Have fun writing with unit studies!
During our homeschooling years, unit studies were a huge part of our kids’ education. In the early days, we got involved in a KONOS group that met every Thursday. We moms would take turns planning the day’s activities for the current unit. Over the years, our children were more than exposed to these topics—they were immersed!
Though especially beneficial for our kinesthetic, hands-on learners, unit studies gave all the kids a chance to go deeper with a subject. For instance, we devoted most of one year to exploring the regions of the United States. What fun it was to read living books about each geographical location, from historical fiction to nonfiction. Our studies included science, history, art, cooking, crafts, games, and map work. We read biographies and legends. We learned about regional culture, agriculture, and explorers. And we did a ton of unit-related writing.
Here are some of the fun things we did in a few of our unit studies. Notice how easy it is to incorporate writing into every unit!
States and Regions
- New England States: Practiced the art of scrimshaw, wrote poems and reports about whaling and maple-syrup production, and held a “lobster race.”
- Midwest States: Learned about corn and wheat farming and prepared some dishes, mapped Pony Express and pioneer routes, made cornhusk dolls
- Pacific States: Compared and graphed different kinds of apples, made “volcanoes,” created pinecone crafts, read about Paul Bunyan and wrote tall tales
- Southwest States: Visited the Living Desert Museum, made books about desert plants and animals, learned some Spanish vocabulary
- Southern States: Identified political and geographical landmarks on a map of the South, made rag dolls, learned about peanuts and peanut products, wrote biographies of George Washington Carver
Art, Literature, and Music
- Explored the history of art and music through the ages
- Learned to sketch, draw in perspective, and use mixed media
- Painted in the style of Michelangelo, Van Gogh, Monet, Dali, and others
- Visited art museums
- Went to concerts, listened to music, and learned about musical notation
- Memorized and recited poetry
- Wrote reports, poems, and articles
- Read and discussed literature
We didn’t always do KONOS studies. Eventually, I gained enough confidence to write some of my own. (Though if you’re unsure about planning a unit study, my wise and experienced friend Marcy of Ben and Me has created the amazing Delightful Planning: A Unit Study Planner for Every Homeschool to help you EASILY make unit studies part of your family’s learning experiences.) >>>
Here’s a peek at some of the unit studies I put together myself:
Fantasy & Fairy Tales StoryBuilders
Printable Writing Prompt Cards
192 printable writing prompt cards start kids off with the basic elements of a story—character, character trait, setting, and plot. Even your most reluctant student will beg for StoryBuilders!
World Cultures, Geography, and Missions
- Made maps, 3-D and hand-drawn
- Learned about different cultures, costumes, and heritage
- Read and wrote folk tales, wrote book reports and other short reports
- Invited missionaries from countries like India, Guatemala, and Borneo to visit and share about their cultural experiences
- Made handicrafts from cultures around the world
- Enjoyed preparing and eating local foods, including strange delicacies like African “tree snails” (which we made using apple juice and gelatin!)
The Colonial Experience
- Wrote a Jamestown newspaper that included letters to the editor, articles, exposés, advertisements, births, deaths, political cartoons, and more
- Studied the flora and fauna of the Eastern woodlands, including mapping out a square of forest floor on a camping trip and identifying/recording the plants we found
- Wrote journals from the perspective of a Native American, Pilgrim, or woodland animal
- Learned about Colonial trades and craftsmen and wrote help-wanted ads
- Took turns being “tax master” and wrote journal entries about the tax revolt
- Reenacted the Boston Tea Party
- Learned about quilting and needlecraft and made embroidered samplers
- Wrote business letters to different organizations asking for literature and materials
- Took field trips to missions, ranchos, and historical homes
- Participated in a mountain man reenactment
- Panned for gold
- Made travel brochures of California
- Made models of missions and wrote diaries and reports
- Learned about agriculture and cooked with California produce
- Studied early California explorers, made charts, and mapped their routes
It’s not hard to see how much fun you can have with unit studies, and it’s so easy to incorporate writing across the curriculum. Writing becomes more meaningful when it’s relevant. For starters, here are 78 ideas for incorporating writing into your unit studies.
Photos: Jill Carlson (boy holding banner), Bureau of Land Management (girl with creek journal), courtesy of Creative Commons 2.0