Jennifer Steward has racked up a wealth of experience homeschooling her own eight children using unit studies. She translates that experience into a number of resources to help others delve into unit study with minimal investment.
Those starting from scratch might want to begin with Steward's book, Everything You Need to Know About Homeschool Unit Studies: The Anyone Can How-To-Guide. She begins with a discussion of educational methods, touting the benefits of unit study in contrast or alongside other approaches. She explains which methods work together and which do not.
Next, she explains how units studies work and what you might need, discussing all the different subject areas and how they might fit in as well as notebooking as a key part of unit studies. After this, you learn how to plan your own unit study whether you use a prepared guide or create the study yourself.
The next chapter deals with books, including what to look for and where to find them. Steward then devotes an entire chapter to unit studies and high school since parents of teens need to be concerned about transcripts and preparing for whatever comes after high school.
The last chapter covers an assortment of topics such as co-ops, oral presentations, evaluating student work and record keeping. An "Appendix/Toolbox" supplies sample unit studies (a few pages from some of Steward's studies), reproducible planning sheets plus some completed samples, sample assignment sheets, record keeping sheets, and book report and reading list forms.
There's an overwhelming amount of information here, so read the sections that you need and skip the others. One key point Steward makes in this book is that unit studies need not be overwhelming for the novice home educator. There are so many helps and tools available that just about anyone can use unit study methods for homeschooling.
[I noted that this book is a 2005 publication that was updated and expanded from the original book. Some information (e.g., source recommendations about grade-level learning goals on pp. 91-92) needs further updating. This is not a big issue but a minor annoyance.]
To make it easier for those new to unit studies, Jennifer Steward has written lots of other unit study resources. Those who like things prepared for them will probably want to purchase Everything You Need to Build a Unit Study Notebook. This is a two-part set of a book and a set of 50 reproducible masters. The book explains why and how students should create notebooks for each topic they study. Steward's own experience working with children at many levels shows up in suggestions for all different ages and abilities. Among the reproducible pages are decorated divider pages, book report form, "decorated" pages for children's writing or artwork, assignment sheet form, spelling words form, unit study record keeping summary, lined pages (different pages with different size lines for younger and older children), three map masters, and a timeline form.
Steward Ship Publishing offers quite a few topical unit study guides for grades K – 8 called "The Study of…" under the categories of American History, Ancient History, and Science & Nature. Some sample titles are Colonial Times, Lewis & Clark, Abraham Lincoln, Cowboys, California History, Ancient Greece, Medieval Times, Oceans, Animals, Gardening, Birds, Ants, Creation Science, Farm life, and Penguins.
Most guides are designed for a four-week study and cost $8.95 each. A few are shorter and even less expensive. Steward explains that you need only four items to create a unit study: 1.) a unit study guide, 2.) an educational coloring book, 3.) a read-aloud book, and 4.) a nonfiction source of information. Specific recommendations for items 2 through 4 are sometimes made within each unit study guide, but there is also a list of recommendations from which you might choose. Key items referenced in the guides are sold through Steward Ship Publishing. Many of these are very inexpensive books from Dover, Bellerophon, and Spizzirri. Read-aloud books might be borrowed from the library. The end result is that you can create a unit study for very little money. The catch is that these guides are fairly brief at about 24 pages each.
Each guide has an outline of key topics to cover. Then there are a few pages of "ideas and activities" under various subject area headings such as "Bible, art, handwriting, research, writing," and "geography." There will always be a list of spelling/vocabulary words (divided into lists for early learners and intermediate/advanced learners), a resource list, and an appendix with reproducible pages such as section dividers, maps, patterns, notebooking forms, fact sheets, and a book report form.
Steward Ship Publishing also has some more extensive unit study guides with more detailed plans for study. Among them are Taking the Mystery out of Studying Art History (I couldn't find grade level recommendations for this, but it seems most appropriate for about grades 4 – 12), "Pleased to Meet Ya', America!" (geography and history recommended for "young children" but intended audience seems to be about grades 1-6. It might take a full school year.)
Yet another option are "Quick Look" study guides. These are more fact-oriented than unit study. Topics are These United States (covering facts about each of the 50 states and comes with stickers for state flags, birds, and flowers), Explorers (study 30 explorers—comes with Coloring Book of Great Explorers), World Geography/Countries (study 112 countries—comes with flag stickers), Presidents, Inventors (comes with Great Inventors coloring book), and Composers (study 15 composers-comes with Coloring Book of Great Composers #2). Quick Looks might be used on their own, as part of a larger unit study, or alongside more traditional learning approaches.
The guides I've discussed above are geared toward children in grades K-8, but unit study can also be done for high school. Steward has written the first of four projected volumes titled High school Unit Studies. (I have not reviewed this.)
Steward Ship products reflect a Christian worldview, although it is more evident in some products than others. For example, "Pleased to Meet Ya', America!" recommends books like The Light and the Glory for Children and incorporates pages from the From Sea to Shining Sea Activity Book that are both decidedly Christian (Protestant). It also includes a section of Bible activity suggestions for each topic. On the other hand, A Quick Look at These United States sticks with factual data type information and is not obviously Christian.
For those new to unit studies, I would recommend purchasing Everything You Need to Know about Homeschool Unit Studies, Everything You Need to Build a Unit Study Notebook, and one of either "The Study of…" guides or one of the expanded guides on art history or history/geography.
Check the Steward Ship Publishing website or catalog for additional products and information. There are two free abbreviated unit studies on Clothing & Textiles and Shakespeare at the website.