When I was in 5th grade, we had an Ancient Greece festival. It was a lot of fun, especially since I pretended to be the Oracle at Delphi and told fortunes to all my classmates.  We talked about ancient Greece during several different grade levels at school.  I think we also studied the Egyptians and Romans in elementary school. In high school history, we learned about ancient history in Mesopotamia, India, and China.  Taking a peek at today’s standards in the state where I live, not much has changed.

Imagine, when you go beyond the range of Alexander the Great’s conquests, there’s an entire globe to study!

  1. The Jomon People: These were the ancient people of Japan, likely ancestors to the Ainu people.  They were some of the first people to make pottery and domesticate dogs. But my favorite fact about the Jomon?  They believed in sanitation. They were semi-sedentary hunter-gatherers who built pit toilets in their villages.  They even trained their dogs to use the pit toilets!
  2. Australian Aborigines:  They have the oldest continuous culture in the world. They arrived in Australia somewhere about 40,000 years ago (exact dates are still debated).  For thousands of years, they passed down their stories and traditions. Their oral tradition includes stories of massive animals (megafauna) that scientists have now proven true using fossil evidence.  Their story continues into the present, even as they fight for rights within modern Australian society.
  3. The Olmec: So much of their history is a mystery to us today. Like the Jomon, we don’t even know their name for their own society.  We do know that they had a lasting influence on other meso-American cultures, including a love of chocolate.  They may have invented the first writing system in the Americas, a pictograph language.  No one has succeeded in translating it yet. There is only one tablet with writing, so decoding it may be impossible.
  4. The Scythians: They might be my favorite.  They were a pants-wearing, horse-riding, archery-loving, nomadic group of people.  Women fought alongside men.  They absolutely terrified the Greeks. Hardly anyone could defeat them in battle.  They may have inspired legends of centaurs and Amazon women.  And they invented pants!*
  5. Ancient Somalia: The Somalians have been around quite awhile. They traded with the Romans and Greeks, and played quite a trick on them.  The Somalians imported cinnamon from India, but told their trading partners that they grew it themselves.  Plus, they were the first to domesticate the camel. Some people think Somalia was the location of the lost kingdom of Punt, one of ancient Egypt’s trading partners.

There’s a lot more to history than the Mediterranean! If you’re interested in learning more about any of these civilizations, click the links to our educational boxes or subscribe to our newsletter to receive updates about our upcoming ancient history book! (If you’re interested in the Somalians, you’ll have to stay tuned!).

*Quick note about the Scythians: they weren’t beyond the range of Alexander the Great’s conquests.  He, in fact, engaged with the Scythians.  But I never learned about them in school!

Five Ancient Civilizations You (Probably) Never Studied in School

Finding homeschool resources can be overwhelming. It can be hard to find a secular homeschool curriculum for teaching ancient history. Let us help you enjoy history at home with a free ancient history lesson!

We’ve done the lesson planning for you, with activities, discussion questions, and information.

Ready to go?

To get started, download our free excerpt from our new book, Ancient History: A Secular Exploration of the World.

Let's go!

Read: Pg. 4-5.

Tip: If you have a younger learner, you can read the first paragraph on page 10 of your download instead.

Activity: We like to have our kids color the companion coloring pages while we read aloud!

What is the legacy of the Mauryan Empire?

Look at the map on page 4 and ask the following questions:
Find the edicts on the map. How do you think Ashoka chose these locations?
What do the locations of the cities and towns have in common?
Compare this map to a modern political map. How does the Mauryan Empire compare to the borders of modern India?

This is a good time to take a break, finish coloring, or read a book from our suggested reading list!

Read: pg. 6, Ashoka’s Famous Monologue

How did Ashoka change? Do you think his decisions hurt or benefitted the Mauryan Empire?
Why do you think the Battle of Kalinga changed Ashoka so much?
Do you feel that the battle was a victory or a defeat, based on Ashoka’s writing?

Ashoka was a vegetarian. Perhaps he liked to eat Chana Dal, a dish served at his grandfather’s wedding. Try this recipe for yourself!

Recipe card for Chana Dal

Read: pg. 8, Hinduism vs Buddhism
What are the similarities and differences between Hinduism and Buddhism?
How are Hinduism and Buddhism connected?

Read: pg. 9, Stories of Hinduism and Buddhism
How are Hinduism and Buddhism similar or different to other religions you have studied?

Read: pg. 10 and 12
Activity: Visit this link for rangoli ideas / or purchase Mauryan Empire Unboxed for a complete rangoli kit!

Extension: Check out the books on the further reading list. Further resources can be found on our Pinterest page!

To continue your journey through history, order Ancient History: A Secular Exploration of the World, Ancient History: Coloring and Comic Book, and Ancient History: Coloring and Penpal Book today!

Free Ancient History Lesson: The Mauryan Empire

Are you looking for ways to bring the study of history alive in your homeschool?  Hands-on learning sparks student engagement and motivation. As homeschool parents, we love anything that brings kids to the table ready to learn! 

Read on for five fantastic ways to make history exciting for your learners through hands-on learning.


A Caucasian girl with brown hair and wide eyes takes a bite out of a piece of white rock candy.
Making and eating rock candy

Everyone eats!  Make the people of the past more relatable by sampling some of their favorite dishes.  Sample fruits and vegetables native to the region you are studying.  Visit a restaurant featuring the cuisine of the country you are studying. Search for traditional recipes and cook them at home.  Take a foraging class and learn about native food plants in your area.


An instruction booklet labeled "How to Play Senet" and a wooden board decorated with hand-drawn hieroglyphs. Black and white round playing pieces and black and plain craft sticks are scattered around.
Senet is one of the world's oldest boardgames

It’s all fun and games when you are into gameschooling.  You can look for a board game related to your area of study or play a historical game.  How about the Royal Game of Ur or the Egyptian game, Senet?   Study the history of chess and then play a few rounds!  Research the history of card games and discuss why decks of cards were so popular on ships.  Work on navigation skills with a scavenger hunt.  Make your own trivia game to review the cultures you have studied.  The library often has books describing different types of games and how to play them.

Building Challenges

A young girl leans over a LEGO pyramid with a gap-toothed smile
LEGO is a great option for hands-on learning!

Does your young learner like LEGO or Minecraft?  Get them to use their skills in a building challenge? One of our kids built a Scythian Kurgan (burial mound) in Minecraft. She was imaginative in filling it with treasure and skeletons.  Use clay, craft sticks, or natural materials to recreate structures from the past.  Model irrigation with pebbles, dirt, and water in a baking dish.

Role Play

A child's hands are threading beads onto the upright frame of a basket in the process of being woven
Basket-weaving is a unique hands-on learning skill

One of our most memorable activities was Stone Age Camp.  The kids experimented with bark versus moss as a roof material.  Then they pretended they were setting up a camp like the ancient Jomon people. First, they wove and filled baskets with supplies. To "keep warm" and "cook", they set up a simulated fire ring.  They played in their camp for days. Talk about hands-on learning!

Art Projects

A child's hands weave a thread through purple and white beads on a bead loom

Hands-on learning about the Powhatan people through reproduction shell beads.

