10 Adorable and Lovely Ideas for Your Homeschool Walls

I’m not saying you can’t homeschool without these 10 completely adorable and lovely things for your homeschool walls, but you may be missing out. Besides being beautiful, they’re timeless. I wished I would have invested in more timeless pieces for my homeschool area instead of so many new and modern pieces. Homeschool Room Favorites Don’t […]

Middle Ages Feudalism Packet

Middle Ages – Feudalism Unit Update!!

Our Middle Ages – Feudalism Packet has grown to more than 50 pages!!   I added in a number of new activities including Middle Ages event cards (for the Early, High and Late Middle Ages) with extensive teacher notes and a new cut-and-paste feudalism activity.  You will also find an awesome feudalism simulation, art analysis, and lots of different notebook pages (with answers provided, of course!).

Middle Ages Worksheets Activities and Highlights

I created an entire set of Middle Ages Chronology Cards. This material covers the significant events of the Early, High and Late Middle Ages. There is an overview page, about 25 Middle Ages cards, teachers’ notes and blank student note-taking pages.

MIddle Ages Event Cards

You will also find a new feudalism cut-and-paste activity on pages 36 to 39. (Of course, the watermark lines aren’t in the packet!)

Feudalism Cut-and-Paste Activity

Don’t forget that this packet includes an awesome Feudalism Simulation that I did with my kids several years ago. It was a hands-on activity that they still talk about!  It really helped them understand (and remember) what feudalism is and how it worked.  It helped the kids understand the roles and responsibilities of the various members of society.

We evaluated some medieval art:

We started by looking at some medieval paintings and comparing peasant life and the life of the nobility expressed in these paintings. I chose 10 paintings/illustrations for the kids to examine. (They are all in the packet, though I only show a few below.) Some questions we discussed:

Look over all of the paintings. In most of the paintings, what is in the background?

List the jobs you see being carried out by serfs.

Describe the serfs’ clothing. What colors are used in the paintings for their clothing? Does this surprise you? Explain.

Feudalism-Analyzing-ArtFeudalism Simulation Activity: Will YOU survive the Middle Ages?!!

I wanted the kids to understand the disparity between those peasants who worked the land and the nobility, so I designed a simulation for them to see if they would survive as peasants.

I created about 20 different cards with different scenarios.  They had to work hard in their fields (running). For this hard work, they earned some tokens (or M&Ms).

Then they had to see what fate had in store for them as they drew one of the cards.  Would the get to celebrate up at the castle with a feast day? Would they have to pay taxes to the king? Would they have to provide service to the king? Or, would they catch the plague?

After three rounds, they counted how many tokens they had left. Would they have enough to support their family and survive the Middle Ages?! You can find out more about the Feudalism Simulation here (though all the instructions, cards and so forth are included in the Middle Ages/Feudalism Packet).

Feudalism-Simulation-Middle-Ages-ActivityThis packet also includes notebook pages about feudalism.

Feudalism WorksheetsI also included the Middle Ages notebook pages that I’ve made for the kids, so you don’t have to do a huge scavenger hunt for them here on the blog. You’ll find these on pages 60 to 113 of the Middle Ages-Feudalism Packet.  Some of those topics include:

  • Early Middle Ages Map Work: England and France during the Early Middle Ages
  • The Medieval Christian Church
  • The Silk Road, Genghis Khan, Kublai Khan
  • Marco Polo
  • The Crusades
  • Medieval Scholars
  • The Hundred Years’ War
  • The Black Death
  • Black Plague Simulation Activity

I’m going to keep the price the same until August (2019)!  Enjoy!  ~Liesl

Middle Ages/Feudalism Packet Worksheets and Activities 50+ Pages


$5.50 $2.50 Feudalism Packet

Don’t forget to check your PayPal email address for the download link!

Middle Ages Unit - Worksheets, Chronology Cards, Notebook Pages, Feudalism Simulation, Activities

You might also be interested in our Age of Exploration Packet and our European History (Renaissance/Reformation) Packets. See more details below!

Recommended Books and Movies for the Middle Ages:

The Middle Ages/Feudalism Packet is not tied to any particular book or textbook, but I thought I would share some resources our family enjoyed! These are affiliate links.

