Using Unit Studies with Multiple Age Levels

Using Unit Studies with Multiple Age Levels

I’ve been getting a lot of questions about how to use unit studies with multiple age levels in your homeschooling. So, I thought I’d answer this common question with some practical ideas.

(There is a video discussing some of these ideas at the bottom of this post, if you wish to watch or listen to some ideas.)

First, I usually purchase or create my own unit study that is flexible enough to include multiple age levels.

Benefits of using unit studies with multiple age levels –

  • it’s more economical to choose a broader age range unit study than to purchase units for very specific grade levels for each member of your family.
  • it allows more flexibility to what and how you use the unit study.
  • it allows less planning and keeping up with individual curriculums at different levels = less stress and more time for mom.
  • it gives the kids a chance to experience delight-directed learning and a more relaxed homeschooling approach.

Approaches to using unit studies with multiple age levels –

  • Just the little ones – if you are working with just littles, then you would work as a small group together – but you can give your littles a couple of choices of activities from which to choose what they want to do.
    • This gives them the opportunity to practice the skill of making choices and figuring out what they like, don’t like, why they might prefer to do one thing over another – it can help shed light for you on their particular learning style preferences without them even telling you (you will start to see a pattern)
  • Littles and Upper Elementary and Possibly Middle School – You could still work with the littles while the older children might pick an activity or a book to read at a high level that they can do on their own, even if you might need to be near by to make sure they are on track.
    • This allows the older children the opportunity to practice independent study and work, and also start developing their personal interests and skills.
  • Littles and upper ages including High School – This is where we can get creative! There are two ways you can go here –
    • You can allow them to pick a topic from within the unit study and have them do a more indepth research study (this could include practicing writing an informative essay or an MLA formatted research paper)
      • They could also include a project component to present with the research paper
      • You can tie it all together and have your student then present in a public speaking format the project and the research paper together (Here you could practice specific public speaking skills – eye contact, tone and inflection of voice, volume, body posture and movement as expressive speech, effective pauses and annunciation of words or phrases, development and presentation of visual aids.)
    • The other way to go would be if as a family you are reading about a topic within the unit study and come across a fact that produces a question – there’s a Rabbit Trail!
      • The middle or high schooler now has a topic to research, learn about, and present “as the teacher” the answer to that question and explaining it to the rest of the family. They now become an authority on that topic because they have to know it enough to teach it!

Some Practical Examples –

Using the new unit study I just released, Learning Fun with Christmas Traditions Around the World, I can give you some practical examples of how to use a unit study with multiple ages.

  • Craft choices – there are multiple crafts within some of the countries studied, some are simple and others more complex – you could be studying the same country together, but working on different crafts at various difficulty levels.
  • Recipes – you could work on the simpler recipes with your littles, while the olders tackle a more challenging recipe that requires kneading and rising the dough. (This could be also a research opportunity for the olders in why does that addition of yeast cause a chemical reaction to make the dough rise.)
    • This also gives the olders in upper elementary ages a chance to explain their math skills to the littles (such as, fractions with the measuring cups and spoons and the explanation of the measurement abbreviations – let them be the “math teacher” – you might be surprised by how seriously they take these duties!
  • Rabbit Trails – There are a number of opportunities, especially with the history of countries
    • A country’s culture and traditions are influenced by its history
      • And what better way to illustrate this when studying their customs or traditions for Christmas!
        • Some examples in this unit study would be – Why do Australia and Africa (which are so far away) have customs influenced by Britian? (You could have your olders do some research about what Britain has to do with these two countries and their history)
        • Why do Austria and Germany have such similar customs and traditions?
        • Why would celebrating Christmas be somewhat new to the people of the Ukraine? (Here is a whole lesson on Communism and how it squashed individual freedom and the freedom of religion)
        • Countries such as Africa and the Philippines have high populations of Muslim areas – why? And how did Christianity arrive to these places in the first place?
        • Why would Mexico have a high Catholic population?
        • Why would Scotland have traditions that include a tradition related to the Vikings?
        • Research the Christmas Eve and Christmas Day in WWI when there is a story about a temporary cease fire when soldiers on both sides of the battlefield celebrated the holiday together. (That’s a whole long rabbit trail right there about WWI!)

We followed this kind of learning for much of our homeschooling and my guys gained a wonderful passion for learning! They are now in college and don’t understand why a lot of other students kind of float through their classes and education. They have become naturally curious and have gained the initiative and skill to search for answers when questions or problems needing solutions arise.

It’s been wonderful to see! I hope these ideas help you in imagining what you can do with your own unit studies and your children’s individual interests and learning styles.

Please let me know, if you have any specific questions or challenges you have encountered with unit studies and we can brainstorm some ideas together!

Remember, you can purchase this unit study here and get started using these ideas right away!

And if you want to learn more about it, you can read details here!

Here is the video I completed on Facebook Live! It’s the first one I ever did, so please hang in there with me. I kept pressing the Done button, but for some reason it would not switch off! LOL!