Connect with the people of the past by using traditional art techniques. For thousands of years, artisans have made objects both beautiful and functional.  Try various techniques and focus on the process, not the product.

Getting Started

Are you looking for a secular homeschool curriculum that does the planning for you?  History Unboxed has a multisensory approach to learning history.  Play traditional instruments, sample historical recipes, create beautiful artwork, and more! Our full curriculum packages  come with a free PDF lesson plan download and everything you need for hands-on learning right in the box!  

5 Ways to Bring History to Life in Your Homeschool

Contributed by Guest Author, Grace Sammons

Photo by Stephen Walker on Unsplash

Today is the third Monday in February…

Happy Presidents’ Day!

As we celebrate and honor all U.S presidents, let’s dive into the history of this patriotic holiday! Presidents’ Day is a federal holiday that is celebrated each year on the third Monday of February. However, that wasn’t always the case. Traditionally, Americans celebrated as Washington’s Birthday on February 22, starting in 1885. It wasn’t until the Uniform Monday Holiday Act was set in place in 1971, that the holiday began taking place on the third Monday in February and officially became known as Presidents Day, honoring all U.S presidents. However, there are still some states throughout the United States that have holidays to celebrate the individual birthdays of Washington, Abraham Lincoln and other Presidents.

In Virginia, today is George Washington Day. Some other states also recognize today as George Washington’s birthday. And although there is often the sense that President’s Day Honors Abraham Lincoln as well, his actual birthday, February 12, is not as widely recognized as it once was. Lincoln’s birthday is recognized with wreath laying ceremonies at his birthplace in Kentucky and at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC.

So what kinds of events take place on Presidents’ day? Well, when the holiday was first moved from Washington’s birthday, people tended to celebrate both Washington and Lincoln on this day. This is because the holiday now falls in between their birthdays. As years have gone by, different states choose to celebrate American leaders differently. Washington and Lincoln are still the two most recognized leaders, and in the early 2000s congress did propose that we restore the celebration of their individual birthdays, however the proposal failed to gain much attention. That’s not to say we don’t recognize these leaders on their birthday, they just aren’t federal holidays.

While it’s not typical to have a big patriotic celebration such as fireworks and parades on this day, it is still very much a holiday. This means many kids are out of school, and mom and dad may even have a day off work. Banks are closed, post offices are closed and the New York Stock Exchange will not be trading today. Some families celebrate by having a cookout, while others simply take the holiday to enjoy a long weekend off. (And of course, it is a great time to go shopping as many retailers use this long weekend to promote special sales and savings.)

So who would you honor on this very special US Holiday? Who is your favorite president and what do you believe they did for America?

Honoring Presidents in American History

Contributed by guest author, Grace Sammons

Vintage engraving Amour tire de l’Almanach des Muses de 1807 (Love pulls from the Almanac of the Muses of 1807)

As we enter the season of rose bouquets and heart-shaped candies, I thought it’d be interesting to share the not-so-lovely story about how Cupid’s holiday came to be what it is today.

The history of Valentine’s day is a bit patchy, with not a whole lot of specific details, but the story is definitely worth a share. So, to start out this story, let’s journey back to 269-270 A.D. during the reign of Roman Emperor Claudius Gothicus. During this time it is said that there were multiple St. Valentines who died on February 14th. While there are handfuls of stories about different St. Valentines, there is one, which happens to be one of the earliest, that is important to our story.

As the story goes, there was a Roman priest that went by the name Valentinus. During the reign of Roman Emperor Claudius Gothicus, Valentinus was arrested and put into the custody of aristocrat Asterius. While in the Asterius’ custody, Valentinus told Asterius about how Christ lead pagans out of darkness and into the light of salvation. Asterius had a foster-daughter that was blind. This story caught his attention and Asterius told Valentinus that if he could heal his foster-daughters vision, then he would convert to Christianity. Sure enough, Valentinus covered the girls eyes, and prayed, “Lord Jesus Christ, en-lighten your handmaid, because you are God, the True Light.” The young girl opened her eyes and just like that her vision was repaired. Staying true to his word, Asterius and his family were baptized but it wasn’t long until this news got to Emperor Gothicus. He was absolutely furious and ordered Asterius, his family, and St. Valentine to be executed. However, St. Valentine was the only one to be beheaded. His body was carried off by a widow who buried his body on the Via Flaminia, which is an ancient highway that stretches from Rome to present-day Rimini.

There are other stories very similar to this one. It is suggested by the Bollandist, a group of Belgian Monks who have spent centuries researching and collecting evidence on the lives of Saints, that maybe there wasn’t quite as man St. Valentine’s as we thought, but different versions of one saint’s legend appeared in different parts of the world. That being said none of stories suggest that Saint Valentine was actually a romantic. So where exactly did the current day romantic traditions come from?

Fast forward to the late 1300s, when author Geoffrey Chaucer wrote a poem called “Parlement of Foules”. Within this poem he wrote, “For this was on seynt Volantynys day. Whan euery bryd comyth there to chese his make.” This line suggested that in February, the birds would pair up and go off together to produce eggs.

After the poem, Europeans began sending love notes during the bird-mating season. Later came Shakspeare’s Hamlet where Ophelia referred to herself as Hamlet’s Valentine. Since then, it became more and more popular to exchange romantic words or gifts with your loved ones during bird-mating season.

And finally that brings us to today. We now use the day February 14th as a day of love. Couples and loved ones of all ages, all around the world use this day to show their loved ones how much they mean to them!

The History of Valentine’s Day!

(courtesy of Guest Author, Grace Sammons)

Groundhog, groundhog, in your burrow, do we get to spring forward or will you see your shadow?

With spring just around the corner, it’s that wonderful time of year where we look to our furry forecaster, the groundhog, to see if spring is here early or if we have 6 more weeks of winter. So why exactly do we do this? It’s actually quite an interesting story!

Groundhog Day is a very old annual tradition dating back to 1887! The unique holiday is celebrated on the 2nd of February each year and it is said that when the male groundhog comes out from hibernation to find a mate, if he sees his shadow, this scares him and he will disappear back into his burrow predicting 6 more weeks of oh so chilly weather. However, if mister groundhog doesn’t see his shadow, he will stay above ground and it is predicted that spring will come early!

So just what is the history of

A groundhog peeks from a hole in the trunk of a massive chestnut tree.
this interesting tradition? The origins of the holiday actually date back further than 1887. The holiday we celebrate today, originates from an older Christian holiday called Candlemas Day. Candlemas is the commemoration of the presentation of Jesus as well as the purification of the virgin Mary 40 days after Jesus was born. On this day Christians would bring candles to church and have them blessed as a way to bring blessings to their household for the remainder of the winter. The amount of candles would depend on the predicted length of the winter.

Later this tradition was brought to Germany and they decided to introduce an animal to the lore. But the animal used was not a groundhog, instead their furry friend was a hedgehog. It wasn’t until German settlers came to what is now Pennsylvania, that the groundhog became the face of the tradition. The reason for this is because the United States actually doesn’t see many hedgehogs.

