Monthly Archives: September 2014

Marco Polo

Week 15: Marco Polo (1271)

View K – 6: Marco Polo Animated Hero Classics by Nest Entertainment

7 – 8: The Adventures of Marco Polo by Russell Freedman


  • What country did Marco Polo travel to? (China)
  • What city and country was he born in? (Venice, Italy)
  • What great leader did Marco work for in China? (Kublai Khan)
  • Who did he travel with? (his father & uncle)
  • How old was he when he left Venice? (17)
  • What was his profession (job) in Italy? (merchant)
  • According to Marco, why was traveling through the desert so terrifying? (traveled more than a day without water, nothing to eat, easy to get lost, people hear “ghostly voices” from wind blowing across the dunes)
  • At one point in his travels, Marco became very sick. How was he healed? (carried up into the mountains – the pure air made him feel healthy again)
  • Describe the Khan’s palace. Was he a “rude barbarian” as the Europeans believed? (No, lived in riches & splendor. He also tried to be generous to those around him.)
  • What did the Khan have for entertainment? (acrobats, musicians, actors, jugglers)
  • What did the Khan use to help him hunt? (falcons, eagles, tigers, leopards, lynxes, & archers)
  • How did the Khan act towards the poor? (provided them with food, clothing, & free education)
  • What type of work did Marco do for the Khan? (envoy to different parts of the Khan’s empire)
  • What were the “giant snakes that walked on squat legs with jaws big enough to swallow a man” that Marco saw? (crocodiles)
  • Who wrote down Marco’s story travels? (fellow prisoner and writer, Rustichello)
  • What was his book called? (The Description of the World or The Travels of Marco Polo)
  • T/F The book became very popular. (T)
  • T/F Everyone believed his story. (F – many people thought he was lying)
  • How many years was he in China? (17)
    Questions for Grades 7 & 8:
  • What was the last mission the Polos did for the Khan? (escorted princess to her new husband.)
  • The Khan originally sent a message to the Pope requesting that he send Christians monks (friars) with the Polos to teach him about Christianity. Why didn’t the Polos fulfill the Khan’s request? (at first only two friars were willing to go; then the monks were frightened by bandits and turned back)
  • What great explorer did Marco inspire with his travels? (Christopher Columbus)
  • What type of money was used in the Khan’s empire? (paper)
  • Describe their postal system? (riders prepared at numerous stations to ride on horseback to deliver messages)
  • How often did the Chinese bathe? (at least 3 times a week – sometimes every day)
  • What were the “black stones that burned” the Chinese used to heat their homes? (coal)
  • How did people use the “fountain of gushing oil from the ground” that Marco saw near the Caspian Sea? (good for burning)
  • What gift did the Polos bring the Khan from the Pope? (Holy Oil)

Activities: K – 2: Fold a white piece of paper in half; then fold it again. Open it up and in each of the four squares draw a picture of something Marco Polo saw during his travels.
3 – 6: Marco Polo Word Placement worksheet: Marco Polo worksheet
7 – 8: Kublai Khan wanted to hear more about Christianity, but the two friars who accompanied Marco, his father, and his uncle became frightened and decided to return home. Do you believe they were following God’s calling or their own? Write your answer in paragraph form.
Then, write an essay discussing many of the things Marco Polo saw that were hard for Europeans to believe at the time.

Copyright September 25th, 2014 by Gwen Fredette

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Great Literature: Robin Hood

Week 14: Great Literature: Robin Hood

View K – 3:  Robin Hood (Disney Movie)

4– 5:  Robin Hood by Annie Ingle

6 – 8:  Robin Hood by Paul Creswick


  • Name each of the major characters in the Robin Hood story and tell a little about each one.                                                                                                                                   1.  Robin Hood: Young, Brave, excellent archer, steals from the rich to give to the poor, lives in Sherwood forest, loves Marian
    2.  Prince John: Rich, spoiled, rules unjustly, dishonest,wants Robin Hood dead
    3.  Sheriff of Nottingham: Works for Prince John, unfair to the poor, wants Robin Hood dead, tries unsuccessfully to catch him, greedy
    4.  Prince (King) Richard: true heir to throne; away fighting the Crusades
    5.  Maid Marian: beautiful, sweet, good with a sword, in love with Robin Hood
    6.  Friar Tuck: Monk, fat but strong, fond of eating and drinking, wants to serve God
    7.  Little John: Huge man, part of Robin Hood’s band of men living in the forest, excellent fighter
    8.  Will Stuteley (Scarlett): Part of Robin Hood’s band of men living in the forest, excellent wrestler
  • Who is the greatest archer in the land? (Robin Hood)
  • Why does Robin Hood steal from the rich? (to give to the poor)
  • Why does the Sheriff hate Robin so much? (because he is unable to catch him)
  • How was Robin able to enter the archery tournament? (disguised himself)
  • Stories about Robin Hood have been popular for about 500 years (since the 14th & 15 centuries). Why do you think this story has remained so popular for so long? (Answers will vary.)
  • Some people believe the stories of Robin Hood were based on a real person. Do you believe this story was based on real-life events or do you think it was fictional (made-up)? (Answers will vary.)
  • Which character in the story is your favorite? Why? (Answers will vary.)

