What better way to spend the last four weeks of Ian’s first grade year than doing a unit study about the Middle Ages? This week the only “regular” school work I required of him was Spelling You See (we took a few months off from this in the fall, but now he’s almost to the end of Level B), and his daily math work on the computer. Ian went a little crazy in Mathletics
this week, earning a whopping 3500 points as he pushed himself to finish up the four main categories in the 1st grade program (usually I require 1000 points each week). He’ll easily finish in the first few days of next week and then we’ll move on to the second grade program since I like to have him do math year-round.
Aside from spelling and math, however, everything we did revolved around the suggestions from Knights and Nobles from Homeschool Legacy. While I followed the main theme of the week, we found plenty of rabbit trails to follow as things captured Ian’s interest or as I wanted to expand a bit on things we read.
“Knights and Nobles” Week 1: Castles
Although this week was mostly about castles, there were also suggestions for learning about the cathedrals built in medieval times, which I expanded into a mini-study on aspects of religious life at the time.
Our main literature focus this week was the Newbery Medal winning book The Door in the Wall by Marguerite De Angeli. It’s the story of Robin, a 14th century boy who over comes his personal fears and weakness, showing great courage and becomes a hero. The first part of the book takes place at a monastery, and there were references to things like the scriptorium, chanting, and the various offices the monks observed throughout the day and night, which lead to several discussions. Spinning off from these topics, we read Illuminations by Jonathan Hunt and Marguerite Makes a Book by Bruce Robertson as well as leading into our study of cathedrals toward the end of the week.
“Knights and Nobles” has a great list of reading suggestions, so I set out a basket with all the options I found for free reading (both from our family collection and the local library), and let Ian go through them mostly on his own. He’s already looked through Ms. Frizzle’s Adventures: Medieval Castle
many times before, so I made sure I read it with him this time so he wouldn’t miss any of the detailed information. He enjoyed reading Castles
by Stephanie Turnbull on his own as well as looking at some the pictures in some of the more advanced books.
After reading Castle by David Macaulay, we watched the video based on the book, which I found at our library. I thought they were going to cover mostly the same material, but they were actually more complementary than similar. I wouldn’t have wanted to choose one over the other.
After unsuccessfully searching for the DVD of Cathedral at several of our local libraries, it finally occurred to me to check YouTube, and sure enough, there it was, along with several other PBS specials based on David Macaulay’s books. (I wish I’d known about Pyramid and Roman City earlier this year!)
Actually, turned out well that the library didn’t have Cathedral, because it prompted me to check out another option, Building the Great Cathedrals, which turned out to be fascinating and informative. Elijah is especially interested in building design, and he gladly joined Ian and I for this part of our schoolwork. We enjoyed this DVD so much I considered purchasing it for our family library, but then I realized it’s available for free streaming through Amazon Prime.
Watching the movies about cathedrals (and reading David Macaulay’s book Cathedral
) led to many discussions about different aspects about the buildings: flying buttresses, different kinds of arches, gargoyles, stained glass, and church bells, so we ended the week with a family movie night watching Disney’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame
, which gave Ian a fun opportunity to point out to Daddy all the things he’d learned.
Several times throughout the week I put on various CD’s with music from the medieval time period. I wish I’d thought to get some some instrumental CDs from the library, but I have few recordings of Gregorian chant and medieval motets and carols that gave us a sense of the time period as well.
Ian really wanted to build a catapult after all our reading. There are instructions included for later in this unit, but they required several things we don’t have around the house and I really didn’t want to have to buy anything, so I found a simple alternative using popsicle sticks and rubber bands at Little Bins for Little Hands. At first he wanted to attempt the more complex version on that page, but it started turning into Mom’s catapult, so I told him he needed to go back to the simple one. Even then, we had to make some adjustments because we only had notched craft sticks, which kept breaking. Eventually we tried Tegu planks, which worked well. All Ian’s hard work was rewarded with some marshmallow boulders to launch.
Ian spent most of his free inside hours this week playing with the Playmobil castle he got for his birthday
three years ago. While he’s always enjoyed it, he seemed to take his play to a new level this week after everything we learned about. I’m glad he still has so much fun with it, and I was thankful for the many quiet hours of play it provided this week!
We’ll still be we checking out new products through our even summer break, so watch for these reviews soon!