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Entries in ancient civilizations (9)


Trojan Horse


Tree of the gods

As in family tree. Of the Greek Gods.

This was a fun activity. We have a beautiful book, D'Aulaire's Book of Greek Myths, that we've been enjoying throughout our study of that beautiful civilization. It not only clearly describes the relationships between the various gods in writing, but also has a chart in the front for the more visual learners. Of course, the intricacies of godliness in ancient Greek culture is rather convoluted, seeing as there were several mortal, half-god men walking the earth at that time. Of course. Take Pythagoras, for instance. To simplify things we confined our study of the gods to the more literal of the group—those who had phenomenal powers, immortality, and jobs pertaining to the (then unexplainable) processes of the natural world.

Calvin's tree took a few days to create. We went online together to find sketches of the different gods, which we then printed for him to color. He picked out a blue poster board for the background. He made Gaia out of cut paper (green for her earth body, blue for the lakes and pools that form her mouth and eyes), and sketched, then cut the tree from postal paper before gluing everything down.


{field trip} UofM Exhibit Museum of Natural History—Behind the Scenes Day

What was I just saying about having so many great field trip opportunities so close to home?


This one was only fifteen minutes away, which was a good thing when we were leaving the house this afternoon with only about that much to spare. The Exhibit Museum of Natural History at the University of Michigan has already become a favorite stopping point for us, but today they opened their wings and offered a special glimpse of their behind the scenes work as well.

bird specimen collection

There are a few things in this world that fill me with great warmth and joy simply at their mention. I'm sure this is true for most people—our minds tend to link the feeling of comfort with certain experiences, this being the basis behind the pacifier, the trusty blanket, a hug from a loved one, and, of course, comfort food. For me one of these moments was an entire semester, later in my college years, spent studying the object of my desire: evolutionary biology and animal behavior. I spent an obscene number of hours studying that term, and most of them were spent in room 303 in the Natural History Museum: the Museum Teaching Collection and Lab. Mere memory of that lab and its professors is enough to fill me with an inner peace and longing, a pang of nostalgia.

room 303

Calvin and I have been visiting the museum several times annually for a couple of years now. Of course he loves the museum. The countless hours we have spent pouring over books on prehistoric life are made real there, as are a number of rare and/or local species he has never seen alive himself. He loves the rotunda, and the selection of reading materials available in the small library on the main exhibit floor. We both enjoy the dioramas of ancient life, and the murals, which are ancient in their own right. And every time we visit I feel a pull from the authorized personnel only doors off to the side, or turning a corner in the specimen hall will fill me with nostalgia for days of packed lunches eaten on the benches there while pouring over notes on the identification of lagomorphs based on dental orientation, or something of the like.

in the exhibit museum

Today was a chance for me to return to those moments, and to share them with Jon and Calvin. The rooms looked the same and smelled the same and I could not contain the smile that crept onto my face when we entered them. We took four tours, the one in the bird and mammal wing being the most important to me, but we also toured the paleontology, invertebrate, and anthropology wings. Aside from rare views of rooms full of specimens, we were also treated to the exuberance of the true scholars of each field, professors and graduate students, all being thoroughly in love with their fields and more than eager to share their love with the public. Though the event was free, groups were kept to manageable sizes by requiring pre-registration and tickets, which also helped limit attendees to those were actually interested in an hour's worth of lecture on the subjects.

scarlet tanagers

in the mammal teaching specimen room

in the Paleontology wing—mammoth study room

in the basement...the Paleontology collection

in the mollusk wing

viewing a butterfly's wings under a microscope

a pretty private look in the anthropology department

Calvin says his favorite moment was the Paleontology tour, and possibly making a cast of a Clovis point in the anthropology wing. Jon, who had yet to even visit the museum with us, says he enjoyed everything. For me, the greatest moment was just walking into room 303, and getting to see the cabinet of bat specimens, my favorite creature of study from that year so long ago, was just icing on the cake.


What have we been up to?

It's been a while since I really posted about homeschooling. Between illness and travel I've had a hard time keeping up here. First Tulip Time, then two weeks of a nasty cold, then one week before we left for Chicago, and now this weekend we're off again, headed north to visit family. Actually the whole summer promises to be as scattered (and joyous).

Of course, this doesn't mean that we haven't been reading, and researching, and trying, and doing, and learning everywhere and all the time. Some of it has been researching and playing in the library, in life, or even on the computer, and some of it has been more curriculum oriented, with a worksheet here and there.

