Ancient History – Week 3

We are in our 3rd week of studying ancient history and really enjoying ourselves. The Mystery of History is making a terrific spine. The lessons are short (usually about 10 minutes or so), Biblical, easy to understand for my 5th grader and very informative (enough to keep me interested, as well as Otter). You can take a look at a free sample at the MOH website. I like it that I can cover the main part of our history lesson in such a short time and then leave the rest of what I’ve scheduled as gravy.

The Story of the World is also making a great compliment to MOH. I’m glad I decided to do them together. The Mystery of History is giving me a Biblical based account of history, while SOTW is adding in a “story” element to it all that is memorable.

Here’s a map Otter completed after reading about Shamshi-Adad of the Assyrians in The Story of the World. The map is from the activity book.

Story of the World map

After reading about the Tower of Babel in The Mystery of History, he made a mini-booklet that summarized the story. You can get it for free from

He’s also doing some notebooking. I got the page on the right here (scroll down the page) and the one on the left here. Otter is using the pages to write down short narrations of the things I’m reading out loud to him. At the end of studying ancient history, he’ll have a nice portfolio of the things we’ve covered.

notebooking pages

In History Pockets, our lesson today was about frontalism. After looking at some examples from the History Pocket book, as well as online, Otter used the Ralph Masiello’s Ancient Egypt Drawing Book to help him draw in this ancient style.


Last week in History Pockets he made a small timeline featuring some main events in Egyptian history.


I’m glad I chose to use History Pockets this year to compliment our studies. The activities are a good overview of Egyptian basics. I didn’t want to bother with trying to plug in lapbooks this year and I wanted something a little hands-on that would still leave us plenty of time for other activities. History Pockets is really working out for us.

However, if you prefer lapbooks, here are some that are free:

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.

March update

Long time no blog! We were all very sick. In fact that was the sickest I can ever remember being since I was a child! Both of the boys had pneumonia after having the flu. We were all hacking and coughing but thankfully we’re all better now and back to our normal lives – like doing school!

Here are some of the things Otter is working on:

Barton Reading & Spelling Program

We are back into using the Barton Reading and Spelling program. Otter was having some problems with spelling and reading. With spelling he would “decorate” with letters, add in letters that are not sounded in the word or mix up the proper letters. For example he would spell bird as brid, noises as noseses, spider as sipter, black as blake, bowl as blole, etc. After reading about some of the things he’s been doing I started thinking about and investigating the possibility of Dyslexia. We are in the process of getting him tested and (so far) it doesn’t look like Dyslexia is the problem after all. However, I have noticed some real improvement in his spelling and reading since using a combination of Barton and Sequential Spelling so I’m going to continue using both through the end levels.

Barton is expensive, but it really does work. Even though the first few levels seem really easy and unecessary we have gone through every lesson without skipping anything. I am VERY pleased with the results. If you have a child who is struggling with reading or spelling, I encourage you to check out the Barton website and watch some free videos or read the Dyslexia warning signs check list. The program is very easy to use. First you watch a teacher training video that not only explains step-by-step how to teach the material, but also goes over common mistakes a child might make and how to handle them. After watching the teacher training you can start the lessons. Each lesson is totally scripted and all materials are included like letter tiles, worksheets, reading sheets, etc. (and in the 4th level a Franklin Spelling Ace).

cactusIn science Otter is wrapping up learning about the desert in WinterPromise’s Animals & Their Worlds Program. Dad bought us a cactus to go with what “we” are learning! He is excited to start learning about the forest habitat next week.

For history we just finished studying about World War I and the Great Depression/Dust bowl. Here are some of Otter’s notebooking pages. I find that notebooking helps him retain what he’s learned and the pages are fun to flip through for “review”.

WP World War I page and and WWI map from Knowledge Quest.

world war I

WWI propaganda posters from online with a copywork sentence.

