England Unit: Week 1

Hiya! Welcome to England! Be sure to mark your passports as we travel this month to a European country with a rich history and connection to all of us English speakers. This week you will learn about the geography of this island and its ancient and medieval history. We will enjoy lessons in science, history and art, including building a castle and a catapult and learning about the germs and viruses that caused serious health crises back then. All month long, we will work on a timeline that will help us track historical milestones, inventions, important events and people, and changes in governments. Ready!? Be sure to download and print your tracker for the week. Cheerio!

Note: Although the majority of our unit will focus on England, we will select a few lessons about other countries within the United Kingdom.

What you need:

Books (find at your local library or order below on Amazon):

Supplies (use what you have, but here are links to shop if you need anything):

Note: We break down our supply list so you can choose what you need based on which lessons you plan to do with your child.

UK map project:

What causes seasons activity:

Timeline activity:

Your supplies for this project will be determined by your method. Read through this post to decide how your child will make their timeline and what you’ll need.

Feudalism activity:

  • medieval figures (a LEGO or other figurines can be substituted for this, or you could even make your own with these pegs)
  • cupcake liners
  • chocolate pieces, like M&Ms (these are cheaper to buy locally)

Build a castle:

Build a catapult:

English plate armor craft:

Chainmail craft:

(-) Faux stained glass craft:

Faux stained glass, option 2:

Medieval menu activity:

Lamb recipe:

  • 900g boneless stewing lamb or mutton
  • 425ml chicken stock
  • 2 medium onions, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp chopped parsley
  • 1/2–1 tsp each fresh rosemary leaves, thyme leaves, and savory or marjoram leaves, bruised in a mill (use less if using dried herbs)
  • 1/4 tsp each ground ginger, cumin, and coriander
  • salt
  • 225ml white wine
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice

Pickles recipe:

  • jars with lids
  • vegetables of choice (approx. 1 pound)
  • fresh or dried herbs, spices, or flavors of choice
  • 1 cup vinegar of choice
  • 1 tbsp. salt
  • 1 tbsp. sugar (optional)
What to do:

We recommend doing the below lessons in this order to build on each skill your child will develop, but don’t feel that you *need* to do them in this order. Do what works for you and your child. If they love an activity, feel free to repeat! Not a winner? Skip and try the next thing. Have fun!

Lesson 1:

Our unit this month is England. England is a country in Europe (as you probably know). But is it the same as the United Kingdom? What about Britain? Or for that matter the British Isles? Let’s break it all down, because honestly, it’s all a bit confusing.

Activity 1: Let’s begin with a quick geography lesson. Open your atlas, pull out the globe, or look at this map of Europe and find The United Kingdom (UK) which is short for The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland…quite a mouthful! The United Kingdom is a political union of four separate, co-equal countries. Basically, it is a country of countries. It is a fully independent sovereign state, even though it is made up of four individual countries. Great Britain refers to the geographical area that includes Scotland, England, and Wales.

What about the term “The British Isles”? This refers to the United Kingdom and Ireland plus the 5,000 other smaller islands. It also is a geographical description of the area.

Let’s do an activity to make this all a bit clearer. Start by printing this map of the United Kingdom. Referring to the map below, color in each individual country that makes up the United Kingdom a different color—Scotland, Northern Ireland, England and Wales. Label the maps with the following information: individual country name, capital of each country, the capital of the UK, and surrounding bodies of water. Use the map below as a reference.


Activity 2: Let’s take a look at the flags of each of these individual countries and the United Kingdom’s Union Flag.

As you can see, each country’s flag is unique. The Union Flag combines many elements from three of these flags to create one new flag. 

