Homeschooling: Tips On Creating Effective Unit Studies

While excellent unit studies can be purchased from several sources, parents can generate their own quality unit studies for a fraction of what many cost.

Many homeschooling parents find unit studies to be the most effective teaching method. While excellent units can be purchased from several sources at a wide range of prices, parents can generate their own quality unit studies for a fraction of the cost.

How do you select the topics for unit studies? There are many ways to go about this process but for the sake of appeal, I recommend allowing the students' interests to direct this course. It stands to reason that the more interested they are in exploring a topic, the more these students will gain from the facts of a particular unit study.

Once the topic has been selected, define your objectives for each subject area you plan to cover. For instance, if you are building a unit study on horses and you begin with the language arts segment of the unit, decide which language and/or writing skills you want to build on. Possibilities include reading comprehension skills, exploring character development in literature, or writing an informative essay. Of course, there are many other workable directives and the aforementioned are used only for the sake of example, but you get the general idea of defining objectives. While you may certainly want to make adjustments to these as the unit progresses, this process gives direction to the overall unit study and should be continued over all subjects to be cover.



After objectives have been defined, you begin the process of gathering material and information for carrying out the unit study. The types of materials that will prove most effective will depend largely on the type of learning that works best for your children. If they are primarily hands-on learners, you should involve as much hands-on material as is practicable. Ideas include board games, cooking tasks, scientific experiments, and art projects. If they are primarily visual learners, apply the same standard for visual learning materials. These could include films, books, and museum visits. The idea is to incorporate as much meaningful activity into the unit as possible. Avoid busy work that doesn't reinforce learning more details about the topic. One of the finest attributes to unit studies is the focus and depth they allow the student, and material that is done just for the sake of paperwork can detract from the great potential for knowledge to be gained.

Materials for unit studies can be gathered in a variety of ways. Public libraries that offer a video section are excellent sources for documentaries and instructional videos. Thrift stores and yard sales should always be viewed as potential sources for books, puzzles, costumes, games, art supplies, sporting equipment and other learning materials. These can also be great sources for picking up materials for science demonstrations or experiments. Cassettes and compact discs can often be exchanged among other homeschooling families for a music or humanities extension. A note regarding material exchange programs, make sure everyone writes their name and phone number somewhere on the material loaned to assure proper return.

Save all cardboard, these will come in very handy for a myriad of projects. Shoe boxes make excellent dioramas, communities and villages. Postal packaging and cardboard boxes can be reused for numerous art projects. Cardboard rolls from paper towels make great totem poles, telescopes, and holiday decorations. The possibilities are only as limited as the imagination!

Field trips are one of the greatest features to any effective unit study. These need not be expensive, long distance trips. Rather, they can be as simple as a visit to a nearby park to search for various species of plants, rock types and minerals, or sports practice. The zoo is always a wonderful learning experience for a large variety of topics. Museums and children's theatres are also great ways to add meaningful and inexpensive activities to a unit study.

Unit studies are a wonderful means of exploring topics in depth, and with a little planning and creative thinking, expense can be kept very modest. Like all sound educational methods, beneficial unit studies cannot always measured by the cost, but more appropriately by the end results. If students walk away from a unit having gained knowledge and appreciation for something in their world, they have gained a priceless insight from which to build on. It's a safe bet that no one will question the price tag of such a reward.

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