Homeschooling Unit Studies: China

Suggestions to guide a home schooling unit study about China. Information on culture, food, comparisons to west.

Unit studies on different nations are great for homeschoolers. They offer a great deal of resources, many of them free, can touch on a wide range of subject areas, and are adaptable to suit any ability level, for individuals or groups (homogenous or heterogeneous). China can be made into a rather large unit study spanning weeks, or even several months if the interest holds up. Here are some tips for creating your own unit on China.

START WITH CONCRETE DETAILS OF THE NATION

Locate China on a map. Learn about China's size, natural resources, currency and the different terrain's and climates in the large country. Study the population, which areas it is more dense and which more sparse.

Project Idea: Have the child make or color a topographical map of China.

Go over a brief history of China: What is a dynasty? What were some of the significant events in China's history? What is the significance of the Great Wall?

Project Idea: Have students figure out the length of the Great Wall of China, and convert it to the size of a map of North America. Use a piece of string to represent the wall, cut it to the appropriate scale for the map, and lay it across the continent. This will help the student's perspective of the size of the Great Wall.

EXPLORE CHINESE CULTURE

Go over some of the culture of China: what are some customs? Religions? Holidays? Government? How do they dress in China (in the past and modern times)? What are their houses like? What are schools like? How are women treated in the Chinese culture? What is the difference between urban and rural life? How is the family structured?

Field Trip Idea: If you live within traveling distance of a "China town" in a large city, go there for the day. Observe the people, browse the shops, and, if possible, try to eat in an authentic (as opposed to Americanized) Chinese restaurant. What's the difference? Can you eat a whole meal with chopsticks? If you can go around the time of the Chinese New Year (usually in February).

Writing Assignment Ideas: Search for pen pals in China (preferably similar ages to children) and do a postcard exchange. Write a paper on China's educational system, comparing and contrasting it to the United States educational system.

Learn about Chinese astrology. Have the student read about the 12 signs of the Chinese zodiac, and what they are thought to mean.



Project Idea: Have student interview several people about their personality traits, then compare their birth year with their Chinese zodiac sign. Is Chinese astrology accurate?

Learn a little about the Chinese language by renting out language lab tapes from a library. Listen to the pronunciation of words. Look at Chinese writing.

Art Project Idea: Get a piece of parchment or onion paper, two dowels (approximately the width of the paper or slightly larger), some yarn and some scotch tape. Tape a length of yarn to the ends of one of the dowels so it will hang from the yarn. Then, roll the top end of the paper around the dowel with the yarn (leaving the yarn exposed for hanging), and tape into place. Roll the bottom end of the paper around the other dowel slightly, and tape into place. Have the child use water color paints and a thin brush to paint the Chinese alphabet characters of their own names down in a vertical line.

PHYSICAL EDUCATION

Exercise or Field Trip Idea: Rent a Tai Chi or Qi Qong video, or see if a local school is offering free introductory classes and join one.

MATH

Project Idea: Use a currency converter to convert your money to Chinese currency. Look up through travel books how much things cost in China, figure out how much Chinese currency you would need if you were planning a trip, and how much it would cost in your own currency.

SCIENCE:

One of the most famous Chinese inventions is the magnetized compass. Take this time to study magnetism.

Project Idea: Make a compass. All you need is a magnet, needle, glass of water, and a cork. Place the cork in the water so that it is free floating. Take the needle and magnetize it by rubbing it 50 to 100 times on the magnet. Put the needle on the cork. If magnetized well, it should immediately turn to North. Use a compass to check for accuracy, then write the compass points on the glass with a dry erase marker. Determine the position of different buildings in your neighborhood, or walls in your house. Where does the sun rise and set?

LITERATURE

If working with young children, read some Chinese fairy tales, such as Lon Po Po (Little Red Riding Hood story), or Yeh-Shen (Cinderella story). With older students, read works by Amy Tan or Shusaku Endo. And don't forget to check out some of the wisdom of Confucius.

Book Report Idea: Compare a store set in China to a story with a similar plot (similar fairy tale for younger children, or similar plot conflict for older students) in the Western World. How are the protagonists similar/different in their resolution of the conflict? How much are they influenced by their respective cultures?

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