Unit studies provide an excellent conduit for learning as they teach our children through a Hands-on approach, incorporating different learning styles with proven success in the home and classroom setting. So, why is it that many parents break out in a cold sweat and feel totally overwhelmed with the idea of unit studies?
An ancient proverb reflects the foundational philosophy of the unit study approach.
Show me and I remember.
Involve me and I understand”
Unit studies provide an excellent conduit for learning as they teach our children through a Hands-on approach, incorporating different learning styles with proven success in the home and classroom setting. So, why is it that many parents break out in a cold sweat and feel totally overwhelmed with the idea of unit studies? Could it be they feel they are not adventurous, creative or possibly organized enough to be successful with the unit study philosophy? Let me reassure you, while these are great traits for the unit study family, they are not requirements for success!
In our family, like many homeschool families, we began homeschooling with a traditional textbook approach and while this was easy to implement, my children quickly became disinterested. Providentially, as we finished our first year and began to look forward to the next, my husband accepted a “barter payment” for a job…his payment? A comprehensive Unit Study curriculum called the Weaver. We quickly adapted and loved learning together—subjects made more sense as we saw how they were interrelated, and most importantly, we flourished as a family learning together.
One of the tremendous benefits of the Unit Study approach is that it provides a solid platform for organizing your homeschool by allowing children of multiple ages to learn together. Unit Studies allow families to study core subjects like history/geography, science, art/music and language arts together, doing most of the activities and projects together while challenging children at their own individual level. In fact, with the Unit Study, the only subjects that will need to be added is grade appropriate math and spelling/phonics.
As you consider incorporating unit studies, what are the most important things that should influence your decision making? Here at Rainbow Resource Center, we have developed an acronym to help families to evaluate and organize Unit Studies. The acronym P.R.O. is defined as Pick Your Topic, Research Your Topic and Organize Your Unit Study.
There are several things families should consider as they pick a Unit Study topic or curriculum. The first consideration is the age of your child. While it seems obvious to say, the unit study should be age appropriate or able to be “tweaked” for younger children. Several years ago, my son (7) became fascinated by the Titanic. I created a simple, overview unit study of the Titanic, which he devoured and begged for more. As I continued to develop our Titanic Unit Study, I quickly found some aspects to be challenging for a young child and adapted the information for him. Another age consideration is the need to develop or purchase a unit study focused on the oldest child in the family. It is important the Unit Study be challenging for your oldest child. Typically it is easier to simplify the study for younger siblings than it is to “upgrade” for the older ones. Another beautiful aspect of the unit study approach is older children can actively explain (teach!) the information to younger children, which further enhances their learning.
Another consideration is interest level. As parents, we understand that children will be eager to learn if it is a topic or subject in which they are interested. On the flip side, due to the interactive nature of a unit study, I encourage parents to select a topic of interest to them as well. Let’s face it, if Mom isn’t interested, the study just won’t happen!
Family Dynamics also play a significant factor in your unit study journey on many levels. Within the family dynamics are the number of children you have; any health issues in the family (parent or child) and anticipated life changes (for example: moving, birth of a child). When you look at your individual family dynamics, you will want to prayerfully consider each of these areas. Quickly, in overview, family considerations include : the design of the Unit Study is primarily for group learning , so having one child may involve more “hands-on” participation from the parent(s). Health issues will have an impact on the time available for the study; however, using a prepared unit study curriculum will save time in planning and preparing for the parents. Although some additional items will be necessary, the bulk of planning and scheduling is done for you. In my family, we experienced various health issues over the sixteen years we home-educated. In those instances, we found literature based unit studies to be a tremendous blessing as we were able to do the core of our study from the couch/bed.
Financial considerations are a reality for all homeschool families. One of the greatest benefits to the Unit Study lifestyle is the expanse of materials available. If families are able to spend a bit more money, purchasing a prepared unit study curriculum is a tremendous time saver. On the flip side, for families on a more limited budget, unit studies can be created using the internet, a library card and commonly found household items. While it is true, mom created unit studies will involve more time in the research and plan stage, the money saved makes this a valuable option for many families.
Become a Unit Study PRO!
Incorporating Unit Studies into your homeschool is a valuable way to enhance learning and build family relationships. The beautiful thing about Unit Studies is that they are flexible allowing you to incorporate them in the way that best fits YOUR family! Over the years, we have enjoyed the diversity that only unit studies can provide. Our unit study adventures have varied from one week, several months and even our infamous Titanic unit study that lasted over two years. My children enjoyed our unit study ventures and learned immensely more about a topic than I ever imagined. If you would like to learn more about unit studies, I invite you to watch the Unit Study P.R.O workshop.
Watch Deanne’s workshop: Becoming a Unit Study PRO!