Wednesday, June 20, 2012

History Points: Hadrian's Wall

Today I am excited to bring you the second in our new History Points series in which we will be looking at different historical events, artifacts, and other things of an antiquated nature. Today we're going to learn about Hadrian's Wall. This structure stretches across Great Britain and was begun in 122AD! Constructed at the order of Roman Emperor Hadrian, it marks the far reaches of the Roman Empire, establishing a boundary between England and Scotland. Although the border has shifted a bit since then, this great wall served as a protective barrier and was the most heavily fortified border in the entire Empire! 

It is not entirely known as to why Hadrian had the wall built. One can assume it was to protect the Roman holdings from invading "barbarians" as the Romans called everyone who did not speak Latin.  While the wall was heavily fortified it is unclear as to the severity of the threat posed by the Scots. It is more likely that the many gateways and passages built into the wall allowed for trade and the levy of taxes. This would have allowed the Romans to exercise tight control over the trade of goods and immigration as well as provided protection against smuggling and illegal trade. 

The wall, all 73 miles of it, would have also represented the power of Rome in a country far removed from their rulers. It is easy to imagine that the Britains could have easily shrugged off their status as members of the Roman Empire, but a gigantic wall in their backyard would have been a constant reminder that they were a conquered people. During Hadrian's rule he had to deal with rebellions in Britain as well as in Africa and the Middle East and this wall may have been a way for him to flex some muscle. Some archeologists believe that once the wall was constructed it would have been covered in whitewash and polished! This would have resulted in a shiny, reflective surface that would have been visible for miles. There were approximately eighty watchtower or garrisons spread across its length and at its height it was home to 9000 soldiers! 

Originally the site of a Roman fort, a medieval tower now stands in its place.
The wall is now a ruin and the many watchtowers and fortifications have been knocked down and all that remains are stone outlines in the ground. The wall stretches across some of the most beautiful countryside in England and is still a tremendous witness to the might, power, and vast expanse of one of the mightiest empires to ever exist. I visited a portion of the wall a few years ago and was struck by the imagination and effort it still reflects nearly two thousand years later. Today it is a UNESCO World Heritage site and a popular tourist destination. As an "unguarded" heritage site it is fully accessible to visitors!

If you want to learn more about the Romane Empire, I suggest the following titles:

Monday, June 18, 2012

Race to Nowhere

As this blog talks about all things educational I thought it would be interesting to share the trailer from the new documentary Race to Nowhere. It seems to address a lot of concerns we've talked about here. Has anyone seen it?
If so, I would love to hear your thoughts. It sounds like it's shaking things up and I look forward to having the opportunity to see it.

One of the main things in the trailer that stood out to me was the observation that students are no longer able to assimilate information and form their own opinions. This is not only alarming, it's dangerous. While students may be acing their tests, that knowledge will have no impact on their lives or opinions if they are unable to use it to inform their views of the world. In our curriculums we try to focus on discussion questions in place of testing. While it hasn't always been a popular move, we felt that it was more important that students be able to discuss and consider the information they read than to be able to spit it back out verbatim.
What do you think? If you've seen the movie, I would love to hear your thoughts. Also, how do you encourage the development of reasoning skills in your own children? 

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Happy Flag Day!

Today is Flag Day in the United States! In 1777 the Second Continental Congress passed a resolution to adopt the flag designed by Betsy Ross as our nation's official flag! At the original congress the flag consisted of 13 alternate red and white stipes and 13 white stripes on a blue field. The stripes and stars represented the original 13 colonies. As the US has grown additional resolutions were passed to add to the number of stars and stripes. Eventually it was decided that only the 13 original stripes would be necessary and only the number of stars would be increased with the addition of each new state. The colors have symbolic significance: red stands for hardiness and valor, white stands for purity, and the blue represents justice, perseverance and vigilance.

