Homeschool Tag

One of our favorite “Nature Walks” this is at Showa Park in Tachikawa Japan. This is during the cherry blossom season.

So recently I was checking out a lot of Homeschool Mom Tag You Tube videos. It is like a guilty pleasure of mine! I love to see what others are using in their own Homeschool, what new ideas that I can try out, and just see how they overcome some of the issues with homeschool life in general. So I was watching one of my favorites (Homeschool on the Hill <–look her up!) and she suggested that viewers write their own answers to the tag in the comments section.

I am not a YouTuber and I do not comment on youtube videos (not against it.. I just do not currently do that!) So I thought that I might just write a blog real quick and answer the questions for anyone out there who still reads these blog things! ūüôā

**Disclaimer: Going to post some photos of some of the places we see here in Japan and in Korea. I think most of what I have mentioned for schooling is not anything new so it is probably more enjoyable to see some of these landscape photos than just our supplies!!**

Let’s get right into it:

Homeschool Mom Tag Questions:

Do you have a set budget for your homeschool?

NO! I say no, but I am feeling really guilty for that! I do not have a set budget yet! The first year I homeschooled I was not sure what to expect. I bought a FULL deluxe style curriculum from SonLight. I wanted everything included and totally put together for me. I was really worried about homeschooling and I thought I was going to possibly rot my oldest Child’s brain! I seriously was afraid that I might mess him up for life! ¬†This was an expensive option but it worked really well, especially for the first year. However we finished many things before the year was over. I just added more and more books and courses as the year went on. I quickly learned how this can add up so now I buy used… mostly. ¬†I am not afraid to spend on homeschool (unfortunately!). I think its worth it. I don’t buy fancy purses or lots of designer clothes but I do spend on books! It is my guilty pleasure.

Jeonju, South Korea. Visited this famous park during the annual Lotus Festival. It was amazing! Lotus picture to follow! This was during a summer trip to see the grandparents!

1. Were you homeschooled?

No, I was never homeschooled. I went to good ol’ public school in the suburbs.

I did have neighbors who homeschooled and I always noticed that they were finished with their school day really early! They also went to college early, they were great at playing musical instruments but I also thought that they had no friends, were too “churchy” to hang out with me, and I just felt like we didn’t fit as friends. I thought it was crazy that they weren’t allowed to wear pants and just in general did not understand why on earth they would all want to stay at home with their mom ALL DAY!

Now I know many of those things to be totally different than what their life was actually like, but that was my impression as a kid who had no idea what they were really doing all day! I had no idea that they were just regular girls!

I also was some hooligan public school kid who would have probably learned a whole lot more if I had been studying with them instead of spending money at the mall to keep up with the Joneses at school!

At the Jeonju South Korea Lotus Festival. This park was free of charge and so amazing! If only we could get to Korea more often! This would be a dream to visit for school work sessions!

2. Did you know always know you’d homeschool your children?

NO, I had no idea! My oldest went to a private school and then we moved to Japan. He then attended a public school in Japan (for foreign students) but there were a lot of issues. My husband and I were really disappointed at the lack of discipline and respect that the students had in the classroom toward each other and the staff, I was even more hurt by the lack of respect the staff had for the students. They treated each other so poorly I was in disbelief. And even more importantly the academics were far behind the level that my child was already used to. So he seemed to zone out in school as it was all a bore. So we just decided to try something else.

We looked into private schools and then I considered homeschooling. In just about a week or so after visiting a private school we started to homeschool instead and that was almost 3 school years ago.

If you would have told me I would be a homeschooling parent 5 years ago.. I would have thought you were insane! Now that I am informed about the value of education that you can gain… I am a total advocate for homeschooling.

For our first year I used a boxed curriculum from Sonlight and it really helped to jump into homeschooling with ease. If you are really nervous about homeschooling… buy a boxed curriculum until you get more familiar with it and make your life less stressful! ūüôā

Hamura park, near Tokyo, Japan. This was our New Years Eve nature walk! We only saw snow this year on thanksgiving! We only needed light coats for our creekside walk!

3. What are your 3 favorite books in your homeschool library?

Well books in general .. I am not going to list “books for moms” but our favorite homeschool books are usually read alouds! We enjoy read aloud time together sooooo much! it is such a fun thing to do with kids and makes homeschooling so awesome!

For fun we have read the Alvin Ho series. If you have not heard of these or read them you MUST MUST MUST! They are a laugh a minute! Even for adults!

We also really enjoyed the little house on the prairie series. We read these when we first started to homeschool when my oldest was pretty young and we enjoyed them so much. We really expanded into a lot of great historical fiction books and my son grew such an appreciation for “pioneer” times and really fell in love with that era. We also enjoyed it because he got this great taste of America while living in Tokyo! It transported him from our event world to the wide open spaces of the prairie!

We also really enjoy apologia science books. We just recently finished the unit with sea creatures and I just feel like this since is right up our alley! It did not take us a school year to finish (I know that is why some homeschoolers shy away from Apologia) but it does not have to take you the entire year on one unit of study. However, we did hit shin hard to finish it in 1/2 of the year. We also added in youtube educational videos, books, magazine, and generally everything that had supported our science topi. We had so much fun. My son even likes to read ahead and do “extra” days of silence because he likes the flow of the Apologia books. ¬†He is 8 but an read the section and do the notebook journal and “be the teacher” and teach me what he has learned if I need a moment to work with his sister. I know that he is really “getting it”. We will continue with the units from Apologia and have more fun with it!

 

View from one of our nearby bookstores that carries loads of education toys as well! Post on this to follow! Check for the post on our top 5 Tokyo book stores in the next post!

4. Are you the only “teacher”? Does your spouse help, outsource help, tutors, etc.

Well, I am the Primary teacher. My husband is a math genius though so he’s great at helping out in that department with extra tips and quizzes and such! We live in Japan so we also do some of our read alouds and share our work over Skype with grandparents just for fun!

In the future we will add a piano teacher as I can only teach that subject on a beginning level.!

We do participate in sports and have other coaches for that. I am sure we will use other teachers in the future but my kids are still pretty young so this just hasn’t occurred yet.
5. Where is your favorite place to buy homeschool curriculum?

Our favorite place is Amazon. We have a good deal on shipping to Japan with them. Also, this is really the only possibly was I have to get used books at a reasonable price shipped to us. Sonlight was great and shipped to us for a great rate and everything came really quickly, but for used things we have really been thankful to live in the age of Amazon!

I should mention we have used other options too but just Amazon has been the best for really cheap books by the truckload!

We have had relatives order things for us and they have used Christianbook.com. It arrived really quickly but I have never used the site myself. I hope to try some other resources as well in the near future.

For random supplies we love to find things at the “Daiso” which is a 100 yen store here in Japan. It is the Tokyo version of family dollar. They have lots of fun art supplies for crafts and school supplies.
6. Do you have a set budget for your homeschool?

NO! But I should! I try to buy used as much as I can. Of course we do use things that are new from time to time Рlike Singapore math as it can be hard to find a used workbook that is not filled in!  For the most part I do try and budget more since I am homeschooling 2 kids now. I also try and save the textbooks so that my younger child can use them later. I do not resell anything as we will try and use them in the future.

When I have something that we don’t love then sometimes I do give it to someone else to try as it might work for them depending on their Childs learning style.

I also prefer to give away rather than to sell because I allow my children to fold pages, hi light, and they are pretty hard on books. I would have a hard time feeling ok about selling what we have used in our homeschool! it would not be in pristine condition by any means!
7. What are 2 must have homeschool supplies?