When it comes to choosing national symbols, the United Kingdom seems to favor the royalty of the world’s flora and fauna. The lion is its national animal, the rose is its national flower and the oak is its national tree. But the collective territories of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have never named a national bird. (source)

If you had to pick an animal, a flower or a tree to represent your family, what would they be? Draw a picture or write down your selections. Detail why these are good representations. Allow your imagination and your creativity to take the lead. This could be an opportunity to write a short story, a poem, or draw a picture using an art medium of your choice. It might also take some research to find out if there are any funny, interesting, or romantic stories in your family’s past that would make these choices appropriate. 

(Note to parents: This lesson would be a great opportunity for you to tell some stories. Children generally love to hear about your past, so think of any animal, flower or tree that comes into your family story and share it with them.)

Activity 3: What is Greenwich Mean Time? Watch this video to learn. (For more information about time zones, check out the Level 3 Peru Unit: Week 1, Activity 2.)

This video also discusses why our earth experiences seasons and why we have different amounts of daylight hours at different locations and different parts of the year. Make the lesson come to life with this hands-on STEM project.  

Research your area and find out what day of the year has the most sunlight and the least sunlight. 

Lesson 2:

Today, our activities will focus on learning more about England’s pre- and ancient history.

Activity 1: Read + Discover. Read the book A Street Through Time to learn about human history in Britain. This beautiful picture book will also teach us the different civilizations and governing powers that have controlled this area through time. You will see so much detail in the illustrations, so take your time reading through the pages. (This video gives you some ideas on how to discuss and review the book with your child.)

Click here to learn about the first people that lived on this land, the tools they used, and what they ate. 

Next, we will create a timeline that will record the history of England throughout this unit study. Watch this video to learn what a timeline is and some tips on creating one. You can decide when your starting point will be after today’s lesson. You can also make your timeline in a variety of ways. This blog post has six different suggestions. Let your child decide which one they will use. As you learn about events, people, inventions, or other facts all month long, add them to your timeline. 

Activity 2: The first Indigenous people were called Britons. This page explains: 

The Britons, also known as Celtic Britons or Ancient Britons, were the indigenous Celtic people who inhabited Great Britain from at least the British Iron Age into the Middle Ages, at which point they diverged into the Welsh, Cornish and Bretons (among others). They spoke the Common Brittonic language, the ancestor of the modern Brittonic languages.

Celtic Britain was made up of many tribes and kingdoms, associated with various hillforts. The Britons followed an Ancient Celtic religion overseen by druids. Some of the southern tribes had strong links with mainland Europe, especially Gaul and Belgica, and minted their own coins. The Roman Empire conquered most of Britain in the 1st century, creating the province of Britannia.

Next come the Anglo-Saxon-Jute tribes. Read the book Medieval Times England in the Middle Ages, pages 6-9, to learn about Anglo-Saxon England. Next watch this video for a summary of this history.

Add the details you have learned to your timeline. We will talk more about these tribes in Week 3, when we learn about the history of the English language. (Spoiler alert: They are responsible for much of how we speak today!)

Activity 3: Read + Discover. Have you ever heard of Stonehenge? Start by reviewing this page and watching the videos embedded within. Want to learn more? Watch this video next. Discuss the information together. Ask your child their opinions: Why do they think it was built? What else could it be used for?

For additional information or a different format you can also learn about Stonehenge by reading this webpage by National Geographic Kids.

Next, build Stonehenge on Minecraft, or you can draw a sketch with the help of this tutorial.

(-) For a simpler project, you can make a Stonehenge replica with playdough and rocks like you see here. Add more detail to this activity for older kids by adding moss to the bottom of your cardboard and placing the rocks in the original spots.

Lesson 3:

There are many parts of British history that are fun to study, but our favorite just might be medieval times. Start by reading the book Medieval Times: England in the Middle Ages by Joanne Mattern, pages 10-13. (As a reminder, add details from today’s lesson to your timeline!)

