Exposing the Unit Study Myths

When someone mentions the word ‘unit study’ do your toes curl? Or do feelings of desire (longing) come flooding your way? Does the very thought of homeschooling with this method seem overwhelming? Or are you intrigued and curious about how to implement unit studies into your homeschool?As I’ve presented this topic in workshops across the country, I get a sense that most homeschool moms would like to be doing more of the unit study approach, and certainly know their kids would enjoy this approach, but because they have heard some myths, they have pushed the option right out of their minds. In this article, I would like to break down some of these myths, but before we begin, let’s be sure we are on the same page regarding this method.

What exactly is a UNIT STUDY?

A unit study is simply a study of a unit (topic), while integrating subjects.

There are many different approaches to a unit study, and it can be an adapted to any homeschool method.  Let’s debunk the myths surrounding this approach and begin to explore how you can implement this option with your children.

MYTH #1

It is impossible for a unit study to meet all of my children’s academic needs.

It is true that math and language are taught sequentially and need to be practiced daily to gain proficiency. However, for ALL the other subjects there is not a specific order for topics to be learned. Curriculum writers have made decisions as to what topics we are interested in at various ages and made a scope and sequence chart so that their chapters and grade levels would not overlap topics.

We as home educators have the privilege of learning topics with our children as their interest is peaked. Isn’t it true that one can learn about birds at age 3 and at age 90? The opportune time to study birds is when spring is in the air and you see the robins and cardinals building their nests or when you are heading on a family vacation to the ocean and are able to spot shorebirds! Is there an ideal grade level for this learning to take place? Of course not – the younger children will learn according to their abilities and the older children will be able to research at a deeper level, but you will have opened the door to the wide world of information on this topic and will come to the realization that you will never learn it all.

MYTH #2

Implementing a unit study will take too much of my time and energy.

This is the homeschool mom’s nightmare! “How do I make it all happen?” In my twenty-five years of homeschooling our five children, I have tried various methods and came to this conclusion: It is way more productive to be putting time INTO a unit study than to be NAGGING your children to finish their work pages!

To help you debunk this myth, you must remember that implementing a unit study can take as much time as you can give it. There is always more that you can do and learn on any given topic. That’s the amazing reality about this wonderful world that God has made. That’s the beauty of teaching this love of learning. But, if you can simply pick a topic, read some books – fiction and nonfiction, do a couple hands-on activities and write something about that topic, and you have completed A UNIT!

Remember to relax and enjoy your family.

MYTH #3

Only a creative, resourceful mother can teach using the unit study method.

I’ll admit it! I have not always been this creative, nor have I always loved learning. These two bi-products have come as a result of learning with my children over the years. This is the bonus of homeschooling! I think this myth has paralyzed many homeschool moms. Hands-on unit-study does not equal putting on a full-scale drama production of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night! You may not be interested in serving a Medieval Feast while you are doing a Kings and Queens unit, but you may be able to give your children some empty boxes to create a castle.

As frivolous as these activities may seem, they are the very thing that connects the learning, bringing retention and purpose to your studies. The good news is that you do not have to be creative, your children will have plenty of ideas. You just have to give them time, materials and space!

unit study - rocks

MYTH #4

Unit studies are for the struggling learner or ADHD child.

While it is true that for some children, this unit study method is going to be the game-changer in their schooling as they dig into a topic that they’re really interested in. For sure, the hands-on activities and the excitement of learning one topic together as a family will help instill wonder in their lives and inspire your unique learner. I’m confident that this inquiry and investigative method is best for ALL children. Charlotte Mason stated it so beautifully, “What a child digs for is his own possession, but what is poured into their ear floats out as lightly as it came in.”

I believe that ALL children will be inspired in their love of learning while doing a unit study and that the benefits of adding hands-on activities will help to cement the information in their minds and prepare them for life-long learning.

As I look back at our own children’s experiences, I can see that this unit study approach was a model for future activities that they would be involved in. (ie.Sunday School lessons, camp instructor, university presentations, house building, etc.) The benefits of doing a unit study with your whole family extends far beyond the subject matter.

With these myths exposed, let me finish with a final word –JUST DO IT! You will not regret it and your children will thank you for this breath of fresh air.

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