Unit Studies for Preschoolers (and beyond!)
Posted by homeschoolmentormom on February 28, 2010
What is a unit study?
Themes. Units. Unit studies. Topics. Thematic units. Hang around homeschoolers very long and you are likely to hear these terms. What do they mean?
(For older children): The unit study method really stream-lines homeschooling. Instead of studying eight to ten unrelated subjects and using eight to ten different text books, the same material is studied while centered around one central topic or theme. We do only four subjects a day: Bible, math, language arts, and unit study (each of these may have more than one element; we do add more subjects during the high school years.)
A unit study can be about a person, a period in history, literature, an animal, a place, or whatever interests you and your children. For example, when covering explorers, you might study the men themselves (history), the routes they explored, (geography), literature written about or during this time (literature), the oceans and their currents, (science), art/music about the topic or created during the time period you are studying, and on and on. Most of the major disciplines are included, but in a more unified way.
(For preschool/Kindergarten): Preschool and Kindergarten has been traditionally taught using unit studies. For preschool, many of the units are centered around the holidays (a preschooler’s first introduction to “social studies”) and the seasons (science.)
I plan our “units” ahead of time, so that we can be sure to cover a variety of subjects every year. The goal of our units is to: 1) Take into account what the children already know and move them out from there; 2) Take advantage of their interests, when possible; 3) To introduce them to new areas of interest/learning (including the best in literature, art, and music–as is age appropriate); and 4) build a base of knowledge about the world, and the vocabulary to go with it.
Here is an example of the themes studied in a typical preschool/Kindergarten year. Most of the units are around two weeks each:
September: Community helpers (policemen, fireman, doctors, etc); Farms, farm animals/products (“field trip” to our County Fair.)
October: Transportation (planes, trains and automobiles); Zoo animals (wrap it up with a trip to the zoo)
November: Fall, things harvested in fall, animals getting ready for Winter; Thanksgiving (Indians, Pilgrims.)
December: Christmas (we include lots of baking, arts and crafts.)
January: A couple of days on the New Years and the four seasons; Wintertime, Snow; Healthy Habits (cold prevention, brushing teeth, getting enough sleep, healthy eating)
February: Groundhog Day, Hibernation, animals that live underground (2-3 days); Valentine’s Day/Love; Weather (rain, thunder, lightening, wind, storms, etc.)
March: My Five Senses; How we grow (from babies to big kids!); Dinosaurs
April: Easter; Eggs, chicks and birds; Spring/gardening/plants
May: Nursery Rhymes; Animals and animal babies
June: The planets and space; Insects
July: Independence Day; Ocean and ocean life, Water fun (Sink/float experiments, melt ice, etc)
Other themes you might want to explore now or later: (In no particular order): Circus, safety, zoo, Johnny Appleseed, pets, nocturnal animals, migration/hibernation (a great fall unit), art and artists, teddy bears, trees and plants, trains, fairy tales/tall tales (use your best judgment on this), the earth (rocks, caves, volcanoes), where things come from/how things are made, cooking and nutrition, jungle animals/jungles and rain forests, mountains, deserts, animal homes/habitats, pirates, ships and ports, Knights and castles, life in olden days…whatever your children are interested in!
Next post: Planning Your Unit Studies: What Does a Preschool Unit Study Look Like?
Portions of this post are excerpts from the book, Homepreschool and Beyond; used with permission.
© 2010 Susan Lemons all rights reserved.