How to do a theme study and cover the 8 KLAs
Homeschooling affords so many learning opportunities and themed or unit studies are an excellent way to follow your child’s interests without using textbooks, and still teach the 8 key learning areas. Themed studies are the perfect way to utilise living books and include all your children simultaneously.
Even if you are not using textbooks but are teaching using a specific method, changing methods periodically is a good way to train both yourself and your children to be agile learners.
The 8 Key Learning Areas (KLAs) are listed below and explanations of how you can cover them. For elaboration on each KLA, check the Australian Curriculum.
The trick to a successful unit study is linking all your learning areas to each other and integrating them under one theme, and to make it the right length so as not bore your children with overkill. The latter is easy to fall into, so you will have to be clued in to when to stop if things are getting too much. You can always entwine the things you haven’t covered in a similar unit down the track.
Before you get started on any unit study, go to your library and borrow every relevant book you can.
You can do just one of these or all of them, depending on how long you intend to do your themed study and whether you will be doing other English lessons.
Literature – choose a novel that fits with your theme and read it aloud to all your children. Assign other books for independent reading. Have your children narrate to you what they are reading about.
Vocabulary and spelling – If you are doing a unit on any living creatures, study the Latin names and their roots. Expand on the roots to find other words using the same ones.
To build a list of words, be on the lookout as you read any books you use for the unit. It’s also a good idea to prepare some of the key words ahead of time as an introduction to the theme. Your children will move along faster if they understand some key terms as they read.
Depending on how long you choose to study your theme and the ages of your children, you could choose between 3-10 words each week for vocabulary and spelling.
Copywork – You could also use passages from your chosen novel for copywork and take spelling words from there, or teach other language skills such as grammar and punctuation.
Writing – Have your child write a story related to the topic.
Teach your older children to take notes from some of the resources you use and then have them consolidate these into a non-fiction book on the topic. Before you start, you might want to work out a rough outline of what to include in the book.
Maths is probably the trickiest learning area to integrate into a unit study. Many families will just leave it out and keep on with their normal maths program, which is perfectly fine, and stress free. Incorporating living books for maths into your unit is an option.
The thing to remember with incorporating maths is to take note of any time you cover a maths concept and note it down as such. Note down any activity that requires maths to work out dimensions, measurements, volume, distance, etc or using dates/timelines.
A good example of how to incorporate history and science together is found in Dr Jay Wile’s elementary science books.
If you have chosen a history related theme, pick out some areas that you can investigate the science behind. For example, you could study mummification for a study of Ancient Egypt, science discoveries of the Middle Ages, how artists made paint and other mediums, how weather conditions affected events, the forging of metals, production of weapons and so on.
Of course, many themes are science based and you will be presented with a myriad of options. Keep a notebook of any specimen collections for an oceans, plants or insects theme, for example.
Humanities and Social Sciences
Geography – Make maps of the areas you are studying. Learn the ancient and modern names of countries.
History – What history is behind your topic? How has this history impacted our modern society, legacies, etc.
Society – A unit on parts of the body might include social health issues. Study people and cultures. Connect with community groups and learn from them.
Include some games related to your topic.
Have your children plan a display and presentation of their work.
Go to a play or concert that tells a story related to your topic, or have your kids put one on.
Make musical instruments, costumes, props, incorporating technology.
Listen to/play/compose music that is relevant to your time period or sets a mood relevant to the theme. Make up songs or poems about things related to your topic.
Have your child do an oral presentation at the end of your unit.
Picture study, biographies of artists or works from the time period.
Paint, draw diagrams or make models.
Technology is not limited to using a computer or power tool. It is the use of any tool to get something done. This can range from a wooden spoon to a winch or computers to drones. Technology is different to science in that it uses science to produce things we can use to make our jobs and life easier. Science is the pursuit of knowledge about our world.
You can study different technologies related to your theme, or use technology to learn about your theme, or both.
You might study navigation tools in a study about shipping, oceans or exploration. You could use kitchen appliances to prepare a meal from another country; sewng equipment to reproduce a famous tapestry; a camera and edting software for photo records of your specimens or places visited; science equipment used in an experiment; tools and technology used in modern agriculture. As always, remember to note it down in your records under “Technology”.
Health and Physical Education
You might include learning about how discoveries have impacted health and medical practices, or study diets of people from different times or places. Incorporate parts of the human body or body systems. For example a unit on computers might include how their use impacts our health.
A unit on planes might include exercises you can do on a plane. Or, a unit on World War II could cover military fitness regimes.
Choose words and names of things in your unit to translate into the language you are learning. Make up conversations, cartoons or vocab flashcards in the language.
That’s given you a general overview of how to incoporate the 8 KLAs into a themed study.
To see how it works for specific topics, check out our unit study on oceans.