How to Create a Unit Study to Encourage Your Child’s Interests
We all want to encourage and help develop our children’s interests, right? We want to see them happy, successful, and well-rounded. That’s really the ultimate goal of homeschooling.
Are you trying to help them develop a passion for a future career or just an interesting hobby? Either way, immersing them in their beloved topic is a great way to develop skills. You may approach an interest that will likely become a career one day a little differently than you would a hobby, but remember to be open and flexible to the possibilities. You never know where their interests may lead!
Written by Sara Jordan of Heart and Soul Homeschooling.
One way to encourage interests is to create a delight-directed unit study designed specifically for your children. There are pre-made unit studies available of course, and these are great go-to resources for many different learning styles. However, it can definitely pay off in the long run and create a truly customized learning experience if you try building your own unit study. Here are several steps to take if you choose to do that.
Steps to Use to Create a Unit Study to Encourage Your Child’s Interests:
I start by brainstorming as many ideas as I can. Grab a notebook specifically for this and start listing the things your children are passionate about on page one. Choose two or three of the top things and write them at the top of a page in the notebook, leaving several pages in between for notes and lists. Start adding activities, books, projects, etc., as you think of them. Keep it handy for when ideas come at odd times. That happens when your brain gets in that creative mode! Depending on your children’s ages, ask them for input. This will help your them take ownership of their education and encourage them to be excited about learning.
An example of an idea you might come up with when you brainstorm is finding pen pals! For example, if your children are interested in a particular state or country, you might help them find pen pals who live there. Or you might even find someone from that state or country who is interested in your home state and would like to trade boxes with items from each of your home states/countries. See the section below on reaching out to a Facebook group to find people in other areas who might be willing to participate.
2. Gather materials.
Start with books on the subject. Take them to the library and let them pick out a big stack. Check out Amazon or other online booksellers for some to purchase for your own home library. Don’t forget to check out your local homeschool group, homeschool curriculum sale pages on Facebook, yard sales, and even Goodwill for deals on books related to your topic. When I start actively looking, I seem to find things all over! Get a big bucket or bin and place everything together. Choose a few special things to scatter around the home/homeschool room to invite further investigation.
Beyond books, add anything that relates to the topic. Consider these possible items:
- hands-on science experiments
- a new paint set or other creative supplies
- textbooks or living books
- chapter books about the theme
- tools that might be needed for the study — every chef needs a whisk, right?
3. Include as many field trips and hands-on activities as you can.
Check around your area for locations that line up with the study. Think outside the box a little! For children who love dinosaurs, you might visit a dinosaur museum, but also check into lectures and displays at local colleges they might be allowed to attend. If you have children with a deep interest in animals, a visit to the pet store is in order to research the needs of different animals and the associated costs. But what about calling local vets to see if they can shadow for a patient or two? Visit an exotic animal farm or even a feed store. If you can’t find local field trips, look for virtual field trips that are related to the subject. There is no shortage of resources when you’re willing to think creatively.
4. Reach out in your Facebook Community.
Post in your favorite homeschool groups on Facebook to ask for ideas or suggestions on a topic. I love to get others’ ideas and feedback even if I have a lot of my own ideas on the topic. There is always some detail or an angle I didn’t think of that gives us a rich trail to follow up on.
You can also search for recommended DVDs, YouTube videos, and documentaries in Facebook groups. I stumbled across this group on Facebook, and they are a fabulous resource for videos on many topics. Google, Youtube, and Pinterest will also help you round out your list. There are so many documentaries and shows like How Does it Work, MythBusters, Where on Earth Is Carmen Sandiego, Wild Kratts, Master Chef, Antique Roadshow, and many more that can make a great addition to their study.
And of course we would love to have you join the Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers Facebook group!
5. Give them freedom.
While you may have a certain amount of required tasks like reports, science projects, and reading on the subject for them to do, consider also letting them formulate some of their own studies. If they want to spend the day baking, try to give them the freedom to do so. They will be getting math, reading, following directions, life skills, health, and nutrition study, and so much more, from a day spent cooking than they might in a textbook. Children who love mechanics will benefit from a day in the garage with Dad, and tech kids may want to get immersed in coding.
I also like to let my daughters determine the length of the study. As long as they are excited about a topic, we continue. Some of our unit studies have lasted all year, while others have been a week or a month. There is no wrong way to design your own interest-led unit study.
Do you know what your children are really interested in right now? Do they have talents that you could help them pursue? Consider creating your own unit study based on their interests and see how enthusiastic they can become about learning!