- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 11, 2000

I like to incorporate annual and current events into my home-school planning. In September we will have such an event when the world turns its eyes toward Sydney, Australia, for the opening of the 2000 Olympic Games.
The ancient Olympics began in 776 B.C. as a religious festival in honor of Zeus, the father of the Greek gods and goddesses. The athletes were male citizens who traveled to Olympia from every corner of the Greek world to participate in the one-day celebration.
It is believed that a footrace was the only event held for the first 13 Olympics. By the fifth century B.C., the games included additional footraces, boxing, wrestling and a pentathlon comprising five contests: discus, javelin, long jump, wrestling and another footrace.
Women were not permitted to compete in the ancient games. Single girls were allowed to watch the men's and boys' contests and had their own footrace during a festival in honor of Hera, the wife of Zeus. Married women, however, were not permitted to participate in the athletic events at the festival for Hera and were barred, on penalty of death, from watching the contests for men and boys.
The ancient Olympics continued for nearly 1,200 years until the Roman Emperor Theodosius I banned the Games in 394. After German archaeologists discovered ruins of the ancient Olympics 1,500 years later, French Baron Pierre de Coubertin decided to revive the Olympics with the first modern Games, held in Athens in 1896.
Now that we have a bit of Olympics background, here are a few ideas and resources to help your family include both the ancient and modern Games in your school program.
You could start with a study of the Greek and Roman empires because the Games were part of both civilizations. "Ancient Men of Greece," "Ancient Men of Rome," "Ancient History Through Literature" and "New Testament Greece and Rome" are all excellent guides that use quality literature and activities to bring the worlds of Homer and Augustus Caesar to life. Once you have gained a historical perspective, your study could branch out in a number of directions.
A number of general Olympics resource books also are available, such as "Olympics History, Geography, Sports," by Amanda Bennett. Griffin Publishing carries Olympics materials ranging from informative activity books to posters and stickers.
If your child is interested in a particular Olympic sport, you could have him or her write to that sport's association and request information that then could be used in writing a report. Another option would be to have your children keep a journal of their own athletic endeavors.
Geography skills could be strengthened by using a map or globe to locate countries that will participate in the Games. You might even choose one or two countries to follow during the Olympics, keeping track of medals won and world records broken.
How about trying your hand at the Greek language? Many of our English words are derived from Greek roots. Words such as gymnasion, hippodromos, athlete and drachma could be defined and then used to search for English derivatives. If you are really ambitious, you might want to include Greek as a foreign-language study. "Homeschool Greek," by Harvey Bluedorn, is receiving wonderful reviews as a self-study program for students age 13 and older.
The finale to your Olympics study could be staging your own Olympic Games. The next several weeks could be spent in training, and then you could invite family members and friends and have them participate in running races, the long jump or other contests. You even might want to get your home-school support group involved and plan an entire day of events. Olive-leaf wreaths may be hard to find, but ribbons or small trophies or certificates could be presented to the victors instead.
No matter how you decide to incorporate the Olympics into your home-school program, don't miss the learning opportunity. You won't have another chance until 2002, when the Olympics will be held in Salt Lake City.
Kim Huber, a mother of four children, has been home-schooling for 16 years. She and her husband serve on the Christian Homeschool Association of Pennsylvania's board of directors. She can be reached by e-mail (CHAPKimH@aol.com).

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