Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Homeschool History: The Middle Ages

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During the first mont of school, we studied the Middle Ages during our history time. This is definitely one of our favorite subjects! Each week as part of our Classical Conversations memory work, we have a history fact to memorize and then throughout the year, they are working on learning a timeline that goes from Creation to Modern History. 

To form our actual lessons, we take the history sentence for the week and we just expound on it and they learn the story behind it, the people involved, and why it matters. Here is a look at our first 6 weeks of history studies.

Week 1 - Charlemagne

For the first week, we learned all about how Charlemagne was crowned holy Roman emperor of Europe. We read about Charlemagne in our Story of the World book, we colored pictures of him wearing his crown, and we acted out the story about 8 gazillion times. Then I sent the kids outside to collect some big sticks, which we wrapped in foil and duct taped together to make swords. We also made crowns out of construction paper.

Here they are acting out the story with their meanest "ready for battle" faces. And I think Walker is holding his sword upside down. Ha!

Week 2 - William the Conqueror 

During the second week, we studied William the Conquerer and the English invasion of 1066. We also talked a lot about feudalism during this week. We watched some YouTube videos that showed real castles in England so the kids could actually see what they were like. Then we made a card game where we could play "war" and "memory" using different members of the feudal society. 

My favorite activity we did during the second week of school involved cardboard... a lot of cardboard. I saw this idea on Pinterest a few weeks before school started so I asked grandparents to help me collect toilet paper tubes and paper towel tubes. I also saved some random boxes and empty pringles cans. We took all this trash and made huge castles!

Basically, we just duct taped it all together, cut out windows and doors, and then spray painted the whole thing with "oil rubbed bronze" paint (that's what I happened to have in the garage). We even added some yarn to make draw bridges on the doors and a pringles can made the perfect lookout window. As you can see, our kitten Penelope claimed one of the castles as her new home.

After the castles were complete, they gathered up all the barbies and action figures and created their own little feudal societies and played and played and played. At one point, I walked out on the porch and they had recruited some of the neighbor kids to come play "peasants" and "barons" with their castles.

You can really see how each of their castles is different in this photo. I had a lot of fun just watching them get creative and make up different designs.

Week 3 - The Crusades

During the third week, we studied the Crusades and we read the stories of Elanor of Aquitaine and her son, Richard the Lionhearted. This particular week's story peeked our interest in the Benge family heritage. We knew that the family line went back to England, but we decided to trace it. Ally and I spent hours working on building a family tree and digging and digging and digging on But we did manage to trace it back to England around the time of William the Conqueror, which is when they first began using surnames. Pretty cool!

Week 3 was a BIG project week. Since we were learning about the crusades, we started out by making shields for battle. These were made out of cardboard and covered in tin foil. Then they decorated their shields with glitter and glue.

They turned out pretty cute and they played with them a lot along with their swords. :)

Next up, it was time to get dressed for the Crusades! So we headed out to the garage to make Crusader vests. I took some old white t-shirts and cut off the sides. Then they painted the red cross symbol of Crusaders on their vests.

 But we didn't stop there. No, I had an idea that turned way bigger than I initially planned, but it ended up being something we will all remember for a long time. We had a Medieval Feast! :)

On that Friday, we spent the whole day transforming our dining room into a middle ages setting and we made an authentic medieval meal. We invited "Mammaw and Pappy" to come over for our feast that night. The kids worked hard all day to get everything ready.  Here you can see Ally kneading the dough for our bread. And thankfully, it wasn't the actual Medieval period and I had my kitchenaid mixer to help me out. :)

Here is a picture of the dining room when they finished decorating. They made pendant banners with different crests on them. Then we found a white sheet to be our tablecloth and added all the candles I could find. The placemats and table runner are from the dollar section of our supermarket. They looked like paper doilies, but the gold was a perfect touch! We also used plastic goblets for our drinks. The kids made a crown for each guest to wear and they put a menu at each seat.

Here is a picture of our menu. We had four courses and the kids were the "peasants" and they served their grandparents and their daddy dinner. I just supervised, but they did the work. As you can see, we named our dishes with a lot of creativity. ;)

Here is a closer look at the banner they made. They each decorated half of the flags and then we strung them up with yarn.

Here is a picture of our "peasants" with the dinner guests. They wore their Crusader vests because they planned to leave for the war after they finished serving the food. ;)

Speaking of the food, they were BIG fans. They even enjoyed the "Trotter Stew" which involved boiling pig's feet for 6 hours. Yes, I actually bought pig's feet and we cooked them all day. We didn't tell Mammaw and Pappy what the meat was in our stew until after they ate it. Evil, right? The funny thing is that they LOVED it and Pappy had two bowls. You should have seen their faces when the kids told them what our "secret recipe" actually included.

We started out with no silverware, but ended up breaking out the spoons for dessert. Walker had dessert going with one hand and another chicken leg going in the other.

At the end of our feast, Walker put on his homemade "joker" hat and came in and did some magic tricks. He told a few jokes and did a very good job of keeping us entertained.

A few minutes later, we had a surprise visit from the Pope! Our Pope gave a rather impassioned speech about why we needed to take back Jerusalem and invited us all to join the Crusades.

We made her hat out of construction paper. Cute, huh?

The evening ended as the kids marched away to battle with their swords and shields.

Of course, Mom was the true peasant... I got to do the dishes. ;)

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