This week we are finishing up our initial tour of the ancient Indus Valley with a few fun links, in particular this site from the BBC. Using the Story of the World as a guide we'll be back in the area in a couple of weeks, but as with our first stop in ancient Egypt I am supplementing with a more thorough sally into the area with a little help from Intellego and my friend the library. We read a couple of books, most notably Savitri: A Tale of Ancient India, and in reading it Calvin learned that the tale was from The Mahabharata and asked to read the whole thing, so we have a copy of that on order, too.

Speaking of reading, with all the driving we've been doing Calvin has been gobbling up books. He's on book seven of the Oz series, The Patchwork Girl, has reread some of the Magic Tree House books, and has started in on a new series as well, the Paleo Joe Detective Series.

He's more than half way through the multiplication tables, using Math-U-See lessons, but mostly via dice games.

In keeping with the classical education, or at least partially so, he memorized a poem and we did some picture narration, writing a story about a Mary Cassatt painting, Children Playing on the Beach. Calvin remembered, after this suggested activity, that he'd read about the artist before, and he was right—we have  a copy of her biography from the Getting to Know the World's Greatest Artists series, so he read that as well.

And we baked: shortcakes to go with strawberries and cream on Tuesday, and banana bread today.

He devoured science this week, even more so than history, which is his usual favorite. We did lessons C-1 and D-1, energy and gravity, in BFSU, and he checked about five different books out from the library on the subjects before making his own.

We also spent a lot of time touring the gardens, walking the dogs, and playing at the park.


What DID we do this week?

Our two biggest events this week were group oriented. On Friday, of course, there was the play and talent show at our HAA gathering, and on Monday we met with another homeschooling group for the first time. It's a more local group—smaller, and two of the families we already know from HAA. It's a very informal, relaxed gathering. The kids played games and designed and created paper airplanes while the moms chatted and watched. We are looking forward to romping through local parks with them throughout the summer, as well as gathering in more distant parks with our friends at HAA. What a fun summer we will have!

Calvin finished reading The Water Horse and Mitt the Michigan Mouse and started The Marvelous Land of Oz. On the subject of books, Thursday we went to see a stage production of something he read last month: The Cricket in Times Square. He wrote a journal entry about the event.

There was Lego play in ancient Egypt, complete with Lego pyramid Egyptian god figures. Calvin read, and reread and reread, Senefer: A Young Genius in Old Egypt (out of print, but we got it from the library), and tried a few fun links suggested by Intellego: Images from inside Tut's Tomb (by Discovery News); a video about tombs, and lots of info on King Tut (from National Geographic); and a great interactive site on the pyramids at Giza (from the British Museum). He also played this silly tomb adventure game (from National Museums Scotland), this silly mummy game (from Schools Liaison), and revisited this great interactive mummy making site (from the Children's University of Manchester). Both The British Museum and the Children's University of Manchester sites have great overall presentations on ancient Egypt.

That Anubis, he's such a trickster...

He was reading about Senefer as an elephant walked by...

He did two Math-U-See lesson sets from Gamma, introducing products of 5 and 10, and we also discussed products of 9. We played Totally Tut a few times, some modified versions of Shut the Box, and quizzed each other on odd-ball multiplication problems (the bigger the number, the better—what is 6 million x 9????) while playing in the yard, while walking the dogs, while eating lunch, while driving...I think you get the idea.

I'm bringing back BFSU (Building Foundations of Scientific Understanding). We'd been wandering through it last fall but got away from it over the winter, so this week we reviewed some of the topics we'd covered and I was delighted to find that the understanding is still there. The BFSU book is just a guide for us, a way for me to jump start conversations about science, but really we've been talking about these things all along.

There was piano practice, and line practice, what with the talent show and the play on Friday, both of which went very well. There was dog walking, grocery shopping, swimming lessons, and library volunteering.

As a family we started watching episodes from The Pyramid Code on Netflix. It's a little conspiracy theorist in flavor, but many of the ideas put forward are entirely plausible, or at least imaginable, and the show certainly makes one think.

This week we'll be cleaning up from the book sale, which happened yesterday, and heading over to Holland, Michigan for the Tulip Time festival, at which there are likely to be no tulips this year since the season started a month early. No problem, we don't really go for the tulips so much as for the big lake, the beach, and the quiet, relax time we sneak in while there.