This day is usually marked by local celebrations, including parades and speeches and one can see American flags lining Main streets across the country. Living in Cape Cod, I loved how the little Main Street of Sandwich, Massachusetts would be transformed. Everyone put out their flags, there was a parade where everyone wore red, white, and blue and veterans and elected officials would give speeches. It was a bit of old Americana that feels like it's disappearing and I am glad that there are places where these traditions are still continued.

If you are interested in learning more about Flag Day and the history of the Second Continental Congress and the American Revolution, here are some highly recommended books:

A More Perfect Union by Betsy and Giulio Maestro
This is a great classic for learning about the First Continental Congress and the writing of the American Constitution. Beautifully illustrated with a lively text, you'll learn about the delegates sweating away in a stifling room in Philadelphia as they hammered away at the details of creating a new nation. The authors are skillful in helping us understand the responsibilities these men felt as well as the tensions and compromises each member had to wrestle with! Highly recommended. 

The 4th of July Story by Alice Dalgliesh
Another classic in children's literature, this is an excellent introduction to the history behind America's split with England. Why did the founding father's rebel in the first place? What were they upset about? With lovely illustrations and an engaging text, these questions are all answered in a manner accessible to young children!
America's Paul Revere by Esther Forbes
Learn more about the life of one of America's best known patriots. Not only was Revere influential in stirring up Boston to revolt against taxation without representation, he helped the war cause, drummed up support for the Continental Congress, and helped arm Old Ironsides, on of America's first warships. 

The Great Little Madison by Jean Fritz
Excellent biography on one of America's most influential founders. Madison's quiet strength was a force to contend with! He was influential in uniting the colonies, shaping the Constitution, and ensuring that this revolution resulted in a self-governing nation instead of collapsing into failure. Fascinating read! 

George Washington by Ingri and Edgar Parin D'Aulaire
George Washington's life paralleled that of the developing young America. Learn more about his Virginia childhood, his time as a surveyor, his leadership of the American armies and his days as the nation's first president. 

I hope you enjoy these books - there are lots more in our Early American History section on the website. Take a look around! 

If you are enjoying these posts, consider "Liking" our Facebook page. You can do so on the sidebar to the right. Thanks! 

Happy Flag Day! 

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Curiosity: The Essential Element

"Heaven is satisfied curiosity.” 
-Paola Antonelli

The word curiosity has been floating around my mind for about a year now. I've been thinking about it in terms of the people I know as well as the things I see and find interesting. Curiosity is defined as "1. A desire to know or learn. 2. A desire to know about people or things that do not concern one." I think that these are fine definitions as they communicate an openness and desire for knowledge. But in researching curiosity I came upon the quote above and it bears repeating: "Heaven is satisfied curiosity." What a wonderful way to look at curiosity. As creatures who are put here on earth for a finite amount of time and who are imbued with the image of our Creator it comes to reason that curiosity is the desire to know things beyond this earthly realm. Curiosity exists because we are made for more than this world and we desire to know what comes next. Curiosity is part of the human makeup and I would argue that a curious spirit is fundamental to a full and interesting life. 

Those among us who are the most curious are generally children. What makes it so much more fun to go to a museum or zoo with a child? It's their wonder at the things they see, their openness to a new experience, their way of seeing things our jaded adult eyes often miss. Now think of the most interesting people in your life. In my life they are the people who have cultivated this sense of inquiry. They have not settled for their current store of knowledge, they are constantly seeking more, asking questions, delving deeper. These are the people that you enjoy hanging out with at social events. They're generally the people who ask you questions but don't settle for rote answers. They discuss ideas and truths, not people. Like Eleanor Roosevelt's famous quote: "Great minds discuss ideas; Average minds discuss events; Small minds discuss people." These are the people who ask questions and genuinely listen. You can tell they are absorbing information and not just preparing their response. They are also the people who can admit that they may need to shift their perspective in the face of new information. Whenever I encounter people like this I walk away from our conversation challenged, re-energized, and usually mulling over a new idea. 

