A few years back I got all excited about Unit Studies.  A unit study is essentially where you leave the textbooks behind in search of living books that cover the same materials.  You can do a unit study about trains, bugs, trees, people, nations, etc.  Every bit of learning is drawn from the unit study subject.  For instance:

Bugs are my unit study…………

For Reading – Read The Hungry Caterpillar, Vocabulary is bug terms.

For Language Arts – write a creative story about a Lady Bug’s life & grammar is conducted using bug words.

For Math – bug word problems in addition to regular math

For Science – Bug Anatomy

For History/Social Studies – How about studying the war between man and grasshoppers.  (just saw an excellent documentary on this somewhere in a waiting room)

Okay – you get the point.  Here is a unit study in a basic breakdown.  They are fun but they really require a tremendous amount of planning if you are going to do it for more than one day.  If you are going to carry your unit study throughout the semester than you can plan on spending more time than you originally bargained for in the planning stage.  When I first planned a Unit Study I got exhausted trying to track down all the books I planned to use.  Having three children at the time that meant finding an age appropriate book for each one.  What I couldn’t find at the library (here in little ol’ Ripley County)  I ended up having to purchase (which was not cost effective).  Even if you buy a preplanned unit study you will run into buying a ton of books to go with it.   Near the middle of our unit study  I was completely frustrated trying to gather my materials and complained out loud, “I wish I could just find all this stuff in ONE book!!!!”  Suddenly the silliness of my struggles slapped me in the face as I realized “DUH!, its called a textbook!”

Weigh your options carefully and try not to fall for fads in education.  If you find a unit study that works and your excited about it don’t hesitate, go for it.  I just wanted to warn you it takes more time and more money (that is if you don’t have an awesome local library).  I just don’t want you to end up frustrated like I was wishing for a text book after all.