First Japanese Lapbook — Hermit Crabs!

Every summer, elementary school kids in Japan are expected to do some independent study during their summer vacation and then present their findings to the class when they return to school in the fall.  Some kids do science experiments and others learn more about a topic they are interested in, but the kids are free to decide what to learn about.  This year Austin wanted to learn more about hermit crabs and he thought it would be fun to do it lapbook style.  As far as I can tell, very few people in Japan know about lapbooking, so my guess is that there are not many Japanese lapbooks out there in the world and this may be the only one ever made in Japanese about hermit crabs.

To find out information about these intriguing animals, Austin used a favorite Japanese book we have that gives instructions on how to keep various kinds of pets.  I  also helped him find Japanese and English websites about hermit crabs — called “yado kari” in Japanese.  “Yado kari” literally means house borrowing, which fits hermit crabs since they go around borrowing shells to use as a house.   Since we couldn’t find any pre-made materials for making a hermit crab lapbook in Japanese, we used used an English one we found to give us ideas and then used some free type-it-in lapbooking templates from to make our own materials.

Austin made a mini book about what hermit crabs eat and another with interesting facts about them.  He also made a life cycle wheel, cards with photos of different types of hermit crabs, a diagram labeling their body parts, and a flip book showing thier predators and prey.  He also drew a picture of what a hermit crab’s habitat should look like and made a hermit crab out of origami paper.

Here are links to the websites we used as resources for this project.  Many of them are in English, so they can be used by non-Japanese speaking hermit crab fans as well. 🙂

English websites:

Hermit crab lapbook we found online:

You Tube video for how to make an origami hermit crab:

Japanese Websites:

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Making Kanji Fun — Part 2: Low Tech and High Tech Ideas

I am continuing my quest to make kanji learning fun and enjoyable for my kids.  I stumbled upon a super simple idea that Austin and Ethan seem to really like.  When given the choice of how to practice kanji at home, this is currently the method they always choose.  They have a kanji workbook from UICS (their Japanese school) that they are going through.  After they complete a page in their workbook, I use a memo pad and magic marker to write the kanji on one piece of paper and the readings for that kanji on another.  Instead of playing concentration with those kanji “cards” (which would take too long), I have the kids separate the kanjis from the readings and then lay the cards all out on the floor face up so that they can see both the kanji and the readings.  The boys then go through and match the readings with the kanjis.  Once they have paired them all, I go through and check to make sure the pairings were correct.  If they were, they are done.  If there were several wrong or if I noticed that they seemed like there were several that they were unsure of when pairing the cards, then I will have them separate them again and play the kanji matching game one more time to really solidify the kanji and their readings in their minds.  So far, this has been an enjoyable, relatively painless way for them to begin instantly recognizing the kanji they are studying and I have been impressed at how they are able to rattle off all the readings of the kanjis in each set I have made for them.  The standard way to study kanji in Japan is just to write it a million times.  But this gets old fast for Austin and Ethan and I have noticed that they can copy the kanji ten times on “auto-pilot mode” but then not be able to remember the reading or how to write it if I take the book away and quiz them on it.  So, this game seems to be an effective way to help them keep the kanji in their long-term memory after they have done the traditional writing of the kanji in their workbooks.

Another fun way the boys sometimes practice kanji is through iPad apps.  There’s a series in the App Store now called Kanji Yubi Doriru (which means drills for writing kanji on the screen with your finger) that covers the kanji learned in elementary school from first through sixth grade.  I got the free version of the second grade kanji app for Ethan last year and he liked it, so I upgraded that one and purchased the rest in the series so that Austin and Ethan (and later Katie) could  use them to practice kanji when they didn’t feel like writing in a workbook.  I also have a free app called Kanji Ninja that quizzes kids on all 1006 of the elementary school kanji, though we haven’t used this one as much so far.  There’s just something about getting to use a screen for homeschool that ignites a spark of interest in the subject, especially when it’s a subject they aren’t naturally all that excited about to begin with.  The Yubi Doriru apps have a place for practicing the kanji on the iPad screen and also quizzes for how to write and read the kanji.  To see part one of this post, go here.

