Posts Tagged ‘unit studies’

Unit Studies 101

Monday, July 21st, 2014


Over the next 5 days, I will be giving you a crash course on unit studies in a series called “Unit Studies 101.” By the end of this series, you will understand why I love unit studies so much, and why my students are so far ahead in their content areas of learning. My kids are able to retain their learning with much greater efficiency, and all while having fun and not being rushed!

Here is a preview of what will be coming up this week:

Unit Studies 101

Day 1: What is a Unit Study? (this post)
Day 2: Unit Studies Accommodate All Learning Styles
Day 3: Unit Studies vs. Textbooks
Day 4: Acceleration Through Unit Studies
Day 5: How to Put Together a Unit Study

What is a Unit Study?

A unit study is an educational approach where you integrate all your subjects into one theme. This is ideal for many homeschool families who teach kids of multiple ages, and they want to focus on one time period or topic in science at a time. For example, if you are learning about Ancient Egypt, you tie your history, literature, art projects, writing assignments, and field trips into that time period. Retention is higher when learning is approached this way, and all learning styles are addressed.

A lot of people think that unit studies are something that people add on to an already overloaded curriculum. But no; this is not the case. It replaces the other curriculum except for math and learning how to read and write. You can choose a spine or backbone to your study of history or science if you want (by using a pre-made curriculum), or you can use books from the library alone.

Unit studies simplify your homeschooling significantly. After the kids do math first thing in the morning, you are only doing one theme for the rest of the morning. You don’t feel rushed to splinter the day into tiny bits that are almost schizophrenic. If you have 4 kids, you don’t have to teach 4 different science books. Instead, you go deeply into one topic until you master it, then move on to another topic. You will cover all your sciences in depth way before the kids in the schools. Simple. Deep. Fun.

Where is the Joy in Your Homeschooling?

If you have no joy in your homeschool, you are probably using a method other than unit studies. Unit studies are the most effective, long-lasting, and fun way to teach any topic. Your kids will laugh and have fun while splashing into the theme of the unit. Brothers and sisters aren’t isolated into the solitary confinement of their rooms to do their work separately while yawning. Instead, the whole family does read-alouds and dramatizations of the themes being studied so that relationships between family members are built.

Come back tomorrow to see how a unit study addresses every learning style for your students.


Sample Homeschool Schedule

Thursday, September 13th, 2012


Before I type out our homeschool schedule and courses for this school year, I would like to say that if your children are not in high school, there is no reason to do more than one unit study at a time. Do math first thing in the morning; then an in-depth unit study should include (over the course of the year) history, science, literature, reading, writing, and art. Unit studies are the best way to learn, where you splash into one topic and surround yourself with it. All high school and college courses are in-depth unit studies. There is no other way to learn something in a thorough fashion. If you are interested in gardening, and you voraciously read everything you can get your hands on about gardening, you are doing a personal unit study on gardening.

Textbooks are thin rocks skimming upon the surface of a pond, never going deeply enough to give true knowledge that can be remembered for the rest of your life. Textbooks are churning out illiterate children in our public school system (a failing system), and the only reason private schools are successful with textbooks is because the creative teachers make the material into unit studies. I’ve seen it with my own eyes when I was a teacher in the schools, and I’m telling you the truth.

My 10-year-old and 12-year-old have been ready for high school science for years because they have done all the sciences in depth already through unit studies. (My Unit Study Treasure Vault includes our unit studies we’ve done over the years to get to such a high level so young.) My 10-year-old and 12-year-old both read on a college level. I believe their deep knowledge in all subject areas is due to the great unit studies we’ve done.

I don’t feel comfortable sending young teenagers to college to be influenced by ungodly professors at such a formative time in their lives. For this reason I did not start high school biology when my older two kids were 8 and 10, even though they were ready. After praying about it and not wanting to hold them back any longer, I’ve decided to teach high school biology this year, using Apologia Biology.

