History Odyssey: Middle Ages


History Odyssey Middle Ages is a year-long homeschool history curriculum incorporating history with language arts and world geography. The course is geared toward middle school students ready to start learning independently

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History Odyssey Middle Ages

Grade level: 5th through 8th

Pages: 170

Course type: Study guide (See the Booklist tab for the resources required to complete this course.)

What is History Odyssey Middle Ages?

History Odyssey Middle Ages (“Middle Ages”) is a year-long homeschool history curriculum incorporating history with language arts and world geography. The course is geared toward middle school students ready to start learning independently. Reading and writing assignments, mapwork, and timeline construction come together to create a scholarly homeschool history curriculum covering the middle ages.

Middle Ages is a secular homeschool curriculum, meaning it does not present religious beliefs or texts as historically factual accounts. Rather, it references them as another source or perspective to be considered.

Middle Ages is the second of a four-part series of history guides. While each course can be completed without having done the others, the writing, time management, and critical thinking skills required become more advanced with each time period.

What Resources and Materials Do I Need?

In addition to this study guide, you will need:

  • The Kingfisher History Encyclopedia, reference spine for the course
  • Access to other reference material via the library or internet
  • The History Odyssey Timeline or supplies to make a large-scale timeline
  • A detailed world atlas
  • Colored pencils for mapwork
  • 3-ring binder with dividers and lined paper
  • Books from the original and/or alternative booklist for literature study units. See the Booklist tab for a complete list of books needed.

The study guide incorporates all twelve books from the original book list into the course. These are the books your student will need if you do not make any adjustments to the course. However, as an update, we have curated an alternative book list to present a wider range of perspectives on world history. Students can choose to replace or supplement books on the original list with the corresponding book on the alternative list.


Who Can Use Middle Ages?

Fifth through eighth graders learning at home or in co-ops, learning pods, micro-schools, or charter schools can use Middle Ages as their primary history curriculum. So students can work independently, the study guide is written directly to them in concise, easy to understand language.



Each course in this series builds upon the writing and critical thinking skills developed in previous courses. In the first course of the series, students learned to write outlines and paragraph summaries of their reading assignments. Students will need familiarity with both of those writing formats before starting Middle Ages.


Flexible Scheduling

The 113 lessons are intended to be completed in 1-2 sittings and students will need roughly two hours 3-4 days per week to complete the course in one school year. The exact schedule can ebb and flow as needed. Completing the course will likely require more developed time management skills than the shorter lessons in History Odyssey Ancients.


What Material Does Middle Ages Cover?

Students will learn about events that occurred from approximately 250 CE to the mid-16th century. Major areas of study include:
  • The Byzantine, Ottoman, Mayan, Aztec, Incan, and Spanish empires
  • Medieval dynasties of China
  • European royal families
  • The Crusades
  • The Black Death
  • Japanese Feudalism
  • The Renaissance and Reformation


What Skills Will Students Learn in this Course?


Critical Thinking/Multiple Resources

The foundation of the History Odyssey methodology is the idea that gathering information from multiple resources is the key to a sophisticated, well-rounded grasp of history. In this course, critical thinking skills are cultivated by the reading and writing assignments.

Most lessons assign readings from the Kingfisher History Encyclopedia as a way to introduce the material. However, as students work their way through the course, they will become accustomed to using primary sources such as the Magna Carta as well as legends and novels to conduct their research.

In this course, students have the opportunity to begin synthesizing information from various sources and presenting their own conclusions. They will complete three Venn Diagrams compiling their observations about the Shiite/Sunni, Knights/Samurais, and Central American/Southern American empires. Additionally, they will write a persuasive essay about the transition into the Renaissance.