Whenever we can add even a little bit of “fun factor” to the learning of kanji (or any other subject) the boys are very responsive and are much more whole-hearted in their studies.  But, isn’t that true for everyone? Don’t we all prefer to do something or learn something when it’s fun instead of boring?   I recently came across this YouTube video by the Volkswagon company that illustrates this truth in an interesting way.   The company showed how they could get more commuters in a Swedish subway station to take the stairs instead of the escalator by turning the stairs into a giant piano.  Volkswagon calls this “Fun Theory.”   I first saw this Volkswagon video and read an inspiring post about incorporating Fun Theory into our homeschooling over at this blog by a lady named Laura Grace Weldon.  I really like her blog and plan to follow her posts for more inspiration in my own homeschooling.

Here are a few photos of the boys playing their kanji matching game a few days ago.  Notice the third buddy who was included in the study session. 🙂

A Goal Accomplished: 50 Books!

“I want to read all fifty of the books in the Kaiketsu Zorori series, Mom!” Austin told me four months ago.

It was the start of the new year, and a school assignment was for the boys to come up with a goal they wanted to accomplish during 2012.  Austin had just begun to get interested in a Japanese children’s book series aimed at boys called Kaiketsu Zorori, which is a silly, slapstick series about the ongoing adventures of a sly super hero fox and his two sidekicks.  It’s not exactly great literature, but it was the first Japanese book series that Austin and Ethan had shown interest in reading, so I was quite happy that they had found something they were interested in and I could see it was helping them gain fluency in reading Japanese.

“That sounds like a great goal, Buddy!” I replied, thinking that it would probably take a VERY long time for him to read fifty whole books.  But, here we are just four months later and he has already accomplished his goal!  Using a list of all fifty titles in the series as his guide, Austin tenaciously read (and greatly enjoyed!) every book on the list, crossing off each one as he read it.  Ethan has also read several of the Kaiketsu Zorori books and has set a goal for himself of reading 18 books before the end of the year.  I’m excited to see him accomplish his goal too!

Great job, Austin!  Now what are you going to read next??

The last book in the series that Austin read. He’s happy he accomplished his goal, but a little sad that there aren’t anymore books left for him to read.

Ethan’s in the middle of reading this book in the series.

Katie can’t read Japanese yet, but she enjoys looking at the pictures.

A Star Wars… Apron!

At UICS, Austin and Ethan occasionally get to make things in the kitchen.  They always look forward to days like that. 🙂   In Japan when kids work in the kitchen at school, there is a set uniform.  They need to wear a bandana tied on their head (to keep their hair from getting into the food), a doctor’s mask (to keep germs out of the food in case they cough or sneeze), and an apron (to keep their clothes clean).  It’s easy to find aprons for kindergarten boys because many Japanese kindergartens require the kids to wear smocks for some of the day (like when they are doing crafts or eating lunch) to keep their clothes clean.  So, the stores sell smocks with bullet trains, bugs, or famous cartoon characters on them that boys get excited about.

But, for the elementary school set, it’s a little hard to find an apron that is large enough and boyish enough for a guy to want to wear it to school.  I went looking awhile back for a school apron for Austin and just could not find anything boyish-looking.  So, I decided to improvise and buy a very plain adult-sized apron at the dollar store, bring it home, and have Austin decorate it with whatever he wanted.  He decided on a Star Wars theme and I think it turned out pretty cool!  This is definitely a one-of-a-kind apron!  After seeing this, Ethan suddenly became dissatisfied with his school apron and wanted to make a Star Wars one for himself!  I haven’t gotten around to getting one for Ethan yet, but when I do I’ll try to remember to post photos of his creation too! 🙂  Just click on the photos to see more detail.

Loft Beds!!

