Homeschool Share: an online homeschool curriculum cooperative hosting over 500 unit studies, lapbooks, printables, and other resources.

Tea with an Old Dragon, a literature-based unit study for the book by Jane Yolen
Tea With an old Dragon
  Written by Jane Yolen
Illustrated by Monica Vachula
ISBN:  1-56397-657-9

School Library Journal's Editorial Review:   Young Louisa's curiosity is piqued when the formidable Miss Sophy Smith drives by in her carriage and the boys with whom she is playing refer to its occupant as the "Old Dragon." When Louisa repeats the boys' appellation for this pillar of Hatfield society, the girl's mother sends her off to her room without lunch. After being liberated from her confinement, Louisa sets off to determine who or what this old dragon has to do with the elderly woman. She, of course, begins at the source. Rather than resenting the intrusion of this curious, perplexed child into her fine home, Miss Sophy is charmed by Louisa's direct manner. The two have tea and conversation despite the woman's limited hearing.

A literature-based unit study by Celia

NOTE:  This unit could be used to go with Women's History Month (March in America, October in Canada).

Social Studies

Geography -- Massachusetts:   Help your child locate Massachusetts on a map or globe.  If you desire, make a story disk for your student to place on the map.   Massachusetts was one of the original Thirteen Colonies and is one of the New England States.

Massachusetts Outline map from Enchanted Learning

Massachusetts State Flag to color (Enchanted Learning)

Your student may wish to learn more about Massachusetts, such as its state tree, bird, insect, bean, and cookie!  Click here to go to Enchanted Learning to learn more!

You may wish to use this unit to review the New England States with your student:
You may wish to use this unit to review the Thirteen Colonies:
History of the Education of Women:    Throughout most of history, women did not have the same educational  opportunities as men.  Woman were mainly housewives and mothers and did not seek employment outside the home, so higher education was not really needed.  Some women however desired to have more education.  They fought to earn the right to have more education and to go to college.  People had gotten so used to the ideas that women did not need any more education, that they were against the idea!  

Miss Sophy in our story (whose full name was Miss Sophia Smith) believed in higher education for girls, but she herself had very little education.  As the story tells, she became very wealthy when her brother died and left her his fortune.  The rest of the story is told in the author's note in the back......Miss Sophy desired to leave her money to found a college for girls.  And when she died, that is exactly what happened.  Her monies were used to found Smith College near the town where this story takes place.

Smith College still exists.  Both the author and the illustrator of this book graduated from Smith College.

An older student might wish to research how women have fought through the years for the right to pursue more education.  Here are some keywords to get them started:  Oberlin College and Seneca Falls Convention of 1848.  He may also wish to read about M. Carey Thomas, Mary Jane Patterson, Sophia May Chase, etc.

History of Tea:   It is believed that tea was invented during the Ming Dynasty in China.  There are several legends surrounding the origin of tea.  One legend tells of an emperor, Shennong, who was known for his interest in science.  He believed that water was safest to drink after it had been boiled.  While day, while on a journey to a distant realm of his kingdom, he had his servants boil his water as usual.  He noticed that some leaves of a nearby bush had fallen in the water, creating a brown colored mix. Curious, the emperor took a sip and was surprised to find it flavorful and refreshing.  Tea consumption spread throughout China, then to Japan, then later to Europe and the Americas.  (Source:  Wikipedia and Stash Tea.)   A science lesson below goes into more detail about the tea bush itself.

Bible / Character Development

Dragons:   "The Bible says little about dragons......"   Does your student know that the Bible mentions "dragons" several times in the Old Testament?   Almost every culture has legends about dragons.

Read these verses from Job Chapter 41 aloud to your student:
 14   Who can open the doors of his face? his teeth are terrible round about.
 15   His scales are his pride, shut up together as with a close seal.
 16   One is so near to another, that no air can come between them.
 17   They are joined one to another, they stick together, that they cannot be sundered.
 18   By his neesings a light doth shine, and his eyes are like the eyelids of the morning.
 19   Out of his mouth go burning lamps, and sparks of fire leap out.
 20   Out of his nostrils goeth smoke, as out of a seething pot or caldron.
 21   His breath kindleth coals, and a flame goeth out of his mouth.
Click here for access to Job 41 in other translations.  (Just choose your  favorite translation from the drop down at the top, then click Update.)

