Homeschool unit study spines can make or break your unit study.
While you can use any living book for a great unit study, some resources are more helpful than others to help you plan quickly.
Homeschool Unit Study Spines
Too, I’ve used many resources through my years of planning unit studies; choosing a spine is key to a successful unit study.
Before I jump into listing some helpful unit study spines, look below at the definition of a spine.
What is a Homeschool Unit Study Spine
A homeschool unit study spine can be a living book, magazine, mentor, reference book or chart, art or art object, play, musical piece, brochure, movie, encyclopedia, or any other type of book, object, or person which is the main reference or authority for your unit study topic.
In addition, a unit study spine is used to launch your lesson plans, topics, and sub-topics.
To easily plan, a superior spine will support additional ideas, projects, objectives, and concepts about the main topic.
It guides you down a trail to dive deep into the topic.
Look at my video How to Choose a Useful and NOT Useless Homeschool Unit Study Spine on my channel How to Homeschool EZ to understand what they are and how to choose them.
All research revolves around your spine; it is the backbone of your study and it is the main resource for your chosen theme.
Additionally, depending on the type of unit study, some resources will be more helpful than others.
For example, if you’re doing a literature unit study, a beautiful dictionary is a must.
Also, as I moved away from all-in-one language arts, I used bar charts and quick study guides to zero in on skill subjects. To learn the difference between a skill and content subject read What Homeschool Subjects to Teach and When to Teach Them? Part 1 of 3.
Now look below at a few handy charts which promptly get to the nitty-gritty of language arts skills.
Further, while comparing and choosing books, here are features I look for when choosing a superior resource:
- Background information about the topic in the text.
- Ideas for hands-on projects.
- Words for vocabulary.
- Diagrams or charts.
- Questions in the text or at the end.
With that being said, look at the breakdown for the different types of unit study spines which help you to plan in a few hours.
The very first reference books I started with were DK Eyewitness books.
They’ve improved through the years; they’re timeless. A wonderful collection is an inexpensive way to prep for a unit study beginner.
Science Homeschool Unit Study Spines
One of my favorite and timeless publishers is Nomad Press. They have many books which make for great themes. Look at some of them below.
More Science Unit Study Spines
Another set of books are the DK Smithsonian Encyclopedia which are keepers for science unit study spines.
Look at some of the timeless ones we have used below along with some new ones.
Moreover, there are no shortages of books and references for nature; I prefer field guides which are concise nuggets while teaching a nature unit study.
Of course taking the guides to our outside classroom is the best reason.
Nature Homeschool Unit Study Spines
Further, many times I’ve used two unit study spines as companions.
For example, the resources I’ve listed above are reference books. I find reference books are extremely easy in helping me to plan a unit study because they put topics in a nutshell.
Living Books For Homeschool Unit Study Spines
However, along with a reference book, some unit studies are better taught alongside a living book. I find when I add a living book, language arts becomes a natural fit and not a forced fit.
Living books contain two main important things.
- The book is written by an authority on the topic; and
- They are written in a narrative form meaning a book would explain events and give vivid details in a story form which engages the mind of readers.
In addition, a living book should stir a reader’s emotion and imagination even doing so in a picture book.
However, one of the best features of a living book is that a reader doesn’t realize that he is learning facts in a natural way. Living books are opposite of textbooks.
Lastly, I look for classic books, but they aren’t always living books. Foremost I look for a well-written book which has a high literary quality.
Adding a living book alongside a reference book has been the key to my family covering almost all the subjects in a unit study.
Below, I’ve listed just a few books we’ve used through years; I want you to have examples of living books for the various ages.
I’ve divided the living books into three sections or lower, middle, and upper reading levels.
Living Books for Beginning Reading Levels
Living Books for Middle Reading Levels
Living Books for Upper Reading Levels
Moreover, a series of books like the Shakespeare Can Be Fun introduces sophisticated literature to younger kids in a fun way.
Let a young learner’s introduction to Shakespeare be one he understands. There is plenty of time in middle and high school to learn about literary terms.
Next, I want to share a few more reference books which I’ve used plentifully. The books below are by Chicago Review Press.
Even though these resources are some of my favorite, they are by no means an exhaustive list. My focus in this roundup is to give you visual examples of unit study spines which ease lesson planning by giving you a plethora of examples.
How Unit Study Spines Are Cost Effective
In conclusion, but certainly not less important is knowing the value of unit study spines. Homeschool unit study spines are cost effective for several reasons:
- spines cover many ages and that means I divide the price by how many years I’m using it or by how many kids are using it for one year,
- there is less waste of resources because we choose exactly what we want to study,
- because unit studies are a mastery approach, less money is spent on covering one topic for several years, and
- spending less time on curriculum which may not cover our specific educational goals and focusing exactly on my kids’ needs is not only a huge savings, but an outstanding education.
What do you think? Are you ready to give unit studies a try?
You’ll love these other unit study helps:
- A to Z List: 100 Fun Summer Homeschool Unit Study Ideas
- What You Must Know to Teach High School Unit Studies
- 5 Simple Ways to Enhance a Homeschool Unit Study
- How to Grade a Homeschool Unit Study for an Older Child (& high school assessment)
Hugs and love ya,