Wednesday, September 1, 2021

Torn Paper Mountain Craft


Make torn paper mountains:   An easy craft for all ages.

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Making torn paper mountains is a fun, really easy artwork you can do with kids of almost any age (or even adults!).


Different color paper
Scissors (optional, for second part).

You will need different shades of paper.   In mine I used different shades of purple cardstock, plus black for silhouettes in the front and a blue background.   Shades of green or blue look nice too, or you can also do this with multiple colors of paper, or even patterned paper, for a different look.  

One town paper mountain sheet example

First, tear the paper in a zig-zag or wave pattern to make mountains.

Two torn paper mountain sheets laid out overlapping

Before gluing anything down, you might want to suggest your kids figure out what order they want their mountains in. 

While it seems obvious, as adults, that you have to glue the mountains in the background first, you may need to explain that to your children.   I've done this with two groups of kids now, and I notice little kids often start by gluing the mountain in the foreground, even though that needs to go over the the other mountain.   

Also, if you are going to add trees (see below) decide if you want any between your mountains before gluing.

Completed torn paper mountain craft, in shades of purple


The mountains on their own look beautiful, but if you want you can add a silhouette of a tree, or a few trees, like the ones I cut out here.

Cut out of pine trees

Here are several arrangements I tried of my trees...

Arrangement 1:  Lone Tree on a Hill

Arrangement 2:    Two trees

Arrangement 3:  2 Trees

Thursday, July 22, 2021

Story of the World Ancient Times - Chapter 14 - Moses, the Isaelites, and the Exodus from Egypt

Hands on ideas for learning about the story of Moses, the 10 Plagues, and the Exodus, alligned with Story of the World Ancient Times History Curriculum for homeschool
Painting in header is "Mother of Moses", by Simeon Solomon, 1860
and is in the public domain

This is part of my Story of the World lesson series, but this post especially can be used by those not using that curriculum.  In stead of reading these stories about Moses in SOTW, we actually read them in our Children's Bible (since we were reading other parts of the story as well to supplement).   And we didn't do a lot of activities, since we had just recently attended a Vacation Bible School camp related to the story of Moses and the Israelites.  But there are SO MANY hands on activities you can do related to the story of Moses, so I decided to share links to some of the best of those with you (both ones directly related to the parts of this story SOTW includes, and ones not included...I've noted which are which in the activity section below.).  

But before I get to those activities, here are some Children's Bible versions I suggest for these stories...
DISCLOSURE:  Post contains some affiliate links, through which I can earn commission.

The Jesus Storybook BibleThe Jesus Storybook Bible
This is a beautiful retelling of various Bible stories, told in a way that  shows how each separate event is  really part of ONE story...a Love story about how God rescues his people.  It's gentle and perfect for younger children, yet brings out aspects of the stories that even adults can learn from. 

I suggest buying the version with the audio CD, as David Suchet's reading of this story is really wonderful (my oldest listened to these tapes over and over...he couldn't get enough of them).   You can also purchase just the book by itself or get it with the animated movie version of this on DVDS too (which I haven't seen so can't comment on).

(DK) Children's Illustrated Bible

This book has faithful retelling of the Bible stories along with beautiful illustrations, and sidebars with helpful maps, pictures of artifacts and places, and historical and cultural information related to the text.   It's really a perfect book if you want to connect the Bible stories with other aspects of history.


The Action Bible
This comic book style Bible is great for older elementary age kids and middle school kids.   My own kids really liked this was the first one they read on their own. 



For All Sections
Old Testament Notebooking Activities

Baby Moses Activities
(Included in SOTW Narrative)

Moses and the Burning Bush Craft
(NOT included in SOTW narrative)

The Israelite Make Bricks
(NOT included in SOTW narrative, but it would be easy to add this without additional reading just by explaining that this was one thing the Isrealites had to do when they were slaves).

10 Plagues Activity
(Included in SOTW Narrative)

Crossing the Red Sea

(Included in SOTW Narrative)

Crossing the Red Sea 3D Paper Craft
Cross the Red Sea Interactive Coloring Page
*Technically, these are crossing the Jordan activities, but they would totally work for crossing the red sea too. 

See also "Notes for Christian Homeschoolers" at the bottom of this page for additional discussions, especially for older children

The following things that happened to the Israelites while they were wandering around in the desert aren't part of what was included in Story of the World narrative, but if you want to extend this by reading Bible stories from the Exodus, here are some fun activities to go with this.

