Homeschoolers often get involved with unit studies, whether as a full curriculum focus or as a short term break from other learning modalities. Often, homeschool families or support groups join together for classes using a thematic approach. In the Phoenix area, Covenant Home School Resource Center has offered various literature based courses over the years such as Prairie Primer, Where the Brook and River Meet, Five in a Row, Let’s Read Math, or an integration between science and art classes. Other homeschool groups in the valley have used Weaver, Konos, Sonlight or comprehensive studies that combined history, language arts, Christian worldview and science.
Such studies can be intense and overwhelming, and are often best done with a group of student participants and a group of parents sharing the load.
So what about the family that just wants to study something with a little more depth or wants to nurture the special interests of the children? Is there a way to do a unit study in bite-sized pieces to whet the appetite but not become burdensome? Absolutely.
One great tool for exploring the art of tying several subjects together around one topic is a calendar of holidays—those that are recognized as awareness or special interest days by a small set of enthusiasts or given national or international status. Sheila, aka Brownielocks, created the site Brownielocks.com as a compendium of all the known and unknown, bizarre or ordinary, designated months, weeks and days. She is constantly adding new days as they come to her attention, and she also has wonderful sections on trivia, historical notes, fun activities, origins of words or traditions, humorous words and anecdotes, and much more.
How to use Brownielocks.com to create a unit study
- Explore the Table of Contents to see what treasures are there for later use.
- Pick the current month of days and find a couple (one for each child?) for starters.
- Search the Internet for history and activities related to the day and incorporate some of these ideas into your plan.
- Brainstorm with your children what you want to study and ways to put into action some of the topics and related information. Perhaps you will want to do some artwork or charts to show key points about the day or attend some local events. If the issue is health related, find a way to encourage your family or neighbors to take steps to improve their lives. If it is a social awareness matter, is there a way to write letters or make a presentation to key people in the community who need to know? Is there a certain food that fits with the day?
- Once you have done some brainstorming, pick a few of the best or most doable ideas and sketch out a plan for how each piece will be accomplished.
- Keep track of the plan and the implementation with a journal, photos of the projects, video recording of the discussions or other methods that fit your family’s style.
- Be creative and have fun! Let the kids help make the plan and carry it out, and let them try out some of their own ideas.
Recognizing some of the holidays that others have developed will give your family a broader sense of the issues that others face and can help create compassion for them. The days can also provide a framework for establishing some family traditions that are just fun. Homeschoolers are free to think outside the box, and unit studies become a great palate for skill building in many new directions.