Unfortunately, curiosity seems to be a fragile trait: One that can easily be squelched in childhood. Ken Robinson's articles and books on education decry the industrial model our schools often take. He finds these methods are not only inept in educating children, they also destroy creativity and curiosity. He also states that the emphasis on testing stunts a child's natural ability to think outside the box. In aiming education toward "one right answer" children are steered away from their unique perspectives. I loved taking my little sister Katie to the museums here in Paris because she had an entirely unique perspective. She found humor in serious subjects, noticed things I hadn't seen despite many previous visits. She didn't feel the pressure to know have the "right" perspective, yet, she also asked questions and was curious about the pieces. We discussed art history and the development of different artistic styles. Her curiosity enriched her knowledge. And although she may have taken a month "off" from formal schooling in order to come to Paris, this was a month that opened up her world and made it even more interesting.

So, how as parents and teachers can you nurture that innate curiosity in children. And how can you do it without driving yourself mad answering their incessant questions? Here are a few tips:

1. Model curiosity yourself. If you are an inquisitive person, let your children see this. You do not need to have all the answers and it's fine for your children to know that you don't know everything. By being curious yourself you show them the importance of inquiry. And take time to cultivate your own curiosity. Attend workshops, classes, start a book club, take up a new hobby, visit museums. 

2. Answer their questions. This can be very difficult as children are constantly asking questions. Try to provide answer when you are able. If you do not know the answer, investigate together. Look up things online, visit the library and check out books on the subjects. And when children are old enough, turn the questions back to them. See if they can figure out answers themselves or use resources to independently learn. David Macaulay's books are wonderful resources to have on hand for questions about how things work, why buildings are built certain ways. Every family should own a copy of The New Way Things Work!

3. Read. You knew this was coming, right? It is in this area that I believe literary choices are very important. Choose books that are interesting and informative. Choose stories with characters who model curiosity. If your library is full of didactic books whose main aim is to teach a lesson, your child will not go to those books in search of answers. Provide books on subjects that interest them. Have you ever met a kid who didn't think ancient Egypt was fascinating? These were two of my favorite books on the subject when I was young: Pharaohs of Ancient Egypt and Tales of Ancient Egypt. These books showed me a new (albeit very very old) world and in discovering new worlds curiosity grows. Read stories of people who lived at different time periods and in different cultures. Purchase a good atlas so that you can look up these places and learn more about our amazing world.

4. Be flexible. Many home educators feel huge amounts of pressure from all sorts of different sources to prove that they are doing a good job. This is so natural. Whether you're facing disapproval from grandparents or friends or your community, choosing to homeschool is still a counter-cultural decision. While you may be feeling pressure to use a curriculum that is modeled after traditional models, one that allows you to easily measure progress, if it's not working ditch it. Trust your instincts. You know your children best and if you see their curiosity shrinking and studying history or literature or math regularly brings tears to your child's eyes, try a different path. Take a break from the worksheets, memorization, and testing, and pursue the subjects that make your child's eyes light up. Choose methods and curriculums that are built around a curiosity based world view. In the quest to create life-long learners, nurturing that creative spark is essential. There is a time for testing and measuring progress but true learning should not be sacrificed for quantifiable results. Some of the best knowledge cannot be gauged. Have you ever heard of a test for evaluating someone's creativity or wisdom? I am not talking about taking on a laissez-faire approach to education where there is no direction. On the contrary, this is an educational point-of-view that seeks to encourage the pursuit of education for its own sake. 

5. Move outside the classroom. This is such a fun way to encourage learning. Check into local museums, see if they have special programs for children. Take field-trips. Research your destinations beforehand and set up scavenger hunts. Go to plays, operas, concerts, poetry readings. Visit the botanical gardens. So often these institutions offer discounts for educators. They may also have special free days. Check with your local chamber of commerce for ideas of places to visit and child-friendly outings. 

I hope you find these tips helpful. I would love to hear about your experiences and the ways in which you foster your children's creativity. Have you ever quit using a curriculum when you noticed you children were not responding well? Share your stories! And if you have questions, feel free to ask. Let's get inspired in our creativity and curiosity!   

