The unit study topic is one that has grown in popularity for the homeschool family. Many parents, including myself, have found unit studies to be better suited for our families and homeschool, frustrated with boring textbooks, workbooks, and parent guides.
We want the freedom that a unit study offers and all the benefits of using them in our homeschool. That’s not to say that some curriculums advertised to homeschoolers, don’t try to profit off of our misery, by offering a unit study approach at super high prices that include parent guides on the side.
In this article, we will discuss what a unit study is, how to use them, why use them, benefits, and examples.
So, What Is a Unit Study?
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First, good unit studies do not involve dry reading, memorization, busy work, endless worksheets, and bored students. There must be a balance.
A unit study help students learn topics in depth, such as The Declaration of Independence, Oceans, Animals, birds, the Continents, etc. They can also be used when studying the Bible with your kids, with lessons like Job Skills For Kids, The Gospel of Matthew, and more!
A unit study is also a collection of hands-on learning activities tied to a theme. They are designed to cover main subject areas like math, English, and science. They can also be designed to cover history, geography, and health, all at the same time. It’s amazing what a unit study can do while making learning fun and exciting, creating an out-of-the-box experience to education.
When a family first starts homeschooling, the first question asked is, “What curriculum do I use, and where do I purchase textbooks?” Soon after, they realize that textbook learning, taught in compulsory schooling, doesn’t really work for their family. They have become a slave to textbooks, burnt out, and frustrated, because they didn’t finish it. How many textbooks did you finish in your own education?
Textbooks are written from the perspective that everything in the world fits into one of several categories, like history or science. They include a collection of information that is to be read, memorized, and repeated for a test or exam.
They are used in the public school to create compulsory learners, memorizing information, but unable to apply it to life. Unit studies allow students to delve deeply into a given topic so that they can gain mastery of it. By exploring a subject from multiple angles, information is more likely to be retained.
How To Use a Unit Study
There are many ways to use a unit study. Parents might decide to go through the entire study, use parts of it, or do only half of the study so they can dive into something else. The choice is yours really. Sometimes, you may love a topic so much, that you may spend an entire semester on it. Like the one we stretched out last year, The Declaration of Independence for Multilevel Teaching.
There are three ways we use a unit study (and preserve materials). These ways are tried and tested, money savers, and I include these instructions with all the ones we create.
Print the student pages of the unit study according to your needs (like worksheets, prompts, student led directions, recipes, etc.). Again, some parents might do parts, sections, or the entire study. If you are doing the study in its entirety, print all the student and instructional pages.
Organize your students’ resources in a 3-ring binder, putting all pages into page protectors for future use. As they do the assignments, return the pages to the protectors, to keep for records. You can even affix a cover page to the top of the folder and have your students decorate it.
Print the student pages of a unit study and allow your students to notebook or lapbook them.
All the pages can be notebooked and some even have dotted lines around them, to make it easier for your students to cut out the material and paste it into their notebooks or lapbooks.
Any type of notebook or scrapbook can be used. You can also double up pages by printing two pages to one. This will print in a “landscape view.” Cutting paper usage in half. The assignment will be a “mini” version of itself, or “half sheet.”
This method I have used to save paper, and it’s basically using what you have! Print a master copy, protecting the pages with lamination sheets or page protectors. Students can look at the assignments and do everything in their notebooks. Even getting creative by drawing shapes around sections of information in their notebooks. Nothing else is needed, and you can concentrate on projects and experiments.
Why Use a unit Study?
You might want to consider the unit study route if textbooks don’t work for your family. Or maybe you want some textbook work and some unit study work to make school more interesting. Preferring to use a textbook for math, or another subject, then having everything else covered by a unit that you can present to all your students.
A homeschool parent might choose a unit study if:
- You are homeschooling children across multiple age groups and levels.
- Your homeschool is focused on student led learning, and this creates independence.
- Homeschool parents who have found the traditional system too rigid, and students, especially high-energy ones, struggle to sit down and get work done. Unit studies allow parents to teach the whole family simultaneously engaging the body, therefore, helping with the fidgeting.
- Homeschool parents with students on the autism spectrum who have intense interests in specific subjects, this helps with their various fixations.
- Homeschooling parents that love to create their own curriculum. We have various articles on this topic: How to Plan a Literature Based Unit Study, and How to Build Your Own Homeschool Curriculum.
- The homeschool family that needs low-cost curriculum options and resources.
- The homeschool family who want short-term unit studies for variety.
Benefits of unit studies
The main benefit of a unit study is that you can accommodate your children’s interests and teach your whole family as they are learning together. Unit studies are usually multilevel, and very accommodating. The well-known Charlotte Mason’s approach is most like the unit studies method out of all the methods.
- Unit studies inspire leadership. Your older kids can teach or assist the younger ones. Something implemented in my home.
- They are engaging when textbooks and workbooks can be boring.
- Unit studies have hands on activities.
- They relieve stress from families with many students or a special student and create more bonding time.
Many people use lapbooking or notebooking (getting children to create mini-books or notebooks on the subject) to help learn the content in unit studies. This reduces ‘information spoon-feeding’ as is often seen in public schools, they are fun and help students become more self-motivated and self-directed.
Below is an example of a unit study sold here, it covers multi levels and subject areas. You can see that many projects and hands on activities cross over to cover more subjects cutting down your work
Examples Of Unit Studies
A unit study can be small or large depending on how long you want to dive into a topic or theme. They can cover 1, 2,3 or all subjects, sometimes even math. I supplement math with my unit studies, usually choosing a math that is self-teaching, such as Master Books or ACE.
Some examples of unit studies and printables are sold and created right here! To find more, visit the store.
Are Unit Studies Right for Your Homeschool?
So, is the unit study approach right for your family? I cannot say enough good things about unit studies. As an avid homeschooler, they have made my life stress free. I have just recently had a baby and my students range from Jr. High to elementary levels. Yes, you can create your own, but if you do not have the time, purchase some.
Many are sold on homeschool websites and some popular curriculums also take this approach, although you pay for the brand name: My Fathers World (combines Charlotte Mason, classical, and Unit Studies to form a cohesive curriculum.), Gather Round Homeschool(similar to My Fathers World, in my opinion), KONOS Unit Studies (Christian homeschool program that allows you to teach all your children at once.), The Amanda Bennet Unit Studies (sells individual units and subjects.), among some.
Unit studies are excellent ways to help you teach all your students or a greater part, at once. They reduce stress, help with learners who struggle and can easily be created. They save you money and help you develop resources. If you haven’t tried them, give it a try today!
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