The Unit Study Approach

With the Unit Study Approach, an entire family can pursue a topic in depth, while maintaining the interrelatedness of the disciplines. Each child can at the same time work at their own level and at their own pace.

For example, you could develop your child’s recent stamp collecting interest into a unit study by incorporating or covering appropriate literature (reading), monetary equivalents (math), geography, different currencies over time (history), classification (science), art, and communication skills by requiring a report (writing/grammar) or speech.

Unit studies typically take advantage of hands-on activities, field trips, and other forms of investigation.

“So just what is the Unit Study Method? A unit study is simply an extensive study of one topic (or unit) and the integration of all subjects (social studies, science, language arts, math, Bible, music, art, etc.) around that topic. This allows the child to see the purpose for learning because the disciplines (subjects) are applied and the knowledge is interconnected, creating a more logical and natural way to learn. It is the opposite of the fragmented method of spending 50 minutes on history, which is totally unrelated to the next 50 minutes of science, which is totally unrelated to the next 50 minutes of literature, and so on.”

Vicky Goodchild, The Simplicity of Homeschooling

There is no shortage of resources when it comes to purchasing pre-planned unit studies or helps for developing your own. Chances are you, too, will incorporate at least one unit study during your family’s homeschooling adventure.

The following are unit study features that can be implemented no matter what your educational style:

In-depth Studies

So many times when following a typical scope and sequence, we only scratch the surface of a topic before it is time to move on to the next one. Whatever our style, in a tutorial situation we can stay with the same subject matter until all of our questions have been answered and our curiosity is satisfied. As a result, we will have become intimately familiar with our subject.


The one who does the research is usually the one who learns the most. Unit studies provide an opportunity to encourage individual investigation. Children are more likely to want to participate in finding their own answers when it pertains to a topic of their interest.

Further Reading

Application of the Learning Tools

One of our goals is to help our children develop their skills. Skills are usually best developed in a systematic order. But this does not mean that they have to be applied to an arbitrary topic dreamed up by a curriculum provider.

Writing finds new life when the person performing the action is writing about something he has been investigating and in which he has an interest.

Reading can take on a life of its own when an interest is fed with stage-appropriate (or maybe just a little advanced) literature.

We can also have our children apply the skills they are developing in math to situations that hold their interest.

Further Reading

Family Time

History, literature, and the arts are examples of areas in which the entire family can learn together. Assignments can easily be fine-tuned to fit each child’s level while everyone studies the same topic.

Further Reading
Unit Studies Made Easy {Review}

Unit Studies Made Easy by Valerie Bendt
Includes wide margins for note-taking, plenty of quotations to spur interest, samples of unit studies for inspiration, and a resource list. Covers integrating subjects, scheduling, the use of projects, and record-keeping. Truly an invaluable resource for the homeschool handy-mom! Read our entire review.

Free Unit Studies
We can all use fresh inspiration and these free unit studies may be just what we need!

Prepared Unit Studies
Compiled list of prepared unit studies.

Unit Studies
Our own unit studies.

14 Ways to Plan Studies Around An Interest
How to use unit study basics to fuel the fire!

Additional Resources

The Gift of “How to Learn”
Article by Jessica Hulcy, co-author of KONOS, on one of the advantages of the unit study method.

Homeschool Unit Study Planner
Forms from Donna Young.

Keeping Unit Studies Simple
Many homeschool moms have “burned out” using unit studies. “It doesn’t take long to learn that a few wrong notions have led to their planning nightmares.” Ideas to help you plan appropriately from Kathryn L. Stout.

Planning a Unit Study
Welcome help from Highland Heritage. Includes definitions and ten practical steps to help you incorporate unit studies into your homeschool.

Thoughts on Unit Studies
One of the common criticisms about unit studies is that there is no organizing principle and that the children are not being encouraged to work at an appropriate level of study. The ideas in this article by Susan Wise Bauer, a classical education advocate and author of The Well-Trained Mind, might help you eliminate these concerns as you incorporate unit study ideas into your educational mix.

What is a Unit Study?
“Once a family begins to use unit studies, the natural versatility and flexibility of the unit study will lend themselves to many educational ideas.” Article by Gail Kappenman.

What is a Unit Study?
An in-depth look from Amy Pak.

What’s All This Fuss About Unit Studies?
“The purpose of an education should be that we can enjoy God’s world and better be used for His purpose for each one of us.” Jennifer Steward explains how she and her family use unit studies to achieve that goal.

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