Middle Ages Text Book

One of the books I recommend if you are studying the Middle Ages is Early Times: The Story of the Middle Ages,  by Suzanne Strauss Art. We used it as our spine.  It is not necessary to purchase it, but it sure adds a lot of depth to the topic! We really loved this book (and the entire series!)! It’s written for middle school students, but we used it when just my oldest was in middle school and my younger two were still in elementary.

MiddleAgesFun Middle Ages Books: We enjoyed It’s a Feudal, Feudal World, A Different Medieval History by Stephen Shapiro.  It’s humorous and well done and a fun way for the kids to learn about feudal society. We also enjoyed Archers, Alchemists: and 98 Other Medieval Jobs You Might Have Loved or Loathed.

Another book series that has a lot of information in bite-size chunks is the Destination: Middle Ages.  There are six books in this series:

Of course, your local library will surely be filled with wonderful books about the Middle Ages and you can use those instead! The material here is not tied to any particular book or textbook.

Movies: There are a couple of films that you might want to watch. The Lion in Winter (affiliate link) with Katherine Hepburn and Peter O’Toole is about Eleanor of Aquitaine and Henry II. The other film is called Becket (affiliate link) and is about the tumultuous relationship between Henry II and his best friend Thomas Becket, who he appoints Archbishop of Canterbury.

LionInWinterWe also read the entire novel, The Adventures of Robin Hood (affiliate link), which we all loved.  We talked a lot about King John (Robin Hood’s nemesis)… and the fact that he was Henry II’s son (as was Richard the Lion-heart, who was off fighting in the Crusades when this novel took place.)

Middle Ages Novels:

CrispinWhen we first studied the Middle Ages, we read Crispin: The Cross of Lead by Avi. It’s wonderful! Here’s what I wrote a few years ago about it:

Yesterday, we got to such an exciting part of our current Middle Ages novel, that we couldn’t stop! We read aloud for nearly an hour and a half and finished Crispin: The Cross of Lead !  It was wonderful! I think I’ve talked about it before, but we all loved it so much I definitely recommend it if you are studying the Middle Ages. This book really helped the kids understand feudalism and the hierarchy that existed in the Middle Ages… in a way that just talking about serfs being tied to the land didn’t do (from our history book). It breathed life and drama into that period, for sure!

There are two other novels, we highly recommend: The Inquisitor’s Tale. (affiliate link) This book will help you discuss so many things about the Middle Ages… the three major religions, the Crusades, monasteries, Saints & pilgrimages and so many other topics!  It’s really well done! Newbery Honor book!

Grade 6 Lit - Inquisitor's TaleThe Book of Boy (affiliate link) This is another recent Newbery Honor book.  It is set just after the Black Plague ended and is about a peasant boy and a shadowy pilgrim as they head across Europe looking for the relics of St. Peter.

Book of BoyFun Middle Ages Projects:

When we did our Middle Ages Unit a few years ago, we had a lot of fun making these building projects!! We did the Easy-to-Make Castle (Dover Children’s Activity Books) and the Make This Medieval Village (by Usbourne). (affiliate links) The kids have loved these projects SO much!

You can read more about these Middle Ages Projects here.

Middle Ages Project for Kids

You might be interested in these history units too:

From here we went on to cover the Age of Exploration

$4.50 Age of Exploration Packet Quick Preview

Age of Exploration Unit -  Worksheets Notebook Pages European History 1500-1750: Renaissance and Reformation and other European History topics

$6.99 European History Packet 1500-1750 – Renaissance, Reformation, Age of Absolutism, Scientific Revolution, Enlightenment 90+ pages (See more details here) Quick Preview 

European History Packet - Worksheets Notebook Pages and More

See you again soon here or over at our Homeschool Den Facebook Page! Don’t forget to Subscribe to our Homeschool Den Newsletter. You might also want to check out some of our resources pages above (such as our Science, Language Arts, or History Units Resource Pages) which have links to dozens of posts.  Don’t forget to check out Our Store as well. :) ~Liesl

Homeschool Den Store

Again, if you are interested in joining our Homeschool Den Newsletter, feel free to subscribe here. It’s a great way to hear about our latest packets and to learn about many of the hundreds of printables & other materials we have tucked away on the blog!


