The Unit Study: Homeschooling Help For You Your Kids Will Love

It’s official. Your kids are home from school for the next few weeks due to COVID-19. No doubt your child’s teacher has sent home tons of resources for remote learning, but you’re still nervous. That is a LOT of extra time at home with possibly way, way too much mindless screen time. 
Maybe you already have a plan for things to do with your kids and a daily schedule to follow (if not, check out our OT’s suggestions)!  But maybe you still need ideas to fill your day. Ideas that will enrich your kids while really holding their interest. As an English and Special Education teacher, I’m here with some homeschooling help.

Enter the unit study.

A unit study is a collection of learning activities tied to one theme. It’s a popular homeschooling method that is very hands-on and usually includes all academic subjects. Unit studies can last for any length of time, but typically they are about one month long. 
Perfect, right?
And here’s the beauty of the unit study – it should be based on your child’s interests. 
What better time to jump into a deep learning of something your kiddo has always been interested in? Now is the time for them to become an expert on their topic of choice!
As a teacher, I’ve helped created unit studies for the students and families I’ve been lucky enough to work with. And it’s always fascinating to me to hear the topics kids truly want to learn more about. I’ve seen unit studies on Egypt, foods around the world, musical instruments, video games, and so much more. 

The sky is the limit when it comes to topics for a unit study. 

Let me give you a quick example of how it works. I created a unit study on Japan for a student who was really interested in the culture. Once we had the topic, I needed to think about all the different ways to incorporate as many academic subjects and subtopics into the study as possible. How could I bring subjects like math, science, history, geography, reading, writing, art, music, gym, into my student’s in-depth look at Japan?
Some subjects were pretty self explanatory, but the trick was to make them interesting and hands-on, whenever possible. In our study, my student created origami to tie in art. Next, we made vegetable sushi (which actually turned out pretty delicious!) to cover food and nutrition, along with reading about the history of Japanese food. Then, we were able to tie in math based on our cooking and looked at measurements and temperature. We created interactive maps to learn about the geography and designed a board game based on the history of the country. You get the idea. The list went on and on and it was all really interesting to my student….and FUN. 

Are you wondering how you can create this type of learning at home for your child? Follow these steps and you will have the structure for a great unit study!

Step One

Start with this. Ask your child what they would like to learn more about. Have them narrow it down to a few ideas. Explain to them what a unit study is and then depending on their age, come up with subtopics together. 
Let your child be the guide. If they’re stumped on what to study (though, they probably won’t be!), give them gentle suggestions. Think about the things they like to do in their free time, or maybe something they’ve mentioned being interested in.  Maybe they want to plan a vegetable garden or learn about historical women. The 2020 Summer Olympics are coming up – maybe they’re interested in that? Then start thinking about all the awesome ways you can incorporate academic subjects into their study and blend them together when possible. It’s endless! 

Step Two 

Now it’s time to make a plan and gather resources. Sometimes the best way to begin is to read general information about the topic together. That can give you a good overview and help spark ideas about where to go from there. 
One of the very best resources I have used in the past is my local Seacoast library. Take advantage of this! Libraries have tons of online sources you can use, which is extra helpful right now. I’ve also used websites like National Geographic Kids, PBS, and Brain Pop. Teachers Pay Teachers is a really good website for resources, produced by actual teachers.  And I know we’re trying to get away from the extra screen time, but look into options for documentaries. Something is sure to fit right into your study. 

Step Three 

Start the unit study! You can fit the study into the schedule you have set up for your little learner. It can take up as much extra time as your child would like, or if a break is needed, that’s okay, too.
Remember! During the study, if your child is really focused in on one area – go with it! There aren’t real rules or guidelines here. Let your child’s interests and ideas be the guide. If your kiddo lingers a little longer on the math section of the study or really wants to know more about the history of the topic – encourage it! 

Try to get outside whenever possible. Don’t forget to HAVE FUN and learn along with your child! 

It’s true that we’re stuck at home right now. And it’s true that we now have to navigate things that we never have before. But if we look at the positives that can come from being at home, like the chance for our kids to explore and learn more about one of their passions, hopefully that will lift our spirits. 

What are some unit study topics your kids would be interested in?

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I’m a Maine native and after a long stretch of time living in Chicago, I feel lucky to again call the Seacoast my home. I currently live in Kennebunk with my husband, two sons, and a spaniel mix who truly believes he is a furry big brother to our boys. I hold a Master of Education degree from the University of Maine and as a certified English and Special Education teacher, a passion of mine has always been helping students and connecting them to reading and writing. Free time is best spent in the sunshine with family and friends, curled up with a good book, eating my husband’s incredible cooking, or creatively writing for the kids in my life. Being a mom is the most challenging and amazing job I’ve ever had. I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world.