5 Simple Steps for Planning a Unit Study

Have you thought about planning a unit study for your homeschool? It’s not as hard as it may sound!

As much as I would sometimes love to be an unschooler, I just can’t do it. I suppose that the idea of “real school” is too ingrained And so even though I love following the interests of the kids and creating fun unit studies, I just can’t totally let go of the “real school” we have to do.

So, what’s a fun-loving, delight-directed learning mama to do? Throw away the idea of fun unit studies and hands-on projects? Oh no. That’s what summer is for.

Life has changed for us now that I have two teens working and involved in various things all summer. But when the kids were younger, we homeschooled year round specifically so that summertime could be time for all the fun learning I wanted to make sure we had the opportunity to experience.

Don’t get me wrong. Our “regular school” during the traditional school year involves living books and hands-on projects and unit studies at times as well. But in the summer, I’ve always felt free to just jump into a fun topic.

Unit study planning

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If you still have younger kids, I strongly recommend having fun with unit studies over the summer. It gives the kids something to do on hot summer days when electronics beckon. And it gives you the opportunity to do some whole family learning that you won’t ever forget. (Just ask my kids about the year we learned about Egypt and the human body over the summer!)

If you’re looking for some unit study fun, you have options. You can buy a premade unit study or you can create your own. Many people shy away from creating a unit study because it seems like an overwhelming task. But it’s really pretty simple. I’m going to share the five easy steps with you, and when you’re ready to plan your own unit study, you can pick up my Comprehensive Unit Study Planner and get started.

Five Steps to Planning a Unit Study

Step One- Choose a Topic

This is the fun step. Choose a topic you and your family want to study.

I’ve done this in a variety of ways. At times, I’ve asked the kids to throw out suggestions for what they’d like to learn. Or I’ve seen an idea for a study online and known it would be a great fit for us. Or I’ve taken a topic I want to cover and found some fun resources that we could use to study it.

Step Two- List Academic Goals

This is a step that you can complete in as much detail as you need to. If you’re doing a unit study just for fun in the summer, you may not need to be detailed here. If your summer unit is counting as part of your school year and your state has legal requirements for what your curriculum must cover, you may need more detail.

List the goals you need to cover with this study. I like to break down the goals by age range. For example, I want my preschoolers to accomplish this. I want my elementary aged kids to accomplish this. If you’re children are more spread out in age, you may want to break down the goals and list them for each child.

Step Three- Create a Booklist

Now that you know what you want to learn about, you’re going to find some books that will help you learn about that topic.

There are a few good ways you can do this. Occasionally I simply Google “books about….” This usually works well. You can often find some great booklists put together by other moms. You can also search using Pinterest. Pinterest has become a powerful search engine, and you can find boards that others have made with book selections about your topic. You can also go to Amazon. Search in Books for “children’s books about….”

Step Four- Find Fun Activities

Sure, you could just read the books you’ve found and learn about your chosen topic. But where’s the fun in that? Now you’re going to find some fun hands-on activities for your topic.

You are going to search again. This time I would recommend going straight to Pinterest. Search for “unit study ideas for…” and see the pins and boards that come up. Pinterest is an awesome tool for this. Often, you’ll find whole boards devoted to your topic. You’ll also come across specific unit study boards. I have one of those where I collect unit study ideas that I find.

Step Five- Make a Schedule

“Okay, you’ve just ruined my fun.” Is that what you’re thinking? Don’t worry. This doesn’t have to be a very strict schedule. This is just to give you an idea of the order in which you want to do things.

For the summer, I never really scheduled school out for certain calendar days. I wanted us to be free to go to the pool or play with friends when the opportunity arose. Instead I decided how many days it would probably take to accomplish the unit study, and then I broke down our books and activities into that many days. I also listed the academic skills covered with that day’s material. Each day that we were going to work on school, I could pick up the plan and see what came next. We would complete the next day’s work; I would make notes; and then I would cross it off.

And, with those five simple steps, you’ve created your own unit study.

Planning a unit study

Pre-made Unit Studies

If you’re still not convinced you want to create your own, here are a few places to find some great pre-made unit studies.

If you’re looking for a literature-based unit study, you can pick up my free Mega Book of Literature Unit Studies here.

Homeschool Share has some awesome free unit studies. Some of them have lapbooks to go along with them. Many are literature-based, but there are some themed unit studies as well.

Moving Beyond the Page is one of my favorite unit study resources. They actually offer unit studies that can build your complete curriculum. But they also sell individual units which is what we’ve used over the summer. You can buy literature, science, or history units. All of them are based on literature.

Don’t forget to grab the Comprehensive Unit Study Planner here. There are planning sheets for all five of these steps. You can print your planner and create a binder for each unit study you plan.

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