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Tips for Creating Unit Studies?

Currently we are using Bookshark (secular Sonlight) for history and science but for next year I want to do history a little differently: I want to develop delight-directed unit studies for history but I’m a bit nervous as to how to go about drafting and creating our own unit study from scratch.

I have an idea of how I will go about it but I’d love to hear from some experienced parents…So, how do you go about creating a fun, exciting unit study and lesson plans? Tell me everything! :blush:

Unit studies sound so fun!! Learning so much off of just one subject/topic!! Talk about knocking two birds with one stone :wink: Excited to see what the Veterans out there say!!


Have you looked into the Little House unit studies? All the lessons are written out for you so you don’t have to do all the work. They are super fun to do!

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I love the idea of unit studies. We’ve done some small Lap books but I’m not sure that constitutes a unit study. I’d love to hear more about this so I’m bumping this topic.

I know it’s a couple of months late, but if you still want some tips on making units, I’d love to help. My way isn’t the only way, but maybe I can throw out some ideas and options. Let me know :slight_smile:

I would LOVE for you to share your tips!! This is something I would like to do but not really sure where to start.

Thanks so much!

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I would love some tips too. You always have such great ideas.

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@Alwayspainting and @Norsk - okay ladies - I’m happy to share my “method” :slight_smile: I’ll get back to you later today or this weekend! HAPPY FRIDAY! :smile:

@BellaRose whenever I’m creating a unit study, I start off with an overall outline listing several sub-topics that I want to cover for that unit. Then I go through each topic, and pull together information/resources/activities that go with it. Then I move on to the next topic and do the same. Often I’ll end up making similar activities for each sub-topic just for consistency and it makes it easier to create as well.

Hope that helps! Erica


There are a lot of places that sell unit studies, so I would search on Teachers Pay Teachers, CurrClick, Old Schoolhouse, and just a google search to see if there are any units already out there on the subject you are looking into. Sometimes you can even find free or very cheap ones.

@Alwayspainting and @Norsk and anyone else. This is not the only way to do it - if you ask 10 different people how they create a unit, you’ll get 10 different answers. My answer is kind of a combination of what other people have said.

  1. I begin with a template for my unit/lessons. I break the unit topic down into subtopics that would be suitable for each lesson (ie - Unit may be “Astronomy for First Grade” - Lesson 1 - Sun, Lesson 2 - Constellations, Lesson 3 - 8 Planets, etc - I just break it into manageable topics for each lesson.) I usually aim for a month long unit - 2 lessons per week, for 4 weeks (give or take)
  2. I put the topics into the order I want to teach them. I take lesson 1 topic (Sun) and I Google, Pinterest and TPT the topic. Sometimes I want to make the unit from scratch and other times, due to time, ideas or interest, I want to grab something off of TPT or a blog for free or little $$. “Don’t reinvent the wheel!” - if someone made a great unit and it doesn’t cost much (or even better - it’s FREE!) then work with it :smile:
  3. If I can’t find a premade unit or feel like making it myself, I research topics for each lesson. Depending on the age of my kids I’ll choose 1-3 experiments/crafts/projects for each lesson.
  4. After I have chosen my activities for each lesson, I make a list of pertinent vocabulary words (usually 1-3 words) to go into our science and history dictionary
  5. Totally optional: next I go to my library website and look up each topic to make a list of books that are age appropriate for the unit. I make my units months and months ahead, so this works well so when it’s time to do the unit, I can easily take my list and grab the books.
  6. Next, if I have papers to print or lapbooks to prepare, I do it now. Even if the unit won’t be taught for several months I do it now so I can store it all together - then it’s easy to pull out later. I’ve found that if I make my unit ahead but don’t prep the paper stuff, then sometimes I forget what/how to prep it when I pull the unit out 3 months later.

** OUR FAVORITE PART: We have a History/Science drawing journal. At the end of every UNIT (NOT the end of every lesson) my kids draw a picture of the unit - whatever they want - then on the back they write a few sentences about something they learned in that unit. At the end of the year they have an entire drawing journal of all of the science/history units we learned that year. My kids love this, and I do too. There is no way we can keep all of the experiments and projects from over the year, but we can keep these beautiful drawing journals.

I don’t always make things from scratch, I don’t always buy things, I don’t always use lapbooks, and I’m not always organized. I just do the best I can. I figure if nothing else, if I manage to have a pile of books on the topic and a few crafts/activities and a writing piece here or there, then I’m golden :slight_smile: The rest is all cherries on top.