Activities: K – 8: 

  1. Watch this video about Long bows and cross bows.
  2. Note: Read the following information to your students: Both Long bows and cross bows were weapons during the Middle Ages. The Longbow was faster to load. Many arrows could be shot in a short period of time. They were used by skilled archers.
    Crossbows were easy to operate and could be used by unskilled archers. Because they were easier to aim, old men and young boys could easily shoot with them. Crossbows’ arrows could often penetrate armor.
    Hunting was a popular sport for the nobility during the Middle Ages. Wealthy families often used dogs and/or falcons to help them catch their prey. Many rode on horseback to chase and corner the desired animal. Bows and arrows were typically the weapon of choice, although spears were also used. Hunted animals included deer, boars, rabbit, geese, ducks, and pheasants. Medieval hunting laws forbade peasants from hunting on land they did not own. If peasants were caught hunting on land owned by a king or nobleman, they could be killed or tortured.

K – 4: Create your own bow and arrows! You will need: A large stick (slightly curved) about 3 feet long (from a tree). Elastic Cord about 3 and ¼ feet long. Plastic straws. Feathers, Aluminum foil. Tape.
Tie one end of the cord to your stick. Tie the other end of the cord to the other end of the stick. Shape small pieces of tin foil into arrowheads and tape them to one end of your straws. Tape plastic feathers onto the other end of your straws. Pull your arrows back on the cord attached to your “bow” and release!
5 – 8: Write your own story about a starving peasant living near a nobleman’s forest, OR pretend you are a newspaper reporter. Write an article about a peasant caught hunting within a nobleman’s forest.


Copyright September 19th, 2014 by Gwen Fredette

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Saladin, King Richard, & The Crusades

Week 13: Saladin, King Richard, & The Crusades

Read K – 8: The Golden City by Neil Waldman & NOTE (see below)


The Crusades were a series of religious wars in which Christians fought to free the land of Israel and city of Jerusalem from Muslim rule. During the 600’s armies of Muslim Arabs captured the Holy Land and made it part of their Arab Empire. Jerusalem was a Holy City to them, believing that Muhammad had ascended to heaven from Mount Moriah. However, knowing that the city was also Holy to both Jews and Christians, they continued to allow pilgrims from both religions to visit the city.
However, in the 1000’s Muslim Turks blocked pilgrimage routes and attacked the Byzantine Empire. The leader of the Byzantine Empire, Alexius I Comnenus asked the Pope, Urban II, to raise an army to defend his empire.
Pope Urban promised forgiveness of all sins for all knights and warriors who sought to free the Holy Land from Muslim rule. He called the war a “Holy War”, but the wars eventually came to be called “The Crusades”. (Crusade is Latin for the word “cross”.) Those knights who participated in The Crusades wore the symbol of a red cross on their shields. They also carried a religious relic with them on their conquests, a fragment of wood which they believed was a part of the cross on which Jesus was crucified.
There were 4 major Crusades:
1st Crusade: Christian Crusaders captured Jerusalem and killed all who lived there, including Muslims, Jews, and even other Christians. The Holy Land was divided into 4 regions. (Edessa, Antioch, Jerusalem, & Tripoli.) These lands remained under Christian control for almost 100 years.
2nd Crusade: Muslims took control of the area of Edessa. Christian Crusaders fought against them to regain control but were unsuccessful.
3rd Crusade: Muslim leader Saladin fought against Crusaders to recapture the city of Jerusalem. His chief opponent from Europe was King Richard “The Lionhearted.” Both were brilliant military commanders and leaders. In the end, after much bloodshed, Saladin gained control of Jerusalem but allowed Christians to make pilgrimages to the Holy City.
4th Crusade: Christian Crusaders tried once again to recapture Jerusalem, but were unsuccessful.

The stories of Robin Hood came from the Crusades. King Richard taxed the people heavily in order to pay for the war. His brother, John, ruled in his place while he fought in the Holy Land. From a military perspective, the Crusades were not a success for Christian Europe. The Holy Lands stayed in Muslim hands, and many, many lives were lost. But from a commercial perspective, the Crusades brought about the exchange of many new goods and ideas.


