Friday, September 25, 2009

Unit Studies: Lapbooking with Any Curriculum

When you are still new to the world of homeschooling you sometimes come across terms that are hard for you to clearly understand. And some things have so much information out there about it trying to sift through what is usable and relevant for your homeschool can be overwhelming. What I am going to do is take you through the steps of how to implement one of these terms today and that is a Unit Study. I will give some easy to follow guidelines on how you can also incorporate Unit Studies into any curriculum you are using.

  • Pick a Topic- For example lets say you are using a standard boxed curriculum and you are in your text in science and you come to a chapter on Insects. Your child has a particular interested in wanting to learn more about Butterflies but the text is more of a generalized chapter on Insects without going in depth with any specific one. This is a perfect opportunity to do a Unit Study on Butterflies. And you can do this with any subject from Science, History, Geography, Reading, even Math. Yes, Math can be made into a Unit also. Lets say you want to spend some time building multiplication skills. You could do games, charts, read books with word problems, and various other hands on activities on things to help master multiplication. This really works well for History. Lets say for instance you are learning about the Civil Rights Movement. You can pick key figures like Martin Luther King Jr. or Rosa Parks to do a Unit Study . This can even work for Bible curriculum. If you have an older child who wants to take a more in depth look at the Protestant Reformation they can. So just remember a Unit Study can be done on any topic you or your student chooses. Word of Caution: Not every Subject needs to be done as a Unit Study. Pick a few for the year, semester, or quarter and stick with that.

  • Gather Materials- In Classical Curriculum Living books and Original Source materials are the cornerstone of mostly all subjects. The Public Library is usually my 1st stop. I get picture books, non fiction, fiction, sometimes I can find a video or DVD to help accompany a subject. We just finished a Unit Study on Mozart and we were able to check out his music as well as some great children's literature about him. Utilize the FREE resources as much as possible. usually includes a a suggested reading list with there Unit Studies so if you are doing one of the topics they have listed then you don't even have to search for titles. Other things you might want to gather are art supplies for any special projects you are going to do in your Unit Study or for your lapbooking/ notebooking. Later this year we will be doing a Unit Study on Ancient Egypt in which we will be doing a paper mache model of King Tut. So I would get all the supplies needed for that portion of the Unit ahead of time
    • Lesson Plan- So you picked your topic, gathered your materials now based off everything you have you will now create a lesson plan for your Unit Study. Now a Unit Study can be as long or as short as you want it to be depending on how deep inside a topic you plan to go and how old your child is. An older student might spend the whole school year on a particular topic to fully research it. A younger student can spend anywhere two weeks to two months on the Unit Study. You decide its up to you. An example of I schedule my Unit Studies for History/ Geography is to break down our Topic into Subtopics and go over those during the course of the study. Ancient Egypt is a big Unit for us this year. Here is how I broke it down:

    Ancient Egypt

    People( Kings, Queens, Other Important People) 6 lessons 3 week

    Places( Capitol City, Land Forms, Bodies of Water, Landmarks) 6 lessons 3 weeks

    Culture( Religion, Government, Food, Clothing, Art, Music) 6 lessons 3 we

    Events( Wars, Death, Pivotal Turning Points) 6 lessons 3 weeks

    Total= 24 lessons , 12 weeks

    • Lapbooking/ Notebooking- Lapbooking is basically a Scrapbooking Method used in Unit Studies to create record of important information obtained while studying a particular topic. Notebooking is basically the same concept. Where they truly differ is that Lapbooking is a collection of Mini Books where as Notebooking is entire pages of collected data and or drawings. In your Lapbooking/ Notebooking is where you take your written assignments and even worksheets a compile them in there. I think that for the younger Grammar Stage child that Lapbooking takes the stress of lengthy writing assignment where as I think that Notebooking is for a more academically mature student probably in the Middle grades to High School grades. In Classical Education we call those two levels the Logic and Rhetoric phase. I will delve further into the Stages of Classical Education in another blog soon. Since I have children in the Grammar Stage(elementary grades) I use the Lapbooking approach quite often. In my resource links to the left on my page I have posted some of favorite FREE lapbooking sites.

    • Outside Activities- While doing all of your library reading and lapbooking don't neglect one of the most wonderful benefits of Homeschooling and that is flexibility of learning environment. Don't forget to include hands of Field Trips where applicable. As well as looking for apprenticeship opportunities and even actual lab classes. Like if you are studying Beethoven go and see a real Symphony performance instead of just reading about and listening to CD's. If your child is learning about Frogs go take a nature walk by a local pond and do some observations. If you have an older child learning about Human Anatomy and they want to go into deeper study try seeing if they can observe at a local hospital or mortuary.


    1. This was particually encouraging for me because that's what I do with my kids. We're currently doing lapbooks with our books we're reading during this time.


    2. I have been enjoying your posts and YouTube videos for some time now! After a small lapse with lots of workbook learning last year (when my young toddler was just 1 and getting into everything), I am SO happy to be finally doing some real projects. Thanks for the lapbooking tips!


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