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Parents are caught up in son's studies

March 02, 2007|by LISA PREJEAN

"Parents hung a bead between their baby's eyes to make him this."

Cross-eyed.

"Why did they do that?"

Because they thought it was beautiful.

I was walking through the kitchen as my husband was quizzing our son for his history test on ancient Mayan culture.

"They also put their babies' heads between boards so they would become cone-shaped," our son explained with a smile. (He obviously enjoyed learning this fact. The thought of cone-shaped children seems like something from science fiction rather than from an ancient civilization.)

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"That's really strange," my husband said, shaking his head as he continued asking our son questions.

Strange, yes, and yet very interesting.

After the study session was over, my husband had difficulty pulling himself away from the history book.

Later I walked through the kitchen again and saw the book on the table.

"Tristan, your history book is still on the table," I called to my son in the next room.

He called back, "Yeah, Mom, I know. Dad wouldn't give it up."

I had to smile as I picked up the book and placed it beside my son's bookbag.

It is fun to learn things together as a family. At times I feel as if I'm in school again. The concepts that my children are learning for the first time are being reviewed for their father and me as we study them together.

Children are fascinated with ancient civilizations such as the Mayans, who had one of the most advanced early civilizations of the Western Hemisphere. They lived in modern-day Central America and Mexico.

The Mayans built massive, beautiful temples for worship and were advanced in arithmetic, art, literature, architecture and astronomy. Their hieroglyphic inscriptions provide a record of births, wars, marriages and deaths of the Mayan kings.

The Mayans were conquered by Spanish armies, and the diseases the Spanish brought with them, in the 1500s.

Many developments we enjoy today were handed down from the Mayans. Here are just a few:

· The concept of zero. This enabled the Mayans to perform difficult calculations and to keep good records. Can you imagine a world without the number zero.

· Hot chocolate. Only the rich could afford this delicacy that was often served at the tables of kings and noblemen. Poor people could not afford this beverage because it was made of money, literally. (The Mayans used cocoa beans as money.)

· Dental work. Mayans filed their teeth into points and inlaid them with jade. They also believed that if they put jade in a dead person's mouth, that person would have money in the next life.

· Earrings. The Mayans liked to have pierced ears. Males sliced holes in their ears and then wore plugs in the holes. They kept inserting larger plugs to make the holes bigger until the holes were about the size of golf balls.

· Vanity, vanity. The men would carry mirrors so they could check their appearance frequently. (You never know when a cone-headed female is going to be looking.)

Most of the information for this column came from the Heritage Studies 6 textbook and workbook that my husband left on the kitchen table. (Yeah, I had a tough time giving it up, too.)

Lisa Tedrick Prejean writes a weekly column for The Herald-Mail's Family page. Send e-mail to her at lisap@herald-mail.com.

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