Posts Tagged ‘unit study’

Modern History Unit Study

Monday, September 21st, 2015

modern-history-unit-studyThis post contains affiliate links. I was compensated for writing this post.

Before I began teaching this Modern History Unit Study, I was shocked by how few activities I found that brought to life this time period. With the help of All American History, Volume II and my own flair for unit studies, my kids had a wonderful time doing hands-on modern history!

We enjoyed all the printables that we were able to use in our modern history notebook, as well as many of the hands-on suggestions mentioned in the teacher’s manual. The culture of each of the decades came through clearly in the textbook. Even though I don’t normally use textbooks, I was able to break down each event in modern history into unit studies.

Hands-on Activities for Modern History

Here are some fun hands-on activities, field trips, creative writing assignments, crafts, and themed parties that helped us to bring to life this modern time period (from the 1900’s to the modern day):

I hope you enjoyed our modern history unit study as much as we did! Use any of these ideas to help your kids to bring this time period to life. Make modern history unforgettable!

Ezra Unit Study

Wednesday, September 17th, 2014

Ezra-unit-studyFor our Ezra unit study, we dramatized the events of the book, rebuilt the Temple with blocks, and made a craft to represent leaving Babylon and going to Jerusalem. We are creating unit studies for every book of the Bible, which you can enjoy in the Unit Study Treasure Vault.

First we acted out the different scenes from the book. King Cyrus issued a decree that the Jews could return to Jerusalem to rebuild the Temple. He even gave Ezra money for the supplies he would need, as well as returning the precious Temple goblets and utensils to be used in the service of God.

Here is a drawing of Ezra leading the Jews back to Jerusalem:


We made a model of Babylon (the gorgeous blue gate of Babylon), and we placed it on one end of a long table. (For instructions on how to make the Babylon model, watch the Daniel Unit Study inside the Vault.) On the other end of the table was a model of Jerusalem that we made. (Watch the Lamentations Unit Study to see how we made that model.) We grabbed some toy soldiers, and from one end of the table to the other, we moved a big group of people. Those were the Jewish people, thousands of them in real life were returning with Ezra to Jerusalem.

My son snapped pictures of the soldiers moving little by little from Babylon to Jerusalem, and when I edited the video, I had less than 2 seconds for each slide, fading into each other. It was really cool!

ezra-unit-studyAnother great activity that we did was to build the Temple with blocks. The block Temple should be a long rectangle made of 3 squares. The first square is the Holy of Holies blocked off from the other two thirds of the building. My sons wanted me to film and then speed up the video to make it look like they were building it fast. It was great! I thought I was going to have to strip off the sound and add a sound effect, but the sound of the blocks clunking in fast motion sounded like construction work! I praised God because I have felt His presence and blessing on each of these Bible unit studies!

After the Temple was constructed, the people rejoiced. Some of the older people who had seen Solomon’s Temple before the Babylonian captivity were wailing with sorrow while the younger people were shouting for joy. Here is a drawing of people rejoicing over the construction of the Temple:


Ezra then read the entire Word of God to the people while they stood with their wives and children in the rain. They cried when they heard the Word of God because they hadn’t heard it in so long, and they had been walking in disobedience. They were convicted of their sin.

ezra-reads-in-the-rainThe book of Ezra ends with him listing all the offenders who had married outside the faith. The disobedient people decided to obey God and only marry people who loved the Lord.

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If you enjoyed this Ezra Unit Study, why not join the Unit Study Treasure Vault!

How to Put Together a Unit Study

Friday, July 25th, 2014

how-to-put-together-a-unit-studyToday I will show you how to put together a unit study. It’s not as hard as you might think. This is the final post in the 5-day series called “Unit Studies 101.”

Unit Studies 101

Day 1: What is a Unit Study?
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 (this post)

How to Put Together a Unit Study

Step 1: Choose your topic

If you are studying history, you should go in order from the beginning of time to the modern age. You can cover the sciences in any order, but there are some science topics (like simple machines) that are harder than others (like birds). Do the sciences from easiest to hardest. Most science topics are easy, though, when taught from living books and hands-on projects. So start with a science topic your kids are interested in, and progress to every other topic systematically. You can also do a unit study around a novel in literature.

Step 2: Gather books

Pick a book that will serve as a spine for your study, or choose many shorter books from the library. You can get pre-made curriculum that will get you through the whole unit, or you can get simple library books that you can read one by one. If you grab 20 library books about ocean creatures, don’t read all of them unless you really want to. Instead, choose maybe three excellent ones, and use the other books for reference, for hands-on projects, or for looking at the pictures.

Step 3: Bring it to life

When you open the books, ideas will come to you for how you can bring the topic to life. At the minimum, you can watch DVD’s from the library about that topic, and try to find a field trip that will cause that topic to come to life. You can stop there if you don’t have enough energy for crafty things. Depending on the ages of your kids, they can do all kinds of science and art projects on their own.

Examples of unit studies:

1. Owl Unit Study: If you take a look at how I put this unit study together, I started with an overview of owls by showing a video. I encourage parents to check out owl books from the library. To bring the study to life, I encourage people to observe owls in the wild. If you want your children to do a formal study, you can make a lapbook about owls. Or if you prefer to do notebooking, you can color and cut out owl coloring pages, and glue them into your notebook with a description. Then you can have some fun with the topic of owls by making owl puppets or owl cookies. You can finish your study with a dissection of an owl pellet.

