An Honest Review of History Unboxed “Ancient Israelites”

  I first heard about History Unboxed about six months ago.  I was really excited to try out these subscription kits that delve into the history of other cultures.  We have spent the past several years delving into ancient cultures in our homeschool curriculum.  I was extremely pleased to see a box about the Ancient Israelites.  I searched the internet and there really isn’t anything like it for homeschool.  So, I knew I wanted this to be my first kit.  While I am an affiliate for this company, I really wanted this to be an honest review of the pros and cons to the History Unboxed Ancient Israelites kit. Upon receiving my first box, I found it to be quite plain.  It was a standard cardboard box.  It seemed odd given the price point of the kits at $50 each. Since purchasing, I have additional boxes from History Unboxed that are in much better packaging.  So, I am assuming that they ran out of the nicer boxes.   Each of the kits comes with a brief history of the culture you are learning about as well as fun projects to create, food to try from the culture, or other historically important items to use. In the History Unboxed Ancient Israelites kit it comes with a full-size ram’s horn that is fully functional.  A package of honeycomb to eat, and sculpted clay, olive oil and a wick to create your own oil lamp reproduction.  It also came with some cheesecloth to make your own farmers cheese.  The recipe is included. If your a fan of subscription kits you will want to check out these other posts: Kiwico Eureka Crates Subscription Kits Overview Unboxing Talkbox.mom Language Subscription Kits The Pros The products in the kit are very high quality.  The ram’s horn is full size and works well.  Honeycomb is an expensive product you wouldn’t find in most adult subscription boxes let alone a childs.  The modeling clay is a name brand product that is easy to use. The projects are very simple.  Your child can complete most of them without much assistance.  This box does require baking in an oven and heating milk on the stove.  But an older child could complete most everything on their own. It’s also worth noting that if you have a child with food allergies, all of the food is individually packaged and sealed. The Cons I’m sorry to say that I have some issues with this particular History Unboxed Ancient Israelites kit.  Not with the quality of it, as I think it’s very nicely put together.  My issue is with the actual history they are telling.  It is very clear that the authors of it are writing biblical narratives.  The two lessons are from the Bible, that of Solomon and David.  I can’t figure out if the writer wants this box to be Christian, Secular or Neutral because it isn’t any of them.  The writer is either trying to write the lesson from a secular perspective or to make both secular and non-secular homeschoolers happy.  I don’t believe it is successful either way. The writing style makes it seem like these are interesting “stories” without any basis in fact.  They make sure to point out the lack of archaeological evidence to support Solomon’s existence more than once.  But they choose to leave out the fact there is archaeological evidence that supports the existence of David and many other biblical records.  It feels as though the author is purposefully trying to make the Bible seem fictional, all the while only using the Bible as its narrative for the entire unit study.   The writers would be more successful by adjusting this unit study to completely factual information and making it a secular curriculum that could be tailored by Christian families, or they need to make it a Christian curriculum.   My Thoughts I found the entire lesson rather off putting.  I did not feel that this information would suit Christians as they would not take kindly to being made to feel that their beliefs are a nice made up “story”.  But, as the entire historical lesson was based in bible theology, I also do not think that a lot of secular homeschooling families would enjoy it either.  There may be a few that don’t mind either way and would enjoy the fun of the experience.  But I found more than once I ended up skipping portions of the lesson that I found didn’t resonate with me. Also, I think it’s worth noting that the ram’s horn is very, very loud.  If you have a child with sensory issues like I do.  It will not be liked.  However, I do think the average kid will enjoy blasting it as much as they can through your home.  So be prepared!  You’ll want to take it outside. Would I buy this Again? Okay, so while I would definitely not purchase this History Unboxed Ancient Israelites box again, I did think that the quality of the materials in the box was well worth their cost.  If I had to purchase the items myself and curate it on my own, it would be about the same price.  So, it’s definitely a good investment.  If you don’t mind having to adjust the information to suit your family’s particular religious views, then I think you will find good value in this box. I actually have several other boxes from History Unboxed that I will be reviewing from them in the future.  I was able to pick them up at a local store near me for a steal!   I’m very excited to see what else this company has to offer.  So, I’ll keep you posted as to how these stack up against this one.  

