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.

Sea & Sky and Pirates

Today in Sea & Sky we did an experiment that demonstrates how bioluminescent fish camouflage themselves when they swim in mid-ocean depths where there’s scattered light.

Camouflaged fish activity

Otter punched a bunch of holes into one end of a shoe box. He then took two identically shaped fish cut outs and placed them into the box in front of the holes. The paper fish on the left is solid and you can see how a predator can more easily see the outline of the fish. The paper fish on the right has holes punched into it to simulate the bioluminescent camouflage of some deep sea fish. It’s outline is harder to see, especially when there is movement and different parts of the fish “twinkle”.

The Great Pirate Activity BookWe also have a book scheduled to start this week called The Great Pirate Activity Book. It has nice illustrations and some interesting information but it encourages kids to pretend to be pirates (which is all about stealing and so on). I didn’t feel 100% comfortable with encouraging that, so instead Bear set up all the pirate Playmobil. Now otter is playing that the good guys are capturing the bad pirates.

This book will give me some good opportunities to discuss some things with Otter like the title of one of the pages: A Short Life But A Merry One. Sometimes doing bad things IS fun. I’m going to talk to him about that particular issue. There are also some other things I will go over with him like the following quotes from the book:

“Others had run away from jail, slave owners, or unhappy marriages!”

From that I’m going to discuss running away from things, trying to get out of consequences and about what God says about marriage.

“Pirates could make more money out of one lucky raid than an honest sailor could earn in all his years at sea!”

We’re going to discuss “getting rich quick” and how doing it the honest way usually takes a lot of time and hard work and why it’s worth it to do it God’s way.

“They also liked to dance and sing, and to drink rum and brandy – when they could get it!”

This one’s pretty obvious. Our family doesn’t drink alcohol. That doesn’t mean we condemn responsible drinking, but we personally have decided to abstain. I will go over what the Bible says about drinking and specifically drunkenness. We’ll go over some of the popular pirate songs that feature drinking and they way pirates approached alcohol (like in the book Treasure Island where the pirates do some really stupid things and make some mistakes in their plan because they were all dead drunk). We’ll talk about what alcohol does to your body and brain.

We’ll still do some of the crafts in the book like make a sword (good guys need swords too!), make a porthole, create an ancient map and so on. I think it’s an easy book to adapt to our own personal beliefs.

Here are some picture of Otter’s Playmobil pirates (with a few Fisher Price pirate stuff left over from when Emily was about 6, LOL):

Pirate playmobil

playmobil pirates


playmobil pirates

I don’t think you can get the pirate island we have anymore (I bought it for Emily and Bear YEARS ago), but Amazon has some pirate sets:

Playmobil SuperSet Pirate Island

Playmobil Pirate Corsair

Playmobil Pirate Dinghy

Playmobil is a fun way to act out what you are learning. I REALLY love the new Egypt and Roman sets. I think we have so much Playmobil now though that I won’t be able to justify getting anymore, LOL!

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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