Category Archives: Out and About

Iron Age and learning on holiday

Wow, time flies when you’re having fun Home Educating two boys!  I have actually started several blog posts over the last month but never quite found the time to finish them.  I’m always too tired!  I also took on a new tutoring student for the month too, to help with some pre SATs nerves.  What a star she has been; having changed schools she wanted to just make sure there were no gaps in her learning.  I don’t think anyone can have worked as hard as she has this last month!

But back to us – Star wars as a theme fizzled out naturally and together we decided to get back to our history timeline and move onto the Iron Age.  Bronze Age had been a light touch while reading and learning about Stone Age, so we recapped this a bit too, the book Life in The Stone Age, Bronze Age and Iron Age was a good introduction.  I love how we can be completely child led with how the topics move on, without any pressure to feel that we’ve ‘covered’  everything but simply to have enough knowledge to decide when and how to move on.  A great balance of skills and knowledge based learning.

During our first week we visited the Iron Age museum, planning questions about what to learn next.  This guided our learning and helped us to plan outcomes.  For Stone Age it was the meal, the game and art work, for Iron Age it has been more about the visits and smaller outcomes along the way.  Outcomes are important for us, giving the learning purpose and direction.

C had planned some questions based on his reading, and set about finding answers during our visit. The museum in Andover is only small but really well thought through, with lots of hands on tasks to explore in each room (this may have something to do with our moving around in between a school carousel of activities, so I can’t be sure they are always there) which really engaged the boys.  Having walked through a cut-through of Danebury Hill fort we entered into a mock up round house, where lots of artefacts and information about excavation could be found.  From here, the boys attempted to sort food according to whether or not it was around during the Iron Age or not.  This immediately got us talking about trade and import – a really valuable discussion.  We moved on to a timeline of artefacts to sort, some skeletons to hunt and then a room to explore weaving.


We followed this up at home with more weaving, some poetry and a lovely visit to Danebury where we painted the landscape before heading off for an explore with a friend.


making good use of the empty Calgon box!
making good use of the empty Calgon box!


after an hour of painting we needed to get moving!

After an hour of painting we needed to get moving!

The only written outcome for this short topic was a very gory poem:  Beautifully describing the arrival home of a father, after battle, with two heads to display!  We did create some clay pots, following the method described in one of our research books.  Suffice to say it’s not a good method as they didn’t make it to being painted, the snaking round technique isn’t very strong!

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our Calgon box weaving was nearly as good!

We have been going to a wonderful art group and as luck would have it, shortly after we had a go at weaving at home, a professional was brought in to the class and the boys got to have a go on proper looms.  Really bringing the experience at the museum to life…






It was a very short topic as the countdown to our holiday began and with over excited boys it made more sense to start to research Morocco; building on some Geography skills in preparation.  Going away always makes me question why schools can’t be allowed to authorise one holiday on the basis that the child can reflect on the learning – share back at school maybe?  There is so much learning to explore by travelling.  We all know it and yet so many families aren’t able to go abroad because of the peak season costs.   We looked up where Morocco is, and drew maps.  L made aeroplane tickets,  googling images of the country to cut and paste onto these.  So not only was this purposeful writing in role, but he developed some great ICT skills finding his images and dropping them onto his tickets.  We played aeroplanes, so going over what to expect at the airport, talked about climate, food and cultural differences and planned some things we wanted to experience and see.  Our wonderful chef friend even made us Moroccon spicy sausages and couscous for tea one evening.  All this before we even left home!

To keep him entertained on the journey and at times during the holiday, I made L a scrap book to record aspects of the airport, the flight etc.  He was too busy to do much of it while we were there but it was a great follow up on our return.  Here are a few snaps from the week…

the obligatory camel ride (only needs to be experienced once in a lifetime!)


There was an artist in residence at the hotel.  The sessions were meant to be for 12 and up but it was quiet and he was persuaded when I assured him of C’s ability to concentrate.  Upon meeting, he agreed he would be fine, due to his calmness, hmmmm!  I’m so glad he took him in though.  He taught C how to paint a sunset, which he then did independently, next the teacher painted the first tree to demonstrate and C did the second.  Same for the shadows.  The silhouettes they did together.  Modelling and scaffolding at it’s best!  C couldn’t be prouder of the end result.

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Finally some beautiful pictures taken at the Souk.  Not all mine, but they are so beautiful I wanted to share!





And what better History topic could be next for us than Ancient Egypt.  We’ve already located Africa and it’s position in the world.  In my book that’s a start to the new learning already!

We’re back…Happy new year!