2. France Unit Study: We started out by gathering books from the library about France. I embedded a video tour of Paris and of the Eiffel Tower. I threw in some crafts, including a picture of my son’s Eiffel Tower he made out of K’nex. We made an outdoor French cafe in our backyard, and we ended with some French recipes.

I’ve pulled together hundreds of unit studies with thousands of resources to make unit studies a delight in your homeschool. Join the Unit Study Treasure Vault today!

Unit Studies vs. Textbooks

Wednesday, July 23rd, 2014

unit-studies-vs-textbooksToday we will have a show-down: unit studies vs. textbooks. After reading this article, you will see the obvious fact that unit studies are superior in every way. I’m of course excluding math, which needs a proper program for progressing through skills with repetition. But there is no reason why a homeschooling family should need to use textbooks during the elementary years in any other subject. Here’s why:

1. With unit studies, an expert who loves the topic is writing about it.

If you check books out of the library about a topic, those books are written by an expert who loves that topic. Not so with textbooks. With a textbook, an author writes about lots of topics in a superficial way, and you don’t feel their passion dripping off the page like you do with real books. When a person has spent years thinking about a topic and studying it, what they write will be completely different than a person who is churning out writing to fit into the grid of a textbook. When you interact with an author with a passion for birds, for example, you start understanding and loving birds more. Their passion spills off onto you, and learning is much easier.

2. With unit studies, you go more deeply into each topic instead of skimming the surface.

In a world of mass schooling where you don’t know what kids have learned in history and science from year to year, you have to hit all the topics, just in case they missed something the previous year. Mass schooling is like that. The teacher does not know what the student has previously taken in the content areas of elementary grades, because textbooks vary from school to school and state to state. There is one chapter on astronomy, for example, year after year. How much astronomy can you cover in one chapter? Wouldn’t it be better to do a whole year of astronomy, going in depth and actually learning the fascinating intricacies of our universe, and then you don’t need to cover it again, because it’s a part of who your children are? Do the same thing with each topic in science, taking a month, several months, or a year to splash into the topic until you have mastered it to some degree. Superficial learning is for people unfortunate enough to be in a mass schooling situation, not where we know exactly what our kids have learned because we taught it to them ourselves.

3. Textbooks are a failing system. Don’t imitate a failing system.

The school system is churning out half-illiterate kids. The textbook system that is being used is a failing system. There is no reason to be enslaved to a system that is a failure. Textbooks are notorious for being dry, and kids have to cram for a test and promptly forget the material. Not so with unit studies, which always have a “bring-it-to-life” component where you experience the topic. After interacting with the topic in tangible ways, the students find it easier to remember the subject they are studying.

4. You can accelerate your education through unit studies.

I will write a whole article about this tomorrow, but suffice it to say that you will finish all your sciences in-depth while relaxing at your own pace. You don’t have to spend bazillions of hours going through every tedious page of those heavy textbooks that cut off the circulation in your legs as you read them. You can do LESS and get AHEAD and retain more knowledge, having fun doing so. Imagine doing less work and having more energy to enjoy your learning so that it’s not at a frantic pace.

5. Textbooks chop everything into separate subjects that don’t inter-relate.

When you splinter your learning, chopping it up into bits during the day, it’s almost like a schizophrenic merry-go-round, where you are just checking off everything as it goes by in a blur. Why not step off the merry-go-round, delving into only one topic, and having all the learning revolve around that? After doing math in the morning, we spend a wonderful oasis of time splashing into ancient Greece, reading Greek mythology, re-enacting famous works with minimal props, writing fun skits to show the grandparents, and painting Greek pottery patterns on clay. The kids love it! They are living it, which is why they remember it. It’s alive, and you can allow your mind to dwell there for several hours a day instead of forcing your mind to focus on disconnected pieces.

6. With unit studies, you have less to do, and you’re smarter at the end.

You greatly simplify your life by doing unit studies. You don’t have to study something over and over and over superficially. Because you have studied each topic in greater detail, you have a greater amount of retained knowledge than you would have through textbook study. (The only exception to this is high school textbooks, which go much deeper into a topic. Elementary-aged school textbooks never go deep enough to give a child a fundamental grasp of each topic.)

7. With textbooks, each of your kids has a tall stack of books to do by themselves in the solitary confinement of their bedrooms.

With textbooks, the kids feel chained to their room, unable to get out until they have jumped through all the meaningless hoops dictated by committees that randomly decided what THEY wanted your child to learn. Don’t you want control over what your children learn? Don’t you want to decide? We as parents are not too stupid to make these decisions. As long as we cover all periods of history and all science topics at least once, it doesn’t matter how we do it. By the way, the schools don’t really teach much history any more, and almost no geography. Take matters into your own hands. Forge your own path.

8. Family unity is established through unit studies and not through textbooks. Create memories with your family.

When all the brothers and sisters are learning about the same topic on their own level, they have shared memories and can help each other learn the material. With field trips and hands-on learning, there will be more laughter and a feeling of togetherness. Older children can help younger children, and everyone benefits. The shared memories create a sense of family identity.

Come back tomorrow to see how you can accelerate your children’s education through unit studies.

Unit Studies 101

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