Next, review this timeline to see how many years of history the middle ages actually includes. Some of the famous people and places from the middle ages might sound familiar to you. Have you heard of Westminster Abbey? It’s a famous place where royal weddings and funerals have taken place. What about the Tower of London? It’s a famous tower that served as a prison for many famous members of the royal family. (Yikes!) What about the Black Death? The Black Death was the first pandemic recorded in history. (source

Activity 1: Discover the Feudal System. During this time in history, you will also see a long line of kings who will rule over the British people in a form of government called the feudal system, as you read on page 13 of the Medieval Times book. Let’s bring the feudal system to life with this activity.

Activity 2: Do you love the fashion of medieval times? You might also enjoy these paper doll cut-outs! Color them in and then make the dolls. (There are three files linked on the website: Medieval Men, Medieval Women, and Knights—all free to download.)

Activity 3: Discover. Begin by reading the book Castles. (It will make a great read aloud!) One of the best ways to learn about something is to build it. Next, build a castle with this guide (check the video in this post too!). You can use boxes and building materials, LEGO, or even Minecraft to build your own version. You also might want to use the “download and design your great tower” on this website

Activity 4: Let’s build a catapult. Catapults are an example of simple machines. Start by reviewing this PDF to learn about the science behind catapults. Click on the Engineering Design Process link and discuss the process that goes into designing simple tools and other inventions. Vocabulary words such as levers, fulcrums, and potential and kinetic energy can be learned or reviewed.

Activity 5: Read Medieval Times, pages 16 and 17, and watch this video from Khan Academy to learn about the Crusade Wars.

The Crusades were fought in Europe and the Middle East from the 11th to the end of 14th centuries. Unlike other wars led by a nation, king, or government, the Crusades were religious wars. Although most of us assume that these wars were only between Christains and Mulims, as you learned in the video above, these religious wars for territorial power were also fought against each other and minor religions in Germany and Spain.

The crusades were characterized by these three elements:

  1. Knights were called to fight by a pope (Pope Urban II was the first).
  2. Those who participated in the crusades were told that they were excused for their violence, or had “Crusade Indulgence.”’” In other words, they were not “sinning” when they participated in these wars. They were therefore called “Holy Wars” or “Jihad.”
  3. The purpose of the war was to defend or expand Christian territory.

Jerusalem was one place where the Crusades War took place. It was a land that three major religions used for worship and were compelled to defend. Muslims, Jews, and Christians all have historical and religious ties to this land. Because of this, they fought for power and position of this land for centuries (even down to today). 

(+) Critical thinking activity. Look at maps of the area, videos with more information, and details of the Crusades told from the Christian perspective here. Next, watch this video series and read the article to learn about the crusades from an Arab perspective. Like most things in history, the story is different depending on who is telling it. Compare and contrast both perspectives.

Lesson 4:

Friendly reminder to add today’s activities to your timeline when you are done!

Activity 1: Discover. The Magna Carta is Latin for “Great Charter.” Read Medieval Times, page 18 and 19, and watch this video to see how the Magna Carta developed. Read more about it here. Want to hear a fun explanation of the grievances addressed in the Magna Carta? Listen to this Horrible Histories performance

As with many historical moments, artists have been inspired to depict these events in their work. Let’s examine a few artist’s works depicting the ratifying of the Magna Charter by King John.

Start by viewing the works of English artist John Hamilton Mortimer here. Here is another depiction by artist Charles Sims. Finally, look at this painting by Ernst Normand. Examine each of these pictures and discuss these questions as you view them:

  • What do you notice about each of them?
  • What is the same?
  • What is different?
  • How did the artists use color to express the emotions of the events?
  • What mood is the artist trying to convey?
  • What story is the artist telling?
  • Who is represented in the image?
  • How did they use the throne in two of these pictures?
  • How is Sim’s picture different from the other two? (source)

Are you working with a group? Let’s recreate the signing of the Magna Carta at home! This is a photography activity, so pick someone to be the director and someone else to be the photographer (it’s fine to use a phone camera!). Choose other family members or co-op participants to each play a part: King John, the Barrens, and the Archbishop of Canterbury. (Not working with a group? Have your child’s toys stand in for the characters!) Feel free to use props likes crowns, swords, robes, and hats to bring the scene to life. Position the players in different ways to capture the tone that is described in the history books. After the photos have been taken, examine them to see which one the group thinks best depicts this significant event in history.

