DIY
Geeked About the Greeks

Every summer I run a History through the Creative Arts camp for homeschoolers in my area. It started as a way to do history with my own children that was based on something other than war and politics. I find it easier to relate periods of history to what the classical composers were doing at the time, and figured maybe my children were the same way.

To make my children more excited, I invited their friends to join us for a week exploring a period in history listening to music, eating food, making clothing, looking at art, etc. I like to get historic materials for crafts and realized I needed to ask the parents for supply money. Over the years, this became tuition, and eventually I started a business on learning through the creative arts.

Although I started it for my kids, it also gives me the fun of exploring a time period. I like research and getting into a subject, but it’s hard to dedicate my time to something unless it’s related to my main job: homeschooling my kids. That’s why these camps are so much fun for me. I decide the time period a year ahead of time and get to research for months on a topic. I can become obsessed and nerdy, and blame it on my kids!

This year I chose Ancient Greece as the time period, and holy crap! It’s really interesting! Sooooooo much of our language and culture comes from that civilization. I’ve taken out dozens of books from the library and purchased my favorites, including this one. I wanted to make pan pipes, but finding bamboo of the correct diameter proved too difficult. I will have the kids make cool Greek-looking sandals and an abacus (I hand-made all the beads out of clay around my house, trying to use up all the leftover colors no one wanted anymore…lots of brown.) My fellow history geek/mom/librarian friend, Amy, will be taking over the food and home life portion of camp. I wonder if she can make me gluten-free baklava. I watched some good non-fiction videos on Greeks, and gave up on fictional ones. My husband and I sat down to watch “300″ and ended up only viewing the Special Features (which were very informative!) So far this is my favorite adult non-fiction book. For the past few months I keep popping out with “Did you know…?” tidbits of random facts.

For example:

  • The Greek theaters had stone tickets for people to find their correct seat. Ancient organization!
  • Spartans thought archery was for cowards. Manly Spartans needed to crush their enemies skull with THEIR BARE HANDS! RAWR!!! (or a spear…or sword.)
  • Trial by jury comes from the Greeks, along with, you know…democracy.
  • The Pandora myth (a woman brings evil into the world) may actual be from an earlier myth that a foolish man let all the good stuff escape from the world. Both end with ‘hope’ is all that is left.
  • The music of Greece is completely lost, but from what we can gather (images and writing), it sounded more like Middle Eastern and Asian melodic music, rather than the Western Europe harmony based stuff.
  • Women were pretty much slaves in Athens, but had some political power in Sparta, and were expected to be able to fight and defend the homeland while the men were away at war.
  • Greek mathematicians were able to do some pretty amazing things despite the fact that they had to use Greek numbers…no fun.
  • Athenians had no problem with nudity, but when they painted pottery for other, more demure places, they would put clothes on the figures.

And the language! The father from “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” was right! There are so many words that come from Greek! Here’s a game to test your knowledge:

This week is The Big Prep. My kids actually have off from homeschooling so I can get ready for camp. Yesterday I made a canvas labyrinth to put on the floor of where camp will be held. The Minotaur and the Labyrinth is a cool story, based on a true palace. Excavations show how winding and crazy the layout was- a visitor might have easily been lost. And the throne room was this windowless place in the center. Very cool. Here’s a video of how I made it:

My kids are getting geeked up as well. My daughter’s picture above is of Pandora’s Box (with a very cute Hope at the bottom.) And here is my son’s comic about Icarus.

Icarus Page One

Icarus Page Two

 

Rebecca Angel

Rebecca Angel was one of those kids that put the dragon book on top of her pile in the hopes that someone would say, "Hey, I'm into that stuff too!" Alas, she had to wait until she was an adult to find fellow geeks. Luckily, she married one and they are homeschooling two children in upstate NY. Rebecca is a singer/songwriter, creative arts instructor, proponent of science literacy and 21st century education, and lover of tea, funky tights, RPGs, anime, manga, comics, fantasy books and movies. She writes about these things on geekmom, her favorite community of fellow geeks!

8 Comments
Georgia

June 5, 2011 11:39 am Reply

Amazing job, being Greek I’m flattered of your appreciation of our history. A good way of getting a decent knowledge of our mythology, according to my husband that is, is playing the Greek campaign in “Age of Mythology”. The game has a lot of real info on the gods and such things. The mythology is an easy reading if you need to get a bit away of the actual historic events. Although in some tails the historic and mythical events are interwoven. (Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey)

    Rebecca Angel
    Rebecca Angel

    June 5, 2011 4:56 pm Reply

    Thanks for the recommendation! I love running rpgs with kids.

rockinlibrarian

June 5, 2011 3:50 pm Reply

A friend of my parents used to do something like this every year, and it was so much fun even peripherally– everyone knew what her topic of the year was and so everyone was on the lookout for anything related to it to share, and she’d done so much obscure research that any conversation you’d have with her would be peppered with trivia related to the Topic of the Year, no matter what you were talking about. I’ve always kind of wanted to have a Topic of the Year myself, but get too distracted.

    Rebecca Angel
    Rebecca Angel

    June 5, 2011 4:57 pm Reply

    I would have a hard time staying focused without a deadline each year related to my kids (and I get paid for it.)

    My brain is churning ideas for the next Topic of the Year :)

Nicole Boose
Nicole Boose

June 6, 2011 7:19 am Reply

This is awesome, and I love your kids’ artwork!

Maria Chrysochou

June 10, 2011 6:07 pm Reply

Being a Greek too and a mom with passion for information and knowledge, I see that you did an excellent job with greek history but most of all, it’s the spirit of research and discovery that you pass to the kids and Im sure that in the future your efforts will bear the best of fruits. Very glad to see this post!

    Rebecca Angel
    Rebecca Angel

    June 10, 2011 7:03 pm Reply

    Thank you so much. Today was the last day of camp (sigh…) and we talked about how proud Greek people today must be of their heritage. One camper has family from Crete, and my family has heritage from Sicily- close by!

    My sister showed them a slideshow of her honeymoon in Greece. So pretty!

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