Tuesday, July 4, 2006

Keeping the Hands-On Part of Unit Studies Simple

Activities and field trips have played a key role in our unit studies. The more hands-on that the study is, the better they seem to retain the information. Now, I’m not talking about extravagant or complex activities or field trips. Here are a few that we have enjoyed over the years for many of our studies.


Surrounding the child with the theme of the study is always a helpful way to stay focused on the current topic, but even at bedtime? This is one of the best projects that we began as we worked on unit studies! I would watch for inexpensive fabric at a local discount store that went along with the theme of an upcoming unit study. Using the fabric, I made a pillowcase for each child to use during the study. For example, we had cowboy pillowcases when we studied the West, autumn pillowcases when we studied Thanksgiving, fruit and flower pillowcases for Gardens, and so on. My linen closet shelves are quite colorful! There are pillowcases with bugs, whales, stars, sharks that glow in the dark, planets, dogs, horses, maps and many more. We still use these to this day, and have fun remembering all that we did and learned during the studies.


I also purchased inexpensive flat twin sheets to use for tablecloths that we made while working on a unit study. After placing cardboard between the sheet and the table, the children would develop a collective tablecloth that contained their spelling words, maps, sketches, handprints, and who knows what else! By letting them use fabric paint and indelible markers, I could wash these tablecloths in the washing machine, and enjoy them for years to come.


After volcano experiments, developing a litmus test from purple cabbage, carving bars of soap into famous ships, watching meteor showers in the middle of the night and shuttle launches from the swing set, I can honestly say that the hands-on activities and field trips were the icing on cake of learning. When studying oceans, we explored a tidal basin with manatee. When volunteering for a local vet, one of the children turned her attention to animals and this eventually developed into a career in veterinary medicine.


You never know when your unit studies will uncover a gift or talent in a child. When studying nature and leaves, one child became fascinated with the different ways of propagating plants, which eventually turned into a fascination with botany and all things of the outdoors. He went on to college and has established a thriving tree business with his father, loving every moment of doing something he truly loves.


As a parent, I can say that this is one of the best rewards that you will experience as you homeschool – watching your child discover and pursue the gifts and talents that God has given them.  This is an indescribable blessing – and one that I hope you all get to experience. Get ready for a wonderful time of learning and exploration, and a shower of blessings!


Happy Independence Day, and remember to thank a soldier!



Amanda B.




  1. I'm going to the fabric store tomorrow to find some for our pioneers/gold mining study! Love your blog!!!

  2. This will be our first year to concentrate totally on unit studies for our "curriculum". We did some unit studies last year and really enjoyed the idea of being able to fully explore a subject. Some of the things we weren't really interested in at the beginning. By the time we were finished we were totally fasinated with the subject.

    My 2 oldest girls are just beginning to sew. The pillow cases will be a great project for them to do to follow our prairie/pioneer theme for next year.

    I look forward to reading more of your blog.


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