Happy Homeschooling! ~Liesl

Disclosure: Please note that some of the links in this post are affiliate links, and at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you decide to make a purchase. Thanks for your support! ?

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Free Resource Guide for Homeschooling in High School Grades 9-12

Over the past few months, I’ve had quite a number of people contact me, asking if I had the Homeschool Resource Guide for High School, Grades 9-12, ready yet.  It is now available and like the other Curriculum Resource Guides for younger students, this is FREE to download! I hope it’s helpful!

This free Homeschooling in High School Resource Guide for grades 9-12 will help you and your student figure out what subjects and topics to cover in the high school years.

Free High School Homeschooling Resource Guide - Grades 9 - 12Click here to save this on Pinterest!

First, I want to mention that we live in the United States.  If you live in Australia, Canada, the U.K. or elsewhere, you will probably want to look more closely into the requirements of the universities in your country.

Second, this is a guide is meant as a starting point.  You will want to spending time exploring the options, opportunities and interests with your teen. Your student’s interests and future plans can influence the level and type of course-work he or she chooses.

It is important to have some open-ended conversations with your teen. What do they plan to do after high school? Do they plan to go to a 2-year college? a 4-year college? If your student plans on attending college, they will need more traditional course-work under their belt. The requirements for gaining admission to a university can be as varied as there are universities in the U.S. The earlier you start this discussion with your teen, the more information you can gather.

What classes to take in high school:

Don’t forget to keep in mind the rules and requirements of your state.

In general, most colleges would like to see certain core subjects.  Here are some common requirements. (But remember, I’m making generalizations here. Take this as a starting point and then look into the requirements of the schools your teen might want to attend!).

  • 4 units of English (ie. one year of English for 4 years)
  • 3 units of math, but often 4+ units are recommended (including Algebra I, Geometry, Algebra II)
  • 2 units of lab science (biology, chemistry, physics), but sometimes 3+ recommended
  • 2 units of social science (history, government courses)
  • 2-3+ units of foreign languages (often highly recommended)
  • 4-5 elective units

High School Course Work and Topics of StudyHere are some of the things you’ll find in the Homeschool High School Resource Guide pdf:

Course Options:

On pages 4 and 5 some of the course options you student might choose to do over the course of their high school years.  This is not an exhaustive list, but can serve as a starting point. These are some of the basic courses that colleges/universities expect on a traditional transcript.

Science & History Units/Topics:

I included some of the units/topics that are included in typical high school class.  Again, this is just a general guideline. Courses often vary!

High School Planning Pages:

Depending on the grade/age of your student, you might want to use these pages to map out the courses your student has taken and/or might take in the coming years.  Be flexible, though. Your student’s interests may change!

Literature Reading Lists:

I included some of the novels that we’ve read (or might read).  You can use that as a starting point. Don’t forget that you can listen to some of these books on audio.  We did this with both The Great Gadsby and the Grapes of Wrath and really enjoyed listening to that as a family!

Foreign Language Topics:

These are some of the basic vocabulary units your student will start out learning when he/she first starts learning a foreign language.

Where to Find Curriculum or Courses:

There are so many options! It can be overwhelming! This last section provides some avenues you can explore… from tradition homeschool curriculum, to co-ops, tutors, community college classes and more.

Click the link or picture below to download the

FREE Resource Guide for Homeschooling through High School, Grades 9-12

High School Homeschool Resource Guide - Subjects, Topics of Study - Grades 9-12Homeschool Planning for Next Year (Free Planning Pages)

These are some free Homeschool Planning Pages that I use as I try to figure out our long-range homeschooling goals.  This post shares share the process I go through… and also will share the planning pages that I’ve been using the past few years. I like having colorful planning pages to work on. This isn’t really a weekly/monthly planner, but rather a homeschool vision planner. This 30+-page pdf is currently FREE to download! Let me know if it’s helpful! ~Liesl

Free Homeschool Planning Pages

Free Homeschool Planner

And, if you are looking for some printables to create your own Homeschool Planner, you might want to check out our free Homeschool Planner. This unique homeschool planning packet is currently FREE to download! It is nearly 100 pages! Not only does this packet include daily and weekly planning pages, checklists and record keeping pages, but it also includes various homeschool journaling pages… think gratitude journal meets homeschool goal setting! Again, you’ll find it at this post: Free Homeschool Planner and Discovery Journal. I tend to change up my homeschool planning pages regularly as our needs change, so this packet of materials has steadily grown in size! There might be something you can use there! ?