BTW - If your library carries them, another great resource for science units are the Mailbox magazines - they have TONS of them - some by month, but many by topic - plants, insects, oceans, weather, astronomy, etc. They come in different age levels - full of crafts and experiments, book suggestions and reproducibles. You can buy them also, but I’m cheap :slight_smile:


Thank you thank you thank you !!! Wow!! This is such a big help!!

Much like @triton17, I decide on what unit we are going to be looking at and develop it from there. I also build it around what my son is interested in. For example, we are currently at the beginning of a Star Wars unit. So, I mapped out the unit on my planning page and decide what we are going to learn. Typically, our units are for reading and writing, so for Star Wars, I decided that we would look at Hero’s Journey since Luke Skywalker is the epitome of that. Then, I checked out a bunch of Star Wars books from the library (Droids, Beware the Sith, I Want to be a Jedi, Luke Skywalker’s Amazing Story). Next, I Googled what I could on Star Wars lesson plans/idea and Hero’s Journey. I started mapping out where we would do compare/contrast, write letters (he has already written a fan letter to George Lucas), etc. We also have a few workbooks on Star Wars that his Auntie got him, so that was incorporated as well.
Since Star Wars takes place in space, I also decided to coincide a planet and space study for science to go along with our reading. I found a great interactive notebook on TPT that seems fun, so we are going to go with that. All of this goes hand in hand, which is something that I really try to do when creating units. I try to make as much as I can hands on, since The Monk has ADHD. Anything to keep him interested and engaged - which is why we are doing Star Wars in the first place!

I have all my planning sheets and curriculum here, if you’re interested. Just so you can have an idea of what other units we have done so far…

Hope this helps! Cheers! has a lot of unit studies. Most are formatted for easy printing and have lapbooks or notebooking pages as well. We have had success with many of those. They are all free and while most are literature-based they have a lovely section of their website called “connections” that groups them by both subject and approximate age/skill level.

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@michelletown - We find quite a lot of useful things at also! Thanks for mentioning! :slight_smile:

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Build Your Bundle has a sale and has a Unit Study Bundle with two guides on making Unit Studies (on general and one for Charlotte Mason method) plus around 10 unit studies on different topics (it’s 89% off through tomorrow).

I’ve only really done one Unit Study, and since we already had programs for Spelling and math didn’t include all subjects. I just found a really good book on the subject and for each section (all only a couple pages) I read that section and then did an activity or craft related to it (the book included some and others we found on pinterest) and for some of them we also watched related videos on YouTube. That was probably way more simplistic than most units, but I could have easily added spelling words and made up some related math word problems to bring in other subjects.

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I realize this topic was from last year, but I am reading a good book called Homeschooling at the Helm by a homeschooling mother of 8 children. The premise of the book is designing your child’s curriculum specifically around their interests and the subjects are integrated in a unit-study type approach, only more in-depth. I am about half-way through the book (it’s only about 50 pages long), but it gives a great step-by-step approach for how to do this process with your child participating alongside you as you make choices together. The book is only a $6 download here:

I thought others interested in a unit-study and/or delight-directed approach might also be interested in this book. :slight_smile:

You know, I realized I answered this, but not really. I think I was answering someone’s sub-question. And though this is an old post I thought I’d share how I made a unit study last year…

  1. Find a book on the topic-- you can look for one at the library, though depending on how long you want the study to be, you might want to buy it (used books are cheaper than late library fees sometimes). Look for a book that is split up into topical sections, and has an amount of text in each section your child can handle in one day…and plan to read a section each day and plan activities and such around that section.

  2. Go on pinterest and look for one craft or other activity for each section/day (or at least some of the sections…if that’s too much). You might also search for related videos to watch before or after reading.

  3. If you are trying to incorporate other un-directly related subjects, like math if you’re studying Vikings explores, places like Teachers pay Teachers (which has a lot of free and cheap printables) can be good places to look for things related to your theme (math worksheets and such with a Viking theme.). Better yet, see what math projects might naturally relate (like for Vikings, you might learn how long a typical Viking longboat was. A younger child might use a measuring tape to get a feeling for how long a viking ship was. You could also do addition and subtraction or even multiplication and division by asking questions using a map of Viking travels). For science you could learn about navigation, weather and how it would affect sailing, learn about Viking inventions, etc.