Homeschooling Style: Unit Studies

Unit Studies are a versatile way to homeschool. They typically incorporate many subjects and are centered around a specific theme or topic. The focus can be on just about any topic of interest and are fairly easy to pull together. For example, a unit study about animals could include:

Language Arts - reading stories about animals such as Frog and Toad are Friends, Charlotte's Web, The Wind in the Willows, The Jungle Book, White Fang or Moby Dick. Children can then write their own animal stories.

Science – Learning about animal classifications and habitats, identifying animals using field guides, visiting a zoo.

Geography – Using maps and a globe to locate animal regions

Math – Counting animal sightings, graphing information

History – Understanding animal extinction, discovering the relationship between man and animals

Additionally, with a little extra planning, unit studies can be used in a multi-age classroom so that children can learn similar information together. Unit studies are also well-suited to pair with other homeschooling styles such as Charlotte Mason and Montessori.

Some reasons this method is chosen:

Immersion into a topic – Because unit studies are theme-based and often chosen based on the child's interest, students can dig deep into a study and discover it's relationship across all subjects instead of information being disconnected when presented in only one subject.

Multi-level classroom friendly – As mentioned above, children of various ages and grades can study the same topic at their own level saving the parent time teaching and preparing for lessons.

Adaptable for all learning styles – Most prepared unit studies provide a selection of activities and educational options from which to choose to fit a variety of learning and teaching styles.

Do-it-yourself curriculum – With the help of the free resources available on the internet and at the library, creative teachers can create their own unit studies about literally any topic. Be sure to have your unit planned out prior to gathering materials and be careful not to over-plan what you want to cover.

No time limits – When selecting a topic of study, there are no set-in-stone time frames to complete your study. A study can last a few days, weeks, months or even years.

Some reasons this method may not be for you:

Preparation intensive – Even when using a prepared unit study gathering materials, deciding what to do and use as well as adjusting unit to fit your family's needs can take more time that typical "out-of-the-box" curriculum.

Material costs can add up – Depending on what you plan to study, not all resources will be free or readily available. It is easy to go overboard purchasing books, supplements and materials unless you carefully plan and budget for this.

No defined guidelines – Unit studies do not provide a structure for at what age or grade something needs to learned and mastered and are more of a freeform of learning. Without set goals and educational marker, it can be difficult to determine if your student is progressing and learning adequately.

Learning gaps will need to be addressed – Although unit studies by definition include all subjects, it may be difficult to find related material for some subjects to fit your selected topic and therefore will need to be addressed separately in order to prevent educational gaps.

Record keeping may be challenging – Because most unit studies use a variety of resources and usually don't include traditional testing methods, keeping good records of everything that you do and use as well as assessing your students learning progress is essential to providing documentation of your schoolwork.

To learn more about Unit Studies:

DIY Homeschooler – The Unit Study Approach

Homeschool Diner - Unit Studies for Homeschoolers

Happy Little Mess - Incorporating Unit Studies

Heart & Soul Homeschooling - Homeschooling with Unit Studies