Finally, we are back into some kind of routine and I have actually made a few attempts to write already this year but after a few false starts I realised it was too early. This is after all a learning blog so it would feel wrong to be writing about our christmas, the Lapland UK visit (amazing by the way!) which set our christmas off to a magical start, the 12 days of christmas nightime walk in the Forest of Dean, christmassy crafts or the boys’ presents.  There are plenty of Pinterest accounts and blogs to read about everyone’s perfect christmases!   I will quickly mention Boggle, great word game that suits all ages, L uses his sounds better in Boggle than any other game at the moment.  Great present!  And the IQ games:   Little brain teaser puzzles that some friends introduced us to.  Shortly before christmas C had been learning about direct and indirect speech and I managed to persuade him to practise this in his letter to FC with a “Mummy says that I would probably like….” type sentence.  Santa agreed with Mummy and conveniently dropped some off.  Perfect.

For the second year running we are really appreciating not having to get up in the dark, rush out in the cold, come home in the dark and most of all to be able to enjoy birthday and christmas presents as part of our learning time!  For the second year running I am asking myself how did I ever manage to get up and out every morning?  With proper clothes??  And make up???  I feel like it was a different person!

IMG_0045 Our new term officially started with a trip to Southampton City Art Gallery, where we took part in an engaging workshop, learning about some of the pieces and the stories behind them and then recreating a pixelated painting with collage.  C was so pleased with his he wanted to leave it there.  It is now proudly displayed in the Education room, although I think he secretly hoped it was going to go up in the gallery!  I really was proud of them here.  They showed that they really do know how to behave in galleries and museums and were very respectful, listening well and offering answers and ideas.  Again I reminded myself how lucky I was to be able to be there to see the learning taking place, chuckle at L and is funny contributions, and his seriousness, and admire that C didn’t put his hand up for a couple of questions as he thought they were “quite easy, and some of the younger children probably wanted to answer”.  How lovely.  He often shows such sensitivity towards others.  Maybe not his brother, but certainly other children!  The way that HE children mix really is remarkable:  Older ones looking out for younger, younger children not feeling intimidated by age, and of course ability never comes into it.  HE relationships are really quite special.


choosing materials
choosing materials




and the finished product
and the finished product

We bought C a watercolour set for christmas.  Both boys still love to create and we stayed in the gallery drawing Ben Johnson paintings until it closed.  Next time I must remember to take a sketch pad myself, I do love watching them but not for over an hour as they sketch!

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Our chosen topics for the new term are Star Wars and Thomas The Tank Engine.  An interesting mix!  I am managing to incorporate animation as the combined outcome.  So far so good.  We started by thinking about characters and set about replacing the cards in Guess Who.  L and I worked through a website that gives a character analysis of EVERY SINGLE Thomas character.  Goodness there are a lot!  C only replaced about 5 or 6 as his drawings were incredibly detailed, but he did record their key characteristics as he went along.  Both boys have learnt some new terms from this work which I’m hoping will be used in their upcoming stories.  Stories which will then turn into stop animation productions.  I have taken lots of step by step photos which I will post next week if anyone wants to have a go.  It was a really worthwhile activity for thinking about characters.  Although I am feeling slightly bad that I have planned this for others and didn’t realise just how long it took – sorry if that’s you!

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!


Holidays are over

It’s been a while since we last posted, so much has been going on.  We took a break from structured learning, to coincide with school summer holidays, meaning that we could catch up with lots of friends.  I’ve also been busy planning for lots of other HE families and getting to know new tutoring students, so my time for writing has been significantly reduced. Time to get back to it!

Knowing that we were moving in early September,  we did actually carry on with our learning for a bit longer than I had intended so that I wouldn’t feel too bad about the boys not ‘starting’ with the school term.  Will I ever get the term dates out of my system I wonder?  Probably not!

We had a great week at Hes Fes, Home Educators Summer Festival.  A rather wet and windy start to a funfilled week of camping in Wales.  Highly recommended!  In addition to being able to camp with lovely friends, toasting marshmallows around a fire each night, communal cooking and washing up (bliss, as you will know if you are a camper!) there are endless workshops to fill the days.  We learnt to hoola hoop, made  a huge variety of crafty bits – a leather purse, a mouse trap car, lanterns, bracelets, masks…  We took part in singing, yoga, drumming, African dance, storytelling… The list goes on and on.

So that was our main holiday.  We also managed to see a lot of family and friends, as well as pack up and move house.  I have often been asked if the weekends feel any different to the weekdays (they do), and in a way it’s the same issue for holiday times.  Some of our activities carry on – our weekly social meet up and football don’t stop.  It could all feel the same, but I try to make a conscious effort to distinguish between ‘term time’ and holidays.  It’s different for all children, but for C, he is still very much aware of school holidays and would probably just go on strike if we tried to retain too much structure!

On my way to meet a friend for afternoon tea, I snapped this as I walked from the car. Beautiful!

We have been so fortunate to have spent this short time living in Medway.  It is an area rich in history and lots to do, and so much I just didn’t know about  (I’d been for the Christmas IMG_7996Dickens Festival and that was about it).  In addition to all the usual country park trips, popping to the coast, and taking part in library summer activities, this summer we have really made the most of the area:  The Fuse festival is an outdoor arts festival, which was great, and all free!  We have taken part in Medieval Merriment in the castle grounds, free outdoor yoga, learnt to make rope at the Dockyard, explored Fort Amherst.  If you’ve never paid a visit to Rochester, do.  It’s not just for christmas!