We have some favorite colored pencils that are a brand sold here in Japan. They only cost $1.00 but we really really love them! I think they come in like 12 or 16 in a pack and the quality is great.

Our other school supply would be our “book basket” not really a supply I guess, but we couldn’t homeschool the same without it! We rely on used books under $1 for this or the library. The is a supply that we can not live without but it can be free of charge if you have the time to use your library. For us, we use a lot of Amazon used books because we do not have a lot of English books at our local libraries.
8. What’s your favorite/least favorite subject to teach?

Favorite – geography, history if we are using read alouds

least – piano! I hated piano as a child… with a passion. I am just not the best at teaching it either! I will teach the beginner levels and then my children will use a professional piano teacher. I am not skilled enough to teach a high level… not even close!
9. Are you involved in coops or homeschool groups? What has your experience been in these groups?

We have not been in a co-op before. As we are in Japan it is a little difficult to find. They do exist but the one in our area gives information only through Facebook. We do not use Facebook so I am a little out of the loop! Thats ok though! We do plan on using a group starting this summer. It will be our first homeschool group/co op in our 3rd year of homeschooling.
10. What is your approach? ( charlotte mason, eclectic, classical, etc)

I do not really follow one way! I guess that would make us eclectic. This year we are leaning more Charlotte mason as I am trying My Fathers World for our “spine”. How even we supplement this pretty heavily. My son really enjoys workbooks so we have a lot added! We have some living books mixed with traditional textbooks.

We school year round and follow a schedule pretty close to the national school year in Japan. Not on purpose just so we can be available when Appa is off from work as well!

Due to schooling year round I find that we generally go through a couple complete curriculums pre year. This is costly but we spend far less time on a lot of simple review at the beginning of each new year. It is working well so far and mixing our “type” of homeschooling has kept us interested!

Sweet Box Crepes – Harajuku

If you are heading to Harajuku – Takeshita Street to be precise, don’t forget to check out Sweet Box Crepes. We have been to the Harajuku thing with our kids more than once and I do have a separate post on how to make it worth your while with kids this post is just going to address our visit to Sweet Box Crepes for the most part.

Crepes are THE thing on Takeshita street. Santa Monica Crepes seems to be what tourists know about and like to wait in line for. We however always avoid Santa Monica Crepes. Not because it is not good, but just because the line is always a mile long. It is even a mile long on the weekends… when it is rainy. With a squirmy toddler we look for the area with no line no matter what trendy thing we are going to miss out on!

Sweet Box Crepes was about $5 for a Chocolate ice cream with Banana and whipped cream. It was really good. The chocolate ice cream was so good infant that we probably would have just ate that all by itself! It was not overly sweet and the whipped cream was really fluffy and fresh. It was worth our $5 and it was big enough that we got to split the treat between all of us.

They also supplied us with tiny plastic spoons so we could eat it while walking (although eating while walking is a no-no in Japan) and then we all got to share while using our own tiny spoon.

We did not get napkins although they were probably available. We didn’t have too much of a mess considering four of us were sharing – including a toddler- while walking in a crowd. We just peeled the paper down that held it all together to finish eating the actual crepe.

 

Another good point about picking out your crepe from Sweet Box is that you can see all the ordering possibilities in big plastic cases on the sides of the building. Each type of crepe available has a plastic replica made and on display so that you can see what exactly is in every kind. This made it really hard for our kids to decide and in the end I took them to wait on the side of the street so our stroller was not in the way of the line and the Dad did a great job deciding on a great flavor without our extra 3 indecisive minds!

The staff worked quickly and the order was made fresh. So your crepe will come out still hot and delicious… not rubbery! Also – if you have limited Japanese skills or none at all this is no problem. You can pretty much point to what you would like to order if necessary and the staff will help you out. As it is made fresh though be prepared to wait a few minutes for your order to be ready. It doesn’t take long ¬†but you will have a couple minutes of wait time.

You can find Sweet Box on Takeshita Street  just as you enter from the Harajuku station side. You will enter through the main colorful side and walk down the hill. Look for Sweet Box on the right side of the street. If you miss it, it is across the street from Paris Kids hair accessories shop.  If you pass La Pass you have walked too far.  It is easy to spot as it sits on the first corner you will come to on Takeshita street entering from the station side on the right.

 

The above photo is looking down the street from the Sweet Box Crepes Shop. You know if you pass these landmarks you have gone too far!

There is an area in from of the shop that you can sit down on the street and enjoy your treat if you want or you can just keep shopping and walking down the street. We came here on a weekday and found a spot to eat our treat easily, although we choose to keep walking to enjoy our shopping time! Plus we felt that we were in a time crunch as our parking was on the expensive side!

Hours:

Most shops and food stalls on the street are open from 11:00 to 8:00. This can be different form shop to shop but this is the general operating time. I suggest getting there at opening time and enjoying things before the crowd gets really heavy in the late afternoon. The earlier you get there on the week days the most you will actually get to see. On the weekends it can be so crowded that we had to ship many attractions just because we couldn’t even get from one side of the street to the other with kids due to the crowd.

 

Strollers and Baby Wearing:

If you are going to visit Harajuku on the weekend I highly advise you to not bring a stroller. It is very crowded. So crowded in fact that you will literally be bumping into people the entire time. If it was the weekend I would still baby wear my toddler. I would be afraid that she would get lost just holding our hands in the crowded area, SO that is my suggestion.

However if you go on the week days it will still be crowded but you could use a small umbrella stroller. We did use a stroller on our last trip and it seemed to be fine. However this week day was not on a holiday and it was not very warm yet. So be aware of the weather and the time of year that you will be visiting as this will effect the crowd size on the street.

For those traveling with a wheel chair be advised that the street is very steep when coming from Harajuku station side. If you are using a wheelchair or have a handicapped or elderly visitor in your party you may want to enter Takeshita street from the opposite end near forever21 as this area is at the bottom of the hill and not steep. Actually this would be advised with strollers as well. I had to keep a really good hold on my umbrella stroller when walking down from the station side.

How to get there :

To visit Sweet Box Crepes you can drive or use the train.

if you do take the train you will want to take the JR Yamanote route and exit at the Harajuku Station stop. Takeshita Dori street will be right across from the station with a large colorful sign showing its entrance.

.If you drive you can just simply type in “harajuku station” into your google maps. It will easily get you there. We have used this multiple times and had no issues finding this location.

The difficult part you will face is parking. If you are driving just get to the area early so that you do not spend an hour looking for an open parking spot (happened to us!).

We drove and parked at a 7/11 area just down the road. Much of the parking in the area is about 20-30 minutes for between 300 or 400 yen. We stayed for around 2 hours and had to pay 1200 yen to park. ($12.00 for 2 hours of parking).

Bathrooms

Also take note if you are traveling with little ones that bathrooms can be a bit difficult to find here. We had to make a bathroom stop and used the 7/11 down the road. We did not see bathrooms in most of the shopping area or most snack shops. Most snack shops on the street were for take away (take out) orders and there was not inside seating. There are coffee shops and small restaurants if you walk a little further off of the main Takeshita area but I would advise a bathroom stop at the train station or another area before you actually enter Takeshita street itself. If you do locate one you may have too long of a wait for a young child.

We will share more about Takeshita Dori in Harajuku in another post. We wanted to really focus on Sweet Box Crepes so that you and your kiddos could have a plan in place for your visit here. We did try out other crepe venues on previous trips but we found this to be the easiest for families with children. Shorter line, on the corner offering space for a larger group to eat, reasonable price, lots of variety of flavors to pick, and some shades to stand under while in line. It was also English friendly ordering so don’t be intimidated! If you want to check out their full menu just check out www.crepes.jp ¬†however it is in Japanese only. Please leave a message if you want to know more and we will get back to you as soon as possible if you need help with your trip to Takeshita Dori!

