Life lessons from Ancient Egypt

We have been studying Ancient Egypt in history recently. It’s easy to see why it’s an essential part of any history curriculum. Majestic pharaohs, mysterious tombs filled with treasure, strange tales of gods with animal heads, a hippo/lion/crocodile monster that eats bad people after they die, code-like hieroglyphs, battles and boats, massive pyramids and colossal statues, beautiful queens and women who rule. There’s something for everyone.

It is easy to find crafts and hands on activities too. Sugar cube pyramid anyone? Crack the secret code. Turn your doll or an apple into a mummy. Make papyrus with brown paper bags. Walk like an Egyptian. Pinterest is awash with inspiration to satisfy the cravings of even the craftiest of crafters.

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“Papyrus” with Egyptian artwork. It’s satisfyingly stiff and crackly.

We have learnt about Menes the first pharaoh and Cleopatra the last pharaoh. Ahkenaten who worshipped the sun and Ramses III who fought a battle at sea. We have discovered how they irrigated their crops and what they ate. But as I reflect on what we have learnt lately, there are other, bigger lessons that we have been learning. Life lessons.

I don’t mean that lentils are tasty, though I wish my kids would learn that one. Or that if you are a naughty girl the Devourer will eat you in the afterlife (very thankful that one is not true!). I mean lessons like that of Jean-François Champollion, who worked for fourteen years trying to decode the Rosetta Stone before he deciphered a single word.

One of my children struggles with perseverance. She is gives up on average after about a minute and a half. Fourteen minutes is a long time for her to stick at a task, let alone fourteen years. So we are choosing to make Champollion one of our role models. To carry on with something just a little bit longer before we give up. If Champollion can work day in day out for fourteen years before he got a result, we can work just a little longer before we decide that our maths is too hard, or that our sock is lost forever.

Another lesson we can learn from the Ancient Egyptians is to manage our resources well. The Egyptian farmers built irrigation channels and catch basins to make the most of the Inundation – the yearly flooding of the Nile River. Careful engineering meant that the once a year flood would provide all of their water for the rest of the year. If they didn’t make the most of it when it came, there would be no rain later – their crops would fail.

It’s easy to let time pass and miss opportunities because we are busy or distracted. But if we work hard when the time is right, then we can manage our resources well and have provision for later.

Practically, that means for me taking a week off school when our apple trees are ready to harvest, so that they don’t drop and rot on the ground (ooops…. it makes a mess, I can tell you!). But it also means putting in the hard work of character training when children are young (digging the irrigation channels) so when the Inundation that is the teenage years come, we are ready to use the wonderful opportunities that they bring, instead of being swamped. It means teaching our children that if we save our money by not buying every sweet and toy that catches their eye, then later we can travel and build memories. For me as a mother of young children, it means not shirking my task, but investing in my children while they need me. The season will come when I can finish writing a blog post without a million interruptions, or get a full night’s sleep, or drink tea while it is hot. It’s just not now. The Egyptian farmers, like farmers everywhere, live their life according to the seasons, with busy periods of work and periods of rest and maintenance. We do well to do the same.

History has always fascinated me – it’s full of colourful characters and darn good stories. They catch the imagination and lift us for a little while out of the mundane. But one of the things I love about home educating is the chance to go deeper with our conversations, to let history shape us and direct our future. To learn from the successes and failures of the past, and to be inspired by those whose stories we read. That’s what I want to pass on to my children.

Our week so far…

This was meant to be a end of the week review last week but I was busy getting ready to go away for the weekend for our 12th wedding anniversary. So it’s a mid-week review instead!

We are doing Week 15 of Core B this week. We are finishing up the Ancient Egypt section in Usborne Time Traveller this week. It’s been one of our favourite history books so far. We’ll come back to it later – it is scheduled out of order, something that really bugged us at first. We almost didn’t read it as scheduled, but I’m glad we are. Something that I am learning about Sonlight is that they have good reasons for scheduling things the way they do. Time Traveller is covering the same topics that we are reading about in Child’s History of the World and Usborne Book of World History, but it gives a different perspective. The cries of recognition as we read about something that we came across in another book are fun for me to hear. It’s nice to see them making connections.

We are trying a new thing at the moment. I’m calling it “history journalling”. I have given the girls each a sketchbook and in our Morning Basket time we are spending a few minutes creating a page about what we have read and discussed. I’m leaving it pretty free for them – they can choose to write, or draw a picture, or do a diagram or map. I’m using the discussion questions in the IG as a prompt if they want it. I am expecting Bookworm to do a fairly detailed drawing or to write about it, Snugglepot to caption her drawing, and at this stage Buttercup can choose whether or not to join in. The other day she stuck in a map of Egypt that I photocopied out of World History. It’s a way of them making connections with what we read.

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This is Bookworm’s page from yesterday

I also started using Khan Academy with Bookworm. We have been using Miquon maths but she was having a bit of trouble understanding multiplying fractions with whole numbers, so I pulled up a few videos to show her. I have had the Khan academy app on my phone for ages and not used it. I think I will be making it a regular thing!

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This is Snugglepot’s journal page. We took a detour while reading about Ahkenaten to discuss Nefertiti and she decided to draw their wedding. It’s a modern version!

Today we have been having a bit of an alternative day. One of my good friends is moving away (sniff…) and so she came over for coffee this morning. We started our day late because I was up with Rosebud overnight and needed a sleep in. So we have only done half our Core work and no bookwork. But… Buttercup spent the morning doing a jigsaw puzzle that my friend gave us. All three biggies spent a good few hours playing with a wooden train set from said friend, including figuring out how to put it together and make the ends connect. Right now they are all making cards (cardmaking is a shared craft love). I think that free play and developing creativity is so important, so while part of me mildly panics about not doing maths yet today (we might still get to it), another part of me knows that they are still learning, and it is still time well spent.

Does anyone else struggle with having the courage to take an alternative path in learning?