While Katie and I were getting some much needed R & R in San Diego, Bryan stayed home to hold down the fort and take care of Austin and Ethan.  He and the boys also spent three days working on a couple of cool building projects.  First, they converted the boys’ old bunkbed into a loft bed for Katie and moved it into her room.  Then, they built a new double-wide loft bed for the boys from scratch!  Austin and Ethan each got to use Daddy’s power drill to screw the screws into their own side of the loft bed and they had a hand in other parts of the project as well.  They were VERY happy with their new loft bed and all the extra space they now have under their bed to play and build Lego creations.  Katie was super happy to come home and find her new “big girl” bed!  We later used cute decals to decorate the bed and windows in Katie’s room.  It’s great to be married to a handy man!! 🙂

Here are some photos showing the process of building the boys’ loft bed and also a couple of photos of Katie in her new and improved room.

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Prolific Artists

Austin and Ethan are big fans of the National Wildlife Federation’s magazines for kids.  My Aunt and Uncle gave them a subscription to Your Big Backyard, which has a section that publishes kids’ drawings of animals.  When the kids were younger, Austin sent in a picture of a bird to the magazine and it ended up being  published in one of their issues.  That was a very exciting experience for him!  So, Austin and Ethan recently sat down and created a ton of new animal pictures that they asked me to send in to Your Big Backyard, in hopes that they will get published again.   They were so proud of their drawings that they wanted me to put them on my blog too.  Here is a slideshow of their pictures.  Enjoy!!

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No Longer the Oda Family

It’s been a year since we moved to our new house, and little by little we’ve been getting ourselves settled in and making improvements here and there.  One improvement Bryan and the boys recently made was to put up a name plate on the outside wall of our house.  The name plate used to read “Oda”, the name of our landlords, so when sales people would come to call at our door they were extra shocked to find that a foreigner (who looked nothing like a Mr. or Mrs. Oda) had answered the door! 🙂

Thanks to Bryan and the boys, who made a super cool new katakana name plate for us, that is no longer a problem and we get slightly less shocked looks on people when we answer their knock on our door! 🙂

Here are some super cute photos of their project.

My Wild Boys

Boys have ENERGY!!  Boys like wrestling and roughhousing, chasing, and fighting for fun!  Here are a few shots of my funny wrestlers in action.  Notice that they don’t seem bothered at all by the fact that they are wresting right in the middle of the room while I’m packing us up to go home from our trip to the beach.  Ahh… We mothers of boys need patience and a sense of humor. 🙂

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Austin’s Book Review Assignment

Yesterday  Austin’s English writing assignment was to choose his favorite book we’ve read so far this school year and then write a short review of that book, explaining what he liked about it. I was encouraged when Austin couldn’t choose just one book — he came up with a stack of five or six! Part of the assignment was to post Austin’s book review on the Sonlight website, which Austin got VERY excited about doing. So after we posted his first book review, he wanted to post three more! I think he would have posted even more, but he kind of pooped out after the fourth one and wanted to go play. 🙂 If you’re interested in reading what books Austin loved and wrote reviews for, click here, here, here, and here. Just scroll down to the reviews and his will be toward the top.  The poster is listed as BRYAN G, but Austin’s name is at the end of the review.  Enjoy!

Austin with some of his favorite homeschool books so far this year.

Austin’s Big Adventure

Earlier this month, Austin got to have the adventure of a lifetime — a week-long trip just with Daddy to America to visit Bryan’s parents.  Bryan tries to go back once a year to visit his parents by himself and this time he decided to take Austin with him.  It was a great chance for the two of them to get lots of “male bonding” time and also for Austin to visit Grandma and Grandpa and his Aunt Lisa in Virginia for the first time in several years.  Among other fun activities, Austin got to go fishing, ride in a canoe, visit a shooting range, and trap an oppossom and a couple of squirrels in a live animal trap (which they let  go a few minutes later).  He thoroughly enjoyed eating lots of American food, including several visits to Grandma and Grandpa’s favorite restaurant, the K&W Cafeteria.  And, he learned how to hit a wiffle ball.  What more could an 8 year old boy ask for??  Ethan definitely missed his bosom buddy while he was gone, but he is looking forward to getting his turn to visit Virginia with Daddy NEXT year.  Here are a few photos of Bryan and Austin’s trip.