The River Nile

Chapter two in Story of the World: Ancient Times is about the Egyptians and life on the Nile River.  To go along with our studies we built reed boats, following the example over at Creekside Learning.  I was thrilled to find actual reeds to use. 

river nile

Reeds with very sharp tips.  My fingers bled as I cut the reeds down to the size we needed.

river nile

We tied them into bundles and used a rubber band to hold the shape.  They need to dry for a couple of days, we ended up letting them dry for an entire week while we were away on holiday.

river nile

We made a model of the Nile River…dirt and pebbles from the backyard.  We flooded the Nile, which took much more water than I thought it would.  Love how Jitterbug has on his shin guards in this picture.  So ready for soccer season.

 river nile

We got out our Ancient Egypt Toob and enjoyed some role playing with Osiris in a coffin floating down the Nile.  (I don’t think this miniature is specifially Osiris, but any mummy will do.)  The chapter in Story of the World tells how Osiris was tricked and killed by his brother Set only to be revived after floating down the Nile.

river nile

We tried out our reed boats.  They didn’t stand up very well but we managed.

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After about a week we had some grass growing.  We did end up with more than this but I don’t have a picture.

river nile

We read Bill and Pete Go Down the Nile, a fun picture book that brings in many aspects of Ancient Egypt in a fun way.  Kind of funny that Bill and Pete are going to school and each night come home and tell what they’ve learned.  They ‘go down the Nile’ with their classmates on a field trip.

river nile river nile

We love the Usborne See Inside series.  There is one for Ancient Egypt and another for Ancient Rome. (As well as many other subjects!)  Many flaps to open.  Humorous drawings.  Heaps of information.  A great way to engage both my 7yo and my 4.5yo.

river nileriver nileriver nileriver nileriver nile     

We also watched the Mystery of the Nile DVD, about the first team of people to float the entire length of the Nile.  Luckily our library had this.  It was perfectly suitable for all ages.  I found myself wishing it had been more in-depth, there was so much more they could have shown us.  However, at just under an hour it was the perfect length to watch with the kids.

mystery of the nile dvd

I love doing hands-on history projects, the kids love them too.  The only downside is that I tend to put off history because I haven’t got everything ready.  We are taking a week off from school now, I will be using that time to plan the next six weeks (we are doing six weeks of school, then one week off).  Hopefully I can get six weeks of history projects planned and readied during that time so that we can move a little more quickly.

More Calendar Notebook Pages

I’ve got some more calendar pages to share…

Calendar pages for 2013, both blank and with the date to trace.

calendar notebook calendar notebook

I’ve added a new Write the Date page to make the dates in the right format for Americans.  There are two pages, one with a separate column for ordinal numbers as in the original download, and one with that column removed and the ordinal numbers included in the last column.  Click the images below to see what I’m referring to.  Aussies really have to know the date both ways and be able to recognise what format is being used, I still get confused sometimes.  Easy enough if the date is 21/04, but if it is 05/04 you have to think about whether it is referring to April or May.

calendar notebookcalendar notebook

I’ve also added a new temperature page so that you can record the temperature in Fahrenheit.   I realise that the temperature could get colder or hotter than what’s listed on this page but I think this will serve most users perfectly well.  (ETA: There was an error with this page, it’s now been corrected, the link will take you to the corrected file.)

calendar notebook

Click here to download these pages and the original calendar notebook printables.  Hope this helps some of you!

Venus: Radar Project

Venus has such a thick atmosphere that it is very difficult for spacecraft to photograph its surface.  Instead they have used radar to map the planet.  This project was designed to help us understand how we can map an area without being able to see it.

I filled a box with crumpled paper and used packaging tape to keep it in place, forming mountains and valleys inside the box.  The instructions in the book actually called for using plaster of paris to form a hard surface, but listed tape over crumpled paper as an alternative.  Another option would be to use lego stacked to different depths throughout the box.  You need to have mountains of different heights and some flat spots as well.  You don’t want the student to see what the inside of the box looks like.

radar project
Place a piece of paper or cloth with a numbered grid over the box and secure it with tape.  You’ll need an identical grid on paper to record your findings.  The box I chose just happened to be the size of the paper from his notebooking journal with the grid, so we used that instead of making our own.

radar project

Colour a bamboo skewer with marker to measure different depths.  I changed the colour every inch, with such a tall box we needed practically the whole skewer.

radar project

Poke through the paper/cloth and measure the depth using the colour on the skewer.  Colour in the corresponding box on your paper grid.

radar project

When you are done you have a picture of the inside of the box.  You can tell where the mountains and valleys are based on how far down the skewer could go in each section.  We did this project over two days since there were eighty sections to poke through on our grid.

radar project

In hindsight I would have used a shorter box, or used fewer colours on the skewer with this tall box.  Maybe a smaller box too, so that we didn’t have eighty squares to do; although this many would be perfect if you have more than one child participating.  Skeeterbug kept getting it backwards, thinking that the further the skewer went in must be the high point in the box since it was higher on the skewer.  Actually I’m not sure if he was just saying it backwards or not.  When we took the paper off the box we talked through it and he didn’t seem confused about it at all, so maybe he was just saying it wrong.  Here’s a side-by-side:

radar project  

I think that there were places that he pushed the skewer in hard enough that it slid down the slippery tape further than it should have, making that area look deeper than it was.  That’s where pouring plaster of paris over my taped mountains would have helped.  Oh well, this was enough to help him understand how you can measure depth without being able to see what you are measuring, similar to how scientists have used radar to map the surface of Venus. 

