We jumped into our Adventure Through China unit this morning, and I feel we made good work of building a solid foundation for the next few weeks of study. Katie met the objectives today of: 1) Locating China on the globe (it turns out she can also now locate Japan, North and South Korea, Russia, India, and Thailand in that area); 2) Describing the meaning of the symbols/colors on the Chinese flag; 3) Naming the two major rivers and identifying the desert and mountain regions; 4) Naming one major Chinese crop; 5) Identifying at least three major inventions (compass, paper, kite, gunpowder) to emerge from China; 6) Understanding how the story of Nian relates to the Chinese New Year; and 7) Identifying other hallmarks for which China is known (panda bears, The Great Wall, Confucius, etc).We now have a framework for two of our upcoming science-and-art projects this week: making homemade paper and construction a rudimentary compass.

The kiddos also had their first immersion into the music of Yo-Yo Ma and cello this morning. I know he is on other playlists, but we talked a bit about who he is and listened to his whole “Classics” album. Eric, in particular, really responded to the combination of cello and piano, as he kept bobbing his body in time to the music. I could see the music speaking to him.

I set up two stations for our China map lesson, one for Katie and one for her brother. I found this printable map at www.apples4theteacher.com. Love that site. The kiddos colored the desert ranges, and then they drew in mountains down by the Himalayas (I helped Eric with that part). I also had them draw in the two major rivers. We cut out Katie’s map (and later her colored flag) and glued them to a big piece of poster board (labeled “China”) that we have hanging by our table. As we collect artifacts from our studies, we’ll glue them on as a reminder of the knowledge we’re gaining.

While Eric was napping, I let Katie use the Mac to work on an “Ancient China” web quest. This was a simple web quest, not terribly lengthy but full of fun little stops. It came with a printable worksheet, too, to use to keep track of our findings. This is the first web quest I have had Katie do, and we enjoyed it. We added to it by looking up You Tube footage of panda bears and watching part of a History Channel piece on The Great Wall.

Katie was able to find the Chinese symbols for her name (we used her nickname “Katie”) online. I actually drew them out (amazed at the beauty of their intricacy), and then Katie traced over them with red marker.

Finding more information about China online… Technology very much makes home schooling so rich and fun and doable. My goal for this unit is not to spend any money out of pocket for our materials (although I am dithering over whether to spend a little on silkworms, and fortunately I have an iTunes gift certificate if I want to purchase traditional Chinese music). I could go crazy at the teaching supply store, but I resolved to find everything online and to upcycle, recycle, or innovate for our science and art projects. So far, I have found everything I need and want (and more) online. I am even thinking of using clips of tai chi instruction on You Tube for one of our morning breaks. With the Apple TV, we can play in on the big screen and follow along like a phys. ed. class. We’ll see if I can meet this challenge of the “free unit.”

We also chose for our next free-reading, longer book a Nancy Drew mystery The Mystery of the Fire Dragon (#38). It is about the disappearance of a young Chinese girl, and we are actually receiving good information for our unit in the exposition. Ned Nickerson is currently in Hong Kong, and I think both Carson Drew and his daughter will be travelling there at some point. I love how we are able to stick with our Nancy Drew series (which Katie is very “into” right now) and yet still find one that connects to our unit. It works for me!