Unit Study vs. Tangent!

June 6, 2007 at 10:45 am (Uncategorized)

tangent – A sudden digression or change of course.

Unit Study – A fun and effective way for children to explore a topic and develop a love for learning.


Recently someone asked me how I put together a Unit Study for my kids.  It’s funny, because I had really never thought about what we do being Unit Studies.  I think of myself as a Sonlight user and when we are doing lapbooks and other stuff I consider us being "off on a "tangent"! LOL  But, here is the basics of how I put a study together, whether you want to call it a tangent or a Unit Study!

Usually it starts one of 2 ways.  Either we have a field trip coming up and I want to prepare the kids for it or one of the kids expresses a interest in learning about a certain topic and I go from there.  Since we just did our "Egypt tangent" I will use it as an example.

Our Egypt Study started when I learned that our homeschool group was planning a field trip to the King Tut Exhibit.  I knew my 6 year old daughter would be scared of the Exhibit if she wasn’t properly prepared for the topic.  I mean it is death and burial after all!  So I got out the Magic Tree House book on Egypt,  Mummies in the Morning.  I find the Magic Tree House books to be a great jumping off point for a lot of topics.  They have a lot of titles and they are fairly inexpensive, so we own them all.  This is important because that means when someone is interested in a topic I can start the study right now!  After I read Mummies in The Morning aloud to them.  (We did this in one sitting.)  We got out the Mummies and Pyramids Research Guide that goes along with the Magic Tree House book.  I read through it to the kids and when I got to the part where they explain Mummification process the idea of Mummifying Barbie’s popped into my head!  The next night I happened to be going to the Thrift Store, so I picked up 1 Barbie and 2 GI Joe’s for mummification.  A few days later we went to the Library and picked up all the books we could find on Egypt.   We didn’t read them all, but we had them around for a couple weeks and we at least looked through the pictures of all of them.  Many of them I read aloud.  About this time I started thinking about the Mummy Exhibit in California I had heard of 2 years earlier.  I checked online and it was still at the Bower Museum in Santa Ana.  As luck would have it we were already planning to go to California for Mother’s Day weekend.  So, I scheduled the Mummy Exhibit into our trip.  Meanwhile, I of course started thinking about an Egypt Lapbook.  So I got online and started searching for Egypt printables.  Our Lapbook hasn’t made it past the "Mom printed a bunch of stuff out" stage yet.  but, we will probably complete it over the Summer.  While I was printing out stuff for our lapbook I read a bit about the Egyptians inventing paper.  So we made paper

Here is a picture from yesterday when I "caught" my 6 year old looking through the Mummies Museum book we bought at the Bower Museum.  This is one of those catalogs with actual pictures of the items we saw in the museum, so it is kind of like visiting an old friend. The kids just love it!  The learning continues!

This is why I LOVE homeschooling!

And that was pretty much our Study.  I wish I could say that a whole lot more thought and planning went into it.  But, it is really a "fly by the seat of my pants" kind of thing.  Maybe that is why I am much more comfortable calling it a "tangent" rather than a "Unit Study"!  LOL  I always laugh when I read someones blog that say "Today we completed our Unit on XYZ…"  That’ awesome, but it is just sooo not me! 

Hope that helps someone…A look inside the insanity that is the mind of Jamin!




  1. sherrydhoneycutt said,

    I've incorporated a lot more unit studies this year and plan to continue with them next year. Emme responds really well to this kind of learning. She loves to be creative making lapbooks and notebooks.

    I will be using a lot of your Egypt tangent next year when we study it! Thanks for all of your links and great, inspiring posts!


  2. Anonymous said,

    That's how we do lots of our studies, too. Many are inspired by upcoming field trips and I just read and do some activities – whatever I find that's interesting. 🙂
    Dana, http://www.alexml.blogspot.com

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