Konos: Japanese Tea Ceremony

Unit: Honor
Theme: Japan

The Japanese tea ceremony, also called the Way of Tea, is important in Japanese culture. There is a full ceremony of preparation and presentation of matcha, powdered green tea. Some tea gatherings may resemble English tea in that there are sometimes light snacks and sweets served along with the tea.

We had our own little Japanese Tea Ceremony. Although we decided to not make tatami mats that traditionally cover the floor of Japanese homes, we did find a tablecloth and pillows to sit on and made a low table by reusing a cardboard box covered with a tablecloth. The kids were excited to pull our their fans (only one of them has broken since we bought them!) We used our Japanese folding screens for decoration and the kids dressed in their finest "Japanese-like" costumes. Nicholas dressed as a Ninja and Rachel wore this beautiful oriental outfit that was in some clothes passed down to her from a dear friend.

For our light snacks we enjoyed our imported Japanese foods that we found at World Market. The kids have been bugging me every day to eat their Japanese food!

The pink "Hello Panda" cookies were really tasty. They are sweet little biscuits with a soft strawberry filling inside. The chips were very similar to Cheetos puffs so you know those were a big hit. We found a little red tin that looked like an Oriental food take-out box that had Hello Kitty on it. It was from Japan but the candy inside was just regular candy. The Yan Yan treat were sweet breadsticks with a cup of chocolate to dunk the sticks in. Fun and yummy!

We talked about growing tea, harvesting tea, different types of tea leaves and how they are steeped to make tea. I let Rachel smell the dried white tea leaves but she wasn't impressed and quickly handed them back to me.

In addition to the white tea, I also made an orange flavored herbal tea.

I personally love tea from The Republic of Tea. There are so many wonderful flavors and I love the selection of full loose tea. Loose tea is just as the name implies. It's loose in the tin, not in a tea bag. Loose tea is usually made of full whole leaves whereas tea bags are broken tea leaves or even the powdery, broken leaves left behind by full loose tea leaves. You can steep loose tea in a pot of hot water and then strain the leaves out as you pour your tea. However, if there is tea still in the pot then those leaves will continue to steep. Since some teas should only steep for 2-5 minutes, by leaving the leaves in the pot, your tea may end up being a bit bitter.

Instead I love to use these little teapots that have a filter cup that sits on the top. The loose tea goes in the filter cup then I pour the hot water over the leaves until the pot is full. Once it is finished steeping then I remove the filter cup and the tea can sit in the pot and it won't turn bitter.

Ok, enough of Tea Making 101.

We talked about the difference in color between the two teas and Rachel enjoyed stirring them.

I poured a small cup of each tea for the children to try. Nicholas drank both of his. The orange herbal tea was his favorite and he even asked for seconds as he continued to munch on his Japanese snacks.

Rachel tried one tea but ate all of the Hello Kitty candies and much of the Yan Yan chocolate sticks.

Then she decided that it would be more fun to just crawl around behind our Japanese folding screens.

Of course, Nicholas couldn't resist a little play time too and they chased each other around the screens.

Amazingly, we are still finding time to get our other subjects done like grammar, spelling, math, etc. But there is never as much excitement about doing that work as there is when we are working on Konos.

Konos: Making Japanese Screens

Konos Unit: Honor
Theme: Japan

We worked on making Japanese folding screens for our Japanese house. These screens are used in Japan to separate spaces in the home. We made small ones just for decoration.

We started with poster board and watercolor paint.

Nicholas went right to work creating a traditional Japanese scene.

Rachel, of course, did her own thing.

I love that she is able to participate in parts of our school day with Konos. It is very hands-on with projects that can be adapted to all ages.

Look at them! Quietly learning and creating...together...and having fun!

I think Konos is going to work well for us. It involved more prep work for me the night before but it is so much fun to learn by immersing ourselves in a subject for a few weeks, especially when there is such fun projects like this.

Once the screens dry, we will fold them in thirds so that they will stand up on their own. Rachel decided to pour her cup of brush washing water all over her poster board, just to see what would happen, so unfortunately she won't get to see hers stand as a screen. I had made a screen too and used up the last piece of poster board. But she had so much fun smearing the water all over her picture that I really don't think she feels like she's missing out on anything!

Konos: Japanese Scrolls and Clogs

Konos Unit: Honor
Theme: Japan

This morning I was looking over my lesson plans for the day when Nicholas woke up and came downstairs. I told him that we were going to make Japanese scrolls this morning and told him a little about what we would do. Rachel woke up shortly after this and I went to her room to get her dressed for the day. When I came back down, Nicholas had already gotten his scroll making supplies and was almost done with the project.

