Ok, so even the Centers for Disease Control has a plan for the Zombie Apocalypse. And while it has been demonstrated that homeschoolers have an advantage over the general population in such an event, preparedness is key to survival. Be advised that the neighbors may think you a bit weird as you prepare for the end of the world. But you homeschool. You should be used to it by now.
Know Thy Enemy, What is a Zombie?
Before preparing your survival strategy, you have to know what you are fighting. Since all zombie apocalyspe scenarios are based on more modern film and novel adaptations, expect undead corpses lumbering about trying to eat your brains. The history of the zombie is actually a rather interesting study on its own, but I’ll get into that later. First thing’s first: surviving the attack. Then you’ll have time to read about their origins.
- They’re dead. Even if they look like your Great Aunt Martha, they’re already dead so you aren’t really killing Great Aunt Martha.
- They want to eat your brains. This does not help with your general survival.
- A bite might turn you into a zombie. It kind of depends on which movie you watch.
- They are slow.
- You have to destroy the head to stop them. Though they do slow down as they start losing limbs.
- They are strong. Or at least persistent.
- They can’t really think. Outwitting them isn’t all that hard.
Preparing Your Home for the Zombie Apocalypse
OK, so this is pretty pointless. It might seem like a good idea to board up the windows and stockpile food, but in every zombie movie I’ve ever seen, it doesn’t work. It’s not that they’re strong or especially hard to kill. There are just so many of them. They keep coming and coming and coming and the wear and tear on your defensive barricades takes a toll. Eventually, they get through.
Lock your doors, shutter your windows, slow them down. But know that you are only slowing them down. Hopefully, you will know they are coming before they get there, but no one wants to wake up in the middle of the night to a zombie shuffling down the hall toward their room. A few simple barriers will ensure that you are awake and ready before the first breach. A good alarm system is vital here.
Practice Escape Plans
Spend a lesson mapping your home, marking all exits. Practice crawling out windows from every level in your home. Know the nearest escape route from every point and alternate exits if that way is blocked. Come up with a place to meet that is close and easy to reach, preferably on a hill so you can see the incoming zombies before they get too close. Have weapons conveniently placed around the house in case you have to fight your way through and so that you can grab them on the way out.
Choose Your Weapons
Not everyone has a shot gun and even if you do, you will run out of ammo eventually. Fire extinguishers, bats, machetes and axes are all good choices. Actually, an ax is an excellent choice because when you aren’t fighting off zombies, you can use it to cut wood for a fire. Multipurpose everything is good because you have to travel fast and you have to travel light.
Get in Shape
Zombies are not particularly fast. They do have an uncanny ability to just appear out of nowhere, especially between screen shots. It is vital to develop a quick sprint to attain some distance between you and a zombie and then endurance so you can make your escape. Practice by doing wind sprints in the backyard with the children. A solid 10 meter dash will do you wonders. Appoint the person responsible for the toddler and have him or her practice scooping up the child and sprinting in one motion.
The ability to weave and spin is also critical. When you are running down a city street with zombies oozing out from between the parked cars, you have to be able to dodge and run. Set up an obstacle course and practicing running, climbing and crawling while family members throw balls at you.
Once you’ve mastered it, do it again with a backpack full of books. Because if you ever have to run from a zombie, you will have to carry all of your supplies with you.
Packing Your Zombie Apocalypse Survival Bag
You need some basic things for survival. Brainstorm everything you would need to be on the run for a month. You can’t carry it all with you. What would you need to get through the first couple of days? What would you need to turn your environment into a source of food, water and shelter? What would you need to continue your survival for years if you make it deep into the hillls where the zombies will never find you? Fortunately, there are guides out there for basic zombie survival kits. What would you add?
Get to Know Your Local Geography
Study local maps. Get out and walk around your neighborhood. Venture out into the woods and through parks. Be ever observant of places to hide, places that might provide shelter and terrain that is maybe a little easier to navigate. Get intimate with your surroundings and train yourself to look closely and observe everything. Explore in all directions and venture further from home as you memorize the landscape. Plan routes on physical maps. GPS will only work as long as your battery holds out. Learn to use a compass. Study the night sky and the constellations of each season. Learn to identify the North Star so that you can travel at night, even if you can’t see the compass.
Familiarize yourself with the weather patterns of your area. You won’t have the weatherman to help you here. You are going to have to learn to read the clouds, the direction of the wind and subtle temperature changes that make up your local weather.
Study the Local Flora and Fauna
Especially study edible plants and toxic plants. Know what seasons the edible plants of your area are available so you know what to look for. Start foraging now so that you will know where to find foods that will sustain you on the run. It will also give you identification practice so that you might recognize lunch while trotting away from a herd of zombies. Practice reaching down for a handful of dandelion greens while running and nibbling on them as you go. Find out what animals are most abundant and how to hunt them. Start learning their habits and game trails before you need to know them. Practice building snares and traps and anything else that would help you hunt on the run. But don’t practice actually using them. It’s illegal to just go around snaring rabbits in a city park.
Watch survival shows for more ideas on how to survive in any environment.
