This year, I am using a Waldorf curriculum. But it is hard for me to get away entirely from doing theme units, even mini-ones. Maybe it is because old habits die hard and that is what we did for the first 5 years; a mix of Catholic Heritage, Theme units, and Waldorf. Theme units function much like a lesson block. They can be 1-4 weeks long (or more) and focus on one particular subject, or in the case of literature based theme units, one particular book or author.
Ever since I started homeschooling 6 years ago, I have always enjoyed putting theme units together for the kids. Theme units are a great way to tie learning together over multiple subjects. I used to tie 1-2 theme units a month that included learning activities, books and crafts into our regular curriculum. And I find myself still doing that now, albeit on a much smaller scale, even though we are loving our Waldorf curriculum. I still use them in my homeschool because my children get much enjoyment out of them, we are big readers so it is easy to tie in literature based ones, and also because my twin boys with special needs really love them and seem to learn well with them. I have learned to do and use what works best in my homeschool even if that is different from someone else’s, and I encourage all of you to do the same 🙂
Theme units can be anything, from holidays to a children’s book or author, to something as simple as “pizza” or “bumblebees”. There is no right or wrong way to do one, but as the name implies, all learning activities of the unit revolve around a theme. While theme units can be more work, I find they really get our homeschool mojo going and lend themselves well to planning not only arts and crafts but outings as well.
I don’t have a particular way I pick theme units for my homeschool. Sometimes they are seasonal, revolving around seasons, holidays or festivals of that particular month. But they almost always happen in conjunction with other academics and are liken to a Waldorf lesson block where some or all academics are encompassed within. My kids love it when the theme unit includes academics, arts/crafts and an outing that can be tied in some way, for example, a theme unit on space would include lots of academics on the solar system, stars, etc, some fun space themed crafts, and end with a trip to our local planetarium.
If you want to make your own, decide at the beginning if you want to touch on all academic subjects or just a few during the unit as that will affect the length of the unit and the activities you choose to create and include. If you want to do theme units but don’t have the time or “want to” to make one from scratch you can find great ones via pinterest, other homeschool blogs, and in books like the Evan Moor theme books .
I find that mapping theme units out at the beginning of the year by month helps me to plan a cohesive year of activities, learning, and fun, by allowing me to see a “big picture” of the homeschool year I am creating. With Waldorf this year, I mapped out what the kids were studying each month per their Waldorf curriculums and then added the theme units I wanted to create the homeschool year of my heart. **Don’t forget this is a great opportunity to ask your kids what they want to learn more about this academic year. Kids become highly motivated learners when it is a topic of high interest to them, and almost any subject can easily have other academics tied into it. What was our most academic rich themed learning unit we’ve ever done? The one that all the kids loved and we were able to tie into every subject? Ancient Egypt! Ancient Egypt was my ten year old daughter’s theme unit pick back when she was 8. I didn’t know she was all that interested until I asked, but she consumed that entire theme unit with a passion for learning I had never seen from her before and has a love of ancient history, art, and stories that is all encompassing…even two years later!
One of the things I am excited to add to the blog this year is to share previous theme units we have done, in addition to current ones, and give you ideas for activities, crafts and outings that you can do in your own homeschool either independently or as a theme unit.
Happy new Homeschool year,