Ancient Mythologies: Egypt


This post is a part of Waldorf Wednesday. See all the links here.

I had a hard time with Egypt. The whole time I was preparing to teach this block, I kept thinking, “What a bunch of weirdos!” Not exactly the correct mindset to impart a soul connection between the ancient Egyptian culture and my fifth grade child. I postponed this block once, thinking we needed a break from Ancient Mythologies, having done 3 in a row (India, Persia, Babylon). It seemed no matter how many times I read those myths or looked at books on Egypt, I just could not find a way in. I was thinking of postponing the block a second time when Tom said, “Sheil, it’s Egypt for God’s sake. Mummies! Pyramids! What’s the problem?” He can be so eloquent at times. Some days I think he should stay home and teach the lessons. Anyway, we got on with it.

We began, as usual, with the geography and then moved onto the myths in Charles Kovacs’ book: “Ra and His Children,” “Isis and Osiris,” and “Revenge of Horus.” There is a section in the Horus myth that talks about the judgement of the dead and the scales used to measure the worth of a person’s life. On one side of the scales is a feather and on the other a heart-shaped vessel. As I was reading the story aloud to Vincent, I could see this image so clearly in my mind and finally found a way to connect to the rich and enduring essence of these people. The question still haunts, several millennia later: “How does one measure the worth of a life?” I love the symbols of the heart and the feather. I was inspired to do the chalkboard drawing above and also a little beeswax modeling of my own.

After studying the gods and their myths, we moved on to look at the lives of everyday Egyptians using Voices of Egypt by Kay Winters. We also planned an Egyptian meal and spent some time drawing and writing with hieroglyphics on papyrus. We serendipitously ended the block with the story of the Bennu bird or the Phoenix as it later becomes known. Talking about what is essentially reincarnation was a nice way to connect back to India, which is where we started way back in September.

Story Resources:

  • Ancient Mythologies, Charles Kovacs (Just like the other works of Charles Kovacs, I loved this book. He repeatedly ties together all 4 cultures studied in grade 5. His storytelling is just magnificent.)
  • Ancient Mythology: India, Persia, Babylon, Egypt, Donna Simmons
  • Voices of Egypt, Kay Winters
  • Tales of Ancient Egypt, Roger Lancelyn Green (I did not like this book at all. I found the myths to be confusing and much too detailed. I read the introduction and the first story, “Ra and His Children.”)
  • Hieroglyphs by Joyce Milton (This book came with a stencil that Vincent really enjoyed using.)
  • The Cat of Bubastes, G.A. Henty (I hope to get to this book sometime before grade 6. It is a Mama recommendation, so I know it will be good. Trust this woman where books are concerned!)


  • Drew map of Egypt using the technique I describe in our India block.
  • Wet-on-wet watercolor painting of the rising sun and the horizon to represent Horus

I did this painting last year when I was still using much too diluted paints. The texture in the grass is made by scribbling with the hard end of the paintbrush.


My painting during the lesson, using the painting above as a guide.


Vincent’s painting during the lesson, using the painting above as a guide.

  • Wrote summaries of the stories we heard. After Vincent retold the story we heard the day before, we condensed his verbal retelling down to a few sentences. I wrote this summary on the board and he had to copy it into his main lesson book before the next morning. Example: “Horus was the son of Isis and Osiris. He gathered an army to fight against Set. This was to avenge his father’s death. In the end, Horus was victorious. He then became Pharaoh of Egypt.”
  • Beeswax modeling of a heart.
  • Block crayon rubbing and watercolor painting of a phoenix. (We used the cover of Egyptology for this project.)


  • Corresponded with another Waldorf homeschooler using hieroglyphics and papyrus. (This was so much fun. Thanks Andrea and Logan!)

Additional Resources:

  • The Multicultural Cookbook for Students, Carole Lisa Albyn and Lois Sinaiko Webb
  • Holidays of the World Cookbook for Students, Lois Sinaiko Webb
  • A Journey Through Time in Verse and Rhyme, Heather Thomas (There are wonderful poems for all the ancient cultures in this book.)


For more posts about grade 5 click the image below.


