I would call this an Asia unit study except I'm a Charlotte Mason homeschooler and as we all know, Mason didn't like unit studies. I don't want to be kicked out of the cool kids club. Okay, I'm partially kidding. I wouldn't be in the cool kids club anyway ;-)
I may have talked about this before but the dislike of unit studies was something that seemed odd to me when I first was researching Charlotte Mason. But upon reading what she actual said about it (Volume 6, Chapter 7 is a good summary of how highly she doesn't think of them), I came to realize that what I think of when I say "Unit study" and what she was talking about, aren't exactly the same thing.
The big problems with unit study seems to be the focus on the ideas and their connections. Those connections and relationships between ideas are really important in education. That part is true. But if the teacher is the one doing all the connecting, the teacher is the one doing the learning too. And that's not really what you want. The other issue is that the connections aren't natural (phonics lessons don't suddenly have to be done on lily pad shaped paper just because you are learning about frogs, etc). I hope that my little topical themes such as this avoid those two pitfalls. So it my mind, I kinda called this a unit study, but it probable falls short of what most homeschoolers would consider a unit study and that's purposeful. And now I've way over explained but anyway, moving on...
It all start when we had a playdate with some friends and they brought sushi as their lunch. Lucy was quite fascinated by this and kept asking me about it - "why had we never had sushi before? Can't we get sushi? When are we gonna eat sushi mom?" And that very afternoon, she ended up getting the second Little Pear book in the mail as a present which for some reason I was thinking was about a boy from Japan so I said, how about we get some after we finish Little Pear as a read aloud. Except then I realized I was wrong and Little Pear was from China! So then I had to find another book about kids from Japan. By the time we finished the second book, the kids were all about Asia! So we got a few more fun picture books and over the past month have read them and done a few more learning things so I thought I'd share the resources we used.
Books about Japan
The Japanese Twins by Lucy Perkins - This is a chapter book, available on Mainlesson.com. It's the second of the twins series that we've read and we enjoyed it BUT I did quite a bit of editing so you'll probably want to pre-read. Generally, I don't edit for too much pc stuff since I'd rather us talk about it (I know several people who have edited things from the Little House series and we haven't at all) but the parts about gender roles was more than I was comfortable with reading to an impressionable young girl. That said, we still read the book and even some of the parts about what boy/girls can do when they grow up and talked about it, just not all of so I just want to encourage pre-reading, mostly of the first chapter.
Yoko's Paper Cranes - Rosemary Wells (author of Noisy Nora and the Max and Ruby series) also has a series about Yoko, a cat from Japan. This is the only one our library had available so its the one I picked but it ended up being a fun choice because its about origami. And, completely coincidentally, origami is our handicraft this year. In fact, I didn't even think about it (although its a fairly obvious connection, blame the flu brain!) until Lucy was telling me that the paper folding in the book seemed very similar to the paper folding she was doing for school. Oh yeah! It is!
A Pair of Red Clogs
Under the Cherry Blossom Tree - A Japanese Folk Tale retold by Allen Say. This one is weird (as folk tales from all countries tend to be once you stop and think about it) but the kids thought it was hilarious.
Grandfather's Journey - Another Allen Say book. He has so many that would work well for studying Japan but I love this one because, while our circumstances are different, as a "Third Culture Kid," I related to this story quite a bit.
Books about Korea
Bee-bim Bop! - My friend Elaine told me about this book quite a while back and I've been patiently waiting for our library to aquire it. It was worth the wait. Super cute! It's for a slightly lower age than most of the others but has fun rhymes and was enjoyed by both kids. Jonah asked for this one again as soon as we reached the last page and Lucy has requested bee-bim bop for dinner. Of course, I've made it before and she wouldn't even try it but maybe we'll see if it gets a better reception this time.
Books about China
The Story of Ping - It's a classic. We'd already read it before many times but another excuse is good.
Little Pear and Little Pear and His Friends - Chapter books but easy to follow along and each story is fairly stand alone so Jonah could come and go without complaining he didn't understand.
Where the Mountain Meets the Moon - Our current read aloud, a fantasy novel about a little girl and a dragon. I've never read it before and we are only 10 chapters in but so far, so good.
Origami - As I said earlier, this was our handicraft for the semester. To make it easy on us, I just bought this kit and we are working on way through it. So far, doing good!
Mapping - At first we just looked up each country on our scrunch map. The scrunch map is a recent purchase and so far I love it and already want to get the U.S. version too! We have a classic world map on a wall in our hall but this one is perfect for keeping on our school cart and unfolding whenever we need without worrying about Jonah ripping it when he helps put it up. That's all I planned to do but weWe are using a blackline map along with our AO reading of Paddle to the Sea and Lucy asked if we could color a map for the countries we learn about in Asia too. How could I saw no to that? We used this free printable blackline map I found and colored and labeled it. Easy Peasy!
This is Jonah's. He worked on coloring in the lines so carefully! And he even asked to write South Korea by himself (except for the s, he looked at it and decided it was too tricky so I should)
Life Where I'm From YouTube Videos - I don't even know how I stumbled upon these but we've watched several now and enjoyed the all. A young (10 year old?) or so girl named Aiko, with the help of her dad and sometimes her younger brother, showing us what her life in Japan is like. Her dad is Canadian and she lived there until she was 7 so her English is great and the kids can easily understand her. Plus I don't have to worry about content since they are kid-friendly. I can't guarantee they will meet your standards so preview as needed but the most controversial thing I've seen in them so far is the rough treatment of a lizard :-) To get you started, here are a few fun ones:
Very Old Japanese House (we got to see the thin walls like in the Japanese Twins book!)
Japanese Sushi Restaurant
Food - Of course you can't skip food. We finally all recovered enough from the flu to pick up some Sushi (okay, really California rolls but I wasn't going to tell the kids that ;-) and pot stickers to serve with homemade kimchi. I even made Hotteok (my favorite korean street food) for dessert. Yum.
I kinda just made this up as I went along (Kids are feeling better but mom and dad are still sick - let's stream Mulan on Netflix! It's educational? Sure, why not!) and I'm out of plans but the kids seemed to really like it and want more. I'm thinking it would be fun to keep going with some extra geography/cultural fun leading up to the Olympics. Maybe India next? Do you have any other Asian picture books we shouldn't miss?