Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Ancient History Revisited

We are still working our way through The World in Ancient Times series by Oxford Press. Having finished Early Human World, we have moved to The Ancient Near Eastern World. The study of Mesopotamians as they begin to communicate through writing with their clay tokens and envelops, progressing to pictograms, and cuneiform is fascinating. We are using Sculpey for our recreations since it is much less messy than our natural clay. The clay tablet above has Pink Panther's monogram in cuneiform. Write like a Babylonian is a website that will convert your name and initials into a cuneiform monogram. The children then copied their monogram into clay and baked (and since our clay was sculpey, painted). The children found out that the seemingly simple cuneiform is more difficult to produce than it looks, and erasing on clay is easy but not precise.

I've learned many things too. First, I owe Henry Cate an apology. When he responded, in one of my planning entries, that he and his children started reading the Old Testament last year and were now in Kings, I thought (thank goodness I didn't open my big mouth) "They must be piddling around, only 10 books in a year." After two months, we are just finishing Genesis. I am sorry, Henry. I have learned that The Old Testament is dense and if we make it to Kings by next year we will be accomplishing something remarkable.

I have also learned that ancient literature is not devoid of the sexually explicit language and images that we so lament in television and advertisements of today. All literature, including The Old Testament (even if you have read it and think you know it) should be previewed to prepare you for edits or the questions that arise. The Old Testament is replete with incest, giving of slaves for pleasure or reproduction, murder, and surprising intrigue. The unabridged Gilgamesh, which I chose as a audio book for our ballet trips, has at least one "Oops!" section in which I was frantically looking for the mute button. Both of these books, I had read as an adult but not as a parent/educator of young children. There is a difference.

All in all, though we have not gotten to the more popular Ancient Greeks, Romans, Chinese, and Egyptians we are having a great time in history.


JoVE said...

Not being one for previewing or for deleting all mention of sexuality from my life with my daughter (try listening to the old Newfoundland folk songs on the Great Big Sea album The Hard and The Easy), I have a question. Do your children ask difficult questions about these things? Is there understanding of what is there anything like yours?

In my experience, much of what children read goes over their heads and because this is perfectly normal, it doesn't bother them. For this reason, I don't worry to much about references to sexuality because it is only a reference to sexuality to my ears and not to hers. And if I don't react, then she doesn't even ask. (in the above example, there is a line "that's how I get my tail" that I have not been asked to explain even though it would make no sense at all if you didn't get the sexual reference; I guess she thinks it is nonsense)

I am also starting to think about how I will discuss sex and sexuality with my daughter in a way that doesn't make a big deal out of it but gives her good information as she needs it. So I guess for me, answering some of those questions would be a way to talk "naturally" about those topics without it being the main event.

This is not a criticism. I am genuinely curious and also raising the possibility that it might not matter as much as you think.

wisteria said...

I believe in straight talk. If a question is asked, I answer it honestly with as much information as I think they can healthily digest. I don't delete all mention of sexuality. Yet, I don't want to introduce things for which they are not prepared and I definitely don't want them to wallow in violence, unhealthy sex, incest, or treating women as chattel regardless of the interesting and informative conversations that can arise.

I think the difficult thing is knowing what is too much. The children whose parents have told them about Santa Claus at a very early age who come into a Christmas party and announce the lack of magic to a room of preschoolers which ruins their magic comes to mind. The responsibility is not there, yet the information is.

My children live on a farm and know the physical aspect. They know physical, but like you said, miss the nuances. I am not worried about the nuances of Shakespeare, but the blatant. The scene in Gilgamesh where Enkidu is humanized is not for a 7 year old or 10 year old (in my opinion). You'll have to check it out.

The questions my children have asked about the Old Testament have been so so difficult. If I had previewed the material, I would have been better prepared to help them find answers.

By the way, I love it when you question nor do I take it as a criticism. Thanks.

Mother Crone's Homeschool said...

Isn't discovering things for the first time WITH your kids the best? It is funny when their faces turn and say, "You didn't know that either?" Love the cuniform.

BTW, I am with you on censoring for graphic or violent sex. Even with a 6th & 9th grader who have a complete understanding of the physical aspects, there is no desire to stir hormones to such a level as many explicit love scenes can do.
Where would they go with their physical reaction to it? My DH and I had this discussion, as my son suddenly had an interest in fine art with great nudity. A still painting sparks his curiosity, but will go only as far as his imagination and limited experience allow. An author's detail of the same scene could be similar to porno for the ear, and ellicit responses and ideas he may not know how to handle. All things in time....

JoVE said...

Good distinction. I haven't read either. Gives me something to ponder on. Or something more to ponder on.