Home School Life Journal From Preschool to High School

Home School Life Journal ........... Ceramics by Katie Bergenholtz
"Let us strive to make each moment beautiful."
Saint Francis DeSales

The Feudal System and Chess

"Life was very organized in medieval Europe. People were divided into groups and each group had different jobs to do. This way of life is now called the feudal system."
The older students hierarchy was a little more sophisticated.
"At the top of the feudal system was the king. He owned all the land in a country, made the laws and led the country's army."
And it might be time to learn about the order of the kings in England...
Kings and Queens of England Poem
byMary Ann H. T. Bigelow
Written in 1851
First, William the Norman lays claim to the crown
And retains it till death; then follows his son
The red headed William, whose life is cut short
By a shot from his friend, when hunting for sport.
Then Henry his brother takes quiet possession,
As Henry the first, of the great English nation.
Next Stephen, a kinsman gets the crown by his might,
But no one pretends to say he had a right.
Then comes Hal the second, who cuts a great figure
With Becket, fair Rosamond and Queen Eleanor.
The Lion-hearted Richard, first of that name,
Succeeded his father in power and in fame;
He joined the Crusade to a far distant land
But his life was cut short by a murderous hand.
Next comes the cruel and cowardly John,
From whose hand, reluctant, Magna Charta was won.
Then his son Henry third, deny it who can?
Though unfit for a King, was yet a good man,
And his reign though a long one of fifty-six years
Was full of perplexities, sorrows, and fears.
His son Edward first next governs the nation,
Much respected and feared, in holding that station.
The Principality of Wales was annexed in his reign,
And his son Edward second, first Prince of that name.
But what shall I say of King Edward the third,
The most remarkable reign, that yet had occurred;
Fire arms in the war, were first used in his reign,
And the battle of Crecy of great note and fame,
To their introduction has the right to lay claim.
The knights of the Garter, first made in his reign
In honor it seems of a fair English dame,
The Duchess of Salisbury to whom it is said,
From Edward peculiar attentions were paid.
Of Richard the second we have little to say,
And take up the fourth Henry, the next on our way,
Who reigned fourteen years, when death cut him down
And left his good Kingdom to Henry his son;
But ere nine years had past, the fifth Henry was borne
To the region of darkness from whence none return.
The next reign is full of commotion and strife,
And Henry the sixth is seen flying for life;
For though King of England, we cannot but see
He’s but the shadow of a king that should be;
And during the thirty-nine years that he reigned
His crown and his sceptre were feebly retained.
It was in this reign on her mission intent,
That Joan of Arc to the battle field went:
The French troops were elated, the English dismayed
At the wonderful victories achieved by her aid;
At length fortune turns, and ’tis needless to tell
Of the fate of this maiden, it is all known too well.
Of Edward the fourth it seems proper to say
That he fancied Dame Shore, when wed to Bess Gray.
But the fate of Jane Shore, should be warning to all
Who from love, or ambition, are tempted to fall.
When Edward the fourth departed this earth,
He left two little sons, both Royal by birth;
But ere three years had pass’d, both met with their doom,
By a most cruel uncle, cut down in their bloom
Of youth, love, and beauty, and laid in the tomb.
King Edward the fifth was the eldest one’s name,
Though never permitted by his uncle to reign.
Next comes cruel Richard, the third of that name,
Whose vices surpassing put others to shame.
When unhorsed in battle, he’s so anxious to live,
That he cries “for a horse, my kingdom I’ll give.”
But in the same battle he had his last fall
Lamented by none, but detested by all.
In the next reign the wars of the roses, all ended,
And the red rose and white, forever were blended;
For when Henry the seventh took Bessy his bride,
The knot of the roses forever was tied;
And when the sceptre descended from father to son,
The red and the white leaves all mingled in one.
King Henry the eighth had quite a long reign
Mixed up with his Anne’s, his Katy’s and Jane.
But from this King we turn with disgust and with shame,
And greet with delight, the sixth Edward by name.
And that covers all the Medieval Kings...
OR, if that is too long...
Short Poem about the Kings and Queens of England
Willie, Willie, Harry, Ste,
Harry, Dick, John, Harry three;
One two three Neds, Richard two,
Harrys four five six, ... then who?
Edwards four five, Dick the bad,
Harrys (twain), Ned (the lad);
Mary, Bessie, James the vain,
Charlie, Charlie, James again
Will and Mary, Anna Gloria,
Georges four, then Will, Victoria;
Edward seven, George and Ted,
George the sixth, now Liz instead.
Which takes all the way to today.

Speaking of kings, Sam is now reading a wonderful book about Henry II, Louis VII and Eleanor of Aquitaine.

It is for 6-7th grade reading level, but is a wonderfully fun read
"Peasants farmed the land of the knights, nobles and kings. In return the landowners protected the peasants from enemy attacks." -Usborne Encyclopedia of World History
I thought this was a perfect time to introduce my younger students to chess. The Kids' Book of Chess wonderful book to introduce children to chess, especially if you want to do it in a historical context. "It explains all the basic elements of the game in a colorful, dramatic story of the medieval battlefield that the chessboard represents. All the pieces from pawn to king are introduced according to the role they play in the chess game and compared to their actual role in medieval life."-School Library Journal

Since we studied only the king and the peasants today, we, we learned the moves of only those pieces and played a modified version of chess. It was good for James to just focus on the movement of the king and pawn because he kept having to be reminded that the pawns move forward in a straight line, but attack at a diagonal.

"Imagine the chess Pawn in real life, traveling on foot and carrying a lone spear called a pike. On the battlefield he was known as a pikeman. Pikemen also carried shields, which they held directly in front of them for protection. This meant that they had to point their pikes to either side of the shield. Similarly because of his shield, a chess Pawn is unable to strike the enemy piece in the square directly in front of him. He can attack only on the diagonal."
-The Kids' Book of Chess

We ended up with James putting me in the position where my pawns could not make another move, so we determined that he won that game. He understood the importance of having pieces that could move sideways in the game, and is looking forward to learning more about how the other pieces move, and having the king really go in check.

If you would like to start with a smaller version of chess,
Almost Unschoolers has a great idea of how to get started.
Or this post from Joyful Learner.
UPDATE: I have just found a book that has this concept of teaching chess, one step at a time, Chess is Child's Play, Teaching Techniques That Work by Laura Sherman


  1. Maybe I'll pick up that book to introduce them to chess.

  2. I was so happy to find that book online, at a partner library, I can't wait for it to arrive in!

  3. Thanks for the recommendation for the book on chess! Sounds great!

  4. I am SO glad that you continue to enjoy my pastel tutorials...I am in awe of your great skills as a homeschooling Mom! Yes, I will adopt you and all of yours into my family!

  5. Phyllis ~ what a wonderful post full of resources you have here! I am so glad you shared the link with me. I learn so much from you!

  6. Anonymous12.12.12

    I'm working my way through all your wonderful medievil posts (we start in January). I had to giggle when I read the poem. I live in England and have never heard that one!! Do you mind if I copy and paste it - not for my blog, just for my own use at home?
    Take care Phylis and have a lovely Christmas.


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