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Homeschooling with Thematic Units
Learn how to plan a Unit Study Approach lesson for all ages (using themes) in your homeschool. We will share examples and advice for family learning across the curriculum as well. We love curriculum options for multi-age homeschooling and family schooling!
Many homeschooling families and teachers enjoy using the ‘unit study’ or thematic approach to learning. A theme is chosen and then all (or some) of the subjects in the curriculum are studied in relationship to this theme, for perhaps a week or two. If this theme is a topic that you can dive further into you may take a month or longer.
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A major benefit of homeschooling with thematic units is the flexibility. You can take as much time as you choose, and study any aspect of the topic. The beauty of this type of study is that you can cultivate a love of learning within your students while bonding as a family!
Children will experience getting excited about a topic and enjoy researching the answers to their own questions, reading books, and experimenting with hands-on learning all through the unit study.
The following is a sample using the Iditarod dog sled race as a theme.
- Using a thematic style of teaching, the Iditarod Race is just one example of an opportunity to become immersed in the excitement of the sport while learning
- Early in the school year or semester information about the race and the state of Alaska can be studied (check your library for books at all levels). The race takes place in Alaska each March. You can read about the dogs, their equipment, and the humans who work with them.
- Gain computer skills when using the Internet to search for good information (try the official Iditarod site).
- Use map skills when plotting out the race trail. Study how every other year the race switches from an upper trail to a lower trail. Math comes in when tracking the various mushers (dog sled riders) as they follow the trail (Try Cabelas Iditarod site for great coverage). Older students can check racing speeds and chart teams when they reach their various checkpoints.
- Younger homeschoolers can draw pictures pertaining to the race or the dogs.
- Science is learned through finding out about dog care, how blubber helps some animals deal with the cold and more about the animals specifically.
- Language arts might include writing e-mails to mushers or creating their own fictional stories about dog sledding. The entire family learns new vocabulary as you go along, and you can also use these words for copy work and spelling tests.
- Every day look at race updates together on the Internet and cheer for the teams of people and dogs you are tracking.
- If possible, watch the daily Iditarod coverage on the Outdoor Channel. On the final day of the race, celebrate by eating ice cream and getting cold like the mushing teams you have been watching for two weeks (that’s about how long the race lasts).
- Or take the ultimate field trip and watch the fun up close! We know this particular trip may be unrealistic for some, but field trips are a fantastic way to bring your unit study to life.
This is an experience you will remember for a lifetime and want to do again each year.
How To Get Started with Thematic Units
First, try brainstorming with the children.
What do they know? What do they want to know? Where could you go on a field trip to learn more? Can they think of other resources, books or ideas?
Next, check out the Internet and the library. Use Internet search engines. Look for credible web sites (colleges, museums, knowledgeable official organizations) where you can trust provided information. Try using the search words “thematic units” or “unit studies.” Add the word “homeschool” to narrow the search. Find free unit studies on a website called Homeschool Helper, full of lesson plans and information on thematic learning.
Also search teacher sites (a good starting point) and look for educational links, free printable worksheets, etc. The Internet is loaded with free lesson plans and ideas for teachers (homeschoolers included). Librarians or the library search computer can also be a huge help. Check out several books for each unit, for reference and reading.
Also on the internet are pre-planned unit studies. Many are free for the taking. These can be used as they are, or can be a great starting point for developing your own plan.
The thematic or unit study approach is a great way to learn!
Unit studies are a great way to explore interests, work with children of various ages, and have fun learning as a family. They are reasonably easy to plan and implement and the hands-on experiences will stay with homeschoolers for many years.