This post is for those of you who either educate your children classically or have children with an inordinate interest in the Middle Ages. You all know how much we love read-alouds at the House of Hope. As Lulu has gotten older, I struggle somewhat with how much to give her to do independently and how much to still read aloud to her. Honestly, sometimes it’s for semi-selfish reasons that I don’t have her read more of her required work independently; I don’t want to miss out on the experience, and I also think it’s valuable to have Louise along for the ride, too. Anyway, I discovered this little series of books at a homeschool conference that I attended last year where I got to hear Susan Wise Bauer in person. Of course, Peace Hill Press was there, and on their table was this set of four short biographies on the Empress Theodora, Ethelred the Unready, Amerigo Vespucci, and Johannes Gutenberg. So far in our history studies we have read about the acrobatic princess and the unready king via Story of the World, with more flesh-and-blood put on these stories via these little four chapter biographies. We can finish one of these biographies in a couple of sittings, but Lulu usually confiscates the book between readings and finishes it herself alone. They’re not fine literature, or at least not what I consider fine literature (which means a fair amount of description and a measure of literariness). They contain a good bit of dialogue, conflict, and general excitement, all hallmarks of books that easily capture the attention of the listener. However, they also provide plenty of background information and atmosphere. For example, here’s an interesting tidbit from Who in the World Was the Unready King?:
England made the finest coins in the world at the time. They were small silver coins called pence that were worth about a penny. Five pence would buy a sheep, and ten pence would buy a pig. To buy a few loaves of bread and some vegetables to eat, you could easily break a pence in half with your thumb and make “half-pence.” (14)
It’s not hard to find accessible literature about many, many time periods in history, but the Middle Ages selections are heavy on the knights and castles and light on individual personalities. I’m glad to have this little set of biographies to add even more life to our history studies. I only wish there were more of these!