Happy Harajuku-ing!

 

Easy Protein Doughnuts

I have come up with a solution for Doughnut temptation. My super quick recipe for Easy Protein Doughnuts!

Sometimes I have a weakness for doughnuts. Who doesn’t, seriously? My kids are also big doughnut fans. Even more so than cakes ¬†and candy. However, I do not think that a doughnut can beat a really good chocolate chip cookie! That is like the holy grail of kid snacks. I will try and make a healthy version of a chocolate chip cookie when our household is begging for homemade cookies!

For now I give you the new and improved protein doughnut! It is so simple and quick to make you will never want to stop at Krispy Kreme again! Ok, thats probably not sure, but here is a solution for those counting their macros!

 

All you need:

PE Science Snickerdoodle protein powder (or your favorite type of protein powder)

Oatmeal

Almond Milk (vanilla unsweetened)

Almonds (or another type of nut if you do not like almonds)

2 eggs

Coconut flour

How to Make them:

preheat your oven to 350f

Measure out 1/3 cup of almonds and chop them into small bits. I like to chop them really small because my two year old is not really great at chewing almonds. So the smaller they are the safer it is for little kids to enjoy.

After chopping the almonds add them into a mixing bowl

Add two eggs to your mixing bowl. (You can use egg whites instead if you like but your consistency may end up a little bit thinner and it works out just fine)

Measure out 1/3 cup of all your remaining ingredients and all them to your mixing bowl.

so add in :

1/3c of oatmeal

1/3c or almond milk

1/3c of coconut flour

1/3c of protein powder**

(side note: We generally use a protein powder that is a snickerdoodle flavor as it is kind of like a snickerdoodle type of doughnut. While it is cooking the house smells like a doughnut shop and my husband is always asking “what are you cooking?” because it smells delicious. Whenever I answer ‘I’m just making protein doughnuts” no one believes me! its better than any Yankee candle!)

**You will have to check your protein powder. There are some nutritional proteins (usually vegan type) that are safe for children. Not all protein powder is to be consumed by kids. If you are making a batch for kids to share be sure to check your label on your product.  If you are unsure of what types of powders can be used by children check with your pediatrician or a local supplement store. Whey Protein is the commonly suggested type for children. Look for something that is low in fats and calorie count. Optimum Nutrition has various types that are safe for children and generally recommended by health professionals. **

Mix all your ingredients in a mixing bowl until it is pretty even. Don’t over mix. Mixing should take you just about a minute or two. You can easily hand mix this recipe. No need for electric mixers.

Now for the easy part :

 

Now that your oven is preheated and you have mixed everything up just simply add it into a silicone doughnut mold. If you do not have one of these you could just use any silicone mold and cut your pieces into any shape you please. We just prefer a silicone mold as I do not have to add any nonstick substance and they are very easy for clean up.

In our doughnut mold it takes from 12-15 minutes in the oven. They will stay pretty pale in color. so just simple check on them throughout the cooking time and do not wait for them to turn dark golden brown. if this happens it will be too late and you may have burned them.

Set the mold on a rack to cool .

You can add toppings like melted dark chocolate if you wish but we just eat ours plain. Plus my kids probably wouldn’t want to wait any longer than they have to to eat them!

 

 

 

 

 

Baby and Toddler Carts in Japan

One of the best freebies in Japan are the Baby Carts in the stores. If you are like a lot of families visiting or relocating to Japan then you want to know all the little details about how to make your life easier when navigating a foreign country. A great place to find things to do with little ones is to visit your nearest mall. Aeon Mall in particular is very kid friendly.

When we first arrived in Japan I was overwhelmed by the many differences. Most of the shopping areas had really narrow aisles and my American style stroller seemed monstrous and just did not work well in the tight crowded space. It can also be a struggle if you are living car free in Japan or downsizing to a more Tokyo friendly smaller scale car. One of the best things I found when I first arrived was the great abundant of themed baby carts and toddler carts in the malls.

I realized that many families in the malls, grocery stores, and department stores were pushing along sleeping babies reclined in style while still having a place for the shopping bags. The toddlers were pretending to drive along with their favorite characters and they were being pushed along giving their moms and dads plenty of shipping time since they were throughly entertained.

The baby carts that are available in many of the stores and malls are high up about waist level and the baby sit can sit up straight or recline fully to allow your child to nap. This also provides those who came to the mall via bicycle or train a way to transport without having to baby wear throughout the entire trip. It is also helpful to many in Japan with mini sized cars that do not have the trunk space to haul a stroller if they are also going to be making purchases on their trip.

 

The baby cart is free for use in the store and you can take it all the way out to your car or bicycle when it is time to pack up your purchases and head home. There are also handles on the cart for shopping bags to hang and a rack underneath to store your basket while you are adding items to your cart.

Some of the baby carts face forward but generally you will see the infant style baby carts facing towards their parent so they will feel at east.

The carts have rubber handle grips and do not have a tight strap or buckle. Instead they have a plastic breathe comes across the lap and between the legs. The plastic Lapland can be tightened or loosened. It will not get loose enough for your child to fall out but it can not get too tight like a small buckle or strap. This design is pretty good, especially if you have a wiggle baby that hates straps. However I find it a bit difficult to put a baby in when I have no assistance. The cart is on wheels and you also have to hold the plastic lap band forward while putting the baby in. It can be done but I think the carts should have some type of brake for this situation. Overall it is a really nice design though.

Most stores have a lot of infant style arts available. I have not come across a time where we couldn’t get one. Even on the dreaded Sunday with heavy crowds!

The toddler carts are available at most locations that have the infant carts. Sometimes if you can not locate a toddler cart inside near the infant seat area then they will be available outside of the store entrances.

These carts are good for children from about 1 1/2 to 4 years of age. There are a variety of character theme and colors. We found most common are Anpanman, Hello Kitty, Thomas the Train, Winnie the Pooh, Miffy, and Mickey Mouse. The carts are equipped with steering wheels, mirrors, and some pretend car controls to entertain your toddler. They all have a strap and buckle. The entrance of the carts are low so toddlers can actually clim in the carts themselves and parents do not have to bend over to life them up. They may just require some help with the buckle.

The carts also have two hooks for shopping bags. You can hang a grocery shopping basket on them as well but then is not really stable and you should use caution. These are more designed for shopping bags, not baskets for use in the grocery area. If you would like to grocery shop with this cart it is possible but not suggested unless you have a second person to help you hold the basket separately.

There is also an area at the top of the cart that you can use for holding small items. We use this area for holding soppy cups or small toys that our toddler might insist on bringing in the mall.

There are many carts available usually. However, we have noticed that there are less toddler carts than infant carts for use. The toddler carts do sometimes run out, especially during peak shopping times during weekends.

Don’t forget the Aeon Malls and large grocery areas generally have a play space for children. The basic play spaces for infants and crawlers are generally free but some of the larger play areas do charge by 5 to 15 minute increments. They can be as little as a few hundred yen to requiring monthly memberships. Either way, when you are using the baby cart you can still participate in the play areas or the arcade spaces.. you can simply park them on the outside of the play area and leave your bag hanging on the cart. This signifies that you are not finished with the cart and no one will use it.

Hope this post helps those venturing out and about the first few times in Japan. Maybe you can accomplish your tasks via bike or car and leave your strollers at home!