  • What “Golden City” is the city of great significance to 3 major religions? (Jerusalem)
  • Name the three religious groups that have wanted possession of it? (Jews, Christians, & Muslims)
  • Why is the city important to Jews? (city of David, location of Mount Moriah where God had commanded Abraham to sacrifice his son, Isaac, city of Solomon and the first magnificent temple.)
  • Why is the city important to Christians? (Jesus, the Messiah, taught there and was crucified there.)
  • Why is the city important to Muslims? (Muslims believe the prophet Muhammad had ascended to heaven from Mount Moriah, located within the city.)
  • Who had control of Jerusalem during Jesus’s time? (The Romans)
  • After Christianity became the official religion of the Roman Empire, what did Christians build in the city? (churches at places where Jesus had walked)
  • What Islamic group conquered a huge territory of land from Spain to India after the collapse of the Roman Empire? (The Arabs)
  • What buildings of prayer did the Muslims build in Jerusalem? (mosques)
  • Who were the Crusaders? (Knights and common people who fought to free the Holy City from Muslim rule)
  • Who sent the Crusaders? (Pope Urban II)
  • Were the Crusaders successful? (yes, for about 100 years)
  • Later, what powerful Arab ruler restored Muslim rule to the city? (Saladin)
  • What religious group currently controls Jerusalem? (The Jews)
  • What religious pilgrims currently come to visit Jerusalem each year? (Jews, Christians, & Muslims)
    Questions on Note:
  • Why did the Crusades begin? (Muslim Turks stopped allowing pilgrims to visit the Holy Lands and attacked the Byzantine Empire.)
  • What did Pope Urban promise to all men who fought in the Crusades? (forgiveness of all sins)
  • What does the word “Crusade” mean? (cross)
  • What was the symbol of the Crusades? (red cross)
  • Were any of the Crusades successful for European Christians? (yes)  Which one? (the first)
  • What powerful Muslim leader fought against the Crusaders and gained control of Jerusalem in the 3rd Crusade? (Saladin)
  • What “Lion-hearted” general was his chief rival? (King Richard)
  • What popular story began around the time of the Crusades? (Robin Hood)
  • Overall, were the Crusades successful wars for the Europeans? (no)
  • Did any good come from the Crusades? (exchange of many new goods and ideas)

Activities: K – 3: Coloring page:
4 – 8: Crusades Crossword puzzle.  Click here: CRUSADES Crossword  (This crossword puzzle is two pages; please scroll down to find the crossword clues.)

Teachers, click here for the answer key: CRUSADES ANSWER KEY

Copyright September 11, 2014 by Gwen Fredette

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Great Literature: Aladdin

Week 12: Great Literature: Aladdin


Read K – 4:  The Tale of Aladdin and the Wonderful Lamp by Eric Kimmel

5 – 6: Aladdin and the Enchanted Lamp by Marianna Mayer

7 – 8: One Thousand and One Arabian Nights by Geraldine McCaughrean (Chps 1 – 5; 23 – 26; 33 – 35)



  •  Describe Aladdin’s character at the beginning of the story? (clever, lazy, poor)
  • Why did the magician claim to be Aladdin’s uncle? (wanted him to get him a lamp with a genie inside)
  • How many genies are in the original Aladdin story? (2)
  • What did each genie inhabit? (ring, & lamp)
  • How did the genies help Aladdin and his mother? (gave them food)
  • Who did Aladdin fall in love with? (Sultan’s daughter)
  • How was he able to obtain her as his wife? (by asking the genie to provide him with rich gifts to give her father.)
  • How did the wicked magician get back his lamp? (by telling the princess he’d trade new lamps for old)
  • What did the magician do when he got the lamp? (wished for princess & her castle to be whisked away to his own native land)
  • Describe how Aladdin & the princess outwitted the magician? (Aladdin used his magic ring to find the princess; the princess dined with the magician; she got him drunk/drugged him with a sleeping potion; she grabbed the lamp and wished for the castle and all within to be taken home.)
  • If you’ve seen the Disney version of Aladdin, compare and contrast that version with this original story? (2 genies instead of one, flying carpet, different name of princess, etc.)
    Questions for Grades 7 – 8:
  • Explain how Shayryar came to distrust all women? (found his wife with another man)
  • What did Shayryar do each night? (married another woman)
  • What happened each morning? (she was killed)
  • Why was the king’s advisor, the wazir, so worried? (had 2 beautiful daughters)
  • Explain how his daughter, Shahrazad saved her own life and the lives of many women in the kingdom? (told a different story every night but always ended the story on a cliff-hanger; the sultan always wanted to know how the story would end so he always allowed her to live “one more day.”)
  • What is probably the most famous story from 1001 Arabian Nights? (Aladdin)
  • Why did the king finally agree not to have Shahrazad killed after 1001 nights? (he loved her; she loved him and was carrying his child)
  • Of the stories you read in 1001 Arabian Nights, which did you like the best? Why? (answers will vary)

K – 3: Draw your own picture of a scene from Aladdin.
4 – 6: In paragraph form answer ONE of the following questions:

  • Compare and contrast this story of Aladdin with the Disney version of Aladdin (if you’ve seen it)
  • Do you think Aladdin deserved to marry the princess? Why or why not?

7 – 8: Write a 5 paragraph, 3 proof essay on ONE of the following topics:

  • Your favorite story from 1001 Arabian Nights (which one and why)
  • Shayryar didn’t deserve to be married to Shahrazad. Do you agree or disagree? Why?
  • Shahrazad lied when she told Shahrazad she loved him? Do you agree or disagree? Why?
  • Shahrazad was a powerful woman. Do you agree or disagree? Why?

Copyright September 4th, 2014 by Gwen Fredette

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