Thursday, October 23, 2014

Grandfather's Journey with Five in a Row

As we were winding up our row of A Pair of Red Clogs, I asked the boys if they wanted to continue Japan with Grandfather's Journey, or move on to something else.  They requested to stay on Japan longer!  I love that Five in a Row is giving us flexibility to move in and out of current interests at our pace, but still offering me the ideas and accountability I need to stay focused outside of the basics.  It also turned out that right after we finished this unit, Grandfather's Journey was used in one of their co-op classes, so that was a nice way to wrap it up.

Grandfather's Journey unit study

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I set up the book Grandfather's Journey by Allen Say on top of our school shelf with some other books and items that tied into the various themes outlined in the Five in a Row manual.  The kids enjoy looking over everything at the beginning of the week, and it's a good way to "strew" and find out what might catch their interest!

As you may (or may not) have noticed, someone was apparently playing with our California card before I took this picture.  I didn't notice it was upside down at the time!

Grandfather's Journey is a sweet story about a man who traveled from Japan to America and loved the adventure, but longed for his old home.  The story gives us a glimpse into Grandfather's life, and how no matter where he made his home, he would always love the other country he had called home too.

When I row, I have ideas in my head about the various lessons in the manual, but I try to pick up on their questions and cues and go from there.  So while there were some great language arts and social studies lessons that I would have covered, there's only so much time in the day, and these are things we can always circle back around to at another time, or in another way.

Language Arts

True Story vs. Fiction and noticing details
This was not a lesson from the manual, but happened naturally.  I started the book by reading the title, naming the author and giving the boys a quick description of the book.  "Is it true or fake?" one asked.  "Well, I'll read it, and you decide."  So I read the book, they noticed the clogs and kimonos, the different people that grandfather met along the way, and Emory noticed the illustration of the young grandfather in the boat with a young woman and asked if he got married.  He was delighted that he was right.  When it was finished, I read the brief bio in the back about Allen Say, and Elliott determined the book was true.

Grandfather's Journey

Elliott did the copywork from the Grandfather's Journey printables at Homeschool Share.

Grandfather's Journey copywork

Social Studies 

Geography - Japan and California
We located both Japan and California on the map, but Elliott chose to put our story disk on California since that was Grandfather's favorite place in the United States, but more specifically near San Francisco, because that's where Grandfather made his home.

Grandfather's Journey

We reviewed some things we learned about Japan when we rowed A Pair of Red Clogs.  We colored this picture and learned about Mt. Fuji since Grandfather loved the mountains.

Mt. Fuji coloring page

We also colored a picture of grandfather's favorite place, California (that's Emory's green seawater!) and I read a bit about California from our state card.  We learned that fortune cookies are not Chinese in origin. According to our little card, they were invented by a Japanese immigrant living in California.  That turned out to be a really fun fact for this particular book, but it also led to more discussion on immigrants, and Elliott decided he'd rather be a tourist instead of moving to another country permanently.

California coloring page for Grandfather's Journey

Geography - Continents
I printed and laminated the continent cards from the Grandfather's Journey unit.  I used this blank map with coloring instructions for both boys, just so Emory didn't have to worry about labeling.  Emory just used the continent cards to compare the general shape and picked out the continents on the map!  He needed a little help with Europe/Asia but otherwise he really liked the activity.

continents for Grandfather's Journey

Transportation & Traveling 
We informally discussed the various types of transportation that Grandfather used during his travels, and also discussed other ways to travel.  Elliott informed me that the most exhausting types of transportation are walking and bicycling.  Another time Elliott was asking the Husband and I about where we'd visited, so we talked about places we (and pawpaw, who is a veteran) have traveled.


The boys asked questions about different landforms in the book naturally, so we did expand on this lesson a little.  I see how this could easily be classified under social studies as geography, but it's also considered earth science so I'm putting it here as a science lesson as described in the manual . . . although we did use the book Geography from A to Z as part of this activity.  We went through looking for different landforms that grandfather described or that were relevant to this row, as well as others that were familiar.  Then Elliott chose four landforms to draw on paper.  He chose a mountain, volcano, island and hills.


This was strewing at its finest.  I had set out some bird themed stuff with our rowing materials, including the drawing guide How to Draw Birds.  We hadn't touched these in regards to our Five in a Row time, and I hadn't mentioned them, they were just sitting around.  Elliott was browsing the drawing book, and he couldn't find a bird he wanted to draw.  We did end up discussing Grandfather's birds, but the book didn't have the specific species that Grandfather kept, so we got online to look at them.  This led to to the boys spending nearly an hour on All About Birds, looking up different birds and their sounds.  It turned into the boys trying to determine which bird sounded the "meanest" but the point is, they were intrigued by something they found, and willingly explored it on their own.  Elliott even returned to the website several times over the next few days on his own, and then asked if there was an "aquarium for birds" so I told him those were called aviaries.  He wants to visit one!  (There's nothing nearby for an impromptu field trip, so the Husband and I are trying to plan a weekend trip out of town.)

They did come back to How to Draw Birds and picked out some various birds to draw at different times.  They didn't want the typical backyard birds though . . . they were drawing peacocks, great horned owls, and Emory tried his hand at a Penguin.  Normally Emory loves to draw, on his own terms, but he's apprehensive about artwork that has a a specific outcome.  He was very unsure about the head/beak, but I was delighted he tried it on his own and didn't cry because it wasn't perfect.  I have a couple little boys who have perfectionist tendencies, so we're working on that little hurdle.


For Elliott, we discussed the lesson in the manual about grandfather's three week journey across the ocean.  I also printed an October calendar for Emory, so he could have the visual and practice writing his numbers.

Pattern Blocks
Since we were informally discussing transportation, I found these cute transportation pattern blocks, printed and laminated.  Emory enjoys pattern blocks right now anyway, and pulls them out on his own when they're within reach.


The boys definitely wanted to try origami when they saw the materials set out.  We read the book Fold Me a Poem by Kristine O'Connell George.

We already had origami paper on hand, which is why I chose this lesson from the manual.  After we read the book, I told them we could look online to find something to create, but they found some instructions within the origami paper itself, and wanted to start there.  They both did the beginner level swan and airplane.  This was another activity they wanted to do again in their free time.

Book Basket
I included other books related to Japan, birds and transportation, but the two prominent books for this row were Tea with Milk and Erika-San, both by Allen Say.

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  1. I love all the activities you did about Japan! It looks like your kids learned a lot.

    1. Thanks, my 7 year old requested to study Japan, so this is the 2nd part of that study. I love seeing where their interests take us!

  2. Fun, learning, and family :) awesome way to combine all these elements together!

    1. Those are my goals in homeschooling! :) Thanks for stopping by!