Guide to Showa Memorial Park with Kids

One of our favorite family spots to spend time with nature and enjoy the seasons is Showa Memorial Park. This post is an easy guide to make your trip easier, especially when you are traveling with children. We want to help you get the most out of your trip the easy way!

We have visited this park on many occasions as it is near our home and we feel it is one of the best parks in Tokyo. We especially enjoy this park in the Sakura viewing season and have spent three years in a row viewing the Sakura (cherry blossoms) here. In our opinion this is one of the best Cherry Blossoms spots in all of Tokyo and one of the easiest to access with children or a large group.

Lets get right into it!

Getting there:

Showa Kinen Park is located in western Tokyo in the Tachikawa area. It is about an hour from downtown Tokyo. It is a really easy drive to reach the park. There is a two lane entrance complete with parking and as you near the park you will see banners and many park gates announcing that season special attractions at the park.

If driving is not an option you can easily reach Tachikawa by train. The main entrance to the park is close to Tachikawa station. There is about a 10 minute walk between the park and tachikawa station. The walk itself is not generally too difficult. There are some streets to cross but in this area there are wide and new sidewalks so this should not be a problem. The walk from Tachikawa Station will take you to the main entrance of the park.

You will also pass several restaurants, convience stores, and supermarkets between the station and the park. This will allow you to grab snacks or drinks for the park if you do not want to pack much for your train ride. You can bring food and drinks into the park so this is a good option for those that want to enjoy a picnic at the park.

There are also two other close train stops You can exit at the Musashisunagawa Station at the Seibu Haijima line. But this stop will give you around a 20 minute walk to access the park. You will also not enter the park at the main entrance from this stop. You will be looking to enter the park at a gate called Sunagawa Cho. I think this is the lest crowded area for entrance. However this I have never had a wait problem getting into the park even during the peak days and times. I think over all it would be easier to focus on using Tachikawa Station to enter the park unless if you are maybe walking or biking from home and this is your closest gate. I also do not recommend this area for those traveling with small children. I do not think this 20 minute walk is the best route to travel with them. The pathways are not as good for strollers or walking with a baby carrier as the Tachikawa Station route.

The other train option is the JR ome Railway. The exit you should take would be the Nishi Tachikawa station and this route will take you about a 20 minute walk also. I have never done this route and can not comment on how the pathways are for walking with children. When in doubt try a google earth photo! ūüôā

Parking:

Parking at Showa Park is so convenient and easy. It does cost to park though. There is one standard fee. We we recently went to the park (Cheery Blossoms spring 2017) the cost was 820 yen. So about $8.20 in dollars. Keep in mind it is a one time charge for the entire day. This is not hourly or even in 20 minute increments like many Tokyo attractions. This parking is A+ in my book!

Caution though – ¬†I do remember that last year we went during a special event and I thought that we actually paid 1000 yen (around $10). I am not sure of the parking fluctuation for sure but, just be aware that there will be a charge… and it may be slightly higher during a special event.

The parking lot area is large and the spaces are decent sized for Japan standards. You can bring your full size vehicles and it will not be a problem. I did not notice that any spots were specifically zoned off for mini cars so you would not have any issues with parking. The parking area is huge… but not so huge that you will have an issue getting into the park. There are no shuttles needed from the lot like Disney or anything! (btw that is not a thing at Tokyo Disney because the parking lot is not huge like Florida or Cali. ¬†Most people take the train to get to Disney here in Tokyo!!)

Cost:

If you are looking for a free adventure with the fam it can be done. There is one side of the park that is actually called the “Green Culture area ” or Green culture zone. This area is not technically inside the park. You do not have to purchase tickets or wait in line to enter. this will be to the left of the Tachkawa gate. You will pass through this area if you are walking from Tachikawa station.

This area does have a small museum, grassy areas to play, a cafe inside the free museum area and an elevator to access the high part of the park entrances or walking paths for strollers or wheelchairs.

Many people in the Green Culture area bring picnics, skateboards, frisbees, soccer balls, and bubbles for their children to play. There is not as much of a shaded area there though so on a hot day my advice is to go ahead and pay for the main park area.

If you are going to see Cherry Blossoms this area will not have them. There may be just a couple but the large area for cherry blossoms viewing would be inside the regular park area.

The main area of the park charges:

Adults 15 – 64 years- 410 yen
Seniors 65 years and over- 210 yen
Children 6 Р14 years-  80 yen
Infants 0 Р5 years-  Free

Food and Entertainment:

There are multiple food vendors in the park. There is a restaurant near the main entrance and it has large floor to ceiling windows so that you may view the park while eating.

There is also a BBQ park area that you may reserve for your group. This is located near the rainbow pool area and you may bring your own food and drinks from outside or order items within the Rainbow pool BBQ area for grilling. However if you want to sue the BBQ garden you must reserve a spot. As this is a really popular spot for social gathers it is recommended that you try and reserve a spot about 2-3 months in advance as it books up really quickly.

The BBQ garden also has activities that you can participate in. You must book these also. There are activities like frisbee and horseshoes available. Check the official website or call Showa Park directly to find out more about the options and booking availability.

Showa Kinen has a wonderful childrens play area. This is called the Childrens Forest. It has numerous large slides, playground equipment, and large round bouncy contraptions. There is also an area that turns misty in the summer months to keep kids cool. Misty water is sprayed out near the play area so they can even enjoy the playground in the hot humid summer months of Tokyo!

There are also bicycles available for rental. There are numerous bike paths through Showa park and bikes are available for adults and children. You should definitely get to the park early to rent a bike as this is a popular activity and they do run out. You can start renting bikes at 9:30 am. It is around 400 yen for adults and around 260 for children. This price may not be accurate as prices can vary so check with the park directly to confirm.

There are various notable garden attractions in the park as well. Such as a large Japanese garden and a historical area. And a large open field area near the Childrens park. This area is surrounded by trees on the edges but gives plenty of space for running and playing sport or having a picnic. There are vendors at one edge of the field with tables and chairs for enjoying snack. You will see families with children using this area the most.

 

Also- do not forget about the area of the park called “The Rainbow Pool”. This is a separate admission price as it is a small waterpark like pool. More about this on the post entitled “Rainbow Pool at Showa Kinen Park”. Creative title right?

Hours of Operation:

March  until October Р 9:30 a.m. Р5:00
November until February: 9:30 a.m. – 4:30

Strollers/ Wheelchairs / Infant Feeding:

Showa park is one of the easiest parks to navigate with strollers or a wheelchair. The pathways are wide and mostly flat. There are easy to access ramps at the front entrance with handrails as well. Baby carriers could be used as well but since this park is so large it is best to also bring along your stroller. I think most moms would get really worn out walking through the entire park with only a baby carrier.

Infant and baby feeding is easy here. There are many areas that you could stop and feed an infant. Also, bags containing liquids and food are allowed in all areas of the park.

There are nice baby changing areas in the restrooms and they are spread throughout the entire park.

I had an easy time using the changing areas here since my child was a very young baby. Now that she is potty training we still have no problem accessing a bathroom in a hurry!

 

Overall:

Pack a picnic, bring your stroller, and some water bottles because this will be an all day event! We have visited this park many times and still haven’t seen all there is to see! We also have not rode in any of the boats on the little lake! There is so much to do here and everything is easy for foreigners and kids! I also suggest bringing a mat for your picnic. There are usually seats and tables at the vendors but in case they are full or you are packing your own lunch box you may want to have a mat to lay on the grass to sit on while eating. Also as the weather changes quickly in Tokyo, the mat is very useful if it suddenly starts to rain but you need to rest on a bench for a baby feeding or something like that. This way you can keep your seat dry while stopping for a more comfortable baby feeding.

