If your children aren't quite ready for Chaucer or Beowulf (the written tale or the movie), maybe the medieval castle being built next door will do.
Yes, I said next door. In this case, next door is just about smack-dab in the middle of the United States, in Lead Hill, Arkansas. Lead Hill is in the Ozarks region and is located approximately halfway between Springfield, Missouri, and Little Rock, Arkansas.
Unlike other fun summer activities, this one's a keeper because it combines both fun and the opportunity for learning, in this case about the Middle Ages, which lasted from approximately the fall of Rome in 476 A.D. up until the blossoming of the Renaissance in the 1400s.
Such activities, in addition to reading with your child, museums, zoos, and the like, can help you prevent the much-dreaded "summer slide," when kids lose some of the knowledge they gained the last school year.
In the Ozarks backwoods, a group of artisans has formed to build a castle using thirteenth-century construction techniques, including forged tools, quarried stone, and lots of arduous work by hand. They estimate that the project will take 20 years.
At the official Web site, Ozark Medieval Fortress, they describe the project as the collaborative effort (in all weather, year-'round) of 30 carpenters, masons, and stone carver artisans, all in period dress.
The public is invited--for a fee, of course, if you're 6 and older--to tour this castle, rain or shine, 7 days a week, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. The season for public viewing this year runs from May 1 to November 30, 2010. Parking is free.
An architecture session where kids get to "take [their] stone and mortar to the scale model and complete a section of the wall" (in format, similar to a mini-summer camp) is also planned, but it's today (June 15) and tomorrow only (June 16), unless demand necessitates a future session.
You can also view a photo montage of the progress on the fortress at the St. Louis (Mo.) Post-Dispatch Web site's gallery pages here.
Now, what 8-year-old wouldn't love to experience first-hand medieval warfare with catapults (NOTE: planned for 2011), which sometimes involved hurling corpses, livestock, rocks, or other such impromptu projectiles at opponents?
The murder holes are not to be missed, nor are seeing a rope maker, woodcutter, or blacksmith create right before your eyes.
Fees for a tour are as listed:
INDIVIDUAL RATES FOR A SELF-GUIDED TOUR
Ages 0-5: free
Ages 6-16: $8/person
Ages 17 and above: $12
$1 additional fee per person for a guided tour
Visit the Ozark Medieval Fortress Web site for additional details on group trips and rates, as well as further photography and information.