I’ll be the first to admit that I get super overwhelmed when planning our homeschool year. Am I cramming in too much? At the right pace? A balance of challenge and ease? What materials will help them learn best? Are textbooks really necessary??
One thing I don’t struggle with is planning a unit study! I love the topical approach to subjects that are non-linear, like science and social studies at the elementary level. Unit studies are the perfect solution for us. I’m going to share with you the system I’ve developed that helps me get my ducks in a row.
Make a List
Because my oldest is only just turning six, I can’t speak for how you handle things when they get a bit older. But I start by ASKING THEM what they want to learn about. This is just a brain dump so I write it allllll down. This can take days or weeks, but I keep a list of things they show interest in.
When it comes time for homeschool planning, I go through the list and determine if they are still interested in each topic. If so, I ask myself if this is evergreen, meaning, will they still want to learn about this in eight or nine or ten months if this unit ends up falling at the end of our school year? And, is this a topic I want to teach this year? It has to be appropriate for their maturity level, both mental and emotional.
Once I’ve gone through the list, I narrow it down to what I think we can accomplish in a year’s time. If it seems like too much, I consider combining two topics or figure out if I can relate one subject as a quick digression from something else. For example, one of our units is ponies; if they also wanted to learn about horses, I’d combine the two or just make one an offshoot from the other.
I ended up with 15 unit studies this year, with some being very complex and others being short and sweet. I think it’s important to vary the length and complexity so kids don’t get bored or burned out.
Create Lesson Plans for Your Unit Studies
Now for the lesson planning part. I do another brain dump for each unit and look through Pinterest for ideas. I try to come up with a mix of field trips, hands-on activities, videos, writing or copywork, reading and a craft.
I created these sheets to help plan unit studies; you can download it here!
This is where I can get everything organized into a useful plan! This becomes my blueprint. As you can see above, I’ve filled out the subunits and main activities we will do. Next, I’ll find a book or two from the library that covers one or more of these topics and write those titles down to create a reading list. I’ll repeat that with videos to watch, likely from YouTube.
The supply list is where I’ll write down EVERYTHING we’ll need for the activities I’ve chosen. For this particular unit study on dairy, we will need cream and milk, enzymes and rennet to make cheese, cultures to make yogurt, salt for our ice cream machine, containers for all of the above…the list goes on. If we were doing a lapbook, or science experiment, or craft, I’d write down those materials.
On this unit study planning sheet I’ve also included a subject checklist (math, language arts, science, social studies, art, phys ed and “home”). This helps me ensure I’m giving them a well-rounded education. Plus, if we ever move to a state where we need to track what subjects we cover, it’ll come in handy then. It would be easy to track hours on here as well.
Tie Up Loose Ends
In addition to this, I’ll make sure I have directions, instructions and recipes pinned in advance and then printed out for reference when we get started on a unit study. It’s easy to keep all this in a pocket folder or file system for record-keeping purposes.
Please grab the free unit study printable while you’re here. I’d love to hear how it works for you in the comments. Any other tips for planning unit studies?