeschool store.
It helped me start to wrap my brain around what a unit study would look like in my own homeschool.
After a ton of trial and error (mostly error), I have a fairly simple formula for creating a unit study for my own children, and I’d love to share it with all of you!
These easy steps will help you plan and execute a simple unit study for your own children, ages Preschool to 2nd grade.
SIMPLE Unit Studies
Simple unit studies are just that: simple.
My basic rule of thumb when compiling a unit study for young children:
♥ Choose the living books for your study (fiction and non-fiction); add in 1 read-aloud if available
♥ Choose 1 hands-on activity or craft project
♥ Choose 1 way to evaluate what your child has learned (if developmentally appropriate)
Note that this method of simple unit studies is used with my Preschooler – 2nd grader.
I create longer and broader unit studies for my older kiddos, since they need more that this introductory-type of study.
Preparing to Plan Your Unit Study
When I am preparing to plan my unit study, I make sure I do several things:
→ Block out two hours of uninterrupted time to research and brainstorm ideas.
→ Prepare a place to write down ideas. You can use paper and pencil, or a program like One Note or Evernote.
→ Ensure I have access to my printer with ample printer ink, copy paper, and card stock.
→ Refuse to check my email or any social media (except Pinterest – I often need it for ideas)
I’ve planned many a unit study in little bits and pieces of time, but the process goes much more smoothly and quickly if I can get it done in one big chunk.
We all know what a time suck Facebook is, so just make a deal with yourself that you won’t even open that tab on your computer while you’re in planning mode.
Determine How Long Your Unit Study Will Last
The first step in writing your own unit study is to determine how long you want it to go. An average unit study is anywhere from 1-3 weeks.
If you are planning your first unit study, I would only plan for 3-5 days maximum. You won’t be overwhelmed with planning a small study and it will make it easy to eliminate activities because you only have so much time.
Of course if your child is soaking up every book and activity you put in front of him, then spend longer on it, by all means! Spending as much time as you desire on a particular topic is one of the many joys of homeschooling!
Some topics lend themselves to shorter studies, such as studying dolphins or why leaves change colors. While other topics need 2, 3, or even 4 weeks to adequately learn about all of the different aspects you’d like to cover. The Civil War, electricity, or studying pioneer life are examples of longer unit studies.
If you are planning a unit study for children in 3rd grade or younger, my best advice is to plan only a week, and at the very most two weeks.
There will be plenty of time in later schooling to study a topic for 3-4 weeks. Remember that you just want to expose your young learner to a wide variety of topics and ideas – you’re not going for mastery here.
The goal for the Preschool to 2nd grade crowd is to facilitate a love of learning. So keep it short!
Step 1: Start with Living Books
I always start first with books, as living books are the backbone of our entire school. Well, in addition to The Book. 😉
Of course I always start first with Amazon since they are so good at suggesting books and related books.
I read the ratings and reviews on several fiction and non-fiction books, then make my selections.
If available, I reserve them online at my local library.
If not, I purchase them from Amazon. Besides the fact that we have Prime Shipping, I’m a big believer in having a well-stocked home library. So that makes it a bit easier to click that ‘Add to Cart’ button, despite our limited homeschool budget.
I usually select 3-5 non-fiction books and 1-2 fiction books to go with our studies. Of course, this is subject to change, as I might find 10 books that we just can’t live without!
If the topic lends itself to a read-aloud, I search for one of those as well.
I have a growing selection of book lists for kids, so make sure to bookmark that page to find our favorites!
Step 2: Add a Hands-On Activity or Craft
My own children have proven to me over and over that a hands-on activity is essential in helping them remember ideas and concepts. It’s always the part that they remember the most.
Even though I’m a bit crafty, the hands-on activity always causes me the most stress. I’m worried it’s going to eat up a big chunk of time, or I just don’t feel like I have the energy for it after a long day.
But every time I make the effort to do the activity, my children jump for joy! It makes them think I’m the best mom ever, and we DO end up having a great time and making wonderful memories. It’s just the mental hurdle I must jump over.
My experienced advice is to not skip the activity or craft. 😉
There are many types of activities available. Here are a few to get your wheels spinning about what your own children would love:
♥ Draw a chalk pastel. They’re a very forgiving medium, and one for all ages. Hodgepodge has an enormous assortment of tutorials, and I promise you can’t do just one.
♥ Find a 200-300 piece puzzle that fits your theme.
♥ Search Amazon for a board game or card game about your chosen topic.
♥ Create a mural about your topic and display in the hallway.
♥ Have a child that loves imaginative play? Set up a small activity basket with items related to your topic.
♥ If your topic is history related, create a pictorial time line.
♥ Write a small 4-5 page book using only pictures to describe your topic.
♥ If your children are into plays and drama, have them write a short skit about your topic and act it out.
♥ Make a diorama related to your study.
♥ Re-create a particular theme with playdough.
♥ Cook a recipe based on the subject – this is especially fun when studying other cultures/countries or time periods.
♥ Use salt dough! Create a salt dough map or create a salt dough scene related to your topic. Super fun!
Step 3: Choose a Way to Evaluate Your Child’s Learning
There are so many fun ways to evaluate your child’s learning – lapbooks, notebooking pages, creating a poster, and more!
If your child is not yet writing well, you can use one of these methods and be your child’s scribe. Let him dictate the answers to you, and you write them down.
If your child is writing well, he can complete the materials with some assistance from mom.
If your child is Kindergarten or Preschool, I’d encourage you to choose something simple, if anything at all.
Here are a few choices from the multitude of possibilities:
And that’s it! These are the only essential elements you need to plan a simple unit study for your young learners.
But wait… what if your child wants to do more?
Yes, by all means, go for it!
I’ll be back tomorrow with several add-ons you can plan if your child is super interested in your chosen topic.
I can’t wait to share those with you!
What are your biggest questions about unit studies?
Next in this series: Even More Resources to Plan a Simple Unit Study