Proverbs 22:6 – Train up a child in the way he should go, even when he is old, he will not depart from it.
Target Vocabulary: armor, bravery, castle, coat of arms, code of chivalry, courage, feudal system, foreign, hierarchy, invader, jesters, jousting, king, King Arthur, kingdom, knight, manor, Medieval, Middle Ages, minstrels, Nobles, outlaw, page, peasant, revolt, Robin Hood, squire, town, village, warrior, watchmen
History & Geography ~ Medieval is a Latin word meaning middle. Medieval or Middle Ages refers to the period of time in history between ancient times and modern times. As the Roman Empire collapsed, groups/tribes from the north and east moved into lands formerly controlled by the Romans and established their own states. These states were ruled by self-appointed warrior-kings, resulting in many king(doms) throughout the region. This Medieval Kingdoms map shows the various kingdoms of that time. Each of the ruling warrior-kings established a ranking system to designate order of the social classes within their kingdom. This was known as feudal system (think of a ladder). Nobles had a secondary sub-group where they ranked their people into different categories: king and queen, prince and princess, duke and duchess, and lord and lady. This is how it worked:
What Life Was Like ~ Kingdoms consisted of land that included a castle, a manor house (for nobles) and a village area with a church, peasant houses and farmland. Some villages grew to become small towns. The Medieval Ages was a time of much conflict so everyone had to be prepared for war at any time. Sometimes the threat was from an outside/foreign enemy and sometimes it was from within the kingdom (such as a peasant revolt). Castles were built to be the main fortress of protection for a kingdom, as well as the home of the ruling family. During an attack, nobles would go to the castle for protection. Knights and foot soldiers were the primary defenders, but when the kingdom was attacked by a foreign invader, peasants also did what they could to protect their homeland. Kings and Nobles lived a very comfortable life compared to peasants. They held lavish feasts where they were entertained by jesters (told jokes) and minstrels (sang and played music), went hunting in the countryside, played games such as chess, worked on fine embroidery, and enjoyed jousting tournaments. Peasants, on the other hand, worked as farmers, craft-workers or merchants, lived in simple thatch-roofed cottages, ate simple foods and attended fairs once a year.
You can do a comparison between the kings & nobles’ lifestyle versus that of the peasants’ or offer a detailed look at castles (structure, function and what life was like living in one). You can also read fairy tale or folk stories with related themes.
Becoming a Knight ~ Being a knight was a great honor but only males were allowed. It was a position reserved for sons of knights or peasant males who showed great courage during battle. For those who were sons of knights, at the age of seven were sent away from the family to live in the castle or manor house for training. The first step was to be a page, which meant he helped the lord or lady with all kinds of chores, had to learn reading, writing, good manners, music and dance, was taught to play chess and learned how to hunt and be a soldier (horsemanship, running, sword fighting and other skills). This training lasted until the age of eighteen, at which time he became a squire. A squire was tasked with looking after the lord/lady, as well as the lord’s weapons, armor and horses until he reached the age of twenty-one, where he could finally become a knight. A dubbing ceremony was held where the knight bowed and the noble tapped him on the neck with the side of his sword to officially grant him the title of knight. He then received his armor and weapons, and swore to obey the code of chivalry ~ which was to use your sword to defend the Church, protect widows, orphans and the poor, and most importantly, to serve your lord in battle. Each knight used a Coat of Arms specific to their noble/kingdom. Once given the title of knight, you were called Sir and your wife would be called Lady. The ceremony ended with a great feast.
A Lesson In Courage ~ Medieval times were filled with legendary tales of great courage showed by knights when battling invaders or creatures such as unicorns, dragons and giants (people of that time said they really existed). In this lesson, discuss what courage means and ways one can show it. You can expand the lesson by asking the child to name a person who they believe has shown courage and identify what those actions were.
What lies behind us and what lies before us are small matters compared to what lies within us. ~ Emerson
Outlaws and Robin Hood ~ Medieval times were quite dangerous and violent. People had to worry about invaders, quarreling kingdoms, and even thieves/robbers from their village/town. Everyone had the right to catch a criminal but it was not always easy because many times they had groups of watchmen helping them. If one was caught, the punishment was usually carried out in public to show people what happens when one breaks the laws of the kingdom. To escape possible punishment, criminals would often run away and live in neighboring forests; these escapees were called outlaws. Some considered outlaws criminals while others considered them heroes. One of the most famous outlaws of Medieval times is Robin Hood (Robin of Locksley) who lived in Sherwood Forest in the county of Nottingham.
Discuss the legend of Robin Hood and offer this question to the child as part of the lesson: Would you prefer to be a slave in a castle or a free person in a forest, and why? You can also compare the criminal vs. heroic qualities of an outlaw with this Venn Diagram template.
Story Time ~ In addition to Robin Hood, you can read other kingdom-related stories or legends, such as Cinderella, Snow White or King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table. We really enjoyed King Arthur’s Very Great Grandson by Kenneth Kraegel, The Tale of Sir Dragon: Dealing With Bullies For Kids by Jean E. Pendziwol and Seriously, Snow White Was So Forgetful! by Nancy Loewen.
BBC Primary History: Anglo-Saxons interactive guide