Ancient Egypt

9.5-MadisonI can’t believe the beautiful weather we are having. It’s early December and I am sitting outside working on a blog while the kids play.

This fall we had so much fun learning about ancient Egypt.

As always the girls enjoyed dressing up and acting the part. We started off the unit with the girls dressed as servants (simple white dresses – made from pillow cases) and talked about the different social classes. They loved running around bare foot: carrying water, washing the dishes, and tending to the fire. They weren’t so sure about not being able to learn to read and write because they were girls or about having to do dirt work like emptying chamber pots.

At the end of the unit I let the girls become Egyptian princesses and they thought this class would be a lot easier but maybe not as much fun.

9.5-Madison-17I love that we get to do so much of our school time outside. I am surprised at how focused the kids are; they would happily spend hours talking and learning. It is common for the girls to swing while I read to them or for all of us to lay out on a blanket and look at pictures together. It is also great teaching outside as Eli easily entertains himself and joins in every now and then.

NileAs we began our unit on ancient Egypt we once again found that this early civilization was centered around water. We learned all about Nile as we created a living model. Down the center we used foil to create the river way and filled the bottom with rocks to keep it from floating. On both sides of the river was the fertile ground where we planted seeds the girls harvested from our last unit. We added some palm trees and talked about the animals that would be found near the Nile. We finished up by flooding the “Nile” and saturating the soil. The plan was to watch these models grow and flood them as needed but while the weather has been nice, it hasn’t been nice enough to grow anything.

9.5-Madison-4Technology today is so helpful and makes learning even more fun. We used google maps and was able to see from space the Nile river and how lush green the ground around the river was compared to the rest of Egypt.

While look at the map we also found the Great Pyramid of Giza. How cool.

We were only halfway through our unit and both girls agreed we should plan a field trip to Egypt. They thought seeing it in person would be pretty cool. Someday girls.

Lego P

Using Lego’s the girls created another model complete with burial chamber and secret passages.

noddles2As we learned about pharaohs and what life would have been like for royalty the kids created their own gold jewelry with “precious” stones. I wish I would have gotten a picture of these finished and on them as they felt like a queen. Maybe I can get them to dress back up for me but I have waited too long to post this blog hoping to do so; I can’t wait any longer.


We learned a little about mummification and enjoyed another great day outside wrapping everyone up. Scarlett (Rylynn’s little sister) even got to join in on the fun. We finished off the day and our unit with a fun mummy snack.


We also enjoyed learning about Moses and the 10 Plagues but that will be another post.


Our early humans have been busy learning and developing new skills. After many years of moving around to find food, people started to gather and settle in what is named Mesopotamia. The land was good, and there was easy access to water and fishing. Life was somewhat easier.


Farming meant new foods including wheat. Using a recipe from our book on Mesopotamia we made wheat and honey biscuits. While we didn’t make goat butter, we enjoyed the fact that our early friends had made this discovery and ate our bread with butter.


We all agreed that this was a step up from our lizard stew and could be happy eating these food for a long time. We also enjoyed some of the new fruits that would have been found in Mesopotamia including apples, grapes, and pomegranates.

As I read to the girls about the transition from nomad to farmer, they used legos to create an example of the first villages. They created small huts clustered together surrounded by a fence made of brush and spiked branches. The river ran nearby which the girls liked to pretend to take their newly domesticated animals to (the lego one eyed creatures).

WeavingWith the domestication of sheep and goats our early people began making cloth out of wool and goat hair. Working in their homes the women would weave the wool first into belts and then later into large garments.


Mesopotamia is often credited with inventing the wheel, but we learned that it wasn’t a wheel for a cart but rather the potter’s wheel. These first wheels are termed slow wheels as they were turned by hand or foot as the potter made coil pots which allowed the potter to not get up and walk around the pot.

9.5-Madison-12Baked pottery is also new. The girls thought this would be the job they would pick if they had a choice. We tried our hand at pinch and coiled pots.

WritingWe learned that this clay was also used as clay tablets for a form of writing to record and communicate different types of information. The earliest writing was based on pictograms. Pictograms were used to communicate basic information about crops and taxes. Over time, the need for writing changed and the signs developed into a script we call cuneiform.

We start to also see evidence of religion in ancient Mesopotamia. Ziggurats were huge rectangular stepped tower with temples at the top. It was easy for the girls to grasp the advances in construction and building materials as they worked to create their own Ziggurat.

Tower of Bable

A cuneiform version of the familiar biblical story of the Tower of Babel from Sumer, the first civilization to appear in the ancient Near East, reads:  “The building of this tower (temple) highly offended the gods. In a night they (threw down) what man had built, and impeded their progress. They were scattered abroad, and their speech was strange.”



Early Humans (Cavemen to First Farmers)

History continues with a fun lesson on early humans. I really enjoyed teaching this lesson and getting to share my travel memories with the family. 1024px-Font-de-Gaume_entree

When I was in high school I traveled with my French class to France for a two week emersion travel tourism experience. My teacher, Madame Welch was the best, she had a close friend who previously worked for a touring company but always lead our group on the side. This meant that we got to get off the beaten path and explore places that most tourist never make it.bisonfdgOne of these such places was Font-de-Gaume, it is the only site in France with polychrome cave paintings that are still open to the public. A limited number of people are aloud in each year to protect the drawings from exposure to lights and changes in air circulation.gaume1

Everyone thought it was so cool that I got to see these in real life and Eden has now asked several times if we can travel there so she too can see them. She has had an interest in France for awhile but it is now at the top of her list.


Using paper bags and a drawing guide we all took a try at drawing the figures that can be found on the cave walls. While the kids drew I explained that some of the drawings that are found in the cave were created by kids their age. They thought it was great that there are small hand prints and many areas that they think are from children.