He said he was too excited to wait for me!

Isn't that how learning should be?

We're also going to make a lapbook about Japan. A lapbook is a hands-on way to reinforce learning by making mini-books and activity cards about the subject being studied. Then the mini-books are put together in a larger folder. It is fun for children to just sit with the folder over their lap (hence the name "lapbook") and read through it as a review of all that they have learned.

We are including mini-books about Japan as well as a few books that we have read. Here Nicholas is making a picture for the lapbook about the story we read this morning called, "A Pair of Red Clogs".

This book was one of the many wonderful Konos book recommendations this study on Honor and Japan. Mako, a little Japanese girl, was so excited to get a new pair of clogs painted with red lacquer that shone beautifully. This is the story of what happened after she cracked the new clogs playing the weather-telling game and so longed for a bright, shiny new pair to replace them that she almost did a dishonest thing.

We are really enjoying reading such wonderful stories that so perfectly reinforce what we are learning about Japan and Honor. Konos is such a fun way to learn!

Fun at NRH2O

We wrapped up summer with a trip to NRH2O Family Waterpark in North Richland Hills.

We got to the park shortly after they opened so there wasn't many people there yet. It was great because there were no lines for the big water slides! Nicholas and Daddy rode on them over and over and over again.

I spent a lot of time in the little kid area for Rachel. But even Nicholas can have fun there. He had fun pretending to leap frog over this frog!

Rachel loved this water slide. I was proud of her for doing it on her own!

This little boy had fun playing with Rachel. He followed her around for a while doing which ever slide she chose. So cute!

My favorite monkey!

There is a really fun water play area with five levels of wet fun for all ages, including 6 water slides, interactive water activities and a giant tipping beaker. It was a bit crazy and Rachel was a little nervous about going on any of these slides. I was trying to get her to go on a short tunnel water slide but she clinged to me and looked so sad.

I cheered her up a little and eventually got her to agree to give it a try.

Yay! She did it! And she wanted to do it again!

What a fun day at the waterpark!

I See You!!

You know if you walk in the kitchen and find Rachel hunkered over on a chair like this that it can't be a good thing.

Some might think the poor child was hurt or crying.

But we know better.

This position can only mean one thing. She is eating something she knows she isn't supposed to, most likely candy. However, she doesn't quite understand that just because she can't see us, it doesn't mean that we can't see her!

Konos: Map of Japan

Unit: Honor
Theme: Japan

Nicholas made a map of Japan. We found a good map on the internet and printed it in color. Nicholas taped the map to the table and then taped a piece of tracing paper over it. He traced the outline of Japan onto the tracing paper.

Then he used one of our library books about Japan to label the four main islands, Tokyo, Mt. Fuji, and the waters around Japan.

Next he colored the islands and retraced his original drawing with a Sharpie marker to help the lines stand out.

Nicholas really enjoyed this project. The addition of tracing paper to map making made it more fun for him because we haven't made maps like this before. I think we'll add tracing to our work more often!

Konos: Sushi

Konos Unit: Honor
Theme: Japan

We've learned about farming and growing rice in Japan. We've learned about fishing and ports. Rice and seafood are both staples in the Japanese diet and they are often served together in the form of sushi.

I was going to make sushi as part of our study on Japan. Keep in mind that not all sushi contains raw fish!

Our grocery store actually has a sushi bar where you can watch them prepare fresh sushi each day and I knew I could get some Nori (seaweed) there for making my own. But when we got there we decided it would be so much easier to just buy the sushi already made and just let the kids try it. So I took the lazy way out and we brought our sushi home from Kroger.

We did find these really awesome chopsticks for the kids though. They are plastic so they are durable and reusable. They have this cute little rubbery guy that attaches to the ends of the sticks to help hold them together. It makes using chopsticks so much easier for little kids.

I was proud of how adventurous the kids were. They were ready to just jump right in and try it.

Nicholas thought it was really weird at first but still he finished it and even had a second one!

Even Rachel gave it a try.

After dinner, Nicholas spent some time in his room and came back out with this incredibly creative Lego Sushi!

I love how he takes something he's learned about and reflects it back in his own way. It shows that he 1) paid attention 2) enjoyed what he learned enough to keep thinking about it after he has left the table and 3) that he is able to take ownership of the concept and make it his own. I love that teaching him at home allows him the freedom to continue his learning on his own in this way!

A Unit Study Approach to School

I thought I had all of our curriculum picked out months ago. However, there is so much wonderful material out there that it just boggles my mind sometimes.

