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Hands-On, Interest-Based Homeschooling With Unit Studies

We were studying the Middle Ages in history. I could have picked out an age-appropriate textbook and read it to the kids or asked them to read it for themselves. Then we could have filled out worksheets with comprehension questions about what we just read. Every few units in the textbook, we would have a test with multiple choice questions or matching. And I could have tested the facts that the kids remembered.

We could have done that to learn about the Middle Ages. But we didn't.

Instead we used a unit study approach. Instead of a textbook, I found interesting kids' books about the topic. We read some historical fiction and some nonfiction. I read aloud and had the kids narrate back to me about what we had read. Besides reading we had audio stories that we listened to. We used the computer to look up facts and interactive web sites. We made a lapbook that went along with what we were learning. And we did hands-on activities like creating stain-glassed windows and model castles.

We learned so much. I learned right along with the kids. We had fun. We made memories that included not only the information about the Middle Ages but also the joy of reading and doing hands-on projects together.

Unit studies are a homeschooling method that many homeschoolers love to use because of the fun hands-on activities and thematic learning. In this homeschooling methods series, I've been sharing some of the most common homeschooling method. You can find the links to all of the method posts here. 

Homeschool with unit studies
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Unit Study Learning

When you learn with unit studies, everything you are doing- all of the reading and activities- tie in together and cover multiple subject areas in your curriculum. Reading, science, history, writing, and sometimes even math are all centered around a main theme. 

If you are doing a unit study that is themed around the beach, you might read a variety of books about the beach as well as fiction books set at the beach; you may cover science concepts by studying the ecosystem of an ocean and the animals that live there; you may cover history by reading about historical events that happened at a famous beach; students may write a story about a trip to the beach; you may even bring in math concepts by having some beach-themed worksheets.

Unit studies can be centered around a theme, like our beach unit study. They can also be centered around a book. Then all of the activities will revolve around the theme of the book, and you can choose other similar books to read. 

Lapbooking and Notebooking

Often lapbooking and notebooking are a part of a unit study. Students can make a lapbook by folding file folders and attaching rminibooks to the folder. Notebooking involves using printed sheets that are themed to the topic and creating a binder of sheets as the unit study progresses. 

You can learn more about notebooking from this post.  And you can learn more about lapbooking in this great series from Homeschool Share.

Creating Your Own Unit Study

Although you can find lots of great unit study resources to purchase, you can also make your own unit study easily. This is a great way to use some Delight Directed homeschooling which basically means that you follow the interests of your children in your learning. 

If a child is interested in a specific topic, you can gather books and activities about that topic to dig in deeper and learn more. If  you or child loves a specific children's book, you can use the theme of the book as a jumping off point and find activities and other books that fit the theme.

If you want to know more about creating your own unit study and get a free unit study planner, you can check out this post.

Unit Study Resources

If you'd rather use a unit study that is already made, here are some of my favorite places to find great unit study resources.

Homeschool Share has a great collection of unit studies- some based on a book and some based on a theme.

A Journey Through Learning has a good variety of unit studies and lapbooks. You can find seasonal studies as well as different themed studies. I love the fact that they lapbooks to go along with the Apologia elementary science books.

While not exactly a unit study, the history curriculum and other resources from Amy Puetz have readings and activities based around historical time periods. I had the opportunity to review her ancient history not long ago.

One of my favorite resources for great unit studies is Moving Beyond the Page. You can purchase a complete year's worth of unit studies here or just buy individual units. They have literature-based studies, science topical studies, and history topical studies. I love the fact that you can purchase physical products or purchase an online version that allows you to print pages for each child in the family.

If you like the idea of unit studies but don't want to use them for your full curriculum, the Once-a-Week Unit Studies from Homeschool Legacy could be a good fit. Homeschool Legacy has history, science, and holiday themed studies. Many of their unit studies help with earning scouts patches as well.

If you are going to make your own unit study and want to find some great notebooking pages to accompany it, check out NotebookingPages.com. I'm currently reviewing their Lifetime Membership, and I'm very impressed with the huge variety of pages you can pick.

Hands-on unit studies

We don't use unit studies as our full curriculum, but we do use them often to go along with topics we're learning about and reading about. I love unit studies that will focus on an upcoming holiday or event we're doing. Unit studies provide a way to really get kids active and involved. And when kids are involved and enjoy learning, they'll remember more and make connections that will help them to get a better grasp of the material you're learning.


Do you use unit studies in your homeschooling? I'd love to know what your favorite unit studies have been.


More unit study resources...


Unit study for preschool

Literature-based unit studies


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