Mister Groundhog is one popular guy and has different names throughout North America, some of which are Phil the Punxsutawney groundhog (America’s most famous weather predicting groundhog), Birmingham Bill, Staten Island Chuck, and Canada’s famous Shubenacadie Sam.

So do you think Phil will see his shadow on the first Groundhog Day of the decade? If you’re not in Punxsutawney to wait and see, be sure to tune in to find out! https://www.groundhog.org/

Happy Ground Hog Day!

Israelites and Their Dogs

  • While dogs were generally popular in the region, the Israelites seem to have started bringing dogs into their families somewhat later than their neighbors. They don’t get a favorable depiction in the Hebrew Bible. The Talmud even claims that dog barking can cause miscarriages. 
  • The people of the region did not always feel this way.  A twelve thousand year old grave contains an old man buried with a puppy.  
  • Canaan Dogs: These dogs were used as guard dogs, generally the only accepted use of dogs within the culture.  The dogs eventually returned to the wild and became pariah dogs. During World War II, a cynologist (canine scientist) named Dr. Rudolphina Menzel began the process of re-domesticating the pariah dogs to serve as military dogs. 

Egyptians and Their Dogs

  • Egyptians valued dogs highly. Outside of ritual sacrifice, killing dogs was a serious crime, even a capital one.  
  • The death of a dog caused the whole house to go into the same type of mourning you would observe for a human family member. Fortunately, they believed they would be reunited with their canine companions in the afterlife. 
  • We know some of their dog names, thanks to stelae: Blacky, Fifth, Brave One, Useless, North-Wind, Antelope, Reliable, and Good Herdsman, to name a few. 
  • The Egyptians used collars made of velvet, leather, or silk. Sometimes leather collars were stamped with scenes from the dog’s life. 

Breeds with Historical Ties to Egypt

  • Basenji (originated in Central Africa, 6000 BCE)* They likely came to Egypt through Nubia and are depicted on funeral stele as far back as 2112-2063 BCE. They may have been the inspiration for images of the god Anubis. 
  • Greyhound: They originated either in Egypt or Mesopotamia and can be seen in images dating back to 4250 BCE in Egypt. They were used as hunting and war dogs.  
  • Ibizan: These were the most common dogs in Egypt and Phoenician traders carried them to the island Ibiza where they got their name. 
  • Whippets: Greyhounds bred with pariah dogs (feral mutts) resulted in the whippet, a popular dog for Egyptian kings who wanted a faster, smaller hunting dog. 
    Photo by sergio souza on Unsplash

    Dogs in Ancient Mesopotamia

    • In The Epic of Gilgamesh, the goddess Inanna traveled with seven collared and leashed dogs.  When she travels to the Underworld in The Descent of Inanna, her husband remained home with his royal retinue, which included dogs. 
    • As in other regions, the dogs of Mesopotamia often wore blinged out collars depending on their owner’s wealth. The people of Mesopotamia buried dog-shaped amulets under the floors for spiritual protection. 
    • Saluki (329 BCE)* The Mesopotamians bred the Saluki first, but it became quite popular in ancient Egypt as well. They were hunting dogs and companions in both regions.
      Photo by Artem Sapegin on Unsplash

      So what’s your ideal breed? Your furry friend may be as close as your local shelter, but may have a history that is thousands of years old!

History – Gone to the Dogs! (Part 3): Dogs of Ancient Israel, Egypt and Mesopotamia

I might be a little bit obsessed with dog breeds.  About a year ago, I found myself looking for a new dog.  Given my background in research, it might not surprise you that I spent quite a bit of time reading about different breeds.  


I made a spreadsheet with our criteria and assigned a point value to each category, then ranked my top 25 breeds from most compatible to least compatible. (We ended up with a collie, if you’re curious).  All this to say: please make sure that when you choose a dog, you make sure you understand the unique characteristics and needs of its breed(s).  


But what if I were a time traveller? In what place and time would I find my ideal new four-legged friend? 


I’ve decided to hope into my time travel machine, go back about 2000 years, and head across to the Mediterranean. There I’ll visit ancient Rome and Greece, in the same area as modern day Rome and Greece. The Greeks and Romans kept dogs as guardians, hunting animals, and companions.  Many of the main breeds are now extinct, although some have relatives or descendants alive today.


Perhaps I would start with a visit to Odysseus. His dog, Argos, was probably a Laconian. Lithe and agile, Laconians were primarily scent hounds, used as hunting dogs and popular in both Greece and Rome.


(possibly descended from the Tibetan mastiff and now extinct) 

These were fighting dogs and often wore spiked collars with the ability to do some damage. Cato wrote that a dog with one of these collars was useful in discouraging wolves from attacking any domesticated dogs.  

Really talented war dogs received full armor to match their owners.  In the play Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare, the character Mark Antony works to whip up Caesar’s mourners against the assassins with a speech the phrase “let slip the dogs of war,” a reference to these types of dogs. They were also the sacred dog of the goddess Hecate. 


This Greek breed with long hair and short legs served as a lap dog. Diogenes, the cynic, said that he was a Melitan when hungry and a Molusses when satisfied.  (The word “cynic” is literally derived from an epithet used against Diogenes that meant “dog.”)

Tibetan Mastiff

It’s possible that Alexander the Great’s lion and elephant fighting dog was a Tibetan Mastiff. Tibetan Mastiffs are still found in the 20th century.They make stubborn, fearless and strong protectors. Should you choose to adopt a Tibetan Mastiff, be prepared though. Although loving, they grow quite large and can be fiercely territorial. 

Stay tuned for History – Gone to the Dogs! (Part 2)


History… Gone to the Dogs! (Part 1): 4 Furry Friends from Ancient Greece and Rome

I’m still on my imaginary, time-traveling quest for the perfect dog. Today, I am headed to Ancient and Medieval China.


I am going all the way back to The Qin dynasty, the first dynasty of Imperial China, lasting from 221 to 206 BC. Named for Qin state, where it began, the dynasty was founded by Qin Shi Huang, the First Emperor of Qin. The Qin Dynasty unified China and created The Great Wall of China and the Terra Cotta Army. 

During the Qin Dynasty, the Shar Pei appeared. Shar Pei were bred as fighting dogs and continue to be used as guard dogs today.

Photo by Tiago Vasconcelos on Unsplash

Around this time, pugs were a prized bread too. We know the breed originated in China hundreds or even thousands of years ago. Some sources say that Emperor Qin Shi Huangdi had all records of pugs destroyed to protect the breed’s secrets. 


Fun Fact: Did you know a group of pugs is called a grumble?  

Photo by Sneaky Elbow on Unsplash

Next, I discover the Chow Chow, around 150 – 200 BCE. These lion-like, blue-tongued dogs served as hunting and sled dogs and may be the model for the stone lion at the entrances to Buddhist temples. They have been around since the Han Dynasty or even earlier.  Some even claim that they date back to the 11th century BC/BCE!

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

Fast forward to the 8th century, where I find Pekingese, but only in the homes of royalty. Common people were not allowed to have these little lapdogs. Folklore says that they are a cross between a lion and the marmoset monkey. 

