10 Books for Killer Homeschool Unit Studies

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Great books are the best way to learn. There is no better way to study history (or anything else) than to experience it through the lives of those who lived it. These ten books are some of my favorites for learning stand-alone topics, but they’re also the basis for creating some killer homeschool unit studies.

Our family began our homeschool experience with unit studies and although we’ve gone through many transitions, I still love approaching school with a unit study mindset.

Books on a variety of topics for creating homeschool unit studies


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The Golden Goblet

Set in ancient Egypt, The Golden Goblet tells the story of Ranofer, a young goldsmith apprentice who is being raised by his mean and deceitful brother, Gebu.

Possible topics: Ancient Egyptian culture, Pharaohs, polytheism, apprenticeship

Some ideas to get you started: The Golden Goblet unit study links, Ancient Egypt (Homeschool Share)

Castle Diary: The Journal of Tobias Burgess

Castle Diary is the story of a young page, Toby Burgess, and his adventures as he goes to live in a nearby castle. This was one of our favorites when we studied the Middle Ages.

Possible topics: Knights and pages, Middle Ages, castles, feudal system

Some ideas to get you started: Middle Ages unit study on Pinterest, another Middle Ages unit study on Pinterest, Middle Ages on Homeschool Share,

Leonardo’s Horse

We used Leonardo’s Horse way back in the early days of our homeschooling when I used to write my own units. Brianna wanted to learn about horses, and this was a great way to pull in a study on one of the world’s most well-known artists.

Possible topics: Leonardo da Vinci, Renaissance, horses, sculpting, Italy, America, notebooking, inventions, Charles Dent

Some ideas to get you started: Leonardo da Vinci unit study, Horses unit study on Pinterest

Pedro’s Journal

This is the fictional story of Pedro, cabin boy for Christopher Columbus. Pedro was chosen for the job based on his ability to read and he keeps a journal of his adventures. We found Pedro’s Journal to be a great way to bring the story of Columbus to life.

Possible topics: Columbus, sailing, discovery of Americas, astronomy, native peoples of the Americas, weather, explorers

Some ideas to get you started: Columbus unit study from Just Mommies, Columbus Day unit study links from Sprittibee

Johnny Tremain

Johnny Tremain is the story of a silversmith who, due to an injury, is forced to find new work – work that brings him into close contact with some of the key players in the American Revolution. The story brings the reader right into the center of the action in Boston.

Possible topics: Revolutionary War, apprenticeship, silversmiths, early American leaders

Some ideas to get you started: American Revolution resources from Homeschool Share, American Revolution unit study on Pinterest

Little House on the Prairie

No explanation needed for Little House on the Prairie, right?

Possible topics: Native Americans, early American settlers, western expansion, self-sufficiency, pioneer life

Some ideas to get you started: Little House on the Prairie unit study on Pinterest, free Little House on the Prairie lapbook

Girl of the Shining Mountain

This is one of my most memorable books from our homeschooling years. Girl of the Shining Mountain is the exploration of Lewis and Clark as told through the eyes of Sacagawea.

Possible topics: Lewis and Clark, Native Americans

Some ideas to get you started: Lewis and Clark and Me unit study (another of our favorite books on the topic) from Homeschool Share, Lewis and Clark unit study on Pinterest

Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl

I doubt there’s any need to give you a synopsis of Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl either.

Possible topics: World War II, Nazi Germany, Jewish Holocaust

Some ideas to get you started: A WWII Holocaust unit study from Free Unit Studies, Anne Frank unit study on Pinterest

Around the World in 80 Days

On a wager, Englishman Phileas Fogg sets off on a journey around the world. Through his travels readers will embark from England and visit places such as France, India, Egypt, Japan, Ireland, and America. You couldn’t ask for a more all-encompassing book on which to build a world geography unit study than Around the World in 80 Days.

Possible topics: Geography, transportation, late-1800’s

Some ideas to get you started: Around the World in 80 Days kit on Scribd, Around the World in 80 Days activity ideas

Charlotte’s Web

When Fern discovers that he is going to kill Wilbur, a runt piglet, she convinces her father to let her raise the piglet. Later, Wilbur finds himself living on Fern’s uncle’s farm, befriended by a very talented writing spider named Charlotte. Charlotte’s Web is one of my favorite children’s stories.

Possible topics: Animal husbandry, spiders, farm life

Some ideas to get you started: Charlotte’s Web unit study with lapbook printables from Confessions of a Homeschooler, Charlotte’s Web unit study ideas on Pinterest.

Way back when – back when I used to do a lot of unit studies – I wrote a series of three posts on how to write your own unit studies for The Homeschool Classroom. They’re probably the really unpolished type of posts from my early blogging days, but they still contain good information if you’d like to put together some of your own units.

Or maybe, you’d like to do some light unit studies for fun summer learning based on these books – you know, the kind of studies where you read the books and just do the fun stuff. Either way, I hope I’ve given you some ideas for some ways you can put together some great homeschool unit studies from these timeless, captivating books.

Do you enjoy learning through unit studies? What are some of the most memorable books you and your family have enjoyed?

This post is linked to Top Ten Tuesday and iHN’s Ten in Ten.

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Kris Bales is a newly-retired homeschool mom and the quirky, Christ-following, painfully honest founder (and former owner) of Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers. She has a pretty serious addiction to sweet tea and Words with Friends. Kris and her husband of over 30 years are parents to three amazing homeschool grads. They share their home with three dogs, two cats, a ball python, a bearded dragon, and seven birds.

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  1. Great list! With one grown son and two little ones, we are restocking to go ’round again. I love the concept of unit studies based on “real” books. A few of my favorites come from Louis L’Amour. The Walking Drum, Lonesome Gods, Jubal Sackett and Sitka are a few good ones.

    Others include Little Britches…and, for older kids, I recently read “A Higher Call” by Adam Makos. A very personal look into both sides of WW2. Also for older teens, Morgan Llywelyn has a series about the Irish Rebellion that spans the 20th century. Very interesting.

    1. Thanks, Adam. I’m glad you enjoyed the list. I have an older daughter who might enjoy some of those books you mentioned, particularly A Higher Call. She’s fascinated by WWII.

  2. Love this list! Thanks for sharing the idea about doing unit studies with them. Need to add a few more books to my wish list, now! 🙂

  3. Thanks for the great list and quick summaries of the books. I’m always on the lookout for books that will work as a base for a unit study, so hearing what works well for other homeschoolers is a big help. As a bonus, my library has most of these! I got out my list to add the books right away.

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