Friday, September 30, 2016

Introducing Ancient China

 If you follow our blog, you know we love making our history unit as enjoyable as possible.  We aren't big on "Interactive Notebooks" because we are creating activities for primary aged children, but introduce each new culture in a respectful and engaging manner so that kids can fall into the beauty of each and admire them for what they gave us.

(For our Homeschooling Curriculum, we are using Story of the World, in which China is introduced in chapter 10, but these ideas could certainly be applied in whatever curriculum you might be using.) 

Since I was introducing Ancient China, I created a map for us that showed the civilizations we have already covered from Egypt, the Fertile Crescent, The Indus Valley and all the way to the Yellow River Valley of this new land we were discovering:  China.  This map was our starting point. 

Then, we used the map to show a rough idea of the length of the "Silk Road", made up of many small trade routes stretching across China, India, Persia and the Middle East. 

We also decided to go out to eat at a Chinese restaurant. 

Although I attempted an Egyptian feast when we studied Egypt, (here) I figured my Chinese cuisine ability would not be on par with the little Chinese restaurant down the street.  Besides, they had place-mats covered with the Chinese zodiac.  They had Chinese styled artwork on the walls, with dragons and peacocks.   And of course, there was the delightful opportunity to try eating with chopsticks.

My kids were game to give those chopsticks a try, but we agreed it was a skill that would take some practice.   Although it was (likely) not as authentic as you might experience in the real land of China, this was a lovely way to introduce my children to some of the delights of a culture not their own.  After all, who doesn't like Chinese food?

The next thing I wish to share with you is this amazing book called "Long is a Dragon" by Peggy Goldstein.  

This book details the progression of many Chinese pictograms from ancient times to the Chinese characters we see today.

For instance, in this page from the book, you can see how the ancient pictogram (in black) developed into the Chinese character (in red) for the same word.

The book also explains how Chinese calligraphy might be used as art in Chinese homes, with benedictions of health and happiness written on them.

This information was amazing.  We decided to make some Chinese scrolls, too.

First, the kids colored sheets of cardstock in the watercolor of their choice.  Then, they chose the benediction they wanted for their scroll and drew their characters in black marker.

 My daughter's scroll reads, "May your happiness be as wide as the Eastern Sea."

 My son's simply says, "Respectful Happiness & Congratulations".

If this post has been helpful, check out one of our posts covering

the Ancient Indus Valley, Hammurabi's CodeAncient Egypt, or head over to our online store and check out our many history activities.

And if YOU create a banner using Chinese characters, please post a picture in the comments!  We would love to see your creativity on display!

Friday, September 16, 2016

A Game of Ancient India : Pachisi

Anyone else grow up playing Parcheesi?  Or Ludo?  Possibly the popular game Sorry!?

Turns out, every one of those games (and possibly a few more) are based on an ancient game played in India.  The original game was called Pachisi, a Sanskrit word for "Twenty-Five" which is the highest amount of points possibly to throw.

Game boards in India today are most often made from embroidered fabric, and the pawns are shaped like little beehives and colored red, yellow, black and green.

Word has it, an ancient Indian Emperor enjoyed playing the game so much, he converted a room in his palace into a large game board and used slave girls as pawns.  And the popularity hasn't stopped.  In researching, I discovered pictures of modern Indian folks playing the game with a board simply drawn on the ground with chalk.

My son is just 6 years old, and has a penchant for games.  Because of the interest there, I decided to research ancient board games.  Anytime you pull a child's interest into a time period, of course you succeed in making that time period all the more interesting and inviting.  So, I figured I should make a Pachisi Game Board so we could learn the game and share it with others who might want to learn, too.  So, I did and here it is:

This is an earlier version:  I had to modify the castle squares slightly in the downloadable game).

I created the sides of the cross, and the center square (called the Charkoni), using the traditional colors that can be printed out on three separate sheets of paper, then laminate, and then affixed together.