Free Homeschool Planner

If you are new to our blog, you might want to check out these free resource guides, which I put together to help answer questions like… Where do I start? How do I know what to teach?  What units did you kids do when they were in __ Grade?

Creating Your Own Homeschool Curriculum: These are some resources I made that might be helpful as you create your own homeschool plans.  These are somewhere between 30 and 50 pages and are FREE to download:

Homeschool Curriculum Kindergarten Grade 1

Homeschool Science Curriculum Grade 2-3

Creating Your Own Homeschool Curriculum Grade 4 - 5

Homeschool Curriculum Grade 6-8

See you again soon here or over at our Homeschool Den Facebook Page! Don’t forget to Subscribe to our Homeschool Den Newsletter. You might also want to check out some of our resources pages above (such as our Science, Language Arts, or History Units Resource Pages) which have links to dozens of posts.  You might want to join our free Homeschool Den Chat Facebook group.  Don’t forget to check out Our Store as well. :)

Homeschool Den StoreAgain, if you are interested in joining our Homeschool Den Newsletter, feel free to subscribe here:

SubscribeHappy Homeschooling!


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Rethinking Extension Menus

Tic tac toe menus, 2-5-8 menus, baseball menus… when I first started teaching in gifted education, I saw menus as a core tool for differentiation. I made many of them. I even tried to make an app to generate them.

But now, after a decade plus in gifted education, I have a new perspective: menus lead to lots of low-quality tasks.

1. Choice isn’t (inherently) that great.

Just because there is student choice, doesn’t mean there’s quality differentiation. I wrote once before:

If my class reads about Saturn and then I let them create either a poem, a presentation, or a skit, there is no differentiated instruction happening. Some students are just making a different product – Read more

Differentiation must be about students’ thinking not the product they create. When I would give a bunch of choices to my students, those choices tended to have the same low-level of thinking and then finish with an option to restate already-known information as either a song or skit or poem.

Choice can be great, sure, but a high level of thinking should be our focus.

2. One is hard, but let’s do nine!

It is very hard to create just one high-quality task for advanced students. I do this full-time for Byrdseed.TV and end up tossing probably two-thirds of my initial ideas because they’re just not good enough.

High-quality tasks must incorporate high-levels of thinking plus thoughtful scaffolding, and advanced resources (that are also accessible to students), plus a culminating product that shows off students’ thinking without being mere fluff, and they need to fit into our limited time-frames!

That’s not easy.

So… why on earth did I think I could create nine ideas to fill up a tic-tac-toe menu?

Now I know that I’m always better off focusing my resources on my one best idea and tossing the rest into a “maybe later” pile. Read Essentialism for more on that.

One task is hard. Don’t try to create three, six, or nine.

3. Arbitrary requirements.

So, why did we choose nine tasks? Is it because we know that nine tasks is what’s best for student learning? Have researchers discovered that, when faced with nine choices, students suddenly reach a new level of thinking?

Well, no.

I made up nine tasks because that happens to fit in a tic-tac-toe board. That’s a terrible reason to create that much work.

Filling up a menu with nine tasks is arbitrary. Instead, let’s use what we know about learning to develop high-quality lessons. Let’s build on Bloom’s Taxonomy, depth and complexity, and quality scaffolding to create one great task before filling up a grid for no good reason.

4. Buffet or fine-dining?

I look at my old extension menus now and think, gosh there are maybe two seeds of good ideas. But the rest? It’s all just filler.

I created a buffet-style experience for my students. Nothing was particularly great, but there sure was a lot of it!

Imagine if I had, instead, used that time to take the best idea and flesh it out. Add scaffolds. Find fantastic resources to support student thinking. Create high-quality examples (and low-quality non-examples) to guide students.

