Story of the World, Volume 2: Medieval Times has not been working for us as well as Volume 1 did. I’m not sure if the problem is with the curriculum, or with our failure to really put our hearts into it. In case it is the latter problem, we’re trying to be a little more dedicated about it.
For the past few weeks, we’ve been studying the Crusades, Richard the Lion-Hearted and wicked John Lackland, and the legend of Robin Hood. Spurred on by the marvelous Edward Eager novel Knight’s Castle, we watched the 1952 film of Ivanhoe, with Liz Taylor as Rebecca. It required a lot of pause-and-explain, but both kids still responded to it beautifully. I think all the boring “grownups talking” scenes were worth the chance to actually see knights jousting and a castle under siege. There’s a scene at the end where King Richard and his Crusader knights come riding to the rescue in the nick of time. The troupe of heavily armored knights all in white, with lances, red crosses, and white pennants flying, drew a quiet, breathless “Wow!” from Colin. (So something got through.)
Well, then we came to the real story of Richard the Lion-Hearted in SOTW, and I must say that he came off significantly less well in the history book than he did in the stirring romances. John, fortunately, seems to have been just as awful as he’s portrayed, so we still had a villain to root against.
We wound up our study of Richard and John by considering the Magna Carta, and how it changed the English conception of a king. We looked at pictures of the real thing and puzzled our way through part of a translation. Then, following a suggestion in the SOTW activity guide, the kids each made their own Magna Carta establishing laws that apply in their own “kingdoms” – their bedrooms.
We started by antiquing some paper for the proper venerable appearance. We soaked white construction paper in tea and let it dry. It also got rather wrinkled and distressed in the process. Then I carefully singed the edges in a candle flame.
Each child got to dictate a set of rules for their Magna Carta, which I copied down for them. They decorated the finished copies and forced Michael and I, in our roles as King and Queen, to sign them at Runnymede.
This was a fun activity which generated considerable enthusiasm from the kids. I had originally picked out a different activity – making King Richard’s shield out of cardboard – but Alex rejected that in favor of this one, and, upon reflection, I’m glad that it gave us a couple of extra opportunities to discuss the significance of the Magna Carta. I think we’ll hang them up on Friday night and give the kids the satisfaction of having us obey all the rules (which call for breakfast in bed for Alex, breakfast downstairs in front of a video for Colin) on Saturday.