by Katie Julius

While many homeschoolers take off the summer from traditional academics, if you’re like me, you’re always looking for opportunities to learn, no matter the season. Every four years, the Summer Olympics are held, hosting thousands of athletes from more than 200 teams, with representation from all six inhabited continents. For several weeks this summer, leading up to the Opening Ceremonies of the Games of XXXIII Olympiad (as it’s formally known), we will share some ways that you can involve your entire family in learning as you watch and cheer on your favorite athletes and the countries they represent.

The Games of the XXXIII Olympiad officially begin Saturday, July 26, 2024 in Paris, France, with competitions being contested in 46 sports over 19 days (a few sports start before the official Opening Ceremony).

The Ancient Olympics

The modern day Olympics have their roots in Ancient Greece, but the Games of the ancient world were very different from what fills our television screens today. Check out the International Olympic Committee’s website about the Ancient Olympic Games. They have information about the city of Olympia, the history of the Games, the athletes, sports, prizes, and more (Content Warning: This website contains depictions [drawings] of men without clothing as they compete in Olympic sports).

You and your kids can compare and contrast these ancient Games with our modern ones. How are things different? How are they still the same? You could host your own ancient-inspired Olympics (girls and clothes encouraged!) featuring the sports (or versions of them) and the crown of leaves as the prize for the winner.

If you haven’t explored Ancient Greece in your history yet, you could take some time this summer to do that. There are lots of unit studies (or parts of them), ranging in ages and length that could give you and your kids a taste of the culture that these athletes were competing in. Crafts, foods, activities, literature, music, arts, and more fill these guides. Pick and choose the things that interest and fit the needs of your family.

Here are a few free or low cost resources if you want to dive deeper into Greek history:

Field of Daisies Ancient Greece History Curriculum

Evan-Moor History Pockets: Ancient Greece (Grades 4-6)

Easy Peasy All-in-One Homeschooling: Ancient Greece Lapbook

Heritage History Ancient Greece Study Guide

The Modern Olympics

After a centuries long hiatus, the modern Olympic Games began in 1896, again in Greece. For this first Olympiad, women were still excluded from competition, but were allowed to participate in 1900 in Paris.

Pick one of the host cities to learn more about. Which cities have hosted more than once? Have there been any years there the Olympics were skipped or boycotted? Why? How is the host city chosen?

How many countries competed that first year? Create a map comparing the countries who participated in 1896 in Athens to those competing in 2024 in Paris. 

Olympic Symbols

Rings: Learn about the symbolism of the Olympic rings. What do the colors represent? Create artwork inspired by the rings.

Torch: While not part of the earliest modern Olympics, the torch ceremony, relay, and lighting has become an important tradition of the months leading up to and including the Opening Ceremony.

Explore the tradition of the lighting of the torch in Athens each year. Track the relay on a map (either a world map or more detailed country maps). Learn about the torchbearers for the 2024 Olympics. Who do you think might be the final torch bearer who lights the cauldron in Paris on July 26 (it’s usually kept under wraps, but traditionally is an important Olympian or icon for the host country)?

Medals: An upgrade from the ancient Games’ leaf crown, the top three finishers in each discipline receive a medal of either gold, silver, or bronze. The medals of each Games are designed by the host country to incorporate their culture and tradition into both the medal and the ribbon that drapes the athlete’s neck. Check out the designs for Paris 2024 (they each include a small piece of the Eiffel Tower!) and those from past Games. Which is your favorite and why? Design your own medals as if your city or town were playing host to the Olympics. What important elements would you include?

We hope you will find a few activities that your family will enjoy as we countdown to the start of the Paris 2024 Games on July 24! Does your family have any fun traditions to celebrate or learn about the Olympics?