A unit study is one of the best ways for kids to learn and to spark interest and engagement! We’ll cover what is a unit of study and also how to plan a homeschool unit study lesson topic—for free!
One of the (many) great things about homeschooling is that you have the ability to tailor studies to how your homeschooler learns.
And, unit studies area great way to tailor learning to any learning style!
Learning with study units can be one of the easiest homeschool curriculum for parents and kids (once you get the hang of it) because your child picks a topic and you base learning around that topic.
What is a unit study?
The unit study, also called student interest led learning or topic-based learning, is a very relaxed homeschooling style where learning is based around a specific topic or theme. Within that topic, you incorporate math, grammar, science, reading, spelling, writing, or any other learning or homeschool requirements you must meet. Once you’ve exhausted the studies for that topic, you move onto another topic, often chosen by your homeschooler.
What are thematic units?
Unit studies are sometimes called thematic units, interdisciplinary studies, and integrated studies. They all mean that a theme or topic of study is chosen and then all subjects are incorporated into that theme. You can use thematics units preschool and up!
Unit studies are also sometimes referred to as all-in-one programs for homeschooling when looking at homeschool curriculum reviews and resource information.
We’ll talk about how to create free unit studies homeschool and school below. Don’t miss it!
How Do Unit Studies Work?
Unit studies work by first starting with a topic (or theme) that your child is interested in and then building learning around that topic (or theme). They are great from Pre K unit of study all the way through high school!
How do you create a unit study?
- Discuss interests with your students and decide on a topic.
- Research and gather resources on the topic. Use the library, printables, audiobooks, Netflix, documentaries, museums, and more!
- Think of ways to incorporate subjects like math, language arts, writing, etc. into the topic.
- Plan local activities and field trips to support learning about the topic.
- Allow for lateral learning topics, where similar topics expand and support the initial topic.
- Get creative! Create art or crafts that showcase what the students have learned.
- Don’t put time constraints or an ending date! Allow all the learning to happen about a topic until the kids are ready to move on.
- When you are ready to move on, think of a fun final project. For example, if you studied a specific country maybe you make a meal of authentic cuisine from that country.
- Start the process over with a new topic.
How long should a unit study last?
The great thing about a unit study is that it lasts as long as your learners need to exhaust the topic. For some topics, you may find they are only interested for a couple of weeks. For other topics, the unit study may last a month or so. Don’t rush it!
Example of a Unit Study
Let’s say your homeschoolers are interested in hot air balloons.
As an example of a unit studies on hot air balloons you can:
- Read about the history and basics of hot air balloons.
- Watch documentaries on hot air balloons.
- Make and fly your own hot air balloon.
- Calculate the lift of hot air balloons and the chemistry behind how they fly.
- Visit a hot air balloon festival or museum with a hot air balloon exhibit.
- Paint or color hot air balloon pictures.
- Write a research paper or story about hot air balloons.
& MANY OTHER creative ideas that are only limited by your family’s imagination!
You can even create summer unit studies on interesting summer themes to carry you into the school year!
OK . . .
Before we go any further, let’s pause and take a look at learning styles and why unit studies are not just a good fit individual students, but also for different learning styles, juggling homeschooling multiple ages. and teaching multiple grade levels.
Like, can you do unit studies for kindergarten?
Yes! (And many other ages and stages!)
Here’s why . . .
How To Plan a Homeschool Unit Study
Why Unit Studies Are a Perfect Fit for Homeschooling Different Ages and Learning Styles
If you’re new to homeschooling, it may take a little while to figure out how your children learn (or, their learning styles).
Are they more visual where they have to see something before it clicks?
Are they auditory learners where they can just listen and effectively learn?
Are they more kinesthetic or tactile, where they like to do activities or move around while learning?
Or, maybe a mix?
ALSO, each of your children may learn very differently!
(Yep. That makes things super easy. I know. ::wink::)
So, engaging your children in learning can be difficult, especially if you are homeschooling multiple kids of different ages and have kids who all have different learning styles and preferences.
Now what are you supposed to do?
Enter: Unit Studies
What is unit approach?
A unit study is also called a unit approach. The “unit” refers to the theme or topic that is being studied. Within that theme, several different subjects (language arts, math, writing, etc.) are covered. For example, farming and farm animals may be one unit theme.
If you’re looking for a way to get your child more engaged in their studies, try out the homeschool unit study method (also called topic-based study).
Like we talked about earlier, a cool thing about unit studies is that they can be student directed, which gives your child a sense of control and investment in their learning.
(Plus, they get to pick cool stuff they like to learn about!)
And, you have the ability to gear the topic to how your kids best learn!
Let’s say your child wants to learn more about dinosaurs, but hates to read and loathes worksheets.
It doesn’t make sense to buy a bunch of dinosaur books and torture your kid by having her just sit and read about dinosaurs.
Instead, with a unit study, you build your learning around dinosaurs and how your child best learns.
Maybe you watch documentaries on dinosaurs, make a dinosaur diorama, label the bones on a dinosaur poster, figure out what dinosaurs ate and make some dinosaur recipes, and more.
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Homeschooling with Unit Studies
Building a Unit Studies Homeschool Curriculum
[DON’T MISS FREE UNIT STUDY IDEAS AT THE BOTTOM OF THIS POST. KEEP READING!]
Building your own unit study can be a lot of work because you have to figure out the topic, do all the research, find resources for the topic, and schedule the unit.
However, once you get the hang of creating a homeschool unit study topic, then it gets a lot easier.
I actually think it’s really fun to put together unit studies that get your kids excited.
(So, the extra work is worth it!)
Also, I think this method is also one of the best (and most fun!) ways to learn in homeschooling!
If you really want to get your children interested, ask them what topic they want to study and build a study unit around it!
So, how to plan a homeschool unit study?
Here’s how to create a study unit and some ideas to get you started:
How to Create a Unit Study: DIY Unit Study Steps
1. With your child, decide on a topic of interest.
If you have more than one homeschooler, rotate their topics of choice or come to an agreement on a theme.
2. Determine your requirements.
Are you covering math, science, spelling, etc.?
Are there specific state requirements that you must meet?
3. Search online for lesson plans, activities, crafts, worksheets, videos, coloring sheets, and recipes on your topic, or check out our lists of theme lessons.
Print out the things that are helpful for your learning on the topic.
For example, search the internet for “hot air balloon lesson plans.”
4. Loosely plan and schedule your studies.
I say loosely because in homeschooling you have the opportunity to adapt and change as you need.
Be sure to allow yourself that flexibility or you may miss out on some fantastic learning opportunities!
5. Reserve books from the library on the topic.
6. Plan field trips.
7. Start learning!
Where To Get Ideas for Free Unit Studies
- Library for books and audiobooks
- Amazon Prime movies and documentaries
- Learning channels like History Channel, Discovery and NatGeo
- Search online for Free Printables
- Free museum days
- Theme lesson lists
Homeschool Unit Study Ideas
Want to get other homeschool unit study ideas that are already prepared?
(This is a great way to go, especially if you’re just starting out with this method or new to homeschooling.)
Check out these unit study or topic-based resources.
You can use them as a base for your studies on the topic and then also add any additional info that you find in online unit studies.