Looking to explore a new topic with your kids or dive deeper into an area of interest? A homeschool unit study may be exactly what you need! Today, I’m sharing my tips for unit study planning to help you get started with your own study!
(Post contains affiliate links; see disclosure for details.)
There are times when plenty of existing resources are available for our topic, but there are times when I’m putting together a custom study. That’s why a system for unit study planning is so helpful. Here’s a look at what works for me:
Unit Study Planning Tips
It probably goes without saying, but the place to start with unit study planning is choosing the topic to study. This can be something the kids decide, it can be something I choose for them, or it can be an extension of something of interest from other areas of our homeschool.
After my topic is selected, the unit study planning can get underway.
1. Consider the Possibilities
Once I choose my subject, I decide how deep to dig in the unit study. That varies from topic to topic and according to the kids’ interest levels. When deciding how deep to dig, I find it helpful to ask myself a few questions:
- Do I want a cross-curricular approach?
- Will the study be my primary homeschool focus or will it happen in addition to the regular homeschool routine?
- Will both kids be interested?
- How long do we have to spend on this topic?
Once I’ve considered these questions, I know how much to include in our study and how to build it to best meet our needs and interests.
2. Search for Existing Study Resources
Before I dive too far into unit study planning, I always check to see what existing studies on my topic are available. As a busy homeschooling mom, I choose not to reinvent the wheel when I don’t have to do so. I start off searching Pinterest and see what I can find there, but I have several other go-to places for unit study resources.
If I come across an existing unit study, I preview the study whenever possible to see if it’s a good fit. I also read the product descriptions carefully to be sure I understand what’s included in the study.
If I find an existing study that will effectively help us explore the topic of choice, I purchase it. If I don’t, I move on and put my own study together, which leads me to the second unit study planning step:
3. Gather Sources
Many existing studies have specific books, documentaries, and other media to use with the study. Gathering resources for these studies can amount to nothing more than following their instructions and borrowing books from the local library.
But what if you’re putting together your own study? How do you find information sources for your unity study topic? This can take time, but it’s not daunting if you know where to look.
Most of our unit studies start with books. While I may borrow the source from my local library, Amazon is the first place I look for those books. After all, if I’m looking to see what books exist for my topic, an Amazon search is more likely to let me know about a source than a single library system. (At least from my experience!)
For example, when we did our J.K. Rowling Unit Study, I found our main resource, Who Is J.K. Rowling?, by searching “J.K. Rowling kids biographies.” If I had relied only on our local library, we would’ve missed that book altogether because it’s not in the circulation.
After I search Amazon, I check with my library for other topic resources and borrow what I need. I also check YouTube and Amazon Prime Video for supporting documentaries, movies, and TV episodes.
4. Fill in the Gaps
After I’ve got our primary sources, I evaluate how far our information sources will take us. When I find a full unit study that covers our topic, I don’t usually need to add much, if anything, to make it meet our needs.
Filling in the gaps when creating a unit study takes a bit more searching. For our studies, we like to include art and hands-on activities whenever possible. This is another area where Pinterest saves the day.
Through a Pinterest search, I can look for ideas that will enhance our study, ideas that can be modified for our study, or inspiration to create something new.
(I’d be remiss if I didn’t remind you to check out my Unit Studies board on Pinterest right about now. That’s where I save my pins for unit studies I’ve found and ideas to help build our studies.)
Whether on Pinterest or a go-to site like Online Unit Studies, I search for notebooking pages, projects, games, and anything else that matches the unit study theme. After I take a look at the options, I download or purchase what I need and then get to work putting it all together.
5. Putting the Study Together
Once I’ve gathered my main sources, evaluated our needs, and filled out our study, I begin the organizing process. Thankfully, this part of the unit study planning process is just a matter of jotting all of my findings on some paper and deciding what order will work best for our schedule. When that’s done, I enter it all in my planner and purchase supplies as needed until we start the study.
But sometimes I need more than a piece of notebook paper to help me organize the study. That’s where my unit study planning worksheet comes in handy.
There you have it: my basic steps for planning unit studies. Hopefully these will help you incorporate unit studies into your homeschool plans.
Need a few ideas to get you started? Here are some of the unit studies I’ve shared here:
- JK Rowling
- Charles Schulz
- Jeff Kinney
- Quentin Blake
- George Lucas
- Walt Disney
- Martin Luther King, Jr.
- Christmas in Italy
- Mary Cassatt
- Pablo Picasso
- Leonardo da Vinci
- Vincent van Gogh
- Claude Monet
Lastly, it’s entirely possible you’re not new to unit study planning. If that’s the case, help us out and share your tips in the comments. I’d love to hear from you!