Monthly Archives: October 2015

Starting at the Stone Age

Officially now KS2, and unsure when or whether he will go back into school, I do try to loosely follow the curriculum.  It is, after all, what I have known for so long:  It’s hard to get it out of my system!  Having spent time looking at how to structure the new history curriculum in school, I have decided to follow the same structure here at home.  As such, we have started with the Stone Age and a read of the book, Stone Age Boy, by Satoshi Kitamura (who wrote Angry Arthur, remember him?) which appealed to C and his time travelling aspirations!




Total immersion into the era (sort of!) began with a visit to Butser Ancient Farm.  A place I can fully recommend.  Not only for the hands on learning, reconstructed buildings, and incredible organisation, but what a welcoming team!  We don’t know many people here yet, so to organise a large group before the weather changed was going to be difficult.  Poor weather would result in a more limited range of activities at the farm as so much is outdoors.  The lovely team at Butser suggested that I might be able to join a smaller school group.  A just as lovely team at Deepdene school welcomed my two little stone age boys (yes they were dressed up!) into the group and we had a wonderful day out, crushing chalk, making daub, engraving stones, exploring stone age art, and experiencing an archaeological dig.

smashing the chalk in preparation for clunch making
smashing the chalk in preparation for clunch making









mixing the clunch
mixing the clunch

squeezing into a ball

squeezing into a ball

and finally, placing onto the wall
and finally, placing onto the wall

Learning how people find out about the past…

archaeological dig prepared
archaeological dig prepared


the dig
the dig








one of our 'finds'
one of our ‘finds’

Back at home there have been a lot of cave pictures being drawn, L is quite the expert, along with boney type of writing, quite remarkable when you’re 4 and can’t actually write yet!

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the photo doesn’t quite capture his detail, rocks, paw print, cave paintings are all included

Tagging along with the school group did make C in particular feel a little self conscious (I did try to warn him that they would probably be in uniform!) so we turned this into a positive experience with a story about a class going on a school trip, who meet a time travelling boy.  I started it for C to finish. It was fun to talk through, and he had lots of ideas but putting them down on paper is still something he finds difficult when it comes to stories.  I think an audience will help.  You may find yourself reading some of them here!

Armed with information books from the library, we have undertaken more research and from this have picked blackberries to make paint, painted some stones and have created a ‘yummy’ stone age menu.  We’ve had a small feast of seeds and berries but the boys are now trying to persuade me to buy deer to cook.  Regular readers, yes you’ve read that right:  He’s no longer a vegetarian. One extreme to the other here!


We have also embarked on a time line, having read ‘The Pebble in my Pocket‘ a beautifully illustrated picture book which tells the story of a pebble from it’s formation millions of years ago, taking us on a journey through history , rock formation and erosion.  It was accessible for both ages, stimulating lots of discussion and a real sense of wonder.  Cue LOTS of questions! Our timeline starts with the present day and works backwards through key events in our own life time, to develop a sense of chronological awareness.  We then jump to dates in history that C has learnt about before taking a huge jump back to the stone age.  Our plan is to then add to this as we work through different periods in time.

The highlight of this unit so far has been the making of a stone age board game.  I was running out of ideas for how to make the learning and research purposeful.  There’s not really anyone to write to.  A leaflet?  Well we could make a leaflet, but again we have no genuine audience.  Fact sheets – we’ve just done with lego, and stories aren’t really his thing at the moment so to write a story and get accurate historical facts into it could be tough!

DSC_0148The game idea has worked well.  L created the back ground, and numbered all the stepping stones.  Together we made lots of paper mache rocks and long grass.  Using his research, C has created lots of cards to pick up on the way around the board.  These include penalties such as:

‘build a house, get poo-ey hands, miss two goes to wash’ – based on the fact that cow poo was mixed into the daub mixture and a trip to a river may be necessary to wash it off!

‘Stop to do some cave painting, miss a turn.’

‘Get stuck in long grass, miss a turn.’

‘Chased by a….. go back 2 spaces.’

L had some interesting ones… ‘If you are on step 1, go on 10 more spaces’, and ‘if you are on step 10, go back 1 space’!

The cards also have rewards:

‘Catch and eat a deer.  Get energy to move on 3 spaces.’

‘Make fire, have an extra go.’


It’s been a really worthwhile activity for checking facts, researching new ideas, and of course having some fun with our learning.  We played it once to evaluate, improvements were made (after several arguments) and C has now drafted the instructions, ready to type up.  L, as you can see from the photos has managed to write 2 digit numbers accurately, and seems to have now grasped the teens when previously he got stuck after 11.

We join forest school after half term, which includes cooking over the fire.  It should tie in nicely with some of this work.  I wonder if they will cook deer for me…?




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Lion King puppetry

We love to count the sleeps in our house!  The latest big event was a trip to theatre to see The Lion King.  I’ve been wanting to take the boys for ages and so decided to organise a ‘school trip’ to make  it more affordable.  Home Educated groups get the same rates as schools, so it’s always worth looking into if you feel up to the organisation.  Lion King is a brilliant show.  Both boys loved it.  The staging, lighting and of course the puppetry are stunning, with sometimes relatively simple ideas being executed for spectacular visual effects.  I think the boys were struck by this more than anything.  There is no trying to disguise the fact that people are on stage, ‘being’ the animals, the billowing blue fabric to depict water, the dancers with green ‘spikes’ to suggest the grass, all helped bring the theatre to life for them.

Of course, no immersion into fiction would be the same without C wanting to ‘be‘ one of the characters for the next few days (this week he has mostly been a frustrated storm trooper) but this time it was slightly different.  I had downloaded the theatre education pack and so, rather than the usual search for clothing to become a character, he busied himself making puppets and scenery, using the worksheets as starting points.  Both boys got completely immersed in this and spent the best part of two days preparing and rehearsing their own version of the production.  L explored shadow puppets, as well as sequencing and story telling, while C threw himself into the most amazing detailed artwork.


