We have all watched the news reports from Japan with horror and sadness. Some of us have children old enough to understand the ramifications, and some of us have children too young to comprehend. I suggest using this monumental event in our world’s history as a study unit in our homeschools.
Geography –pull out maps or our globe and discuss where Japan is, what its major cities are, and learn what other countries surround it.
Social Studies – learn about the culture of Japan and what makes it such a strong, proud country. Learn to make some traditional Japanese dishes with your children. Sushi is fun and messy, and you can put your own ingredients in there and skip the raw fish, if you want. Learn about their traditional kimonos and listen to Japanese music. Find out what children there like to do with their time, and draw correlations between your children’s hobbies and those of the children in Japan.
Science – discuss how natural disasters occur. What are the changes in weather conditions, what are the changes in the earth’s crust, what things have to be in alignment to bring about this type of event? Discuss what this means for the environment, what the effects of radiation can be, and how plants and animals, as well as people, have been affected.
Character – discuss compassion and how we can use our feelings of sorrow for the Japanese people and turn them into something beautiful. Talk about how when we feel sorry for someone, it shows that we care, and we can donate goods or services to make the world a more beautiful place.
Preparation – we can talk with our children about how we can prepare ourselves in case we experience something similar here. We can plan escape routes, just like we would for fire drills, and we can talk with them about having a backpack ready with some basic essentials in case we need to leave our homes quickly.
As we do each of these things, we should keep in mind that our focus should be on reassuring our children. They do need to know what’s going on in the world around them, but this is a frightening topic, and our goal should be in keeping with the idea that “knowledge is power.” As they come to understand what happened, and to know that these things are not common, they should feel a sense of reassurance. Working with them on an escape route, etc, should be done in a loving, protecting way. Explaining disasters to children and preparing children for disasters is not an easy task, but as you go into it with love and plenty of hugs, your instincts will help you know how to diffuse the fear and make it a positive, empowering learning experience.