Literature Based Unit Studies – Robinson Crusoe and Swiss Family Robinson

Time for some new resources!  Yay!

Last month, sometime, we listened to Robinson Crusoe: A BBC Radio Full-Cast Dramatization (BBC Children’s Classics)""“.  My eight year old son fell in love and we started a new unit study.  We are endeavoring to read through THE SWISS FAMILY ROBINSON / ROBINSON CRUSOE and learn some basic survival skills.

Here are some of the links we’ve used so far:

Unit Study – Sites Alive provided this public school unit study that easily adapts to homeschool use.  In it we created a role playing type game in which the kids pretended they were stranded on a deserted island and had to determine what items would be of most use.  They also had to make decisions on how to survive and how to escape.  I adapted this for my much younger kids and they had a blast.

Crayola Robinson Crusoe’s Island – You can use this how-to to create the island for your unit study, especially if you do the unit study found above.

Tobago is the island where the inspiration for Robinson Crusoe, Alexander Selkirk, is thought to have landed.  Take a virtual tour of the island here.

Other popular opinion places Selkirk’s landing site here in Chile.  There are many beautiful photos of this site.

I discovered World of Learning after we were already started, but next time I do a literature based unit study I’m going here.  The unit study for “Swiss Family Robinson” is all laid out for you.

And, of course, you can always check out Swiss Family Robinson (Vault Disney Collection)  While not 100% true to the story, it is always a family favorite.   There was also New Swiss Family Robinson [VHS] starring Jane Seymour that was made for TV a few years ago.  What I remember was that it was good, but not as memorable at the Disney version.  Also, some of you may remember the short lived TV series called Crusoe: The Complete Series that aired in 2008 (I think).  Little did I know then that we would be revisiting the story.  What I remember is that it was a good series, but it was also very condensed.  As readers will know, Crusoe spent almost 30 years on the island before being rescued.  While artistic liberties were taken in regards to this point, it was still a good series, but may be a bit intense for younger viewers.

Finally, we took a trip to the library and here is what we found:

It amazes me that this book has not been turned into a movie yet.  It was first read aloud to me by my 5th grade teacher many years ago and remains a favorite, especially for boys.  Hatchet: 20th Anniversary Edition is the story of a 13 year old boy whose plane crashes in the Canadian wilderness after the pilot has a heart attack.  It tells of Brian’s survival and rescue; and in this special 20th Anniversary Edition, Gary Paulson includes plenty of extras.  Other books in the series (The River (Brian’s Saga Series #2), Brian’s Winter, Brian’s Return and Brian’s Hunt) by Gary Paulson are equally compelling and you always keep reading to find out if he’ll be able to survive again.  Most of these are also available in audio book formats.

Part of our unit study included learning how to survive locally in the Great Plains.  One afternoon, we took a nature walk and gathered specimens.  Later, the kids used Edible and Medicinal Plants of the West to try to identify their findings.  (Please make sure your children can identify poison ivy and other such plants before making this a part of your plans.)

Other great finds include, Crinkleroot’s Guide to Walking in Wild Places (a picture book offering a “commonsense approach” to taking nature walks – was a great resource for learning to identify poisonous plants and dangerous animals) and Fun With Nature (Take Along Guides)  I highly recommend purchasing this last one as it includes blank pages for your kids to record their own observations.

Well, that about does it…I think.  Let me know what you think about these resources and if you have any other suggestions.



This is the first time I’ve done this, and I am excited to share this opportunity with you. is giving away 6 Sally Clarkson books.  (You can register here.)  Sally Clarkson is a homeschooling mom and author and her books are a tremendous blessing.

Good Luck!



We have been soooooo busy and now the school year is almost over. I will have to spend the summer catching up on this blog. 🙂 But, not today! Today, I’m hanging out at the Schoolhouse Expo Webinar. I am sooooo excited to be learning so much and connecting with homeschool parents outside of Nebraska.

Christmas Around the World

Hello Friends

These notes are burning a whole on my desk. 😉  So, even though they are too early for next year, I’m going to go ahead and post my links for our study on Christmas Around the World.

Every year, we take the month of December pretty easy.  There are always way more activities than there is time to do them.  One of our family traditions is to attend the local community theater production of Charles Dicken’s “A Christmas Carol.”  My kids and I have been attending the matinee showing dedicated to the local schools for the last three years, and it never fails to disappoint.  This year, I have been co-teaching a drama class and we were proud to put on a production of “A Charlie Brown Christmas” with two performances and our home school group went Christmas caroling.  As you can see, this year proved no different in the amount of activities that we participated in.

In conjunction with this unit, I taught a Christmas Cooking Around the World class for our home school group.  Those who attended had a ton of fun and appear in some of the pictures posted below.