We explored lighting effects and attempted to recreate the sun rise.  C cut up strips of green paper to suspend from the top of his theatre to re create certain scenes, and I got terrible back ache from having to sit for nearly an hour during his rehearsal of Act 1, followed by 2 hours of theatre later in the evening as he performed for me and Daddy!  His production was only around 50 minutes, the remainder of that time was spent on scene changes, puppet balancing, and lighting adjustments.  It was lovely. Another one of those ‘I’m lucky to be part of this learning’ moments. Although apparently ‘not learning’ according to him.  Not learning, just creative thinking, self directed activities, story telling, organisation, sustained concentration, perseverance, resilience, close observational art, the science behind shadow puppets, script writing, singing…


Prior to the show, we had done a little sightseeing and the boys bought themselves some special leather note books.  It seemed only right to christen these, so, much to the embarrassment of our friends, I decided to introduce C to the stage door experience!  Here he is meeting a zebra and a bird man…

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They couldn’t have been friendlier, nor the stage door lady any kinder.  She took Connor’s book in to get some autographs and assures him that the picture he had done for them is now displayed in the cast dressing room.  He’s more than happy with that!

I also learnt something new about London theatre.  As part of the group preparation I discovered that there is such a thing as Autism friendly performances, sometimes referred to as relaxed performances.  Did you know this? The site has a link to a moving blog post about one family’s experience of this, and the impact it had.  The Lyceum theatre also produce a Visual story to help prepare children for the visit and what to expect.  This proved useful for some of our group.  It may be worth taking a look, I think it could easily be adapted for any theatre trip.

Lego Learning

What child doesn’t like lego?  Although what parent likes the aftermath?!  I love a recent FB post I saw, which is so true in our house…

Source unknown
(Source unknown)

Our first task when we prepared for moving was ‘Operation Lego’.  We sorted the whole lot  by size, into take away boxes.  ‘Operation Lego’ turned out to be not only rewarding (it appealed to the organised and tidy me who’s still in here somewhere) but also a really useful learning opportunity.  L started talking about bricks being double and half, we came up with all kinds of interesting categories and I decided that as we had a cheap deal available to visit Legoland we may as well make Lego our first topic of the new year.  It has worked brilliantly as a first joint topic.  The legoland trip was the icing on the cake, and if I had the money I think I would have been tempted to throw in a visit to Denmark too.  Another time maybe!

IMG_8186 We started by attempting our own lego model instructions to see how easy or hard this is to do.  It was interesting!  A great exercise in learning to evaluate and improve, as they both got irritated with me when my model (when following their instructions) wouldn’t turn out like they wanted it too!  I had lots of

“no mummy, it ‘s meant to go here”


“no mummy, not like that”



This led us onto learning how to draw a 3D drawing – a brick or 10 for L, and an attempt at a model for C.  They have also had a go at using colour to show shade and create a 3D image, which son turned into dragon painting for some reason!  We’ll revisit that one!

lego phonics
lego phonics
lego number bonds
lego number bonds

L has practiced his number bonds using 2 bricks, along with some segmenting and blending of CVC words.  Meanwhile C has learnt about systematic recording.  We learnt the amazing fact that there are over 9 billion ways to arrange 6 different lego bricks.  I thought it a bit much to launch straight into this so we started with 3, in a row.  Then , based on this he predicted the outcome for 4, and then 5 bricks.  The subject of averages came up after hearing a news report on the radio, so we had a couple of lessons on this too, working out the average number of bricks used in vehicle models, as well as across a selection of our sorting boxes.  If you have a child struggling with averages, why not have a go with our recording sheet, you can download it here, and check out this song.  We have sorted into bar charts, carroll diagrams venn diagrams and pie charts.  Safe to say there’s a lot of maths to be got from this topic!

Have you seen the lego story?  It’s a fascinating story and a very watchable animation. Take a look here.  The boys then sequenced the story using pictures and words, and knowing some of the background made us think differently at Legoland, knowing that a small idea can turn into something huge!


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If you intend to go, and have an interest in how the models are made – pop upstairs in the Star Wars area.  You can spy into the workshop and see employees at work.  Well, they were actually having their lunch at their desks when we looked, which led to a whole different discussion about work life balance, but it is really interesting, I promise!  Back at home, we watched a short clip of inside the lego factory and the boys have designed their own imaginary machines.  I’ve introduced C to the concept of a function machine which he loved, and has been practicing some of his times tables on these.  I designed my own for him, and he also enjoyed having a practise online with some more.

We revisited the lego movie app and both boys have made a short movie, fully edited and with music.  C of course created a story with Harry, Ron, Hermione and some dragons which has got me thinking about christmas.  I just took a look at the Harry Potter lego on Amazon… We will keep dreaming for now!  However, if it’s something you will be thinking about for your children, and you purchase via this link, you could be helping start our savings pot as this blog is now an Amazon Affiliate Associate.  Any purchases made via this site will now earn me a small payment.   Maybe one day he can get the real characters instead of making the best of his current mini figures (Ron is a little strange, and Harry has to make do with Batman’s cape!)

Finally, back onto the learning,  inspired by the lego art we saw, we tried our hand at lego pictures, can you tell what they are?

Can you tell what this is?

The lego topic was such a success that I have now used some of our activities to create a set of plans for another family.  If your children like learning through play and construction, then  please get in touch.  Some of this could work for you:  It’s been a fun one.  It came to a natural end as we went on a trip to see The Lion King last week, which unexpectedly led to a week of puppet theatre work; spending two rainy days working on a re-enactment of the show.  That’ll be another post!