Photo Credit: Copyright LaserGuided via Flickr

Monday, June 11, 2012

Need inspiration? Encouragement? A new vision for homeschooling?

I am excited to let our readers in California know about a wonderful opportunity to join Rea Berg, founder of Beautiful Feet Books, at a Summer Literature Soirée in her home! If you are within travelling distance of San Luis Obispo, consider signing up for this event. It promises to be inspiring, energizing, and a whole lot of fun. Here's details from Rea:

Dear Readers,

Shakespeare and Company in Paris
I am very excited to announce that at the end of this month I’ll be hosting a Summer Literature Soirée here in my home in San Luis Obispo!  The topics I intend to cover will include: best books for summer reading, abridged vs. unabridged classics, literary analysis of children’s books, and I’ll also present a session I gave recently at the Great Homeschool Convention entitled “Homeschooling with Passion and Creativity.”  This is a look at a number of famous individuals whose education was anything but normal, but who were able to thrive because of the ways in which literature and history captured and inspired them. Also, if there is something you’d really like covered please let me know and I’ll see what I can do! I’ll also leave plenty of time for discussion, sharing and getting acquainted!  The cost will be $25 (bring a sack lunch) or $30 if you’d like lunch provided for you.
Since space is limited in my home, I will only be able to accommodate 25 of you, dear friends! So if you’d like to participate, please register here
as soon as possible. So here are the specifics:
Rea’s Summer Literature Soirée
Saturday, June 30, 2012
Place: 1306 Mill Street, San Luis Obispo, CA 93401
Time: 9:30 am–3:30 pm (this will include a working lunch where we’ll have fun with literary and art analysis of children’s books–a favorite of the last seminar!)
Looking forward to seeing you!

As there are only 25 spots, they are filling up fast! If you are unable to attend this event, consider booking Rea to speak in your home town. Feel free to contact us for details. 

Friday, June 08, 2012

Product Feature: Timelines

Our Early American History Timeline
Today I want to feature one of our classic products: our Timelines. For nearly all of our History Through Literature study guides we have developed time lines to accompany your child's history curriculum. These are wonderful tools for reinforcing the chronology of events while being a fun hands-on project! 

Sample pictures from the History of Science Timeline

Each timeline features 18-28 pictures of historical figures, key events, or ideas that were integral to a specific time period. Students color the pictures as they progress through each study and attach them to the included card stock time line. 
Assembly instructions for the Early American History Timeline
Color the pictures is a great activity for restless students to do while you are reading aloud the literature from the history curriculum. As a child my mind focussed much more when my hands were occupied! So for students who have a hard time sitting still during read-aloud time, these are a very effective tool! While the timelines have been designed to correlate with our curriculum they can also be used independently. 

We offer the following timelines (click on any pictures to enlarge):

Our Ancient History Timeline features 28 pictures ranging from Cheops' Great Pyramid in 2600 B.C. to the Fall of Rome in 476 A.D. Pictures include Abraham, Hammurabi, King Tut, Homer, Pythagoras, Cleopatra, Julius Caesar and many others take their place in relation to great historical events like the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius, the building of the Great Wall of China, the Birth of Christ, and the calculation of the circumference of the earth and much more! 

The Medieval History Timeline features 22 figures including Marco Polo, the Scottish Rebellion, the Black Death, Chaucer, Gutenberg, Luther, Joan of Arc, the Spanish Armada, Shakespeare and many more. It begins in 1215 with the signing of the Magna Carta and ends in 1611 with the translation of the King James Version of the Bible. 

Our Early American History Timeline begins in the year 1000 with Leif Eriksson's discover of North America and ends in 1862 with the Emancipation Proclamation. Students will be introduced to the Pilgrims, Pocahontas, the War of 1812, Valley Forge, Continental Congress, Lewis and Clark, and much more. 

