Ancient History Fun

I created an ancient history notebook cover today for Otter’s notebook. Feel free to download it and use it too! It’s a little busy, but Otter helped choose the design.

Ancient history notebook cover

Today we studied early writing. Otter created some cuneiform in
Play-Doh after making a review card from Hannah’s Homeschool Helps. He looked at this webpage to see how to write the letters.
We also explored these two sites:

Cuneiform Alphabet Free Online Translator

National Geographic Hieroglyphs Translator


Otter also created this “Along the Nile River – The River of Life” page using History Pockets:

History Pockets

I’m putting all of his History Pockets, maps and other items into a 3 ring binder. Everything is being placed inside page protectors to keep it nice & neat, plus we don’t have to worry about the pages tearing and breaking from the binder rings.

So far I’m really pleased with our schedule. We’re spending on average about an hour a day or so on history with just enough extras to keep it engaging.

January 13, 2010



Today, after reading a story about Isis and Osiris in Story of the World, we followed the instructions in Ralph Masiello’s Ancient Egypt Drawing Book to make our own pictures of Isis. You can see our drawings below.

Otter’s drawing (outlined in black marker after drawing and coloring):


My drawing (made on the computer):


It’s helpful to Otter for me to go through the drawing steps with him – so it’s like a “live” drawing lesson. I draw a bit and then he copies what I just did in his drawing. He gets to see all of the steps appear on the computer screen.

Ralph Masiello’s Ancient Egypt Drawing Book is a great book to use while studying ancient Egypt. You can preview it at Even complex drawings are broken down to the smallest steps. When Otter first saw the finished drawing of Isis, he thought there was NO way he could ever do that. At the end though, he was really pleased with the results.

I like incorporating other things into our main core like art. It helps make our studies more rich, varied and interesting.

I know that some Christian parents avoid teaching their children things like Greek myths and ancient Egyptian gods, etc., however, I think it’s important for Otter to know these things to properly understand history as well as our own personal beliefs from the Bible. You can’t fully understand what God was doing with the 10 plagues of Egypt unless you have an understanding of the Egyptian gods. (Here is an interesting article about that.)

Last week in Mystery of History, Otter had an assignment to make some review cards. On the front of the card is the name of the person(s) or event he is to remember as well as the date and on the back is more information/details. As we go along through the year, we’ll take them out to refresh his memory about things we’ve covered. To make things easier, I’m using the summaries posted at the Mystery of History 1 Yahoo group for the back of the cards. That group has all sorts of free goodies posted in the files section. You can find the summaries I’m using in files: Memory Card notes.

Mystery of History Cards

We also made a couple other cards after a Mystery of History lesson about dinosaurs. Some “dino” cards:

Dinosaur cards

You can get the blank template for the dino cards from I took the template PDF, pulled it into Photoshop and then let Otter choose the dinosaurs he wanted to cover from The Natural History Museum’s Dino Directory that I pasted onto the template. There are all kinds of great pictures you can use! We changed some of the info on the back of the cards. Where it says “when” we put “where” instead. That eliminated the young earth vs. old earth dating issues we have.

We are combining a little bit of science in with our history. One of the ways I’m doing this is to read these books with Otter:

Dry BonesDry Bones and Other Fossils Dinosaur MysterThe Great Dinosaur Mystery and the Bible

Both are creation books that talk about subjects I felt important to cover in more depth (dinosaurs and fossils). I also purchased a set of fossils from Acorn Naturalists and we looked at them as well as looked up more information about each online. Otter’s favorite was the dinosaur bone (of course, lol).

FossilsI guess it’s obvious we are believers in a young earth (and creation vs. evolution), however, I wasn’t always. I do believe it’s important for my kids to know BOTH sides and the evidence for each. Emily had some great discussions with her biology teacher in college. I’m glad I gave her a good foundation for understanding both creationism and evolution. She was both successful in her non-Christian biology class as well as successful in defending her faith. I don’t think young earth kids should be sheltered from evolutionary science. I think when you study both carefully, you are able to understand why you believe either way.

For our dinosaur studies, Otter made this dinosaur lapbook wheel last week. You can get it for free from Homeschool Share (scroll down to “Day 7”).

Dinosaur lapbook

I got an email recently from a mom who is looking forward to seeing what we are doing in ancient history. Even though I won’t be posting the full schedule for awhile, I decided to post the first week so you all can get a feel for what it’s going to be like and what we are working on.

Ancient History Sneak Peek (.doc format)

Otter started his first History Pocket for ancient Egypt. Here’s the cover:

History Pocket

Here is the first pocket, a “fast facts” card and a free printable card (text is on the back to review the Story of the World chapter) from Hannah’s Homeschool Helps.

History Pockets

In Mystery of History we covered Noah’s ark. Otter played with his Playmobil Noah’s ark during lesson time:

Playmobil Noah's Ark

All three of my kids have always loved Playmobil, even when they were older. I found that Playmobil is a great “review” toy for things the kids have learned in history. You can set it up and reenact all sorts of things like famous battles and more. Here’s an old post I wrote on Playmobil awhile back.

