Over the past year, our homeschool has been FULL of unit study action. I chose to go with both Galloping the Globe and Five in a Row as our ‘curriculum’, which proved to be both tons of fun and extremely educational for both the children AND myself!
The first thing I always mention to Moms interested in doing a lot of unit studies in their homeschool is that it is labor intensive. When done correctly, organizing effective unit studies can take many hours of planning, printing, and implementing. I don’t say this to discourage you at all, but merely to properly prepare you! Some Moms say they do great unit studies with little to no work – but I’m still figuring out how they accomplish this, so if you’re one of those Moms, please comment below!
I’ve grown this year in my ability to organize and plan unit studies, but I by no means claim to have it mastered! That’s why I called this post “Pointers for Planning a Unit Study”… not a fool-proof method, just some humble tips! I thought it’d be useful to share some of what I’ve learned here! Here’s the method that has worked for me:
Step One – I choose a curriculum or a series of topics/books. Some Moms will decide to follow a Unit Study based curriculum and springboard their learning from that platform. Others will decide to follow their child’s interests or simply come up with their own ideas. Either way works – you’ll just have to decide which is for you. Perhaps you’ll do a bit of both? When we were using Galloping the Globe, the springboard was the country, ie: Italy, France, India, and so on. When we were using Five in a Row, it was the book, ie: Madeline, Clown of God, Ferdinand. Sometime you can cross over your curriculum and programs. For instance, we would cover Papa Piccolo and Italy in the same week, since they are both using a lot of ideas and cultural references to Italy. Works very well for a living education.
Some parents have researched what students are studying at various age levels, for example, Frog life cycles in grade 1 and 2. So, they will include a unit study about Frogs during this time.
Step Two- I plan the long-term schedule. (Or, I try to…) It was so helpful this year to sit down and sketch out what each month would look like. I didn’t stick to it perfectly, but what a great skeleton to refer to. This was an incredibly vague schedule with little detail. For example, for February, I planned to do China, Spain (which I knew would include a study of the classic book, Ferdinand the Bull), and literary study of Follow the Drinking Gourd (which included a look at Black History). I planned to do China for one week, Spain and Ferdinand for two weeks and Follow the Drinking Gourd for one week. This filled the month. I still did not know what order I would do them in, however. I did this for every month of the school year. I would think about the seasons, probable weather conditions, seasonal commitments, etc. No more detail than just the name of the Unit Study and what is briefly entailed will be added to this schedule.
Step Three- I sketch out more specifics for each unit study. This involves some brainstorming, researching, and if you’re using curriculum, reviewing the suggested activities and materials in the program. This is where I start making a large list with three sections: 1. Books and Resources (with specific pages I wanted to use), 2. Activities, Field Trips, and Hands-on Experiences, 3. Lapbooking or print-out resources. I wouldn’t necessarily print everything out but I knew which books I’d use and what I might need to reserve from the library and what files to save in folders on the desktop. This step was typically done at the beginning of each month for the month ahead or at least a week ahead of each unit.
Step Five- I plan the short-term schedule. For the short-term, I mean monthly and weekly. I will often look at our month and plan studies based on our family life, when my husband is available for field trips, whether I have the materials needed, what materials I need to acquire, etc. After I’ve done an assessment, I’ll plan the Unit Studies week by week and then day by day.
The day by day planning takes place on a grid and is divided into sections of reading, copy-work, activities, discussion studies, science, art, field trips, baking and cooking, hands-on learning, and lapbooking pages. This looks much more like a schedule and functions as such (albeit loose for us). Once the days are mapped out, there is a clear idea of what will be needed every day and what needs to be prepared and printed out every night!
Once the short-term schedule is complete I put print outs and needed items for activities in a file folder with folders marked Monday-Friday. This has been incredibly helpful in keeping me organized and making the process of work simple and easy during the ‘school’ day.
Hope this was helpful.
Unit studies are such a fantastic way to explore with our children!
Please share any planning that has helped you with your unit studies!
Cassandra @ The Unplugged Family