Photo credit: Emir Hoyman on iStock

Finally moving forward to the late 1300s, I am in the time of the Ming dynasty. The Great Ming was the ruling dynasty of China from 1368 to 1644. Shih Tzu were the favorite lapdog of Ming Dynasty nobles but nearly went extinct. At one time, there were only fourteen left of the breed. Today, the breed has made a full recovery. 

Photo credit: Przemysław Iciak on iStock

Stay tuned for History – Gone to the Dogs! (Part 3)

History… Gone to the Dogs! (Part 2): 5 Furry Friends from Ancient China

In the Victorian era, sweets made of dried fruits, with nuts, spices and sugar, were special holiday treats. These “sugar plums” were carefully prepared and then put in cones of festively colored paper to hang on the Christmas tree or packaged in pretty boxes for gifts.
To create a special treat, and give yourself a taste of history, try our Victorian Sugarplum Recipe.

You Will Need:
A pinch of ground cinnamon
A pinch of ground nutmeg
A pinch of allspice
1 teaspoon of orange zest
1.75 ounces of crystalized ginger, chopped
2 ounces of chopped almonds
2 ounces of chopped walnuts
1 tablespoon of brandy or cooking sherry
1 tablespoon of honey
2.5 ounces of dates
2.5 ounces of dried figs
2.5 ounces of dried apricots
2.5 ounces of prunes (dried plums)
2 ounces of super fine or baker’s sugar

How to Make:
Day One
Step 1
Chop the dates, prunes, figs and apricots. Put them in a bowl and add the brandy or cooking sherry, stirring so that the brandy or cooking sherry is mixed with all the fruit. Cover the bowl and leave overnight.
Step 2
Put the walnut and almonds in a dry frying pan over medium heat to toast them. When they begin to turn golden, remove them from the heat and transfer to a plate to cool.

Day Two
Step 1
Add the fruit and the nuts that you prepared on day one to a food processor and add ginger, spices, honey and orange zest. Set the food processor to chop and pulse until the ingredients form a rough paste. Do not over-process. The mixture should not be completely smooth, but you should be able to form it into balls.
Step 2
Pour some of the sugar onto a plate. Take a heaping teaspoon of the mixture, and with the palms of your hands, roll it into a ball. Roll the ball in the sugar, so that it is coated with sugar and place on a wire rack. Repeat this step until all of the mixture is formed into balls.
Step 3
Roll each of the balls in the sugar a second time. Leave them on the wire rack to dry out a bit, for a few hours or overnight.

Package in festive paper cones or boxes, then enjoy!

If you enjoy making treats and cooking with your child, there are more fun recipes in many of our educational, hands-on learning boxes. They make great gifts, there are lots to choose from and they come in variations for Kids (ages 5-9), Teens (ages 10-15) and Young Adults (ages 16+).

Learn more about our individual boxes here!

Sugarplums! Recipe for a Victorian Holiday Treat

Photo by Tim Riesner on Unsplash


It is thousands, maybe even tens of thousands of years ago. You are living somewhere in the Northern Hemisphere.  

Suddenly, the animals are scarce, either because they have left or hidden themselves away.  The plants you have gathered are withering, their leaves drifting to the ground. Each day, the night seems to come sooner and end a little later. Why does this happen, you might wonder?  What if the light and warmth never return? What will happen to you, with no light, no warmth, no food. 

With no other answers, you might find yourself praying to some sort of sun deity.  

Now, of course, we know that axial tilt causes seasons.  We have the winter solstice in December if you live in the Northern Hemisphere, or in June if you live in the Southern Hemisphere.  Either way, for thousands of years or longer, people have celebrated holidays around this time. As you circle the globe, you can find many monuments to this astronomical phenomenon. 

Photo by Hello I’m Nik 🇬🇧 on Unsplash

  • Stonehenge might be the most famous, but it’s not the only one or even the oldest. 
  • Newgrange in Ireland and Maeshowe in Scotland are 5000 year old sites where the winter solstice sun illuminates a darkened chamber. 
  • The Goseck Circle in Germany is even older, dating back to the 49th century BC/BCE. 

And, Europeans weren’t the only ones building solar temples.  

  • Mexico has Tulum.
  • Peru has the Cerro del Gentil Pyramid.
  • Guatemala has at least two Mayan solar temples: Uaxactun and Ceibel.  
  • In Missouri, you have a circle of woodposts dubbed “Woodhenge,” built by the Cahokia to align with the winter solstice. 

Exciting new research in Australia shows evidence that the Wadda Wurrung people built a stone circle (well really more of an egg shape) aligned towards to position of the sun on the winter and summer solstices.  It’s at least 200 years old, but likely thousands of years older or even 20,000 years old. If it’s as old as the latter estimate, it would be the oldest solar observation monument ever discovered. Sadly, its significance was lost because of the Australian government’s laws forbidding traditional languages and practices in the early 20th century. 

Clearly, sunlight has played an important role in many civilizations throughout history. If you’re looking for a party, the winter solstice is a pretty good time. This is especially true in countries far from the equator, the winters were long and hard.  

Some winter solstice party trivia:

  • In places like the Scandinavian peninsula (Norway, Sweden, and Denmark), harsh winters meant slaughtering most of the livestock to reduce the number of mouths to feed.  This sudden supply of lots of fresh meat right around the solstice made it a great time for feasting.  

  • Nordic and Germanic peoples believed that the sun was a giant wheel that rolled away from the earth as the days got shorter and started rolling back toward the earth beginning with the winter solstice.  They called this wheel “houl,” which might be how the name Juul, or Yule, came about.  

  • Before Christianity came along, it was a time to decorate trees with fruit and candles to honor Odin and burn a huge log on the hearth.  

  • The Druids of the Celtic people sacrificed a white bull and gathered mistletoe. Mistletoe was sacred to the Vikings as well, and in the Norse Eddas, it is a symbol of peace and the love goddess, Frigga. 

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

  • It was a time of battle between the Holly King and the Oak King, an event sometimes reenacted by modern Wiccans.  

  • You also have the Roman Saturnalia, a five day festival honoring Saturn, the god of agricultural bounty.  It was a period of feasting, gift-giving, role reversing, and decoration with greenery. They even hung tin ornaments on trees and bushes. Cross-dressing was encouraged and slaves were given special privileges.  Normal rules were suspended, so you might even see some naked carolers. In the final centuries of the Roman Empire, some revelers celebrated the festival of Dies Natalis Solis Invicti, or the Birthday of the Unconquerable Sun, on December 25. 

Like solar temples, these parties weren’t limited to European cultures.  


People celebrated the return of Ra, the sun god, by bringing palm fronds into their homes as a symbol of resurrection and birth. 

Some people even say the fruitcake has ancient Egyptian roots, as they put a dense cake heavily studded with fruit into the tombs of loved ones. Does fruitcake last as long as a mummy? Who knows? 