 For the Charkoni (above), I added some pretty pictures of an elephant, a lotus flower, a peacock feather and a tiger.  These weren't necessary, but those are images I think of when I think of the beautiful land of India, and I wanted to make the game board pretty.

To make our pawns, I used little glass balls from Dollar Tree, with a bead glued onto the top.  I painted the base of the glass ball with the green color for this pawn (and used red, yellow and black for the others)  Then, we tipped that bead off with a bead separator.  They turned out so neat.  Make sure you use a good glue that can secure glass to glass.

Next, we needed dice.  In ancient times, apparently they used 6 cowrie shells.  When they tossed the shells, some would fall open side up, and the "open-side-up" shells were counted to discover how many places you could move.  At first, we simply used white and colored lego pieces.  You can see our make-shift dice off on the left in this photo above.  That worked (as long as the pieces were exactly the same size and shape, like the flat 4 x 1's we used), but we decided to try something more organic like the cowrie shells would have been. 

Here's what we settled on:  Dried Lima beans, with one side painted with finger nail polish.  This worked great.

There are multiple versions of rules out there for Pachisi.  You could certainly research it on your own.  To be honest, when I first had the idea of playing Pachisi for our history, I just wanted to buy the board game "Parcheesi", which is the version I grew up with.  But then I got curious, and just wanted to know if it was all that different from the real thing.  (Not too much, for those who also are wondering, but different enough that I'm glad I made our own).

I believe there was some sort of spiritual meaning at one point in the Charkoni, which is basically the entry point and ending spot for the pawns.  But, you don't really need all that information if you're just wanting to have fun playing an Ancient Game.

And boy, did my kid have fun.  First we played with only two colors of the game.  And then, we tried it out using all four (he had black and yellow and I played with red and green) for this is the suggested game play with two players.

Then, he begged my husband and I for another game, and that time he beat both of us (Something to do with us being so busy capturing each other's pawns, that we let our six year old steal the game).

Since we have discovered that it is an easy enough game for a six year old to play, I've made a black and white version for an easier copy so that classroom teachers can have a game board to introduce their students to, as well.

Our variant of the Pachisi rules and the explanation for how to score the dice are included in this packet.  I also include a material list and explanation for how we made our pawns and dice, though you could probably figure that out on your own and you certainly don't need to be so fancy.

We're keeping our product inexpensive, because the whole point is to  have fun, just like those ancient Indians did.   Here it is newly released in our store:

If you have additional ideas for how to make pawns or dice, it would be awesome if you would share those in the comments!   

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

The Artwork of India : Making Mandalas

There are many interpretations of Mandalas.  They have roots in both the Hindu and Buddhist religions.  But when I teach about Mandalas, I find no need to delve into those roots to enjoy the beauty of this radial art form.

I see the Mandala as an art form using patterns.  Because they utilize patterns, even small children can enjoy creating them.  Indian patterns often use nature in their artwork.  You can see the peacock feather and the lotus blossom repeated over and over in many of their designs.  Ancient Indian art seem to value an almost Mondrian style of mathematical balance, proportion and perfection in their work.

Children can appreciate using balance in art, even at young ages.    So when we made our mandala art project, it wasn't just my son and I:  we roped in his 4 year old sister to join the fun.

We gathered up items from our pantry:  quinoa, chia seeds, rice, pasta...and then we burrowed into our craft drawer and brought out small gems, beads, anything small enough to work in our designs.

We began by talking about the nature inspired patterns of Indian art.  We looked at mandala images and found the repeating patterns, and noted how they seem to be radial images that began from the heart, and moved outward.

Then, we began from the center of our paper plates, with glue and our various materials.  To start, I manipulated the glue at their direction, and they set down their materials.  

The designs became more complex as they moved outward from the center.

Soon, my son was handling the glue himself as he began to grasp the understanding that patterns produce complexity as they go.

In fact, he was enjoying the design he was creating so much, he wanted to just keep on going.