Doesn't this creature that Job is describing sound like a dragon?!     If the Bible mentions and describes dragons, don't you believe they really existed?!  

So, where did dragons go?   Some theories say that they became extinct--highly possible, as such a fearsome beast was sure to be hunted and killed whenever possible.  

It is quite possible that the dragons mentioned in the Bible and in ancient cultures were what we now call dinosaurs.  Does your student know that the word "dinosaur" is actually a recently invented word?!  The word "dinosaur" means "terrible or fearfully great lizard" and was invented in 1841 by Sir Richard Owen.

Read this passage also from Job Chapter 40:

 15  Behold now behemoth, which I made with thee; he eateth grass as an ox.
 16  Lo now, his strength is in his loins, and his force is in the navel of his belly.
 17  He moveth his tail like a cedar: the sinews of his stones are wrapped together.
 18  His bones are as strong pieces of brass; his bones are like bars of iron.

Can you think of a dinosaur that ate grass, and strength and force in his belly and hips, and had a tail like a cedar tree?  Sounds like a Apatosaurus (once known as a Brontosaurus, one of the largest dinosaurs).

You may wish to have your older student look up all the verses of the Bible that mention dragon, leviathan, or behemoth and write a report on what he has learned.  Or perhaps he could read and write a book report on Saint George and the Dragon by Margaret Hodges.

Your younger student might enjoy the book and song When Dragons Hearts Were Good by Buddy Davis.

To learn more about dragons, dinosaurs, and how they once co-existed with man, search the Answers in Genesis website.  

Judging Others:  The boys in the beginning of our story shout "Look out!  Better hide!  The Old Dragon is coming."   Louisa does not run, but eagerly looks for a dragon, yet all she sees is Miss Sophy driving by and she is disappointed.  Later she decides to ask Miss Sophy about the dragon--surely the finest woman in town would know where such a beast was!  It's not until she meets Miss Sophy that she realizes that the boys were really talking about Miss Sophy!   With her booming voice, fierce looks, and her hallway that looks like a dark lair, Miss Sophy indeed must be a dragon, thinks Louisa!

How often do we see someone, and immediately think they are _______?   Before we even get to know the person, we form impressions of how they must be.  But what happens if we take the time to get to know them?  We often form different opinions!  

Louisa in our story does the same thing.  She quickly begins to fear that she will be eaten by this "dragon of a woman."  Nonetheless, she begins to form a relationship with Miss Sophy and discovers an independent lady who is a lot of fun!

What does the Bible say about judging others?  In Matthew Chapter 7, we have:
1  Judge not, that ye be not judged.
2  For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.

and it is repeated again in Luke Chapter 6:
36  Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful.
37  Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be forgiven

Discuss these verses with your child and how Jesus' words apply to our lives today.

Honesty:   "I believed in being honest."   What does the Bible say about being honest?

Proverbs 11:5 tells us that "The godly are directed by honesty; the wicked fall beneath their load of sin."  (NLT)

Honesty is important to God.  We learn in Hebrews 6:18 that it is impossible for God to lie. He does not want o us to lie either.  Being honest is so important that He made it the ninth commandment:  Thou shall not bear false witness against thy neighbor.  (Exodus 20:16)

"Papa is a minister and he should revere honesty.  I do not think he reveres it in me."  Is it possible to be "too honest?"   Yes, it is!  Sometimes being too truthful is hurtful to others.  That does not mean that we should ever lie though!  We need to learn to speak the truth in love.  (Eph. 4:15)

See if you can locate a copy of Down Gilead Lane's "When Push Comes to Shove" and listen to Truth & Lies to hear how Timmy Morrison learns that being too truthful can hurt others.   You might also try to get  Adventures in Odyssey #43 this week and listen to And That's the Truth, to hear how Tamika learns that being too truthful can hurt others.

Gossip:   Louisa's mother sent her to room where she was supposed to think about gossiping women, and she was instructed to read several lessons in her Bible.  What is gossip?  It's repeating something that you heard from someone else, or sharing a story that you are not sure of all the facts, or even sharing  a story that would bring no good to the person you are talking about.

What does the Bible tell us about gossip?  

