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History is one of my favorite subjects to teach, and the Middle Ages contain so much delight for you and your children to discover together. This time period is full of fascinating historical figures, rich literature, and lots of opportunities for memorable hands-on learning. In this article, I’ve collected all of my favorite Middle Ages resources. Grab a cup of coffee and dive in, or use the clickable list below to jump to the topic that’s most relevant to your homeschool.
- What is the Middle Ages?
- History Spines
- Key figures and events of the Middle Ages
- Picture Books
- Chapter Books
- Medieval Literature Retold for Younger Readers
- Medieval Literature for High Schoolers
- Books for Parents
- Supplemental Resources
When planning our homeschool history studies, I organize our learning around one or two spine texts. As the name implies, a spine is a book that gives structure to your homeschool history. I look for a well-written narrative text that covers the main events and people of the time period in a chronological way. Then we use that spine as a jumping off point to dive deeper into period through picture books, literature read-alouds, biographies, memory work, videos, and hands-on activities. If you love an exhaustive booklist, you’ll find links to all of these below.
But before we explore all these great books and activities, it might be helpful to define what we mean by the term Middle Ages.
What is the Middle Ages?
Traditionally Western history is divided into three periods: ancient history, medieval history, and modern history. The Middle Ages describes the second of these three periods (the one in the middle). This time period goes from the fall of Rome in 476 A.D. to the beginning of the Renaissance around 1400 – 1500 A.D. Of course, historical periods don’t have exact start and end dates, but if you think of the Middle Ages as spanning the years 500 – 1500 A.D., you’ll be in good shape.
You may also come across the terms Early, High, and Late Middle Ages. That’s because scholars divide the medieval era into these three periods. (In the context of history, the word medieval just means related to or from the time period of the Middle Ages).
- Early Middle Ages (sometimes referred to as the Dark Ages) from 500 to 1000 A.D.
- High Middle Ages from around 1000 to about 1250 A.D.
- Late Middle Ages from 1250 to 1500 A.D. or so
As I mentioned above, I always start my history planning by finding a good spine text to anchor our studies. I look for something I’m excited to read with my kids and that covers the time period in an orderly, sequential way. Here are a few that meet those criteria:
- Famous Men of the Middle Ages by John H. Haaren and Addison B. Poland We read one small section of this as part of our daily read-aloud time)
- Story of the World, Volume 2 by Susan Wise Bauer I loved having the audio version of this available to turn on during car trips or over lunch.
- If you’re looking for something more in-depth to use with a tween or teen, Mystery of History (Volume 2) or The Book of the Middle Ages by Dorothy Mills would both be excellent options for grades 5 to 9.
- Truth Quest History: The Middle Ages is a flexible spine that can be adapted to lots of different ages. If you’d like to cover this period with a wide range of students from elementary to high school, this is a great resource. Each chapter begins with a brief introduction, and then provides discussion topics, writing exercises, and detailed annotated booklists.
- Biblioplan Medieval History is another program that works well if you have a wide age range of children. This Christian classical history curriculum gives lesson plans, booklists, geography exercises, memory work, writing prompts, and hands-on projects from kindergarten all the way through 12th grade.
- The History of the Medieval World: From the Conversion of Constantine to the First Crusade by Susan Wise Bauer makes a great spine for the high school years.
Click here to browse Christianbook’s full selection of Medieval History Curriculum
Key figures and events of the Middle Ages
Use this list as a guide to search for books featuring these historical figures and events. I’ve listed them here chronologically along with their dates for easy reference.
- Augustine (354 – 430)
- Patrick (c385 – 461)
- Justinian I (482 – 565)
- Thedora (c500 – 548)
- Mohammed (c570 – 632)
- Hilda of Whitby (c614 – 680)
- Charlemagne (747 – 814)
- Alfred the Great (c848 – 899)
- Leif Erickson (c970 – c1019)
- Edward the Confessor (c1003 – 1066)
- William the Conqueror (c1028 – 1087)
- Anselm (c1033 – 1109)
- Battle of Hastings (1066)
- The Crusades (1095 – 1291)
- Hildegard of Bingen (1098 – 1179)
- Eleanor of Aquitaine (c1122 – 1204)
- Richard the Lionheart (1157 – 1199)
- Genghis Khan (c1162 – 1227)
- Francis of Assissi (c1181 – 1226)
- Magna Carta (1215)
- Thomas Aquinas (1225 – 1274)
- Marco Polo (c1254 – 1324)
- Dante Alighieri (c1265 – 1321)
- Geoffrey Chaucer (c1340s – 1400)
- Julian of Norwich (1343 – c1416)
- The Black Death (1346 – 1353)
- Margery Kempe (c1373 – c1438)
- Joan of Arc (c1412 – 1431)
- The Printing of the Gutenberg Bible (1455)
- Augustine of Hippo by Simonetta Carr
- Patrick: Patron Saint of Ireland by Tomie de Paola
- Leif the Lucky by Ingri and Edgar Parin D’Aulaire
- Anselm of Canterbury by Simonetta Carr
- Joan of Arc by Diane Stanley
- Sundiata, Lion King of Mali by David Wisniewski
- Fine Print: A Story About Johann Gutenberg by Joann Johansen Burch
- Castle by David Macaulay
- Cathedral by David Macaulay
- The Making of a Knight by Patrick O’Brien
- A Medieval Feast by Aliki
- Augustine Came to Kent by Barbara Willard
- D’Aulaire’s Book of Norse Myths by Ingri D’Aulaire
- The Sword in the Tree by Clyde Robert Bulla
- The Shining Company by Rosemary Sutcliff
- Children of Odin: The Book of Northern Myths by Padraic Colum
- Monks and Mystics: Chronicles of the Medieval Church by Mindy and Brandon Withrow
- Adam of the Road by Elizabeth Janet Gray
- The Minstrel in the Tower by Gloria Skurzynski
- The Door in the Wall by Marguerite de Angeli
- The Magna Charta by James Daugherty
- The Apple and the Arrow by Mary and Conrad Buff
- Queen Eleanor, Independent Spirit of the Medieval World: A Biography of Eleanor of Aquitaine by Polly Schoyer Brooks
- Secrets in the House of Delgado by Gloria D. Miklowitz
Medieval Literature Retold for Younger Readers
If, like me, you try to match up your literature readings with your history studies, these books are all great options: engaging read alouds that will leave everyone begging for more while also introducing your elementary and middle school students to the classic works of medieval literature.
