Saturday, November 7, 2020

Chapters from Ancient History

The coronavirus crisis has been going on for a long time... and sometimes I feel like I'm managing pretty well and sometimes I feel like I'm not.

Professionally, it's really hard to teach using Montessori or Waldorf methods when you are at a distance from your students. Like, they are in their house and you are in your house. I'm still determined to stay positive and keep things as progressive as possible, but sometimes it's just hard to let go of lesson ideas or resources that you don't have any way to share.

I am eternally grateful that the Online Waldorf Library now includes Chapters from Ancient History by Dorothy Harrer in their library of free PDF downloads. That entire program is a godsend for families who are struggling to homeschool on a tight budget. I am sad, though, that I can't easily share with my families the version of these legends by Charles Kovacs. The Harrer book is serviceable as far as India and Persia go. It picks up steam when it comes to Mesopotamia. And then she goes on to have much more for Ancient Egyptian mythology than Kovacs (and, happily, she also includes Ancient Greece which he does not; he puts that in a whole other book).

Kovacs does a much better job, I feel, of bringing the areas of India, Persia, and Mesopotamia to life in his introductory material for each place. His retellings are then also much longer and richer. For India, Persia, and Mesopotamia, Harrer spends just 49 pages; Kovacs devotes 151 pages.

So even though I'm not mandating time on Zoom for my students, I am going to be using my Office Hours time to share excerpts from the Kovacs book and some other resources I have here as well.

I cut a week out of this block to give an extra week to our study of the Presidents and the Election. The extra time was very necessary! Now we will be moving more swiftly. To me, the most important legend for Ancient India is Rama and Sita. The most important legend for Ancient Persia is Zarathustra. The most important legend for Ancient Mesopotamia is Gilgamesh. Here are my thoughts as to pacing, plus a few other ideas:

Week One - Ancient India, Ancient Persia

Week Two - Ancient Mesopotamia

During the course of week 1 students should read the sections on Ancient India and on Ancient Persia and add favorite stories to their MLB. During the course of week 2 students should do the same for Ancient Mesopotamia.

Mapmaking Ideas

You may also want to require that your child draw a map of each country/region of the world for the MLB before learning about its legends. In the book, these maps could also serve as dividers between the three regions, a bit like an introduction to the upcoming legends.

Watercolor Paint / Watercolor Pencil / Colored Pencil

When I last taught this in 2016, we did this before beginning the first story. My students painted India, the Arabian Sea, the Bay of Bengal, the Himalayan Mountains, and the Ganges River, using pale blue for the shape of the entire peninsula and dark blue for the river, yellow for the surrounding water, and red for the mountains. Then we used watercolor pencils to label each item on our map.

You could easily simply use colored pencils for this, and other maps as well.

Salt Dough Map

Since India has the Himalayas, it might be a fun one for making a salt dough map. I just found this activity idea online and am so excited to try it!

Dyed Rice Map

Maybe make a map of Mesopotamia, which is all flat, by dyeing rice with food coloring. Draw the outline you're trying to follow onto a piece of paper and then place it on a tray or rimmed baking sheet (or, I guess, you could use a clean pizza box like they show in the salt dough map pictures). Then you could slowly spoon the colors on so as to create the correct design.

Then, of course, the colored rice becomes sensory play afterwards. If you don't have any younger children at your house, you can give the colored rice as a gift.

We have made dyed rice several times in Kindergarten and it is very quick and easy. Each color only takes a few minutes to make. You can dye in the morning, let it dry through lunch, and use it in the afternoon.

You will need for EACH color:
a quart ziploc bag
a cup of rice
a tablespoon of vinegar
a few drops of food coloring
a loaf pan

Simply put the rice in the bag, add the vinegar, add the food coloring, shake several times, then mush and squash vigorously until the color has saturated the rice and there is no white rice left in the bag.

Pour into a loaf pan to dry, stirring several times over the course of a few hours.

You can do all drops of the same color, or a few drops of one color and a few drops of another. I made orange with three drops of red and two drops of yellow. It is fun to see what happens! You could also try doing the same color but a different number of drops of food coloring, to see what results.

For a more uniform color in your finished rice, add the food coloring to the vinegar first and stir, then pour the vinegar onto the rice. However, putting the color in on top of the rice in the way I described gives your rice an ombre coloring, which is extremely pretty (click photo to enlarge).

Even if you don't do the mapmaking, it would be a useful exercise to look up each and see where it is on the world map.

