How To Teach Catholic Kids About The Middle AgesBooks . Curriculum . Homeschooling
At some point in your children’s education they’re going to learn about the Reformation. If you have a nice Catholic homeschooling family like mine, you try to make do with the Protestant history book you have while skipping a few sentences during your read aloud…before your husband walks into the school room and hears you mention Martin Luther and next thing you know your elementary students are bombarded with an “enthusiastic” lecture on the effects of the Reformation across Europe and the lasting ramifications to Western Civilization. Can you relate or is that just us?
Anywho, the Middle Ages is my favorite historic period to study (Charlemagne! knights! castles! St. Hildegarde! Dante! daVinci!) but it’s difficult to find a textbook for elementary and middle school aged students that fairly portrays the Catholic church. Many Catholic homeschool curriculum providers do not cover the Middle Ages with younger students, and when it is introduced, it is through dry school textbooks focused on introducing an overview of world history.
We study the Middle Ages in the second year of our four-year cycle. I’ll be reading about all my favorites next year for the third go round, but thankfully, I will not have to make do with what I’ve used in the past, and instead can take advantage of the second book in Tan’s The Story of Civilization (TSOC) series. How excited am I you ask? Pretty darned excited.
1. I’ve been using Story of the World (SOTW) as my spine since I started homeschooling, but because it leaves out so much awesome Catholic history, and includes questionable content, I always heavily omit and supplement with other books. In general, I think history is more enjoyable when you add picture books and literature, but it’s nice to have a well written textbook to lay the framework and set the stage for all the stories your kids will be reading. And that was the strength of the SOTW series; it was engaging. My kids enjoyed reading or listening to the stories, and in the early years, the hands on activities. Through the years I purchased many other books to fill in the chapters I was skipping and to add in stories of the saints.
However, TSOC is just as well written and produced as SOTW, as are all the related materials, which you can view samples of online or in person at the IHM National Homeschool Convention, June 23-24 Fredericksburg, VA. (Arx Publishing may have TSOC Vol. 2 to preview at IHM’s Michigan and New York Conferences.) The second volume of SOTW includes the medieval history of China, Russia, Australia, India, and Africa. If you would like to include this in your homeschool, great! however, if you’d like to focus on Western Civilization, you’ll appreciate the focus and depth of TSOC’s 33 chapters.
2. There is also a test book, teacher’s manual, activity book, timeline, audio book and streaming video lectures. (Currently only the textbook, test book and timeline are available for purchase. The rest are available for preorder.) The teacher’s manual contains narration exercises, review questions, map activities, art and science projects. Maps, coloring and activity pages are contained in the student activity book. While some of the narration, review and map exercises could be used with older students most of the activities are aimed at first to fourth graders. The test booklet is geared towards fifth to eighth graders. My only complaint is that there is no supplementary book list included in the teacher’s manual for TSOC, something that SOTW includes. Obviously, if you’re dealing with a great spine you don’t need to supplement, however, for my family, incorporating good books into our history lessons is non-negotiable.
3. I do want to mention two other Catholic history programs that cover the middle ages. One is RC History’s Connecting With History and the other is History Links, which is a unit study program. Connecting With History has daily lesson plans, with work for all grades levels outlined in one manual, and uses mostly ‘good books’, with some other Catholic textbooks recommended for each level (Beginner, Grammar, Logic and Rhetoric). I think if you prefer living books, don’t care about the spine, and want/ need daily lesson plans, you might prefer Connecting With History.
4. If you prefer unit studies and tons of activities and basically living like it’s 800 A.D. for a bit, History Links might be for you, although their medieval unit only covers from the fall of Rome until the Norman invasion. Their second medieval history unit is still not available and has been “in production” for a while now.
5. If you just want a solid Catholic history curriculum for your elementary or middle schoolers that you can open the box and get started with, and don’t care about adding in supplemental books, TSOC would be a great choice. Especially if you’re going through a particularly hectic phase in your life. Have the kids read the chapter, or put on the video or audio book, throw an activity book or test book at them (to complete of course!) and you’re done with little work on your part.
6. In case you’re curious, my kids will read TSOC next year for history. My sixth and eighth grader will each read a couple additional literature books on the historical topics being covered. We may also compare the history presented in TSOC with history presented in certain chapters of SOTW and other books on medieval history. The middle grades are a great time to start discussing the hard parts of Catholic history. (For parents interested in brushing up on history, I highly recommend ‘Ten Dates Every Catholic Should Know’ by Diane Moczar.But you’ll probably also enjoying reading TSOC yourself.) The audio version would be a great resource for Fulton and Teddy, plus some picture books. Ideally, I will hang a timeline somewhere prominent to inspire us all in some way. TSOC’s timeline is nice, but too crowded for my liking. We have the wall space to create a large timeline and that’s what I prefer to do, however, if it’s three weeks into the first trimester and we still have no handmade timeline, at least I have a backup plan.
7. I created a booklist years ago with all the titles I found or bought to supplement our study of the Middle Ages. You can view it here. It has not been updated with chapters from TSOC, yet! Probably in August I will overhaul the booklist to reflect lessons based on chapters in TSOC rather than SOTW. You’ll find books included for all grades on my list. Also, here’s my timeline of historic events. Still need more help with your history curriculum? Don’t forget I offer homeschool consulting; I’d be happy to work with you one on one!
When do your children start studying the Middle Ages? Any favorite history resources to share? Write it down then link it up below. Be sure to include a link back to this post so your readers can find the rest of the Quick Takes. I look forward to reading your posts!
Disclaimer: I was given The Story of Civilization for free in exchange for my honest review, which I gave, WITH GIFS, so I feel like I upheld my end of the bargain two-fold. All thoughts are my own, obviously.
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