The real fun of this kind of art was that there was no real need to begin with a picture of something in your head.  Rather, you kept building upon the pattern you started with and were mesmerized at what you created as you went along.

Such an easy craft and yet the finished products seem complex and beautiful.

It's no wonder that creating mandalas is now a useful tool in therapy.  Don't miss out on including this delightful craft in your Ancient Indian History Unit.

The end results are incredibly rewarding!

If you enjoyed this post, don't forget to download our free "Indus River Valley" packet from our store:

And check out our other posts about Ancient India:

1.  FREE activity for "The Hunter and The Quail", an ancient Indian fable:

2.  The Indus River Valley Introduction

Friday, September 9, 2016

Our FREE Indus River Valley Mini Activity Packet

As we promised in our last post (  ), today's new store addition includes some fun activities for your Ancient India Unit.

Included in the packet, is this wonderful map for you to use in your homeschool or traditional classroom:

We recommend a fun tracing activity like this one...

Or, take it a step further and make your traced map look "Ancient" like we did here:

Another activity included in this packet works specifically with the Ancient Fable of India, "The Hunter and the Quail", which has been reshared in Volume 1 of Story of the World, the popular classical homeschool history program.

(Don't judge me for that curved book cover.  I do not fold my book covers back like this, but like most Homeschooling parents, I buy used curriculum.  As a former Children's Librarian, I feel compelled to explain and declare with the vehemence of a book nerd:  Don't do this to your books!  Okay, mini rant over.)

In chapter Nine of Volume 1, this old story from India is included as a possible clue in the mysterious obliteration of Mohenjo-Daro, one of the cities of the Indus River Road.  So to help with the retelling, we created this Indus River Hunter with net in hand.  And a small herd of quail.

 Once printed out on cardstock, these figures should help children be able to act out the story as you read it.  A simple activity, but always powerful when incorporating "play" as learning.

The small quail can be folded down the line that runs along their backs, and used as the small herd that outsmarts the hunter in the story.

If you are not using "Story of the World", but would still like to incorporate this ancient Indian folktale into your Indian unit, then you can find the story retold here, at "Little Green Lampshades":

"Little Green Lampshades" has some excellent teaching ideas to follow this tale up with, including a team activity for use in a classroom so I'd encourage you to peruse her blog.

 Our last activity included is one we will be sharing in our next blog, how to make Mandalas as an Art Project of Ancient India.

Although often created from sand in India, we made ours on paper plates, using pantry items and craft gems.

 This activity as an art lesson is also included in our free packet.  Which you can download right here:

Now, I want to mention something else I am working on, so you can keep an eye open for it.  I researched another lovely fable of Ancient India, the story of Savitri.  And I enjoyed it so much and found so much delight in this strong woman character from the ancient world, that I am bringing her to you in the form of both a coloring book and a graphic novel. 

It takes a little while, but most of the hand drawings are completed.  Then, I convert them to the black and white versions for students to color...

And finally, do the coloring for our graphic novel offering.  "Savitri" will be released in our store soon, so make sure you subscribe to our blog to keep posted on all our latest offerings, both free and otherwise.

If you enjoy our free Indus River Valley packet, please remember to rate it and share it on Pinterest or other social media outlets.  Download it for free, today:

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Introducing the Indus River Valley and the River Road

Are you ready for some map fun? 

This project started as a simple Map Trace.  But my boy was so fascinated with his map and the Indus River Valley, that our project simply grew and grew and I think you'll enjoy what we did here.

As you know, if you are following along with us, we are reading through the wonderful Classical Homeschooling History study called "Story of the World, Volume 1".  We have studied Egypt and Mesopotamia, and now we have reached the Indus River Valley and Chapter Nine.

A classical study of history usually builds on previous information learned.  So to introduce the Indus River Valley, we began with this map, (and for context) the "Fashions from India" coloring book from Dover Publications.

To give an idea of the clothing and the people we would be learning about, I pulled out the Coloring Book and we talked about the clothing that the Indus Valley people wore.

