Grade 6: Roman History Block

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We spent five full weeks on Ancient Rome, covering the founding of the city through the fall of the empire. This block was definitely a departure from how we have done school in the past and I feel a line has been drawn between grammar school and middle school. Although our overall focus was still heavy with art and story, I added in more traditional academic elements such as spelling/vocabulary words, quizzes and open-ended discussion questions. I also expanded our artistic media in this block, combining collage, assemblage and coloring with the traditional Waldorf trio of drawing, painting and modeling. Some of our projects were rather large and instead of working in a traditional main lesson book, we bound the work together with yarn at the end of the block.

Vincent liked Rome, however he did not love it like Greece. The material was very heavy at times (plight of the plebeians, endless war, omnipresent slavery, persecution of the Christians) and there was very little to lighten the overall conquering tone. Although our official block has ended, we are continuing with a bit of history during our current block (business math) by working on our ongoing timeline project and also continuing to read A Little History of the World. You can see more details about both of these endeavors in the “Vincent” section of this post.

Resources:

  • The Library at Alexandria, Kelly Trumble – This book was an unexpected gem I found at the library. It made a nice segue between Greece and Rome, and gives a wonderful, big picture view of the ancient world primarily through biographical vignettes of philosophers, mathematicians and scientists who studied at the Library.
  • Ancient Rome, Charles Kovacs – I found Kovacs slightly tiring this time around. He gave a thorough impression of Rome overall, but was too heavy-handed in my opinion. He also adds quite a bit of early British history which we skipped.
  • Julius Caesar, William Shakespeare (audio narrated by Jim Weiss) – We listened to Act III which contains Caesar’s murder and Brutus’ and Antony’s subsequent speeches. It was pure pleasure listening to the spoken word – that Shakespeare, he could write.
  • Calendar Art, Leonard Everett Fisher – This is an amazing series of books with incredible graphics and great information. We explored how the calendar changed over the course of the Roman empire, paying particular attention to the Roman and Julian calendars and also Stonehenge.
  • Jesus, Demi – The text for this book comes straight from the King James version of the Bible and the illustrations are stunning. This was a nice companion piece to studying the historical Jesus.
  • Parables of Jesus, Tomie de Paola – Wonderfully done, as all his books are!
  • City, David Macaulay – It is hard to believe this book is 40 years old. You could really build your entire block around it – so, so good. (Here is a link to the PBS special “Roman City” which is narrated by Macaulay. Excellent!)
  • Roman History, Donna Simmons – I didn’t find this as helpful as her other guides, as it was a first edition and not written specifically for grade 6. It has since been revised, and I’m guessing it is much improved. (PS. If you are buying this used, you want the edition with the Roman colosseum on the cover NOT the Roman soldier.)
  • Story of the World Activity Book: The Middle Ages, Susan Wise Bauer – I had this book left over from my very brief classical homeschooling stint. I used a few coloring pages and the maps were good to use as quizzes.

Projects:

  • Painting Seven Hills of Rome

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  • Drawing of Romulus and Remus with birds (based on my chalkboard drawing above)

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  • Made fasces out of sticks and cardboard axe – This was a great project for illustrating Roman discipline and precision. I gave Vincent the directions to find and cut 12 sticks 10 inches long and 1 stick 15 inches long. We then used an axe template (from SOTW) and covered it in tin foil. We attached it to the stick with big thumbtacks and secured the bundle with twine.

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  • Map of Italy and North Africa – This was the best project of the block in my opinion. I had Vincent cut out a map of Italy and the surrounding land from an old atlas. We then taped the pieces on a big sheet of watercolor paper (18 x 24) and colored the water with blue block crayons. We used two different blues and did it on our uneven wooden floors which added to the overall dimension. I had planned on Vincent painting the land masses with watercolor, but we both really liked the negative effect of the white space. (For more details on this project, see my reply to Emmie in the comments.)

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  • Modeled elephants out of beeswax

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  • Drawing/collage standard with eagle – We used the eagle coloring page from SOTW.

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  • Painted/collaged Cleopatra’s ship – This was a great project too. After painting the sea and sky with watercolors on one day, we mimicked the effect of gold leaf and silver by using metallic paper to collage the boat and oars.

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  • Modeled a cross out of beeswax
  • Timeline (You can see more details about this ongoing project in the “Vincent” section of this post.)

Extras:

  • Check out how Kelley of Our Fine Full Days approached Rome with her son here.