I am so excited to share with you one of my favorite ways to experience delight-directed learning with my children–with unit studies! We have done numerous unit studies throughout our homeschooling years. Delight-directed simply means that I follow an idea of theirs and we run with it!
I have 8 children, 4 boys and 4 girls, and there are 11 years between the oldest and youngest. Just for sanity’s sake I like to keep them all on the same page with a lot of their learning. We can’t do that with everything, of course. They need individual math and handwriting lessons, for example. But especially for science and history, we have done unit studies to keep my preschool and elementary kids all learning the same thing at the same time.
In case you are new to the term, let me define “unit study.” A unit study is taking a topic to study and learning about it through as many disciplines as possible. The disciplines can include language arts (vocabulary, literature, creative writing, etc.), science, math, history, geography (maps), music, art, Bible, field trips, etc.
Today, I’d like to lead you through the process of starting with an idea from your child (or children), planning, and then implementing the unit study.
When my boys were 7 and 8, they went through a stage where they loved cowboys! I decided to do a unit study about cowboys with them.
The first thing I did was go to my library’s website and put a several books about cowboys on hold. I mostly looked through the picture book section, but found a few in the juvenile section as well. I found two books that were biographies (Annie Oakley and Will Rogers) and lots of books about cowboys in the old west, as well as cowboys of today, and rodeos. I also chose books about horses and cows. We learned how to take care of horses and about tack, learned about (and ate!) the food that cowboys had on the trail, and listened to and sang cowboy songs. I found a cowboy song CD at the library, but recently we discovered Experience History Through Music: Westward Ho! The Heart of the Old West (book, songs, and CD) which includes some great cowboy songs.
For literature, we listened to a longer story on CD while in the car: Justin Morgan Had a Horse. One of our favorite book discoveries was Kickin’ Up Some Cowboy Fun by Monica Hay Cook.
There are 130 activities in this book, so this study can drag on for as long as the kids would like! Although we didn’t do it for this particular unit study (but rather with a unit study we did for the American Girl Josefina), it’s really fun to do leather stamping. We had some ropes that the boys made at a farm festival, and they had a ball pretending they were in a rodeo. We watched a couple of movies as well: some non-fiction ones for kids about cowboys that the library had, but also Annie Get Your Gun. If the boys had been older, we might have ventured into the vast arena of westerns and taken a field trip to a rodeo.
The final project we did was make a lapbook. I love doing lapbooks with our unit studies because:
- They give us a culminating and lasting product that is small enough to keep on a bookshelf and is fun to look at in the future.
- Lapbooks allow me to add in anything I want the kids to write about.
- Most of my elementary kids have enjoyed doing them.
- Much of the work is done for me. (I have found free ones, as well as purchased some).
A lapbook is a set of mini booklets that the kids can write answers to different things they are learning about the topic. We bought the one called Cowboys by Hands of a Child. I printed out the pages on colored paper, cut them out, and glued them on file folders. Then my boys just had to fill in the information. I added a couple of extra things, like the “Cowboy’s Ten Commandments” and some cattle brands that they designed and drew. By the way, an easy way to add math to a unit study is to write word problems which relate to the subject.
If you would like guidance through planning a delight-directed unit study for your children, I highly recommend Marcy’s Delightful Planning: A Unit Study Planner for Every Homeschool. She has thought of everything to help you through the process!
Gena has been married 16 years is a homeschooling mom of 8 blessings, ages 14 down to 2. You can find her blogging about homeschooling, homemaking, and family life over at I Choose Joy! Be sure to join her on Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram as well to read great reviews and enter awesome giveaways!
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