Ephesians 4:29 says “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” (NIV)

Here are some other verses concerning gossip to have your student look up and read:  Psalm 34:13, Proverbs 11:13, Romans 1:29, 1 Timothy 5:13, Proverbs 18:8, Proverbs 26:20, Proverbs 25:23

Language Arts

Subtitles:  The title of our story is Tea with an Old Dragon.  But it also has a subtitle:  "A  Story of Sophia Smith, Founder of Smith College."   Sometimes an author will use a subtitle to give a bit of a description of the story.  Tea with an Old Dragon is an interesting title, but you would never know from reading it that it is about a real person.  Let your child practice making up titles and subtitles this week to either stories he has written or even to books he has read where the title doesn't really tell us the story contents.

First Person Point of View:  Take this time to review or introduce your child to the concept of first person point of view.  A story that is written from the perspective of one of the characters in the story is written in first person.   The easiest way to remember first person is that the book uses I, we, and us.

Using Hyphens or Italics to show emphasis:  
...which is--alas--far too often...
...And there was no one else--dragon or wagon or man on horse--to be seen....
...I did not she was a dragon....
...Sarah? Sarah? Where have you got to?...

Author Jane Yolen uses both hyphens and italics in this story to emphasize certain words.  Pick out a couple from the story and model for your student how to change your voice when reading them.   Then have him pick out some to read and try changing his voice.  


Prepared Crossword Puzzle
lecture-- to scold, admonish, rebuke, or reprimand at some length

revere(s)-- to show devotion and honor to

peered-- to look closely or curiously

awry-- off the right course

scowl(ing)-- to make a frowning expression of displeasure

exceedingly-- to a very great degree

lair-- the den or resting place of a wild animal; a hideaway

devour-- to eat up greedily or hungrily

magnified-- to enlarge in fact or in appearance

calamitously -- A calamity is a a great misfortune or disaster, such as a flood or serious injury.  So calamitously means something that was catastrophic or devastating.

catechism --  a summary of religious beliefs usually in the form of questions and answers.

eavesdropping-- to listen secretly to private conversation


Medium:  Oil on Masonite.   Masonite is a type of fiberboard mostly used for insulation and paneling.  Artists also use is dark brown with one side that is very smooth and the other side has texture.  When oil paints are used, the artist will "build up" the paints.....doing the background first, then move forward in the picture.  Have your student identify the order in which first picture would have been painted.  First the background (sky, hills, field), then the middle (the fence, the running boys), then the foreground (Louisa, Harvey, the tree, and finally William climbing the tree.)

American Folk Art:   The Metropolitan Museum of Art states that folk art
"is most often defined as art that is created by individuals who were not academically trained (although they may have acquired their skills through apprenticeship, observation, or informal learning) and that adheres to the aesthetic standards of the small communities within which or for which it was produced."      

The Metropolitan Museum of Art states that almost all of the 18th century American folk artists "favored strong colors, broad and direct application of paint, patterned surfaces, generalized light, skewed scale and proportion, and conspicuous modeling."

You can certainly see some of those characteristics in illustrator Monica Vachula's work in this book.  Point out the bright colors and the patterns on the walls and carpets.  If your student has studied light and the direction of light in art prior to this, ask him to point to the source of light in any of the pictures.  Many of the pictures in this book do not have a source or only give a slight hint at where the light is coming from--the light is more generalized, as is typical of 18th century American folk art.

Explore with your student the work of Ammi Phillips, Edward Hicks, Rufus Hathaway, Joshua Johnson.  A 20th century folk artist to explore with your student would be Anna Mary Robertson Moses, aka "Grandma Moses."  

Applied Math

Sums:   Does your student know what a sum is?  (The answer to an addition problem.)  In our story, Miss Sophy says that she "was forty past thirty-one years ago."   Those numbers were too big for Louisa to count using her fingers.   If she is able, ask your student write the problem out and explain to you how they can be added together.  If a child understands the addition concept well and has been working on two digit adding, then she should be able to tell you how to add the math problem to find the sum.   Make up other problems for which she can determine the sums.

If your child is too young for this but can do simple addition such as +1 or +0, write out the problem and show her how you would add first the right (ones) column, then the left (tens) column.  Since there is no carrying in this problem, so your younger child may be able to grasp this concept, though you may need to help her with the tens column (3+4).  If she seems to have a basic understanding of adding the two columns, help her with a few more problems that do not involve carrying and that use math facts she already knows or is currently working on.

