Unit studies, sometimes called thematic units or integrated studies, are very popular with home schoolers. Unit studies usually use a hands on approach for effective learning. The child learns by actually experiencing or discovering through different methods and activities, rather than just reading a chapter from a textbook. Studies show that children using unit study methods retain 45% more than those using a traditional approach.
Unit Studies are Great for Multi-Ages
Unit studies are especially beneficial if you are teaching more then one child. If you are teaching three children each seven different subjects using textbooks and workbooks – that’s a WHOPPING twenty one subjects to prepare and teach.
A family with three children using textbook methods might have one child study the Civil War another learning about Ancient Rome while another is studying the American Revolution in history. In Science one child may be studying plants, another the planets and another reptiles. In Bible one child may be studying Moses, another studying Joseph and another studying Paul. With unit studies, history, geography, art, music, science and Bible can all be taught together to all ages.
Each child studies the topic at his level. This saves over half of your teaching and preparing time. All children can go on field trips together, many projects can be done together, writing assignments vocabulary words will be about the same topic, just on different levels.
For example while studying animals a younger child may be able to classify birds, mammals and insects. While an older child would classify animals in much more detail such as: Arachnids, crustaceans, etc. The older learns and helps to teach the younger while the younger learns from the older child.The “unit” or “theme” part refers to the idea of studying a topic as a whole instead of several “subjects.”
Thousands of years ago, the Greeks decided to break whole topics into subjects. For example: most people think of water as a science subject.One way to look at water is as H2O–a chemistry subject but, it is also
- art–a beautiful waterfall
- history–the Red Sea
- economics –water bill
- language arts–babbling brook (a metaphor)
- geography–the location of bodies of water
A unit study takes a topic and “lives” with it for a period of time, integrating science, social studies, language arts, math and fine arts as they apply. For example a unit study about animals would include
- Literature –Reading stories such as Charlotte’s Web, Flicka, etc.
- Creative writing, capitalization and punctuation–Writing stories about animals
- Science–earning about the classification of animals
- Vocabulary–earning new words such as vertebra and invertbra
- Geography–Finding out which animals live on which continents
- Bible–Reading parables or stories about animals in the Bible
- History–Examining man’s relationship with animals throughout history
Unit studies work well for children with different learning styles. Most unit studies give several options to learn about a topic. For example: Study the history of slavery in the United States. Let your student choose how they want to study the subject.
- Read about slavery in the encyclopedia
- Read a portion from a textbook
- Research from reference books in the library
- Read a historical fiction about slavery
- Read a biography about a slave
- Watch a documentary
- Write a letter as if you were a slave owner
- Write a poem about slavery
- Create and act out a play with slaves and a slave owner
- Do a web search on slavery
- Create a shadowbox depicting a plantation and slaves
- Draw or sketch a scene depicting a plantation and slaves
Several unit studies are available. Heart of Wisdom Unit Studies, Alta Vista, KONOS, The Advanced Training Institute, and Weaver are good Christian unit studies. With some creative work and a nearby library you can make your own unit study.