Through most of my 25 homeschooling years, people have known me as The Unit Study Mom. I fell in love with the idea of Unit Studies way back in my Early Childhood Education days and carried this idea of ‘themes’ right into my Homeschooling Days. My memories include exciting units on The Body, Flight, Africa, Canada, and Electricity. It was these topics – hands-on activities, books and projects that shaped our homeschool days. To me, homeschooling without unit studies is like cake without icing or dinner without dessert.
A unit study is simply this: an in-depth study of one topic.
With 5 children in the span of 10 years, there was often a toddler running around or a preschooler wanting in on the action. I love the buzz that occurs when everyone is learning about the same topic. The younger ones are looking through picture books; the middle ones are reading non-fiction books and the older ones are doing online research. This is multi-level learning at its best.
I’m a firm believer, along with Charlotte Mason, that “education is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life”. It’s not our job to pour information into their heads. Rather, it’s our job to provide experiences so they can discover the wonders of the world around them. For our family, it was the unit study time that forced me to stand back and let the kids make a mess and discover concepts. This is discovery learning at its best.
I really believe that as they see the adult plan and execute these unit studies, kids learn! They have many opportunities to see research happening before their very eyes. They see the attempts and re-attempts of trying new ideas. They see first-hand a love of learning, as their parent has ‘aha’ moments. With each unit, parents share wonder and awe of God’s creation while at the same time we demonstrate the steps of completing a research project. This is modelling learning at its best.
I believe that Unit Study is Ideal for ALL Learners – especially the Unique Learner.
Not all our children had the same learning style or the same strengths and weaknesses. It was through unit study that I was able to steer each child towards their interests. We could determine together what type of research or presentation or writing project was ideal for their needs. Our unique learners need this opportunity to share what they know in their own way!
You, too, can create a unit study for your family. Keep it simple! Believe me, it will take on a life of its own before you know it.
5 Steps to Create a Unit Study
- Choose a topic – any topic of interest.
- Collect some books on the topic
- Choose some hands-on activities – do an experiment, build a model, cook some food
- Plan an assignment or sub-topic for each child
- Plan a final project – a presentation at dinner for grandparents or another family, a poster board, a scrapbook
A unit study might last a week or a month. Our best units happened when we joined a couple other families for a morning a week of discovery and fun. Each of the moms took turns planning some activities. This kept me accountable and inspired.
Recently, our son and daughter-in-law built their own home. Our extended family (our children and grandchildren) drove many miles to join in the project. It was a very special moment in time. One of our adult children said, “I feel like this was a KONOS moment…a unit study moment…just bigger and better.”
Yes! This IS what homeschooling is all about – preparing our children for the living of life!