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For each continent, we have a Montessori continent box full of small cultural objects, money, photos, and pamphlets from the continent. When we were beginning this unit, I asked my Instagram followers from all over the world if they would be interested in sending us things — and so many said yes! That is where the majority of our cultural items are from, but you can also purchase the contents for your Montessori continent box if you don’t have those personal connections — check here and here.
We first studied Asia as a whole continent before breaking it up into sections. We used three-part cards of animals for each of our continent studies — I like these ones of Asian animals from Imagine Our Life. We also used our Children of the World Cards from Tanglewood Hollow to look at what people who live in Asia might look like.
We broke up our Asia study by section and used the following categories:
Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan
Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Cyprus, Georgia, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Oman, Palestine, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, Yemen
Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka
Brunei, Myanmar, Cambodia, Christmas Island, East Timor, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam
China, Hong Kong, Japan, Macau, Mongolia, North Korea, South Korea, Taiwan
As you can see, that is a whole lot of countries to study! We could not possibly study each of them in depth, but we DID get to look at each of the countries flags and many of their regional dishes using the Asia Unit from Every Star is Different.
I am passionate about not shying away from difficult events in the history of these places we are learning about. My children are only 3 and 1, but there are ways of beginning conversation about hard topics and current events. One way is through books, which you will find a list of at the bottom of this post. Sometimes events are too current to have many children’s books written about them yet, in which case I turn to the internet. We discussed the Syrian crisis as part of our study of Western Asia through child-friendly videos found here — but I suggest that you watch them ahead of time and decide what is appropriate for your own child. We also watched the My One Thing Project and then discussed what one thing we would each choose to take with us if we had to become refugees.
When we got to South Asia, we spent a good amount of time studying Malala Yousafzai, and we decided that we would begin saving up money in our World Bank for the Malala Fund so that little girls all over the world can have the opportunity to go to school.
Our friends in Singapore sent us some beautiful items, informational cards, and games from India and Singapore, so we spent a few days studying each of those countries. Our favorite activity was the three-part cards of traditional instruments from Singapore, which we used alongside youtube videos of each of the instruments being played. It really transported us to Southeast Asia!
Other friends from Japan and Indonesia also sent us some cultural items, so we did a more in-depth study of those countries as well.
We just so happen to live right across the street from a small Asian art museum, so we took a “field trip” over there to look at some Chinese, Japanese, and Korean art!
We unfortunately don’t live in a terribly diverse little city, but we drove to the nearest Asian grocery store to buy some Asian snacks and taste some new foods! Tasting dragonfruit and a variety of Korean and Japanese snacks was probably L and N’s favorite part of this Asia study.
Have I mentioned before that my husband is Korean-American? His parents live in South Korea, and they sent us a HUGE package with all kinds of Korean cultural items to study. This made up a full two weeks of our continent study, since it is part of the girls’ heritage.
One of our favorite materials was the Korean alphabet magnets that my in-laws sent us! This was a favorite activity for both girls and gave us some exposure to the written Korean language.
I also made some South Korean Landmark 3-Part Cards based on their recommendations.
The girls loved watching youtube videos of Psy and other K-pop singers — music is a great way to get to know a culture!
We finished our study of Asia with some childhood photos from a follower who grew up in Russia.
As you can imagine, we read quite a few books about Asia in the three months we spent studying the continent. I scoured our local library as well as our personal book collection, and these are the books I chose for our Asia study. Please keep in mind that my choices were limited to the books available at our little library, so I couldn’t possibly include everything — but I do recommend all of these ones:
[in general order from Central, Western, South, Southeast, East, to North Asia]
Hello World, by Jonathan Litton
Discovering the Arts: Islamic Culture, by Atif Toor
Celebrating Ramadan, by Diane Hoyt-Goldsmith, Lawrence Middle
Hanuman and the Orange Sun, by Amy Maranville
Golden Domes and Silver Lanterns: A Muslim Book of Colors, by Hena Khan, Mehrdokht Amini
Stepping Stones: A Refugee Family’s Journey, by Margriet Ruurs, Artwork by Nizar Ali Badr
The Three Princes: A Tale from the Middle East, retold by Eric A. Kimmel
Eyewitness Books: India, by Manini Chatterjee
Indonesia, by Nel Yomtov
Singapore, by Wil Mara
Malala Yousafzai: Warrior with Words, by Karen Leggett Abouraya
Indian Children’s Favourite Stories, by Rosemarie Somaiah, Ranjan Somaiah
Padmini is Powerful, by Amy Maranville
In a Village by the Sea, by Muon Van
Two of Everything, by Lily Toy Hong
The Lost Horse: A Chinese Folktale, by Ed Young
Screen of Frogs, retold by Sheila Hamanaka
I Live in Tokyo, by Mari Takabayashi
My Japan, by Etsuko Watanabe
The Way We Do It in Japan, by Geneva Cobb Iijima
South Korea, by Barbara A. Somervill
The Rabbit’s Escape, by Suzanne Crowder Han
The Green Frogs: A Korean Folktale, retold by Yumi Heo
Something for School, by Hyun Young Lee
Korean Children’s Favorite Stories, by Kim So-Un
Bee-bim Bop! by Linda Sue Park
Russia, by Nel Yomtov