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Unit Study Homeschool Method

What is a Unit Study and How Can You Make Unit Studies Work for Your Homeschool?

What Is A Unit Study?

By Mindy Scirri, Ph.D.

When you begin homeschooling, you likely have an idea of what homeschooling looks like. Once you get into it, however, you realize that there are many different ways to homeschool. Some families stick to more of a “school at home” method, where they try to recreate what happens in schools, but others branch out into various methods—each with its own advantages and challenges. Once you make sure that you understand your state’s homeschool laws and your own goals for homeschooling, you can choose a method that fits your family best. For many families, homeschooling using unit studies—full time or part time—helps their children reach their full potential.

What is a Unit Study Homeschooling Method?

Advantages of Using Unit Studies for Homeschool Disadvantages of Using Unit Studies for Homeschool
Tips for Using Unit Studies for Homeschool

Support for Families Using Homeschool Unit Studies 

*This post contains affiliate links. Things you buy through our links may earn us a commission. Although many of the resources listed here are free, those marked with a $ have a cost or require a fee/subscription in order to access the full range of materials.


What is a Unit Study Homeschooling Method?

The Unit Study homeschooling method involves focusing on themes, or units, that incorporate multiple subjects rather than addressing subjects individually. For example, you may choose to do a unit on birds. You and your homeschooler may read and write about birds, watch videos and documentaries about them, and then do a bird-inspired art piece. You may take scientific observation notes while birdwatching and also explore the state birds of the US or map the migration of certain species. This may be followed by math work involving statistics about birds, counting and sorting types of birds, or a STEM project related to bird protection or conservation of bird habitats. You get the picture….

Here are a few other descriptions of the Unit Study homeschooling approach by homeschool organizations and homeschool families using the method:

Homeschool Unit Study Approach | Time4Learning
Discover what unit studies are, who benefits from using unit studies, options for unit study curriculum, and how Time4Learning can work with the Unit Study approach.

The Joy and Ease of Learning Through Child-led Unit Studies | Best Homeschooling
Read Kandi Chong’s thoughts on the advantages of using unit studies and how they have worked for her family.

Unit Studies | Eagle Nest Home
“The term ‘unit studies’ is an especially slippery fish of a term, because it can mean so many things. It may refer to a relaxed, interest led frolic through a subject or a traditional approach, using packaged unit studies.” Read about this family’s interpretation of the term.

The Unit Studies Homeschooling Style | Great Homeschool Conventions
Discover the advantages and disadvantages of unit studies, how to determine if the Unit Studies approach is right for your family, and more about unit studies curriculum and resources.

What Is A Unit Study?

Advantages of Using Unit Studies for Homeschool

As with any method of doing something there are pros and cons to the choices we make. Here are some reasons for choosing the Unit Study method of homeschooling:

  • Child-Centered Focus: Because of the flexibility in choosing topics, this approach can be very child-centered. You can build instruction around the themes that are most interesting to your child and let your child’s questions direct topic choices.
  • Motivation: Using your child’s interests to guide topic choices can lead to more motivated learning. Your child will be naturally interested, wanting to learn more, and will not be as bothered by the fact that you want to incorporate subject area skills and strategies in, say, math or writing. Oh, no!
  • Depth of Learning: The fact that you are focusing on one topic means that you and your child can take a deeper dive into the topic, approaching it from a lot of different angles and learning about it in a number of different ways. Your child will end up with more associations to the material and probably a deeper knowledge of the topic than if your child had learned about it in another way.
  • Multi-Age Homeschooling: With proper planning, you may be able to ease the burden of homeschooling multiple children of different ages by having them all focus on the same topic at once. Of course, you will have to provide some differently-leveled materials and assessments, but there may be some activities that can be shared or for which you can use older children as mentors. Best of all, you may increase opportunities for social learning when, for example, your family notices a new bird at the birdhouse, and you all can talk about it.
  • Flexibility: The nature of the Unit Study method allows for flexibility since you can add, change, or delete activities within units, spend more or less time on a particular unit, and go as deeply as you want into a topic. You can also use the Unit Study method as your full-time homeschooling approach, or you can use it “part-time” to supplement other ways of learning and extend the learning into certain topics.


Disadvantages of Using Unit Studies for Homeschool

Along with the flexibility and open-endedness of the Unit Study homeschooling method may come some difficulties. Here are some possible challenges to consider when using this method:

  • Planning: While you may be able to find some full-year unit study curriculums and individual unit study plans with a little work, you may find that planning in this approach is a bit more complicated. Remember to check out our Unit Study Resources page to help you with this part!
  • Balancing: When your child is really interested in a topic, you may find that you “go down the rabbit hole” a little too much. This may involve too much time spent in one area and not enough in another, or you may have difficulty moving your child onto another topic area. You may worry whether you are covering everything you need in order to prepare your child for the next grade and beyond.
  • Meeting State Requirements: Because the unit study method does not follow the traditional scope and sequence methods of curriculum planning, you may find that this approach is not as easily connected to the homeschooling regulations in your state. Just make sure you know your responsibilities as a homeschooler prior to choosing this method as your sole approach!


