When we started homeschooling more than a decade ago, I focused much of our curriculum and learning based off of unit studies. I’ve mentioned this in previous posts, my kids thrive on hands-on activities as well as experiences. With that, I would try to base each unit around what we had access to (museums, learning centers, monuments, etc.) along with upcoming events in the community. Here are examples of some of the unit studies we’ve done, and maybe you can glean some inspiration for your future learning.
Gardening is a unit of study that we get to expand on year after year. We started when my kids were very little with basic activities like planting seeds and watering the garden. Helping pick the bountiful produce that we grew.
Here’s my oldest, about 13 years ago, helping in the garden.
Every year, I’ve added more activities with gardening, including starting a compost pile, studies on beneficial insects, companion planting, and even help with building our raised beds and trellises.
The kids help with measuring and building (Math), they journal about insects they find (Writing), and they research companion plants to help with organic pest control (Science). They also keep track of seasonal changes and growth using a phenology wheel (Art / Writing / Science).
We also incorporate some experiments involving plants, like “Do Plants Breathe” and I have the kids journal their hypothesis and test results.
The best part of adding a garden unit is, we get to use the produce and herbs we grow in a practical way, incorporating them into their cooking practice in the kitchen.
Find the recipe for these shortbread cookies here.
For field trips, we like to visit different farms and orchards that offer you-pick produce. We go to local nursery centers and gardens to find what plants work in our area and to gain some inspiration.
We were able to explore some amazing places while staying in New Mexico. During this time, we did a unit study on rocks and minerals and were able to incorporate fun trips to different museums and national parks like Carlsbad Caverns and White Sands. There are many cave systems around the US, so check if there’s any near you to explore.
We also visited the Zuhl Museum on New Mexico State University’s campus. Depending on where you are located, there are many museums as well as traveling events like fossil festivals where you can get an in-depth knowledge as well as hands-on experiences.
For our at-home learning, we read a lot of books about continents and landforms, journaled about the ones that were the kids’ favorites and had fun with different mining and geode kits.
One year we did a unit study on Ancient Egypt. The kids were really into the movie, “The Prince of Egypt,” at the time, so why not expand on their interest? We read a lot of books at the library, watched some age-appropriate documentaries and did some fun hands-on activities at home.
We baked Egyptian bread, ate snacks the Egyptians ate, made Ancient “jewelry” and had fun dressing up.
For Math, we built edible pyramids out of marshmallows and toothpicks (we obviously didn’t eat the toothpicks!).
We also studied the writings of the ancients and cuneiforms. We made clay tablets and pendant necklaces.
There are some great museums that have Egyptian artifacts on display, so consider incorporating an end of unit field trip. We thoroughly enjoyed the exhibit King Tut’s Tomb at the Houston Museum of Natural Science.
For our biology unit, we created Science journals, read a lot of fun, colorful books and did some hands-on activities.
We made playdough brains, edible spinal columns and played with our 3-D Human Body Model.
At the end of the study, we went to the traveling Human Body Works Exhibit, as well as a nearby children’s museum that also had a hands-on biology exhibit going on.
I happened to hear about a free robotics event headed our way, so beforehand we watched some episodes of “Battle Bots” and “How It’s Made,” read books about different types of robots and even built some solar-robot kits.
For engineering, we studied how Roman structures were made including the Colosseum, the Parthenon and aqueducts. The kids thought up and drew out how they would have built their structures.
We did an experiment to see how columns would hold up the kids weight by recreating structures with paper cups and baking pans. For another activity, we reconstructed a smaller version of the Leonardo da Vinci bridge using popsicle sticks.
One of my kids decided he wanted to design his own house, so he researched blueprints and took inspiration from a few of them to draw out his own plans. My other kids thought it was fun and drew up their own blueprints as well.
Kits from KiwiCo are an excellent resource. My kids get monthly activities that include STEM activities, so there is a lot of building and learning going on! We’ve also added some supplemental building kits like these.
We love visiting children’s museums because they tend to always have a lot of fun engineering activities like gears and other building and problem solving activities. Nature centers that have children’s gardens and open-ended play are also a great way to allow kids to get those wheels turning with their imaginations and creativity to build and create while getting some energy out as well!
I can keep going on and on, but I won’t bore you! I hope these at least give you some inspiration for future learning with your crew! You can base your studies solely on what sparks your children’s interest, or base studies on seasonal events. Keep an eye out for local events and special exhibits to incorporate and base some of your units on those as well.
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