1. Choose a Topic and Time Frame
What will your unit study be about? How many days or weeks will you spend on the unit? A topic for a home school unit study can be about almost anything, from frogs to roller coasters to Ancient Egypt. Consider your child's age and interests when choosing a topic. For a kindergartener, a fun unit study might be on dinosaurs, our five senses, nursery rhymes, insects or princesses. An older student might enjoy a unit study on government, horses, Australia, baseball or even the Narnia books.
2. Choose Sub-topics
If possible, try to find a resource that you can use as a spine for the unit study. A spine is simply a book that provides the structure of your study. Children's encyclopedias or non-fiction books with good illustrations, charts and diagrams make good spines.
Whether or not you use a spine, you need to choose relevant sub-topics for your unit study. An example of a subtopic for a unit study on China might be the history of China, landmarks of China, Chinese food, Chinese language, Chinese fairy tales, Chinese holidays, the Chinese zodiac, etc.
3. Gather Resources
Look for resources from the library, the internet or you may already have resources on hand. Resources can be novels and non-fiction books, websites, videos, craft books, cook books or music. Look for a variety of resources. It's better to have more materials on hand but don't get overwhelmed by the amount of information out there. Choose a few books or videos for each sub-topic and then move on to the next step.
4. Choose Activities
Let your imagination go and think of all the hands-on activities your kids might enjoy related to the topic. This can involve cooking, experiments or arts and crafts. Also try to plan at least one field trip based on your unit study topic. Great field trips destinations include local businesses, parks, restaurants, neighborhoods, history, art or children's museums. With a unit study on China, for example, you could plan a trip to China town or a Chinese restaurant.
5. Create a Plan with Academic Objectives
What learning objectives and life skills will you cover in the unit? You'll want to use a planner and schedule your activities out over time. You can be as specific or as loose as you want in your planning. It may be helpful to list academic areas (Geography, History, Language Arts, Writing, Fine Arts, Math) and document what standards you will address in each sub-topic. Keep in mind that skill-based subjects such as Math, Grammar and Spelling should be scheduled as a daily activity. Other subjects may work into your schedule a few times a week, such as sports or fine arts.
6. Begin the Unit Study
Start with enthusiasm! It's a good idea to keep a journal of the activities to record your notes and observations. Remember to be flexible; don't be afraid to follow a few rabbit trails. Education is about discovery, encourage your kids to become active participants in the process of learning.
7. End with a Bang
Make the last activity stand out. You can throw a themed party, take a special trip, watch a documentary and invite the home school co-op. Your kids will remember the culminating activity and look back on the topic with positive memories.