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Historical Re-Enactments: Making History Come to Life Part 3

  History was never a favorite subject growing up.  Sure, I had some fantastic teachers growing up.  I had one teacher in particular who taught a lesson on debate.  The subject was  “Which is better, ketchup or mustard on a hotdog?”  Doesn’t sound like much, does it?  But he went so far as to call the Vienna Sausage company and get them to come to the debate and provide food.  Then he convinced a news crew to come as well.  I can’t tell you anything about that debate, or even who won.  But I remember how interesting and fun it was.  This taught me a valuable lesson.  Kids remember valuable moments way more than facts they read.  This is why I love Historical Re-Enactments. Many people don’t realize that historical re-enactments exist.  Depending on where you live, you may have a lot of them available or just a few.  I found out by accident from a random stranger when we were discussing homeschooling.  If you have never been to one it’s really quite fun.   What It’s Like There are actually Historical groups that plan out these events.  Everyone dresses up in the time period.  This isn’t a typical Renaissance Festival (although that’s fun too). They are extremely strict about wearing and eating only what would have been available at the time.  We did both a Civil War reenactment and the Revolutionary War.  If multiple ones are available to you, I would encourage you to do more than one.  If was amazing to see the difference in periods.  We were able to learn how the time periods changed and how even the food and weapons changed.   In our case, they allowed you to walk around the camps, showed you how they ate and even the games they played at the time.  They really immersed you in the time period.  While we were their they taught us an authentic game from the time period called Shut The Box.  It’s a classic wooden math, strategy game.  My child loved it so much we ended up going online and purchasing it.  If you’re interested in it, you can get it HERE.   In addition to this, we were able to see actual printing presses making newspapers.  We got to see surgeons tools and medicines.  They had authentic furniture and timepieces.  There was even a woman who showed us how spies created ciphers and encrypted messages.  Battle Re-Enactments The best part was the actual battle re-enactments.  It’s one thing to read about cannon fire and another entirely to stand next to one as it is being fired.  It’s also fascinating to discuss how long it took to fire each weapon, reload, then fire a weapon again.  That’s something you can’t really get from a book.   Planning Ahead To really get into the spirit I highly encourage you to plan ahead.  After each one we went home and made recipes that would have been available during that time period.  We made hard tack, and bison stew.  We made hard boiled eggs, apples and bread to take with us as our snacks to really get into the day.  If you aren’t sure what to bring you can always look up recipes on the internet.  We had been doing our lessons from the Time Travelers Series from Homeschool in the Woods.  Their lesson plans include recipes and crafts from the time period you are studying which makes things so much easier. If you have time for it, wear a costume (at least the kids).  Pretending to be a part of it makes history come to life even more.  You’ll be amazed at the excitement.   Finding One Near You There are many different types of historical re-enactments all over the world.  Here is a just a small list of some of the most well known and famous places for re-enactments in the US.  If your in one of these areas or are planning a visit nearby you may just want to stop at one of these places: Arizona- The American Heritage Festival is the largest re-enactment in the Western United States and is held annually in the Southwest US. Indiana-Mississinewa 1812 is considered by some to be the largest living history event in the country.  It’s all about the war of 1812. Minnesota- Wilder’s Pageant which is a living re-enactment of Little House on the Prairie. New York-National Silver Ball Tournament which celebrates vintage Baseball New Hampshire-Muster in the Mountains is a three day colonial experience. Pennsylvania-WW2 Weekend & Gettysburg Civil War Battle Re-Enactment If you would like to find one in your area just Google “Historical Reenactments near me.”  Please feel free to share additional re-enactment websites in the comments below and I will try to update the post as I get them.   Final Thoughts Historical re-enactments are a wonderful way to make the most out of your history lessons.  They allow your children to immerse themselves in the true feeling, spirit and world of that time period.  This immersion is what really makes history come to life for kids.  It takes a moment that may otherwise be lost on a child and makes it meaningful and memorable.  I hope this series helps you to bring life into your homeschool history lessons.  Happy Homeschooling! Don’t forget to check out the rest of this three part series: Making History Come to Life Part 1: How to do it! Making History Come to Life Part 2:  The Sword Casting Guy Please feel free to share additional re-enactment websites in the comments below and I will try to update the post as I get them.  