Reading historically significant literature is an integral part of this course. Students will read:

  • Fiction set in England and Central Europe during the Middle Ages
  • Introductory versions of Shakespeare’s plays
  • A retelling of the oldest surviving Germanic epic, Beowulf
  • English folklore including the legends of King Arthur and Robin Hood
  • Japanese folktales
  • Folktales of the Islamic Golden Age
  • Descriptive sketches of medieval castles
  • Descriptive sketches of medieval mosques and cathedrals (alternative book list)
  • Mexican myths (alternative book list)
  • Fiction set in the Byzantine Empire (alternative book list)

See the book list tab for a complete list of resources used throughout the course.


Written Expression


Writing assignments include two and three-level outlines, summaries of the readings, biographies, comprehension questions, story retellings, persuasive writing, and a variety of creative writing projects.

Ideally, students will have some previous exposure to outlining and writing summaries before starting this course. In early lessons, some topic sentences and example outlines are provided, but students should expect to be outlining material with little support from the guide early on in the year. Writing skills that are heavily supported include how to write a biography, how to attribute sources, and how to write a fact-based persuasive essay.

Additionally, students will have the chance to get more creative with their writing. Creative projects include:

  • Sketching architectural achievements around the world during this time period
  • Creating an illustrated book of Shakespeare’s plays
  • Writing a newspaper article reporting on the Black Death
  • Composing a haiku
  • Writing speeches for Tudor family members at a family reunion


Students will regularly label maps and their timeline throughout the year to highlight geographical influences on the events of the past. For example, students will read Shakespeare’s stories in groups according to the country in which they were set. This links the achievements of the Renaissance in that country to the events of the story. At the end of the Renaissance unit, students will complete a “Renaissance Around the World” map.
There are 29 outline maps included in Middle Ages. Students will label countries, cities, bodies of water, cultural regions, empires, invasion patterns, trade routes, migration routes, and more.

Lesson graphic HC


Timeline Construction
Students will maintain a timeline covering this period of history. They can construct their own or use The History Odyssey Timeline. Each lesson provides a list of significant dates and events to add to their timeline as the events are covered. The last lesson of the course is a timeline analysis. Students are asked to take a step back from the details of their timeline and reflect on potential connections between concurrent events.


Primary Sources

Literary Analysis

Students will begin to analyze literature through:

  • Character webs
  • Plot diagrams
  • Learning the basic elements of an epic


Important Copyright Information: If you choose the eBook version of this course, you are purchasing a license to use the PDF for your own children. You may make copies for your own children, but you may not share (email, download, print and distribute, resell, etc.) this eBook or any portion of this eBook to others.

Licensing is available for group, school, and co-op use. Please contact Pandia Press for details on group licensing (info@pandiapress.com).

The following books must be obtained apart from this study guide. You may use any version, eBook, or print edition of these books. If you plan to purchase these books from Amazon, we appreciate you using the direct links below. There is an alternative booklist available for this title.

Main Reference Spine: The Kingfisher History Encyclopedia (1999 or newer edition)
Optional Additional Reference Spine: The Story of Mankind* by Hendrik Willem Van Loon (optional)

The History Odyssey Timeline from Pandia Press (or a homemade timeline)

Other Required Books:
The Usborne Internet – Linked Viking World
One Thousand and One Arabian Nights retold by Geraldine McCaughrean
The Door in the Wall by Marguerite de Angeli
Tales from Shakespeare by Charles and Mary Lamb
A Shakespeare Coloring Book from Bellerophon Books
Beowulf, A New Telling by Robert Nye
The Story of King Arthur and His Knights by Howard Pyle
The Adventures of Robin Hood by Roger Lancelyn Green
Castle by David Macaulay
Adam of the Road by Elizabeth Janet Gray
The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer, retold by Geraldine McCaughrean
Tales from Japan retold by Helen & William McAlpine
The Trumpeter of Krakow by Eric P. Kelly

*The Story of Mankind: Due to the polarizing nature of The Story of Mankind by Hendrick Van Loon, it is optional reading in this level two course. It should be considered a possible resource for gathering information. If students choose not to read TSOM, they might need to seek out other resources on the Internet or at a library in order to complete some of the lessons. There is a free eBook edition of TSOM available at: www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/754.