Learn to Fight
Zombies fall apart pretty easily. Knocking off limbs will slow them down considerably. Crushing the head will stop them. Make duct tape weapons to practice with in the backyard. Invite your neighbors for an all out war. But don’t hit your neighbors in the head. That isn’t nice. If you do that, they might not help you with anything when the zombies attack. Pinatas are a nice substitute. Hang up pinatas and practice bashing them in.
Practice Building Shelters
Zombies don’t climb that well, so hanging hammocks high in trees is a good option, especially if you are alone and have no one to share watches with. But since you are a homeschool family, I’ll assume you have at lease one person to take shifts with. Practice putting up your hammock quickly so that you get maximum sleep. Learn to make basic shelters out of the materials commonly found in your area. Protecting yourself from the wind and rain could be critical to maintaining your health. It is no fun to try to outrun a zombie while you’re running a fever of 103. Practice stripping the bark off saplings for flexible rods. Collect limbs and brush for a simple lean to. Try building fires in different conditions. Discuss the importance of proper shelter and staying warm and dry regardless of the weather.
Master these tips and you should survive at least the first week of the apocalypse. Maybe the whole first season.
Now that you have your basic survival taken care of, a little research on the zombie could be beneficial. In fact, if you’ve been paying attention, you might have noticed that we’ve covered science, geography, physical education and health (safety). Now we’re going to take a look at some history and language arts. It’s almost as if I’m a homeschooler and turn everything into some sort of learning experience.
Knowledge is power.
History of the Zombie
A zombie is a corpse that has come back to life and wants to eat your brains, right? Well, maybe. According to American movies and pop culture they are, but their history is so much richer and so much more fascinating. To see the first zombies, you have to journey back to the 8th century and across an ocean to the Congo. There, the nzambi was a spirit. When Portuguese visitors arrived early in the 16th century, Nzambi a Mpungu had risen in stature to a god and creator of the universe. In fact, early Christian missionaries used this name to represent God in their first translations into the local language.
What does that have to do with the zombies taking over our movies and television shows? Not much. Maybe not anything. Maybe neighboring languages had similar words with different ideas we don’t know about because their oral traditions have been lost to the ages. But I think there has to be some connection because the next place it pops up is in 17th century Haiti.
But that makes sense, right? Zombie . . . Haiti . . . Voodoo magic. It all ties together, right? Not so neatly as all that. Because when the term first popped up, it didn’t refer to a brain-eating monster, but to someone forever trapped in his own dead body with a form of life but no escape. In other words, a slave.
In 1697, what was then known as Hispaniola became property of the French and was renamed Saint Domingue. Slave labor would make the small island we know of as Haiti the richest colony in the world. It was The Pearl of the Antilles, The Jewel of the Caribbean. In 1681, there were 2,000 African slaves in Haiti. By 1789, there were almost half a million. Haitian slavery was brutal. Half of the slaves imported were worked to death within a few years. Suicide was common. And here, the zombie was born.
The Haitian slaves believed that death would free them and that their spirit would return to lan guinée (Guinea), their homeland which came to represent a sort of afterlife where their spirit could be free. But suicide would leave you trapped in your body, trapped in Haiti, forever a mindless slave. A zombie.
After the Hatian Revolution in 1804, Haiti was free. Slavery was abolished. The zombie entered Hatian folklore and became a powerful outlet for a nation’s anxieties about its slave origins and the fears of its possible reinstatement. Now, the zombie was an undead slave to a voodoo master who called on it to do his evil bidding. Those who died of murder or suicide were most vulnerable to these masters.
The Leap to American Culture, Literature and Film
W.B. Seabrook was responsible for introducing the zombie to the west through his sensationalized travelogue, The Magic Island (1929). It’s highly racist and I don’t know that I’d recommend anyone read it, but through it, the West gained the word zombie and some knowledge of them as the undead slaves of voodoo masters. It also influenced the zombie films of the day.
Zombies arguably were first introduced to the American psyche by the 1932 film, White Zombie. It’s an odd little film where the Haitian slave roots of the zombie myth are still strong. They work a whole plantation for their voodoo master. Interestingly, when the master is struck and loses consciousness, the zombies lose their direction and topple off a cliff. When he is killed, the female zombie star is released to rejoin her fiance as a full-fledged living human. Critics of the day didn’t think much of the film. It was poorly acted, the story was over-the-top and it didn’t do as well as other horror films of its day. But it made money. Enough to warrant a sequel. Plus, Bela Lugosi starred in it so it has to be worth something.
Director George A. Romero helped create the modern image of the zombie through Night of the Living Dead (where they were known as ghouls) and later Dawn of the Dead, where the term zombie is actually used. We have been treated to zombie movie after zombie movie ever since.
This is also most likely where the notion of a Zombie Apocalypse, the total annihilation of civilization at the hands of the undead, took root. In our modern, more scientific age, we seem to have a need to explain origins. So rather than just being, or being the called up bodies of the dead, modern zombies tend to be victims of experiments gone wrong, radiation or a virus.
Good luck in your preparations and if you have any suggestions, please share. We are fighting for the survival of the entire human race, here. We can use all the help we can get.