The History of Science Timeline marks 22 major scientists and scientific discoveries beginning with the ancients, Pythagoras, Archimedes, and others and continues up through Albert Einstein. Students can color pictures featuring Guttenberg, Pascal, Newton, Marie Curie, and more! 

A fun addition to any music study, the History of Classical Music Timeline features twenty-three illustrations featuing composers from the Baroque, Classical, Romantic and Modern Periods of orchestral composition. Portraits of Vivaldi, Bach, Beethoven, Schubert, Clara Schumann, Liszt, Brahms, Tchaikovsky, Mahler, Stravinsky and others make this a wonderful tool for tracking the changes in musical composition and development. 

Last, but not least, the History of California Timeline features the intrepid men and women who settled the American West. Beginning with Columbus landing in the New World students will color pictures of Balboa, Cortez, Father Serra, Jedediah Smith, Jessie Benton Fremont and many more. The time line ends by marking the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad, that tangible link between the eastern and western coasts. 

All the illustrations on the timelines have been drawn by the talented Christen Blechschmid. This cohesiveness allows the time lines to be linked and used together to complete a more comprehensive picture of world history! 

Pricing for the time lines takes into consideration the fact that many home schooling families have multiple students studying the same subjects and so discounts are applied to multiple copies of the same time line. We also offer bulk discounts for classroom kits. 

Have you used time lines in your history studies? Do you find them helpful? I would love to hear about your experiences! 

Have a wonderful weekend. 

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Feeling Disconnected?

I want to share with you, our dear readers, a fantastic resource. A few years ago one of our customers started a Yahoo group for homeschooling parents using Beautiful Feet Books curriculum. The group has grown over the years and is now moderated by the talented Samantha Millard.

I have been so blessed by seeing the interactions in this group. People submit thoughtful questions about topics related to using BFB, how to best teach their children, finding supplemental resources, and much more. People provide feedback on curriculum, share their experiences, and generously give of their time. There are also discussions that have nothing to do with using BFB curriculum. This is a discussion board where people are kind, encouraging, and thoughtful in their comments. It's such a contrast from so much of what happens in online discussion forums!

There are currently some great discussions going on in the group. Topics like "Are you planning for next year yet?" and "High School Literature" as well as questions of what to do with children in specific grade levels. If you aren't a member already I would highly suggest that you sign up. This is a group of wise and gracious women.

Occasionally, I'll pop on there if there are specific inquiries related to aspects of the curriculums, but for the vast majority of interactions, you will be able to connect with other parents who are seeking the best options for their children and are excited about teaching using living books!

You can join up by clicking here or pasting this link in your brower:

I hope that you find it to be as encouraging and enlightening a resource and I have!

This discussion board is in no way sponsored by Beautiful Feet Books and is entirely independent.  

Monday, June 04, 2012

You are what you read...

Gregory Peck as Atticus Finch, one of the most admirable characters in literature

A study recently published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology confirms what parents and educators have know for centuries: you are deeply shaped by the books you read. The study does shed light on the psychological changes that happen when one is reading and being throughly immersed in the world of a fictional character. Turns out your behavior and thought process will mimic that of your favorite characters! The study also suggests that the more strongly you identify with a character, the more your behavior will change. One of the researches stated that the change may even be longterm:  “If you’ve got a deep connection with the characters, it can have a lasting impact, it can inspire you to re-read something. And then the impact can be strengthened over time.” 

In many ways I am sure that this is not surprising to anyone but I do think it can give one pause. Just as watching television can chip away at our contentment the books we read can be negative influences in our lives. As adults we should also be modeling good choices to the children in our lives. Our reading can reflect the baser aspects of our fallen nature, or it can serve to elevate our thoughts and turn us toward that which is good, true, and beautiful. 

