This homeschool unit study about potatoes is perfect to center around the book, Nory Ryan’s Song by Patricia Riley Giff (a book recommended in Sonlight Curriculum’s reading lists for late elementary/early middle school). It would also be great for supplemental ideas to add to a history unit about the Great Potato Famine. And it’s all FREE or uses things you may already have around the house already!

Free Homeschool Unit Study Nory Ryan's Song Great Potato Famine pThis post contains affiliate links.

As spring is evidenced all around us many are getting ready for the growing season. This is a fantastic time of year for so many learning opportunities from getting your hands dirty planting to watching as everything comes alive and new around you. One of the crops that goes into the ground in early spring is the potato. Have you ever given much thought to this gem of a vegetable? We use it to make our chips, fries, soups and sides. We enjoy these delectables mashed, broiled, and fried. But what would happen if there were no potatoes? How do these plants grow and how are they harvested? Often thought of as one of the crops of the poor there is some interesting history to be learned here…

Homeschooling also affords us the opportunity to teach history in a way that can really stick with our children and make them think. Rather than dry boring textbooks used by many public schools that only survey history at a birds eye view, we can delve into history through the eyes of those who lived it, or sometimes glean personal accounts from characters in historical fiction novels that really bring home events to our children because they can see them through the eyes of children their ages.

One such book to include in your spring literature is a beautifully written story by Patricia Riley Giff, “Nory Ryan’s Song.”

This book has been listed in Sonlight curriculum’s reading lists for late elementary to early middle school. An easy read with short chapters the book is also punctuated by a glossary of new words to learn. Amazon’s summary is as follows:

“Nory Ryan’s family has lived on Maidin Bay on the west coast of Ireland for generations, raising a pig and a few chickens, planting potatoes, getting by. Every year Nory’s father goes away on a fishing boat and returns with the rent money for the English lord who owns their cottage and fields, the English lord bent upon forcing the Irish from their land so he can tumble the cottages and clear the fields for grazing. Times are never easy on Maidin Bay, but this year, a terrible blight attacks the potatoes. No crop means starvation. Twelve-year-old Nory must summon the courage and ingenuity to find food, to find hope, to find a way to help her family survive.”

Not only does the book allow for history to be learned but so many other lessons can be incorporated as we learn about potatoes, the main crop discussed in this book about the Great Potato Famine.

For a literature unit to go along with the book parents can easily pick and choose questions from this study guide.

Discussion questions or even a graphic organizer to use in your homeschool unit.

There is a great interactive internet hunt that will teach your child geography and science to go along with the historical themes as well as affording some fun.

What about the little ones? You can get creative and add in some of those growing ideas mentioned before.

Potato sprout people

7 ways to plant potatoes

videos on how potatoes grow

Potato songs
(sesame st)

Round up of potato ideas

How many different kinds of potatoes are there?

And then to wrap it all up, how about some potato candy as a treat?

This is a fantastic unit study that can be done easily with the above links. This is also a way to use what you have on hands to create a learning experience that will stick with your children for years to come, costing no more than a trip to the library and some potatoes from the pantry. Enjoy and have fun learning so many different things about such an interesting staple food that has been around for a very long time!


Dawn is a homeschooling mom living out her dream of a simple life on a small farm with her husband and 5 children. She is an avid gardener, a lover of simplicity, and blogger of natural living at Incidental Farmgirl.

Finally, if you’d like an educational diagram of a potato plant,

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Nory Ryan's Song Potato Plant Unit Study

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