Boiling Temperature of Water:    To make tea, we often heat water to boiling temperature.  Does your student know the boiling point of water?  212 degrees for pure water, at sea level.  Tap water may boil sooner since it contains minerals in it.  How high or below sea level you are also effects the boiling point.  The higher you are, the lower the boiling point.  The barometric pressure of the air around you can also effect the boiling point.

For a science experiment, if your child is curious and you have an accurate meat thermometer (one that measures in tenths of a degree), perhaps you could test your tap water, bottled water, and distilled water.  First form a hypothesis about the different waters and when they will boil. Discuss the results and write a conclusion.  Record in your notebook or lapbook.   If you do not have a thermometer, you can determine the boiling point at this website, using your elevation and the current barometric pressure (they tell you how to use the Internet to get those).


Boiling Point of Water:  See Math section

Sneezing:   Near the beginning of our story, Louisa sneezed three times.  Ask your student if they remembers why?  Dust from the passing carriage got up her nose.   So, why do we sneeze?  Sneezing is a natural reflex (which means you have no control over it happening) that usually occurs we something gets inside our nasal passages.  It's God's design to remove dust, pollen, germs, etc. from our body.  Have you ever caught a whiff of pepper and sneezed?  What about when you get a cold?   You sneeze then to help get rid of the germs and to clear your nasal passages so you can breathe better.  

It's important to cover our nose and mouth whenever we feel a sneeze coming on.  It is best to quickly grab a tissue, but if you can't the next best thing is the crook of your arm.  If you sneeze into your hands, then you just put a bunch of germs on your hands and you will pass them on to whatever you touch next.

Ears -- Hearing Loss:
    There are varying degrees of deafness.  They are: profound (totally deaf or almost totally deaf), severe, moderate, and mild.  Severe and moderate deafness may be referred to as partial deafness or hard of hearing.  Mild is generally referred to as hard of hearing.

In our story, Miss Sophy was hard of hearing.  She used a "tube" to allow her to hear better.  Back in the late nineteenth century and the early part of the twentieth century, ear tubes were used to help a person hear.  The person who was hard of hearing would hold one end of the tube up to their ear, while the other person would speak into the tube at the other end.   This amplified the speech a bit, allowing the person to hear it better.  Today many people who are hard of hearing use a small device called a hearing aid that fits inside or over their ear.

Ears -- Parts of the Ear:  You may wish to introduce (or review with) your child the parts of the ear that help sound travel.  There is the outer ear, the middle ear, and the inner ear.  The outer ear is the part of the ear that we can see and is called the pinna.  It collects the sounds and directs them toward the middle ear.  Between the outer ear and the middle ear is the ear drum.  It begins to move as sound hits it.  This then causes three little bones inside the middle ear to also vibrate.  These three bones are the tiniest in our body and they are called the hammer, the anvil, and the stirrup.  These vibrations then move on to the cochlea, which is shaped like a snail's shell.  The cochlea contains tiny hairs called cilia, which start the nerve signals that go to the brain.  The brain then processes the sound.

The KONOS manual with lessons on attentiveness has an awesome idea for creating a model of an ear that the children can crawl through.  In essence, the children are the sound waves!  What a fun way for them to remember the parts of ear!

Enchanted Learning sheet to fill in the parts of the ear

Experiment:  Make a Sound  Wave Detector
Glass, bowl, or coffee can
Plastic Wrap
Rubber Band
Salt, grains of rice, or instant potato flakes
A clean, empty milk jug or other similar container
A pencil with an eraser, spoon, or something similar to use as a drum mallet

Stretch the plastic wrap over the opening of the glass, secure with rubber band.  Spread out a few grains of salt, rice, or potato flakes on top of the plastic.   Close to the wave detector, hold a jug in one hand, tap it with the mallet.  This will create sound waves which will make the salt on the wave detector move.  Even though we cannot see sound waves in the air, this experiment shows that sound does indeed move.