This year we are doing a Renaissance Unit Study. It’s really a literature unit study, since Shakespeare is the main topic we will be covering. We’ve already watched our first Shakespeare play, and the kids enjoyed it. We will be doing lots of art this year, too.

Bryan (12 years old)

  • Algebra
  • Biology
  • Shakespeare/Renaissance
  • Karate/Swimming

Stephen (10 years old)

  • Pre-Algebra
  • Biology
  • Shakespeare/Renaissance
  • Flag football/Basketball/Swimming

Nathaniel (9 years old)

  • 6th grade math
  • Science kits and unit studies, delight-directed
  • Shakespeare/Renaissance
  • Flag football/Basketball/Swimming

Rachel (7 years old)

  • 3rd grade math
  • Science kits and unit studies, delight-directed
  • Shakespeare/Renaissance
  • Gymnastics/Swimming


  • 7am-8am: Math
  • 8am-9am: Bible/Breakfast/Reading
  • 9am-10am: ~break~
  • 10am-11am: Biology
  • 11am-noon: ~break~
  • Noon-1pm: Shakespeare/Renaissance/Lunch
  • 1pm-2pm: ~silent reading~

My older two sons are reading G.A. Henty historical fiction books during “naptime,” when it is quiet at my house. They are reading through the Renaissance time period. (Last year they read the Henty books set during the medieval time period.) My sons just read a fun book about microscopes during their silent reading time as well, since the first chapter in biology includes becoming familiar with microscopes.

My younger two children read to me right after breakfast. I sometimes throw in a craft for the kids to do around 9am. If any of the kids woke up at 8am instead of 7am, they do their math after breakfast. I sometimes work one-on-one with a child for writing. Otherwise they relax and play. My 3rd son played with snap circuits during part of his free time this week. My daughter had a tea party with her dolls. My oldest son likes to draw during his free time, and my second son loves reading Calvin and Hobbes comic books during his free time, giggling to himself. This is my day in a nutshell.

Unit Studies for Homeschool

Friday, September 7th, 2012

unit-studies-for-homeschoolI’m on the edge of my seat, about to launch the biggest project I’ve ever done, which has grown way beyond what I imagined. It’s the fruition of 20 years’ worth of work, since I’ve been an educator for two decades. It’s a membership site where all my unit studies are in categories, with supporting materials beneath them, usually in the form of video demonstrations. It includes over 100 unit studies for homeschool. There are well over 1,000 supporting videos and articles, showing you how to homeschool your children with unit studies.

I’ve had people e-mailing me, asking for the book list for each of my unit study time periods. It took me many hours to track down all the books that I used, but these lists are now in my Unit Study Treasure Vault, followed by a list of activities in the order I did them while homeschooling my own children.

The science section has subject headings, and all the articles, videos, and field trips I did for each subject are under each heading. And I’ve added more high quality videos from the best of what the internet has to offer. I will be filming three exclusive demonstration videos found nowhere else on earth but in my Treasure Vault each month, plus I will continuously be adding to each category.

There’s a geography section, a literature section, an art section, a field trip section, and I will be adding more sections in the upcoming months. But each section is substantial and large already. That’s the crazy thing about it. And it will only be growing.

The Bible section is one of my favorite sections. Years ago I wrote Charlotte Mason style summaries for each book of the Bible, turning them in to my pastor for a class that took two years. My own father was a pastor and a missionary for 30 years (as well as a seminary professor), and he and my mother are helping me to edit the summaries and upload them to the Bible section of the Treasure Vault. Under each book of the Bible, I will be creating wonderful activities. This one section will eventually have hundreds of original hands-on learning activities. Even though I’m creating all these materials for homeschool moms, Sunday school teachers would also benefit from it. It might become so huge that it will need a whole separate Bible Treasure Vault. Who knows? The whole thing gives me so much joy, I can hardly contain it.