We are going to change some of our plans and try a unit study this year. Unit studies are very different from the way traditional school is taught. Instead of having designated time and textbook for each subject, the subjects are all woven through a common theme. I have found a great curriculum called Konos that I think will help me include Rachel in some of our projects.

I'll give you a simple example of how a unit study works. Konos lays out their lessons by character traits such as Attentiveness, Stewardship, Obedience, etc. Then within each character trait there are specific topics that each cover a 2-4 week period. They also have a great online resource that helps gives parents extra background information, lesson plans, and basic encouragement to help share the material with their children. I've signed up for a trial of the online sessions and the trial is only available for a 3 week study of Japan under the character trait of Honor. So we are going to start studying Japan for the first 3 weeks of school.

Through this unit study, we will cover Bible study by learning Bible scriptures about honor and loving all of God's people. Science will be done by learning about tectonic plates, earthquakes, volcanoes, and tsunamis including an experiment or two. We will study the history and culture of Japan by learning about their crops, their food, their way of life including cooking and eating some real Japanese food. We will also learn about the martial arts, samurais, and more modern events such as WWII and the recent devastation from the earthquake and tsunami. We will be learning a lot of new vocabulary words through this unit and we will practice spelling with these word lists. We will learn about servanthood through a good works program to help tsunami victims. We have tons of great literature from our library for reading, both fiction and non-fiction about Japan. I have books for Nicholas to read aloud to me and I have other books to read aloud to Rachel. And of course, we have lots of art projects.

We're taking a slow approach to school this week just to get back in the swing of things but Nicholas has been so excited to start learning about Japan that I actually started a few things last week.

We went to World Market to just browse the interesting imported foods and products to see if we could find some Japanese products to try. The kids each got to pick out one Oriental looking fan. I'm sure at least one of these will be broken before we actually use them with our Japanese costumes but fortunately they were only $2.00 each.

We found lots of food from Japan. We got some supplies for our upcoming Japanese tea ceremony including a few Japanese cookies to go with our tea. This store has so many unique items from all over the world that it is easy to spend an hour just browsing.

At one point I had to take the kids to the bathroom and for some reason Nicholas was nervous about going in the men's bathroom alone. I checked the women's bathroom and no one was in there so we all went in there. As I in the stall helping Rachel, I heard Nicholas wonder aloud, "What in the world is this?" I opened the door to find him studying the tampon dispenser! "Ummm, that's just girly stuff." Fortunately, he let that one drop!

I thought it was neat that World Market has a promotion where through September 30th they are donating 100% of the net proceeds of sales of all products produced in Japan to Direct Relief International to help victims of the earthquake and tsunami earlier this year. It was a great introduction into some of the humanitarian efforts around the Japan disaster that I had planned on discussing with Nicholas.

First Day of School

Yesterday was our first day back to school, homeschool that is!

We started the day with a healthy breakfast of Cheerios and fruit - and a silly-looking smile.

I had hidden the textbooks around the playroom and living room and the kids had fun searching for them!

I just can't get over how much fun Nicholas had looking for his textbooks. When he found his last one, he said, "I want more books!"

We usually take our first day of school picture outside the front door on our way to school. But since we don't have to leave for school now we took our first day of school picture on the couch where we spend a lot of time reading each day.

Of course, uniforms are required at our school so Nicholas came dressed as a Ninja. I love to watch him get so excited over learning. It makes me smile!!

Surprisingly, instead of having a princess join us at the table, we had the honor of meeting Darth Vader. He sure seems shorter in person than I expected.

We started the day with Bible Study and learning a memory verse. I used a song and hand motions to help the kids learn the verse. I was surprised how quickly they picked it up after only one day. Even Rachel can recite some of it and she wasn't even really trying to learn it.

We took a break and spent some time outside. Rachel played with bubbles and Nicholas practiced archery.

The markings on the target are very faint but it was almost a bullseye!

We got through most of the work I had planned for the day but I did wrap things up a little earlier than usual just to help us all ease back into the routine again.

We decided to have a little first day of school celebration with cupcakes after dinner. Rachel poured and mixed all of the ingredients together. She was so excited and announced, "I made them all by myself!"

I love seeing her little feet standing on the kitchen chair. Such a symbol of "little-ness". Nicholas is too big to need a chair anymore :(

Of course, the chef should get to lick the mixing paddle right?

Just remember...Messy means fun!

I made them each a special cupcake. One for Nicholas that says "2nd" for 2nd grade and one for Rachel that was going to say "Preschool" but I couldn't write that small with icing so it ended up just saying "Pre-K".

Happy First Day of School!