Education during the Middle Ages, the 5th to 15th century A.D., was tied directly to the Catholic church. Since monks needed to know how to read and write Latin, they became the guardians of knowledge during this period in history. As part of a noble upbringing, children with a royal heritage received an education in court etiquette, reading and writing, fighting, and horsemanship from a number of tutors from the church and the royal court.
Aristocratic families placed their children's upbringing in the hands of wet nurses and handmaids who performed such duties as rocking the child's cradle and swaddling the infant to prevent excess movement. The nursery was commanded by a head mistress of good breeding whose job was to oversee the nurses and upbringing of each of the family's children, according to Nicholas Orme in his book "Medieval Children." Aristocratic children were given toys to play with during their infancy that helped develop motor skills, even though this aspect of child development was not understood during the Middle Ages.
Besides enjoying their wealth and position, nobles during the Middle Ages separated themselves from the lower classes through the development of a refined set of manners and social mores used in the great halls and courts of the land. A child's education began with learning how to behave as a member of the royal court. Aristocratic children were raised to become courageous knights and chatelaines, according to an article from the Encyclopedia of Children and Childhood in History and Society. Children learnt proper table manners, how to sing, dance and play instruments, and the concepts of chivalry, morality and nobility.
After a male child reached the age of 6 or 7, his education transitioned from learning how to conduct himself within the court to tutoring in how to read and write. Nobles would either hire tutors to teach their children at home, or arrange for their children to receive tutelage at the home of a higher ranking noble in hopes that the child would receive a favourable position after reaching adulthood. Charlemagne, former king of the Franks and Lombards, established a palace school open to all noble children during the 9th century and instructed the church to open its door to teach any male who exhibited the aptitude to learn, according to an article from California State Polytechnic University, Pomona.
Education of children during the Middle Ages generally focused on males. The idea of teaching women how to read and write was a controversial one during medieval times, according to an article from Cal Poly. Charlemagne's school was open to his own daughters, however, and women of nobility had some obligations that required literacy. Since education was tied directly to the church, its ideas and attitudes toward women helped to limit their educational opportunities.
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