Activity 2: Discover The Plague. We’ll begin learning about this devastating disease in Medieval Times on pages 20-23. Plague is a disease that affects humans and other mammals. It is caused by the bacterium Yersinia pestis. Humans usually get plague after being bitten by a rodent flea that is carrying the plague bacterium or by handling an animal infected with plague. Plague is infamous for killing millions of people in Europe during the Middle Ages. Today, modern antibiotics are effective in treating plague, but without prompt treatment, the disease can cause serious illness or death. Presently, human plague infections continue to occur in rural areas in the western United States, but significantly more cases occur in parts of Africa and Asia. (source)

Let’s learn about the microorganisms that cause plague by reading this webpage, or read the book It’s Catching!: The Infectious World of Germs and Microbes (or read it here on OpenLibrary). Focus on chapter 2, pages 14-17 about viruses. Chapter 3, pages 20-27 talk about symptoms and cures.

For our activity, we’ll create a radio commercial. First, read this post, including listening to the audio at the bottom, and discuss the following questions:

1. How do people catch colds? What about the flu? 

2. What are the symptoms of a cold? How long can a cold last?

3. What are the symptoms of the flu? How long can the flu last? 

4. What system in your body is responsible for fighting off a cold or flu? 

5. What can you do to avoid getting a cold? The flu? 

6. How do immunizations work?

Next, follow the directions in this PDF to create a public service announcement about the flu, the common cold, or other viruses. Include details about how germs are spread and the importance of hand washing. Write your PSA and then time yourself reading it to keep it less than 30 seconds long. Finally, record the commercial on your phone. 

For a full unit on Germs, Viruses + Fungi, click here for our Level 2+ unit study.

Activity 3: Let’s learn about an important job from medieval times, blacksmithing.

Blacksmithing originated in the Iron Age, and reached Britain around 450 BCE. As the production of iron increased, so too did the number of blacksmiths. Yet, these practices did not significantly advance until the thirteenth century. The craft was an essential social support in every village and town. Even before the advent of the industrial revolution blacksmiths often became ‘specialists’ of one sort or another. This was speeded up by the Industrial Revolution, and whilst blacksmithing in the form of forged metals is still very much part of our landscape industrial forge work would not be regarded by most as ‘craft’ although some small ‘craft’ industrial smiths still operate producing small bespoke forging runs.” (source)

Watch this video of a recreation of a blacksmith forging a knight’s sword. 

What is an English knight? Read The Usborne Official Knight’s Handbook to learn all about knights. 

Next, read this webpage from the MET with great myth-buster information about knights, as well as pictures of museum artifacts. Then enjoy this exhibit video from the Frist Art Museum’s Arms and Armor exhibit

Next, build an English plate armor with this tutorial. For more ideas on drawing the coat of arms, visit this website with details about the meaning behind colors and animals chosen to present a Lord. Alternatively, students might enjoy this chainmail craft.

(+) Older students might enjoy this DIY English Knight’s Armor activity. It will likely take a week to make. 

Activity 4: Stained glass has been used for thousands of years, beginning with the Ancient Romans and Egyptians, who produced small objects made from colored glass. Stained glass windows in Britain can be traced back to the 7th century, with some early examples found in churches and monasteries. (source) Watch this video to see how medieval-era stained glass panels were made.

Next, try making your own version with one of the following faux stained glass projects:

While your child is working on this craft, or after they have completed it, finish reading the book Medieval Times pages 28-29, “End of Middle Ages into the Renaissance” to complete our week of medieval times as we transition to the next time period.

Lesson 5:

Today, we’ll learn about some of the food you would have found during medieval times in England.

Activity 1: Read + Discover.

