Friday, August 31, 2012


Today we wrote with hieroglyphs! It made me appreciate cuneiform on clay tablets. Cuneiform was simpler, logical, and if you made a mistake it was easy to "erase" and do over. Also the stick was much easier to write with than the thinnest paintbrush. It really gave you the sense that whatever the Egyptians wrote must have been very important because it took more time and effort than the cuneiform.

Builder Boy started out planning to write a sentence but after writing his name he was done. He put the border around it to show it was his name and then moved on to making his own hieroglyphs. That turned out to be instructions on how to get around a pyramid (from Mummies in the Morning (Magic Tree House, No. 3) ) Instead of letters or sounds his pictures stood for words, which was close to the original hieroglyphs, so that was okay.

Early Bird decided to actually join us today and, all on his own and his own initiative, he wrote letters!  I thought that was pretty cool. He's been working in a dry-erase letter writing workbook when I do handwriting with Builder Boy, but he mostly does the 'A,a' and 'B,b' so I was surprised that he did 'E, t, H, & A' and I think an 'O' at the top. Or maybe a 'U.'

And I made a scroll for our comparison experiment we are going to do next week. I had a lot of fun making it, although I have come to the conclusion that whatever they used the bird for that was on my chart for 'A' they didn't use very often because it was a pain to make. And of course my English sentence had 6 of them. It says "Long ago [Pharaoh Builder Boy] built a pyramid that reached the sky."

I originally thought about having us write on parchment paper but when I got it out to write on it didn't look like it would hold up, and I believe papyrus was thicker. So we ended up using washable kid's paint with small paintbrushes on white construction paper.

The idea for this activity as well as the hieroglyphic alphabet came from the Story of the World Activity Book: Ancient Times.

Check out this post about our "Clay Tablet or Paper: Which Lasts Longer?" investigation.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Sumerian Cuneiform on Clay Tablets

"Mama is Queen"
I think it was especially fitting to learn about the first writing this week as last Friday Builder Boy finished the last letter in his handwriting book. I have been looking forwards to this activity for months now (I love codes) and I think I may have had a tiny bit more fun than Builder Boy did. After reading Chapter Three: The First Writing (Story of the World: Ancient Times) and doing the narration we wrote with cuneiform on "tablets" made from air-drying clay. I would recommend making the tablets on wax paper to make them easier to move. Also, folding over extra wax paper on the top and using a rolling pin to flatten it worked really well and I wish I'd thought of it for the first two tablets (we made three.) We used a craft/popsicle stick to make the marks (a flat-head screw driver was suggested.)

I had Builder Boy pick what he wanted to write and wrote it down to make the process easier. He wanted "Mama next queen." I convinced him to add in "is the" to make it a complete sentence, but it got shortened to "Mama is queen" as the tablet wasn't big enough. I can't stop beaming from him choosing that of all things to write. I think he got the queen thing from the Kings and Queens of England song he and Early Bird are trying to memorize (on their own initiative.) He also drew a picture of me, a chair (not a throne, I asked,) and himself.

The Scribe
"[Builder Boy] the Great can write"

I made a tablet as well as we are going to be doing the activity that puts a clay tablet and a paper scroll through different conditions to see which holds up better. Then Builder Boy made another tablet with his name and a picture of all of us. I used a straw to poke two holes in the top and when it dries in a few days I will put a string through it and hang it in his room.

The idea for this activity as well as the cuneiform alphabet came from the Story of the World Activity Book: Ancient Times.

  Check out our "Clay Tablet or Paper: Which Lasts Longer?" investigation.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Beautiful Homeschooling Moment

Today I said "Go take your abacus over there" and paused for a minute and saw the beauty of the moment. I saw a little "big boy" happily walking over to his play table to do math with his Mama. I can't describe how beautiful that sight was to me. I know that homeschooling is not always going to go this smoothly, so I was grateful in the midst of "getting things done" I had that almost-out-of-body/time-stood-still moment. I am so grateful I get to do this. I am so grateful for my husband who works so hard to support us. I am so grateful to God for His provision and the gifts that my sons are.

This is to remind me for when I have a not so great day.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Horrible Histories BBC TV Show

I recently discovered this show and, I admit, I have done little in my free time other than watching all the clips I can find on youtube. How come I'd never heard of these before?! They are HILARIUS! It's a kid show about different eras in history and different gory, gross, weird, odd, and poop related information. But it can't just be for kids because I am cracking up over here. I have their wives of King Henry the VIII song stuck in my head. "Divorced, beheaded and died, divorced, beheaded, survived." I will forever remember what happened to each  wife, even if I don't remember their names. So if you've never heard of them before, check them out!

