How to Create Your Own Thematic Homeschool Unit Study

March 11, 2020
Written by:
Courtney Newman

Are you looking for a fun and engaging homeschooling experience? (Aren’t we all?)

Unit studies are an exciting experience for kids. A unit of study focuses on one central theme, e.g. insects.  In the unit study, students will learn all about insects by combining multiple subjects into one study. These learning adventures may cover everything from the biology of insects, the history of species, the spelling of scientific names, and more! In other words, one topic is studied through various subjects. Life isn’t categorized into tidy boxes, so unit studies reflect that! What does this mean for your kids? Unit studies are a great way to introduce students to real-life experiences.

There are plenty of ways to incorporate unit studies as homeschoolers. Several homeschooling websites, like ours, have already put together free unit studies on a variety of topics. Still, what happens if you can’t find a unit study for your topic, or studies aren’t available for free? You can create one yourself! Intimidated? I get it. BUT, it’s not as difficult as it sounds, I promise!

There are, in fact, several benefits to creating your own…

  • The DIY unit study can be as in-depth as you like
  • You can adjust the study to your student’s level
  • Eliminate pressure to move on
  • Include/exclude whatever makes you comfortable
  • Keep it secular/religious per your preference

How to Plan a Homeschool Unit Study

Planning your own unit study can easy to feel intimidating at first. I’ve been there! My advice: start by just thinking about the topic. Maybe jot down a few things you’d like to cover. Flexibility is the best part of unit studies! Nearly any information about the topic can be a potential resource. Another benefit of unit studies? They’re wonderful for hands-on learning since they easily also include tactile projects and crafts. Pinterest will be your best friend!

Here are a few steps to get started!

  • Choose a theme — What is your topic? Truth be told, a unit study can be about nearly anything! Examples: a book, historical event, upcoming holiday, or anything in-between. Basically, if you can think of it, you can study it. The sky’s the limit! 
  • Consider your goals Take a moment to think about your academic goals. What’s your end goal for this study? These goals can be as simple or complex as you like. Do you just want them to understand the themes of a book? Great! Do you want to challenge them to deeply analyze the worldview of a movie? Also great! Either way, you can even customize the goals specifically for each child.
  • Search for books A solid unit study will always involve books! Try a Google search for related books, like “Books for kids about [topic].” Also, check out Goodreads, Pinterest, or Amazon. Of course, don’t forget your library! A library’s database is usually a treasure trove. Better yet, talk with the librarian. It’s kinda their job to know these things. 😉 
  • Find videos Videos are excellent teaching tools, especially for visual learners! Some popular video resources: YouTube, National Geographic, Netflix, Hulu, and even Amazon Prime. Again, your local library may also have a few video resources.
  • Include arts and crafts Crafts are pretty much the ultimate hands-on learning experience. For example, your unit study’s about Earth Day. Have your kids build a Play-Doh model of the earth! Again, Pinterest will be your best friend. There’s loads of themed crafts and activities for kids on there!
  • Plan field trips Outings bring homeschooling alive! Give your students a firsthand experience by scheduling a field trip or outing related to the unit study. Here are a few ideas: observatories, zoos, lakes, the ocean, creeks, fishing, aquariums, science centers, museums, performances, and more.
  • Consider science projects You’d be surprised at how often science can accompany a unit study. Look online for science project ideas. Again, it’s a great chance for hands-on learning.
  • List your activities List out the activities plus any assignments you have in mind. Ask yourself: what do you absolutely want your kids to get done? How about cooking/baking? Perhaps prepare a themed dish from a book or an era!
  • Create the schedule How many days do you want to devote to this study? One week? One month? Of course, the time needed is directly related to your planned activities, books, and projects. Organize and order the activities.
  • Add it to your schedule The last step: incorporating your unit study with your existing weekly plan! Whether you’re planning this study before the school year begins or you’re weaving it into your existing plan, you’ll have best results if it’s on the books.

Homeschool Unit Study Resources

As mentioned, unit studies can focus on any subject. An important rule of thumb: follow your children’s excitement. All of us learn best when we’re having fun! A unit study is rooted in the joy of exploration and discovery, wherever that topic may lead.

Whether you want to supplement your homeschool curriculum with occasional free unit studies or you’re planning to teach entirely from back-to-back units, these resources will help you plan a DIY homeschool unit study.

  • Homeschool Unit Study Resources. We have several unit studies listed here, ranging across several topics and categorized by umbrella subjects for convenience. Are you looking for unit studies regarding specific holidays or events? There are several to choose from here. You can either use them how they are now or as a starting point for your own!
  • How to Improve Writing Skills with Unit Studies. Unit studies are a good opportunity to work on writing skills. Explore how to include writing assignments in a unit study as well as how to keep the units engaging for your kids.
  • Make Your Own Space Exploration Unit Study! Is your homeschooler fascinated with space? Or, perhaps it’s time to learn about space science? Either way, these resources will get your started!
  • DIY Poetry Unit Study. Does it seem like a stretch to create a poetry unit study? Actually, poetry’s great for unit studies! Kids tend to dislike poetry since it’s complicated and frequently confusing. A poetry study can help your kids learn how to read it and understand it’s powerful emotion!
  • Creating Your Own Literature-Based Unit Study. If you have book lovers at home, a literature study will be highly enjoyed. Literature is excellent for exploring certain topics, especially history! 
  • Living Book Lists for Homeschool Science Study. As with literature, living books are a great choice for a unit of study. Living books teach through the narrative to keep students engaged and excited. Are living books are new to you? Consider this article to learn more.
  • Lapbook Study Anytime of the Year! Have you heard of lapbooks? They’re fantastic for unit studies! Lapbooks are similar to scrapbooks in that they feature collections around a central theme, usually stored in file folders. If you’re looking for a solid, organized method for storing your child’s unit study work, a lapbook is a great solution!
  • Science Unit Studies + Printables. We have free, comprehensive unit study resources available for astronomy, chemistry, nuclear science, and earth science! Want to bolster your kid’s experience with science? A unit study is a great option!

Courtney Newman

Courtney Newman is a homeschooled graduate with a love for writing. She is currently pursuing her undergraduate degree in Health Science at University of the People. Other than writing, her hobbies include reading, yoga, visiting the beach, and meditating. She lives with her husband and pets in coastal Virginia.