Planning a Unit Study

Planning a Unit Study

Unit studies are a great way for homeschoolers to weave all subjects together and a way to provide really in-depth teaching. It allows them to dig deep and spend as much time as they need to, absorbing all there is to learn. They can be as brief or as lengthy as you see fit, and planning them may open the doors to other learning opportunities. If you are homeschooling multiple children of different ages, unit studies are a perfect way to plan one topic, and customize it for each child. But planning those unit studies can quickly result in overwhelm if you aren’t sure where to begin. Here are 5 Steps to Planning a Unit Study.

Planning a Unit Study

 1. Where do I begin?

You begin at the beginning…
  • Start a list of all the topics you want to cover. Don’t worry about subjects like math and English just yet. We’ll get to how to cover subjects later because in some states, this is a requirement.Involve the kids in this initial brainstorming, and see what their interests are.
  • Make sure you include topics you think should be covered as well. This is a family affair and mom must have a say in the homeschool too. Feel free to give the kids suggestions too.
  • Sometimes thinking on the spot is hard for little ones and they may need some prompting. Think about what their interests are, where they spend hours of their time, and what you can make into a unit study that you ordinarily wouldn’t consider (Fairy houses? Sure. Why not?).  Think you can’t cover all the subjects by studying fairy houses? Guess again. I’m going to show you how.
  • Don’t initially dismiss anything and write it all down on a big sheet of paper, or dry erase board. When kids feel invested in their learning, they are more apt to take ownership of it.

 2. How do I plan my units?

Start by noting the following:
  • Is there information that I already have on this topic?
  • What do we want to learn?
  • Check to see if there are books that you already have on this topic.
  • Call the library or go on line to reserve books on this topic.
  • Browse Pinterest for ideas to cover the topic. Pinterest boards can be categorized by topic, grade level or subject. It’s really up to you and what works best for your brain.
  • Get to know your local librarian and ask them to reserve books, on the topics you need. Most librarians are happy to do so, or at the very least give book recommendations on your chosen topic.
  • It is likely that you will have so many ideas and never be able to get to them all. As you work your way through the unit, see what your children respond to. They may want to expand even further on activities that are planned. Some of the activities may initially look great on paper, but may not be engaging in real life.
  • Plan out your weekly homeschool year. Do you homeschool all year long or mostly follow the public school schedule? Note vacation weeks, MD appointments and anything that might push off regularly planned days.
  • Assign each topic to each week that you will be homeschooling. This is a rough guess so feel free to switch up the weeks if you’d rather do something different.
  • Start by gathering information and supplies on the chosen topics for the month. Do your shopping once a month for any supplies you need. No one wants to run out weekly to try to find moss and tri-fold poster boards for projects.

3. Should I follow a textbook?

Maybe. Textbooks can be a great place to get ideas to jump off from. They can also be a place to study some areas of your unit study. Don’t disregard them, but view them more as guides rather than must follow directions. Textbooks can be supplemented with many complementary curriculum.

4. How do I cover the typical subjects?

If your state requires that you cover certain subjects, that can easily be done with unit studies. As noted above, pick your topic first, then worry about the subjects. I’ve included this sample about a unit study on fairies to help you. You can incorporate Math into the unit study as well. We chose to use a separate program for math and overlap all of our other subjects with the topic.

 5. Am I doing too much?

Doing too much is easy when you plan your unit studies.
I would plan:
  • 1 or 2 extra activities in case what you’ve chosen to do is a wash. Sometimes things don’t pan out the way you intended, and you might need an alternate plan to fill in a spot.
  • Decide how much time you want to spend on each unit, and map out your plan for the year. Do you want each unit to last 1 week, 2 weeks, a whole month or something different?
  • Don’t incorporate too many resources for ideas because it results in overwhelm.
  • Mapping out your full year, relieves some of the angst of “What are we going to study next?” But be flexible in moving things around.Your kids may want to continue on a unit that they are enjoying. At some point, you will need to stop for your own sanity. Topics can always be revisited if it is of particular interest.
  • Sometimes, a unit is just not speaking to you, or to the children. Ditch it if you have to. Move onto something more interesting.
Unit studies are a fabulous way to bring exciting and interesting topics to your homeschool.
What have you studied and what did you include in your unit study?
Happy Homeschooling,


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