And here is a song on Hieroglyphics for this week's history lesson.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Double Crown of Ancient Egypt

To make a paper Double Crown of Ancient Egypt you need white construction paper, red construction paper, extra white paper and some wax paper.

Start with the White Crown of Upper Egypt. Tape or glue two pieces together and fold around to make a cone shape with an opening at the top. Secure with tape or glue. Ours turned out to be a little bit small. We had to un-tape where we originally had put the two pieces together and re-tape at a different angle. That made the corners poke out at the back which actually was good for keeping it on Builder Boy's head, so we left it instead of trimming it.

Then crumple up a plain piece of paper (I used printer/copy paper) to make a ball/egg shape. Wrap another piece of paper around it, making it a bit smoother and bigger. Wrap it all in wax paper and tape it together. Tape or glue it to the top of the white cone. (I used tape on all of this.) You now have the White Crown of Upper Egypt.

To make the Red Crown of Lower Egypt, cut a piece of red construction paper in half lengthwise and tape the short sides together. Wrap it around your kid's head and tape or glue the back to fit. I made our red crown a bit big to compensate for the white crown being a bit to small. I taped the red crown to the white crown before adding the last detail. You can leave them apart and wear them separately. For the back detail I cut a strip of red construction paper and then rolled the top of the strip around a pencil and then let it go.

Add to your Egyptian Collar and a white kilt and ta da! You're a pharaoh over all of ancient Egypt!

The pharaohs did not wear the crown over a wig (at least, not in any of the pictures in the books we've been looking at) so we left the wig off.

The instructions to make the white crown came from the Story of the World Activity Book One: Ancient Times. I added the red crown on my own (Builder Boy wanted a Double Crown, not just the white one.)

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Shaduf Disappointment

What we were trying to make.
What we made.
Well, the shaduf didn't work. I tried making it with materials I had on hand, but the wrapping paper cardboard dowels just weren't strong enough to work as supports. The sand bag and water pail were just too heavy.

I am disappointed because Builder Boy loves contraptions and simple machines and I was all ready to talk about work vs. effort and levers and fulcrums. But we can't get stuck on this; we need to move on. Maybe we'll come back to this when we can get strong enough materials and a place to put them deep enough in the ground to make a good foundation. We don't have what we need to make a good base for a small scale shaduf, either.

Shaking it off and moving on. The wonderful thing about homeschooling is we had the flexibility to even try this project and the ability to say "this didn't work and that's okay."

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Page in Progress

The Story of the World Activity Book One: The Ancients has a list of recommended books for additional reading and corresponding literature suggestions. But the author acknowledges that the list can by no means be complete as there are a LOT of books out there. I did not find many of the books on that list at my library so I have been preparing posts to share the other books we found. I realized it would be far less complicated and more helpful to have a separate tab page with all the books plus links to the blog posts of what we did for those chapters. So I am currently working on that and I will post it when I am done.

Tomorrow Builder Boy and I am going to attempt to build a child-sized shaduf.

Friday, August 17, 2012

A whole month of Ancient Egypt? Yes, please!

We are just having too much fun! I was planning on only doing 3 weeks of ancient Egypt, but this week we did more extra things that weren't in the book so we'll make it 4 weeks (yea for the flexibility of homeschooling!) I always loved learning about ancient Egypt as a kid and could never get enough of it. Now I get to share that with my kids! I remember learning in elementary school how the ancient Egyptians would wear perfumed wax cones on their head. When it got hot enough to make you sweaty it was hot enough to melt the wax and release the perfume. How awesome and inventive is that? And it's stuck with me all these years. I don't know how much of what we are doing is going to stick with the kids. But the most important thing they are learning is that learning is fun!

We've been using books and things not mentioned in The Well Trained Mind and Story of the World, so I thought I'd post them on here for those who are interested.

A few years ago Builder Boy became interested in ancient Egypt, and specifically pyramids, tombs, and mummies from watching me play The Sims 3, World Adventures expansion pack. (Okay, so Builder Boy and Principal Daddy aren't the only ones in this house who like computer games.) I made him a simple book about Egypt (that as soon as Principal Daddy shows me how to share a Word Document on here I will add,) got him a little book about the Nile River and some paper dolls (I was expecting them not to last, which was okay. I was NOT expecting half of the women outfits to be inappropriate, which they were.)

