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.
- 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.