 Since it was India and the weather was intensely hot, they didn't need a whole lot.  Then, to build upon our previous knowledge (Egypt and Mesopotamia), we pulled out our map.

This map shows Egypt, Jerusalem, the land of the Tigris and Euphrates, basically everything Story of the World has covered up to Chapter Nine.  And, we included the Indus Valley and the country of India.   

(I'll be offering this map in an Indus Valley History packet for free, so if you are just finding us, be sure to subscribe to our blog so you don't miss this or any of our freebies!)  

Before we even read Chapter Nine, I handed this map to my son.  We talked about the basics, like what was land and what was water.  I pointed out the cities that we had already learned about.  We talked about how all the cities we had studied so far were right beside rivers. 

This was the introduction I wanted to offer him before we even began reading, because it built on the information he already had been given and prepared him for all the delightful questions that this chapter would ask. I also pointed out the rivers of the Indus Valley and introduced him to the Indian cities that archaeologists have discovered (Mohenjo-Daro and Harrappa).

Then, I taped the map to a window, with a blank piece of paper taped over the top.  This is the old trick to use when you don't have tracing paper handy or don't wish to use tracing paper. 

My son took his time and did an excellent job tracing his map.  While he drew, I read aloud the first half of Chapter Nine from Story of the World. 

Next, he decided to outline his drawing with a black pen. 

Here's an additional note:  Not every six year old will be this fascinated with a map project.  My boy was loving every step of this process.  If your child is satisfied with drawing the map on the window, maybe you'll want to stop there.  As you probably know, when you find where a child's interest is sparked, you kinda want to keep stoking the fire...So we just kept on going. 

At this point in our project my son told me, "I want to make my map look like it is really old!!!"  

So we went for it:

How to Make a Map Look Old

To do this, here's what you will need:

                        *  Two Tea Bags (preferably black tea)
                        *  Maybe a Tablespoon of coffee or coffee dregs
                        *  3 T hot water
Important NOTE:  If you are outlining your map in black:   Test your pen in advance to make sure the ink doesn't bleed all over the paper when you get the paper wet.  Some will and it will make a terribly messy and disappointing finished product.

Let the above ingredients soak for awhile.  You only need enough liquid to douse a crumpled ball of paper in, but the important part is that your tea bags have had time to really soak in the water, because this is where the map gets its "old" color.

My son crumpled up his map into a nice wadded ball and dropped it into our coffee/tea mixture.  He made sure it was all wet and then took it out.

Then, he squeezed the liquid out.  The next step is the one your child will need to be *VERY* careful on:  unpeeling the crumpled ball so that becomes a flat piece of paper again.  The paper is tender and delicate, now that it has soaked.  It will tear very easily.  But a careful job will make it turn out like this:

If you don't want perfect edges, this is the time to carefully tear along the outside of the map, to give it that torn, old paper look. We set it outside to dry in the sun. 

My son was again, very inspired with his ancient looking map.  He wanted to do something with this awesome map he had created.  So, we came up with something.

To begin with, we turned a rolled up T-shirt into a turban.  Then, we found a cardboard box.  Story of the World does such a wonderful job discussing the "River Road" of the Indus peoples, that I tried to recreate a boat that was somewhat similar to what they may have used.  I had to research this...

...but in spite of the research, I'm not exactly sure if our boat (made from cardboard, duct tape, wrapping paper, little sister's tricycle and a mop) is an exact historical reproduction.  Actually, it very much isn't.  But my son did not mind in the least. 

His map is taped to the front of his box, which is why he is studiously studying it in this picture. 

We drew a rough drawing of the countries on our sidewalk with chalk, and off he went, to follow his map and trade along the Indus River Road.

I am in the process of creating an Indus River Valley Packet for those of you following along with us, and our next post will show off an excellent supplement for the second half of Chapter Nine in Story of the World:  The Story of the Quail.

Don't forget to subscribe to keep tabs on us and the fun freebies we're offering!