What Is A Unit Study?

Tips for Using Unit Studies for Homeschool

Regardless of some challenges, there are definitely ways to make the Unit Study method work for your homeschool. Some families use purchased curriculums while others create their own. Many homeschoolers using unit studies also incorporate lapbooks or notebooks to provide some structure. Here are a few ways to make the Unit Study approach work for your homeschool:

10 Steps to Create Your Own Easy to Implement Unit Study! | Homeschool.com
Find out how to plan unit studies and where to find unit study resources here.

10 Tips That Make You Rethink What You Know About Homeschool Unit Studies | ihomeschool Network
Shake up your homeschool by experimenting with unit studies. Here are ten tips to consider when you think about using unit studies.

A Simple Guide to Successfully Using & Planning Homeschool Unit Studies | Rock Your Homeschool
Discover reasons for using unit studies and suggestions for how to plan unit studies. Get a free unit study planner and find examples of homeschool unit studies.

How to Create a Unit Study: The Beginner’s Guide | Homeschool & Humor
Check out this guide to building your own unit studies. Share your email to get a free Unit Study Planner!

How to Create Your Own Curriculum | Thought Co.
“Many homeschooling parents — even those who start out using a pre-packaged curriculum — decide somewhere along the way to take advantage of the freedom homeschooling allows by creating their own course of study.” Discover the steps for designing a curriculum for any subject.

How to Easily Create Unit Studies | Meaningful Homeschooling
Discover some information about unit studies and five tips to help you easily create unit studies.

Lapbooking | Hubpages
“Lapbooking can be done by any learner– from preschoolers to adults. With this learning technique, you make mini-books covering details that you’ve studied. After making a variety of mini-books about a larger topic, all the books are put together in a large folder. The finished product is called a lapbook.” Find out more about how to make lapbooks here, complete with samples and links to resources.

Lazy Homeschooler’s Guide to Unit Studies | My Little Poppies $
Enroll for this paid course and materials to learn how to become your child’s “curiosity mentor” and re-invigorate your homeschool.

The Ultimate Guide to Creating a Unit Study | The Unlikely Homeschool
Follow these five easy steps to creating a unit study and then explore the “big-ol’-list of unit study extras. Also learn about unit study primers and find a list of DIY unit study tips and other resources.

Support for Families Using Homeschool Unit Studies

Perhaps the best way to find out about a particular homeschooling approach is by asking fellow homeschoolers. You can simply reach out to local homeschooling groups or find support groups for families using that method of homeschooling. To get you started, here are some online Facebook pages and groups and that are focused on the Unit Studies homeschooling method:

Homeschool Unit Studies
This is a fan page for followers of Homeschool Unit Studies.

Homeschool Unit Studies and Ideas
This is a secular group for Homeschooling families from all over the world that love using Unit Studies as a part of what and how they teach and learn. Trade ideas, get feedback.

Homeschool Unit Study
“Creative Homeschooling…when bribe isn’t working anymore. Bringing smiles and encouragement to moms—Unit Study, Lapbooking, Art, Mom-made, Kids Tested.”

Secular Unit Studies & Homeschool Baskets
“Are you a secular, relaxed homeschooler? Do you love active learning using a combination of living books, unit studies, and hands-on materials? Welcome to the Secular Unit Studies & Homeschool Baskets Group! This group was created to be a friendly, supportive community that provides resources and recommendations for relaxed, secular homeschoolers with traditional school-aged children. The primary focus will be on unit studies and themed baskets (such as a morning basket). Books, educational games, videos and documentaries, recipes, crafts, and active, hands-on themed resources are welcome. Topics can include a variety of themes including science, history, the arts, nature studies, seasonal themes, social skills and character building, mythology, among many others.

Unit Studies Homeschool
Welcome to Unit Studies Homeschool! We love finding AWESOME activities you can do with your kids for themed unit studies! We will also share some deals and bargains that we want to pass on to you! We are a group of caregivers that want the best for our kids, but don’t want to break the bank while doing it! We believe every mom is doing the best they can for their children, and we want to encourage, support, and create a non-judgmental space where we can also have tons of fun learning together. On this page, you will find hand-selected ideas for unit studies! We will pick a new theme each week.

And be sure to check out our Unit Study Resources page!

Unit Study Homeschool Curriculum

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