Discovery School has several experiments to show sound waves

Botany -- Tea Plant (Camellia Sinensis):    The Camellia Sinensis bush, also known as the tea plant, is the where we get tea.   All tea comes from only one kind of plant!   The leaves and buds are usually hand-picked several times a year and then dried to make tea.    Each picking is called a "flush."  The teas are labeled as first flush, second flush, etc. before they are sent to be processed to make tea.

It is the processing that determines what kind of tea it will make.  There are four kinds of tea:  

Tea buds that are withered and dried are made into white tea.   Leaves that have been allowed to absorb a lot of oxygen (8 to 24 hours) becomes black tea.  If the processing allows some oxygen to be absorbed, then green tea is made.  Oolong tea is somewhere between black and green tea, and is made when the leaves are allowed to absorb only a very small amount of oxygen (2 to 4 hours) during the processing.

Processing the tea requires four steps:

During the first step of processing, the leaves of the tea bush are picked and spread so they can wither (dry  out and shrivel up).  The next step is to roll the leaves up.  The third step is called fermentation and is when they lay out the leaves again to allow them to absorb oxygen (a process known as oxidization--this is the same process that turns apples or bananas black if you take a bite of it and leave the rest lie.  This is why black tea is dark--it has been exposed to oxygen the longest.).   The final step is called firing or drying.  

Once the teas have been processed  they can be made into a tea by putting them into boiling water.  If possible get some loose leaf tea from a tea house or other place (WalMart is beginning to sell loose leaf) to show your student this week.  If you are unable to do that, go to the Adagio tea site and click on the tabs at the top for black, green, white, or oolong and you will see color pictures of tea leaves that are rolled and withered.

Your student may have heard about one other "tea" -- herbal tea.  Herbal tea is NOT made from the tea plant plant (Camellia Sinensis bush) and thus it is not true tea. Instead of tea, it should be called an infusion or a tisane.  Herbal teas are usually made with herbs, fruits, spices, flowers and/or leaves from other plants, but it has no leaves from the true tea plant. 

Websites for more information (and the source for the information given in this lesson)

Adagio Tea
Tea 101
Let's Talk About Food: Drinking Tea
Canada Tea

Books for the children

Books for Parents

Recipe:  Ginger Cake



If desired, you may make in a loaf pan, but you may need to adjust the time a bit.  

Just For Fun

Why, have honey tea with ginger loaf, of course!   If you are really into tea with the kids, try an Emilie Barnes book.  She has books for tea party ideas, as well as inspirational books and devotions for moms, all relating to tea.   Perhaps send a formal invitation to the grandparents or Daddy to have high tea!

Sing "Polly, Put the Kettle On"

Visit an Art Museum to look at folk art.

Bunny Trails and Research Ideas to extend this unit

Kinds of Tea:
 What is rooibos?  Orange Pekoe?  Earl Gray?  Darjeerling?
Ming Dynasty in China:   Tea was believed to have been invented during the Ming Dynasty in China.  Have your student research and learn more about the Ming Dynasty.

History of Serving Tea/Tea Etiquette:   Miss Sophy and Louisa drink tea together.  The ginger loaf was served in a silver cake basket, the tea in porcelain cups.   Your student may desire to learn more about serving tea and the etiquette of tea time.

Health Benefits of Tea:  There have been many studies on the different kinds of teas.  Are some teas healthier than others?  What are the health benefits of drinking tea?   What about herbal "teas"--do they have health benefits?

Like to sew?  Make a tea cozy!  There are lots of free patterns available on the internet.

Period Clothing:  Your student may be interested in the clothing shown in the pictures of the book.  Two year old William  is wearing a dress.  Louisa has shoes that button.  Missy Sophy wears a fancy hat.  Louisa's mother wears a hair net and a dress that billows out.

The Victorian Time Period:  Miss Sophy lived during the early Victorian time period.  Have your student research this time period.

Silk:   Miss Sophy wears silk.  Where does silk come from?

The Boston Tea Party

Marble:   Miss Sophy's fireplace is made of white marble.  What is marble?

Pianos:  Who invented them?  How many keys are there?  Why are some black and some white?

Music Notes:  Louisa  played soft notes, loud notes, deep notes, etc.  What are notes?

Roses:  At the bottom of the author's note in back, there is a drawing of the Sophia Smith Rose.  How did Miss Sophy get a rose named after here?  What other famous people have roses named for them?  How is a rosed named?