10 Commandments Activities
While this was not included in SOTW Narrative, a picture of Moses carrying the 10 commandments is one of the illustration)
Various 10 Commandments Crafts

Wandering in the Desert

Exodus (and other Bible Stories) Play Activity with Sand (Ages 4-8)
A way to tell the Exodus story to very young children using a sand box and wood figures (you could print out figures in stead and glue them to popsicle sticks to use in the sand in similar ways).

Learn about the Sinai desert
The Israelites wandered for 40 years in the Sinai.   This would be a great chance to explore a little bit of what this desert is like.   Below are some great resources for that.
  • Foods of the Sinai (With Recipes) - This blog post from one of my other blogs, which I wrote largely using info from the three previous sources, has suggestions for snacks that relate to various parts of the Exodus, and at the bottom has a list of edible plants in the Sinai, and recipes, most using only foods that the Israelites would have had. It includes some activities you could do for learning about God's provision  manna and quail to the Israelites.
  • Wild Plants of the Sinai - A short list of plants that grow in the Sinai (not all plants, but just some common ones), with pictures.
  • Bedouin History Desert Safari - A blog with lots of great stories about what life is like today for Bedouins in the Sinai desert.   This post, with a story about children digging for wild tubers in the desert, I thought would be a good one to read to children. 

The Making of the Tabernacle


There are stories similar to the story Moses' and how he was placed in the Nile by his mother.    One of these stories is the story of Sargon, and some people have claimed that the Moses story was based off of that.    This article does a pretty good job of refuting that claim

Another ancient myth that is similar to the Moses story is the story of Isis and Horus.   According to the myth, while hiding from Set, Isis gave birth to Horus in the swamps of the Delta.   She kept the baby hidden in the thickets, and the goddess Selket (or in some versions Neith) watched over Horus when Isis needed to go out for food.   (Source:

This is similar to how Moses' mother hid Moses in the reeds, and had her sister watch over him. 

While it's just conjecture, this idea popped into my head:   What if Moses' mother knew these stories?   What if what happened to Moses was BOTH a copy and a reality?   What if, having heard these stories from the Egyptians she lived with, she hid her baby in a way that she thought would make any Egyptian who found her child hesitant to harm him?  Horus was an important god in Egypt, associated with the rule of the Pharaohs.  If an Egyptian found a baby in a basket hiding in the reeds, I imagine it could make them pause, possibly treat the child a little more kindly (or have second thoughts over turning it over to be killed if they realized it was a Hebrew child).  

This blog post discusses the question "Did Pharoah die with his army?" 

Saturday, June 12, 2021

Why I Love Visual Guide Workbooks

The Visual Guide workbooks are fun inforgraphic based worksbooks that can be used for homeschool or summer learning

Post contains some affiliate links, through which I can earn commission

I'm not big on workbooks generally, but I love the Visual Guide Workbooks.   They feature colorful, fun, infographics packed with great information, and questions and activities to go with them.    I have a child who often struggled to pay attention to long written passages but  almost always remembered the stuff he saw in the pictures and diagrams.  That made these workbooks perfect for him.   

While the lessons aren't in any particular order they do tend to focus on some major themes.    And so I've put together a free printable guide to the topics in these books so that, if you wanted to you could use them to supplement things you are already learning about in your homeschool. I've found that it's ok to skip around in the books a little.   A friend of mine who's a reading teacher says it's good for kids to have access to both reading passages exactly at their levels, and ones a little lower and a little above their level, and I find this good advice.   So I organized my "guide to the guides" in a way that you could find all the pages in all levels of the book on a certain subject.   That could be useful if you were using this with more than one child as well. 

Page showing solar system stats

Solar System page from the Visual Guide to 3rd Grade

Look at that gorgeous page on space!  Space is a major theme in several of the Visual Guide books (see the bottom of this page for links to all the books and a listing of their major themes).   My child really responds well to colorful, quality graphics in workbooks and worksheets like these.  But while you can find a loot of great free worksheets online, pages with colorful backgrounds like this are expensive to print, so if you want something like this, it's actually cheaper in the long run to buy workbooks like these.  

Page showing African Animals Map infographic on one side, and worksheet questions on the other.
Animals of Africa Map page from the Visual Guide to 1st Grade

All infographics are followed by activities and questions.  You can see what these are like on the lesson on Animals of Africa above.   There are more hands on cut and paste activities as well.

