I love history blocks! They are always so much more fun than the others. It always feels more like the earlier grades to me… stories, drawing, writing, and more stories. We finished off the sixth grade year with the end of Ancient Roman history, and the First Crusade. So this year we pretty much started where we left off.
I think I got most of the stories from Eugene Schwartz, and possibly from Live Education’s sixth grade Middle Ages book. It has been awhile since I taught this block, so I am not exactly sure.
Anyway, I told her about the monks and their amazing illuminated manuscripts, and the rise of the Catholic Church. She tried her hand at an illuminated script. She started out in pencil, sketching out the drawing and the details. Then it was traced with an ink pen that wouldn’t bleed, and filled with color using watered down acrylic paints. Lastly, she added beautiful gold paint to some of the details. We used Iridescent Calligraphy Colors Copper Plate Gold Paint, and it worked very well.
There are so many great books about Illuminated Manuscripts, but I really enjoyed Bibles and Bestiaries.
We also studied the great cathedrals of the Middle Ages, soaring into the sky with their remarkable colored windows, which taught the masses the stories of the bible, how to worship, and how to conduct their lives. We enjoyed reading Cathedral, by David Macaulay.
Next we spent several days on the life and adventures the Eleanor of Aquitaine. She was a Renaissance (or even modern) woman in a Medieval time, as Eugene Schwartz points out. What a fascinating story. She was a dynamic woman who would become queen of two nations (France and England), go on a Crusade, be imprisoned by her own husband, give birth to ten children, including Richard the Lionheart and King John (of Magna Carta fame), and leave an unprecedented royal legacy on Europe.
I enjoyed reading World History Biographies: Eleanor of Aquitaine: The Queen Who Rode Off to Battle, as one of my preparation texts. I really like this series. The books are a nice length and give a good deal of information. I appreciate books that can give me the high points, so that I do not have to read a 300+ page biography in my “spare” time. I also look for podcasts to listen to in the car.
I also got Queen Eleanor: Independent Spirit of the Medieval World for my daughter to read, but even though it gets good reviews, she didn’t enjoy it much.
Next it was time to finally learn about Joan of Arc. This was a moment similar to the moment that I told her we were going to study Christopher Columbus. “It’s about time, Mom!”
Eugene says that Joan was a woman of the Middle Ages, even though she lived at the very end of the time. Much different than Eleanor. It was interesting to compare these two women. Joan died so young, while Eleanor lived to be quite old. Joan was a deeply spiritual young woman, while Eleanor was religious probably only when it suited her. Eleanor was wealthy and privileged, while Joan was not. This list goes on, and yet history remembers them both.
There are definitely no shortage of books on Joan of Arc, but again, I like this series.
To finish off this block, I told her stories of the great men who were dreaming of a future world… a time we would later call the Renaissance. First, Marco Polo… the great explorer who travelled all the way to China, bringing back stories that no one would believe, but they were, in fact, quite true. When we studied the Age of Exploration, we saw how future explorers were inspired by Marco Polo’s book (written in prison, no less)!
Then Dante Alighieri, and how he dared to write the Divine Comedy in Italian instead of Latin. I told his biography, and a synopsis of his great work where he makes a journey through hell, purgatory, and paradise.
And lastly, we talked about the life of the painter Giotto and the influence he had on the art world. We took one last look at Medieval art and compared it to Giotto’s work. Later, when we study the Renaissance, we will see the effect Giotto and other painters of his time had on future generations of artists.
She used the map from the lovely book called Marco Polo by Demi. The book also tells of the life of Marco Polo in much more detail than at first glance.
And lastly, I picked up a book called Looking for Marco Polo at the library, and my daughter loved it (you never know). It is historical fiction, and she said that it was great fun.
And so we leave the great cathedrals and feudal systems behind for the Masters of the Renaissance…