A unit study means integrating all the subjects into one general theme or idea.
The benefit of doing this is:
Types of Unit Studies
There are different types of Unit Studies for example
a) Literature. Based on a book (e.g. Charlotte's Web), learning is completed based on what is discovered in each chapter. E.g. Spiders, pigs, farms, fairs etc
b) Science. Machines, Electricity, Weather, Pets
c) History / Geography. Learning about particular countries
d) Specifically Christian. Konos, Beacon Media
These begin with an aspect of God's character e.g. God is our protector, then flesh out from there into different areas e.g. Castles, weaponry (Armour of God) World Wars etc
Most Unit Study enthusiasts would suggest that you supplement your units with a Maths and spelling/Phonics program.
Where to Start?
I prefer to design the units myself with the ideas coming from the children's interests. There are Unit Study Curriculum available if you prefer to have it all organised for you however the main drawback of these is they do not offer this flexibility.
In our situation the basic ideas/themes come from the children. Last year my 9 year old decided he wanted to learn about whales. After asking him for ideas we would then have a brainstorming session to work out what we can do in the different subject areas.
After that I would use the Internet and simply search for "Whales" to find suitable sites, worksheets and activities. I also find resources at the library or Video store. From there I would flesh out what we plan to cover in the first week. E.g
Monday - Watch Video "Wolves of the Sea" and discuss
Tuesday - Use the Internet site "Enchanted Learning" fill in the basic research sheet on Whales. Complete a Whale Dot to Dot, Start reading "Moby Dick"
At the end of each week I evaluate what we have done and plan for the next week. These plans should be flexible and dependent on interest. It is OK if we decide to 5 take longer or shorter on a particular activity.
I try to end each study with a BANG! Our final activity for whales was to draw, 3 then paint, a life-size 2.4m baby killer whale. This activity proved to be very it successful because:
a) We all had lots of fun
b) The children were astounded as to the actual size of this 'baby'. They then went on to measure every thing in the house, driveway and yard to compare it to the whale. (I hadn't planned this! So maths figured strongly in our learning that day)
Another great way to start and end a unit is with an excursion E.g.
Australian Animals - A Wildlife Park
Planes - The Airport
Machines / Inventions - The Powerhouse Museum
Africa - Dubbo Zoo
China - Chinatown, Chinese Restaurant
Cooking is also a great thing to include in Unit studies. E.g.
Africa - Geographical Map Cookie, Jungle Animal Cookies
China - Spring Rolls, Fortune Cookies
One of my favourite ways to end a unit is to play a "Sale of the Century" type of game. We simply use ice cream containers for buzzers and Mum reads from a list of questions on the topic we have studied. This is a great way to informally test your child's knowledge of the unit.
If you prefer a more structured school method, there are plenty of websites containing worksheets to supplement your unit. You can even find worksheets that will fit into established curriculum such as Kings ley Education science/history/geography workbooks
My challenge to you is to 'Have a Go' at a Unit study for a Day, Week or Month. The Christmas Holidays are a good time to try one out. There are great ideas on the Internet for Unit Studies on Christmas (both Christian and secular). If you require help feel free to send me an email. My address is at the top of this article.
The best thing about home schooling is that you can cater the learning to what suits your children's personality and learning style. Children quickly lose enthusiasm if they see that the parent has no enthusiasm for the approach they are using.
I believe full on curriculum learning has a place but have found it to rarely inspire children to keep on learning. I treat all the approaches to home schooling as a smorgasbord and pick from all of them depending on what I can use to inspire my children to love learning and to become lifelong learners
www.thefourwheels.com/units (A-Z topic guide for units + web links)
www.homestead.com/unitsbybarb (Free sample unit on China)
www.theswap.com (Unit study users message board)
www.eho.org (Topic guide for unit studies)
www.enchantedlearninq.com (Worksheets, Craft and general information on various topics e.g. Whales)
My First Amazing World Explorer (Published by bK media)
Kingsley Life Pac units (if workbooks are required) http://www.kepl.com.au
Five in a row (Literature based unit study curriculum) www.fiveinarow.com
Beacon Media (Christian unit study curriculum) www.beaconmedia.com.au
Greenleaf Press (Unit study packages based on historical time periods.) www.greenleafpress.com
How to really love your child (Dr Ross Campbell)
Children Are Wet Cement (Anne Ortlund)
Bendt, Valeric. How to Create Your Own Unit Study. Tampa, Florida, Common Sense Press: 1990.
Bendt, Valerie. The Unit Study Idea Book. Tampa, Florida, Common Sense Press: 1992.
Author: Tammy Earnshaw