These five chapters of An Island Story cover the period of history between the reigns of Aurelius Ambrosius to the beginning of King Alfred’s reign. If I’m counting right this means that we quickly cover about four hundred years of history. As usual, many of the resources that we used were video-based, so proceed knowing that.
How the Giant’s Dance was Brought to Britain
This chapter is really more of a fairy tale than anything. It’s a tale of Aurelius Ambrosius and Uther Pendragon as Kings of Britain, and of Merlin using his magic to lift the stones from Stonehenge into place.
I thought this was totally cool since I had never heard of the story of the stones being called “The Giant’s Dance.” We also thought the legend of Aurelius and Uther both being buried inside Stonehenge was very interesting. I did have one child who was disappointed because he expected there to be some kind of dance involved.
It has only been about 6 or 7 months since we actually watched some videos on Stonehenge, but we used mostly the ones on the History channel website for viewing. At the time that we studied Stonehenge before, we made model Stonehenges and I allowed each child the opportunity to pick the medium for their model. They were all happy with their creations.
Because of this chapter and the Arthurian story that spans the next couple of chapters, this would be a good time to start reading a book about King Arthur. I own several, and if I were reading to my littles, I would choose King Arthur: Tales from the Round Table. Instead, I elected to read Indiana Jones and the Dance of Giants. I haven’t read it yet, so I can’t tell you if it is kid-friendly, but we just finished watching the Indiana Jones movies with the kids, so I was feeling like a junky book read.
The Coming of Arthur
This chapter really tells the story of Arthur pulling the sword from the stone, so it would totally be appropriate to watch the movie The Sword in the Stone. Making your own versions of Excalibur would also be a great project.
The Founding of the Round Table
This chapter is a really character building chapter if you choose to make it so. Arthur and his knights are arguing. The knights are unhappy and want to know who is the most important, and they are all jockeying for the head table with Arthur at banquets and in doing official business.
Although their infighting is very petty, Merlin decides to come up with a solution that will make everyone happier. Instead of having the standard set-up for a king and his men, they will have a round table because a round table “has neither top nor bottom.”
We felt like this was a good place to pause and spend part of our afternoon discussing pride and humility. We talked about how often we fight and want our own way. We discussed the parable of the pharisee and tax collector. We discussed the things that we take pride in and how often that pride is sinful.
We, of course watched a couple of videos. These included:
Pride and Humility Lesson which shows how, when you are filled with humility, there’s not much room for pride
Price and Humility a lesson with legos. The kids loved this one for the crazy legos, but they also really related with the message trying to be conveyed.
John Piper: What is Humility? was another one I played because I love the way that Piper defines humility in this clip. Just love it!
We agree that a table might change everyone’s positions physically, but changing the way the table is configured can’t ever change the heart.
This could also be a good place to use Yertle the Turtle or The Fisherman and his Wife (also in The Book of Virtues if you have that). In both these stories, there is a main character who, no matter what power or wealth he/she gets, wants more and more until they have fallen back into their original obscurity and poverty. These are all great character lessons to go with this chapter.
The Story of Gregory and the Pretty Children
This chapter explains how the angles and saxons became the prominent cultural groups in Britain, and sets us up for proper British history. There are probably some avenues to explore there with older children, but that wasn’t our interest.
Instead we explored more about Gregory the Great, including watching this great little biography video. I thought about expanding this story out, and learning more but elected not to at this time. The children loved learning about him though.
One thing that you may have to correct is that when this chapter mentions Augustine, my older children immediately connected it with Augustine of Hippo, and the Augustine mentioned in this chapter is Augustine of Canterbury. If you’re using this as part of Ambleside with a year one student (that would be my two younger students), then this isn’t going to be an issue because they aren’t going to immediately know an Augustine. It was my 10 & 12 year olds who knew that there was a Saint Augustine, and had to learn from this chapter that there was more than one Augustine.
How King Alfred Learned to Read
This is an excellent chapter to encourage reading and memorization. You could have your children memorize a poem or something like that as part of your work. This is also an excellent place to branch out and do a study of King Alfred. (He’s going to be covered in the next two chapters of An Island Story as well.)
It was just this time last year that we studied King Alfred via a unit study on The Dragon and the Raven. You can check that out for all kinds of ideas to enhance your own study of Alfred or to use The Dragon and the Raven. We actually pulled our copy out this week to listen to again as we started working through the chapters on King Alfred.
That’s about all the enrichment we did on this chapters. We’ll be back soon to share more about studying the next five chapters!