Today I want to share with you how I create unit studies for our preschoolers. A unit study is way of teaching your children on a topic they like, covering multiple subjects. On the sdahomeschools.com website are several blogs you can read about unit studies. For example, this one and this one.
In our home we’re using the unit study approach for our preschoolers (four and two years old). Since the children are very young, there is no need to buy a curriculum. I am trying to find out what works for us on our new homeschooling journey. At the same time, we cover the basics and learn a lot, and we are having fun. I create my own unit studies, because there is hardly anything in our own language. I do translate things, but that doesn’t work all the time. Also, by planning everything myself I can adapt it to our wishes and the interests, and the needs of my four-year-old preschooler. My two-year-old tags along for part of the lessons, mostly the hands-on activities like games and songs.
Since we began earlier this year I’ve made about 10 unit studies, learning how to create them as I’m going. I change it a little every time — sometimes because of the topic we choose, sometimes because my daughter now knows her ABC’s and wants something new or doesn’t like a certain part of our lesson. I’ve now developed a strategy to get to lessons I like at the moment. This is how I do it.
Step 1: Choose a topic, based on the interest of the child. As the mother, I help pick the topic. I try to spread the topics so we cover a wide variety of subjects. To give you an idea: Our last topic was “trip around the world” (geography). Currently we’re learning about fire fighters (social studies), and our next theme is elephants (nature).
Step 2: Collect ideas to fill the lessons. Pinterest is my favorite place to find games, crafts, worksheets, and so on.
We “do school” twice a week, and we stay on one topic for a month. So, I want to collect enough to cover eight lessons and one field trip. The lessons have the following subjects:
- Bible / character building: prayer, memory verse, Bible story, and a song or hymn in Dutch or English
- Language arts: vocabulary, read aloud, letter recognition, making words with our magnetic letters, pre-writing skills, and a song or poem
- Math / S.T.E.M. activities: counting and understanding of numbers; measuring and geometry; sorting, classifying, and comparing; and an experiment
- Home economics and personal care
- Arts and crafts
- Games (preferably outside)
- Nature study
I don’t do all the items of the language and math activities in one lesson, just one or two. Sometimes we do one activity that combines for example nature and math. On the other hand, I want enough options to choose from, so I usually have a few more activities planned than we actually do. We’re quite relaxed when it comes to homeschooling; it’s okay to let things happen or to skip an activity when it doesn’t work. This week one of our games was to transfer water from one bucket to another using a sponge. Playing with water is always fun. After a while the kids started “cleaning” the windows instead of doing the planned craft. And, with help of Mom, the windows ended up a lot cleaner!
To give you an idea of what I plan for home economics and personal care: For our “trip around the world” theme, we did a lot of cooking and trying recipes from different countries. Now we are remembering our address and phone number, we talk about fire and personal safety, and our daughter learns the final touches of getting dressed all by herself.
For the Bible lesson I just started using Kids of Integrity, choosing a character trait matching the theme. Each lesson we do a prayer, a Bible story, a memory verse, and a song. We learn at least two songs a month, one in Dutch and one in English.
Step 3: Divide the collected ideas. Plan your lessons and field trip. Print the printables and make notes for other preparation. Go to the library to get a stack of books according to the topic.
Step 4: Have a lot of fun with the lessons!
This way of teaching has been a blessing for us so far. I hope you give unit studies a try too!