Bored with your present homeschool approach? Beginning or switching to another homeschool approach like a unit study doesn’t have to be daunting. I have plenty of ideas to help you out on that.
So today, in my beginner to advanced: 9 steps to a unique unit study, I have tips on things to do in a unit study, arranged in order from least difficult (for when you just want to tip toe over) to most difficult (when you want to plunge head first).
Even if never thought about switching your homeschool approach, one or two of these ideas may have you rethinking your course.
To illustrate this better and help you understand how a unit study is built layer upon layer, I am using the American Civil War as an example of a topic.
1.Read aloud a living book like The Last Safe House: A Story of the Underground Railroad
Yep, that’s it.
Reading aloud a living book is a fun and easy way to kick off a unit study and it feeds your child about the unit study topic you will be considering.
Don’t make this process harder than it has to be. Jump out there and simply enjoy the process of reading aloud.
2. Read aloud The Last Safe House: A Story of the Underground Railroad then do oral narration.
If you want to engage your kids a little bit more, try one technique that can be used in homeschool unit studies, which is oral narration.
Ask your child questions like: What was the underground railroad? What would life be like on a cotton plantation? What were slave catchers? Why is slavery such a sensitive issue today?
It is a great tool to substitute for test taking. Check out my article, Narration – Telling Back or Testing.
3. Read aloud a living book, do some oral narration, then add in ONE easy hands-on activity.
This step is where a lot of homeschoolers may cave, like me. I was the last person to view myself as a hands-on teacher and delayed trying a unit study.
Oh not that I didn’t like it, I just didn’t like the mess it created.
Understanding now that a mess is such a small price to pay for a giant leap of learning, I no longer feel that way.
However, I have also learned that learning doesn’t always have to be messy.
Even a simple puzzle can be a fun and interactive way to bring learning alive.
Check out my article, Easy Hands-0n Homeschool Ideas When You’re Not the Bomb Mom, if you want to be a hands-off mom.
For this time period, a recipe or craft works great. We made some easy hard tack.
4. Read a living book, do narration, do a hands-on activity AND add in some writing.
Reading is always my number one activity to include if I don’t have time to include another detail. Writing is my second activity closely behind reading. Also, up until this step, activities can be done in a day. With this Step 4, this normally blends into a second day.
After a child has been engaged through a living book and done a fun hands-on project first, they are primed for some writing.
Though our method of doing unit studies always include lapbooks, writing can be anything from a creative story to a history report on one of the slaves, about slavery, heroes of anti-slavery, about the lifestyle during that time, about art during that period and even about plant and animal life of the time.
You can even use notebooking pages. We did a Civil War lapbook.
5. Read a living book, do narration, do a hands-on activity, add in writing AND add in some geography.
Not that we don’t love geography first, but if I am limited on time, I always make sure I do skill subjects first instead of content subjects.
Check out the tips in my article, Skill versus Content Subjects: What’s the Difference.
Because the book is about a Canadian family, this a perfect time to contrast and compare Canada with the United States in your atlas.
The American Civil War is a great unit study to illustrate not just state lines, but to expand on the economy of each area.
How to Do A Unit Study In Record Time
Also, you could use a push pin to locate battles of the Civil War and don’t forget to talk about the famous submarines of the American Civil War like Raising the Hunley: The Remarkable History and Recovery of the Lost Confederate Submarine (American Civil War).
Geography is so much more than maps.
6. Read a living book, do narration, do a hands-on activity, add in writing, add in geography AND add in some history.
It doesn’t really matter which content subject like history, geography, art or science that you do first.
I follow my sons’ lead on what interests them at the time. Not all unit studies have history as a subject. If it doesn’t fit, then don’t force a fit.
However, because our topic is the American Civil War, history is a huge part of this unit study.
Not only talk about the causes and effects of the American Civil war, but read primary documents like letters will make history come alive for that time period.
Read about famous people of the war like Clara Barton, read about the music of the time period and read about strategic battles in war.
7. Read a living book, do narration, do a hands-on activity, add in writing, add in geography, add in some history AND add in some science.
Again, it doesn’t matter the order of the content subjects, if all of them, that you decide to do with your unit study. It’s justt that with each step your unit study becomes meatier.
Studying the science of the American Civil War is a great subject. Have you seen the surgeons tools used back then?
Also, read A Civil War Surgeon’s Diary Transcribed.
Then you can add in some ideas for learning about the constellations and how the stars were used to guide the slaves North.
8. Read a living book, do narration, do a hands-on activity, add in writing, add in geography, add in some history, add in science and ATTEND a field trip.
If there is anything that cements learning, it is being able to visualize what you are learning.
Short Cuts for Unit Studies
It is not necessary to attend a field trip with every unit study, but then again, it is a fun and memorable way to remember what you are learning about.
When studying the American Civil War, we were able to attend a memorable history reenactment.
9. Read a living book, do narration, do a hands-on activity, add in writing, add in geography, add in some history, add in science, attend a field trip and MEASURE YOUR PROGRESS.
Unit studies may get a bad rap because it is not as easy to tell what a child has learned or gauge progress. However, tests are no great measure either.
Look at some creative way at my article, Gauging Homeschool Progress – Masters of their Material for ways to test your child’s knowledge in this unit study.
I hope you enjoyed this quick glimpse of the basics steps to starting a homeschool unit study.
There are more hands-on activities involved in each step, but they are not necessary to do at first until you get a bit more comfortable trying one or two.
What do you think? Tempted to try a unit study topic or two?
Hugs and love ya,