5 Easy Steps to Create A Homeschool Unit Study

Dec 27, 2023

To use or not to use curriculum can be such a touchy topic for many homeschoolers. There are so many parents who just WISH that they could do more "out-of-the-curriculum" box homeschool styles, like unschooling or unit studies, but, they are too afraid to do so.

Dispel the "Learning Gaps" Theory

What are homeschool parents afraid of?

Homeschool parents are usually concerned about "missing out" or having "learning gaps" in their child's education. The truth is, everyone at every age always has the said, learning gaps. It's impossible for any one person to know all the things!

This mentality is left over from our own K - 12 education experience. It's regarding the nebulous ever changing list of copious amounts of information mainstream education says that we all need to know.

However, most of us don't ever use most of the information that was spoon fed to us throughout our K - 12 education in our adult lives today.

On top of the pressurized nagging thoughts of "am I doing enough for my kids education?", that college carrot ever looms over parents heads. I often hear homeschool parents saying, "Will my kids be ready for college if we decide to mostly follow my child's interests?"

Try Unit Studies

Unit studies are somewhere between using pre-packaged curriculum and child self-directed learning or unschooling. A unit study based homeschool can be an enriching and enlivening learning experience for the entire family.

Unit studies can be used to completely or partially replace an entire curriculum for any grade. It's a great homeschool style focused on learning for the sake and love of learning since it's a topical study based on the child's interest.

It's all a dance, right? That fine balance of reading deeply into what you need to stay a sane homeschool parent, and catering to your restless kiddos interests can make for a very narrow balancing beam to straddle.

Let's have a recap of my short unit study definition.

A Brief Unit Study Definition

A unit study is a focused topical study of high child interest that connects multiple subjects all relating back to the main topic.

I highlight the phrase "high child interest" because many home and school educators select the unit study topics based on the adult's interest. I too have made this error plenty of times over my teaching career.

The result?

Lackluster interest from the learners unless the child happens to be interested in the topic too.

Let's dive into how to create a homeschool unit study in 5 easy steps.

Get NatureGlo's FREE Unit Study Lesson Plan Template.

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Grab my unit study planner bundle below to help you quickly and easily create your first or next unit study.

How To Get Off To A Great Start With Your Next Homeschool Unit Study

How do you get off to a great start with a unit study? Rather than just picking the unit study yourself, there's a way better, faster, and easier way that's super simple, yet too many times overlooked in the adult world.

Step 1 - Have a Unit Study Family Brainstorming Session.

The very first thing I recommend parents do when they're considering doing their next homeschool unit study, is to sit down as a family and talk about what the kids want to learn.

Ask your kids what topics they'd like to study. Sounds simple enough, but most adults skip this important part, including, yours truly. By getting your kids unit study topic buy in first, you can literally save yourself from planning something that your kids might not be into.

After all, you want your unit studies to be red-hot, exciting topics that your kids will want to leap out of bed to learn everyday.

Ask them what their top interests are and write them down. I have a brainstorming template that you can use found in my Unit Study Planner BUNDLE.

Step 2 - Plan and Schedule Your Unit Study

During and after you have had a family unit study brainstorming session, you can begin planning and scheduling your first or next unit study. You'll have the most important input from your kids which will point you in the right direction to start researching and gathering your resources.

  1. List out resources in a planner.
  2. Add book titles, urls, resource types
  3. Schedule dates

Step 3 - Research and Gather Unit Study Resources

Next, you and your kids can go on a "treasure hunt" looking for as many rich resources supporting their chosen topic as you possibly can get a hold of.

Look for the following resources centered around your main topic of study:

  • Books, eBooks
  • Videos
  • Games: cards, board games, video games
  • Arts & crafts materials
  • Experiment materials

Gather and organize your resources in a special learning area or resource center in your home.

  • Arrange digital files you find online in digital folders.
  • Save Youtube playlists.

Step 4 - Look for Unit Study Subject Connections

Look through your unit study resources. Search among the resources for natural subject connections with your main topic found in math, science, history, geography, literature, art, and music.

Remember. All learning is connected. When you treat subject extraction like a treasure hunt, you'll start to have a child's eagerness and wonderment as you learn to see the connections between your family's main topics of interest and the other academic subjects.

The weakest subjects I've found in the homeschool unit study community, is covering math. Yet, math is found everywhere around us from the length of your hair, to the very thing you're seated on (or floor standing on) while reading this. Everything can be described in number, geometric shape, and in higher math terminology.

