Does the thought of creating your own homeschool unit study scare you?
Here’s a little secret -- it really isn’t that hard! All you need to know is what you want to study, what subjects you’d like to include (if you’re creating a full study that will include math, writing, history, etc.) select your resources, and pull it all together.
Sound daunting? It’s really isn’t! Just take a look at how simple it is as we walk through how to create your own U.S. geography study.
Four Steps to Creating a U.S. Geography Study
We’ve already checked off our first step - choosing our topic. Deciding what subjects to include is the next step. There are a few options here:
With younger children, you could incorporate many subjects (a bit of math, some writing, reading, and spelling) and use your study as the foundation for covering all your subjects.
With older children (especially if you’re already using a curriculum to cover your basic skill subjects), unit studies are the perfect way to work on writing, research skills, and include a bit of fun and variety in your day.
Since I’m homeschooling a 7th-grade daughter and we still wanted to cover our basic curriculum, the second option was a great fit for us. I knew that I wanted my daughter to work on using the internet and encyclopedias to research and do a few writing assignments (to solidify what she’s learning in her current writing curriculum). We also haven’t spent much time learning about United States geography so it was the perfect time to work on learning about the States!
Related: 8 Hands-on History Project Ideas
Choosing U.S. Geography Study Resources
Once you know what you’re going to study and what skills you’d like to work on, it’s time for the fun part -- choosing your resources! I like to begin this process by selecting something we consider our ‘spine’ resource - a book or open-ended program that provides the backbone (hence the word ‘spine’) and structure for our study.
For our U.S. geography study we selected the Make-A-State Activity Pak from Home School in the Woods (you really need to check out their resources -- we seriously love all of their stuff). If your child loves lapbooks this is the PERFECT thing to use for your study. This program includes everything you need to make a lapbook for every state (and Washington, D.C.), text for each state (a great jumping off point for their initial research), and a fun ‘Name that State!’ file folder game.
After selecting the resource that provided the structure for your study, we chose a few more resources to fill things out a little bit. Here’s what made our final list:
The Student Encyclopedia of the United States -- a big book that really covers everything your kids need to know about the United States in short encyclopedia-style entries, including the basic facts for each of the states.
National Geographic United States Encyclopedia -- a colorful atlas with details and a map for each state. For younger children, I recommend the National Geographic Kids Beginner’s United States Atlas.
Websites for further research -- we didn’t have to search very hard for more kid-friendly websites. The Make-A-State Activity Pak includes a list of recommended websites so it’s a simple process to bookmark each one in your preferred internet browser (making it easy for your kids to search later on).
10 Days in the US -- a fun board game that will help you learn U.S. geography and the state capitals while planning your trip around the country.
US Map Set -- if you’re studying geography, creating maps should be a part of your plan and the Olde World Style United States Maps set is a perfect addition.
Draw the USA -- a great resource for learning how to draw a complete map of the United States.
No unit study would be complete without a few good books (even middle school kids can appreciate a good picture book). These are two of our favorites -- How to Make a Cherry Pie and See the U.S.A. and The Journey of Oliver K. Woodman.
How we put it all together
Now that you know how to find the right resources, it’s time to put together your study. It can be as simple as setting aside a little time each day or week and pulling out your resources.
Here’s how it looked in our home:
During our daily morning meeting, my daughter pulled out her Make-A-State folder and selected a few lapbook pieces to work on. She would do any necessary research using the included text, the websites we had bookmarked, or the encyclopedias on our bookshelf before completing each lapbook piece.
She also worked on mapping skills - for the state she was studying as well as the US as a whole -- by creating her own maps. During her daily reading time, we searched for books that focused on that state and, once a week, we pulled out a game to work on our map and geography skills. The ‘Name that State!’ file folder game was perfect for that -- it’s easy to play different variations (learn the location of each state, the abbreviations, state capitals, or add your own ideas to the included cards). It was so easy to do once we had our resources printed and organized!
Related: Mastering Your Teacher's Manual
Have you studied United States geography with your kids? I’d love to hear how you did it -- leave me a comment and tell me about it!
Don't forget to visit Home School in the Woods and take a look at their fabulous resources!