A winter solstice festival called Dongzhi dates back to the 8th century BC/BCE.  During the Qin Dynasty, the winter solstice marked the beginning of the new year.  The Tang and Song dynasties turned Dongzhi into a time to honor and worship ancestors, which is how the holiday is celebrated today. It is a time when Ying and Yang begin to balance themselves again.  In Northern China, they eat foods considered high in Yang (heat) like fatty meat dumplings spiced with ginger and garlic in hopes that they will stay warm and stave off illness. In Southern China, families feast on tangyuan, rice balls made with bean paste or meat and served in soup or broth.  Tangyuan symbolizes family unity and prosperity. The Winter Solstice also marks the beginning of the Nines of Winter, a period of nine sets of nine cold days. 


The Inca celebrated Inti Raymi, which is Quechua for Sun Festival.  Beginning around 1412, the Inca held a nine day festival of dancing and processions to ensure a good harvest and celebrate their origin story.  It was the most important festival in the city of Cusco, taking place on the main plaza. They honored the sun as a source of light, heat, and life. Men and women painted their faces yellow and wore deer heads as they played music and danced while priests lit a fire inside the temple of the sun. Catholic priests banned Inti Raymi in 1535, but the celebration has had a revival and is now once more celebrated throughout the Andes with a theatrical reenactment near the original site of Cusco. Those priests might be surprised to find out that the festival is sometimes held to coincide with the feast day of St. John the Baptist. Don’t forget, this is the southern hemisphere, so the winter solstice falls in June instead of December.  


The Zuni Pueblo of Western New Mexico celebrate Shalako. Outsiders don’t know much about Shalako traditions because the Zuni are a private people. However, we know that the ritual includes prayers for rain and agricultural blessings, and that the Zuni see their ritual as a duty not just to themselves, but to the entire world.  The Blackfeet of Montana traditionally celebrated the winter solstice with games and community dances, facing their tipis towards the rising winter sun. During the early reservation period, they moved their celebrations to Christmas Day or New Year’s Eve to comply with federal holidays, but their traditions have continued to this day. 

At your home, you might celebrate holidays old or new, including Hanukkah, Christmas, saints’ days for St. Lucia or Nicholas, Kwanzaa, Chalica. Whatever you do this December, remember that you are part of a long history of people waiting for the sun to return. 

Photo by BBC Creative on Unsplash

December Celebrations: A Light in the Darkness!

From all of us at History Unboxed, we are thankful for you, our customers. You are our “why” as we strive to make learning history a fun adventure.

pumpkin pie

Ah! on Thanksgiving day, when from East and from West,
From North and from South comes the pilgrim and guest;
When the gray-haired New Englander sees round his board
The old broken links of affection restored;
When the care-wearied man seeks his mother once more,
And the worn matron smiles where the girl smiled before;
What moistens the lip and what brightens the eye,
What calls back the past, like the rich Pumpkin pie?

by John Greenleaf Whittier (1807 – 1892)

Happy Thanksgiving 2019!

Courtesy of Guest Contributor, Grace Sammons

As the saying goes, everything old is new again.
Fashion is one of those things that has been, and always will be, relevant. No matter how many new trends there are, clothes are something we use each and every day. Fashion is always evolving, but sometimes something that seems new to us, isn’t really all that new. Fashion tends to repeat itself. A lot of the trends we know and love today, were the same trends that our grandparents loved too!

In this post, I thought it would be fun to share 7 interesting historic fashion facts!


Logos are one of the most current trends. Today we see just about every designer adding some sort of logo to their clothing, but logos weren’t always used. So when was the first fashion logo debuted?

In 1927 the French tennis legend Rene Lacoste, brought the famous embroidered crocodile logo to life. The logo was created as a reference to his nickname “The Alligator”. This nickname was given after the tennis star made a bet with his coach over a crocodile suitcase. However, even though the logo was born in 1927, it wasn’t until 1933 that Rene officially launched his classic brand Lacoste. The famous little logo is still used today.

Photo by Queens on Unsplash


Blue means boy, pink means girl, you know how it goes. Well did you know, this actually wasn’t always how it went? As recently as 100 years ago, blue was advertised as the go-to color for girls and pink was the ideal color for boys. The reasoning behind this was that blue was a more light, delicate color making it suitable for a girl, whereas pink was said to be a stronger, more manly color as it’s derived from red. It wasn’t until the 1940s, people widely started using pink and blue to mark the gender of babies the way we do today, with pink being for girls and blue for boys.

Photo by Picsea on Unsplash


Besides baby clothes, other clothes weren’t always specific to gender in the way they are now. Did you know that dresses and skirts were not always solely for girls? The skirt is actually the second oldest garment, with only underwear predating it. Up until the 1700s men wore them just as often as women did. After that time, wealthier families continued to dress their sons in skirts and dresses until they were about 4 or 5 years old. In fact, these dresses were styled in a way that we would consider as very girly and, the more lacey a dress was, the wealthier the family was.

Photo by eddie howell on Unsplash


Some fashion trends we still use today were actually designed with a purpose in mind. One of those trends is high heels. In the 16th and 17th century, women would wear shoes with extremely tall platforms. The platforms ranged in sizes but could often be up to 2 feet tall. During these times, women wore big dresses with rather large skirts so they would wear these platform shoes to keep the fabric from touching the ground. The platform shoes, also known as Chopines, were sometimes so tall and heavy that women needed servants just to help them balance! Isn’t that crazy?

Photo by Kevin Grieve on Unsplash


Our next fact might just make your squirm! So we’ve all heard of fur coats or snakeskin handbags right? Well did you know that in 1894 New Yorkers took it one step further and used real live chameleons as “living jewelry?” That’s right, you could go to the store and buy living chameleons to fasten on your scarf, bodice, or even necklace. Luckily stores quit selling them after the cruel trend was stopped by the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. When the trend was banned, there were over 10,000 little chameleons on the loose throughout New York City!

Photo by Pierre Bamin on Unsplash


There will always be some new shocking fashion trend for people to talk about, and in 1946 that trend was the bikini. The bikini was named after a US government site where they performed nuclear testing on 23 nuclear devices. The island was called Bikini Atoll. The designer of the bikini, Louis Reard, wanted the bikini to cause an ‘explosive’ reaction similar to the explosions that took place at the island in the Pacific Ocean. Reard released the famous 2 piece swimsuit on July 5, 1946 only 4 days after the United States initiated its first nuclear weapon test at Bikini Atoll. Due to its name Reard decided to create a two piece and it was so revolutionary and ‘booming’ because it was considered rather scandalous at the time.

Photo by iStock


Last but not least, have you ever wondered where the term “fashion police” comes from? Well as crazy as it seems, during the 1970s there actually were real fashion police! In South Korea, officers would measure the length of women’s skirts and dresses. These policemen would carry around a measuring tape and stop women on the street to measure the exact length of their garments. If the garments were considered to be too short, women could get fined or sometimes even arrested.
Photo by Sandie Clarke on Unsplash

As a lover of fashion I found these facts to be rather interesting and I hope you enjoyed them just as much as I did! So now when you see a women in heels or a baby in blue, you know just how the trend started.

What fun fashion fact did you find the most interesting?

Fashion and History: 7 Fun Facts!