*Do not forget your camera! This park has great photo spots for the kids. Usually there are couples doing wedding photos here and many families posing for family pictures. Yes, it is that beautiful!

Enjoy your trip to Showa park! Leave a comment and share any tips you have for the park!

 

 

Mt Fuji 5th Station with Kids

mt fuji, fuji sanSo last weekend we planned to visit the 5th station of Mt. Fuji with our kids and friend. If you are not familiar with Mt. Fuji, then I must explain a couple of things so that you understand what I am talking about! The 5th station is actually the highest point on Mt. Fuji that you can reach without hiking. So If you are driving, visiting by tour bus, or just taking a guided tour of the mountain and not an actual “climb” then this will be your summit.

The 5th station is also the “halfway point” on the Subaru line. There are 4 trails that you can take if you are physically climbing the mountain but depending on weather and the age of your children most likely you will be just visiting the 5th station. Older children would have no issues climbing up – although it may take many hours- but our children are younger so I only have advice and tips for those with littles! If it is a clear day you will be able to see the top of Fuji from the 5th station, so I think you can still get the full experience even if you are not climbing the mountain.

Overall I would say this is a family event that everyone should experience while in Japan, even if you have just a short visit. It is one of the most popular and well know destinations and it is really easy to access with children. Compared to many other destinations it does not cost an excessive amount if you are traveling with a large family.

Getting there:

We drove. If you have a car in Tokyo or access to a car you can do it. The route is pretty easy. I must stress that if you are visiting from Tokyo just take the freeway toll route. This is such an easy drive. Yes, you will be paying tolls. I am thinking that we paid about $40 to take a large van but we have also driven to Fujisan “toll free” in a windy road that double our drive time and curved around many edges of mountains and small, small, unsturdy looking old bridges over huge cliffs. I can not even explain to you have terrifying it was to drive toll free to fuji from Tokyo. I literally thought we were probably going to run off the edge of a very narrow road on a very sharp cliff and plunge to our death. So please just go the toll road. You can get there in about 1.5 hours from Tokyo. Easy driving. Not much traffic. When you enter the Subaru line there is a 2000 yen fee. This is close to $20 USD. This is the only toll to get up to the 5th station and back. I thought it was well worth the fee as the road was very well maintained, clean, and there were nice bathrooms at the entrance where you pay the fee.

Subaru Line:

So the road that you will drive up the mounting is called the Subaru line. You will take this to wind all the way to the top. Drive slowly because there will be many tour buses passing you and they will rule the road. They will not watch out for you and you should be prepared to stop or move over at a moments notice. Be aware as there will be lots of bicyclists using this road as well. They will be the most difficult part of the drive in my opinion as when we went there were many of them.

There will be rest areas along this road up. There will be some parking areas with look out aces so you can enjoy the view. Some of these stops even have nice restroom accomodations and they generally have handicapped parking as well.

Parking:

When you reach the 5th station there Weill be traffic officers to help you navigate your way around the buses and through the tourists to the large parking lot. There wil be steps and a ramp from the parking area up to the main tourist area. I had a stroller but found the ramp to be very steep. It was not worth it to take the stroller up from the parking area to me.

Things To Do on FujiSan:

The 5th station is where you will find all the action. There are horse rides and they are around 300 yen (US $3.00). They supply helmets and kids or adults can ride. There will be a guide to lead your horse around a little trail that goes around the gift shop areas and then back to the stable area. We chose not to ride the horses because we felt they were in very poor condition. I felt that they were probably not well cared for or rested. Some were constantly  twitching and keeping certain hooves up or chained to the side of the mounting standing as if they were injured. You may encounter different horses or a better situation than we did.

There is a row of gift shops. They sell a large array of Japan tourist gifts. Typical things like fans, t-shirts, candies, and lots of “Mt Fuji” memorabilia of all kinds. We bought a Mt Fuji snow globe for the sake of having something Mt Fuji that we could keep. Things are pretty expensive but there are plenty of cheap things like candies that could make the trip “excellent” according to a young child!

Eating:

There is a large cafeteria style restaurant at the 5th Station. It was pretty crowded when we went. I think it is about $30 per person for the Japanese buffet style food. I do not know if this price changes seasonally but when we were considering booking a tour for our family visiting from out of town is was $28 per person and that was with a very small discount for booking the tour.  The cafeteria is child/ baby/ elderly and wheel chair friendly but we opted out.

There is a large area lower than the cafeteria next to an information center. This area has picnic tables and some benches. There is space in this area to enjoy a packed lunch or a bento. We took many photos and videos in this area as it has the perfect view to the summit – especially for taking pictures of your children for future holiday cards and such!

This is also an acceptable distance to the gift shops and a vendor or two selling ice cream. You can send some of your group to buy the snacks or supplies and then wait it out with the kids at the picnic table area. This area is also the closet to the parking area. So if you have some really tired kiddos or grandparents this would be a good spot to let some sit down for a break.

Attractions:

Besides the summit of Fuji, there is also a really pretty little shrine area located behind the gift shops. This area can get pretty crowded but if you are at the 5th station it is worth visiting. It is also a great place to seek some shade if you travel here on a sunny or hot day (however keep in mind that Fuji is generally windy and cooler than down below!)

There are look out points around the 5th station area for photography and admiring the scenery. There are so many trees around the edge of the mountain and it is so massive you almost forget how high up you actually are! You can also check out entrances to the other trails for those continuing to climb up. But remember the the 5th station is the final stop for any cars.

Letting your kids see an active volcano up close and personal is amazing. It also looks very different than we expected! It was amazing that even at the 5th station which is 7,874 feet high there is still a long way to go to reach the top! The entire mountain is a little over 12,388 feet high. If you want your older children to do some math have them convert the signs in meters to feet!

Strollers:

I advise not bringing a stroller. This also may depend on the day and season though. However Mt Fuji is generally always somewhat crowded. Even when we recently tried to visit in the snow, and the Subaru line was closed, there were still many cars trying to enter the road to the 5th station in just the few minutes we were there and made to turn around!

It is easier to use a baby carrier. Get out your most comfy baby wearing harness or wrap and walk freely around. There are far to many tourists, especially many taking selfies and will not watch out for your stroller. Plus you can easily take many selfies of your family and baby hands free. Also there are steep areas and it is just easier to not worry about your stroller rolling down a mountain. I also think it is probably easier to go without a stroller as the ramp up from the parking lot was a pretty steep incline. This mixed with the high altitude could make breathing pretty difficult. You may end up panting the entire way up to the sites! You will still get your exercise in baby wearing and it will be a better experience!

Wheelchairs:

I know that there were many visitors in wheelchairs and many elderly visitors as well. I would suggest letting them out of the car before you park. There is a street to turn down to the parking lot and an area where you could stop to do this. Otherwise be prepared to have someone else them up the ramp, it is pretty steep.

Cost:

Besides your cost of tolls you will be paying around 2000 yen to enter the Subaru line to get to the 5th station. This is your only cost. There is no fee to “visit” Mt Fuji. If you pack a lunch and just enjoy the scenery and take photos that is all you will pay. This was more than enough enjoyment for us. We packed snacks and drinks for the car. You can bring your own drinks and food and there is no restrictions on this.

There is nothing that you are obligated to pay for other than the toll entrance to enter the mountain. The parking itself is free. The lookout points are free as well. You can park there instead and picnic if you like for no charge.

