You probably seldom saw unit studies in your collective school past, except maybe on Valentine’s or after the first snow. It’s a relatively new term that conveys the idea of studying only one topic in every school discipline.
So, if your children wanted to study horses and you were teaching through unit studies, they would read Black Beauty or something similar. Their English assignments would be reports or essays about horses. Math would cover statistics about horses. You would teach the history of horses, complete with maps. Spelling would include equine and whether racetrack is a closed, hyphenated, or open compound. Biology might cover the horse skeleton. Get it?
And often, every student is studying the same topic, so while the high schoolers are learning to render a horse in oil paints and apply the logic of game theory, the first grader is filling a color book about horses and learning to count the pintos in a certain mixed herd.
Some people love unit studies, and I have used them a time or two, myself, enjoying the results. They really ring the bell for people who thrive on research, and I do. The consummate teacher, whose every cell longs to provide all, all, all the input herself, will inhale this idea with great joy.
Often, the homeschool teacher who loves unit studies has a teaching degree, or had begun to acquire one, or always wanted to be a teacher. Perhaps she has a lot of experience in teaching maybe Sunday School or some other public place, such as job orientations at her old workplace. Something about her life has handed her a great amount of confidence she can do a better job than any old book.
Often she has given birth to children who also enjoy much “hands-on” experience in life. They must contemplate while they learn (unlike the ones who grab up facts and contemplate later.) These children seem to grow taller when they have a “project” in the works, and sometimes it is an ever-expanding project. The wise teacher of this type of learner will keep a constant supply of projects in the wings, waiting for the right moment to introduce them.
One other important aspect of teaching through unit studies is the time factor. It takes a great amount of time. Unit studies require a life of total devotion to providing content for the students. You have to know, months in advance, what you are doing and what you plan to be doing. There are no textbooks already planned out for you. There are no answer keys. Often there is no summer vacation for you.
And there is no maid. Either you have to provide that, yourself, or else you have to be okay with some things undone. If your husband freaks over a cheerio in his chair, hmm. If a sticky floor drives you crazy, hmm.
I counseled a lady who asked me, “My husband has told me that if I will homeschool our children, he will hire me a maid. Do you think I could do it?” I told her, “With a maid, there is much greater time to devote to the business of teaching. I would only be concerned about the children not learning to carry their own load with chores.” She took that counsel to heart. She has the maid. Her children have strictly enforced chores, and she, for some reason, took off flying with unit studies.
Are unit studies for you? There are companies that provide guidance for those who embark for this journey. Check out Konos, Sunlight, and Weaver, to see if you could love this way.