Notebooking page on Theodore Roosevelt and pictures of National Parks he signed legislation for:

More WWI posters and a page about the stock market crash of 1929:

Stamps showcasing events and items from the 1930’s (the website where we got the pictures from was scheduled in the WP guidebook as an optional extra). Otter really likes to learn and recite dates, so now we have some more that he knows:

We didn’t like one of the books WP scheduled for WWI (Dear America’s When Christmas Comes Again) so I substituted with Where Poppies Grow – a very visual scrapbook style book. The new WP catalog came out and it looks like they replaced the book we didn’t like with something else. Kudos to WP for working on their programs to make them even better.

 Otter really loved it when we read one of the books scheduled in WP’s middler pack: Hoping for Rain: The Dust Bowl Adventures of Patty and Earl Buckler. He didn’t like the book scheduled in the regular program (Rose’s Journal) so we ended up using Hoping for Rain exclusively. I personally thought both were excellent.

Otter is totally itching to get to World War II.

In math Otter just finished up RightStart’s Level D and moved on to Level E.

In other news, you probably have to be on another planet to not have heard about the recent court decision concerning homeschooling in California. Please consider signing the online petition, if you haven’t yet. Click here to go to it.

I am very encouraged by the following:

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O’Connell announced today that the California Department of Education has completed a legal review of the February 28 California Court of Appeal ruling regarding home schooling. O’Connell issued the following statement:

“I have reviewed this case, and I want to assure parents that chose to home school that California Department of Education policy will not change in any way as a result of this ruling. Parents still have the right to home school in our state.

“Every child in our state has a legal right to get an education, and I want every child to get an education that will prepare them for success in college and the world of work in the challenging global economy.

“As the head of California’s public school system, I hope that every parent would want to send their children to public school. However, traditional public schools may not be the best fit for every student. Within the public school system there are a range of options available. Students can take independent study classes, attend a charter school, or participate in non-classroom-based programs. But some parents choose to send their children to private schools or to home school, and I respect that right.

“I admire the dedication of parents who commit to oversee their children’s education through home schooling. But, no matter what educational program a student participates in, it is critical that the program prepares them for future success in the global economy. I urge any parent who is considering or involved in home schooling their children to take advantage of resources and support available through their county or district offices of education.”

I guess it’s going to be a wait and see game. I’m hoping things will continue to stay positive.

American History Notebooking Pages

Otter finished some more WP notebooking pages. Here are some pics:

The Battle of Little Bighorn:


Sharing the news about moving west and a page about Levi Strauss and the invention of blue jeans:

Moving West and blue jeans

Transcontinental railroad and traveling west in wagons (the top part of the wagon page is lift-the-flap):
Transcontinental railroad and wagons

Some history pocket things about the Oregon Trail pasted into ds’s history notebook (including a “quilt block” made from felt):

History Pocket

A Wild West wanted poster:

Wanted poster

More History Pocket stuff:

More History Pockets

History Pockets Moving West is schedule in the WinterPromise Middlers Pack but we are just doing the pages whenever we feel like it and have the time.

I also didn’t end up liking the Down the Yukon by Will Hobbs and am substituting Caddie Woodlawn instead. Caddie Woodlawn was scheduled as a reader in the LA package, but we aren’t using that this year. Instead, I am using the readers as substitutes for some of the adventure reading assignments.

Learning History with Playmobil

WinterPromise had it scheduled for us to build a log cabin out of twigs, but we decided to use Lincoln Logs instead and then pulled out some Playmobil to complete the whole scene.
I love having the excuse to “play” with Playmobil! Shhh don’t tell anyone I’m grownup! Don’t tell anyone either that our oldest (a junior in high school) still joins in when her little brother pulls them out. 😉

Actually Playmobil make an excellent compliment to just about any homeschool history study. You can easily build and act out just about any scene.

“Hey, we’re having a test. Show me what you learned with your Playmobil.” “Narrate to me the last chapter we went over.” “Create a different ending for the story you read.”

Playmobil is a way to flesh out characters and historical situations that makes them easier to remember because they are personalized in a hands-on and fun way.

Ds is ogling some of the Roman Playmobil sets. I’m thinking about our future ancient history studies…..

Wild West scene with Lincoln Logs

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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

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