Ancient India Ideas

on Thursday, November 12
I plan to share Kovacs' introduction to India on pp. 7-8 as well as "Indra the Warrior God" on pp. 17-22 and "The Fishermen's Catch" on pp. 23-27

Ancient Persia Ideas

    map of the Persian Empire at its greatest

    Words in Our Language from Persia etymology explorations

    make some jewelry (when researching Ancient Persia for my 2019 Ancient Civilizations summer camp I found that Persian men and women both loved to slather themselves with jewelry; I set out all of my beads and jewelry-making supplies and it was one of the most popular activities of the whole camp!)

    one student came up with the idea to decorate the "Persia" title page by drawing a necklace around the word Persia

    draw some Iranian-inspired motifs; see the Live Ed sample lesson from "The Ancient Culture in Persia" for some pictures

    Faloodeh (Persian Rose Water Ice) recipe

    do something to experience the polarity of Ahura Mazda and Ahrimen, like lighting a bonfire on a cold night; we did a very effective 2 page spread with warm colors and flames as the border around the Ahura Mazda page and cool colors and icicles around the Ahrimen page

    my Pinterest page for Ancient Persia

on Friday, November 13
I plan to share Kovacs' introduction to Persia on pp.104-106 as well as “Hushang Discovers Fire” on pp.107-109 and “King Djemshid’s Golden Dagger” on pp.110-112

on Friday, November 13
I would also like to read The Legend of the Persian Carpet by Tomie dePaola

Ancient Mesopotamia Ideas

on Thursday, November 19
I plan to share Kovacs' introduction to Mesopotamia on pp.132-135 as well as some photographs of archaeological artifacts (pp.6, 20, 58, 61, and paragraph at the top of p.22 of Mesopotamian Myths by Henrietta McCall)

on Thursday, November 19
I would also like to read “Marduk, the God Who Knew No Fear” on pp.136-138 of Kovacs and the first little bit of the story of Gilgamesh ("The Sun of the Sun God" on pp.139-142) which we will continue to discuss on Friday

on Friday, November 20
I plan to review the Mesopotamian contributions to written language (The Wonderful World of Archaeology by Ronald Jessup - cuneiform p.73, how cuneiform evolved from picture writing p.93), numbers (The History of Counting by Denise Schmandt-Besserat, pp.18-26), and clocks and calendars (The Story of Clocks and Calendars by Betsy Maestro, pp.14-17)

    just so I can keep this straight, here is the list:

      Sumerians 4500 BCE - 1900 BCE

      Akkadians 2334 BCE - 2154 BCE

      Assyrians 1905 BCE - 612 BCE

      Babylonians 1895 BCE - 539 BCE

      Chaldeans (a Babylonian dynasty) 625 BCE - 539 BCE

      with the fall of the city of Babylon in 539 BCE, Ancient Mesopotamian lands became part of the Persian Empire

on Friday, November 20
I would also like to explain the connection between the Mesopotamian civilizations and the Old Testament stories of Jonah (7th century BCE, Assyrian Empire, King Shalmaneser III, Nineveh) and Daniel (6th century BCE, Babylonian Empire, Kings Nebuchadnezzar & Belshazzar, Babylon)

    this is also covered really well in A Child's History of the World:

    chap 17 - Kings with Corkscrew Curls

    chap 18 - A City of Wonders

    chap 19 - A Surprise Party

on Friday, November 20
I would also like to read Ishtar and Tammuz: A Babylonian Myth of the Seasons by Christopher Moore

I will give each student a portion of self-hardening modeling clay in his/her tote bag, which can be used for any of these clay modeling ideas. It will be in a damp washcloth inside a Ziploc bag, so that it stays moist until it is needed. To remoisten and reuse the clay, simply wrap it again in the damp washcloth so that it will soften.

I will also provide a copy of the "Brick Making Challenge" instructions to everyone. It's very fun. The third test is the hardest!

Hope these ideas are helpful! Even though we are only officially spending two weeks on this topic, you can do some of the follow-up ideas throughout November at your leisure. Or even into December. There is, after all, a connection between the Wise Men of India and Persia and Mesopotamia... and the Christmas story!

UPDATE: Finally got all my thoughts organized and published this at 1 am... and at dinnertime later the same day, I find that I have another story for Ancient Persia! So now I have to see if I can fit it in somewhere, because it is quite lovely. And in it the people from Ancient Persia travel to Ancient India, so that's even more perfect. It is a brand-new book, released October 6th of this year. The book is Sugar in Milk by Thrity Umrigar. I preordered it when I was buying books on countries in Asia and Amazon recommended it for me. Finally sat down and read it, and I'm so glad I have it!

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