Ancient History (Middle School – High School)
This is a chatty post about what we are doing for ancient history. Below, I’ll share some of the resources we are using and some activities we’ve done so far.
We’ve only been in school for a few weeks now, but it already feels like we’ve got a good routine down and have covered quite a bit!
History Spine: I have a lot of history textbooks that I have used teaching high school and college, but after spending time reading a good portion of the book, I settled on Susan Wise Bauer’s The History of the Ancient World. (affiliate link) I like the way it is written and my kids (12, 15, 17) also like the balance of information and story-like writing style. Of course, you know me, I’ve made notebook pages to accompany what we’re covering. And, we are supplementing heavily with other books/mythology/resources! The readings go really quickly… in general we have been reading a chapter a day.
Note: This would probably not be what I chose if I were covering ancient history just with ED (my middle schooler/7th grader). I would probably use some of Suzanne Strauss Art’s books (like Ancient Egypt or Ancient China), but Strauss Art does not cover Mesopotamia in her series so that ruled her books out this year.
Geography & World Facts
We have been spending a lot of time on geography and basic world facts as we start off the year.
We are focusing both on the modern countries of the Middle East and on the topography (rivers, mountains, lakes/seas) of the Middle East, India, and China. That’s because we are covering the history of Mesopotamia, ancient India & ancient China.
I’ll share our Middle East/Asia Geography Packet later this fall. You can see I have maps of the modern countries of the Middle East and Central Asia, but it also includes topography maps, black & white maps (that my kids are using to locate ancient cities, etc. as we cover different the different civilizations).
Middle East Countries:
- I’ve slowly been introducing the locations of various countries in the Middle East. We started with Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. I’d point to one of those 4 and ask the kids if they knew what it was (they’d indicate yes with thumbs up). Then I’d call on someone. Every couple of days I’ve been adding in a couple of new countries. I’d spend about 5 minutes on this.
This summer, I happened upon a fabric world map. It’s around $12 and I am SO happy I picked it up! It has bright colors and I threw it over the back of the couch where we tend to do history. We’ve been using it almost day either for history or for ED’s science (she’s doing an oceanography unit and she’s also been learning the location of the oceans & seas). Here’s where you can find the fabric world map on Amazon if you’re interested. It’s wonderful size for us – 35inches by 60 inches. (affiliate link)
2. Every couple of days, I’d leave the Middle East pin map on the kitchen table and ask them to locate (some of) the countries when they had a chance. The answers are on the back, so it is a self-checking activity.
Some of the literature we will be reading this semester is fiction that is set in the Middle East. Shooting Kabul is a wonderful book (appropriate for middle school). It’s about a family that flees from Kabul, Afghanistan and in the commotion their youngest sister is left behind. We also plan to read I am Malala and possibly Reading Lolita in Teheran (I haven’t pre-read that one yet).
3.) Power Point Presentations: Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan They have been doing a long-term research projects; they each chose their own country. Each week they’ve been researching and making a number of slides about their countries and they present their slides on Fridays. In the past few weeks they’ve covered the basic geography of their country, flag, population, language and religion/s. Another week they covered the type of government, leader, states/provinces, etc. This past week they had to research and prepare slides about women in their country. … In the coming weeks they’ll research some of the history/events of the 1970s-1980s, roughly 1990-2001, and then more recently. By the end of this project, I hope they all know a lot more about the current events (and politics) of the Middle East region.
Ancient Sumer – 𒋗𒈨𒊒
We’ve read just over a dozen chapters in our spine (The History of the Ancient World). Since this part of history is about one city waging war against another, I’ve been having the kids locate the different cities on map worksheets. I included half-page maps in the kids’ history/geography notebooks… and they use the map (from their text) as a reference.
We talked about the very early history of Sumer including the earliest seals and the development of cuneiform. We also read bits of the Epic of Gilgamesh. After reading a more polished version of Gilgamesh, my kids really enjoyed the storybook version. This Gilgamesh trilogy by Ludmila Zeman has beautiful, artistic pictures and is a fun retelling of the epic. Our library had it and it’s worth a read, especially if you have younger kids (though as I said, my middle school and high school kids enjoyed it too!)
When I preparing for school this summer, I looked to see if there were museum exhibits that would add to what we are learning. I found out that the Penn Museum (in Philadelphia) has an amazing collection of archaeological artifacts. It is open to the public (in this time of Covid-19, though you have to get tickets in advance). We got a family pass so that we can visit several time throughout the year.
The Penn Museum was founded in 1887 to house artifacts from its expedition to Nippur, the first American-led archaeological project in the region. Since then, the Museum has excavated sites all around the Middle East. Their collection was really awesome!
About a week and a half ago, we did our first museum trip to see the Sumerian artifacts. I really loved the video that they had showing someone creating some cuneiform markings in clay (you can see that in the photo below). It was really exciting to see so many of the things we just had read about… balls of clay placed over the knots of bags of grain (or whatever) which the owner would press his seal in… and cylinder seals.
We plan to go back in another month after we’ve covered a bit more of the history of Ancient Egypt. The Penn Museum houses one of the largest collections of Egyptian and Nubian material in the United States, with more than 42,000 items.
Since our trip, we’ve started in on the early history of Ancient Egypt. We have now covered the first few dynasties and have just started learning about some Egyptian mythology!
Earlier this summer, I spent quite a bit of time reading up on Egyptian history and mythology and putting together some notebook pages for the kids. (You can check out our Ancient Egypt Packet here). I printed out some of the notebook pages I had prepared earlier this summer.
I gave the kids a broad overview of Egyptian history (the Old, Middle and New Kingdoms bottom middle left) and we read through the chronology cards (bottom middle right). Then the kids did the geography of Egypt page (that you see on the top left). We then started talking about the first three dynasties of Egypt (top middle).
Then we moved on to some Egyptian mythology! Fun!!
Egyptian Mythology: We’ve been enjoying the stories of Geb & Nut, Osiris, Isis (and their son Horus), Set and Nepthys and others. At the moment, we’re reading some stories from Morgan Moroney’s book God and Goddess of Ancient Egypt, which we have free on our kindle. I have a couple other mythology books on order from the library… We’ll see how much time we spend on this, but we’re also making forward progress in our Ancient History spine each day.
Whew! So, that’s our history in a nutshell so far this year! 🙂 We started back to school several weeks ago (as you can tell), but it feels like we’ve learned a lot just in this short amount of time!
P.S. Next we went on to study Ancient China. You can find out more about that unit here: Ancient China Unit
Good luck with the start of your school year!
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Disclosure: Please note that some of the links in this post are affiliate links, and at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you decide to make a purchase.
You might be interested in some of our Ancient History resources:
You can find out more about our 75+ page Ancient Egypt packet at this post. As you read above, I’m using some of this material with my kids, but it has a lot of activities for younger students too. I try to make our packets so they can be adapted for use by homeschooling families with kids of varying ages. 🙂
And also, you can check out these Free Ancient World notebook pages that I made for ED several years ago (She was using Story of the World at the time.)
See you again soon! ~Liesl