This week in our hands on middle ages for kids unit in our homeschool we looked at how the church shaped the middle ages. We read some great books, made statues, created illuminated manuscripts, feasted on homemade pretzels, and continued our medieval literature study guide.
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Medieval Church for Kids
The Importance of the Middle Ages Church
During the beginning of the Middle Ages much of Europe was ruled by tribes of barbarians. As missionaries converted many barbarians the raids slowly ended. Churches were built and communities were established . Churches were important as monks were one of the few people during Medieval times that could read and write. They not only preserved and recorded history, but they taught others to read and write too. Churches also served to temporarily house travelers as there were no inns, feed the poor, take care of the sick, and provided education to boys in the local community.
Some of the most magnificent churches in Europe were build during the middle ages.
St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City (Rome, Italy)
Notre Dame in Paris, France
Illuminated Manuscripts is a manuscript where text was decorated by initials, borders, and illustrations. They included gold and silver paint that shimmered or ‘illuminated’. We made our own illuminated writing. I created various templates to help my children practice handwriting while at the same time make an illuminated manuscript of their own using scripture, like must of the medieval illuminated manuscripts would have. There are pages for preschool, kindergarten, and elementary age.
Another great hands on way to explore Illuminated Initials is with this fun project by Angelicscalliwags.
The Origin of the Pretzel
Did you know the origin of the pretzel? Pretzels were first given to children by monks in Medieval Times as rewards for learning to say their prayers correctly. Their shape is suppose to be a child’s hands while praying – who knew, right?! Here is our favorite Homemade Pretzel Recipe
Monks worked as scribes and spent all day copying books to make new ones. They often times suffered poor eye sight as a result and were the first to wear eyeglasses. Scrolls were made from parchment paper (dried animal skin) but you can practice writing something on a rolled up piece of paper.
The Invention of the Printing Press
In 1450 Johannes Guthenburg invented the printing press – it meant monks didn’t have to spend their lives copying books. It also meant books were cheaper so everyone could have books!
Making a printing press is a great activity to help kids understand how they had to move each letter to spell out words backwards. See our Printing Press Activity here.
Sculpt a Statue
Artists created statues to decorate churches. They used wood, metal, ivory, or stone to make tiny figures. We decided to make our own statues by using plaster of paris and sculpting with a spoon and toothpick. This is a great go along for the movie suggestion below!
Unfortunately, it didn’t really work out so well. Did you know not everything works out perfectly at our house either! It just wouldn’t chip away easy enough.
So we made statues out of our play dough recipe. They made some creations the way they were use to.
Then we used a toothpick to “chip” away the playdough the way they had to in the middle ages when decorating cathedrals. I think our statue and face came out pretty good.
Books are a HUGE part of our learning. These are books that we own and LOVE! (click on the book to see more) My absolute favorite book was Marguerite Makes a Book. This beautifully illustrated book tells the story of a girl who helps her grandpa illuminate a book – a technique used in the Middle Ages.
This week we read this continued to read The Door in the Wall and complete the Door in the Wall Study Guide & Lapbook . The Door in the Wall is a Newberry Award Winning book recommended for grades 4-8. My 1st grader really enjoyed it. It will help though if children have an understanding of the time period. This book has rich vocabulary and is a great story, it is just a little slow to start.
If you are looking for a movie to go along with your study this week Disney’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame is from this time period and shares a lot of images of Notre Dame, an incredible monastery built during the Middle Ages.
As with all movie & book recommendations, you know your children and what is appropriate for each of them. Please be consider your child’s individual needs.