Unit Studies

A unit study is taking a theme or topic (a unit of study) and delving into it deeply over a period of time, integrating language arts, science, social studies, math, and fine arts as they apply. Instead of studying eight or ten separate, unrelated subjects, all subjects are blended together and studied around a common theme or project. For example, a unit study on birds could include reading and writing about birds and about famous ornithologists (language arts), studying the parts, functions, and life cycles of birds and perhaps even the aerodynamics of flight (science and math), determining the migration paths, habitats, and ecological and sociological impact of birds (social studies), sketching familiar birds (art), building bird houses or feeders (hands on activities) and so forth.

Pros:

  • All ages can learn together
  • Children can delve as deeply into a subject as they like
  • The family's interests can be pursued
  • Student gets the whole picture
  • Curiosity and independent thinking are generated
  • Intense study of one topic is the more natural way to learn
  • Knowledge is interrelated, so is learned easily and remembered longer
  • Unit studies are fairly easy for the teacher to create


Cons:

  • Planning is necessary so that there are no educational 'gaps'
  • Hard to assess the level of learning occurring
  • Record keeping may be difficult
  • Do-it-yourself unit studies require planning
  • Too many activity oriented unit studies may cause burn-out of teacher and student
  • Subjects that are hard to integrate into the unit may be neglected


Used with permission from Elijah Company

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