When we study history, it’s so often in isolation, making it difficult to see where various events overlap.  For example, in the United States, we often study American history entirely independently of other events in the world. To Americans, that 600 – or so – year span of events that involved our nation seems vast.

But there is more. Much more. 

In the magazines included in every History Unboxed box, we also offer a quick snapshot of what else is going on in the world. And often, we find some truly incredible things….

Let’s start with something that began 80,000 years ago. First, 80,000 years is a very, very long time. That’s like all of American history, from the earliest explorers to now, times about 135.

  • 80,000 years ago
    A male quaking aspen, today known as Pando or the Trembling Giant began growing. It is a clonal organism, which means that it looks like a forest but is actually a single genetic entity with one shared root system. Pando started growing just about the time that humans left the African continent for the first time.  Pando is still alive today, although it has not grown significantly in decades or flowered in about 10,000 years.

Seems, some trees live a very, very long time. Here’s another fun fact.

  • 5,063 years ago: The world’s oldest single living tree, a Great Basin bristlecone pine, started growing.  It was a young tree during the Harappa period of the Indus Valley.

We tend to think of wooly mammoths as “pre-historic” and we know that ancient Egypt was highly civilized, but check this out…

  • 1700 BC/BCE: The last wooly mammoth died out. This means that wooly mammoths still roamed the earth when the Great Pyramid of Egypt was built (2580 BC/BCE), and the cities of Babylon, Uruk, Harappa, and Mohenjo-Daro were at their peaks.
  • 1342 BC/BCE: King Tutankhamun was born.  The Great Pyramid was already over 1200 years old.

And what is the relationship – time-wise- between the beginnings of Buddhism, the Roman Empire and Harvard University?

  • 288 BC/BCE: Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi, a fig tree, was planted in Sri Lanka. It was said to be from a branch of the tree under which the Buddha sat when he attained enlightenment. The branch was brought to Sri Lanka by Ashoka‘s daughter. It is still living today.
  • 483-384 BCE The Buddha died either in 483 or 400 BC/BCE.  Confucius, Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle all lived within 100 years of Siddartha Gautama’s life.
  • 69 BC/BCE: Cleopatra VII (love of Julius Caesar) was born.  That means the last Egyptian pharaoh lived closer to our time than to the time when the pyramids were built.
  • 1636 AD/CE: Harvard University founded.  Galileo was still alive, and would be for six more years.
  • 1453 AD/CE: The Roman Empire (eastern) finally fell. That means that people born in the Roman Empire were still alive when Columbus landed in the Americas, just about 40 years later.

And, even if we are sticking to American history, how far in the past -really-  is slavery and the Civil War?

  • 1865 AD/CE: The American Civil War ended. The first commercial fax service launched.
  • 1913 AD/CE: Rosa Parks was born in February. Harriet Tubman died in March, just over a month later.
  • 1971 AD/CE: The last African American born into slavery died. His name was Sylvester Magee.*
  • 2012 AD/CE: Mississippi ratified the 13th amendment (the one which abolished slavery)
  • 2018 AD/CE: As of November 2018, there was still one Civil War pension being paid out, to the daughter of a Civil War veteran who fought first for the Confederacy and then for the union. Irene Triplett receives a pension of $73 per month.

Which one of these historical facts surprised you the most?

*Sylvester Magee claimed his birth date was 1841. His claims have never fully been proven, but they’ve never been proved false either.

Totally Mind Blowing Timeline Truths!

Ewwww!!! or Ahhhh!!!??? 

Although popular in some ancient cultures, bathing fell out of favor in Europe during the Middle Ages. (Imagine how you would smell after a few days, not to mention a few months!) 

You see, people believed bathing was a health risk. They didn’t understand how germs spread and thought disease could enter the body’s pores from sitting in dirty water. 

The Church did not help the cause of personal cleanliness either, concluding that bath houses were dens of sin.  While it didn’t stop Charlemagne, it stopped plenty of other people from regular bathing.  

For starters, for your next time traveling adventure, I’d make sure to visit a time and place with acceptable bath houses in good working order. After all not all of the past was sweaty and smelly. In fact, the word “hygiene” comes from Hygeia, the Greek Goddess of Health. The ancient Greeks must have taken hygiene seriously… they pioneered showers!

If you are looking for some more sweet, clean time travel tips, here is some info to help you.

Did you know:

  • Neanderthals used shells to tweeze their hair
  • The Jomon people of Japan trained their dogs to use pit toilets
  • Mohenjo-Daro had a sewer system
  • Evidence of soap goes all the way back to Babylon
  • Wealthy Romans began wiping their derrieres around 300 BC/BCE, with wool and rosewater.
  • The Romans had hot water in their public baths
  • Charlemagne enjoyed bath parties…sometimes with as many as a hundred men
  • Steam bathing was popular in medieval China and Japan
  • The miswak, a stick used for brushing teeth during the Islamic Empire, has been shown to be as effective as tooth brushing in a modern study

Not so bad, right?! Now, if we can get our kids to brush their teeth, and our dogs to poop outside, we will be right up there with the cleanest people in history!

Gross and the Glorious: History Hygiene Habits

Photo by Beth Teutschmann on Unsplash

With October coming to an end, for many people, it’s time to carve pumpkins into Jack O’ Lanterns. Have you ever wondered where this fascinating tradition comes from? In this post let’s take a dive into the history of the Jack O’ Lantern.

It all starts with an Irish folktale called The Legend of Stingy Jack

So who exactly is this “Stingy Jack?”

As the story goes, Jack lived in a small Irish village. He was known among the villagers as a drunk and not a very nice person. In fact, the Devil himself heard many rumors about Jack and became jealous of his wicked reputation. So, the Devil decided to pay Jack a visit and see if the rumors were true. 

As usual, Jack had been drinking. Stumbling home, he came upon the Devil waiting for him. Jack soon realized this was his time. Thinking quickly Jack convinced the Devil to take him to a pub to get one last drink before he has to Hades. 

The two sat in the pub having drink after drink. Finally it was time to pay, but Jack did not want to pay for his drinks so he convinced the Devil, yet again. Since the Devil had no cash, Jack persuaded him to turn into a silver coin to pay the bartender for their drinks. Jack slipped this coin into his pocket. Inside Jack’s pocket there was also a crucifix. This crucifix prevented the Devil from being able to change back into his original form. 

Jack made a deal with the Devil. He would take the coin away from the crucifix so the Devil could regain his form as long as he promised not to bother Jack for an entire year and, if Jack were to die, the Devil would not claim his soul. The Devil agreed and Jack let him free.

Sure enough, one full year passes and the Devil returns.

Jack was able to fool him before, so he thought he’d try again. This time Jack tells the Devil that before he goes, he would like to eat an apple. The Devil foolishly grants Jack his wish and climbs a nearby apple tree to fetch Jack an apple. While he is climbing, Jack surrounds the base of the tree with crucifixes, preventing the Devil from climbing down. Jack makes another deal with the Devil. Only this time, he makes him promise to leave him alone for ten whole years and still not claim his soul if he dies. The Devil agrees yet again.

