Japan Unit Study

Before we started Story of the World: Volume One, Jenna and I were learning about different countries every week. We’d get books from the library, watch YouTube videos, and (attempt to?) cook some ethnic foods from that country. At the end of the wee, we’d do a lapbook or she’d write an essay. I tried to keep things interesting for her, but after a while, she was pretty tired of it. Which is why I found it so funny that she decided she wanted to pick back up with a new country, when we finished SOTW last week.

This time, we’d be including Simon in our studies. They agreed on studying Japan first. Below are some of the resources we used, some of our projects, and a lapbook, some parts of which were gleaned from a favorite website, HomeschoolShare.com.

Books We Used
Exploring Countries: Japan, by Colleen Sexton
Social Studies Explorer: Japan, by Barbara Somervill
Japan Country File, by Michael March
Discover Japan, by Susan Crean
Country Topics: Japan, by Richard and Sheila Tames

Videos We Watched
Geography Kids – Japan
Mouk Discovers Japan


I found this technique to be really, really cool, and it held my kids’ attention. Their pictures are easily discernible from mine, as they were more creative and used more colors. You’ll need cardboard (for the fan template), a pencil, some good paper, crayons, watercolors, water, and brushes. You can read more about this awesome technique here.

I chose for them to do mini lapbooks this time, because full lapbooks can  take FOREVER unless you’re steadily working on them all week long, and we tend to save them for Fridays.


I don’t know how to rotate pictures in WordPress. Is it even possible?


Nice socks. 😉



Burpee Seeds

My seven-year-old’s latest entrepreneurial adventure has her starting vegetable plants from seed and then selling them when they are large enough to transplant outside. I wanted to teach her about profits, so we started off with a “loan” of $25, and she made a list of what she’d need from the store, and then we went to buy the seeds and soil (for eventually transplanting the seedlings into larger containers – we were starting with the peat starter pellets from Jiffy – I already had a mini greenhouse similar to this one
and also bought some of the seed starter pellets last year on clearance). Since we were at Lowe’s, she went with Burpee seeds. She planted them, and we waited. And waited. And waited. And just about everything came up, except the zucchini. She was pretty bummed about that. So I suggested she write to them.

Jenna isn’t a stranger to writing letters to companies, if you remember her letter to McDonalds last year. It’s a great way to develop a child’s writing skills, and it often results in a great response from the companies.

We sent off the letter, and I’ll be honest: I didn’t give it a second thought until a package arrived for her less than a week later.

To say she was excited was an understatement. They sent her even more seeds than she’d purchased! She was so grateful, and after we told everyone we know, we (and all of our family and friends) will be purchasing a LOT more Burpee products in the future. What a wonderful experience!

Story of the World

Back in February, during one of our many trips to our local library, I stopped by at the shelves they keep books for sale. Hardcover books and books on CD are $1, and softcover/paperback books are 50 cents. We are trying to significantly pare down our book collection (as we are admitted book hoarders — we have literally thousands, mostly of children’s books), so I don’t often get anything unless it’s *really* good, and this time it happened to be REALLY, REALLY good.

Any homeschooler worth their salt knows about the Story of the World collection from Peace Hill Press. They are great for many age groups, and have accompanying activities and pictures and maps with each chapter. I wound up with the readers (pictured above right, all 4 volumes), the first volume on CD (also in the above right picture), and the student book and activity pages  (in binders — makes it SO handy to make multiple copies for my kids), for a whopping SEVEN DOLLARS. These were in amazing condition, too, so I know anywhere else they’d be selling for at least a hundred bucks, altogether.

I felt a tad guilty (in spite of the librarian assuring me that it was fine, they really were that price, and that she was glad I got such a great deal – they know us well, there), so I gave them an even $10, and they put the extra $3 down as a donation to their children’s department. We just finished Volume One this week. Each day I would make copies of a coloring page from the chapter we were doing, and while I read the chapter, all 3 of my kids (even the little one, I’m sure, got something out of it, if only just by feeling included) would color their pictures (which went right into their portfolios). After I finished reading aloud from each section within the chapter, I’d ask them questions found in the accompanying books. I was always surprised by how much they remembered!

Young Entrepreneurs

Today was the last day of our co-op. We are so sad it’s over, especially as it might not pick back up, again, this fall. I’ve mentioned before how much we loved it, because it was just the right size, for the right amount of time every week, and covered the right subjects (the “fun” stuff). My oldest cried as we left (an hour later than we usually do, because everyone played at the nearby playground afterward). “I may never see some of them, again!” I know how she feels. When things are so good, it’s almost sad, because you’re afraid there’ll never be something that good, again. But there will be. We’ve just got to find it.