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The Sword Casting Guy-Making History Come to Life Part 2

  History is one of those subjects that many feel is difficult not only to learn, but to teach.  Textbooks can be dry, bland and boring.  This is why when I come across a really amazing live and in person way to teach history, I am instantly excited!   This is how I came to meet the Sword Casting Guy.  If you haven’t heard of him, his name is Greg Wenderski.  He’s a former school teacher turned sword casting instructor.  I heard about him on one of my mom boards.  The minute I heard he was coming to town to teach a sword casting class for a few days, I literally booked it as fast as I could.  Boy, am I glad I did!  Every class was sold out in a few hours. The Class The class was taught outside which was great for many reasons.  He first starts by teaching you the history of the swords you are going to cast.  So you get a mini history lesson at the beginning.  We were personally studying Babylon in our homeschool lessons and he had an Egyptian Khopesh sword which was eventually used by the Babylonians for us to choose from.  So clearly, that was the sword we had to make.  But he had other options.  Some of these were Greek, Egyptian, Japanese and more!  Depending on the lesson you are teaching, he has a sword to go with it.  If he doesn’t have a sword from the history lesson you are teaching, you can request to make your own.  He will send you the dimensions and you can design it yourself.   Making The Sword Once your mini history lesson is over, your child gets to make a sand casting of their chosen design.  Gary handles all the hot metal used to cast the swords.  So, don’t worry that your child will do that.  He also made sure that everyone was a safe distance away and gave very good safety instructions before he began.  Once that’s done, he removes the swords while your child watches.  If you think your going to be bored watching someone pour hot molten metal, think again!  I had as much fun watching as the children.   After the metal cools, parents get to help by sanding the swords and grinding them down to a shiny finish.  I’m not gonna lie, this was a serious arm workout for me.  But again, don’t worry that these swords are going to be sharp.  The swords won’t have a blade put on them.  Make sure you teach good safety with these because while they are not bladed, they aren’t childproof.  I’m not going to say your kids couldn’t smack someone with these pretty good, because they could.  But they are about as safe as you can make a handcrafted sword.   Once these are ground and polished, your child will get to put a leather bound strap on them for additional hand safety and authenticity.  One of the things I appreciated most is that all of his materials are made from recycled materials.  He uses old couches for the leather and recycled scrap metal for the swords.  It’s a brilliant use of upcycling. When You’re Finished When you’re all done, your child gets this beautifully designed work of art to put up and show all their friends.  There’s not a lot of kids who wouldn’t think that’s cool.  We ordered a sword mount to put it up on the wall.  If you need one, you can purchase it HERE.  But even better than the sword, they have a memory that will last a lifetime. Who Can Take The Class The nice thing about this class is that children of all ages can take it.  I saw very young kids (around the age of 5) all the way to high schoolers in the same class.  It brought together kids of all ages in a way that you don’t often see. I also noticed that it had the effect of teaching independence in the younger kids.  I saw a younger child struggling with his sand casting and so I offered to help.  He said, “No thank you, I’ve got it.”  This is something I think children pick up simply from being in groups of multi-aged children.  They want to be successful like the big kids are.   Cost One of the most amazing things about this class is the cost.  The Sword Casting Guy only charged $100 for this all day experience.  We spent at least 8 hours in this class.  I honestly think for an experience that the entire family could go to and enjoy, it was way beyond my expectations.  Most small workshops charge more than this for an hour or two.  After spending the day with him, it’s very clear why he does this.  He is extremely passionate about what he does.  He clearly loves history, swords and working with children.  Even after the class was over and everyone else had left, he took the time to teach us and answer more of our questions.   Where to Book If your looking for a way to make history fun, exciting and engaging… this is it!  There is no better way to make history come to life, than a hands on experience.  To find out how to take his classes near you go to www.swordcastingguy.com.  If he isn’t having a class near you, you can request a class HERE.  Make sure to book quickly.   Final Thoughts When making history come to life for your children, remember that there is no better way than a hands on experience.  Even if they don’t remember all the names, dates and places you discuss…they will always remember the moments.  Don’t forget to share the ways you make your homeschool experience come to life in the comments below.  Happy Homeschooling! Don’t forget to check out the rest of this three part series:   Making History Come to Life Part 1: How to do it! Making History Come to

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10 Ways to Make History Come to Life

