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Read the World Summer Book Club: Multicultural Week!

We’re super excited to be joining in with the Read the World Summer Book Club led by Jamie C. Martin, editor of the brilliant Simple Homeschool blog. The challenge is simple and is designed not to be too arduous so as not to overload families in this busy summer period: as a minimum, just read one book from each part of the world according to the schedule, which you can find on the link above. This week is multicultural week.

There’s still time to sign up if you’re interested in following along, and there’s a facebook group you can join to share ideas, resources and any of your reading-the-world exploits.

Give Your Child the World: Raising Globally Minded Kids One Book at a Time by [Martin, Jamie C.]

Her book: Give Your Child the World, is a compendium of all the wonderful children’s books available for each part of the globe, broken down by age range. I used this as our starting point, selecting and purchasing some of her recommendations and combining these with literature we already own.

But then one morning as I was daydreaming whilst trying to persuade myself to summon up the energy to get out of bed, I got a little over excited about all the possibilities of fun activities we could incorporate into our week to support this overarching theme. We’ve had such a lovely week doing these activities together and learning so much in the process; here’s what we got up to:

Book Selections

We had a delightful time exploring this selection of captivating books, snuggled on the sofa, in the garden, on the train and even upside down if you’re Bean7!


We even roped in grandma for a spot of reading in the sunshine (her favourite type of home ed!):


Their favourites were the Talking Walls book pictured above, which takes you on a tour of historically or religiously significant walls across the world (from The Lascaux Caves to Nelson Mandela’s prison walls) and the secrets they hold; the Collins Wonders of the World book, where they had great fun choosing which wonders they’d love to visit (all of them in the case of Bean7!); and Explore! The Most Dangerous Journeys of All Time, partly because we’ve fairly recently learned about Columbus, Vasco da Gama and Vespucci, and partly because of the danger element!


They also enjoyed doing this Flags of the World sticker book.



Rather than doing our normal maths work, we instead opted for graphically representing some interesting world statistics: lengths of the 6 longest rivers, height of the highest mountains by continent, populations and population densities by area. This turned out to be one of the highlights of our week.

Once he’d drawn the graph, Bean7 was amazed by the difference between the height of Mt. Everest versus the height of South America’s highest peak, Mt Aconcagua – something he didn’t fully appreciate just by looking at the numbers. This provided a great opportunity to explain the importance of representing data in a pictorial form. Bean8 was similarly surprised by just how big a percentage of the world’s population was represented by people from Asia, and conversely how tiny a percentage came from Australasia. Again, as the numbers were so large and meaningless when seen written down, it was only when she saw the data in a pictorial form that she fully appreciated the story they told. Here are their results:


The map shows the population densities across the globe – love his key: red represents a “super amount of people” (that’s the technical term!!)

Moreover, they learned that axes don’t need to start at 0; how to work out what scale to use for your graph using the range of data needing to be represented, and how to label their graphs and use keys.

I showed Bean8 how to convert the population figures by continent into a pie chart by dividing the total population by 360 degrees to give you an amount of people per degree, and then dividing this into each of the continent population figures. This then gave us the number degrees of the circle each continent should represent. After a quick demonstration, she used Excel to complete these calculations.


It also afforded her a chance to practise using the compasses to draw the circle and protractor to measure out the correct angles. She was, at first, flummoxed by how to measure out 214 degrees with a 180 degree protractor. It was one of those lovely moments where she really had to think around the problem. I have been guilty in the past of jumping in and giving the answer, but I managed to catch myself today and asked her to not give up, but instead to think creatively to solve the problem. After posing the question in different ways and giving her a lot of encouragement, she worked out a way – by calculating the difference between 214 and 180 and measuring that angle on top of the straight line 180 degrees. She was thrilled with herself for having got to the answer herself and I suspect she’ll now never forget how to do it!