Someone recently asked what readers I’m using in ancient history. Here is a link to an  page showing some of the books I’ve scheduled in for Otter. Hopefully it will be helpful to any of you who need some extra ideas for ancient history. I will be posting the schedule I’m using later.

We Started Ancient History

Otter started a new core program – ancient history. I created a schedule for us to work from that combines Mystery of History, Story of the World, lots of great literature, optional activities, movies and more. When we are done working through it, I plan on posting it. So far, we both like it. The MOH lessons are short but interesting. SOTW has always been fun to use. This week we covered the beginning of history and archeology. Here’s Otter’s first MOH map:

Mystery of History Map

I like starting a new program along with the new year. It helps keep things fresh while we are still working on the same math, language arts and other items.

While I was reading some of the lessons out loud Otter created the following out of Play-Dough (yes, he is homeschooling in polar bear pajamas):


It’s kind of hard to tell what it is from the picture – but there is a river with a bridge, benches, a house with a garden and a pond, etc. I’ve found it to be really helpful to keep his hands occupied while he’s listening to read-alouds. It actually helps him pay attention better and retain what I’m reading. Sometimes he plays with quiet toys (cars, arranging army men, fiddling with a slinky) and other times he colors. I bought the Play-Dough for him as a stocking stuffer since I knew he had a specific project coming up in ancient history requiring clay. I thought Play-Dough would be easier to manipulate. I never realized what a HUGE hit it would be. He has been playing with Play-Dough all week during our read-alouds and was lamenting that we got rid of all the Play-Dough tools and toys years and years ago (when he, ironically, hardly ever played with them at all).

I’m glad I’ve always felt comfortable allowing my kids to like specific toys, books and even on occasion curriculum – long past (or even before) the “recommended ages”. Each child is such an individual! I remember Emily bringing her American Girl doll to a homeschool park day when she was about 13. You could tell all the other girls were a little shocked. Wasn’t she too old for that??? Emily was confident in who she was and what she liked. She didn’t care that 13 year olds are not supposed to tote their dolls around let alone play with them…in front of other people!! It was kind of cute to see a bunch of girls with their dolls the following week.

I promise, she didn’t turn out to be maladjusted by playing with toys as a teenager. She is currently a well adjusted young adult attending college. And you know what? She is still very much her own person who doesn’t care one whit if she’s not in style or likes something or is too old for something or not. She won this year’s college costume contest and received a gift certificate for $50 dollars off her college books. This is the same 18 year old that suddenly appears in the family room after she’s done with school for the day (or work) dressed as a pirate, or a lady from the 20’s, or any number of other things. LOL. Seriously, my 18 year old still likes to play dress up! But hey, it got her $50 bucks for college books!

I love it that homeschooling gives my kids the opportunity to be free of silly cliques and made up “rules” about who they should be and what its O. K. and not O. K. to like or dislike. I’m glad Otter doesn’t feel pressured to have the cool $100 shoes or that he has to watch xyz show on T. V. or that he is ever “too old” for Play-Dough.

Treasure Coins

We are on week 12 in Adventures in Sea & Sky and currently learning about pirates. To add a hands-on element to that part of our learning, I added in a fun component: historical replica coins! I got the Treasure Coin Set awhile back in anticipation of our getting to this point in our studies.


Otter loves coins and has a small collection so I thought these replicas would be a fun addition to our studies. I pulled them out today and he LOVED them. It really made history “come alive”. After looking at them, we looked each one up on the Internet to get more information and found out where some of them were made and how they were used as well as how much they would be worth today, if they were real (as well as how much they would have been worth then).

Here is one site we looked at for some of the information: New World Treasures.

The coins were such a hit I’m thinking about ordering the other sets for our future studies:

  • Coins of the Bible
  • Colonial Coins
  • American Revolution Coins
  • California Gold Rush Coins

You can order them from Rainbow Resource. Search for coin and/or coins to find the sets.

In the past, when the big kids studied the Romans I ordered some REAL Roman coins from Dirty Old Coins. The kit (Emperor in a Box) is expensive, but it’s really something to hold a genuine, coin that was used in ancient times. I plan on re-ordering a kit for Otter so he can experience the excitement of restoring a coin himself.

I highly recommend using real coins (or replicas when the real coins are too cost prohibitive) to add to your history studies. The real coins are not only fun but also a small investment in a real and potentially valuable collection. Most kids really enjoy collecting coins and there is a lot to learn from them. It’s also fun to imagine who might have held each coin and wonder about where it might have been and what it might have been spent on.

WinterPromise’s American Story 2

I am doing WinterPromise’s American Story 2 this year with my youngest. He is LOVING it. The schedule is so “doable” and the books are totally engaging and fun. Every day, when I am finished with the scheduled reading, Ds keeps begging me to read more. I don’t usually indulge him because that keeps him eager for the next day’s work. 😉

Here are some pictures of ds’s recent notebooking pages. We are currently wrapping up learning about the Civil War and the Underground Railroad.

Ds’s drawing of Fort Sumter, where the Civil War began:

Fort Sumter

Continue reading