Wednesday, April 04, 2012

The Duchess Bakes a Cake

The Duchess Bakes a Cake is the entertaining story of a duchess who decides she needs some excitement and attempts to bake a "lovely, light, luscious, delectable cake."  Her efforts get her into a bit of a pickle, however.

This story takes place in Medieval times.  I was a little perplexed about the best way to introduce feudal society to K.  The manual suggests simply explaining the basics of the lifestyle of the times.  I researched it some on my own, since I don't remember learning much about the Middle Ages in school myself.  Or maybe I wasn't interested and it didn't really stick.  (I do remember reading the entire Le Morte d'Arthur for a college English Lit class and thinking it the most mind-numbingly repetitive book I'd ever read.)  I seem to remember spending more time with ancient history... the Renaissance was fun to learn about... and a lot, lot more time with American history.  But I digress.

Anyway, to try to introduce K in a simple way to the different levels of society during Medieval times, I made a poster with drawings of a king, queen, duke duchess, knight, farmer, etc., and as I did so, briefly explained their roles.

Since this was our first really historical study with Five in a Row, I also wanted to show K what the clothing styles were like at the time.  I found this blog post that outlines the range of styles, and it's even beautifully illustrated with paper doll images from the History of Costume series by Tom Tierney.  Growing up, my sisters and I played with Civil War era paper dolls, also illustrated by Tierney, and we Loved. Them.  The Medieval Ages book is available on Amazon, but I thought K was young for something of that detail yet.  Besides, I'd have to do all the cutting out.  I did print out some of the sample figures pictured on the blog post and K enjoyed playing with them. 

Another highlight to this unit was making a catapult.  This was something I decided to do at the last minute.  I knew it would be too difficult for K to make, but I found myself with some time while K completed the Homeschool Share pages on vocab and alliteration.  The kids had so much fun with this.  Definitely worth the effort.  We shot pom poms with it, and they flew surprisingly far.

 (Try to ignore K's funny hairstyle.  This unit was done when she was in a princess dress-up phase.)  For awhile pom poms were being shot into all nooks and crannies of the house.  I confess, I  tried  not to laugh when one child came running to me in a great state of excitement to say that a certain other sibling had made a ball out of Wikki Stix, put it in the catapult, and it stuck to the ceiling.

 I also wanted K to learn about castles.  I got some books from the library, including an oversize one from the adult section that had great photography of castles around the world.  I hadn't realized until I started reading through these books how castles were not meant for living in, really, but had instead a military purpose.  Though the fact was unavoidable that every aspect of a castle was for a defensive intention, we touched only lightly on wars and sieges and things, and spent more time admiring the thick walls, moats and the interesting descriptions of the windows.  I gathered an assortment of cardboard boxes and we built a castle with them, using the kids' building blocks as well.

Another interesting activity was to show K the Old English Type Alphabet in the appendix of the manual.  Some of the letters were hard for her to recognize!  Then she enjoyed typing her name on the computer using an Old English font.  Since then she has noticed Old English type elsewhere when we're out and about.

For Art, I showed K some pictures of shields in our castle books, along with a brief look at a website that details the code of colors and images that Coats of Arms used.  The kids enjoyed painting their own Coat of Arms.  I played Medieval music as they painted, and this seemed to relax them and they put more time and effort into their paintings.

Our finale for the unit was spending a couple days making a production of Duchess Bakes a Cake with dolls, etc., and video taping it.  T was recruited from time to time to make the King say a line or help shoot the catapult.  They were really proud of how the show turned out when I showed them a dvd of their entire production on the TV.

I also wanted to mention that there are many hymns and songs that reference Jesus as King and rowing this unit gave new meaning to the hymn "A Mighty Fortress is Our God".   We did not lack for hymns to sing!

I was happy with how this row went.  I was tempted to not do the "real" things--catapult, making a castle--because of the extra work involved, but Jane Claire's exhortation to "emphasize hands-on experience, rather than textbook memorization" kept ringing in my ears.  I'm glad we took that route.


Dana said...

So did the duchess bake a delightful cake? And did Princess K get her bangs to curl? What a fun and very active unit!

Joelle said...

Wow! Looks like you had a super fun time! The catapult looks like it was super fun! You didn't bake a cake? Good job with your drawing! You are quite the artist! I hope by next year Timmy is a little less destructive so he can be involved more and we can do FIAR when he is awake! I'd love to see the video! What fun!