How to Create A Homeschool Unit Study in 5 Steps

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

Scared of what? 

Scared of "missing out" or having "gaps" from the ever changing nebulous list of copious amounts of information mainstream education says that we all need to know but, most of us don't ever use it again in our adult lives. *coughs

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

What about unit studies?

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

It's all a dance, right? That fine balance of reading deeply into what you need to stay a sane homeschool parent, and what your restless kiddos might be needing and craving.

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 I see so many parents and teachers selecting the unit study of interest based on the adult's interest. I too have made this error plenty of times over my teaching career. The result? Lackluster interest 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. Grab my unit study planner bundle below to help you quickly and easily create your first or next unit study.

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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 - 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 meet about it. 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 hours, days, and weeks of planning something that your kids might not be into.

unit study family brainstorm session

After all, you want your unit studies to be red-hot, exciting topics your kids will jump 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 - Researching and Gathering Unit Study Resources

Next, you and your kids can go on a "treasure hunt" looking for as many rich resources centered around your 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
  1. Gather and organize your resources in a special learning area or resource center in your home.
  2. Arrange digital files you find online in digital folders.
  3. Save Youtube playlists.

Step 4 - Look for Unit Study Subject Connections 

  1. Look through your unit study resources.
  2. Search for natural subject connections with your main topic 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

  • Keep a journal. I provide a beautiful journal template in NatureGlo's Unit Study Planner BUNDLE.
  • Blog
  • Take pictures & video
  • Create lapbooks
  • Do notebooking

Recording your unit study allows you to be able to look back on the fun learning journey you and your kids shared together. This 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 to Whet Your Unit Study Appetite

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

apple unit study

Say your child is really excited 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 apples unit study doesn't just have to be 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 pies! Find it like buried treasure within each pie, muffin, cookie your family bakes or makes!

How to Cover Unit Study Language Arts

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 aloud with your kids.

apple unit study johnny appleseedJohn 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.

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 explosed to 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 all over again, 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 pie at the orchard market, if they have one. Most do.

Find Art in An Apple Unit Study Example

There can be found arts and crafts projects galore during an apple unit study. The Internet is your oyster for this one. But, one of my personal favorite apple art projects is apple printing. You cut apples in half vertically and 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 Cooking

There are so many incredibly delicious apple recipes at your Internet fingertips. If you prefer, you'll most likely find them in cookbooks you have on hand. This is a great way to get the kids involved with decision making. Invite them to select apple recipes 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 BUNDLE. 

Order Your Unit Study Planner Below.

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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. I'll see you on the inside!

Talk soon,

Gloria aka NatureGlo