I discuss the details in more depth about looking for math in your next unit study topic in my post, What is a Unit Study?

Step 5 - Record the Unit Study

  1. Journal about the unit study experience. I provide a beautiful journal template in NatureGlo's Unit Study Planner BUNDLE.
  2. (OPTIONAL) Blog about your homeschool unit study journey.
  3. Take pictures & video your unit study.
  4. Create lapbooks for your unit.
  5. Do notebooking.

Recording your unit study learning experience in video, photographs, and in written form, allows you to be able to look back on the fun learning journey you and your kids shared together.

Recording the unit study can and should be a lot of fun as you take photos and or videos of their projects, written work, art, etc, and keep it to look back on for memories sake and for the ever looming homeschool state reporting.

An Apple Unit Study Example

Here's a great visual example of what a unit study is using an apple unit study example.

Say your child is really excited and interested in learning about apples. They love everything and anything to do with apples from apple foods like apple pie, apple candy, and apple muffins.

Did you know that you could extract every single core academic subject at ANY grade level from a simple apple unit study?

Well, you can!

An apple unit study doesn't just have to be just for younger children.

Finding Math in An Apple

Look at the apple math connection in the image. If you cut an apple horizontally, you'll find one of nature's most common patterns, a 5-pointed star. This can lead into a fun rabbit trail of where else 5-pointed stars are found in the natural world.

After all, tweens and teens can really get into making apple pies and applying math to them such as:

  • Calculating pi with a real pie
  • Finding geometry - measuring the area of the pie
  • Trig - calculating those triangular slices
  • Calculus (rates of heating and cooling)

Wow! So much math is found in delicious apple pies! Find the math connections like buried treasure within each pie, muffin, and, or, cookie that your family bakes or makes!

How to Cover Unit Study Language Arts

Let's continue using our apple unit study example. Next, for Language Arts you can study the life of Johnny Appleseed, the famous apple seed sower of the 18th century. In his story, you can find connections with history, geography (all the places he visited and planted apple trees), to doing your literature simply by reading aloud or taking turns reading the story of Johnny Appleseed aloud with your kids.

John Chapman (1774 - 1845) aka Johnny Appleseed

How can you find literature in an apple unit study about Johnny Appleseed? Your kids could pretend that they're Johnny Appleseed and do a creative writing story sharing where they might go to plant apple seeds.

CLICK HERE and get free access to a superb storybook about Johnny Appleseed from Use this book as a jumping off place for your literature study. Learners will get inspiration from the book to create their own plays, games, projects, and written works.

Unit Study Science Curriculum in an Apple Study

Finding science in an apple unit study can be as obvious as studying the growth of apple trees to the chemical reactions found when apples are cut and exposed to the air.

Apple Unit Study Field Trip Example

Your family can go to an apple orchard as a field trip. This experience can tie all of the core subjects together, but, from a rich experiential perspective from apple picking, to hearing a historical story of the orchard's existence, to purchasing apple butter and apple pies at the orchard market, if they have one. Most do.

Find Art in An Apple Unit Study - Apple Printing (Apple Stamps)

There are numerous arts and crafts projects that can be stumbled upon during an apple unit study. The Internet is your oyster for this one.

One of my personal favorite apple art projects is apple printing, or, apple paint stamping.

You cut an apple in half vertically or horizontally (here you can see the beauty of the 5-pointed star), dip them in paint and press them down on paper. It's a lovely thing!

Apple Unit Study Example - Cooking

There are so many incredibly delicious apple recipes at your Internet fingertips. If you prefer, you can find them in cookbooks you might already have on hand. Apple recipes are a great way to get the kids involved with decision-making. Invite them to select apple recipes that they're interested in making.

Ready to take your homeschool to the next level with unit studies?

Whether you're a beginner or a veteran unit study creator, I've got you covered with my Unit Study Planner template freebie or paid Unit Study Planner Template BUNDLE.

Ready to take a deeper dive into unit study planning? Get NatureGlo's Unit Study Planner Template BUNDLE.

With NatureGlo's Unit Study Planner BUNDLE, you'll be able to plan your first or next unit study with greater ease, organization, and clarity helping you keep your kids learning going at an exciting, manageable pace.

Talk soon,

Gloria aka NatureGlo