When our family first starting homeschooling 9 years ago, I jumped headfirst into a traditional textbook/workbook approach to school. We in essence were just doing school at home. Our older children had already attended the local public school for a couple of years and were used to this style of schooling. I was quite frankly afraid that I would mess something up and create a big gap in their learning by doing anything else.
It was in January of that first year that I began to realize that school should be excitement about learning and exploring things that intrigued us and not just checking off the lesson numbers in a race to the end of our year. We took two weeks studying snowflakes, winter weather conditions, and world geography related to cultures that spend a considerable amount of time in winter weather conditions. The kids were so excited and we all learned so much. I used a study that I downloaded for free from Homeschool Share. We studied the geometric uniqueness of snowflakes, the criteria needed to establish that a storm could really be classified as a blizzard, and so much more.
Broadening How We Learn
As we explored more into the world of unit studies, our excitement just kept growing. With most units that we have done, there is reading and writing, but there is a lot of doing and experiencing as well. Unit studies can be found on just about any topic that you or your children desire to learn more about. This approach to homeschooling is wonderful for the mom who still wants the assistance of planning out a whole unit, but wants the freedom to pursue her children’s passions and interests.
We have used unit studies with the whole family, but they have gone over so much better with our boys. I think that there is just something about boys that relate better to moving, building, and creating. It is like they can really digest what we have read and learned better by doing and this helps to organize their thoughts before writing about what they have learned. The above photos are from when our oldest son did a study on the Great Empires of the World from Homeschool in the Woods. During our study of the Vikings, we read books on Leif Erikson, prepared traditional Viking food, mapped the Viking journeys from Greenland to America, make Viking coins and learned about their money, and so much more.
Because our son does so well with unit studies, I have picked a more general topic of history or science and built a full year of study by creating a series of unit studies. One year we completed a survey course of Modern World History as it related to the U.S. and major world events. I purchased several lapbook unit studies from In the Hands of a Child and off we went.
Our study included The Industrial Revolution, World War I, The Great Depression, and World War II. We combined different pieces of literature from the countries involved in our study during these time periods. Each day as he would work on new things to insert into his lapbook, it was a constant review of what was already there.
Not Just for History Study
Unit Studies can be used in any subject matter. They can be purchased or you can build them on your own. For example, if my child was interested in studying tornadoes, I could visit our local library and take out non-fiction books and movies on tornadoes. Our local museum may have an Imax Production on Storm Chasers playing. We might find some fiction books where a tornado is critical to the plot of the book. One day in our unit may be a field trip to the local television studio to talk with the weatherman about tornadoes and weather forecasting. I would also probably do an internet search for cool experiments. To help pull it all together, the kids would then have to do an age appropriate presentation including a writing assignment to demonstrate what they learned.
Our family loves the variety of learning activities, cost effectiveness, and vast array of studies and topics we can incorporate into our homeschool when using a Unit Study Approach.
Dawn Oaks is a farmer’s wife and homeschooling mom of 4. She loves reading, checking out new curriculum, growing much of her family’s food on the farm, and working with clients in her holistic health practice.