The Old Schoolhouse® Product & Curriculum Reviews

With so many products available we often need a little help in making our curriculum choices. The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine family understands because we are in the same boat! Do you need more information on a product before you buy? With over 5,500 products listed in 52 easy-to-use categories, much of the information you need to know is only a click away! Let our reviewer-families help yours.
Do you want to get the word out about your product or service to the homeschool community? Email Jenny Higgins and share a little about what you´d like showcased, and we can help with that!

Knights and Armor book, a Medieval Warfare title Review by Donna Campos

Deborah Murrell
World Almanac Library
Gareth Stevens Publishing
1 Reader's Digest Road
Pleasantville, NY 10570-7000

Knights and Armor is a glossy soft cover book of World History and is one of four titles in the Medieval Warfare collection in the World Almanac Library. Measuring 7 " wide x 10" tall, the book is just thin enough for students to tuck into a folder or notebook while working on writing projects and research. The book includes 32 pages with a one page Glossary, a "For More Information" page, and a one page Index. The "For More Information" page lists five suggested books and details five suggested websites, including a warning for careful use of the internet. The five short chapters of four to six pages each include Knights in the Middle Ages, The Feudal System, Knights of the Crusades, A Knight's Armor, and Life off the Battlefield. Various illustrations are scattered throughout the book and additional information is supplied in informative boxes with historical quotes and interesting facts. Knights and Armor will provide historical information for elementary students for research projects, while it offers older students interesting facts and leads to further information useful in more extensive writing assignments. It includes a limited history of the Middle Ages up through the 100 years war and the beginning formation of European countries.

As a research tool, this is an excellent tool for a home school with various ages of students or for use over many years. The information is not extensive, but the broad range of interesting facts and quotes will provide years of use as it may entice a reader into different directions over the years. Comments are made on the Crusades, different types of horses used by knights, the Knights Hospitaller, the Coat of Arms, and the Knight's Code, providing opportunities for further research. Readers will learn that a chain mail tunic is called a Hauberk, that Knights often had long hair to add padding when twisted up underneath a helmet, that the Order of the Knights Templar was formed to protect Christian pilgrims in the 1100s, and that armor dates back to Roman soldiers, even Coats of Arms are discussed. The explanations include the type of soldiers and their training to be a knight. Pictures, maps, detailed diagrams of battlefields, drawings, and dioramas are all pictured with extensive details. Explanations, pictures, and drawings are also provided for the horses dressed in armor. Boxes designed as Scrolls of announcement are included throughout with "Did You Know?" points of information, along with boxes with quotes from the 1100s and 1200s titled "In Their Own Words." These brief pieces of information provide opportunity for more learning, research on particular individuals, and excellent ways for parents to determine certain areas of interests for their children so that further knowledge can be gained on specific focus areas.

Our family is enjoying the Knights and Armor book and will continue to draw information from it over the coming years. It is broken into small, easy to digest chapters, which allows us to read about particular areas in brief reading sessions or use it easily in a particular research project. Our son was completely interested in Knights, and so we read through the entire book in one sitting, which is easily done when a child has a particular interest in this subject. The illustrations come in various styles and are filled with color and detail, keeping the attention of children as they read and providing a visual learning opportunity, as well. I loved that the vocabulary is bolded throughout the book and definitions are incorporated in the text, allowing for the opportunity for readers to draw definitions from context. We easily assigned writing definitions from context and then writing a follow up definition from the Glossary at the back of the book. We did find that some of the definitions are limited to the specific use of the book, but this gave us an additional assignment as we compared dictionary definitions and discussed the specific use of the vocabulary words in this particular book. There are bloodshed scenes of battle and although they are not overly graphic, they do display victims, both people and horses. Overall, we found the illustrations to be within reason and tastefully done considering at the heart this is a battle book and a certain amount of deadly weapons are included in any explanation of knights. The included quotes provide research opportunity for the quoted individual as well as a location and time in history. Because "John of Salisbury, Policraticus, 1159" is quoted, we took the time to look up Salisbury, while a quote from "Bernard of Clairvaux, a Christian monk writing about the Knights Hospitaller in the 1100s" provided location research and research on the various Christian monks of the time. Unit Studies, lapbooks, and various writing assignments could be built around this book easily, particularly for elementary aged students.

Knights and Armor is a great addition to our library and with careful use we will draw information from it for many years. The illustrations are varied, extensively detailed, colorful, and provide visual information to tie in with the text throughout the book. The size of the book is very convenient for everything from coffee table reference material, to subject matter library storage, or for students to slip into their folders while running family errands and juggling research. The use of extra boxes of quotes and facts provides additional learning opportunities, or as stated will provide a well rounded gathering of information on the subject of knights and Armor and their time in world history. The vocabulary is often particular to Knights and Armor, but the bolded text and easily used Glossary provide readers with an adequate understanding of the vocabulary words as used in this book. Our boys in particular, love books that have the information they want, and nothing more. We found this book to be an excellent offering for our boys as it offered a brief discussion of what could easily become a broader research area, while providing additional quotes, facts, and chapters specific to different details of knights and their armor that met our educational needs. The Medieval Warfare series has provided extensive information in Knights and Armor in a perfectly sized package that is easily read and enjoyed while learning, and our children never thought they were completing schoolwork while we enjoyed Knights and Armor together.

Product Review by Donna Campos, Senior Product Reviewer, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, December, 2008