Not long after, Jack finally dies, due to his heavy drinking. Jack knew the Devil was not coming to take him to Hades so he prepared himself to enter Heaven. However once he arrives at Heaven’s gates, he is denied entry, due to his sinful ways. Jack didn’t know what to do so he went down to the gates of Hades and begged the Devil to let him in, but the Devil had to keep his promise and denied him entry. Upon turning him away, the Devil gave Jack a hollowed out turnip with a single ember inside of it to guide Jack as he roamed the netherworld for the rest of eternity. 

I know what you’re thinking. The story had nothing to do with pumpkins, so where did that aspect of the tradition come from? Well, centuries ago, the Irish would tell the tale and then carve grimacing faces into turnips and potatoes. They would place them by their front doors in hopes to scare away Stingy Jack and other wandering spirits. Over time, Irish immigrants brought the story to America, the home of the pumpkin, and we soon discovered that pumpkins are perfect for carving Jack O’ Lanterns.

Fun tips for carving!

  • Use A Template!
    When carving your pumpkin, it is a smart idea to plan out your design! Whether you print out a design or draw your own it is a good idea to plan ahead.
  • Get the correct tools.
    Carving a pumpkin can be easy with the right tools. Many stores sell pumpkin carving kits. Make sure your tools are sharp and sturdy enough to carve into the famous fruit. 
  • Paint, don’t carve.
    If you don’t want to risk carving out the perfect face, you can always opt for painting. Go to your local craft store and buy simple acrylic paints and paint a face onto your pumpkin.


The Story of Jack (AKA, Mr. O’Lantern)

by Stephanie Hanson

Happy Indigenous Peoples Day! Or, as you might call it where you live, Columbus Day. 

Why are some areas changing the name of this federal holiday? Let’s take a closer look at Christopher Columbus and find out! 

When you were growing up, did you learn a poem about how “In fourteen hundred and ninety-two, Columbus sailed the ocean blue?”  The poem goes on to describe the very nice Arawak natives and how Columbus was brave and bright. You might have learned that he was “brave and bright” because he believed the world was round when everyone else thought it was flat, and so he had the idea to sail west across the ocean to reach India.  Everyone told him he would sail off the end of the earth.  

Well, not exactly. 

You see, educated people at that time already knew the earth was a sphere.  The ancient Greeks had figured that one out. The Greek mathematician Erastothenes had even calculated the circumference of the earth to within less than 50 miles. It was pretty clear that it was shorter to go across Europe and Asia than it was to sail the other way.  So why did Columbus do it? Well, he thougth Erastothenes had it wrong. Columbus figured the earth was actually much smaller, and pear-shaped. If he was right, he could just sail around the smaller part of the earth and discover a much quicker trade route.

Brave? Sure. Bright? You decide.  

How about those very nice natives?  Well, he did in fact write home about how pleasant the people were and how easy they were to enslave.  He got started right away, sending enslaved indigenous people back to Europe. In just eight years, he and his brother sold almost 1,500 Islanders across the Atlantic. He wasn’t kind to his own people either.  One Spanish woman reminded him that he was just the son of a weaver, so he had her tongue cut out. Ouch.  

But, he discovered America, right?  Well, sort of. He died denying that he’d discovered a new continent.  That’s why the United States isn’t in a continent called North Columbia.  Amerigo Vespucci proved that these lands were actually previously unknown to Europeans and therefore got the credit. The Vikings had visited and stayed for a bit a few hundred years previously.  And of course, millions of people already lived in the Americas.  

He IS an important historical figure.  While he wasn’t the first person or even the first European to land on the shores of the New World, his arrival signaled the beginning of European conquest and changed the world forever.

For the Europeans, that was generally a good thing. 

For indigenous nations, it marked the beginning of an apocalyptic age.

The Taino people who lived on an island called Hispaniola by the Spanish saw their population go from 400,000 to just 200 people within a single lifetime. Because of both the direct impact of Columbus’ policies and the indirect consequence of European conquest, many modern indigenous people have pushed to change the meaning of the second Monday in October.  Instead of honoring this man, they want us to remember the people who have been here for thousands of years and live here still. All over the country, alternate celebrations now take place as cities or states make the switch from Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples Day.  

Happy Indigenous People’s Day!

by Stephanie Hanson

Unless you have been hiding under the proverbial rock, you have heard of the television series Game of Thrones. Known for its high body count and fantasy setting, the series is widely popular.

But did you know that Game of Thrones is based on the book series, A Song of Ice and Fire, written by George R.R. Martin? And, did you know that Martin was inspired by the works of J.R.R. Tolkien (Hmm… check out those middle initials!) and the War of the Roses, as well as other historic events.

Want to have a little fun?!!!

Let’s take Game of Thrones and find its location in history.  The War of the Seven Kings is based on the English War of the Roses, another war of succession between noble families.

!!! Spoiler Alert: This post discusses the entire plot of Game of Thrones as we know it.

First, there is Henry VI.

Henry VI, like Aerys Targaryen, was mentally unstable. He did not light his enemies on fire, but he did not do the best job ruling either.  He died without an heir, possibly murdered. 

Next, there is Edward IV.

Edward IV was young and handsome, just like a young Robert Baratheon. However, like Baratheon, he became stout and inactive in his middle age. Some say he was poisoned, others that he was simply in poor health.  He left behind a wife (Elizabeth Woodville, unpopular because of her swift rise to power through marriage) and children, including his heir, Edward V. He also had two brothers. Of the two, one was amiable, but not particularly sharp. The other was highly focused and would do anything – even murder children – to seize the throne.

With me so far? Guess who became king…


The ruthless sibling ascended to become Richard III. 

And, to eliminate any challengers to the throne, Edward’s sons mysteriously disappeared, allegedly murdered in the Tower of London by the orders of their uncle.  That sounds a bit familiar–Robert Baratheon’s brothers both made plays for the throne, one affable and shallow and the other ruthless. Neither set of children came out alive. And of course, no one has much love for Robert’s widow, the ever ambitious Cersei.

Can we spot any other historical inspiration? 

There’s more…

  • Martin has said that the Iron Islands are based on the marauding Vikings, while the Mongols might be the inspiration for the Dothraki. 
  • How about some of the epic battles?  The fictional Battle of Blackwater Bay bears a close resemblance to the Second Arab Siege of Constantinople. In that siege, the Byzantines used Greek Fire to repel the invaders. 
  • Greek Fire was a substance that burst into flame upon contact with water, perhaps a mixture of naptha and quicklime. It sounds an awful lot like the wildfire used by Tyrion.  
  • The Byzantines also used a barrier chain, much like the ones used against Stannis’ navy. But surely, there was no real wall to keep barbaric races away from civilization.  Actually, there was. The Romans built Hadrian’s Wall in northern England to keep out the Picts and other ancient Britons.
  • The bloody Battle of the Bastards even has its roots in reality.  The pincer movement of Bolton’s army is a Macedonian Phalanx, based on tactics used by Philip II and his son, Alexander the Great. The actual battle was based on an ancient battle between Hannibal’s Carthaginians and the Roman Empire’s army.