We wondered around the mountain and bought 1 family souvenir. We had a great time and had lots of photos to remember this by.  Not a lot of cost compared to many things we have tried as a family in Tokyo but it was still great fun.  It is worth the trip.

Overall:

Our 8 year old still talks about it and we have returned to the fuji area several times. This is a great family outing even with small children and is easy to navigate. This is one of my favorite things in Japan. It is so pretty and wish we could visit during every season to enjoy how the trees change!

EXTRA TIP:

Don’t forget to be quiet as you enter the forest area of your drive. You will pass the Fuji World Heritage museum. (This is also free and you should stop and check it out, another post on this later). As you leave the museum area you will notice down the road that there are music notes. You will drive over bumps and a song will play. You tires will bump along to the Mt Fuji Song! Kids love this! You can hear it on the way home too!

 

 

 

 

April Homeschool Update

If you are interested in what’s happening in our homeschool… keep reading to check out our April Homeschooling update!

So as you may or may not know we homeschool year round. For us it is just easier and I will probably make another blog post on how we schedule our year round school calendar and how we plan for our days off. It is easy to accomplish and we actually feel that it is better for us to school year round while living in Japan as the summer in Tokyo is not actually the best season for spending your time outside. We have an extensive list as to why we start our “school year” in the spring but that is for another time!

First of all, we can not believe that it is April already! It seems like March just started and it is already finished! We enjoyed a lot of great activities, books, and science experiences in March and even finished our Apologia science curriculum that we had been working through since last October. We really enjoyed many of the curriculum choices and add ins that we used but to be honest it has been a bit of a challenge. We were ending our scheduled school year and preparing for the next season to start.

We have been gearing up to start our next curriculum which will be based around My Father’s World: Exploring Countries and Cultures (aka MFW:ECC). We did end up buying almost all of the supplies used and this saved me a decent amount. I started shopping for the products one by one on Amazon a few months prior to our April start date. We are actually still waiting on a couple of items that we need for the school year but we are going to get started even thought they are not here yet. A couple of the books will not be used until later in the year so we can get by without them for now.

We also had a special couple of boxes that arrived form family in the United States that were loaded down with books. There were many good books that will help fill our book baskets and followed along with our countries and cultures themes and we plan to add those in as we see fit with the plan. There were also a few books that kind of tied in with our previous curriculum and my son was really interested in reading them before we started our new school year.

Soooo we have been finishing up :

(these are our just for fun books this month, not what we have been using for curriculum / planned study)

Daniel Boone

Who is Issac Newton

Roll of Thunder Hear My Cry

The Magic Tree House: Dragon of the Red Dawn

Various Pokemon Books

The Secret Garden

My son really got into Roll of Thunder Hear My Cry. I think he learned so much about history and could relate it to certain subject that currently come up on the news today. He has a broader understand and why people from different generations have different feelings and ideas about things than our family currently does. It really gave a great glimpse into history and no matter your age or where you come from you could really get lost in the main characters feelings like you were standing there with her. I won’t ruin the book for anyone who has not read it… but I think it is a book that all children should read. I do suggest it as a read aloud with a parent – especially if your child is young so that you can explain some of the language used and why it is inappropriate and some history to go along with the book. If I would not have been reading this book aloud with my 8 year old he would have bene very confused about some of the scenes because he would not understand about the state of the country after slavery and the changes in the south at that time. I never read this book as a student but I wish that my public school would have read this. Skim through the book before purchasing and make sure your child is at an appropriate age to really “get it” though. Some context would be too much for young readers. (FYI there is references to graphic things but the book does not always describe them… you will have to interpret them on your Childs level. This would make some parents uncomfortable. I think it needs to be told though. But maybe for children a little older)

We have also been working with fractions. We have finished Singapore Math 4A&B. We are kind of disappointed with this book. We used the US version and I did not think that there were enough practice problems for how quickly the book moved through each concept of fractions. So instead of moving right into the next level we are spending a few days just prating and reviewing with fractions. We are using the Ikea chalkboard and roller paper and just doing a quick quiz with different types of review problems. It is a fun change of pace from the regular book. I mix in some easier review multiplication with different types of fraction problems. Then we also add in some multistep word problems and try to make it enjoyable. We will be trying out teaching textbooks for the start of our next school year.

We have never used teaching textbooks before and I am not sure how it will go. It does take up a bit more space than our Singapore workbook and text book so that is unfortunate when we are traveling but it is still portable when needed. Most days we do complete our work at home so, I think this will still work out just fine! I also like the idea of a “teacher” on the computer to explain the lessons. this way, if my son is feeling confidant and really catching on he can keep on moving without my help. Then later I can log in and see his lessons results. It auto grades the answers and I can look for any problem areas very quickly. Then we can spend more time on difficult areas rather than wasting time.

We have finished Apologia: swimming creatures. If you have a child that is into seas life they will really enjoy it. I know a lot of people shy away from this as they feel it is a year long program. It was not an entire year long for us. We went through the entire book, did some note booking, and projects and still finished in 5 months. I think the thing to remember is that we did this in 5 months with holiday breaks and other breaks off. We didn’t rush but I did make it a priority. Science and Math are a big priority. We do them bother EVERY school day. However Science does not have to take too long. We do not have to do an activity or a project along with it everyday but we will AT MINIMUM read ¬†a couple sections from the science book.

It has been really fun when my son sees something here in Tokyo that we have learned about in our science book. He loves being our “tour guide” and telling us all about nay sea life that we are seeing!

He has been asking for Apologia: Flying creatures and we have ordered it but have not received it just yet. We bought it used from Amazon. An important note is that any Military families can get 40% off all Apologia curriculum. That is a great deal and I just wanted to pass that along to anyone who might come across this site. (which is not many people! ha!)

We are still making our way through the book shark and Sonlight book lists. We just add in the books that fit in with what we are currently studying. We love them. We love to read. We might be banned from our library soon since we always have about 30 books or more at a time!

We wil be posting updates throughout our time with My Fathers world. We will try to include info on any projects we make or extras we add in. We like the curriculum but we do have to increase it for challenge and I don’t think that is a big issue though. My son loves the activities and hands on projects. It really reinforces what he has learned and he likes to show off his art! If you kid is not into crafty things they would not like this program. As a mom I find it so helpful because the projects are simple, fun, and the materials do not cost much.

We Will be posting our first week asap! Happy Spring Break!

 

 

 

Homeschool – Why We Are Using My Father’s World

my fathers worldSo this Spring I have been preparing for our next year of homeschool. We typically homeschool all year round. Our schedule is always changing and my husbands work schedule is sometimes unpredictable so I found through trial and error that schooling year round is great for us. (I will add a separate post about how we form a schedule to school year round) We usually order our materials by March and then start fresh with the spring time on our next official homeschooling year. Japan starts their school year end of March beginning of April as well. So that helps us adjust while being in Tokyo.

This is our second year using My Fathers World. Previously we used My Fathers World: Adventures in American History and we have tried Sonlight. We are not exclusive with using only one curriculum but, for the second year in a row we will continue with My Father’s World as our main spine. ¬†We will use it as a basis for Social studies/history, Language arts/Bible study, and some of our science. It will give us a list of read alouds and suggested readers, and scheduled activities with lists of the needed materials already planned out. It also will have a complete school year planned in a grid style planner with additional tips and information for the teacher ready to go. This saves so much time. There are open spaces in the weekly schedule for adding in extra subjects.

We are in the middle of an international move and being able to used a partially boxed curriculum with a schedule to follow is really going to help me. While I am busy preparing a major move I will have extra time for things like house hunting instead of spending hours making lessons plans and lists of materials we need.

