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Living books for ancient history: Greece

Living books for ancient history: Greece

Our study of the ancient Greeks was probably one of the most enjoyable of our homeschool history studies. Studying Ancient Greece for the first time will most likely be an eye-opening experience for you more than for your children. The Romans were so impressed with the Greeks that they copied their religion, culture and ways and so sustained their worldview, disseminating it throughout Rome’s huge empire. And it is still with us.

In any study of history, it’s important to discover worldviews and how they affect us now; what vestiges are there in our culture? The worldview of the Ancient Greeks still pervades our modern culture and any good quality study will teach you this. It’s important to know this if you’re examining your own worldview, where you got it from and how you might like to change it.

Because the ideas of the ancient Greeks are still with us, it’s a good idea to arm yourself as a Christian parent with tools to help you identify the difference between Greek and Hebrew thought. Christian Overman’s book Assumptions that Affect Our Lives is an excellent book for this and will prepare you well for dealing with the philosophies of ancient Greece. It’s not a thick book, so you can get through it fairly quickly. We studied it with our teens.

If you’re looking for a living books style history program that will help you in sifting through the worldviews of ancient cultures, Truthquest is an excellent option for grades 5-8+.

If you’re wanting a living books history program that caters to primary grades, Beautiful Feet’s Ancient History Guide may be a good choice for your family or Greenleaf Press’ guide to Famous Men of Greece.

A good spine book keeps you on track and gives the history flow. We list suggestions for these first, followed by various historical fiction and non-fiction books.

Spine books for Ancient Greece

Famous Men of Greece

The first half of this book begins with men of myth and legend with the stories eventually merging into actual historical figures. The Greenleaf Guide to Famous Men of Greece is invaluable in guiding you through the difference between myth, legend and history, and determining the value of myths and legends. It’s an important distinction to teach your young children. It also includes the Trojan War, the lawgivers and the Persian Wars.

The second half of the book covers the Classical Period through to the age of Alexander the Great.

This book is a great read and gives you a backdrop to slot in more specific living books along the way.

The Story of the Greeks

Guerber’s histories are engaging narratives for children and this one is no exception. The history of Ancient Greece covers stories of its famous leaders and philosophers in 115 lessons. The Trojan War, the Rise of Sparta, the Democracy of Athens, the Grecian-Persian Wars, the Peloponnesian War, the Conquest of Alexander the Great, and much more are covered in this very readable book. 

It also includes a timeline of the events and people in the text, a recommended reading list keyed to the chapters, and a thorough bibliography.

It’s available directly from the publisher in either hardcopy or ebook format, at a very reasonable price.

The Book of the Ancient Greeks

This book by Dorothy Mills is pitched to roughly grades 6-12, so may be a good choice if you have older children. I have not read it, but it comes highly recommended.

From the synopsis: “Dorothy Mills had an uncanny and unique ability to write history that is interesting and at the same time based on sound scholarship. Her direct, engaging approach is valued increasingly by the many parents in our day who are looking for reliable materials for homeschooling or home study, as well as by many private school educators.”

Check out reviews on Goodreads for this book.

Fiction and non-fiction for ancient Greece

 The Children’s Homer

This is your accessible classic tale without the labour of the original versions, making it perfect for children. It is still a meaty read but thoroughly enjoyable.  

Padraic Colum weaves a stunning tale using narrative threads from Homer’s The Iliad and The Odyssey, full of adventure and heroism, and a must-read when studying ancient Greece.

Tackling a book like this is a great basis for when your child wants to read the original versions later on (a bit like reading Lamb’s Shakespeare before you read the plays). They already have the plot and characters and will be able to concentrate better on the language and deeper story.

Theras and His Town

This is the story of an Athenian boy taken captive to Sparta and forced to live the harsh life of a Spartan. The story is about his escape and hazardous journey back to Athens. 

It captures authentic elements of ancient Greek culture woven into a story of adventure and excitement that fully illustrates the differences between the Athenian and Spartan cultures.

Best suited to ages 6-10.

 

 

String, Straight-edge and Shadow

Using only three tools: string, a straight edge and shadow, this is the story of geometry from earliest times.  It covers a few ancient civilisations and their contributions to mathematics, but ancient Greece is probably the best known. It covers the Pythagorean Theorum among other things.

Written for children, it’s a good resource for teaching the maths concepts covered in a non-traditional way.

A newer, revised version with UK and European notation, language and metric systems is now available. Nice illustrations.

What’s your angle, Pythagoras?

Written in a similar vein to the Sir Cumference books, this one is all about right-angle triangles.

It’s a perfect addition to your ancient Greece studies and a good way to introduce younger kids to angles and geometry.

Julie Ellis has also written another book, Pythagoras and the Ratios.

 

 

Wise Guy: The Life and Philosophy of Socrates

This hardcover picture book has two layers of text – one for young children and another with deeper details about Socrates life and the times he lived in.

Greek philosophy is a big part of studying the ancient Greeks, and is not something that is easily simplified for kids. This book is a good tool for learning about one of the most influential men of history and his ideas.

Archimedes and the Door of Science

An interesting look at the life of the ancient Greek mathematician who enriched mathematics and all branches of science, written for children.

Against the backdrop of Archimedes’s life and culture, the author discusses the man’s work, his discoveries and the knowledge later based upon it. The illustrations and diagrams enhance the text making it enjoyable for kids.

There is plenty of science and maths in Ancient Greek studies, so you can tick those off your KLAs list!

Activity books for ancient Greece

Classical Kids: An Activity Guide to Life in Ancient Greece and Rome

Hands-on projects cement ideas and facts in your child’s mind with something tangible to relate to and connect to.

The thing with activity books is that many of them have a handful of projects that are useful to you and the rest are fluff. This book’s activities work and it was one we came back to often. The instructions are well written with helpful illustrations for activities covering art, maths, cooking, science and geography. Interesting facts and trivia about ancient Greece and Rome are included as well.

History Pockets: Ancient Greece

We love History Pockets! These books are an enjoyable and very convenient way to keep all your hands-on project bits and pieces in one place, a large pocket. This one is for grades 4-6.

Templates and information provided. Check out the Ancient Civilisations History Pocket for younger children, Grades 1-3.

Have your pocket at the ready while you are reading some of your other living books for ancient Greece.

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