Living Books Lists: Japanese History

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Embarking on a journey through living books with my homeschooling children has been an enriching experience, especially as we delve into the vibrant history of Japan. One period that captivates our imaginations is the Heian period, a time of cultural flourishing and artistic brilliance. Through literature and historical narratives, my children absorb the essence of this era, exploring the intricate courtly traditions, poetic expressions, and the nuanced cultural landscape.

The Heian period not only unveils the beauty of Japanese art and literature but also offers a profound understanding of the societal norms and values of that time. Incorporating the study of this historical period into our classical education provides a unique perspective on the foundations of Japanese culture. It teaches my children the importance of appreciating diverse traditions, fostering empathy, and recognizing the universal themes that connect humanity across centuries and continents.

Classical learning about other countries, like Japan, is instrumental in cultivating well-rounded individuals. As we immerse ourselves in the literary masterpieces of the Heian period, my children not only grasp the historical context but also develop a broader cultural awareness. They learn to appreciate the nuances of different societies, promoting a global perspective that goes beyond mere academic knowledge.

Exploring Japan’s history through living books enables my children to connect emotionally with the stories and characters, making the learning experience more engaging and memorable. Classical education, with a focus on the humanities and historical periods like the Heian era, provides a solid foundation for understanding the complexities of our world. It instills in my children a curiosity to explore beyond their immediate surroundings, fostering a lifelong love for learning and a genuine interest in the rich tapestry of global history and culture.

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Japanese children’s favorite stories by Sakade, Florence.

Peach Boy And Other Japanese Children’s Favorite Stories by Florence Sakade: Nine stories of Japanese folklore collected in this volume, all vibrantly illustrated and full of thrilling adventures, funny discoveries and important lessons, they’re sure to become story time favorites.   This book, as well as Little One-Inch, Urashiam Taro, and Kintaro’s Adventures, as delightful stories passed from generation to generation in Japanese culture.

Grandfather’s Journey by Allen Say: Winner of the 1994 Caldecott Medal, Allen Say’s story of his beloved grandfather will evoke the emotions of all who have loved a country and then had to leave it. The longing for home when “home” is two different countries, half a world apart, is the theme of this lyrical, warm, and tender tale. The illustrations with their simple, yet deep beauty will prompt many discussions.

The Tale of the Mandarin Ducks by Katherine Patterson: A beautiful mandarin duck is captured and caged by a greedy lord who wants to show off the bird’s magnificent plumage.  Story of loyalty and compassion.

Crow Boy by Taro Yashima: This is a story of a shy Japanese boy, about the power of kindness and patience, and being willing to see with our hearts and not just our eyes. This book won the Caldecott Honor in 1956.

Kamishibai Man by Say, Allen: Using two very different yet remarkable styles of art, Allen Say tells a tale within a tale, transporting readers seamlessly to the Japan of his memories.

Tea with Milk by Say, Allen: The story of a boy and his mother; her journey as a young woman is heartfelt. Vividly portraying the graceful formality of Japan with beautiful illustration.

Erika San by Say, Allen: Caldecott Medalist Allen Say creates a beautiful story about an American girl who seeks adventure in Japan and discovers more than she could have imagined.

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