As we have talked so much about raising readers, we also want to ensure that our children love reading those books that emulate the character traits we would like to see in their lives. It isn't enough to say "At least she's reading." We need to be aware of what she's reading. Now, as with all things, there is something to be said for moderation. I went through a stage in my tween years where I really enjoyed reading books from The Babysitter's Club. My mom could not understand the appeal but she didn't forbid me to read them. And I think that was a wise decision. She provided a compromise in which for each classic or historical title I read, I was allowed one Babysitter's Club. This was perfect for me. In my young mind there was nothing morally corrupting about The Babysitter's Club, but my mom knew that a steady diet of books about semi-discontented teen girls who were obsessed with clothing and babysitting jobs may lead to similar behavior in me. By ensuring that I was also exposed to books of a loftier morality, she not only mitigated the possible negative effects of my guilty pleasure, she saw to it that my forming literary tastes were not simply content to settle for mind candy. 

A broad exposure to great literature will also provide your children with a standard by which they can judge the characters they encounter in the books they read. The diversity of people I encountered in my reading made it more difficult to identify with any of the characters from The Babysitter's Club. After reading about the courageous Kit in The Witch of Blackbird Pond, Claudia's scrunchy and candy obsessions started to seem a little silly. As a teen, having encountered the great wisdom of Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird, Elinor Dashwood's selflessness in Sense and Sensibility, and the real and tragic Ann Frank, I was less liable to be sucked in to Holden Caulfield's self-indulgent world in Catcher in the Rye

There are so many wonderful characters, real and fictional, in the world of literature who are worthy of emulation. What characters have you deeply identified with? Who would you like to introduce your children to? Are there books you just cannot wait to give to your children but are waiting until they are old enough? I would love to hear from you!

And if you're looking for some direction, check out these resources:

Friday, June 01, 2012

History Points : The Bayeaux Tapestry

Here at BFB, history is our passion. And that passion is something we want to spread to other people. In order to facilitate that, I am going to start a series featuring historical events, artifacts, and other things of an antiquated nature. It has become increasingly clear to me how useful historical knowledge is the more time I spend abroad. Travel becomes more enjoyable when you can place the cities you visit within their historical context, art becomes more meaningful when you know the forces that influenced the artist, and, things generally make more sense. History also provides essential context for current events, something that seems to be lost in more political discourse. So, this is the first in that series, and I hope you enjoy it. If you have suggestions for topics, I would love to hear from you!

Last week I had the opportunity to visit the little French village of Bayeaux. This idyllic town in the heart of Normandy is home to the Bayeaux Tapestry. As I have spent the past two years working on the revisions of our Medieval History Through Literature study guides, I was just a bit overly excited to see this amazing piece of history. Stretching 230 feet in length, this tells, in comic book style, the story of the Norman invasion of England. The famous Battle of Hastings where William the Conqueror staked his claim on England is portrayed in all it's fierce and bloody action. The death of King Edward and his burial at Westminster Abbey appears in full color. Despite being nearly 1000 years old, this intricate piece of embroidery has had a colorful and varied history and now serves as a primary source document for researchers and historians.

Here's a bit of the history behind this fascinating piece. King Edward of England was dying and he had no apparent heir. At that time there was no formalized system of primogeniture so Edward needed to choose an heir. He chose the son of his great aunt, William the Bastard, the illegitimate son of the Duke of Normandy. Normandy was a large area in France that had been settled by Norse viking invaders. In fact it's name comes from normanz, plural of normand, originally from the word for "northman" in several Scandinavian language. Once King Edward decided on his heir, he sent Harold, the most powerful nobleman in England and Edward's brother-in-law to France to let William know about his future inheritance. This was a sly move on Edward's part because Harold's powerful position in England would have made him the presumptive heir. Instead he gets to schlep across the Chanel to let William know of his good fortune. And this is where the story depicted on the Tapestry begins. You can click on any of the images to enlarge. 
King Edward, seated, sends Harold on his mission.

Harold makes his way to France to deliver the news. He dutifully does so, but William is suspicious. In order to secure his inheritance, he makes Harold swear fealty, or loyalty, to him. He even makes Harold swear his oath while placing his hands on some holy relics! You can see this in the excerpt below:

On the left is Harold, his hands outstretched to touch two arks filled with holy relics. He is in a position of obeisance, pledging his fealty and loyalty to William.

