Grade 5: Greek Mythology and History Block

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Starting with Greek mythology, moving into Greek history and ending with Alexander is really a stroke of brilliance on the part of the Waldorf curriculum. Vincent was absolutely enchanted by the myths of the Greek gods and heroes, but he kept wanting to know where the line of reality was drawn. Was the Trojan war real? Did the Argo really sail? How could the gods have fought with real men? I just let these questions linger and (once again!) found it fascinating how well the curriculum corresponds with child development. He didn’t ask these questions when we did any of the other mythologies – and there was plenty of opportunity: Norse, Indian, Babylonian, Persian, Egyptian. Just Greek . . . that Steiner . . . he knew a thing or two.

I’m so glad we waited until the very end of grade 5 to do this block for a couple of reasons. Ending the block (and the year) with the figure of Alexander the Great allowed us to review all the other cultures we studied this year. Vincent was very familiar with the geography, and was able to visualize the places Alexander conquered. He also had a sense of the Persians, the Babylonians, the Egyptians and the Indians as people before they were taken over by Alexander’s army. Donna Simmons stresses this concept when teaching history and I agree it is essential to have a sense of what came before the conquerors/explorers.

The other reason I am happy we waited until the end of the year is because Vincent and I are both tired of doing school. LOL. If we did Greece earlier in the year, I think we could have just gone on and on: more myths, more heroes, more history, more pita bread, more stuffed grape leaves . . . until we both ended up in a Dionysian stupor! We never watched the BBC movie, In the Footsteps of Alexander. The weather was just too beautiful to be inside watching TV. If we get a string of super hot or rainy days this summer, we may watch it then. If not, that’s okay. We have done enough. We are currently reading A Little History of the World by EH Gombrich and completing our timeline. Both activities are engaging and providing an excellent historical account of civilization up through Greece.

Resources:

  • Ancient Greece, Charles Kovacs (I used this book as our spine and loved it. Hands down, Kovacs is my favorite Waldorf resource for mythology and history.)
  • Mythology: Greek Gods, Heroes and Monsters, Candlewick Press (This is a popular mainstream book, but I found it to be a good supplement for Vincent to read on his own.)
  • D’Aulaires’ Book of Greek Myths (I used this as a secondary spine and for Vincent’s independent reading. The drawings are inspirational.)
  • Voices of the Trojan War, Kate Hovey (Vincent read some of this on his own, but I’m putting it on our read aloud shelf for summer.)
  • Archimedes and the Door of Science, Jeanne Bendick (This is a Mama recommendation and will go on our read aloud shelf also.)
  • Famous Men of Greece, Poland and Haaren (Vincent read parts of this on his own. I also (accidentally) purchased the teacher’s guide. I found it a good resource and gave Vincent a quiz and a crossword puzzle. I ordered the same set for Rome next year.)
  • Alexander the Great, Demi (I was so happy to discover this author! The biography is visually stunning with the perfect amount of information. The map of Alexander’s conquest is excellent.)

Projects:

  • Created a visual representation of the Olympians – painting, drawing and modeling.
Zeus

Zeus

Hera

Hera

Hephaesteus

Hephaestus’ volcanic forge

Athena (Arachne)

Athena (Story of Arachne) (This was done by drawing the spider and the web with crayon and then painting over it.)

  • Worked with the Greek alphabet
  • Modeled Artemis and Apollo’s bows out of beeswax
  • Folded an origami peacock as a symbol of Hera

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  • Planned and cooked many Greek foods
  • Created a deck of playing cards based on Greek mythological and historical figures

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  • Worked with dictation, summarizing and copying information about Greece
  • Wrote a short summary on Athenian life from the first person point of view

18 thoughts on “Grade 5: Greek Mythology and History Block

  1. Love it! So, how exactly did you break this up? How many weeks on the myths? Did you read any aloud or did he just read D’Aulaire’s on his own? How/when did you switch to history? Did you just read the Kovacs book aloud and discuss it (along with the writing/drawing/projects you mentioned, of course)? Where did you get your information on how to do this block? You mentioned Donna Simmons? Are you referring to something she said in the Overview or in some sort of 5th grade materials? :) Thanks for all of your help. I just went through your entire 5th grade year last night and took notes on what you planned and what you did.

    • We did three weeks on the myths and three weeks on the history. I read aloud from the Kovacs book during main lesson time and that guided our schedule. Vincent read the D’Aulaires on his own. I did read the Overview and also listened to her audio on grade 5, but basically our time structure and the Kovacs book dictated how I broke everything up.

  2. Hi Sheila,
    What an amazing block to end the school year with. The playing cards are brilliant! You did an incredible job homeschooling this year and you deserve to be “tired”! :) On to a relaxing summer! Aloha, Lori

  3. Sheila, I really enjoyed reading this – I loved the playing cards and the spider web (I may have to have you come and share how to do this web with my 5th grade session:) I especially loved the observations you made about the ways that Vincent was responding to this material – the questions that come up when your read the Odyssey and the Iliad. And how Greek history is able to rest on a firm geographical foundation if you have followed the Waldorf progression. So Cool! And I am in LOVE with all things Demi – I am a groupie. I am so glad you discovered her. You and the boys have so much to look forward to – my high school history class LOVES her stuff. OK you get the idea …I am a groupie:)

    • I am so glad to hear that. I can’t believe I had not come across her work earlier. I am jazzed about incorporating more biography next year.

      I’m making a list of all the things we need to talk about at Taproot. Maybe we’ll need to extend the trip, lol!!

  4. Hi Sheila, Thanks for the post. I noticed in the comments that you said you spent 6 weeks on this block. Did it feel too long (6 weeks is a very long block for me, mine are usually 4 weeks, but math often seems to fit into 3 week blocks), or did having half of it as myths and the rest history feel like two blocks with a common thread? You mention the “Famous Men of Greece” teacher’s guide. Can you clarify the author as there appears to be more than one with that title. Did the book give you ideas for activities or lesson planning, or did those come from other sources? I’ve got a way to go before I do this block, but thought I would ask the questions while they’re still fresh in your mind.
    Have a great summer – I’m approaching the shortest day in my part of the world and going through the “how will I ever get through the year it’s not even winter and I’m so tired” phase but thankfully I’ve done this enough times to know it will pass – and I hope you have an inspiring and rejuvenating time at Taproot. I look forward to hearing all about it!
    Cathy

  5. “We have done enough” really jumps out at me this morning! As I wrap up and my energy winds down, I’ve been regretful about whole blocks that we may end up skipping for now. (That old doubt and second guessing is resurfacing.) I need to reflect more, step back and remind myself just how much we have accomplished this year. Not all of the formal blocks. But we have experienced some amazing things between and among us in our first homeschool year. Oh what an adventure it has been! Maybe we have done enough too!

    • I’m glad that resonated with you. I put it in there for me, but I hoped someone else heard it too.

      Steiner recommended reviewing the year and I think this is so important, bc so much gets lost in the shuffle of time. I am going to do a post on this bc I think it needs to be said.

      GREAT day with Jean and Andrea. Although, I’m exhausted.

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