Secretly I had been preparing a special cave area under our stairs where we normally store the Christmas decorations. I surprised the kids by covering the walls and floor with cardboard that they could draw on. We did this lesson three weeks ago and they still enjoy drawing, playing, and using this space for quiet reading. Eden even took it a step farther and added details such as a brown pillow that is a “log”, a leopard print blank as “her animal skin blanket”, and a green bowl she is pretending is a turtle shell for eating.

9.5-Madison-14I also created “animal skin” clothing for each of the kids.

History is so much fun when you get to make it come to life.

One of our main history texts is the Story of the World. story of the worldEach lesson is taught through story and after reading the kids always have so much fun acting out what they have learned.

Besides living in caves we learned that these early nomads would have also had tents that they used when moving from place to place or when the weather was warm.


We learned that these nomads were hunter gathers and that they think that the children probably helped with this task. Remains have been found were children had gathering bags and remains of food.


After learning what their typical diet would have been I set up an activity were the kids had to gather all the ingredients for our ancient dinner. Some of the items, like blueberries, I packed in baggies to keep them from getting too dirty.


Oh boy, was this a hit. All three ran around the yard searching for food. They even found sticks and a rock to use as tools for hunting. The green item Rylynn is holding is a bean bag lizard I made for a different lesson but worked well in this activity because our story taught us that lizards would have been part of their regular diet.


Most of the food items I hid around the yard but the root vegetables they were able to gather from our garden. At this point we started talking about the discovery of farming and how having a garden and food they could harvest would have been a lot easier than moving from place to place.


That night we had “lizard stew” (chicken) with berries and a biscuit. While early nomads would have not been able to enjoy bread once they learned to farm grains were more easily harvested and would have become part of their diet. While cooking this meal we had a nice discussion on how much more difficult it would have been to cook a meal like this using only stone tools, a fire pit, and limited cooking vessels.


Another important discussion was on the importance of fire. When Eli heard me say you could use two sticks rubbed together to create a fire, I guess his manly instincts took over and he was already to give it a go.


While it wasn’t as much fun as creating a real fire we did have fun creating these painted fire art creations using a fork. Sorry there is no finished picture but you get the idea.

History Lesson 1

I am so excited to have Eden’s best friend Rylynn joining us two days a week this school year. The girls get time to play together and then we sit down and do history together.


This is our first year using history curriculum (we did simple unit studies last year). I didn’t feel like there were very many great options for history curriculum, but I ended up going with History Odyssey by Panda Press and we love it. My favorite part of this curriculum is the many hands on activities and additional resources they organize and suggest using.

9.5-Madison-3-2We started out with a week studying how we know about what happened before there was written documentation.

Archeologist Dig for CluesThere are lots of great books out there but our favorite was “Archeologist Dig for Clues” by  Kate Duke.

Our activity for the first day was to became Archeologist for the day. After reading about archeologist, the girls gathered their gear (they were very clever, they came up with most of the tools needed) and dressed for the occasion from the examples in their book. Dressing up makes everything more fun.

While the girls were getting ready I set up the dig site with two trays filled with a sand/flour/oil mixture and a variety of artifacts for them to find. They helped me to grid off the work site and used their microscopes to look for clues as we start digging.


Working square by square the girls carefully sifted, dug, and brushed away the “dirt” as they found their artifacts.


I loved hearing their squeals of delight as they found each item. We weren’t even halfway done and the girls were already asking if I would hide everything again for them to find. Little did they know I had another kind of excavation planned for the next day.


They loved using the small bags to collect and organize their artifacts. They quickly picked up the method for labeling the bags and made it a game as they compared what each found in say A3 or B1.


While our entire lesson isn’t quite as exciting as our excavation activities, I try to keep it fun as we learn through reading fun books. Often I like to have the girls work on coloring part of a project while I read. 9.5-Madison-18

I love that all of the parts of this are small and interactive. When folded up they all fit neatly in the little pocket. Eden loves pulling out her pocket and looking at each of the elements she made. It makes for great review as we reread and talk about each item several times.


Most of the items we made for this pocket were part of the above book but I made a few extra items that were both a big hit.

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The first was a little memory matching game and the second was a tool kit with all the tools we had learned about during our study.
9.5-Madison-6As I shared earlier, I had one more big activity I knew the kids would love.

As we studied archeology and excavation, we learned that sometimes artifacts are frozen in ice and that these too must carefully be excavated.

I created these frozen dig sites by freezing about an inch of water mixed with the sand/flour mix from the other activity in aluminum trays. I then added in dinosaurs and cavemen figurines and filled it up with water.

If you try this activity and need to freeze multiply trays, I suggest putting the tray in the freezer and then filling it with water as it is very hard to carry this full of a container across the room without spilling.

On the day of the excavation the ice block easily slid out and I then filled them with water to use for the activity. I started by putting the sand side up so that they couldn’t see what was frozen inside just yet.

9.5-Madison-7The kids then went to work using water and a variety of tools to melt the ice and find their “treasure” as Eli called it. I love that he gets to participate in most of the activities we do. This one was right up his alley; water, water squirting tools, dirt, mess, dinosaurs, and open ended.

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Everyone enjoyed using the spray bottle but it was the older two that first figured out another use for it. Thankfully Eli was too busy to see how else the sprayer could be used.


After about 30 minutes (I was a little surprised how long they were willing to spray and drip water) parts of the dinosaurs start sticking out and it was all they could do not to just pull and try to break the ice.


They then figured out that if they used more water by pouring from the cup things went a lot faster. They wanted to use the hose and while clever I said no and they happily continued.

Not sure why I didn’t get a final picture of everything freed from the ice but don’t worry there wasn’t a speck of ice left after this activity.

Next week look for a fun post on early humans as we start learning about ancient history.