January 18, 2005

China History and Government - Week Three

Today we had our week three of our homeschool coop on China. I will split this entry into two posts because we covered a lot of ground. I began the class with a review of some of their favorite things they remembered about China. This included the great wall, chow mein noodles, counting to ten with their fingers, lanterns and dragons for their festivals.

Then I did a brief overview of some of the inventions of China highlighting some items the kids would be familiar with such as the abacus, silk, fans, and paper. We talked a bit about how people lived in the beginning and the kids were able to come up with needing to scavenge for food after trying the marketplace, a refrigerator and farming. I had hid fruits and little animals (fish and cows) throughout the room and the boys pretended to hunt and found the animals while the girls gathered and found the fruit. We talked about how they would need to do this every day to eat and how much work it could be. We talked about how they would use fire to heat their food and how they would live in caves. We compared it to camping as we all go camping together in the summers.

Then we moved into farming. I had the kids split into two groups and farm their land and build their villages. Then they elected a leader for their group and we talked about how tribes turned into villages and then it lead to dynasties. To explain the concept of a China dynasty to them I said it was when the rulers all came from the same family. Then I had each child fill out their own personal family tree back to their great-grandfathers and showed how each dynasty would have had leaders from each generation and often more generations than that.

Then we moved into the challenging part of lesson, teaching them about the many dynasties of China while keeping their interest. I decided not to cover all of the dynasties, but to highlight certain ones and certain interesting facts from each. I moved through them chronologically as quickly as I could trying to integrate activities and artifacts for them to pass around.

Here is a sample of what we did for China Dynasty Lesson

Hsia Dynasty - passed around a silk cloth for them to examine
Shang Dynasty - passed around a bronze armillary for them to examine
Chou Dynasty - passed around chopsticks
Chin Dynasty - had them build the great wall of China out of big cardboard blocks
Tang Dynasty - talked about the female empress, schools and equality
Sung Dynasty - passed around an abacus for them to look at
Mongol Dynasty - had the kids knock down the wall they had built and reminded them that children would have started fighting at their age
Ming Dynasty - passed around a tea bag

Then we talked about the rise of communism. I reminded the kids of our kibbutz lesson from Israel. We talked about how life on a kibbutz could help us understand communist life. We talked about government control and redistribution and then reminded the kids of our lesson on Iraq's government and how the people were unable to speak out in opposition or the consequence could mean jail or worse. We finished this discussion with a brief overview of China's one child policy and answering the kids questions about that. We also encouraged them to think about what life would be like without their siblings.

I rounded it up with a summary of some of the main points I wanted them to remember. That China was made up of many dynasties or ruling families. That there were times of war and chaos often followed by times of rebuilding and good. To remember some of the great inventions that came from China and about what the government was like now.

We ended this portion of the class with an abacus activity - where the kids put beads on sticks and made their own abacus, it as a nice activity. At times I felt like the history portion droned on but I tried to keep it as interactive and interesting as possible, there was so much to cover. Overall I think the class went well, their favorite part of course was building and knocking down the wall.


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