In fact, the whole idea for this Treasure Vault was birthed in joy. My husband had taken the kids swimming one evening, and I sat there in silence in the house, asking God what He wanted me to do with my business. I opened my heart to God and waited. Suddenly the idea for the Unit Study Treasure Vault came to me, and the individual ideas came like a waterfall, hundreds of ideas, and I had so much joy in the Spirit. I am exactly in the center of the will of God right now. In God’s presence is fullness of joy.

My husband is a computer programmer who happens to be my webmaster, so he has been writing computer code all summer long. I’m not kidding. He’s hardly been sleeping at all the last few weeks in preparation for this launch. My husband told me last night, “This is the biggest thing you’ve ever done, and you’re blogging about a hammock. We’re days from launching. I’m surprised you haven’t been getting e-mails saying, ‘What’s going on?’”

“Oh, I’m getting e-mails, and I’m answering each of them one by one. Those women are excited about the Vault and can’t wait.”

We have a couple of small glitches which are being worked out. We might launch tonight. Or Monday. The time is near…

*   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *

The Unit Study Treasure Vault is now open!!

A Typical Homeschool Day

Tuesday, October 12th, 2010

What does a typical homeschool day look like? This video shows you exactly what we did during one school day while doing a unit study on Ancient Egypt.

First thing in the morning, the kids wake up and start doing their math. My oldest two kids switched from Saxon to Teaching Textbooks. That has cut their time in half because they do a workbook, so they don’t have to write out all of their math problems. Plus, it’s self-correcting. It’s expensive, though.

They’re in separate rooms to work on their math. My younger two children are working on Horizon math. They usually get their math done before breakfast, which is really nice.

As you can see, we use headphones so that if one of our kids wakes up earlier than the others, it doesn’t affect the other kids waking up.

Here we are eating breakfast. We listen to Scripture while we’re eating breakfast. (Audio of the book of Exodus playing in the background, which relates to our unit study on Ancient Egypt.)

Here’s my 5-year-old. She’s reading from a McGuffey book. My 7-year-old and my 5-year-old read to me after they finish their math and after they eat breakfast (with Bible).

My 8-year-old son is practicing guitar.

So we’ve done math first thing in the morning. Then we did Bible as we were eating breakfast. Then we did reading. Now we have our writing. This is my 5-year-old’s writing about mummies after studying mummies for about a week and doing a lot of hands-on activities about mummies. And this is my 7-year-old’s writing about mummies. My 8-year-old hasn’t decorated his page yet. This is from our notebooks on Ancient Egypt, which the kids were able to decorate. We also have my 10-year-old, who has just finished putting on some stickers to write the title of his writing assignment about mummies. He has decorated his page. So he’s just finished with his writing assignment.

a-typical-homeschool-dayWe just read from Story of the World and Pyramid by David Macauley. We’ve also been talking about tombs, and now we’re making some treasure. We have a treasure chest, and in that treasure chest, we are going to put some treasure. We made some treasure out of clay, and we are painting it with metallic colors now. Those treasures we’ll end up putting in the treasure chest. We looked at the treasure of King Tut and his tomb. The pharaohs had tombs that were made for them as well as pyramids. So we’re changing our treasure chest into an Egyptian treasure chest because it looked just like the treasures we saw in the book about King Tut. Look at all the lovely treasures in King Tut’s tomb. We are thinking about what we want to put into our treasure chest. That is our history class today. I read the lesson while the kids are eating lunch so that it’s nice and quiet.

During their free time, my kids often work on their electronics kits. It’s just something they enjoy doing. They look at the instructions and do it on their own. Right now we’re doing Ancient Egypt only. We are not doing any science. Over the summer we did a nature journal, and we studied insects. So you don’t have to do both science and history at the same time.

Right now it’s after lunch. This is reading time. This is my oldest son, and he’s reading a book. He also reads the Bible, and he colors in one square for each chapter that he reads. He just finished Exodus. So he reads during this hour and a half. That’s when he does his assigned reading. We’re finished with our homeschool day by noon.