- King Arthur and His Knights of the Round Table by Roger Lancelyn Green
- The Adventures of Robin Hood by Roger Lancelyn Green
- Chanticleer and the Fox adapted from Geoffrey Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales by Barbara Cooney (this is a picture book version ideal for ages 4 to 8 although in my view you’re never too old for a good picture book)
- The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer, adapted by Geraldine McCaughrean (this is a more in-depth chapter book retelling)
Medieval Literature for High Schoolers
- Confessions by Augustine
- Beowulf translated by Seamus Heaney (I love how this edition puts the Old English across from the modern translation so you can get a feel for the original language)
- The Once and Future King by T. H. White
- Sir Gawain and the Green Knight translated by J. R. R. Tolkien
- The Song of Roland
- The Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri
These are serious texts worthy of grappling with alongside your teens. If you could use more guidance in engaging with these texts, here are a couple of options to support your study of medieval literature.
Beautiful Feet Books offers a guidebook called Medieval History: A Literature Based Approach that maps out 35 weeks of literature, history, and geography studies including close readings of Beowulf and The Canterbury Tales.
Memoria Press publishes Literature Guides to accompany several key works of medieval literature including Beowulf, The Canterbury Tales, and The Divine Comedy.
Books for Parents
If time and energy allow, I like to do some reading of my own about the time period we’ll be studying in the upcoming school year. Any of the books below would be a great way to increase your own knowledge and understanding of the Middle Ages as you prepare to learn alongside your kids.
- A Distant Mirror: The Calamitous 14th Century by Barbara Tuchman
- The Discarded Image: An Introduction to Medieval and Renaissance Literature by C. S. Lewis
- Art and Beauty in the Middle Ages by Umberto Eco
- An Anthology of Medieval Literature edited by Rebecca Berg Manor (while I think it’s preferable for high schoolers to read original works in their entirety, especially if college is on the horizon, for time-strapped parents an affordable anthology like this one gives you a great overview of medieval literature and highlights key passages your teen will be reading)
- The History of the Medieval World: From the Conversion of Constantine to the First Crusade by Susan Wise Bauer
Trial and Triumph: Stories from Church History by Richard Hannula
This book spans the entirety of church history from the early church to modern times, offering forty-six biographies for children. In my opinion, it’s a must for every homeschool home library. Covering a dozen or so key people from the Middle Ages who served God and devoted themselves to advancing the cause of Christ, these stories make great read-aloud material for upper elementary and middle schoolers or independent reading for teens. Do pre-read before sharing with little ones as some of the stories provide more graphic historical details.
My kids love to color while they listen to me read aloud, and all the better if their coloring aligns with the historical time period we’re learning about. Here are a few of our favorite coloring books related to the Middle Ages:
- Life in a Medieval Castle and Village
- Medieval Fashions
- Medieval Jousts and Tournaments
- Castles of the World
- Story of the Vikings
- Medieval Tapestries
- A Coloring Book of the Middle Ages
Draw + Write Through History
If your child loves to draw, you’ll definitely want to make this book a part of your medieval history studies. In book 3 of the series, your child will draw and write their way through the history of the Vikings, Middle Ages and Renaissance, as you learn about castles, Robin Hood, Pagodas, longhouses, a musketeer and more. Geared toward ages 8 to 12, but easily adaptable to older or younger children, the book includes step-by-step instructions, colorful illustrations, and copywork passages written in cursive.
Having one of these geography resources on hand is a great way to orient yourselves to the places and events you’re studying in history.
- Story of the World Volume 2 Activity Book This book is specific to the Middle Ages and includes plenty of mapwork along with crafts, hands-on activities, writing prompts, and narration exercises.
- Map Trek Atlas and Map Trek Outlines from Master Books Investing in these two books will serve you well, whatever historical time period you’re covering. The atlas includes over 200 full-color maps, while the outlines book gives you the same maps in black-and-white, ready to color and label.
- Historical Atlas of the World This basic atlas is a good one to have on hand to easily see how countries and civilizations change over time. It includes several maps related to the Middle Ages.
Medieval History-Based Writing Lessons
This writing curriculum from IEW offers a full year of medieval-themed writing instruction. Geared toward grades 6 – 8, it can easily be adapted to younger or older children.
If your kids enjoy hands-on projects, the Middle Ages are full of inspiration for you. Here are a few ideas to get you started.
- Build a replica of a medieval castle out of empty cardboard boxes, toilet paper tubes, or food packages. Here’s how one homeschool family made theirs.
- Learn about medieval heraldry. Design your own shield or family crest.
- Visit one of the many castles throughout the United States and Europe. You might be surprised to find one near you!
- Host your own medieval feast.
- Create medieval costumes. You can find directions for making a jester’s hat and a hat for a lady in this Medieval Projects book.
- Learn about siege weapons by building a mini trebuchet or, if you’re very handy, a large scale version.
How has your family studied the Middle Ages? What resources have you found most helpful? We’d love to hear from you in the comments below.
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