Nowadays, I want each task to be like a dish at a fine-dining restaurant. Every element should be carefully thought through. Pieces that aren’t so great get improved or simply tossed out.

Focus on one idea.

So. My advice: focus on creating one outstanding task rather than banging out many mediocre tasks to fill up an extension menu. That one task can certainly include (high-quality) choice, but choice isn’t our goal. Our goal is to get students thinking.

Challenging Isnt The Goal Youre Looking For

If you’re a teacher, you’ve almost certainly heard someone say, “I want to challenge my students.” I used to say it all the time.

But then one of my sixth graders said to me, “Mr. Byrd, I don’t really want to be ‘challenged’.”

This has stuck with me for years.

“Challenging” Is The Wrong Goal

I totally get what this student meant. When faced with yet-another-worksheet, students don’t long for something “more challenging.”

“Challenging” is the wrong goal.

Consider this: you can create a “challenging” task that is also boring and uninspiring. You can give students a “challenging” fill-in-the-blanks worksheet, a “challenging” true/false question, or a “challenging” timed math test.

Something can be “challenging” and also still be at the very bottom of Bloom’s Taxonomy.

Using a thesaurus, here’s what you’ll find for “challenge”:

  • (n) problem, difficult task, test, trial
  • (v) disagree with, dispute, take issue with, protest against, call into question, object to
  • (v) test, tax, strain, make demands on; stretch, stimulate, inspire, excite

For the most part: yuck. “Challenge” has some surprisingly negative connotations. Yet, those last three words start to get at our true goal. I definitely want “inspired” students. But I don’t want “strained” kids. I want “excited” students. I don’t want my class to be seen as a “trial.”

Instead, “Interesting”

So here’s the word I use now, whether I’m planning lessons for Byrdseed.TV or running a workshop: interesting.

I want to “interest” students. A student who is interested will work over the weekend simply because they want to know more. An interested student will stay in from recess. An interested student is intrinsically motivated.

A great teacher makes lessons interesting. Their students are surprised when the bell rings because they were so darn interested!

When faced with yet-another-worksheet, students long for something interesting!

Personally, I’ll happily sit through a lecture that I find interesting. I’ll slog through a challenging book… as long as it’s also (you guessed it) interesting! I’m motivated to get out of bed in the morning when there’s an interesting problem waiting for me to work on.

We will gladly face trials, battle through strains, and take on taxing problems once we’re interested. So let’s make that our first goal. And then, once kids are motivated and excited to learn, they’ll take on the challenges.

Looking Back to Move Forward A Homeschool Journey Reflection

Hand holding a white mug with a tea bag and two stacked journals with a pen on a table outside and text My Homeschool Journey: A ReflectionThe homeschooling bug bit me 10 years ago completely out of the blue. It was never our intention to homeschool our gaggle of kids. That said, I always wanted to be a mama and a teacher and a writer. So, here I am juggling all three roles and then some. It’s nothing like I imagined. Continue reading »

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Why My Homeschooling Kids Need Breaks from Each Other and How We Do It

Three smiling children hugging each other and facing the camera with text Why my homeschooling kids need breaks from each other & how we do itIf your homeschooling clan is content to be with each other 24 hours a day with no breaks from each other, then feel free to skip to another blog post. I have nothing but love and high-fives for you because I think it’s amazing when families can do what works for them. If you’re feeling like maybe your homeschooling kids might need some built-in breaks from each other (and you), then read on while I share what’s working for us right now with three adolescents. Continue reading »

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Non-Scary and Montessori-Friendly Resources for a Shark Tooth Dig

There’s no doubt that sharks are high interest for kids. But how do we use that high interest to engage learning without giving young children nightmares? I have a 5-year-old granddaughter and two toddler grandchildren. We all live near the ocean, so our ocean unit has been especially interesting for us. But I don’t want…

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Get 25 Off the KHT Montessori Online Training Course

If you’ve wondering about the KHT Montessori Online Training Course, check out this post before signing up. I have lots of information (and freebies!) for you along with a $25 off coupon code for my readers! The coupon code is good at any time! Disclosure: This is a sponsored post. The opinions are honest and…

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