For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this not of yourselves it is the gift of God, not of works, so that no one can boast. Ephesians 2:8-9

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Summer Planning Series - Week 7: Creating Your Own Unit Study

For week 7 of this Summer Planning Series, we have Amy from Eclectic Homeschooling talking to us about Creating Your Own Unit Study.

Over the years we have been homeschooling, unit studies have been the highlight.  My kids have really enjoyed them and learned well with them.  I must say that it is my favorite way to teach as well.


Creating your own unit study isn't too difficult.  It just takes a little time.   It is also an excellent choice when you have a library handy and don't have much funds for homeschooling.  I've laid out the steps I've taken to create a unit study.  When I plan a unit study, I don't add in things like math, reading, language arts, or other subjects.  I just use the format to explore topics in depth.

1.  Decide on a topic
First of all, decide on a topic.  It could be on a content-based subject like history or science, or on a topic near and dear to your child's heart.

2.  Choose a spine
A spine is basically some sort of resource that covers the topic well.  It could be a book, a series of books, a website, or even a textbook.  This book or resource doesn't have to be used by your kids.  It can just be used to organize your study or it can be used as part of your study.

3.  Make an Outline
I like to go through my spine's table of contents and type it all out as subtopics.  This is your basic organization of the topic.

4.  Fill in the Outline
This is the most time-consuming part of putting together your own unit study.  Consider how your child learn best as you decide what to use to study the subtopics.  In our house I've found that it works best if we use a mixture of books, videos, and activities.  Sometimes the only book I use is the spine I had selected.  Other times, I use a variety of library books to cover each subtopic.

I find it important when choosing activities to only choose ones that I am willing to do.  If it seems like too much of a bother or a huge mess afterwards, I'll look for something else.   The best ideas for activities have come from when I am searching on Google or Pinterest.  Sometimes I use an idea that someone has already done and sometimes I change it a little.

Here are a few examples of a filled in sub-topic:

This one is from an Evidence for Christianity Study for my 5th and 7th graders.  It is organized around one book with some additional topics thrown in.  It is mostly me reading aloud/discussing and video watching

The Case for Jesus

Was Jesus Who He Said He Was?

  • Read The New Evidence That Demands a Verdict - The Case for Jesus - Jesus, A Man From History pg 32-33
  • Read The New Evidence That Demands a Verdict - The Case for Jesus -If Jesus Wasn’t God, He Deserves an Oscar pg 34-38
  • Read The New Evidence That Demands a Verdict - The Case for Jesus -Significance of Deity – Trilemma – Lord, Liar, or Lunatic pg 39-40
  • Watch videos here http://www.josh.org/video-2/jesus-claimed-to-be-god/
Here is another example of a filled in topic.  This Magic School Bus Unit Study is using the Magic School Bus video series as a spine.  It involves watching the Magic School Bus episode, reading library books on the topic, and an activity of some sort.
Watch Magic School Bus “Hops Home” – Animal Habitats (Season 1)
Watch Magic School Bus “Meets the Rot Squad” – Decomposition (Season 1)
  • Read Squirmy Wormy Composters by Kalman and Micro Life in Soil by Hyde
  • Set up worm bin and observe how added items decompose over time.
Here is one more sample.  This one is from a World Poverty study I am doing with my first grader this year.  For this study, I am using 3 major resources.  Two of them are read alouds that I'm using to organize the topics and the third gave me activity ideas.  Here is a subtopic sample.  Here you will find a read aloud/discussion book, an activity, and a video I found on Youtube.

Clean Water

  • A Life Like Mine pg 6-17 Need for Clean Water
  • World Map – color 25% of the world to show those without easy access to safe drinking water
  • This is Gladys
5.  Setting it up to use it easily



I've found the most effective way to use a unit study on a schedule, is to schedule the amount of time you want to spend on it.  Then write out or print off your unit study and go through it in order.  Just cross off things as you complete them.  So if you want to spend an hour on your unit study a couple times a week, you just go as far as you can in that time.  Sometimes we will near the end of a year and haven't finished a study.  Sometimes we finish a study after a short while.  When you make up your own study, expect that it won't fall into the standard 36 week format.

Right now, I'm doing several different unit studies with my first grader.  One is currently on hold while we spend more time on the other ones.  One of the unit studies will last a year or more, one should last about a school year, and the other one will last a month or two.  Once we finish one, we just spend more time on another one.

Making your own unit study allows you to customize your child's education because you are choosing the books, activities, and videos with your child in mind.  You know your child the best.  It is also a very inexpensive way to cover content subjects and topics of interest to your child.


Amy is a homeschooling mom of 3 kids between the ages of 6 and 12.  As a mission-focused family they spend time learning about different cultures around the world and study several foreign languages.  She has been blogging at Eclectic Homeschooling since.


In this Series:
Week 1: Who Plans Homeschool?
Week 2: Planning an Eclectic Homeschool School Year Type A Style
Week 3: Planned Unshooling . . . Why?
Week 4: Meal Planning Made Easy
Week 5: Managing Your Home When You Have an Irregular Schedule 
week 6: Block Scheduling in Your Homeschool

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