Ben Franklin page from the Visual Guide to 3rd Grade

Infographic of Ancient Egypt with various Egypt facts

Ancient Egypt page from the Visual Guide to 1st Grade

These books include a lot of pages from History too.    Most are are related to US history but in the 1st grade book there's a little world history sprinkled in as well, like the page on ancient Egypt shown above.   Each of these pages is followed up by questions, and often activities, on the following pages.

Page showing skeleton and naming bones

Human Anatomy page from the Visual Guide to 3rd Grade

Page showing monarch butterfly life cyle and migration patterns.

Monarch butterfly page from the Visual Guide to 2nd Grade
There's so many great science topics included, too.   Animals, human health and anatomy, earth science, conservation, and more.  

Below you can find links to these books, and major themes in them.   I considered it a major theme if there were 3 or more sections related in some way to it.   These are of course just a few of the topics included in these books.

US Symbols, Plants and Farming,
Animals Life, Inventions

Visual Guide to 1st Grade
National Parks and Monuments,
American History, Native Americans*, 
US Government/Our Capitol, Africa, World Cultures,
Animal Life, Environment and Conservation,
Space, Weather

Visual Guide to 2nd Grade
American History, Presidents/Patriotic Symbols,
National Parks and Monuments,
Animal Life, Earth Science, Sports, Weather*

Visual Guide to 3rd Grade
National Parks and Monuments, American History,
 Environment and Conservation, Animal Life, Sea life,
Earth Science, Space, Technology, Health

Free Printable Topics Guide
Use this guide to find topics in the
Visual Guidebooks to supplement
your homeschool lessons

Opinions are all my own.   I was not paid to promote these products but this post does contain affiliate links through which I could earn commission. 

Monday, March 8, 2021

Making Mud Bricks

 Picture of completed mud brick.

The bricks shown here were made with a mix of 
garden sand/soil mixed in, and came out kind of
crumbly.  "Texas clay" straight out of my back yard 
worked much better - it dried solid like rock.

Back in 2010 our church did an Egypt themed VBS that included making mud bricks, and I can tell you, it was a blast.  It's cheap, fun and really does give kids a glimpse into a common part of life in ancient Egypt (and lots of  other places in the ancient world where people made their homes out of mud brick, such as Mesopotamia, the Indus Valley civilization, and ancient Nubia).

For these instructions I consulted the instructions on the Biblical Archaeology website and several other websites (see sources at the bottom of the page) and added some suggestions we learned while doing this project with groups of kids age 4-11.  


There are two main ways to make your brick mold...single-brick molds or multi-molds.   Both use the same basic materials.


1x4 or 2x4 cut into smaller


The brick molds shown below were made by cutting 1x4 or 2x4 boards into smaller sections and nailing together in the pattern you can see below.  Ours were a little narrow (making 2" wide bricks...3" wide are better).     For 3" wide bricks cut wood in the following dimensions

FOR 1x4
5" end pieces
6" side pieces

FOR 2x4
7" end pieces
6" side piece 

You can of course go a little longer or shorter if you want, for different sized bricks.

How to make mud bricks like they did in ancient time:   This picture shows the wood frame for a mud bricks.

Then you nail the ends together.  Of course, some early civilizations didn't have "nails" so you might be cheating a bit.  Off Grid Web has an article showing how these molds were made before nails were used, which might be fun to show your kids, though would be much more challenging to replicate.


You can also make a long mold for several bricks by using a longer piece of wood and putting slats between it, as shown here.   I prefer the smaller one when working with multiple children though because it allows them to more easily  remove the brick themselves, in stead of all being crowded around one larger mold. 


Whichever type of mold you use, it's helpful to reserve a short 2x4 to use to pack the mud and help push the bricks out of the mold if they stick. 

(From a blog post on how to make mud bricks like the ancient Egyptians) Picture showing how to pack down the bruck using a short 2x4 piece.