Most people in Medieval England had to make their own food. Food shops were found in towns, but most people were peasants who lived in villages where these did not exist. If you were a Medieval England villager, you provided for yourself by farming for your own food. You needed a good supply of food and drink. Drink should have meant water, which was free from rivers, but usually the water was far too dirty to drink.

Most people in Medieval England ate bread. People preferred white bread made from wheat flour, however, only the richer farmers and lords in villages were able to grow the wheat needed to make white bread. Wheat could only be grown in soil that had received generous amounts of manure, so peasants usually grew rye and barley instead. Rye and barley produced a dark, heavy bread. Maslin bread was made from a mixture of rye and wheat flour. After a poor harvest, when grain was in short supply, people were forced to include beans, peas, and even acorns in their bread.

If that doesn’t sound tough enough, there was also the matter of the actual baking. Lords of the manor did not allow peasants on his land to bake their bread in their own homes. All peasants had to pay to use the lord’s oven.

As well as bread, the people of Medieval England ate a great deal of pottage. This is a kind of soup-stew made from oats. People made different kinds of pottage, sometimes adding beans and peas. On other occasions, they used other vegetables, such as turnips and parsnips. Leek pottage was especially popular, but the crops used depended on what a peasant had grown in the croft around the side of his home.

The peasants relied mainly on pigs for their regular supply of meat. As pigs were capable of finding their own food in summer and winter, they could be slaughtered throughout the year. Pigs were also cheap to keep because they ate acorns, which could be gathered for free from the surrounding woods.

Peasants also ate mutton, which comes from sheep. But sheep and lambs were small, thin creatures, and their meat was not highly valued. People also used the blood of the slaughtered animal to make a dish called black pudding (made from blood, milk, animal fat, onions and oatmeal).

Animals such as deer, boar, hares, and rabbits lived in woodland surrounding most villages, but these animals were the property of the lord and villagers were not allowed to hunt them. If you did and you got caught killing these animals, you faced being punished by having your hands cut off. However, many villages did get permission from their lord to hunt animals such as hedgehogs and squirrels.

Lords might also grant permission for people in his village to catch dace, grayling, and gudgeon (types of fish) from the local river. Trout and salmon were for the lord only. Many lords kept a large pond on their estates filled with large fish. If a peasant was caught stealing from the pond, he would face a very severe punishment.

The villagers drank water and milk. The water from a river was unpleasant to drink, and the milk did not stay fresh for long. The main drink in a medieval village was ale. It was difficult to brew ale and the process took time. Usually the villagers used barley, and this had to be soaked for several days in water and then carefully germinated to create malt. After the malt was dried and ground, the brewer added it to hot water for fermentation.

People in most villages were not allowed to sell their beer unless they had permission from their lord. To get permission to sell ale at a fair, for example, you needed a license which had to be paid for. Food for the rich and poor varied enormously.” (source)

Using the information we’ve discovered, make a menu for a fictional medieval restaurant using a manila folder and white paper. Design a menu cover, including your restaurant name and an illustration or logo. Inside your menu, include drinks and a breakfast, lunch, and dinner listing. Be sure to include a name for each dish, a description of what it includes, and a picture. Your menu can be as gross or as funny as you would like it to be. Have fun! (And don’t be offended if we don’t want to eat at your restaurant.)

Activity 2: Read the lamb or mutton stew recipe below written in old English, and then compare it to the recipe underneath with instructions as we write them today. (source) How does this recipe sound to you? Prepare this recipe for dinner today. What modifications would you make? Would you add any ingredients? You would need to make some mathematical conversions before starting, so discuss your plan before cooking.

Old English recipe:

‘Take veel other[wise] motoun and smyte it to gobettes. Seeth it in gode broth; cast therto erbes yhewe gode won, and a quantite of oynouns mynced, powdour fort and safroun, and alye it with ayren and verious: but let it not seeth after.’

– Curye on Inglysch, IV.18. 

