We’ve just got back from two weeks in Luxor, Egypt…
The ideal plan, according to me at least, would have been to really immerse ourselves in the Ancient Egyptian experience and see everything possible! However, Hubby is absolutely exhausted and needed a holiday and wanted to see the kids. So we ended up in a hotel on the Nile, really enjoying its gardens, super-friendly staff, food and pool, which was chilly because the government apparently doesn’t give them enough oil to heat it, but refreshing! I could swim along at the same pace the river Nile cruisers, much reduced in numbers due to the Egyptian ‘Arab Spring’ and therefore much more picturesque.
On a couple of occasions, we did manage to drag ourselves away from our little oasis. Our first trip was an easy one- museums. The kids saw their first ever real mummy, in the Mummification Museum, which was rather gruesome and shocking but part of a real Ancient Egypt experience. We also saw an amazing mummified crocodile and baboon and some beautiful gold painted coffins. We then went on to Luxor Museum which has some artifacts found in Tutankhamen’s Tomb but none of the precious, really startling ones which are in the main museum in Cairo. I was desperate to go to the Cairo museum, and indeed to show the kids the pyramids, but the museum is right by Tahrir Square, where the main protests are ongoing and as such it wasn’t deemed safe enough. However, the atmosphere so much further south in Luxor is very calm and indeed calming.
Luxor Museum was the usual frustrating experience for me. The kids’ interest lasted minutes and then the ‘I want to go home’ lament started up in earnest whilst Hubby and I tried to rush round and see what we could as the lament turned into a whine and finally a no-longer-brush-offable howl! Edward isn’t really into Ancient Egyptian history. Strange as that seems to me. How can anyone not be interested in Ancient Egypt, especially seeing it for real? He wasn’t very interested in coming to Luxor in the first place. He wanted to go to Rome and learn more about Romans, especially their weaponry and fighting techniques! But Rome is too cold at this time of year for stressed out Mum and Dad! Fortunately, he did enjoy seeing huge bows and arrows and beautiful gold daggers in the museum, which had been found in various tombs, but he was becoming blasé by about his third human mummy, even though its face was frozen in a rather horrific looking scream.
In the evening we went to the ‘Sound and Light Show’ in Karnak Temple. I thought this would really impress the kids, especially implacable Edward. Everyone raves about this nighttime show. But it was another exercise in attrition for Hubby and I. Edward complained relentlessly that he was scared (the show was meant to show how intimating the ruins are, but it was so corny I found it hard to take his complaints seriously) and wanted to go home (I think the fact he had to stand for a long time was the real problem) and Petra (who was feeling a bit under the weather) wouldn’t walk anywhere and had to be carried almost the entire hour. The show is meant to make visitors feel awed by the size of the feat the ancients had achieved. And we are meant to feel as they would have done – the fearful power of their Gods. You are left in the dark much of time whilst sinister spotlights sweep the massive hieroglyphic-carved columns and pharonic statues (known as pylons) and booming recorded voices echo eerily around you. Powerfully atmospheric music completes the chilling tableaux. Edward is extremely sensitive and found it disturbing and overwhelming. I felt sorry for him whilst being irritated that our enjoyment of the experience was being remorselessly chipped away; the, for us, overly-dramatic voices were being constantly interrupted by ‘I want to go home…Come on… Let’s come back tomorrow when it’s light…This is stupid…Why don’t they consider children when they make these shows? I WANT TO GO HOME NOW!’ and various other complaints.
Part of the preparation for taking the kids on homeschooling trips overseas is to learn as much as possible myself about what we’re going to see. I want to ensure that I can answer any question they throw at me because if they aren’t interested in all that much, I need to pass on information about the few things they might be interested in right at that moment. I don’t want to have to recourse to, ‘I don’t know. We’ll look it up later’ by which time their interest might have waned and will likely have disappeared altogether if we have to wait until we go home thanks to dodgy internet access! If I can tell them what they want to know, when they want to know it, it might stick. Research is something I enjoy hugely. I am always interested in everything we’re going to see and like to know as much as possible. But regardless of how much they remember, at the end of the day, I hope something about the amazing opportunity they’ve been afforded will leave an impression – that Ancient Egypt is really an incredible time in history and being able to see it for real is a thrilling, lifetime opportunity.
I went to see a travelling exhibition of Tutankhamen’s treasures in London when I was about Edward’s age, about age 8, and although I don’t remember having any particular previous interest in this pharaoh, or any other, and I don’t remember having a new interest ignited, I have never forgotten that exhibition and it has stayed with me of all the hundreds of exhibitions, about various things, I’ve been blessed with seeing in my lifetime. I take comfort from the fact that something did sink in and leave its traces- perhaps it helped feed my future enthusiasm for history in a non-specific way. If this trip can achieve that for my homeschooled kids, then all the whining will have been worth it! But I do lament the fact that the summer miracle wasn’t repeated – Edward’s enthrallment, almost without exception, of what we saw in the Louvre and his enthusiasm for all the castles and other history we saw in the Netherlands. I do get terribly upset when the kids don’t ‘get’ the treat they’re being spoiled with! A trip thousands of kids would love to do! I do get upset that ‘seeing the real’ thing doesn’t seem to be any more effective at stoking their enthusiasm than learning about Ancient Egypt in a classroom. Will they remember any more from what they’ve seen for real than if they’d seen it in a book or coloured it in on a worksheet? Egypt so far hasn’t worked its magic on the kids. But hopefully my enthusiasm might work instead! Hopefully something magical will happen in time. Keep your fingers crossed for us!
IF YOU’RE NEW TO HOMESCHOOLING MIDDLE EAST, welcome! If you are interested in reading about our homeschooling adventure, I recommend that you start reading from ‘Day 1’. Why I recommend starting at Day 1 is because this adventure into homeschooling has been a rollercoaster; philosophically and emotionally, which you might learn, seek solace from or even be thoroughly entertained by. It started in Bahrain on 22 February 2012 and continues in Dubai. My kids are Edward aged 8 and Petra aged 4. For you to get the full intellectual and dramatic impact, it’s best to start at the beginning. You might be contemplating home educating and wonder what those early nail-biting days feel like or you might enjoy reading somebody else’s take on an experience we share, or you might be more generally interested in my thoughts and feelings on education and parenting. Whatever the reason you’re reading, I’m really humbled that you’re taking your valuable time to do so and I really hope I can be some kind of hope or inspiration for you. Thank you!
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