A child may not know what he needs to know in ten years, but he knows better than anyone else what he wants to know right now, what his mind is ready and hungry for. If we help him to learn that, he will remember it, use it, build on it. If we try to make him learn something else we think is more important, chances are he won't learn it. He will soon forget most of what he learned, and what is worst of all, will before long lose most of his appetite for learning anything. -John Holt, “Teach Your Own”
Homeschool families know better than anyone: learning is deeper and more meaningful when learners can follow their interests. You’ve probably seen this firsthand—maybe your child taught themself to use complicated editing software because they wanted to make YouTube videos, or memorized every fact about Ancient Egypt but can’t seem to remember the biology facts you’re trying to teach them.
The unit study approach is one of the most research-backed homeschool methods precisely because it allows for interest-driven learning. Learning science has proven that when curiosity about a topic is activated, the brain is primed to absorb and retain more information. Unit studies are also a form of interdisciplinary learning, a cutting-edge method designed to build real-world skills like creativity, critical thinking, and communication.
At Prisma, our team of project-based learning experts designs thematic units for grade levels 4-12. In this blog post, you’ll find best practices for creating your own unit studies, free unit study ideas from our most popular themes, and a printable unit study planner to bring your homeschool curriculum to the next level.
The real world is not divided into school subjects. Solving hard problems requires a blend of knowledge and skills from various disciplines.
Interdisciplinary education integrates knowledge and skills from different disciplines into one learning experience. Unit studies are an interdisciplinary approach to homeschooling, where learning is organized into units combining academic subjects under one theme.
For example, in our “Cities of the Future” theme, middle school learners explored the real-world topic of urban development through hands-on learning activities. By creating everything from model cities, eco-friendly buildings, and public art, kids learned concepts traditionally taught in science, social studies, math, and English.
Why is the unit study approach such an effective homeschooling style for kids? Here are a few reasons:
At Prisma, our team of learning designers uses our collective expertise across subjects to map out a full year of interdisciplinary units. But with a bit of planning, this process can be done at home!
Here’s the steps to try your hand at creating your own unit study:
Need examples of different topics? Here are some of our past themes:
We’re fans of online learning, but it depends how it’s done. Here’s some pros and cons of different kinds of online homeschooling resources to consider, plus links to a variety of options.
“The curriculum at Prisma allows learners to learn about their strengths and use their passions in an organic and interdisciplinary way. The kids have the freedom to choose by having differentiated projects, quests, enrichments, and clubs.”
You might be hearing from friends, extended family, and random strangers in the doctor’s office “there’s no way your kid will be able to get into a good college as a homeschooler.” Impolite, yes. True? Let’s figure it out.
“The amount of support and check-ins our learners have at Prisma is unparalleled compared to anywhere else I’ve ever worked.”
Each of the most popular homeschool styles has existed for a long time, and each has diehard evangelizers and fervent critics. From classical to unit studies to unschooling, this guide will help you find the form best suited to your family.
“What most drew me to Prisma was the chance to work with a fully project-based curriculum custom-designed for middle schoolers who are hungry for academic engagement.”
The best online school for your family is a question of priorities: More support or lower tuition costs? Traditional or project-based academics? Asynchronous or lots of interaction? We break it down in this post.
David Waitzer is the Founding Learning Coach for our first cohort in East Asia & Oceania. In this post, he describes how his background teaching and leading for innovative international education companies will help him accelerate the growth of Prisma learners.
Prisma has hundreds of learners across the Western Hemisphere. Along the way, we've gotten requests to launch cohorts in new time zones from families around the world who want to be part of what we’re building. Next up is East Asia & Oceania!
Middle School Curriculum Designer Lizzie uses her diverse experiences: studying Literature at Harvard, leading outdoor adventure expeditions, and teaching high school English, to help Prisma learners find their voices.
The pandemic has made homeschooling easier than ever before with a boom of online options from curriculum, to part-time programs, to full-time schools. But which is best for your family?
Prisma High School’s Launchpad Program will prepare learners to tackle their next phase, be it college, training, or an exciting career. Trevor Baker, our LaunchPad program designer, describes how he sets learners up for success.
You might have to jump in at first. But eventually, with the right modeling and practice, kids can develop the skills to make thoughtful decisions.
Middle School Curriculum Designer Gabe, an expert in interdisciplinary learning with a PhD from the University of Michigan, explains how he designs themes that blend together STEM and literacy.
One of the most fun parts of being a homeschooling parent is creating fun learning experiences for your kiddos! In this post, we share our favorite at-home activities and online resources.
Our Head of Middle School Curriculum explains how her team blends core subjects and real-world topics to design “hard fun” cycle themes.
One of the reasons our team wanted to develop a new kind of school was because we felt traditional schooling doesn’t put enough emphasis on developing emotionally intelligent kids. But what is emotional intelligence and how do you develop it?
"Carolyn is a miracle worker in math. Piper's attitude towards math has improved so much this year. It's never been her favorite subject but Carolyn's patience and encouragement has made such a positive impact." -Alexia A., Prisma parent
Media literacy is touted as one of the most important “21st century skills” for kids to master, in line with creativity, communication, and grit. Thinking through the amount of time most of us spend interacting with some form of media each day makes a good case for this.
“Lauren is fantastic and has struck a nice balance of connecting with Cooper and keeping him on task. I'm impressed to see real growth in Cooper around self awareness, reflecting on his “glows and grows,” and goal setting.” -Kym J., Prisma parent
“I've seen growth in my kids, and most importantly a solid relationship between them and their coaches. We feel so grateful for these amazing humans that have entered our kids' lives. My kids' words exactly: ‘These teachers actually want to be here. They really care!’ ” -Katie M., Parent in Kimberly’s Cohort
By introducing these concepts at home, you're setting your child up to be more financially responsible and savvy, giving them the tools to navigate an increasingly complex financial world.
“I’m so happy to have an opportunity to call out Javi. As a math educator myself I am really impressed with how he presents math concepts, differentiates for and challenges learners as needed. From a social-emotional perspective he is so kind, patient and invested in the kids as a whole. I am so happy he is Brynn’s math coach.” -Chandra S., Prisma parent
The ability to tolerate frustration is not merely about weathering the storm of the moment, but about instilling the persistence, adaptability, and resilience that set your child up for future success.
“We are eternally grateful for Prisma and the wonderful people who work there - especially the coaches - whose patience and expertise make our kids feel seen and heard and loved while also coaching them to learn knowledge and skills.” -Ashley S., Parent in Angie’s cohort