This last day was a really special one, because the three older groups (a co-ed 5-7-year old group, over which I and three other moms were, and then a girls 8-12-year old group, and a boys 8-12-year old group) got to have a little young entrepreneurs activity. They made various things at home, and then sold them to their peers during the co-op time. Each child got $30 in play money, and set the prices for their wares. It was wonderful, because no one really had a shortage of money, and as happy as they were to buy from each other, they were also so excited to sell. Even the kids in the 2-4-year-old group (of which my son is a part) got to come buy some things. It was just plain fun. I think if one really wanted to, one could devote an entire semester to teaching all about business: starting one, all the terminology and financials.


That’s a picture of the kids setting up. They sold so many things, from cookies and “decorate your own” mini cupcakes, to lemonade, to handmade yarn pompoms, to magnets, to jewelry, to “portraits drawn while you wait” (which I found utterly adorable).

By the end, everyone had sold out of everything, which made them all so happy and proud.


I’d almost forgotten: I was supposed to teach, that day, and wanted to do something extra, so it was suggested that I provide bags for the kids to decorate, if they so chose. There’s Jenna making one (and my youngest, in the background).

I wish I’d taken more pictures, but it was all just so much fun, I wound up forgetting just a few minutes after it started.

Monday Library Craft

Monday is our library day. We take back all of our library books, get some new ones, and do the craft they have every Monday. I keep meaning to take them to Story Time on a day they have it, but you have to pre-register online, now, and I always seem to forget. But we almost always make it there for the craft.

The craft is for little ones, since it’s from 9-11, when most of the big kids are in school, but Jenna, my 6-year-old, still enjoys them. They’re perfect for Simon (3 1/2), and Nora (17 months) has just graduated to working on them, too. There’s another craft time, on Wednesday afternoons, for older, school-aged kids, but I don’t know if they’d let Simon make one, too, and I don’t want him to feel left out. Next year will be rough, because Jen will really be too old for the younger craft, and Simon will still be too young for the older one…

The crafts are simple: usually coloring, with some stickers or a little glueing. Today’s was pretty cute. They handed out large snowman pictures to color, and a bag of mini marshmallows to “lick and stick” to make snowflakes. Nora scribbled a bit, then ate her marshmallows. Simon stuck almost all of his on his picture, and Jenna did about half and half.


I really love this library, and it’s obvious I’m not the only one – it’s always packed for the craft days, and for the story times, too (which is why they had to start requiring registration)! We’re developing a good relationship with the librarians, and I know as homeschoolers, that’s a really great thing to do.

A Letter From McDonald’s

Some months ago (I wish I could remember exactly when, and/or had taken a picture of it) Jenna decided, after yet another disappointing trip to McDonald’s, that she needed to write a letter. I looked up their corporate address (because while I’ve complained to our local franchise in the past, and they have taken great pains to correct the issues, I don’t think they regularly receive actual letters), and a letter was written; something to the effect of, “I really like going to your restaurant, and I love the PlayPlace, but you need to stop messing up my order.”

We’d forgotten all about until last week, when she finally received a response:


The coupon is for a free “sweet treat:” either a sundae, or a pie. If she’d complained to the local franchise, she probably would have received more, but then again, maybe not. It wasn’t so much about what she received, as it was about the process of writing a letter (we went over how to format a business letter and what makes it different from a personal letter), and the fact that she received a response, at all. Letter writing is a dying art we intend to keep alive, though communication with businesses, keeping in touch with family, and connecting with pen pals.

Here’s a picture of my sweet girl, opening her letter.


Slow Cooker Greek Lemon Chicken


I make this a lot, because it’s easy, because it reminds me of the Greek Festival I would attend with my family every year, back in New York, and because it’s absolutely delicious.

Five chicken thighs (my favorite cut to use in the slow cooker, because chicken breasts get too dry, and because I can get thighs for 68 cents a pound)
Greek seasoning (not necessary, just use salt and pepper if you don’t have)
1 tbsp or so of oregano
a few minced cloves of garlic
juice of one lemon
and another lemon, sliced.

Place chicken in slow cooker, season with Greek seasoning, oregano, salt, and pepper. Pour lemon juice on top, add garlic, top with lemon slices. Let cook on high for around 4 hours.

Take out out half the sauce (sometimes the thighs I have are a little lean, and there isn’t enough sauce to do this – you can add some chicken stock and/or more lemon uice) and use it to roast four potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-2 inch cubes. I added a little extra oregano to the potatoes, and 1tsp of semolina flour. And salt — it’s pretty hard to over-salt potatoes. Toss to coat. Roast at 400 degrees for about 30 minutes, then stir and add more liquid if necessary, return to oven for another 20-30 minutes.