How to Use Unit Studies in a Relaxed Homeschool

Have you ever recoiled in horror at the thought of the amount of work it would take to use unit studies? Do you imagine overly crafty, resourceful women merrily dancing their way through the library and craft store in an effort to collect bountiful resources for an in-depth look at topics you’d never even considered learning about before?

Good thing you have me. 🙂

Unit studies just don’t have to be that complicated. (Unless you prefer them to be, which is an entirely different post altogether.)

I’ve got 11 kids. I homeschool. I blog. I’ve got a house to take care of. And I am not crafty. At all. But…unit studies have made our homeschool vibrant, fun, and relaxed.

Want to know how I do it? 

A Practical Guide to Using Unit Studies in a Relaxed Homeschool

#1- You don’t need to do all the work yourself.

I know of several people who were avoiding unit studies because they thought they had to pull everything together on their own and thought they just didn’t have the time.

I assure you, time is one thing I do not have.

While I have written my own unit studies and have come up with a very simple method for doing so, by no means are you required to do the same. There are some wonderful- and I mean wonderful- unit study curriculums available. Some of my favorites are:


This is actually the unit study I currently use with my 9, 11, and 12 yr olds and is the best unit study curriculum I’ve ever come across. It is designed to be used with grades K through 8.


I use this one for my 5, 6, and 8 yr olds. It is written to include grades K through 3.


This is only one of several Media Angels unit studies. We’ve used this one several times. It covers grades K through 12.


I was actually lucky enough to find a bunch of these at an outdoor flea market for only $1. They’re very affordable and a lot of fun. As for ages, it really depends upon which topic you choose.


If you want to be really frugal, there are endless free unit studies to be found online. The main reason I do not use them is because many of them just give links to printables or websites, and our family does much better with hands-on activities.


#2- Only the 3 R’s need to be supplemented. Everything else is covered.

I want to clarify that unit studies do include these subjects, but since they are the most basic things your children should learn, you may want to spend some time working on these separately from your unit studies.

This doesn’t have to be a big deal. One thing you will not see in our house are 45-60 minute lessons each in language arts and math. We do not do drill and kill. Short lessons work best with not only my kids but with the vast majority of other kids, so we tend to limit this time to 10-30 minute lessons each.

The only language arts curriculum we use are spelling for grades 4, 5, and 7; and phonics and reading for grades K, 1, and 3. Otherwise, my older children do copywork sometimes. That’s it. Since there is so much writing involved in our unit studies, I don’t feel that more textbooks are necessary.

Whenever possible, keep it simple.


#3- If language arts and math are covered for the day with the unit study, skip the supplemental curriculum for the day.

My kids love when they have a math activity or a language arts-related assignment included in their unit study work for the day because they know that means that they won’t have any textbook work in that subject that day.

Why be redundant?


#4- Only plan an amount of activities per day that you are comfortable with and your kids can handle.

As much as I love Konos, there are suggested daily schedules in the front of the book that I would never even consider using. I am just not willing to spend 6 hours per day on school work. It isn’t necessary and, frankly, kind of sad that some homeschoolers feel it is.

We only do two unit study activities per day, plus a related family read-aloud and chapter book for their silent reading. We used to do three activities per day, but it was too time-consuming, and my kids just lost interest by the end of the day.

Since shortening our load, my kids are energized and excited to see what each day brings.


#5- Try notebooking or lapbooking your way through the unit study.

This year we decided to try notebooking for the first time and absolutely love it. My kids who used to complain about writing now sincerely enjoy it.

Since my younger kids aren’t writing much yet, they do lapbooking instead. Both of these methods are a creative way to save and eventually showcase all of your kids’ hard work.


Unit studies have honestly helped our homeschool to shine its brightest. As I write this, we’re exactly one week away from a 6-week winter break. It’s a little bittersweet for me. I’m looking forward to being able to focus on holiday prep and relax a bit, but I know that a few days in, the kids and I both are going to miss our daily homeschool routine. 

Now how often do you hear that from a homeschool mom?

If you’re feeling a bit burned out or overwhelmed, try a unit study or two. You may just decide to never look back.




Author: Shelly Sangrey

I'm Shelly, a Christ-following, homeschooling Mom of eleven children ( okay, not ALL children. My oldest is 23.) I met my husband right after graduation, and we've been together ever since. Though my life can be hectic at times... okay, ALL the time, I wouldn't change it for anything.

32 thoughts on “How to Use Unit Studies in a Relaxed Homeschool”

  1. Wow! Three new terms for me in one day: unit studies, notebooking, and lapbooking! We’re just getting started homeschooling, so I wasn’t aware of unit studies. It sounds like it’s a variety of activities listed for a single instructional topic. Is that right? Cruising around the internet, it looks like notebooking is what was called ‘reflective writing’ in a writing education seminar I attended in grad. school. Is the idea that the kids write about what they learned? Also, is lapbooking the same as notebooking with more art/crafts thrown in?

    Thanks for all the information on your blog! Your eloquent, yet casual and personal writing style is providing a fun to read introduction to all these topics!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Unit studies are such a great way for kids to learn because, rather than having to use a separate book for every single subject, children get to focus on one topic while hitting all subject areas at the same time. Yes, notebooking is writing what they learned about, but it can also be something as simple as illustrating something and adding a caption, making a comic book strip, making mini-books, or a creative writing story. Lapbooking, like you said, is very similar to notebooking, but it involves less writing and more visuals and is nice for younger kids. Here’s a link to a great tutorial on lapbooking that I learned so much from: I’m so glad you found this to be helpful!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. When I was Homeschooling Full Time I had wanted to use Unit Studies but thought they would be to hard. Although now I see they wouldn’t be. So I can’t wait to share this with others who may feel the same way.

    Liked by 1 person

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