Looking for ideas to create a unit study homeschool curriculum? You may just find what you’re searching for here!
Homeschooling parents can develop a fun, effective, theme-based unit study curriculum that is related to their child’s interests by following a few simple guidelines.
Creating a theme based home school curriculum is a doable and effective way for homeschooling parents to teach their children. According to Multiple Intelligences Theory, taking a central topic and building a study unit around it using a variety of approaches helps children learn with less effort, retain what they have learned longer and apply what they have learned more readily to other areas of their life.
What this means for homeschooling parents is that there is an alternative they can create themselves that works as well as or better than expensive subject-based curricula.
Creating a Unit Study Homeschool Curriculum
There are four basic steps to creating and using unit studies:
Select a Study Unit Theme
The easiest way to select a theme is to pay attention to what a child is interested in and/or curious about. Does he read a lot of stories set in Pioneer America or outer space? Have you noticed that she has a fascination with bugs or horses? Do you feel like he asks a million questions about volcanoes or sailboats? Any topic that can be approached from many different angles is a good choice for a study unit theme.
If a particular interest is too specific to lend itself to doing a study unit easily, a broader approach may be useful. For example, it might be difficult to come up with enough activities for a study unit on skunks. However, it would be easy to do one on mammals of North America.
Create a Unit Study Plan
Once the theme has been selected, parents and students sit down together and decide on a study plan which includes most or all of the following:
- Reading and writing assignments and vocabulary lists
- Math exercises including word problems, charts, and graphs
- Science exploration
- Social studies projects such as making maps or cooking
- Art, music, and performances related to the theme
- Field trips
Working together to decide on a theme and flesh it out into a study unit is a great way for parents to model valuable life skills such as cooperation and organization.
If there are several children in the family, each of them can do study units based on individual interests. Or they can all work with the same theme and have assignments and projects that are geared to their individual age and ability level.
Follow the Unit Study Plan
Once the study plan has been mapped out, follow through with it. For example, a child at the third or fourth-grade level who is interested in Ancient Egypt might do the following:
- Reading fiction books and stories set in Ancient Egypt and nonfiction books about the subject
- Writing a research paper about life in Ancient Egypt and a story set in King Tut’s time
- Calculate how many blocks are in the Great Pyramid and solve math word problems with Egyptian themes
- Research how the Ancient Egyptians embalmed mummies and the causes and effects of the annual Nile floods
- Learn to play an Ancient Egyptian game such as Senet and make a map of the Nile Valley the way it was in 3000 BC.
- Make Egyptian costumes and perform a play based on an Egyptian myth.
- Field trips – go to the library to find books on Egypt and to a museum to view Egyptian artifacts
Review What was Learned at the End of Each Study Unit
An assessment or review at the end of each study unit is important for both parent and child. One good way to do this is to make a chart of all the subject areas and list what specific skills the student gained or developed further in each area during the unit.
Did writing a research paper help the student learn how to outline or improve her outlining skills? Did building an accurate scale model of a famous building introduce him to the concept of ratios (Math) and teach him more about another era (Social Studies)?
Most State Department of Education websites have lists of standards for each grade which are broken down by subject area and specific skills. These are very useful both for developing a study plan and for reviewing what was learned.
Have Fun With Theme Based Learning
Fun and learning can and should go hand-in-hand. In How People Learn: Brain, Mind, Experience, and School, edited by John D. Bransford, Ann L. Brown, and Rodney R. Cocking [The National Academies Press, 1999] teacher Barb Johnson is cited as being skilled at using unit studies with her pupils. She has them do what she calls “investigations” based on questions they have about themselves and the world.
At the end of each investigation, her students assess what they have learned with often surprising results. As one of her students put it, “I just thought we were having fun. I didn’t realize we were learning, too!”
More About Unit Studies
A unit study curriculum is well suited to the homeschooling environment and easy for parents to create by plugging into students’ interests, creating a learning plan, following through with planned activities and taking time to review at the end of each unit.
Parents who are hesitant about making up their own curriculum but would like to try this fun and effective teaching method can find lists of unit study themes and suggestions for activities on the internet.