Brick Mold  (see above)
Dirt (see note below)
Hay or sand (optional)
Shovel or other intrument for mixing mud
Spatula or other flat tool (for help removing bricks once dried)
Short 2x4 (optional, see above)
Plastic Butter knife for each child (optional, for smoothing top)
Cookie sheet or board (optional)

For Mess Management:
Tarp or plastic sheet (such as a disposable plastic tablecloth or cut up trash bags)
An extra bucket of water to wash in
Trash bags to protect clothing

The best dirt to use is a clay like dirt (not too sandy, not too "woody").   If you live in central Texas, what is in your backyard is perfect (if you haven't amended it much).   In other places your backyard soil might be less perfect, but what is in your backyard will still most likely be better than what you can buy in a garden center ("clay" dirt is a nightmare for growing most plants in, so this type of dirt isn't usually sold).


1.  Pick your time and prepare your location. (It's best to do this craft outdoors if possible, on a warm sunny day.   Bricks can take several days to fully dry, so do not try this when rain is expected.)  

If you have an outdoor location, hard ground or cement is preferable.   If the only outdoor location has grass, you will need boards, cookie sheets, or other flat hard surfaces to put your bricks on.  If picnic tables are available they work well...but remember to cover them with a plastic tarp or disposable tablecloth. 

If you are doing this in an indoor space you will want to lay out a tarp to contain the mess, and cover any table you use (a cut up trash bag can work if doing this with just your own children).   You will still need to take the bricks outside to dry.   To make it easier to move them outside I suggest getting a board to make your bricks on, or cookie sheets (using these can also allow you to do this craft outside on grass).

If doing this in a group you will also want to set up a washing station for cleaning muddy hands and have a towel set aside for wiping feet as children leave the brick making area, so they don't track mud outside that space.  You will also probably want to have kids wear a trash bag with holes cut in it for the arms and head (in our camp we used pillowcases for kids to wear, which doubled as a costume once we added a colored sash). 

Picture of a child playing with muddy water used to make mud bricks.

Child playing with the muddy water we used to mix our bricks.
This was not the "mud" but the water we scooped into the dirt,
which is why you'll want something separate to wash with.

2. Mix soil and water in a large bucket or other container to create a thick mud (it should not be too watery).  Kids really like taking part in this, usually.

For a more authentic experience, and sturdier bricks, add straw ( around a half pound of straw for every cubic foot of mud mixture), and then KNEAD DAILY FOR FOUR DAYS, then leave the mixture alone for a few days before using (kneading the mixture one more time on the day you use it).   This allows the straw to ferment which creates a chemical reaction in the mud that makes them three times stronger than regular clay.   But, understandably, you might want to skip this, as we did, as it's time consuming (and the fermentation may possibly create a smell).   Still, its good to tell kids that this was part of the original process, and what it was for.   Just adding the straw without the extra days on kneading doesn't seem to add much strength to the bricks, and actually seemed to make them a little more fragile.  

4.   Whatever surface you've prepared to make your bricks on (unless it's already covered by a plastic sheet), distribute hay or sand on it to make it easier to get the bricks off it later (WARNING:  sand can damage cookie sheets).

5.   Pour the mud into the molds and pack them down with your hands or a short 2x4 piece.  Scrape off any excess mud with a piece of wood or other flat tool such as a plastic knife.  

6.  (Optional) Let molds sit to solidify for 20 minutes.   This was suggested in the original authentic method, but we were able to remove the mud from the molds right away without much problem. 

7.   Remove the brick from the mold.   You may need to gently push them out with a short 2x4 piece or other tool.  

8.   If you are indoors, carefully move your cookie sheets or board with bricks outside to dry.   If you are outside, leave your bricks alone.   Bricks may dry in a day but can take several days.   They are usually sturdy enough to transfer onto a paper plate after several hours of drying though. 

These were my sources for this article, and are fun extra reads.

Biblical Archaeology, written by anonymous Biblical Archaeology Society Staff,    August 15, 2020 

Primitive Technology: Making Mud Bricks
Off Grid Web, Written by on (Lion Tracks Ministries), unknown Author, unknown published date, accessed 3/8/2021

Ultimate Guide to MudBricks
The Survival Journal, Publish Date Unknown, Last Updated August 30, 2020, Written by Editorial Staff, accessed 3/8/2021

Mudbricks, unknown Author, unknown published date, accessed 3/8/2021.

Senegal Architects Ditch Concrete and Revive Old Techniques
I didn't use this for the article, but thought it was interesting how they are returning to mud bricks (sort of). 

Most of the photos were not taken by me, 
but by other wonderful photographers at Dayspring Baptist Church

Shared on Dear Homeschooler Bookshelf