Unit studies are a great solution for families who want to explore a topic more fully. Instead of a segmented homeschool day where history, language arts, or any other subject you cover in a day have nothing to do with one another, a unit study can bring all of these areas together in an exciting adventure of learning.
While there are companies and curriculums that will do the planning work for you and give you a ready-made unit study, developing your own plan is simple to do and allows you to customize your unit study to fit your family. You can make it as in depth as you feel is appropriate and tailor it to your children’s ages and interests.
How do I plan my own unit study?
1. Choose a topic or theme
The key to a great unit study is finding something that is of great interest to your family. The goal of a unit study is to inspire learning by captivating the child’s mind and giving them a desire to pursue more information. Unit studies shouldn’t be boring or dry. There are so many exciting things to discover, and we want to ignite a life long love for learning in our children.
2. Find books that will aid you in learning about this topic with your children.
Books are a necessary part of a unit study, and all you have to do is make them available for your children. Remember, you aren’t trying to be a “teacher” who has all the information and is imparting that wisdom upon your kids. Your goal is to provide them with the means to learn, and then support them in that journey. Read aloud to them. Be excited about learning with them. Teaching a child *how* to learn is one of the most valuable gifts you can give them.
Let’s say the topic you chose to cover in a unit study is birds.
First you would check out some books from the library (or buy them for your home library):
The Boy Who Drew Birds shares the story of John James Audubon’s life. Reading this and discussing it falls under the category of History, and is an inspiring way to encourage kids to begin observing and identifying birds. You could then very naturally move on to presenting the Audubon field guide on birds to your kids (we’re moving into Science now!). Feathers: Not Just for Flying and An Egg is Quiet would be two more valuable books as you learn more about your topic. There are so many books to choose from! Check out a whole stack from your library if you like.
3. Provide resources that will help your child go deeper into the topic at hand.
Do some investigating online and ask people you know who may have information to share, and come up with a list of possible resources. In the example of a unity study on birds, you can use the Merlin app to hear bird sounds and learn more about birds in your area.
Make homemade suet for the birds to eat (and let your child practice their real life math skills), or just set out some bird seed to entice them to your window. Which foods do your favorite birds prefer?
Read what this family did for a “bird beak experiment” then try one of your own! Get an owl pellet to dissect. Draw what you find in your journal.
Play this Bird Bingo game to become more familiar with the names of birds or print out one that’s personalized for your region!
Draw some birds with Art for Kids Hub in your journal. Look up information about the bird and copy some interesting facts next to your drawing.
If it is the month of February let your kids know that there is a nationwide backyard bird count, and they can participate!
Do you see how this works?
Without presenting anything that could be described as boring, repetitive, uninteresting, or simply “busy work”, your children have spent time learning history, science, math, art, language arts and more. We live in a world where things tend to all mesh together, and require us to be challenged to grow in multiple areas as we learn about a single topic. Unit studies work in the same way.
For more ideas on birds, check out this Exploring Birds Activity book https://amzn.to/33fN82W
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