Galloping the Globe – China (and Weighing the Elephant)

This week we used a curriculum called “Come Sit By Me” which I borrowed from my Charlotte Mason Home Educators group.  It is similar to Five in a Row but using Canadian books. Most of this post deals with the literary study of Weighing the Elephant by Ting-Xing Ye but it is also very transferable in many parts to a study on China with young students.  


Of course, as with all of our cultural studies, we included food!  (Are you getting the idea that I’m a bit of a food person yet?)  
We purchased the ingredients for a delicious chicken stir-fry with some traditional Chinese veggies mixed in.  We displayed all of the vegetables on the kitchen table and had fun identifying them.  The kids learned about Shanghai Bok Choy, Snow Peas, and Sprouts. (All ingredients we don’t use as often).
“What’s inside a snow pea?”

I played a little game with each child using the vegetables.  For Alex (age 4)
I would ask him to pick out a vegetable that is orange, green, starts
with c, etc.  For Audrey (age 6) I would ask her to pick our veggies by
starting letter, finishing letter and rhyme.  For Simon (age 7), I asked
him to pick them our based on how they grew (in the ground or on a
bush, etc.) and which vitamins they were rich in.
Time to EAT!  For our meal we used chop sticks and also placed all the dishes in the middle of the table for the kids to serve each other.  This is similar to Chinese tradition.

Making Rice Paper wraps!  I’ve always wanted to try Rice Paper so, this was the perfect opportunity!  You can fill these wraps with a huge variety of fillings.  We chose to keep it simple with spinach, carrot, orange peppers, radicchio, cucumber and sprouts.  There are countless recipes online using all kinds of delicious sauces and garnishes.

First, take a plate full of water and soak each Rice Paper sheet for a few seconds.

Use a damp cloth to dab the Rice Paper and allow it to become quite damp and floppy.  The texture should be a bit gummy and easily pliable.  It will be sticky, so work quickly!

We rolled the wraps just like a taco.

We definitely weren’t great at this, but for a first try, we had fun.  Once the veggies are in place, just roll the wraps as neatly and tightly as you can and enjoy!  You can dip these in plum sauce.  I love them, and Audrey loved them.  The boys?  Well, they enjoyed making them but not eating them so much…

A Look at the Literature:

Weighing the Elephant by Ting-xing Ye, definitely a worthwhile read for a study about China.

China, from the Usborne Young Readers series.  I love this series.  These books are only about $7 and worth every penny.

An advanced book for kids our age, but they still loved this living book.

Part of our Sonlight Core A program, A Grain of Rice is another FANTASTIC classic living book for China.

Weighing the Elephant activity – learning about displacement.  In the book, a young boy uses a line on a boat, bags of rice, and the law of displacement to figure out how much the elephant weighs.

We used toy boats, a bathtub, and a bunch of different toys to learn the science lesson.

Drawing a line on the boat showing where the water level sits BEFORE it is filled with heavy dominoes.  Then, we examined how the weight of the dominoes changed the water level on the boat.  (This mimics exactly happens in the book).

We filled a cup to the top with water.  Then we dropped a toy frog in.  Me: “What happens to the water?”  Audrey: “It overflows.”  Me: “Why?” Audrey:  “Because it has to go somewhere because the frog is pushing it out.”  Me: “Right!  And what is that called?”  Audrey: “Displacement!”  

This isn’t really applicable to our study of China but I had to share!  If you ever get the chance to build a snow fort and read inside of it – do it!  We had such a blast making a huge snow fort on a beautiful wintery-warm day in the middle of the week.  We then enjoyed lunch outside while reading “A Grain of Rice” inside our little snow palace.  Beautiful!

Ever used a sheet to complete a fort?  The kids thought of this and it worked wonderfully!

Learning Chinese words and symbols –

A page from the China Usborne book.  We used this simple example to create our own paintings of Chinese symbols.

Using black paint, thin paint brushes, and pencils dipped in paint to copy the symbols as closely as possible.  Once they were dry, we actually burned the edges of the pages to create a really neat ‘aged’ look.  You can see the completed paintings at the bottom of this post.

Art – drawing elephants!

We used some great drawing books to find examples of how to draw both cartoon and realistic elephants.  I age the kids high quality pencils and charcoal and let them explore on their own.

Alex’s elephant

Audrey’s elephant

Learning about Scales – a roap trip!  We went to several different stores to explore their scales and weigh various objects.  The kids learned about different types of scales and how they work.  They also practiced reading the weights.

We went the the Bulk Barn and I allowed the kids to purchase a candy treat.  The catch?  They needed to stay within a certain price range.  They learned how to read the labels and then accurately weigh their candy to figure out how much it would cost.

Field Trip – Visiting an Asian Market

The city closest to our home has a wide variety of cultural markets.  We decided to visit one (suggested by my Dad) near the downtown core.  What a great day out!

The smell of fish overwhelmed us as we walked through the front doors!

Checking out the different types of Chinese, Korean, and Japanese noodles!  Hundreds!

Alex, taking a peek at the fresh seafood.  Our kids were amazed to see the different fish being sold in an ‘open market’ style area.

Picking out produce.

Amazed by the variety of products available.

We picked up some dumplings to try (yes, they are actually Korean, but close enough.)

Mom’s treat – some delicious Chinese Green Tea in a beautiful canister.  I loved the idea of having Chinese writing displayed on our counter every day.  Our children have such a love for other cultures – and nurturing that interest is so important to me.

Tapioca Pearls!  This is the stuff they use in Bubble Tea.  When the kids showed interest, we purchased some for an experiment in the afternoon.

Taking a look at loose leaf tea.

Cooking and straining the Tapioca Pearls.  I found easy instructions by searching google (the package was entirely in Chinese).  These make a GREAT tactile center for young kids.  They feel so interesting on the fingers!

Alex was slightly grossed out by the Pearls (haha) but had fun trying to suck them out of a glass of water with a small dropper.

The finished Tapioca Pearls.  This is a fun project, I highly recommend it for young kids – so fun to play with!

A few other things:

These are supposed to be bags of rice… forgive my lack of artistic ability!  Simon’s are far left, Audrey is the middle, and Alex is far right.  I simple orally gave each child numbers and they wrote them down using the rice bags.

Our finished Chinese flags with our “ancient” Chinese writing crafts.

Thanks for joining us!


The Homeschool Village


  • wombfruit

    I love your style of homeschooling! How do you pick what curriculum or study to do each week? I also love being able to have the kids all be in on the same topic together…is there a guideline or something that gives you ideas on what to study each week? I'm a check mark mom…but trying to break free from that a little! Thanks ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Cassandra

      Hi there, sorry wanted to add – I find some ideas at http://www.homeschoolshare.com. Then I work hard at researching activities and ideas based on that country (I use Google and library books and books we own to look for ideas). I don't know that I've ever used a check mark other than in math. ๐Ÿ˜‰ It's fun but it is also quite intensive.

  • Cassandra

    Marla – downtown Hamilton! Wombfruit – Thanks! ๐Ÿ™‚ I have had a lot of questions like this lately. It's a long and tiring process homeschooling the way we do. It's very labor intensive and takes hours of planning (just being real!). However, it is so worth it and so much fun! We are currently using a combination of Five in a Row and Galloping the Globe and I springboard off of the curriculum and add a lot of my own stuff and things I find online. I use my own planning by simple looking at the year and assigning each week a study/topic. Last week was Spain, this week is Russia, for example. I will be writing a post in the next few weeks about how to plan a great unit study, maybe that will help?! xo

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