Have you ever wondered how to create your own country unit study? It’s not as complicated as many people would want you to believe. In fact, you can create your own easy and free lesson plans at home!
What is a homeschool unit study?
A homeschool unit study is a collection of learning activities that are centered on a theme. That’s it! It’s seriously that easy. I prefer to organize our lessons into unit studies because it creates a comprehensive learning experience that my children really enjoy.
What should a country unit study include?
Country studies are a type of geography unit study. I really enjoy studying each country individually because it gives you the opportunity to go into greater depth.
In my experience, successful country unit studies cover both the geography (which is the physical location and layout of the country) as well as the culture and customs (which relates to the actual human experience of living in that country).
For example, geography topics will include things like where the country is located, what the major landscape features are, what kind of plants and animals can be found there, what the climate is like, etc.
On the other hand, the culture and customs of the country will focus on the people who live there. It will include what they eat, what they wear, what languages they speak, how they worship and what holidays they celebrate, what they do for work and how they live their day-to-day lives.
Of course, the history of an area covers both of these things as well.
Our country unit studies have a few basic parts.
As I’ll explain our other posts, I love to use Universal Yums as an inspiration for our country unit studies. This subscription box delivers dozens of snacks from different countries around the world and creates an excellent “grand finale” for our unit studies.
That explains how I choose the country but you can obviously select whatever country you’d like.
For each country unit study that I create, I follow the same basic template:
To introduce the country, I like to choose a popular movie or documentary that focuses on that culture. If I choose a popular movie, we will later deconstruct that movie and analyze how it accurately and inaccurately represented the culture. However, I have found that movies are a great way to hook my children’s attention and get them engaged in that country.
Get a Feel for the Geography
The logical next step is to explore the geography of that country. During this phase, I focus on the shape of the country and it’s major landforms. Our favorite way to explore this is by creating salt dough maps.
We create the salt dough together and I print a topographical map for each child. They work independently to shape and create their own maps as we discuss the major mountain ranges, rivers, peninsulas and other geographic elements of the country’s landscape.
While the maps are baking, we like to listen to music from that country and look at landscapes. When the baking is complete, we paint and label the maps.
Learn the Stories of Real People
Stories are far more captivating than bland facts, so I prefer to teach my children through stories. Stories of famous people from that area – such as explorers, rulers, scientists, inventors, great thinkers or others – can provide the opportunity to teach about the culture as it was and as it has changed.
One of my favorite ways to learn about another country is to look for local stories about people who live there. We do this by searching the internet and visiting the library. For the younger children, we read picture books and children’s stories.
Study What Interests You
Our children have quite diverse interests. One of our older children is simply obsessed with trains and transportation. A younger one is determined to become a zoologist. Naturally, they are drawn to different aspects of each country.
I usually allow my children to pick the topic that most interests them. We visit the library to gather materials, seek out trustworthy websites and news reports, and watch documentaries about the topics that interest them most.
Cook Authentic Meals
During the period of time that we are studying the country, I like to prepare authentic meals for dinner. We have discovered quite a new favorites this way! For example, we have discovered that we actually quite enjoy Czech food!
Use Your Talents
I’m not a seamstress but my daughter loves to sew and create. If you have special talents, use them! Give your children the opportunity to use theirs. Create costumes or clothing. Cook. Make music. Sing songs. Make pottery. Do things that are hands on and creative. The world can never have enough art.
Most of All, Don’t Stress!
A unit study can be as complex or as simple as you want. On good months, we pour a lot of time and effort and energy into these studies. On bad months, we just read the Universal Yums booklet and call it a day. Just do what you can and remember that developing a love of learning is the most important thing of all.