Studying a particular topic or theme - examining it from the
perspective of science, fine arts, mathematics, language, history, and
literature - this is called a unit study. When all subjects are
blended together around a common theme, this is called the
Thematic-Directed unit study. Unit studies have been created around
personal character (Konos, Advanced Training Institute), scientific
interests (Alta Vista), and history (Weaver, History Alive).
~~from Teaching the Trivium, by Harvey & Laurie Bluedorn, p. 285.
Interest-Directed unit studies are formed around an interest of the student. All subjects would thus be taught in relationship to the particular theme chosen. A child with an interest in guns may work through a unit which studies the history of gun design, the physics & chemistry of guns, the mathematics of guns, the language & literature of guns, the lawss regarding guns and so on.
Many families use history to form unit studies. For instance, a family studying Rome would study the history of Rome, government of Rome (republic, empires), literature of Rome (Caesar, Livy), language of Rome (latin), geography of Roman Empire, science of Rome (bridge construction, cities), math of Rome, music/art of Rome and other such subject areas. Often times families will use unit studies to cover a multitude of subjects and use a specific curriculum to teach Math.
Benefits of a unit study approach include delving into subjects as deeply or lightly as you like, family interests can be pursued, all ages can learn together, students get the whole picture, curiosity & independent thinking are generated, knowledge is remembered longer since it is interrelated and unit studies are fairly easy to create. Weaknesses include possible "gaps" academically, record keeping may be difficult, do-it-yourself units require planning, and possible burn-out with too many activity-oriented unit studies.
UNIT STUDY RESOURCES:
How to Create Unit Studies
Design A Study Guides - History, Math, Composition, Science, Critical Thinking www.designastudy.com
Polished Cornerstones, Plants Grown Up - units based on character of Godly man/woman www.doorposts.com
History Alive - Digging Deeper(secondary level), Activity Books(elementary level) - units based on time period of history
Learning Language Arts Through Literature - units based on literature
Five in a Row - units based on stories (ages 4-8) www.fiveinarow.com
Beautiful Feet - units based on history & literature www.bfbooks.com
How to Create Your Own Unit Study - Valerie Bendt
Konos - www.konos.com
Ultimate Geography & Timeline Guide - unit study based on geography or Hans Brinker
Activity Guides, by Laurie Carlson (includes Knights & Damsels, Old Testament, Westward Ho, Shakespeare, daVinci...)
Where the Brook & River Meets - unit based on Anne of Green Gables
Prairie Primer - unit based on Little House books