Music & Dancing

Rather fortuitously, we’d booked in to watch the London Philharmonic Orchestra perform the story of Stravinsky’s enchanting puppet, Petrushka, at the Royal Festival Hall. This world famous Russian ballet score conjures up a glittering folk world of magic and drama. At the bustling Shrovetide Fair in St. Petersburg, we meet quarrelling puppets and a talented and beautiful ballerina – all part of a captivating and mysterious tale, brought to life through Stravinsky’s glorious music.


This special performance was conducted alongside specially-commissioned projected animations, and the presenter, Rachel Leach, guided the children through the story and the music, showing them how Stravinsky used the different parts of the orchestra along with repeated overlapping phrases to bring the story to life. In the process, she helped them understand the complexity and genius of his music, whilst demonstrating how instrumental a piece of music can be in storytelling. It was a truly excellent and engaging performance in an amazing venue and only cost £4/child! The Royal Festival Hall have a whole range of different and fascinating events available – check out the website here.

If you’re interested in learning more about Petrushka, prior to the performance, we watched this video, in which a storyteller reads the story aloud, and there are also several versions of the ballet and orchestral performances available to watch on You Tube too.

On a separate musical note, they enjoyed listening to this collection of musical genres from around the world (the man’s fixed stare was somewhat disconcerting, but the Beans were super impressed that he could play so well without looking at the keys!):

And on the dance front, the Beans were completely transfixed by this wonderful You Tube video of the top 10 traditional dances in the world:



In order to draw maps of the world, we used the “blobbing” technique, which uses the equator, prime meridian, tropic lines, arctic and antarctic circles as points of reference against which to draw the continents, first as simple blobs, and then with more definition as your child becomes more proficient at drawing the detail. Here’s Bean8 to explain the method we used:

This is an activity you can do across a whole range of ages. We’ve been using this technique since Bean8 was 5, since even the simple tasks of folding the paper in half, measuring out the tropic lines at 3/4″ from the equator and drawing straight lines with a ruler, are great ways of practising fine motor control. It’s interesting to watch, as they get older, just how keen they are to add in as much detail and accuracy as their ability permits; Bean7 in particular was eager to replicate the map as faithfully as possible.

Bean8 then decided she wanted to find and write up an interesting fact about each of the continents using the Atlas of Adventures book:


They also mapped the world’s climates using an activity from one of the Mystery Science lessons (an excellent, hands on science curriculum the Beans adore).



We had rather a long train journey into London, so we took the European flags from our Flags of the World game, learned them all on our journey into town and then played the game on our way back. Although obviously we knew quite a few of the flags beforehand, I was amazed to see them memorise the flags of all the countries in Europe by the time we’d arrived home. They were particularly excited to show MrJ their new-found skills. We’ll tackle the next continent later in the week!


Also, in a rare moment of sibling unity, they worked as a team to make this 3D World Globe Jigsaw Puzzle, and had great fun spotting the countries as they assembled the model.




As well as watching all the wonderful video clips included in the Read the World Summer Book Club (join the Facebook group to access these clips), the Beans took great pleasure in watching the Around the World in 80 Days documentary, as Michael Palin attempts to follow in Phileas Fogg’s footsteps on an adventure of a lifetime. A little dated, but great fun 🙂


As their interest in flags was piqued by their earlier foray into the Flags of the World game, they decided to spend an afternoon making a selection of their favourites out of Hama Beads. This would be a great activity to do whilst listening to an audiobook!


We took a little trip to the supermarket and as a special treat, I let them select a whole range of fruit and other foods from around the world that they fancied trying. This was a huge hit and I was impressed that they both tried everything, even though they weren’t sure about the texture and eyeball-look of the lychees, but they loved the taste! Top hits were the figs, passion fruit, sushi and plantain chips, along with the coconut water.


Bean8 also cooked us a simple but delicious Thai soup for dinner:


On a different evening, the Beans chose to eat out at a Turkish restaurant as part of our discovering the world theme and enjoyed chatting to the waiter about how to pronounce the different letters in the Turkish alphabet.


And that wrapped up a wonderful week!

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