Modern-day lamb recipe:

Serves 6


  • 900g boneless stewing lamb or mutton
  • 425ml chicken stock
  • 2 medium onions, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp chopped parsley
  • 1/2–1 tsp each fresh rosemary leaves, thyme leaves, and savory or marjoram leaves, bruised in a mill (use less if using dried herbs)
  • 1/4 tsp each ground ginger, cumin, and coriander
  • Salt to taste
  • 225ml white wine
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice


Cut the meat into 5cm cubes. Put the stock into a stewpan and bring to the boil. Add the meat and bring back to the boil. Skim if needed, then add the prepared onions, herbs, spices, salt and wine. Reduce the heat, cover the pan and cook gently until the meat cubes are cooked through and tender (1–1 1/2 hours). Beat the eggs with the lemon juice until blended, then take the pan off the heat and stir the egg mixture gradually into the stew to thicken it slightly. Do not re-boil. (source)

Activity 3: Food preservation during the cold winter months and during sieges was essential to people’s ability to survive during medieval times.

At this time, food preservation methods were the same as had been used since antiquity (and did not change much until the invention of canning in the 19th century). The most common and simplest method was to expose foodstuffs to heat or wind to remove moisture, thereby prolonging the durability, if not the flavor, of almost any type of food from cereals to meats. The drying of food worked by drastically reducing the activity of various water-dependent microorganisms that cause decay. In warm climates, this was mostly achieved by leaving food out in the sun, and, in the cooler northern climates, by exposure to strong winds (especially common for the preparation of stockfish) or in warm ovens, cellars, attics, and even in living quarters.

Subjecting food to a number of chemical processes, such as smoking, salting, brining, conserving, or fermenting, also made it keep longer. Most of these methods had the advantage of shorter preparation times and of introducing new flavors. Smoking or salting meat butchered in the fall was a common household strategy to avoid having to feed more animals than necessary during the lean winter months. Butter tended to be heavily salted (5–10%) in order not to spoil. Vegetables, eggs, or fish were also often pickled in tightly packed jars containing brine and acidic liquids (lemon juice, verjuice or vinegar). Another method was to create a seal around the food by cooking it in sugar or honey or fat, in which it was then stored.

Bacterial modification was also encouraged, however, by a number of methods; grains, fruit, and grapes were turned into alcoholic drinks, thus killing any bacteria, and milk was fermented and cured into a multitude of cheeses or buttermilk. (source)

(-) Let’s learn about the process of making pickles through a brine in this video. Next, watch this video to help understand the science behind this process.

 Let’s pickle some pickles! This basic recipe makes 2 pint jars of quick pickles.


  • vegetables of choice (approx. 1 pound)
  • fresh or dried herbs, spices, or flavors of choice
  • 1 cup vinegar of choice (see notes in recipe)
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 tbsp. salt
  • 1 tbsp. sugar (optional)


  1. Clean your mason jars and set aside.
  2. Prepare your vegetables. Wash and dry, and then figure out if you want them whole or thinly sliced, cut into spears, peeled, etc.
  3. Put your preferred flavors, spices, and herbs in the bottom of the mason jars.
  4. Pack vegetables into the jars. Leave 1/2 inch of headspace. Pack them in tightly without smushing them up.
  5. Make your brine: Put your brine ingredients into a pot and bring to a boil. Stir occasionally to dissolve the salt and (optional) sugar.
  6. Pour the brine over the produce in the jars. Leave 1/2 inch of headspace.
  7. Remove any air bubbles (this tool comes in handy) and put the lids on the jars.
  8. Let the jars cool to room temperature on your kitchen counter, then refrigerate.
  9. Wait at least 48 hour before eating the pickled veggies to let the flavors meld together.

Notes: Quick pickled produce can be stored in your fridge for up to 2 months.

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Published by The Learn + Live Letter

The Learn + Live Letter is a play- and project-based homeschool curriculum for children ages 3-12.