  When I was a kid I always thought history was boring.  Turns out, it was.  Everything I learned from history was from a school textbook.  In fact, before teaching the Civil War to my own child, the only thing I could tell you about it was from the movie Glory.  Seriously nothing else.  It wasn’t until I was an adult that I began to find history interesting.  So when I decided to homeschool I knew I wanted to make sure to make history come to life for my child.  So in this three part series we are going to start by discussing 10 ways to make history come to life for your child. 1. Seeing History Nothing is better than seeing history in person.  Going to a historical site and seeing it, especially after reading about it, can really bring life to the subject.  I realize that not everyone can do this.  However, it may be easier and more economical than you think.  Where we live there are a surprising amount of ruins, Native American cliff dwellings, archaeological sites, dinosaur excavations, meteor craters, historical buildings and landmarks.  Most of them are less than a 3 hour drive and cost less than a cup of coffee to get into.   One of the best investments we have made is to purchase the America the Beautiful Annual Pass.  The pass costs $80 for the year.  It allows four adults and all kids under 15 to get into any national park for free.  The pass includes access over 2,000 sites in the U.S.  To check it out go to the America the Beautiful Pass Website. It literally pays for itself if you only use it once or twice depending on the landmark.  So look around your neck of the woods, history is waiting! If you have a fourth grader you can apply for the Every Kid Outdoors pass.  This pass allows all kids under 16 (including your fourth grader), as well as 3 adults over 16 to get into over 2,000 national parks for free.  This includes homeschoolers.  You can also apply if you are an educator of 4th graders.  To apply go to Every Kid Outdoors. Junior Rangers Before you go, don’t forget to set your kids up with their very own junior ranger accounts HERE.  This will allow them to find parks online with interactive and printable activities. You can view special places within the parks from your living room. You can also watch wildlife, geysers, and other activities in real time. They can also download junior ranger books HERE.  In addition to this, when you visit local parks, your junior rangers will receive badges each time they go to one of the national parks (as long as they are available).  They can collect stamps and badges along their journey.   All of these interactive activities make these trips more enjoyable and fun. 2. Audio Books Sometimes school is more fun when you don’t call it school.  I started using audio books for history as bedtime stories.  Instead of calling it history or school, I named it storytime.  My absolute favorite is the Story of the World Series read by Jim Weiss (review coming soon).  These are so well received that my child will excitedly ask for them.  Another great series on audio is the I Survived Book Series (also in paperback).   A great audiobook can make history come to life.  For children, it’s like having a fantastic book read out loud by a great storyteller.  If you think bedtime might be too scary for history (history is violent after all), then just do it during the day.  I don’t give tests on this and I don’t ask questions.  We just let it be enjoyed.  Remember, if you don’t call it history or school, they will love it.  If they love it, they’ll remember it. 3. Educational Television That’s right, I’m not opposed to using television as a tool.  There is nothing wrong with high quality videos to teach kids great things.  Amazing videos keep kids engaged and can explain things in a way I am not always able to. But, I use this sparingly and with care.  One of my favorite educational video sites is Curiosity Stream.  It has hundreds of streaming high quality educational videos.  All of them are available for the price of a couple of cups of coffee per year.  What’s not to love?  If you want to read more about them, you can check out my post Where I Find Educational Videos.   4. Lap Books and Hands On Programs It’s a proven fact that connections are made in the brain when you “see, say and do” things together.  Hands-on activities are a great way to solidify what has already been learned.  My favorite is by a company called Homeschool in the Woods.  This family run company produces fantastic world and US history unit studies, lap books and timelines.   Each program focuses on a specific time period and then has hands-on activities that you can do with them.  They include everything from recipes from the time period to miniature reproductions of things.  I have used many of their units and we are never disappointed.  (Full review coming soon!). They are not the only company producing these hands-on products.  However, they produce high quality at an affordable price.   5. Museum Tours-In Person The day I set foot into The Met in New York was mind blowing.  I had no idea what a true museum was like until then.  What most people don’t know is that larger museums like The Met and The Getty have actual tours of the museum.  Different companies will tour you around the museum explaining artifacts and giving historical facts and stories.   These tours will typically have themes.  They take looking at a tiny statue that seems like nothing, and turn it into an entire experience.  It is absolutely worth looking into.  To find a tour group just google “in person tours +

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