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. 😉



Lapbook Friday – Volcanoes

We simplified this week’s lapbook pretty extensively, because we are still working on our rental house that’s 4 hours away. On top of it, all of my daughter’s activities started up right at once, and I’m teaching three classes at our local homeschool co-op, this semester (never again!!). Anyway, without further ado, I give you…. The volcano lapbook.


Volcanoes: Fire from Below, by Robert Coupe (we mostly just looked at the pictures, as it was a little too advanced for my 5-year-old, and we had so many others to read through)
Volcanoes! by the Editors of TIME For Kids and Jeremy Caplan (this was one my – advanced reader – daughter was able to read to me. The pictures captured the attention of both my 5-year-old and 3-year-old.)
Volcano Explorers, by Pam Rosenberg (another great book with large print and some cool pictures.)
The Magic School Bus: Inside the Earth, by Joanna Cole (this was about more than just volcanoes, but it explained exactly where the magma is inside the earth, and how volcanoes erupt. Plus, anything Magic School Bus is a hit, in our house)
Volcano! by Ellen Prager (geared toward younger children, this book has pretty illustrations but didn’t go much into detail)

That was all, this week. I know we missed out on viewing what are sure to be some great videos, online, but we just didn’t have the time. I’m happy we’re still keeping up with our lapbooks, though, simple as they may be.



Lapbook Friday – Butterflies

As usual, my 5-year-old daughter picked this week’s topic for Lapbook Friday, and we studied it throughout the week by reading. No videos, this time, as I didn’t have the opportunity to find any on YouTube or elsewhere (we’re *still* working on our rental, nearly 4 hours away, every weekend, and it’s been taking up a lot of our energy).

We used the pre-done set from HomeschoolShare.com (love those guys), picking what I thought was most appropriate for my daughter and leaving the rest. 

I also found a Monarch butterfly from this website to print for the front of the lapbook. My daughter enjoyed coloring it to look like “the real thing.”


Butterflies, by Debbie and Brendan Gallagher (simple text my daughter could read, herself – although for now, we save all of our lapbook-themed books for read-alouds throughout the week)
Butterflies, by Julie Murray (even simpler – my 3-year-old appreciated some of the information in this one. Nice, large pictures, too.)
Classifying Insects, by Andrew Solway (just the 2 pages on butterflies and moths)
An Extraordinary Life: The Story of a Monarch Butterfly, by Laurence Pringle (this one was my favorite — my daughter sees Monarchs now and then and we were fascinated by this in-depth look at their life cycle and migration)
The Prince of Butterflies, by Bruce Coville (a little strange, but what has he written that isn’t?!) It’s a pretty picture book, if nothing else. My kids really liked it, I just thought it was weird.)

And a great jumping-off point to beginning discussions about the Holocaust (I have a fascination – almost to the point of obsession – with the Holocaust but my kids are still too young to comprehend it): The Butterfly by Patricia Polacco tells the story of a family in France who harbored a Jewish family in their cellar and kept them safe from the Nazis.

We’ve been talking about raising caterpillars next year. What a fun addition that would be to a butterfly unit study!DSC_0281 DSC_0284 DSC_0285

Lapbook Friday – Building a House

 This lapbook took two Fridays to complete, for a few reasons: 1) We used the blank templates from HomeschoolShare.com and filled it in with our own information (tough when you consider my oldest is only 5), 2) We are between tenants and need to fix up our rental property (which is more than 3 hours away from where we currently live) before we can get new renters in there (for the record, if a landlord says no dogs, if you’re going to ignore that, AT LEAST CLEAN UP AFTER YOUR DANG DOGS. We have their security deposit, but still. We’re replacing like all the flooring in a 2100-square-foot house. Insane). And 3) We just got lazy. I won’t lie. We did. We’ve done a lot playing, lately, and just enjoying the time at home before the craziness of the school year begins. Sure, none of us will be going to “school,” but we’ve got a lot coming up. My 3-year-old is going to a local preschool a neighbor of mine runs out of her home for a few hours a week. The 5-year-old is starting ballet next week, and gymnastics soon, too. We’ll all be going to an ASL class in a couple of weeks, and we’re starting back up at the local homeschool co-op, too. It is SO true, what they say about homeschooling: you don’t have to worry about being “stuck at home.” If anything, you have to learn to turn down outside activities. My husband’s convinced we’ve yet to learn that. But it’s early yet in our homeschooling journey, and the kids are still young, so darn right, we’re going to have some fun.

