At any given point in my time, my boys have one or two overriding interests each, that guide almost everything we do.
For my oldest, it’s usually something build oriented. Building aquariums, building computers, building guitars – you get the idea.
For my youngest, it’s almost always something related to animals or Harry Potter, or both.
Because these interests are deeply meaningful to my children (and because it is difficult to get them to focus on anything else), I try to incorporate them into our learning as much as possible.
Sometimes, this looks like endless trips to the fish store, guitar store, pet store and computer store.
Most of the time, it looks like a free-flowing, interest-led unit study. (I love what my friend Cait, from My Little Poppies has named it – A Lazy Unit Study.)
As I share these studies on Instagram each day, I receive a ton of questions from other moms, trying to figure out how to pull an interest-led, themed study together. In our house, these studies are so
lazy free-flowing, the only way I can really respond is by walking you through what a real life unit study looks like for my children.
Affiliate links may be included below, but please know, I only share resources that have genuinely worked for my family!
A Real Life, Interest-Led Unit Study
In the last two months, my youngest son’s primary interest shifted from reptiles to owls, and other birds of prey.
We were listening to Harry Potter on Audible (again) and he decided that he would really like to own an owl. Once this interest was sparked, it was clear that I could use it to create an educational path that worked with both his strengths and obvious interest.
Our Birds Of Prey Unit Study
1. We started with books.
2. We looked online and then we looked some more.
Google searches about habits, diet and even just scrolling through images were a daily part of our learning together.
3. We found a cool Instagram account about owls.
Because how cute it this???
4. We got creative.
Thanks to You Are An Artist, we followed a video art course all about owls. Because Nana teaches using chalk pastels, I find this type of art to be so much less stressful for my perfectionist child. This medium is much more forgiving and allows for a little bit of fine motor weakness, while still ending up with a great drawing of an owl!
A Behind The Scenes Look At Interest-Led Unit Studies For Older Children
As our study progressed, my son’s interest transitioned from owls and birds of prey, to birds in general.
And the unit study continued…
5. We read more books.
2. We got creative again.
This time with You Are An Artist’s Hummingbird Tutorial (because hummingbirds might be my favorite).
3. We wrote a poem.
4. We took a trip to a local bird store that lets kids interact with their birds.
5. We located the habitats of more exotic birds on the map.
6. We played an online game.
The Pixel Art app is fantastic and actually quite a calming activity!
It may not seem like much, and truth be told, it was all very simple from a planning and execution standpoint. But my child learned more in this unit study and was exposed to more subjects as we progressed through the learning, than any textbook could possibly provide.
Plus, we had fun together. We learned together.
Interest-led unit studies, particularly with older children, are not only great for their education, they’re great for our relationships as well.
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Shawna Wingert is a former training and development professional turned education specialist, and has homeschooled her two children for the last ten years.Shawna has written four books about homeschooling unique learners and has been featured in homeschooling discussions on Today.com, The Mighty, Simple Homeschool, My Little Poppies and Raising Lifelong Leaners.
You can find her online here at DifferentByDesignLearning.com.