I re-discovered those materials today, so I got them out and had fun with the kids. Builder Boy was able to read almost every word in the book I made, which was really cool.

He liked The Nile River book which was a little above his reading level, but the vocabulary level was perfect to him. It covered a lot in just a few sentences per page with great pictures. And before I read it the first time a few years back I had no idea they had built a dam to stop the Nile from flooding.(ISBN 0-516-21559-0, Dewy Decimal number 916.2 if you're looking for it in the library. It is a small book.)

At the time I also got Ancient Egyptian Costumes Paper Dolls . Be aware though that they are fairly authentic, which means most of the girl outfits show mostly bare breasts (they hide the nipples) and a lot of cleavage. I still think they were worth it, though, and Builder Boy really doesn't care about not having a lot of girl outfits. 

We read The Egyptian Cinderella which I found at the thrift store and Builder Boy liked it. (ISBN 0-690-04822-X or 0-06-443279-3, DD number 398.2)

We've also been using the Usborne Living Long Ago book for information on food and clothing. (At the time I got it I was able to get it for $10.)

And of course (Craft Topics) Egyptians: Facts*Things To Make*Activities by Rachel Wright (Out of print/not available on ISBN 0-531-14209-4 The inside has the Dewy number as 932.01 but my library had it at 745.592)

For tying in science with history we used The Children's Encyclopedia of Animals to learn about the desert habitat and Kingfisher First Encyclopedia of Animals to learn about camels and crocodiles. (CEofA Parragon Publishing, ISBN 978-1-4454-0740-1,  Kingfisher ISBN978-0-7534-5922-5)

Builder Boy and I also looked at the Sahara Desert, Nile River, Pyramids st Giza, and Temples at Karnak 2-page spreads in Children's Amazing Places Encyclopedia. (Parragon Publishing, ISBN 978-1-4075-8067-8)

Principal Daddy has been reading the Magic Tree House book #3 Mummies in the Morning .

The beginning links are to the author's printing press website where you can buy Story of the World directly from the author. The below pictures are links to the book on

Builder Boy's Zoo Mural (Finished!)

Well, it's taken us two months, but it's done! Builder Boy's zoo mural is done! (Previous post about starting it and why here.) It was definitely worth it. Having the incentive of adding an animal to his zoo was perfect for Builder Boy. It got him excited about coloring and finishing a page. It became something he wanted to do, not something he had to do. At first he put the pictures up at ramdom (or at least it seemed random to me) and then he started putting the animals together in groups (birds together, animals with water together, animals with trees together.)

The last two pictures were a struggle for him to finish. They were a jaguar and a peacock, with lots of little dot areas as well as the over all areas. Some of the dots he colored, some he just colored the whole thing (he colored the jaguar's tail all blue.)

The real test will be to offer him a regular coloring book and see if he will color in it or not.

The book also came with a completion certificate, which made his day.

My Book of Coloring: At the Zoo      

(I did not get paid for this review. All opinions are my own.)

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Feasting By the Nile River

Flooding the Nile

We spent today living on the Nile River. Principal Daddy had today off so he helped set up the pool and Builder Boy "flooded" it. This was the first time this year getting the pool out (wasps that like to hang out near our front grass area and the neighbors not picking up their puppy's poop equals no pool out front where the grass is) and the boys had a lot of fun. Builder Boy had requested a feast to eat near the "river" so I had Principal Daddy pick up some dates at the store and Builder Boy helped me make Pocket/Pita Bread. It wasn't perfect, or even completly authentic, but the boys loved it. This was their first time having dates, and they loved those, too. There is enough leftover bread that we're having it for dinner. I discovered some dried garbanzo beans that I had forgotten about and I am going to attempt to make hummus. I don't have tahini (I hadn't even heard of it before today) so we'll see how it turns out. If it's any good I'll post what I did on the Pocket/Pita Bread post. (ETA: nope, not something you want the recipe for.)
This was the first time Builder Boy had ever seen me use yeast, so that was a learning experience for him. He mentioned that his Nana and 'Apa have a machine for making pizza dough, and thought we should have one, too. That sparked a good discussion about the technology of ancient Egypt and what we have that they didn't have.

I'm tying in science this week with history by studding with Builder Boy desert habitats and animals.

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