Unit Study on Japan

Unit Study Japan
Connor has long been enamored with Japan.  He talks of it often.  He checks books out from the library.  It only made sense then for me to spend a week with him "officially" learning about Japan.

We don't always do child-led unit studies, but I do try to make them a part of our homeschool.  Usually when I have scheduled us to review things or take a break I'll do child-led instead.  Children learn so much when it's a topic they love.  It is also a great opportunity to introduce new things they wouldn't have thought to learn on their own.  (for this unit that topic was haiku).

Last year we spent 2 separate weeks learning on Japan.  Once with A Pair of Red Clogs and once with Grandfather's Journey.

For this unit study I included all the kids in various ways - ages 2-7.

For Sam, I just did a color focus, since he's just 2.  His color was black - for Ninjas.  lol.  We read Black (Colors) by Nancy Harris.

We started out the week by reading some facts on Japan from the Children's Atlas of God's World.  Then Emma and Connor colored a map of Japan from Around the World Coloring Book.


We read several books, for fun.

Wink: The Ninja Who Wanted to be Noticed by J.C. Phillipps.  We've read this before and I didn't care for it.  However, when Connor learned we were to have a week of learning about Japan, he begged for me to get this again from our library.  I think kids love to relate to books where the main character doesn't behave as is expected.

Nighttime Ninja by Barbara DaCosta.  I almost didn't get this one because of the bad reviews saying it was "too young" for xyz age.  Connor is 7 and I didn't want him to feel like I thought he was a baby.  Connor seen it at the library and insisted it go in our bag.  This book ended up being his favorite book of the week.  Few words is not something to shy away from in fear it is dumbed down for your kid.  It opens up creativity as they soak in the illustration.  Connor is capable of reading at a 5th grade level ... maybe higher.  (He's currently reading the Star Wars series ..!!?)  Again, he loved this simple Ninja book.

The Three Ninja Pigs by Corey Rosen Schwartz.   We didn't actually borrow this one from our library, but it's been on our list for several months and is always checked out.

Ninja! by Arree Chung.  Connor's words:  "It's like awesome.   So like he pretends to be a Ninja and he's like climbing up onto a bookshelf and jumps onto his DAD!" 

Night of the Ninjas (Magic Tree House, No. 5) by Mary Pope Osborne.  We own this one and Connor reads it often.

History/Social Studies:

Much of Connor's schooling is simple now that he can read so well.  I carefully chose some age appropriate books (and some higher level) for him to look through and read on his own.

Magic Tree House Fact Tracker #30: Ninjas and Samurai: A Nonfiction Companion to Magic Tree House #5: Night of the Ninjas (A Stepping Stone Book(TM)) by Mary Pope Osborne.  This is the non-fiction companion to the Night of the Ninjas, as stated. 

Samurai (Torque Books: History's Greatest Warriors) by John Devin; 24 pages.  Connor's thoughts:  "I learned that being a Samurai is really hard training because they make you like go around and like walk in snow in bare feet for miles!!".

Spotlight on Japan (Spotlight on My Country) by Bobbie Kalman; 32 pages.  This is one that wasn't so interesting to Connor as the Ninja and Samurai were.  I read bits of it to him during lunch one day and we learned some really interesting customs.

I Live in Tokyo by Mari Takabayashi.  We had checked this book out before and it is so full of information, written month by month.  We didn't really focus, last time, on anything other than the Kanji writing, so I grabbed it again to revisit and learn a bit more. 

Art/Language Arts:

We've learned about Japan several times now, and yet we've never discussed the art of a Haiku.  I found this book, Haiku: Learn to express yourself by writing poetry in the Japanese tradition, at the library to help us along.  It is super thorough.  We took it one step at a time, day by day and wrote together our first poems. 

This task was really hard for him, but he was a good sport.  He's only 7 so he didn't quite have the vocabulary to effectively use descriptions like was asked, and I am okay with that.

I even gave him my own example:
little goldfish
gliding gracefully
round and round
Obviously he's confident in his own attempts instead. :)

Connor remembered Origami from our other units on Japan, and begged to do some again.  I found an origami snowman online and thought it could serve a dual purpose.  It could be a craft to do together, plus a flat fun thing to mail off to our sponsored child, showing her what a snowman might look like.

Hands-On Learning:

banana sushi roll

With our last units I had made Connor candy sushi.  This time around I wanted something healthier and much more simple.  With perfect timing my mom sent me a link for Banana Sushi.  Connor is allergic to peanuts, so we used almond butter.  Since first making our Banana Sushi, the recipe has sort of exploded all over Pinterest in various forms. 

It really is simple and quick to make, kid friendly, healthy, bite sized and versatile.  All wins.

I couldn't whip these up fast enough for my three little eager ninjas.

Connor really makes the hands-on learning so simple in our homeschool.  He soaks up facts from his books and then incorporates them into our play all on his own.  He made sure that everyone had a pillow to sit on, because in Japan, they sit on cushions (on the floor).

Connor is always pleading with us to take him to a Japanese restaurant.  We happen to be very blessed to live in a very culture rich area with markets and restaurants.  We took him to a his very first (real!) sushi restaurant.  There are many to choose from in our area, so we went with the easiest (kid-friendly) one which was in the mall.

additional learning:

NOVA: Secrets of the Samurai Sword - a documentary
Japan - National Geographic

Linking-up with:

Weekly Wrap-Up
Hip Homeschool Moms


  1. How did he like the sushi? I'm so curious! We have done the banana sushi too, Kids LOVED it!

    1. I don't think he liked it as much as he expected, but he was a trooper about it all. He tried all we bought at least once and was very polite about it.


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