That wraps up our Venus studies.  We are taking a break from school next week and then we will be studying earth.  Maybe I’ll get to learn why we never capitalise earth but we do all the other planets.  It drives me crazy. ;)

Writing With Ease

Skeeterbug has just finished Writing With Ease Level 1.

WWE Level 1

We are behind with this, it is entirely my fault.  He should have started Level 2 this year.  I didn’t keep up with it enough last year and we fell far behind.  We have worked at it this year, completing two days at a time, in order to finish it early in the year.  For now I am going to continue with this program, so we will be starting Level 2 the week after next (we’re taking a week off from school next week, we don’t follow the school terms).  We’ll do a faster pace with it also in order to complete it this year (it’s a 36-week program).    I debated just jumping ahead to Level 2, but in the end decided to finish Level 1.  The narration exercises in this level have been good for him, I can see it when we are narrating for other subjects.

I also have Primary Arts of Language, which is a K-2 program by IEW, I plan to incorporate some lessons from that into our writing program.  Then for grade three we’ll have to decide whether to continue with Writing With Ease or switch to IEW.  Or something else altogether.  :)

Making Mummies

Along with our Ancient Egypt studies we have been learning about mummies.  Really, can you learn about Ancient Egypt without mentioning mummies?  I was inspired by this post at All That’s Goood to make our own mummies out of action figures.  (This picture comes from their blog, click the image to see the post.)  Love these very colourful mummy cases from Dover that they used.

All That's Goood

I hadn’t included this activity when I originally planned our Egypt studies so I hadn’t purchased these mummy cases.  Since I didn’t want to wait for shipping, I found this printable sarcophagus colouring page and we turned it into a coffin for our mummies.  (Although from the reading we’ve done, the title they’ve given this colouring page isn’t correct, this drawing is not of a sarcophagus but instead a coffin which would then be placed into a large stone sarchophagus.)

mummies mummies mummies

Like they did at All That’s Goood, we also removed the arms from our action figures so that they would fit nicely into our coffins.  This turned out well for Ladybug, I only had two action figures (found on clearance) but the arms by themselves were just the right size for her to work on and she was happy to have her very own. 

First we anointed our mummies with oil.


Then we mixed up our mummy glue (flour and water).


We dipped strips of paper into the mummy glue mixture and wrapped our mummies (and their arms). 


My kids just love messy projects.  I think there is still some of this flour glue on the nearby floor.  :)

mummies mummies   

We set the mummies in a sunny window sill to dry.  I cut out the pictures that the kids had coloured and fashioned them into coffins.  Then we buried our mummies with some weapons.  Please excuse the sword that I’ve just noticed is rather unfortunately placed.  If you knew my children you would not have to guess whose coffin that is.  Not that it was done on purpose, but that kid is the class clown, just give him a few years and he will be doing things like that on purpose.  (My husband will be falling off his chair laughing when he reads this.)

  mummiesmummies mummies

We have (of course) been reading a lot about mummies lately, I knew my 7yo would love the disgusting-ness of the whole process.  Pulling brains out by a hook?  Fascinating.  I hadn’t really thought about my 4yo’s level of comfort with the whole subject, however.  More than once he told me he did not want to be a mummy and I had to reassure him that he would never have to be one.  No nightmares so far, so we’re good!  :)

Here’s a link to my ancient history Pinterest board.  Pinning as we go!


Along with hieroglyphics we also learned about cuneiform and made a cuneiform tablet.  Luckily I had some air-dry clay on hand.


We experimented with different instruments and practiced making different letters.


In the end a lego piece was the easiest and clearest tool.


The end result, after the tablet dried (some letters blurred out):


Skeeterbug was excited because this is something he gets to keep.

Spelling Fun

During our last spelling lesson Skeeterbug took to drawing pictures with each of his spelling words and sentences.


Poor Bill is tired.  See his tongue sticking out?


Jitterbug was otherwise occupied.

jitterbug lego

Love the adult pointing, the child frowning.


His favourite, it involves a fast car.


Maybe I should have him do some of these on paper so he can have them in his notebook, and he can have more practice writing on lines (which he needs!).  His drawings definitely make our lessons last longer but it also means he loves spelling.

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