For many families a traditional approach to learning includes various text or workbooks covering subjects such as math, language arts, history, science, art, etc. Students progress through a series of lessons to build understanding and mastery of each subject. Typically these subjects are studied independently of each other and the topics covered within each subject are different based on the grade level of the student. But what if you could figure out a way to integrate your learning of traditional subject around a particular theme AND include a variety of ages/grade levels in the process? That is exactly what’s possible with a Unit Study approach.
The Unit Study Connects Learning
The goal of the unit study approach is to select a topic of interest and then use various subjects to learn more about the topic and connect your learning. Books, field trips, group activities and hands-on learning are often used to help students become more involved in the learning process. Because of the variety of learning methods incorporated, unit studies can be very effective for families with children of different ages and learning styles.
Select a Topic of Interest
A wide variety of topics can be the focus of a unit study format, however those that seem to work particularly well include topics related to history, science, art, music, literature, holidays, etc. Over the years we have used a unit study format to learn about diverse topics such as butterflies, the Iditarod sled race, animation, the Olympics, chocolate, and MORE!
To give you an idea of how traditional subjects can work together to help your children explore a favorite topic, I will use one of our favorite unit studies as an example.
My children LOVE history! When we studied the American Civil War we decided to use a unit study approach so we could learn as much as possible about this period in our country’s history. To guide our learning we used Home School in the Woods’ Time Travelers History Study: The Civil War.
Below are some of the specific topics we explored, and activities we completed, broken down by subjects (this information is referenced with permission from Home School in the Woods):
History & Geography
- Prepare a timeline noting events and battles.
- Map the northern & southern territories and border states.
Science & Health
- Research field hospital surgery, nurses and doctors of the battlefield, etc.
- Research how a cannon projects a missile.
- Look into games of the late 1800’s. Rolling hoops was a common game – use a hoola-hoop and a stick and try your skills at it!
Music & Art
- Research uniforms and period clothing – sew costumes of the era.
- What foods were common during this time period? Cook an authentic Civil War dinner.
- Research photos of Matthew Brady, a photographer known for his remarkable capture of the War on film.
Reading & Writing
- Read biographies of men and women of the war.
- Journal as a soldier, nurse or leader.
- Research the overall cost of the war and compare it to the cost of other wars.
- Compare currencies of the era.
Buy or Make Your Own
Unit studies have become a very popular learning option for homeschool families. Because there is no magic formula for what a unit study should include. Families can often create their own unit study by using the library, materials around the house and by conducting an internet search for “unit study ______” (fill in the blank with your topic of interest).
If you prefer to purchase complete unit study materials there are several wonderful resources available. An extremely helpful online source is CurrClick – they offer a “Quick Link” in the left column of their website specifically for unit studies.
As I mentioned above, my children are history fanatics, and for years we have been huge fans of the unit studies available through Home School in the Woods. We have used several of the Time Travelers History Studies as the basis for our study of American History. Not only did we learn a great deal, but we also created a beautiful keepsake as a reminder of our activities.
So tell us, what has your family studied using a unit study approach?
This post contains our CurrClick affiliate link.