The first country we studied was Mexico.  In Mexico, Christmas is a community event and the last two weeks of December are vacation days for everyone.  We learned about the custom of Los Posados.  In this tradition, neighborhood children recreate the travels of Mary and Joseph in their attempts to find a place to rest.  Each home in the neighborhood will take a turn hosting on a different night.  Children knock on the doors of three different houses asking for lodging and at the first two, are turned away (There is no room in the inn).  At the third home, the children are invited in and a party ensues.  Often the party involves a pinata.  Children in Mexico do not receive presents from Santa Claus on Christmas Eve.  On Christmas Eve, families attend what is known as a Rooster Mass in their local churches.  This midnight mass goes far into the night and early morning hours.  When it is over, families gather together and eat foods like Tamales and drink atole (a thick hot chocolate).  When the fun is done, individual families return home for a day of rest.  Children will finally receive their gifts on the day commonly known as Epiphany (January 6).  This is the day that the church celebrates the coming of the Wise Men to visit the baby Jesus and children pretend that their gifts are also from the wise men.

To learn more about Christmas traditions in Mexico visit: MexConnect

Learn about the Christmas flower native to Mexico and read The Legend of the Poinsettia at Why Christmas.

To recreate your own Mexican Atole, visit All

The next week we learned about celebrating Christmas in Sweden.  A Swedish Christmas begins on December 13th with Saint Lucia Day.  On this day, the eldest girl of the house will dress in a white robe with a red sash and wear a wreath on her head with lit candles.  She will then go about the house carrying a tray of baked goods and coffee and wake the other members of the family.  Other young girls in the house will be her attendants and the young boys may wear a tall pointed hat with a star on it.  Another holiday tradition includes making ornaments out of straw, to remember that Baby Jesus was born in a manger.  And, did you know that our idea of a smorgasbord comes from the Swedish customs of creating a buffet and “pigging out?”

This was also the first country that we shared with our home school group.  For class we made Pepparkakor, a Swedish spice cookie similar to a ginger snap.  Unfortunately, I am unable to locate the recipe that we used (I wrote it down and forgot to bookmark it), but here is another one for you.  This is almost identical to the one we used.

Most of my information on Sweden came from and The History of Christmas .

The next culture that we studied was Hawaii.  While not another country, Hawaii has customs unique themselves and others shared with the other islands of the south Pacific.  Remember when reading and trying to pronounce Hawaiian, pronounce everything.  Merry Christmas is said “Mele Kelikimaka” (may-lay keh-lee-kee-mah-kah).  In Hawaii, Santa arrives in board shorts on a surfboard.  And one bad delivery of evergreens from the mainland, means that you will decorate a palm tree instead of a Douglas Fir.

For cooking class, we made miniature Sweet Potato Haupia pies.  To make this dish authentically you should use a sweet potato native to the islands like the Okinawan Sweet Potato.  This vegetable is a deep purple, similar to that of eggplant.  It has a mild flavor and creates a beautiful purple cheesecake.  Haupia (hah-oo-pee-ah) is a coconut milk pudding that is poured over the top of the cheesecake.  Now, I live in a small town in the completely landlocked state of Nebraska and was unable to find Okinawan Sweet Potatoes so we used normal sweet potatoes and our cheesecake had a very pretty pale orange color and was very rich in flavor.  One final note before you recreate this recipe…be sure to shake your can of coconut milk!  As it ages, it will separate in the can and the milk fat will solidify.  There is absolutely nothing wrong with this, but it is harder to use as we found out. Recipe for Sweet Potato Haupia Pie (Sweet Potato Cheescake)

This picture is what our mini pies looked like.

The second picture features two students “patiently” stirring the Haupia mixture and waiting for it to thicken.

For this lesson, we also spent time looking at videos on YouTube.  Here are a few of our favorites.  This first video takes images from Christmas celebrations around the island and put them to the song “Mele Kalikimaka” by Bing Crosby. The kids found the surfing Santa to be hilarious.  This second video also features pictures from the islands and puts them to a hilarious Hawaiian version of “The 12 Days of Christmas” called “Numbah One Day of Christmas”.  (WARNING:  The song does mention beer.  If this offends you or is something you do not want to share with your kids consider yourself warned.)

Our fourth week of December was supposed to be spent learning about Russia, but illness and a busy schedule prevailed.  However, I would still like to share with you my plans for learning about Christmas in Russia.

Due to the Communist take over, Christmas was not celebrated in Russia for much of the 20th Century.  Since 1992, Russians have been relearning about the true meaning of Christmas.  For class, we were going to make Koliadki cookies.  These cookies are made to pass out to carolers that come to your door.  It was also my intent to make paper nesting dolls.  There is an excellent pattern at Activity Village .