How did the Wars of the Roses end? Finally, a  Lancaster ruler came from over the sea where he had lived in exile.  His emblem? The dragon. Henry Tudor, who became Henry VII, defeated Richard III at Bosworth Field, and married Edward IV’s daughter, Elizabeth. This marriage united the Lancaster and Tudor houses, ending decades of civil war.

So how does the body count in Game of Thrones stack up to reality?  About 1 in 4 noble Englishmen died violently in the 15th century. That sounds about right.  

And to think, there are those who think history is dull!

Game of Thrones Unboxed!!!

by Carol Bettencourt, History Unboxed Marketing Manager

There is a lot of talk these days about the value of STEM – science, technology, engineering and math – in education. Proponents of a STEM-based education argue that:

>       To remain competitive, countries must educate their next generation of innovators, engineers and scientists.

>       Job prospects and income tend to be higher for those with STEM-based degrees.

>       STEM skills are essential to solving lots of the world’s problems, such as environmental changes and an expanding population.

All of these things are true, but where does that leave subjects like history? Is the study of the past soon to be relegated to the past?

The answer is an emphatic “NO!”

Of course, STEM subjects are critical, but it really should not be an either/or question. Studying history and understanding the past is critical to understanding the future, and even to understanding the value of STEM in the future.

As I write this blog post, I notice that on this day in history, September 28, 1928, Sir Alexander Fleming discovered a bacteria-killing mold growing in his laboratory. This eventually lead to the isolation of the mold’s active ingredient in the 1940s by Howard Florey and Ernst Chain, leading to the development of the now widely-used drug, penicillin.  So is this information something to be passed along in a science class or a history class?

Clearly, it is both.

Without an understanding of the history of disease and its devastating effects on entire populations, would scientists be as inspired to pursue cures and remedies? Without understanding the historical context of scientific theories and past research, would today’s STEM experts be as ably equipped? And, without a general understanding of science and technology, would those in non-STEM professions be fully equipped to be informed voters and responsible citizens?

In short, the choice isn’t which “type” of education, STEM or otherwise, is best. The question is, do we want to raise our children to be well-rounded adults, not only capable of performing a job, but fully prepared to think, reason and ensure that the world remains a good place.

“The school is the last expenditure upon which America should be willing to economize.”

~Franklin D. Roosevelt

STEM, History and Penicillin…What?!!!

Dear Customers,

Fall of 2018 marks our 3rd year of business and it’s been a fabulous whirlwind.

We have grown from a company where I was working out of my basement to one that employs designers, historians, artists, and fulfillment teams across the USA. We’ve shipped enough apple mummification kits to probably actually mummify a body. We’ve heard from so many customers about how our boxes has made history real, tangible, and memorable for their students. What a fulfilling few years it has been!

During this time, our products have changed dramatically.

Jamestown Horn Book
My original concept of sending a few print outs and a single simple craft project has grown based on your feedback. We have overhauled our original boxes to be as full as our newest ones and now every box contains the fruit of more than a hundred hours of professional work and multiple craft kits and souvenirs; many of which are made from historic materials or sourced from authentic sites.

How cool is it that when you open Ancient Australia Unboxed the boomerang you receive is made by aboriginal craftsmen in Australia? Or when you decorate with Rangoli art from Mauryan Empire Unboxed the kit comes from tradesmen in India? Or when you put together a horn book in Jamestown Unboxed you are using real horn and wood – not a make-and-toss kit of cardboard and plastic? That’s huge. Your student is holding real, meaningful items and that deepens their connection with the lesson in a noticeable way. Also, pat yourself on the back, because you just helped native craftsmen continue to earn their living sharing their native crafts.

But that’s not all that has changed dramatically.

During our time in business the cost of materials, packaging, and shipping has risen considerably. I am a mother of 6 home educated children, and keeping our products affordable is close to home.

However, it is time to put on my business hat and acknowledge that History Unboxed can only thrive if I am able to pay myself as well as cover our costs. We need to adjust our product prices to reflect this reality.

Our new prices will go into effect Tuesday, August 13th:

  • Off the Shelf boxes: $54.95 ea plus shipping calculated by weight and zone
  • Subscriptions: $44.95 per month plus flat rate shipping calculated by zone
  • Sibling Add-Ons: $32.97 per month plus free shipping
  • Longer duration subscriptions (quarterly and annual) will receive a small discount as noted on the website

If you are a current subscriber: your subscription cost Will Not increase for as long as you keep your current subscription active. However, your shipping cost will be adjusted as of your next billing cycle.

I am elated to have crafted products that mean so much to so many people, and I want you to know that when you purchase from us the money that you spend is not only going to developing more high quality products, but also to supporting the families of artists, graphic designers, packing professionals, history teachers, and myself.

Thank you for being my customer.

3 Years in Biz and New Pricing

Are you ready to make history this holiday season?

For the first time ever, we're offering what some of our customers will call a dream come true: Custom Subscriptions!

Oh boy, we are excited to announce this! For a limited time only, you can mix-and-match to your heart's content, and build a 3-, 4-, 5- or 6-month subscription with ANY of our boxes! 

That's right: want to send your favorite student Ancient Egypt one month and Powhatan the next? Now you can!

Boxes in gift subscriptions will ship mid-December if you order by December 14th, and in January if ordered after that.

In your order notes, you can specify the order you'd like the boxes to arrive in; otherwise you can leave it up to us!

And another great option for the holiday season: Gift Boxes!

Give the gift of Whatever Box They Want! 

This purchase covers any box on our site plus its shipping, and your lucky student can redeem it themselves whenever they're ready. 

After your purchase is confirmed, we'll send you a festive PDF with a discount code that can be printed or emailed. 

Holiday gift subscriptions are here!

Welcome to our new site!

We are SO excited to launch our new website. Not only does it look and feel better, but it will be so much simpler for YOU our subscribers!

Here's what you need to know:

Individual purchasers:

    If you have bought from us before (either boxes or subscriptions!) and gave us your email address, then you already have an account in this new system! But you need to reset your password. Go here to the password reset page, enter your email address, and check your email for instructions.
    If you placed an order over the phone, there's a good chance you didn't give us your email address and therefore don't have an account. No problem, just create one! Boom.
    If you're an active subscriber, you will see the details of your current subscription in your account. You can make changes to it there.
    If you're a past subscriber or purchaser, you will not see past orders in your account. Sorry! But all future orders will be logged there.

Charter schools:

    If you had created an account in the old system, you can do the same password reset above to see if you've been migrated. If you didn't (because you were just emailing us your orders and didn't make one) just create a new one! You'll need one from now on.
    You no longer have to fill a cart and then email us! You can now complete PO orders right here on the site and download the invoice directly from your account page. Very exciting.
    There's a special shop page for you, linked from the Charter page here. It has all the customization you need for charter orders.
    You will need us to mark your account as a Charter in our system! Fill out the contact form after you create your account, letting us know your school and the email address you're using, and we'll set you up with permissions and the password for the Charter shop.

Any trouble? Email us!

We hope you find the site as amazingly fresh and simple to use as we do.

Welcome to our new site!