Homeschool unit studies are a very flexible homeschooling method. Maybe you have already tried registering with a Catholic homeschool program and need a change. Maybe you have been designing your own curriculum using the workbook approach but are ready to try something different. Think about it. Within one unit study topic, you can teach subjects such as history, science, art, music, spelling, vocabulary and handwriting to all of your kids at the same time. Besides being concise, they can provide you with a fun, flexible and creative way to educate your children.
If you are interested in pre-made, authentically Catholic unit studies, then check out my page on Catholic Unit Studies. Here you'll find unit studies that are 3-4 weeks in length based around the lives of various Catholic Saints. Each study covers a variety of topics and is affordable and available to download.
Let's look at those three words I just used - fun, flexible and creative - and see how they relate to homeschool unit studies.
First off, unit studies can be a fun way to educate your children. All you have to do is to pick a topic and decide what it is you want to learn about it. Let's say you have a bunch of boys and you want to learn about excavators. This, I am sure, is a topic that they would find very fun to learn about.
I have found, through my own experience, that the more fun the topic is to the students, the more they want to learn and the harder they try. Maybe part of your learning would be to go to watch a crew put in some underground pipes and watch how they use the excavators. Or maybe you know an excavating contractor that would be willing to let your boys try out his machine (with his help, of course!).
The next word I used was flexible. Homeschool unit studies can be flexible in a variety of ways.
Learning a topic through a unit study approach can certainly help when you have a larger family with children at a variety of different grade levels. Learning one topic all together and then requiring different level assignments from each of the children sure beats trying to teach all of them individually using different workbooks.
Unit studies also allow you to be flexible when you have children with different levels of interest in the topic being covered. Some might only be interested in the basic information you provide, while others might want to take the time to delve deeper into the topic.
Finally, homeschool unit studies can be creative. That is what makes them so interesting. Sit down with your kids and brainstorm some topics that they would like to study. You can decide if everyone will have a vote or if you will pick the topic. Once the topic is chosen, let the kids help decide what they want to learn about the topic and how they want to learn it. You might be surprised at what they come up with.
Always remember to let God have a say in your unit study, too. Being the Master of creativity, it has always amazed me what happens when I let God have a say in how we should learn something.
Let's look at a simple example, shall we? We happened to be at a funeral home one day and they had a huge salt-water fish tank. We stood around admiring it and the kids began asking all kinds of questions. This led me to think of doing a two-week fish unit study.
The kids first had to decide if they wanted to study fresh-water or salt-water fish.
We then went to the library and checked out a bunch of books. Once we got them home, the kids had a chance to look through them and read things that interested them. We also picked out one main book about fish to read together.
Next, each child was to pick a particular fish that they liked, do some research about it and write a report. The younger kids were given questions to help guide them.
Each child then had to include a hand drawn picture of their fish.
To top off the unit study, we had my dad catch us a fish and he let us touch it, dissect it and told us all about the proper way to fillet a fish. It was a great way to bring the unit study to life.
One of the nice things about homeschool unit studies is that they can be as long or as short as you want them to be. You could make one last only a week or two, or you can design a more complex one that might take you a month or longer. It all depends on what you want to study and what you want your students to learn from it.
You might also want to remember one important thing: If the unit study that you thought would be the coolest thing in the world is going nowhere, don't beat it to death. Either cut it short, or figure out a way to make it more interesting. Your kids won't get excited about learning if you are still trying to get them to learn something they aren't interested in.