The first year we used My Father’s World I thought maybe it was a bit too easy and I was not completely satisfied with the level for my 7 year old. But then I realized that both of my kids were enjoying school so much with the added activities that they were both probably getting more out of the curriculum than they would with a rigorous nothing but book work style unit. They would find it dull and tune out much of the information I was giving them. I also realized that we were previously spending so much time trying to increase our difficulty of course work we weren’t doing great at life tasks like learning to measure for cooking, saving time for learning about common sense things like how to prevent or put out fires, what to do in emergencies. So since I course work was not too long we spent a unit or two learning all these important life skills.

As we got comfortable with the program we began to bulk up the rigor which is really easy to do to match your Childs won needs. We just purchased a higher level of the math we were using, and added in some higher level English/ Language arts supplements and our own choice for science plus our usual foreign language, piano, typing and coding and we had a busy and entertained kid.

There are also extra spaces in the daily schedule that you can write in exactly what you would like to add and schedule it out for your week/ month. It is also easy to see the details as your teachers Manuel/schedule book is spiral. So no pages are constantly ripping and you can fold it over. The boxes are big enough that I can add dates, extra notes and extra subjects toward right on the page. this serves as double duty as I have a record right there of what we have done in school should I have to prove that to a district or state in the future. We are floating without homeschool laws due to where we live at this time but, that could change so I want to be ready to present anything needed , should things change.Overall the set up is really user friendly – Easy to get used to if you are new to homeschooling or if you are using the program for the first time. What homeschool mom doesn’t love a spiral bound book of any kind?!

My Father’s World does offer suggestions on individual course curriculums to try if you are feeling kind of lost about all the choices.. For example I believe that when we bought our Adventures unit, “Singapore Math” was suggested to purchase for the math subject. We were already using Singapore Math at the time, so we continued on with our next level and it worked out well. We also used some of the suggested Language arts materials and we enjoyed it. This was a plus as we were using Adventures with a “2nd grader” by public school definition, but we were using a higher level of math and English and this made no issues. We could also add in a higher reading level in the book basket for fun and some below his reader level just because he was interested in the particular book. We did not feel limited for restricted by My Fathers World. We just felt like we had a solid plan to lead us.

If you have no previous experience with My Fathers World one important thing to note is the aspect of the “book basket”. Everyday you child is to have time with the book basket. This is about 20 minutes of free reading. There are different ways to go about doing this and I think many families put their own twist on it. I think the main idea is just to use a designated place to store free reading books that are associated with the subjects you are covering that present week (or month depending on how many books you provide in the basket). The children are fee to browse through, read cover to cover, anything they like just so as long as they are actively engaging in free reading time for 20 mins. (depending on age and ability of course). We use a mix of appropriate reading level and lower reading level just so its a fun time.

The book basket is great. I have read many reviews where homeschoolers overlook My Fathers World simply because they have issues with going to the library so often for books on their weekly topics. I completely get this- but I do not think it is a reason that you should count it out! We live in Tokyo. Our family is completely limited with libraries that have a large selection of books in English. Trust me. There is a library I use regularly but it will never cover our needs. That is ok. There are ways around this.

Some weeks we do not have tons of supplemental books on our topic. I have to deal with it. I provide extra books that look interesting and educational. And sometimes after book basket I have to find some educational DVD or youtube thing to add in so that we are really understanding a concept. It happens. Reading still gets completed though. And we still complete book basket time – even if some of our books might be a little off topic. They are still getting use of independent reading time and my children still learns things….many things! ¬†If we want another book on a subject we can order it used on Amazon.

This brings me to another point. Amazon is our best friend. If you do not have access to a close library or just do not have what you need try locating a reading list guide from your my fathers world teachers Manuel and order used books from amazon ahead of time. Our books ship all the way to Japan for only $4.00. and most of the books cost us less than $1. Then I will keep them for our younger child or swap them for more books. If your budget won’t allow this … resell some of your own used books or book swap online for this. There are many online sites that have the used books you would need for this program. It was not too difficult for me to find the titles. I spent less doing this than ordering other curriculums and ended up with much more material I could keep for later years.

I have bought ENTIRE reading lists on amazon in advance, and sometimes it takes me months to complete it. Is it annoying and time consuming? Yes. But does our book basket get accomplished. Yes. Do we also have all the books to use in the future and to share with others who want to learn about homeschool? yes. And this is why I do not mind doing it without access to a good library.

This year my two year old is really into being in the school mix. If you are homeschooling multi ages My Fathers World will help your sanity. Even though my children are far apart in age there is always something the toddler can help out with. While doing adventures she helped us make butter, light catchers in the window, color bible worksheets to put on our poster board, make bread, memorize verses, sing songs to learn the states and more.

We had previously done Sonlight and we loved it and loved all the read alouds….but my toddler would not be able to be part of very much of our school ¬†time if we did that this year. Sonlight worked great when she was an infant taking naps during much of our school day, ¬†but it is a completely different dynamic and she really wants to be part of our group. Even though she is too young for a formal program at this time, she is also getting a lot of coordination, life lessons, and together time with this multi age family program along with her 8 year old sibling. My older child also enjoys showing her what he is making/ doing and he actually LIKES to show her how to make projects too. She is learning so much related to pre-school skills just by mimicking what he is doing with projects and hands on work. We would not have this bonus if we did not switch to My Father’s World.

At this point, it is important to me to have a schedule made. I need the time saver for this year. We have many things coming up and I want the ease of a pre made schedule that I can simply alter if needed vs creating an entire years worth of lesson plans. I also like that I can pick which math, English and Science that we want to add. I can spend more time on household duties, playing with a toddler, and doing hands on activities rather than scheduling every part of our day.

We have added Singapore math but may switch to teaching textbooks. We also are using Wordly Wise 4, Grammar ACE, and Writing Strands for English. For a language we study Korean. He is also learning to play piano and read music. Hopefully I haven’t forgotten to list anything!

I gave my 8 year old the choice. I asked him if he wanted to go back to a different curriculum ¬†or stick with My Fathers World. I asked him which he enjoyed more. He said he loved learning through literature and the living books books. He enjoyed them so much we still talk about them two years after we started… but he really loved the hands on experiences with My Fathers world. He is an artsy kid and he also loves to read. We can not say one is better than the other but his enjoyment of making projects allows him to explore what he is learning hands on and it helps him to engage in the curriculum further. So, we will be sticking with my fathers world. We get to keeps reading lots of good books and have the artsy stuff pre planned. That is the perfect combination of how he wants to learn. He could not do that in public school or with a different pre planned all in one curriculum.

We have ordered all the My Fahter’s World curriculum used this year separately and I will have a different post with those details. I just wanted to share how we make My Fathers World work for anyone who is on the fence about it. We will continue to post as we get into the new year and share how we use it week by week. I like to browse online and see what other families are doing that looks creative and fun also!

Easy Japanese Curry – Great for Freezer Meals, Budget Friendly

This is a quick and easy tutorial on how to make Japanese curry! Before living in Tokyo, I have to admit I did not even realize that curry was a popular dish in Japan. The first time I had Japanese curry was in a popular Casual family restaurant chain called COCO Curry House. It was one of our first stops in Tokyo. We were hot, tired, and starving globe trotters (with a two month old baby and a five year old along for the ride).

I wanted something fast, cheap, and tasty but to be honest I did not have high expectations of curry! My husband assured me that I would really love it. (He is much more adventurous with foods than I am, to say the least! Actually, there are many ¬†foods that I would have never tried if it were not for his suggestions… and now many of them are my favorites!)

