Friday, August 14, 2009

Off to Japan

So we're sort of ramping up, starting this week, to some semblance of "school" around these parts. Inspired by a Konos unit that I downloaded from, we've zipped across the Pacific to explore the country of Japan for a few weeks.

This is how I operate, when I'm firing on all cylinders: I almost NEVER come up with my own ideas out of the clear blue sky. But give me a little gas in my tank (i.e. some "starter" ideas from another more clever, creative source), and I'm off and putt-putting along. In this case, the Konos curriculum's suggestions got me to start looking around us at the amazing resources our beloved city has to offer (a Japanese garden at Zilker! An origami exhibit at the Wildflower Center! the Austin Bonsai Society! Restaurants galore! My friend who knows how to make sushi!). I also hit two different nearby libraries and cleaned out their Japanese folktale section and any other books on Japan I could scrounge for, as long as they looked interesting. No dry facts, please. I know what will make my kids' eyes glaze over.

So yesterday, I had a few minutes while the kids were at tae kwon do to run by our nearest Goodwill store, where the lingerie section yielded two silk Victoria's secret bathrobes which I fully intend to upcycle into kimonos for the girls. Maybe I was just high on dark chocolate. Or maybe Camille slipped something hallucinogenic into her pool water that morning. Because you know me and sewing. A more appropriate word for this project might turn out to be "downcycling."

Ian and his friend Truman were playing some video game over here this morning that was seriously about to give me an aneurysm (it doesn't take much). Normally, I tend to let things run their course and not micromanage these guys (once when I was tempted to, I held off for a few minutes and they came up with the idea of leaving each other a trail of written clues all over the house, leading to themselves in a hiding place. Brilliant.).

"Time to turn it off, guys!" I chirped. "We're going to do school!"

"Hooray!" cried Ian, "a learning opportunity I can share with my friend!" "I just love how you enrich my every visit with educational moments!" chimed in Truman.

Okay, not really. Maybe in a galaxy far, far away. On this planet, what actually transpired was more like: "But Mo-om, I have a friend over!"

Bravely, I soldiered on. Gathering my pupils around me, I asked who knew what the Ring of Fire was. Eliza and Caroline were sure it was something through which trained lions jumped at a circus. Truman, whose older brother is a geography genius, knew it had something to do with continents surrounding the Pacific Ocean. Ian was too busy indulging in what I call verbal diarrhea.

So we discussed the Ring of Fire and how it relates to Japan, I showed amazing pictures of Volcano National Park and Mt. St. Helen's from National Geographic magazines (how does anyone homeschool without National Geographic?), we used the magazines to dramatize tectonic plates shifting under the ocean, we ogled photos of cars buried by Mt. St. Helen's, we defined "magma" and "lava syrup" and then each child got a jar of baking soda to take outside. They set up their jars in a "ring of fire" around the tire swing" surrounded them with mud to look like mountains, and Caroline poured in vinegar tinted with red food coloring.

Mud, explosions, weird photos, words like "eruption" and "BOOM!"
Class dismissed.

Oh, and we did a bento-style lunch. That was a huge hit (I found the tray and bowls on clearance at Pier One the other day). It also made clear to me that I need to return to Anthropologie for more snack bowls. You know, for the sake of homeschooling. These are sacrifices we must make.

P.S. Any ideas, resources, or sewing skills you want to throw my way are most gratefully accepted. Gotta keep that tank gassed up. Sayonara.


Raji P. said...

What! Anthropologie has kitchen stuff?! a kitchen stuff store that I did not know about?! oh no. If I get hooked, I shall hold you solely responsible.

Certified kitchen-stuff-a-holic,

Eclectic Mama said...

I can see why Truman loves to come visit. Y'all have a tire swing and a mud pile AND chickens! What could be better? Well, obviously ... volcanoes!!! If you're interested, I've got a great book on Japan that shows you how to make all sorts of stuff like samurai swords. Hmm, now just where to find it ...

Hannah said...

Oh Raji, you are soooo in trouble. The wares at Anthropologie are just so lovely and ... so pricey. But those little latte bowls are both lovely and cheap, so we indulge in those! Have fun!

Hannah said...

Camille, I would love to borrow that book! I'm surprised you haven't "gifted" it to me already, LOL!