With Free Planning Sheets

Unit studies are a popular learning method in both traditional and homeschool environments. One central topic or theme is chosen, and as many academic subjects as possible are connected through that theme. Usually the theme is exciting and captivating for the students. For the example topic of ancient Rome, multiple subjects can be included like this:

  • Math: Learn Roman Numerals and understand how they relate to a base-ten system
  • Science: Engage STEM skills by engineering aqueducts with popsicle sticks and tin foil
  • History: Explore ancient Rome through videos, books, and hands-on projects
  • Reading: Find age-appropriate books set in ancient Rome to read aloud or assign as independent reading
  • Writing: Write a play that might have been performed in the Colosseum
  • PE: Reenact Roman military training exercises

Two big questions that often come up with unit studies are:

  1. How do I plan one?
  2. Where do I find resources?

Planning a unit study isn’t as difficult as it may seem. These five steps will have you ready to dive into learning with your kids in no time. Be sure to check out our free planning pages at the bottom of this post to make planning unit studies even easier.

1. Set Your Foundation

When you plan a unit study, it helps to have a central resource that you use as a guide for planning or that you work through to anchor your learning. This can be a family read-aloud, a textbook, a video series, an encyclopedia, or a unit study curriculum. Here are some popular resources and curricula that are often used as spines:

Once you’ve chosen your primary resources, grab a cozy drink and spend time reading introductions and notes written to educators. Understanding how the resource is set up and, if it’s a curriculum, how it works will make the other steps much easier for you.

2. Decide on Pacing

Each unit study can last from one week to several months. One rule of thumb is that you don’t want a unit to last longer than your children’s interest. As you complete more unit studies with your family, you’ll learn your sweet spot. Remember, you can always stretch a unit that’s particularly interesting or end a unit early if it’s just not working.

Once you know how long you want to spend on your unit study, look at the lessons, chapters, pages or concepts you would like to cover in that time frame. Divide the number of lessons, pages, or concepts by the number of days you want to spend on a given unit study, and that will tell you how much you need to cover in one day.

Here’s an example:

  • Spine: Read aloud with 28 chapters
  • Unit Length: 2 weeks or 10 days (5 day school week)
  • Material to cover in one day: 2-3 chapters

3. Set Your Goals

Before you start picking out activities and assignments for your unit study, it’s important to know your goals. One of the biggest mistakes people make when planning unit studies is trying to cram too much into the time you’ve given yourself. Set 2-3 goals per unit. You can choose subject, content, skill, or activity goals for your unit study.

Here’s an example of each type of goal:

  • Subject – History focus
  • Content – Understand the causes and outcomes of the Civil War
  • Skill – Write cohesive paragraphs with a main idea, at least three supporting sentences, and a conclusion
  • Activity – Create a Scrapbook of the Civil War

You may choose to make group goals or individual goals for each child. Or some of each.

4. Pick Your Activities

Now comes the fun part! Look through your curriculum and teacher’s guides or scour Pinterest, YouTube, and Google to find activities that meet your goals. It’s easy to become overwhelmed with all the options; keeping your goals in mind will help you decide what resources, projects, and activities to add to your schedule and what to leave out.

5. Gather Additional Supplies and Resources

Now that you have your plan in place it’s time to put books on hold at the library. Purchase or order any art or science supplies you may need as well as any additional resources you have in mind. If you want to, you can also go ahead and print any worksheets you may need for the unit now.

Now enjoy!

All that’s left is to enjoy an immersive learning experience with your family.

We’ve created a few planning pages to make this process even easier. Pick the ones that are helpful for you.

Click here to download the Self-Guided Planning Pages.

What’s included:

  • Unit Planner – Gives you a bird’s eye view of your entire unit
  • Weekly Planner – An open-ended template to help you plan for a 4 or 5 day week
  • Lesson Planner – Helps you plan your goals and think about individual lessons
  • Weekly Schedule Template – Simplified blank versions of the sample schedules provided with our unit studies, these templates help to ensure you’re covering all of the subjects.

I hope these tips are helpful as you plan your unit studies. Please feel free to share your tips and tricks as well as your top unit study resources in the comments below.