My husband had also previously lived in Japan, so he knew many good places to try. We found that this restaurant was not too far from our new house and we were still getting acclimated to driving on the other side of the road. We did not want to take too many chances and go on any difficult driving journeys when we first arrived this was a good starting point for adventure.

On this particular day we had lots of errands to run as were still had no furniture or belongings yet. Everything was still being shipped, but… we did have our new car on this day! Which was great. (It made us feel much more at home to have a car here in Tokyo – even though technically you do not even need a car in this city!)

Since it was so hot outside, I was not really sure about having hot curry…. but I went with the suggestion, because hey… I did not have my Japan license yet. As many of you know basically a passenger has no say in the destination! When you know nothing about 1.where you are ¬†2.where you are going and 3. when you are relying on your husband to order your food anyway (because he speaks Japanese and you don’t!) its best to just go with the flow! ha!

Anyway, I had no idea that curry was a big thing here but it really is. Although it is different than Indian curry of course, It is still typically served over rice and it is spicy. It is a regular staple at most restaurants especially on the kids menus… wherever we go there is always a kids curry with rice option as a “kids seto” and many of them come with a little mini sized hamburger a juice box and a little jello type of dessert. ¬†My son loves the kids meals in Japan especially the curry.

After eating at COCO Curry I was totally obsessed. I thought that it was so tasty. I thought it also looked like something that would be pretty simple to cook, and to customize to our family’s own taste. It also looked like it shouldn’t cost too much to make at home. I searched the internet, books, and you tube of course. I found a few recipes that were helpful and led me in the right direction but they had so many steps. I did not have enough time for a long curry session so I figured out my own specifics to make curry that is just fine for my unrefined simple American pallet! It is also much quicker than the traditional way of making curry but hey, I’m just a SAHM trying to clean the house and cook dinner, and teach a 5 year old math at the same time! ūüôā

So here goes, the great thing about this recipe is that it only needs 5 cheap ingredients and it can accommodate  a small or large family with just a couple changes. You defiantly do not need to write this recipe down or do any difficult conversions.

** As always products used linked below**

 

What you need:

-1 box of Japanese curry mix.

(you can find this in some grocery stores, or an asian /Japanese market , or if you click this link and use my favorite kind and it will be shipped right to you through amazon. **Yes, it is an affiliate link but my purpose is not to make money from this site, it is just ¬†to share our experiences with other people and to do that sometimes I need to share where you can easily get a product because sometimes they aren’t easily accessible to everyone.)

-water

-potatoes

-carrots

-onion

-some type of cubed beef for stew cut into small pieces.

(just leave this out if you don’t meat and it will taste fine. I actually prefer it without the meat but my family does not.)

3 Steps to a Finished Meal:

  1. brown your meat in a pan (rinse away any grease after this)
  2. chop your veggies into bite size pieces
  3. add veggies, curry blocks, and water to put and let it cook!

I let it cook for a while to make sure that my carrots get really soft. I give it a stir from time to time. If you find that if gets a bit scummy or greasy at the top due to your meat just simply skim this off the top and discard. I never skip this part as the cuts of meat in Japan seem to contain much higher fat content than in the U.S. Рthe marbled look in beef  (as in fat throughout) seems to be thought of as tasty and high quality here. It is hard to find beef without a white marbled look in the markets near our home.

The more time you let this simmer the better it will be but if you are in a rush just let it cook until you can pierce through your carrots and potatoes easily. And Voila! you are finished. Now you are an expert at one of the most common dishes in Japan… we just did it the easy way! ūüėČ

FYI – If you are making a small batch use 2 cups of water and just 1/2 of the cubes of curry in the box. (4 little cube pieces.)

If you are making a big batch for a large size family or want a lot of leftovers to freeze just the entire 8 blocks and 5-6 cups of water.

It will seem water while it is cooking but as it cools it will thicken.

This is also a really easy freezer meal. I just cook fresh rice in the rice cooker and thaw a freezer bag of this in the fridge the night before. Heat on stove and its ready in just a few.

Products:

S&B Curry

 

 

 

Easy Eggless Sugar Cookies – Allergy and Vegan Friendly

easter cookies, vegan cookies Today we made easy eggless sugar cookies! Since Early this morning it has been raining in Tokyo and pretty cold outside too. It was one of those days where as soon as you got up you just wanted to go back to bed! Our entire high rise seemed pretty quiet today  and by 10:30 in the morning I was feeling like the kids in my house needed a little treat since they were inside feeling groggy!

I wanted to make something that was easy and kid friendly. Also something that a toddler and an 8 could do together and neither was feeling bored or left out. This recipe is quick enough to hold my toddlers attention and easy enough that my 8 year old can do most of it undirected.

(Side note: It is also great because you do not have to worry about the dangers of uncooked eggs. This is a big plus as at some point my toddler cried for help as she had shoved a big piece of dough in her mouth secretively and it had gotten stuck in the roof of her mouth. We had to use the iPhone flashlight to see what in the world was going on with her mouth and why was she crying. Then we noticed that it was actually a big chunk of dough! Those toddlers they can be quick, even in direct supervision! We took a quick detour from cookie cutters, retrieved dough from the mouth, brushed teeth, and then we were back at it! Thank goodness there were no raw eggs involved!)

So this recipe is really simple. You can alter it easily for a vegan friendly version, or you can use dairy products instead depending on your dietary needs. Either way it is great without eggs and it is good for kids with allergies or jus those with restrictive dietary needs.

I will leave links for the cookie cutter at the bottom. I am really happy with it. It is heavy duty and washes well. The cutter is not intricate so the cookies are easy to cut out, especially for kids.

vegan cookies

What You Need:

2 cups of flour (or coconut flour)

1/2 cup of sugar (you can use white or coconut sugar)

1  1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 cup butter (earth balance natural buttery spread for vegan and dairy free)

2 tablespoons almond milk (I used vanilla unsweetened silk brand)

2  1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract (you can use less if you like a mild vanilla flavor)

small pinch of salt (sea salt or regular)

easter cookieseaster cookiesDirections:

preheat oven to 375

make sure your butter is soft but not melted

mix all ingredients together in a mixing bowl and then stir until it is well mixed and can easily form into a ball. Do not over do it with the mixing. This should be quick and easy.

Do not continue to mix if the dough starts to get mushy. If you feel your dough is starting to get too soft or mushy then stick it in the fridge for a few.

pinch off small sections and roll out dough for cookie cutters.

transfer to cookie sheet and bake for 6-8 minutes (this depends on your oven so be sure to watch the first batch closely.)

easter cookies****These cook up very quickly and the will get pretty thick  looking in the oven. I ruined my first batch thinking that they were not done because they looked so fluffy. I thought possibly there were not cooked all the way through but they were already done.***

After baking let cool and try to regulate how many cookies everyone in your house eats before you get the chance to ice them!

easter cookiesWe decorated our with a simple mix of confectionary sugar and almond milk mixed together. just a couple  tablespoons of each is all you need. This is easy for kids to pour over the cookie and they can add any topping that they like. Its easy and fun and not too much work for mom! They can also mix this on their own depending on their age and feel very accomplished! We just added a few sprinkles from an Easter sprinkles mix on top of the icing.

From set up to clean up it took us less than 30 minutes. (which is an important thing when you are working with a 2 year old chef!)

Leave any advice and changes that worked for you in the comments! Happy eggless cookie baking!

Supplies:

Bunny and carrot cookie cutter