Information about Christmas in Russia

Koliadki Cookies Recipe

Well, that about sums it up.  I would like to leave you with a few more ideas and websites.

Santa’s Net is good source of information about Christmas customs around the world.

The History of Christmas is another excellent source for all things Christmas. is a website where teachers can post lesson plans and this link is to another Christmas Around the World lesson plan outline.

Maybe, you would like to do your own Christmas Around the World study but cover more countries with less depth.  This Advent calendar is a great place to start.  Each year the people at Woodlands Junior School create a new online advent calendar.  Each day you can visit the site and click on the date.  You will be taken to an introductory page for the country where you can try to take a guess based on the clues given.  When you think you know the answer, click  and you’ll be taken to a page that gives you more information.

And, from Teaching, comes this schedule/lesson plan for Christmas Around the World.  It features a different country everyday, with links for recipes and craft projects.

I hope and pray that this will bless you the same way that it has blessed me.  And that, whenever and however you decide to celebrate Christmas, you will remember the most important gifts of all.  The Savior who came to earth as a baby and His precious gift of salvation.

Happy New Year!!!

Greetings and Salutations! I just wanted to drop by and say that I have not forgotten this blog. Not at all! Instead, I have been busy compiling more and more material to share with you! Be on the look out for ideas in studying China and Cambodia and Christmas Around the World (I know its a little late, but it will be here in time for next year. 😉 ) Until then…Happy New Year!


This is the second year that our homeschool group has done monthly International Food Nights.   This year our focus is the persecuted church.  Sometimes one family will do all of the work, other times it is done in a more potluck style.  I have chosen to use these nights and the countries chosen as the focus for our unit studies.

The first country was Egypt.  Last April, we were presented with the opportunity to buy tickets for the King Tut exhibit at the Denver Art Museum and we jumped at the chance.  Because this field trip was scheduled for September, my family volunteered to help host the International Food Night focused on Egypt at the same time.  The kids and I learned so much!  But most of all, Egyptians need Jesus.  The Christian church there faces much persecution.  It is impossible for anybody who professes to believe in Christ to get a good job.  Churches are built in and around garbage dumps.  Many families collect and sort trash in order to make any living at all.  Please pray for our brothers and sisters in Christ.

To learn more about the persecuted church in Egypt, I highly recommend these websites:

Egypt: Treatment of Christians 1 of 3

Egypt: Treatment of Christians 2 of 3

Egypt: Treatment of Christians 3 of 3

(This video has now been removed due to copyright issues.)

Kids of Courage

As I mentioned, we also got the chance to visit the King Tut exhibit at the Denver Art Museum.  If you get the opportunity to visit at one of your local museums, you should definitely do so.  But, BEWARE…you will not see Tut’s sarcophagus or funeral mask.  These are now kept in Cairo permanently.  And Tut’s body is back in the ground.  But there are many other fascinating artifacts.  Recent DNA experimentation and CAT scans of Tut’s body have revealed some interesting facts on who he was and how he may have died.  To learn more about this go to:

King Tut’s Final Secrets ~ A National Geographic video that uses CAT scan images to help solve some of the mysteries surrounding the death of King Tut.

King Tut Unwrapped ~ A video done by Discovery Channel that documents the most recent findings about King Tut. Who was his father? Who was his mother? DNA evidence from this study proves these facts and more. Video is chopped up into lots of little pieces and can be confusing to piece together, but well worth the effort.

Dr. Zahi Hawass ~ Website of renowned Egyptologist who lead appears as the leader of both the National Geographic and Discovery Channel videos. Seen and heard throughout the King Tut exhibit.

Finally, here is my list of other online resources.  All of them are FREE (except for the cost of ink and paper to print what you want).  We used every single one of them and had lots of fun.  Enjoy!

Homeschool Share ~

Homeschool Helper Online ~

Mr. Donn ~

Tour Egypt ~

Discovering Ancient Egypt ~

Squidoo ~

Clickable Mummy ~

Kidipede ~

Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery ~


Ten Egyptian Plagues ~

Engineering an Empire: Egypt (part one of ten)  This was a series from the History Channel.  It was very informative and there are more that discuss other countries.

Walk Like an Egyptian (official music video) — We used this for a quick PE activity one morning.  🙂

Michael Jackson – Remember the Time

Egyptian Dance Raks Shisha: by Tarik Sultan


sa3eedy singing (Modern Egyptian man singing)

Funny Egyptian Coke Ad

Funny Egyptian commercial!

Funny Egypt TV commercial – Lion potatoe chips

Very funny Egypt mcdonalds commercial