The story continues with the death of King Edward. You can see his death, funeral procession, and even Westminster Abbey!

The artists set the events in this sequence out of chronological order. The moment of Edward's death appears on the right. You can see him lying in the lower level of the house, a bishop performing the last rites. To the left, you see his funeral procession. Edward is embalmed and making his way to Westminster Abbey. At the top and bottom of the tapestry you can see illustrations of animals. Some of these depict scenes from Aesop's Fables!
And here's where the action gets exciting. Harold has himself crowned king! It's a tricky move and one can see the coronation ceremony here:

In the center you can see Harold's coronation, and to the right you can see the crowd observing. William, in his distrust of Harold, had spies in England and they were in that crowd. In the next scene you can see them sending a messenger to France to tell William about Harold's treachery.

And so the preparations for the Norman invasion begin! Trees are chopped down and ships are built. They are loaded with provisions, military supplies, food and drink, and horses. The action in these simple figures is wonderful! Haley's Comet even makes an appearance!

After all the preparations are complete, it's time to leave Normandy and head to England!

Following a last feast in Normandy, the Normans board their ships. Note how their pants are tucked up around their waists when they wade into the water to climb aboard the ships.
Here you see the ships making their way to England. Note that they were built in the style of the Vikings!

There are all sorts of preparations once the Normans land. Fortifications are built, a road is established, the soldiers even burn down an Anglo-Saxon house that stood in their way. But very soon, the battle is underway:

The last scenes show the bloody Battle of Hastings. Here William defeats Harold, who is shot through the head with an arrow, and claims England as his own.

As you can see the tapestry portrays these events in all sorts of interesting detail. Each scene is skillfully set apart while a cohesive narrative takes place. It was commissioned by William's half-brother Odo, the Bishop of Bayeaux shortly after the events shown took place. It is thought to have been made in England by Anglo-Saxon embroiderers. The fact that it is so detailed and was made so soon after the actual events has made it an invaluable resource for historians and anthropologists. The details of every day life in the Middle Ages come to life in the stitching. We can see what people ate and wore, how they were entertained, and so much more.

The Battle of Hastings forever changed England. William the Conqueror, still known as the greatest invader of England, introduced many legal and social reforms to the Anglo-Saxons. He commissioned the Domesday Book, the most detailed historical register of its time. He also brought castles to England! Would you believe castles as we know them did not exist in England before William? He's even responsible for building the Tower of London.

Interesting, no? I loved my visit. The museum was very well done with interactive displays and even a video that aired in English and French. I was especially struck with something mentioned in the video that really brought home the value of knowing one's history. The movie closed with the reading of an inscription that appears in the Bayeaux Cemetery. A portion of the cemetery was designated for British soldiers who died during the D-Day invasions. It states "We who were conquered by William, have now liberated the homeland of the conqueror."

For those of you who are interested in learning more about the fascinating Middle Ages, check out these resources:
Medieval History, A Literature Approach, appropriate for grades 5-8

Castle by David Macaulay–one of the best histories of castles I know of!

Cathedral by David Macaulay also tells the fascinating history of Gothic architecture and the funding and building of the magnificent cathedrals one sees all over Europe. 

Signed in 1215, less than 150 years after the Battle of Hastings, the Magna Carta was instrumental in the formation of democratic government. Read all about it in James Daughtery's classic The Magna Charta.

A great introduction to the events and people who lived between 400 and 1450, The European World by Barbara A. Hanawalt can serve as a base for your literary explorations!

The World of Columbus and Sons by Genevieve Foster moves history forward out of the Middle Ages into the fascinating period of western exploration, the conflict of the Reformation, and the excitement of the Renaissance. 

I hope you enjoyed the story of the Bayeaux Tapestry and I look forward to more entries in this series. If you have a topic you are interested in or would like to know more about, please leave a comment. I may choose it for a future entry! 

Have a wonderful weekend!