This time Jenna asked to do her lapbook on building; building a house, more specifically. She insisted on titling it just “Building,” but we focused mainly on the steps to building a house, the machines and materials used, and the types of workers found on the construction site. We prefaced the lapbook by a trip to the library and viewing some videos on YouTube, as well as visiting a few websites. Here are some of our favorites.

How Stuff Works – House Construction (this goes into greater depth than we needed but the steps on page 2 were useful)
Building Apps for Kids (we ended up downloading Hoopa City with some of my Amazon points. My kids love the Dr. Panda games.)

Building our House, by Jonathan Bean (a wonderful picture book for young children on building a house. My kids really, really liked this one, and I did, too.)




Lapbook Friday – Dinosaurs and Animal Classification

Last week I asked my five-year-old what lapbook she wanted to do for our next Lapbook Friday. She excitedly said, “Animals!” “What animal?” I asked. “Just animals,” she answered, “all of them.” So I did my best to cater to that. We used another wonderful set of pre-made lapbook materials from HomeschoolShare.com, picking what we liked and leaving the rest (like we’ve been doing with most aspects of homeschooling, thus far). We used some supplemental materials, listed below, to help round out the study. I think next week we’ll spread it out over all the days so it’s not quite so intensive. Jen was exhausted at the end, but very proud of her finished product.


Fascinating Science Projects: Animal Life, by Sally Hewitt (we’ll be coming back to this one in the coming weeks; the projects are short, easy to duplicate, and hold a young child’s attention very well)
The Usborne Internet-Linked First Encyclopedia of Animals, by Paul Dowswell (we didn’t bother with the internet links, just looked through the book and learned some characteristics of different animal groups)


For my 3-year-old, we did a dinosaur-themed book, which I knew he’d like. We used some of this set from HomeschoolShare.com, but not much, because we are not a creationist family, and much of it tied in the dinosaurs with creationism. We just used the memory game included in the PDF, coloring and pasting some of the pictures into the file folder, and then making matching cards and a pocket for them. The result is a fun little match game that’ll let him learn some of his favorite dinosaurs and their names and features. It was just enough for him, today. He was too jittery to sit still for much else, and he now has a fun book to show his dad, this evening.  

dinosaur1 dinosaur2

Lapbook Friday – All About Me

We do “school” four days a week, and on Friday we do lapbooks. If you’ve never heard of lapbooks, don’t be ashamed – up until a little while ago, i hadn’t either. They’re a really fun way for hands-on, visual learners to become familiar with an also reinforce topics they’re studying. Lapbooks can be about anything, and can be formatted in any way, but typically, they are made from poster board or file folders and are large enough to fit on a child’s lap (go figure, huh?). From there, they’re filled with interactive informational goodies: flaps to lift, things to flip through or turn or pull out, pockets and pictures. The kids have ownership over the creation of these books, they can make them as simple or complex as they want, and they control the information that goes inside, as well as the design. I’ve never been into scrapbooking but this, *this* has real value.

To kick off our very first Lapbook Friday, we decided on an All About Me theme. We used the fantastic free lapbook template from Homeschool Share (I’m hoping to create new, unique ones as time goes on and my children get older and can contribute more to the process and acquiring the information) for both. Obviously my five-year-old’s was going to have more elements, as she can write and has a longer attention span than the three-year-old. But they both got something out of it, and we all had a great time. It was relaxing, it was fun, and it’s something they’re proud of and can show off. My son is enjoying looking through what he calls his “All About Simon” book.

A little more information about their construction: we took a posterboard from the Dollar Tree and cut it in half. I folded the ends toward the center, for my 3-year-old’s book, and accordion folded it for my 5-year-old’s book (which, she was happy to discover, gave her “two books in one”). 

allaboutme1 allaboutme2 allaboutme3 allaboutme4 allaboutme5 allaboutme6