14 thoughts on “Ancient Mythologies: Egypt

  1. Good Monday Morning (:

    I love when you share a summary of a block!

    A note on the Cat of Bubastes — We listened to the audiobook reading by Jim Weiss. The reason that we really liked it, I believe, is because it was an audiobook. I don’t think we would have liked reading it — but that’s a vague inarticulable feeling. We really enjoyed listening to it while doing art and, like over lengthy audiobooks we listen to little by little, we really assimilated the characters and the setting — both of which were very good at making us Feel ancient Egypt.

    A Fantastic must read Egypt block book is Cat Mummies. A short chapter style/picture book about the finding of a cache of thousands of cat mummies at the turn of the 20th century and what happened to them, why they were there, cat worship etc. etc. etc. We’ve read this book several times. Must.Read.

    We also really enjoy Jim Weiss’ audiostories of Egytian mythologies.

    Our PBS station is currently airing a NOVA series “Building Pharaoh’s …” –chariot, tombs, boat, etc. It’s been very interesting. Especially the political reasons for the great ship that Hatshepsut had for having it built (:

    I’ve put the Kovacs book into my list for the ancient mythologies. Do you have any other recommendations for mythology stories of these cultures?

    Somewhere along the line, the myth of the weighing we heard/read is that the heart is the actual heart of the deceased and it’s weighed to see if it’s full of good or bad deeds. If it’s heavier than the feather with bad deeds, it’s fed to his dog and you are denied access to the afterlife. We keep coming back to discussions of our gratitude for Christian grace and the Book of Life when reading these mythologies.

    Have I mentioned that Iove it when you post a block summary? xo
    They’re always So Inspired!

    • I had the Jim Weiss audio of the Cat of Bubastes checked out, but we never got around to listening to it. We just listened to Little House in the Big Woods and now we are reading Anne of Avonlea for storytime. Isn’t that one of the best things about life – there is ALWAYS another great book right around the corner! Thanks for all your other recommendations. I will be interested to see what you think about Kovacs. I don’t think I have any other recommendations, but if I think of any, I will let you know.

      PS I love the summary posts too, bc then I can actually SEE and APPRECIATE all that we did. Happy Monday.

  2. Hey Sheila, we thoroughly enjoyed our Ancient Civilizations block, but Egypt was not the favorite here either. Curious as to your source of papyrus. We used the “make your own” kit from Bella Luna and it did NOT turn out at all. So frustrating after putting in the time to make it! Right now we are wrapping up math block and then on to Greece! My 5th grader has been waiting all school year for this block!

    • Hey Tanya,
      We didn’t make our own papyrus. I ordered several sheets from Amazon. I bet that was frustrating – I hate stuff like that.

      Sounds like we are on the same schedule. We are doing fractions now and then onto Greece. How much history are you going to do? I am trying to decide how much myth and how much history to do.

      Hope you are well.

      PS Are you going to Atlanta to the Peach Cobblers’ curriculum fair? I think last time we emailed you were undecided. Would love to meet you in person.

  3. Pingback: Grade 5: Greek Mythology and History Block | Sure as the World

  4. Hi Sheila! Thank you for this. I found your post on Ancient Egypt right on time! We are in the first week of our study and really enjoying it. My daughter says the Roger Lancelot Green book is “too long.” She is also a choleric. I don’t think I will continue now that we have finished the Horus story.I had the same problem with India, and didn’t know if I should read Donna Simmon’s version of the Mahabarahta or Kovacs. Next time I think I will stick with Kovacs!

    Anyhow, can you tell me where you found the Bennu bird story? Was it the short paragraph in the Kovacs book, or do you have a specific book to reference for that?

    • Wow. That was four years ago. I’m sorry, but I have no idea where I found that story.

      Glad you guys are having a good block. I did ancient Egypt completely differently with my fifth grader this year. We listened to Jim Weiss’ Egyptian Tales and also The Cat of Bubastes. Really enjoyed that one.

      • Ok just thought I would ask! I have scoured the internet and finding stories, rather than a bunch of facts, is very hard. Thanks!

Join the conversation.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s