We have had huge fun, learning all about the well known Trojan horse in our Trojan War Homeschool Lesson. We read lots, wrote lots, carried out some hilarious hands on activities, made our own board game and recreated the tale of the Trojan horse using…an elephant! You will want to read on…
The Trojan War began after Menelaus’ wife, Helena, ran off to be with the Trojan prince, Paris. Menelaus and his brother Agamemnon follow her to Troy to bring her back within the Greek fold. Unfortunately, the war drags on for ten years until finally the Greeks plot a deception against the Trojans which puts an abrupt end to the whole saga.
Pretending to retreat, the Greeks leave a ‘gift’ of a huge wooden horse at the gates of Troy. Inside there were three dozen or so men, unbeknown to the Trojans. The Trojans, seeing the Greeks burn their tents and sail away from Troy, believed the horse to be a peace offering. Taking the horse inside the Trojan gates was the beginning of their demise.
Resources for our Trojan War Homeschool Lesson
Homer’s Iliad does not mention the Trojan horse, whilst the Odyssey only mentions it in passing. In fact, Virgil’s Aeneid is our main reference for it. The following three books are really good, and give a great background and foreground to the Trojan horse. First is Rosemary Sutcliff’s Black Ships before Troy, a rewrite of the Iliad (review here). Secondly, The Wanderings of Odysseus, a rewrite of the Odyssey, by the same author. And finally, Penelope Lively’s In Search of a Homeland, a rewrite of the Aeneid (Review here):
Was the Trojan Horse Real?
In the main, the story of the Trojan horse is considered mythical. However, there have been some interesting findings on the site first excavated by Heinrich Schliemann. It is accepted that this site was the likely site of the city of Troy. The Turkish government declared it a national treasure and a site of historical significance. Interestingly, Turkish archeologists made a discovery in 2014 of a large (fir) wooden structure. Fir was only used to build ships and yet this structure, made of fir planks, was found inside the city gates. Ancient Literature site is a great resource should you like to know more.
Activities for our Trojan War Homeschool Lesson
Making a Model of the Trojan Horse
I had two art goals for the week. One was to experiment with plaster cast bandaging to make a Trojan Horse, the other was to do a picture study. We created the models to find out the easiest and best way to make a horse, which I planned to use for the board game I had designed.
Making a Raised Relief of the Trojan Horse
We studied this picture (the earliest known depiction of the Trojan horse). This is a raised relief on a Mykonos Vase 670 BC:
Lillie immediately recognised it as a raised relief. We had learned about these during our Mesopotamia and Egyptian studies. I asked them whether this was primary or secondary evidence – they all knew it was primary. In fact Michael Wood uses this picture and it’s dating to prove that the story of the Trojan war was around long before it was written down by Homer. I gave them each a chunk of clay and asked them to replicate it:
Other References to a Trojan Horse
We discussed what the Trojan Horse actually was, and what it now represents; we talked about the Trojan Horse as a destructive application on a computer that in appearance is a harmless or even useful application. I mentioned that it could also be used to describe an attack of some kind disguised as a gift to fool. Emails that are sent to lure us to give personal details with the promise of much monetary reward could be termed a ‘Trojan Horse’.
Next, I encouraged them to think of a literary term that could describe the use of a Trojan Horse now. Lillie said a simile. We reviewed what a simile was and all three shouted it was a metaphor not a simile! I then asked whether ‘Trojan Horse’ could be described as a kenning for a dangerous gift. We had learnt all about Kennings whilst studying Beowulf. They agreed it probably could. Charlotte pointed out that it would only work as a kenning if those hearing the term knew about its history. Do I know whether it is a kenning or not? Nope (my guess is not quite), but I LOVE having the children think about things and hearing their opinions!!
Re-enacting the Trojan War
Thomas, at the beginning of the week, came up with the idea of reenacting the Trojan horse part of the Trojan war. Unfortunately we couldn’t think of anything we owned that could represent the horse. Ideas started flying about what we could use, and this is what they came up with:
Yes, it’s a Trojan Elephant! We wondered if there would have been elephants in Turkey, we did a bit of research and found that remains of elephants have been found dating back to 100BC, when they became extinct. Regardless, we decided to go ahead.
At the same time as Thomas was organising the Trojan elephant, Lillie, our resident chef, took Abigail into the kitchen to make an elephant cake as a treat after the showing. Actually the cake was eaten way before the reenactment, and was delicious!
Thomas designed the elephant to hold men and to move on wheels. Charlotte, our natural writer, wrote the play of the Trojan Elephant which her brother and sister helped her to put on:
Testing their Comprehension
I had a comprehension exercise for them to do, which we all went through orally. This was a good move, as T10, who hates writing, was able to participate thoroughly instead of thinking of the quickest way of putting his answers to reduce the writing! They all agreed this was a great way of learning:
Charlotte really enjoys writing. With this in mind, I set the children a writing task to pretend they were one of the soldiers in the Trojan Horse and describe what they were thinking.
Here is Charlotte’s paragraph:
I felt a strange shiver down my spine; we were on our way to Troy. The shiver could have be down to the nervous excitement that was locked within me. As we rumbled to a stop just outside Troy, my stomach twisted into a knot and my heart skipped a beat. The sweat from the soldier next to me mingled with mine. I was impatient, ready to kill anything in my path. The tough leather armour that I wore, hardened by battle, made me hot, sticky and ever so stuffy. I was panting, gasping for air. I squinted and looked on the other side of the hollow horse we were in. The men passed around water, but that was a long way from me.
‘Rumble, rumble!’ We were on the move again, this time into Troy. We stopped. I fidgeted with anticipation. Silence. Suddenly, with a mighty thud, the latch door opened and I went to meet my victory!
I LOVE reading Charlotte’s work because her imagination never fails to put a smile on my face!
Our Homemade Trojan Horse Game
Last but not least our fun project: the board game (we haven’t thought of a name yet!). I’ll do a full post on it next week but here is a peek preview, Trojan horse and all!.
Family Night Video
Last but by no means least, we all watched some of In Search of the Trojan War. Michael Wood digs deep (excuse the pun!) into the historical and mythological past of the legendary City of Troy and the Mycenaean Age in which it sits. I can’t recommend this enough. It is undeniably fascinating to watch Wood oscillate between Schliemann, Homer’s epics, and much more to discover if the Trojan War ever happened. But does he find his answer? Maybe not definitively, but my goodness me, the journey is well worth the watch!
I hope you enjoyed reading about our Trojan War Homeschool Lesson as much as we enjoyed partaking in it.