Our Travels to Asia- China & Japan


Our adventures continue..

Spending an afternoon at the Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens

Spending an afternoon at the Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens


I was apprehensive about this literary unit because the thought of teaching about China totally overwhelmed me. Thankfully, Ms.Frizzle from Magic School Bus, youtube videos from Discovery Kids and other resources I found made this unit fun and we both learned a lot about the oldest continuous civilization in the world.  We especially enjoyed learning some Mandarin Chinese words through a few youtube videos.

Our main book was The story About Ping by Marjorie Flack.  This book was below her interest level but it is still a great classic.  We supplemented with lots of great library books, including the one from Magic School Bus.  Our unit included geography, math, and handwriting/language arts.

Having homemade noodles with veggies at home.

Having homemade noodles with veggies at home.

Books- The Story About Ping, Magic School Bus Imperial China

Themes explored- Chinese culture, history and geography

Activities- Kate created her first lap book for China.  It was great to see Kate take charge of this project and select the facts that she learned about China that she wanted in the lap book.  She created something that she is proud to show others, which is also a great review tool.

Field Trip- We went to a local Chinese restaurant and had lunch.  The food was just okay, to be honest, but the experience of going on a lunch date to conclude our series on China was a real treat for both of us.

Enjoying some tea while on our lunch date.

Enjoying some tea while on our lunch date.



Our Japan unit took us to unexpected places where we explored various themes related to the story Grandfather’s Journey.  This beautiful book by Allen Say, explores those powerful connections to places and people in our lives.  The artwork is simply amazing.  The author visually depicts the journeys we embark on when we leave behind what we know and move towards new worlds.  The emotions of the inward journey, the loneliness, the awe and wonder of discovering the world and the joy of being reunited with family and childhood friends are beautifully displayed in this book.

Books/videos- Grandfather’s Journey, Molly an American Girl, others from the library, various youtube videos about Sadako Sasaki and Pearl Harbor

Themes explored- As a former social studies teacher, this was a dream literary unit.  Immigration, World War II (U.S. entry to war, Pearl Harbor, U.S. Home Front, ), Japanese-American culture, Japanese culture, the story of Sadako Sasaki, family relationships, geography.

Activities- kimono doll bookmark, oral history (interviewing grandparent)

Field Trip-Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens. Also it was a perfect time to plant our own “victory garden” since it’s our growing season here in the tropics.

Taking care of our "victory garden".

Taking care of our “victory garden”.

Updates on curriculum and planning

With these two countries I allotted more time so that we wouldn’t feel rushed, but could take the time to let the books takes us on our own path.  It was a good thing I did, because it led us to include the American Girl books about Molly as our read aloud, which explore what life was like for children during WWII on the home front.  That led me to realize that we had an amazing resource, Kate’s Grandma Rosie, whose dad was in the war, just like Molly’s dad in the story.  Kate had the chance to meet her great-grandfather, a U.S. veteran of  three wars, before he passed away in 2007.  We asked Grandma Rosie to give us an interview.  We had an awesome oral history lesson where we learned so much about what life was like in the US during the war and also about when her family was stationed in Japan after the war ended.  We also watched Molly an American Girl on the Home Front, which the whole family enjoyed and are continuing to read the next books in the Molly series for read-aloud.

Growing vegetables and herbs in a raised bed and some containers, a fun project for the whole family.

Growing vegetables and herbs in a raised bed and some containers, a fun project for the whole family.

We spent some time listening to the survivors of the Pearl Harbor attacks (through youtube videos), who were children at the time and learning about the story of Sadako Sasaki who survived Hiroshima but died later from radiation exposure.  It was interesting to see how completely engaged Kate was with all of these personal stories.  As a brain tumor survivor, she was especially touched by Sadako’s story and we were able to have some good discussions about the impact of war on children’s lives.

What I’ve learned thus far is that it is important to leave space for creativity and to find deeper meaning and connections to what we’re learning about.

Time4learning- An addition to our homeschool is this computer based curriculum.  We are starting to incorporate this program little by little, as it is a full curriculum, all subject areas.  We are using it now to supplement her reading program and as her main science curriculum.  I found that their language arts program is a great way to keep her engaged and motivated with reading.  It’s very interactive and reinforces the phonics component in a fun way.  I’ll do full review after we’ve used it for a while.





2 thoughts on “Our Travels to Asia- China & Japan

  1. Leah bechtol

    I love reading about Kate’s learning adventures! Did you happen to come across the book “sadako and the thousand paper cranes”? It is a beautiful story about sadako that I used to read with various ages of students. I don’t remember it being a challenging read, but it was such a good book that kid of all ages were touched by it. Keep up the great work, kate and Basi!


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