Kings, Queens, and Castles

A unit study by Karen Caroe

European culture dominated the Middle Ages. We think of Medieval England when we think of the Middle Ages -- and that is mostly what is covered in this Funschool Unit. While the practices were varied from place to place, the Middle Ages -- as a whole -- is characterized by a specific set of values and institutions that reflect the three dominant influences that have come before: Roman, Christian, and Barbarian. This unit is predominantly intended to introduce you and your child to the High Middle Ages in a fun, hands-on way that will encourage their interest in further study.

RESOURCES

1) Greenleaf Press -- I highly value the material available from Greenleaf Press and recommend it for any historical study. They integrate their philosophy of education throughout their history guides and it has been very helpful to me in my homeshooling.

2) Classic Konos Character Curriculum: Kings and Queens - If you are serious about Unit Studies and want to do something "bigger" than a funschool unit, I recommend an investment in this curriculum. Here is how one family has used Konos for medieval studies!

3) Dorling-Kindersley Family Learning Books -- There are many, many books, videos and CD's available to enhance all unit studies:

Medieval Life (DK Eyewitness Books)
Castle (DK Eyewitness Books)
Knight (DK Eyewitness Books)
Arms & Armor (DK Eyewitness Books)


WEB SITES FOR THIS UNIT

1) Castles of the World: http://www.castles.org/

2) Castles of the Middle Ages: http://www.medieval-castles.net/

3) Middle Ages: http://www.kyrene.k12.az.us/schools/brisas/sunda/ma/mahome.htm

4) Knighthood: http://www.chronique.com/intro.htm


BOOKS

I recommend you check your library and bookstores for books that would appeal to the age groups you are teaching. There are many books about Knights, Kings, Queens, and Castles. A highly recommended book for younger children is A Medieval Feast by Aliki. This time period is ideal for introducing your children to the Classics.  The Adventures of Robin Hood, Ivanhoe, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court, The Sword in the Stone, and a WONDERFUL read-aloud for a mother and son - The Sword in the Tree by Clyde Robert Bulla.

THE UNIT

Introductory Activities

1) Make a list of all the kings and queens you can think of--Biblical, fictional, real. Discuss what you know about each one. How are they similar/different.
2) Draw a picture of a castle, or build-one. Look at these photos of REAL castles being built today!
3) Start a time-line and hang it up so you can place all the characters and events in order.


History

1) Beginning with Canute the Great, find out who ruled England during the Middle Ages (there will be several). Find out how each came to power and why they were given their descriptive names.
2) As you study the rulers, determine how each one changed their country for the better/worse.
3) Add each ruler to your time-line as well as the significant events that marked their time as ruler.
4) Take time to learn how the subjects of the kingdom lived. What were the class distinctions.
What was the Feudal System? How were regular people affected by their rulers? How did they view their rulers?
5) Learn about Medieval Holidays and Festivals

Geography

1) What did Europe look like at the beginning of the Middle Ages? (Start somewhere around 1000 A.D.)
Show all the "countries" and major locations.
2) As you study each war, crusade, ruler, etc., make a new map showing how the political geography changed. Note the year on each map.

Language Arts

1) Vocabulary/Spelling: Select words that are at your child's level. Choose words from the parts of a castle, the parts of armor, the positions of people in court, and from your family reading.
2) Select one King or Queen to research in-depth. Write a report. Collect and organize facts, write an outline, put your information into paragraphs. This is your first draft. Then edit for grammar, spelling, punctuation, etc. Write your final copy. Note to high school parents: In many states, attaching an edited rough draft to a final copy of student writing--replaces the need for teaching a separate grammar course.
3) Act as a Bard (a storyteller) and retell some wonderful story such as the adventures of Robin Hood.
4) Read the classics about this time period.

Social Studies

1) Noblemen were given land by a king. The noble would say to the King, "I am your man." and the land was called his manor. The king also bestowed a coat of arms. What is your family's coat of arms. If you don't know, make one up.
2) Different designs on a coat of arms meant different things. Look them up in an encyclopedia to help you make your own -- or to find out what yours means. Here is a book you can use: Design Your Own Coat of Arms: An Introduction to Heraldry
3) Study the term "chivalry." Is chivalry still seen today? Is it appropriate for today.

Other Activities

1) Listen to Medieval Music on as original instruments as possible.
2) Listen to Gregorian Chants.
3) Learn to Juggle or do Acrobatics as one might do to entertain the king.
4) Watch a this great video showing fencing with five different medieval weapons!
5) Practice jousting with cardboard weapons.
6) Make banners of heraldry to decorate your home.
7) Introduce sewing skills by making some simple costumes. There are a number of patterns available if you want to get more in-depth.
8) Make foods that would be served at a feast.
9) Learn the table manners that were acceptable during the Middle Ages. Learn what they were admonished to refrain from doing at the table, as well.
Get permission to use them at your dinner table. Hint: you won't want to encourage this as a common practice.

Big Project

Plan a Medieval Feast with other families or a co-op. Use a book like A Medieval Feast by Aliki to help you plan it. 


Please realize that a Funschool Unit is meant to be just that: FUN and an introduction into doing unit studies. There is no way to exhaust a topic such as the Middle Ages. Use this as a guideline to getting started and gaining confidence. As you go along, your children's interests will guide you. Boys may want to spend more time on knights, King Arthur, Robin Hood, etc. Girls may want to do all the work that goes into a big feast. All the children may be fascinated by castles and heraldry -- that is my children's current fascination.



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