Thanks to a friend sharing their holiday diary, we just about squeezed in this visit to the Brick City exhibition at Maidstone museum.  A teaser for our topic to come! In this picture L is peering into St Pancras station.  It was huge!  Brick City is now on tour, you might catch it.  You can read about it here.


Now that we are settled (and Nana has asked what has happened to our regular blogs!) I will endeavour to get back into a routine!  For now, here’s some photos of Hes Fes to be going with!







Little mans photogrpahy skills
Little man’s photography skills








story telling
story telling
mod roc mask making
mod roc mask making


And finally, a beautiful sunset.  The sun and the moon out at the same time.  It was stunning.




A bit more magic

More potions and spell making and a wonderful visit to The Enchanted Forest at Groombridge for us recently. The weather for our trip was pretty dismal but it was still a great day out.  Sparking imagination in all kinds of ways.  Well worth a visit if you’ve never been!

potion making, vinegar, bicarbonate of soda, food colouring, glitter and a few magic words…



We are part of a ‘very special’ weekly nature group known as ‘Super Secret Explorers’ (named by some HE friends).  Recently, we decided to choose a new site to explore each week which is how this particular trip came about.  I  like the idea of the secrecy element we now have:  The destination can be decided / revealed only at the very last minute, adding to the sense of adventure!

Our day was certainly full of adventure – we explored Robinson Crusoe’s treehouse, secret doors, tee – pees, secret hide outs, giant spider webs, giant swings, a magical pond, a serpents lair, dinosaur bones, gypsy caravans, and so much more.  It was just perfect for mine.  Word of warning for you though if you have a child with an imagination like C.  He was cautiously approaching a hidden secret door, looking so serious, and I couldn’t help myself from shouting out / jumping as he touched the door.  He burst into tears, and I felt awful.  It’s a dangerous game to try to enter into the imaginative place in his head 🙁


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The peacocks greeted us as we arrived at Groombridge Place.  I think the boys would have been happy to just watch these!





DSC_0324We took the boat into the forest, although our journey was a little wetter than this picture shows!  This is how the river looked at the end of the day. We couldn’t chance taking the camera out during our stormy trip!


Giant cobwebs





hidden teepee
hidden teepee


giant swing
giant swing
the aforementioned door
the aforementioned door












We ended the day with tea and cake and wand making, by now in the glorious sunshine!  Gotta love British summer!



Truck mania

Feeling teased after my last post?  I’m sure you are left wondering  “what could truck mania be?”  I shan’t leave you in anticipation any longer.  Not with the final half term of learning to start writing about – I can’t believe It’s been a year since we left school: It’s flown by!

So Truckmania:  This, clearly, was not a planned event.  Trucks are really NOT my thing. House hunting is, and that was the plan for the bank holiday weekend.  Until a sudden work commitment (or maybe not that sudden, but it was news to me) altered our plans. With Daddy now due to be entertaining the crowds at Beaulieu for two days with his music we decided to tag along and spend some time in the New Forest in the middle of our house hunting weekend.

I was pleasantly surprised. Truckmania was a two day event hosted at Beaulieu Motor Museum which, if you’ve never been, is well worth a visit in itself.  It is beautiful.  And has cars. Old cars, new cars, film cars, Top Gear cars, record breaking cars…

See?  Shiny!
See? Shiny!

I’m still not really sounding convinced am I?  In between operation butterfly watch the boys and I wandered around and explored enormous, and very shiny, truck cabs (the owners seem to spend a lot of time polishing) which they loved.  Some of these cabs are like little camper vans themselves, and since reading Tough Trucks, the boys have been a little fascinated by the inside of truck driver cabs so this was great fun for them.  We watched monster trucks jumping over and crushing cars.  C had a go at pulling a truck, tackled an inflatable army assault course and dressed up in full combat gear.  L loved watching the mini remote control trucks and diggers and I successfully managed to steer them away from the stalls selling these at over £200.  So everyone was happy!


Mini world trucks
Mini world trucks
Pulling a truck
Pulling a truck









The motor museum houses over 250 vehicles, from early motor cars through to racing cars, steam cars and all kinds of memorabilia.  Outside, we loved seeing some of the cars and memorable moments from Top Gear.  Remember those caravans?  The floating cars? They’re there! The house and gardens are beautiful, with a monorail to take you around the grounds – 3 times in our case, and there are lots of large outdoor games to play, you know the giant jenga, chess, connect four type things.  We even had a go at croquet. We explored the abbey and learnt lots of amazing facts about the role of the secret army in WWII, who undertook some of their training at Beaulieu.

Can just about see the monster truck jumping here
Can just about see the monster truck jumping here


mod memorabilia
mod memorabilia

So while this isn’t my usual, learning from the week type of post I thought it was worth a share.  I certainly didn’t  know such a thing existed.  I’ve been to Beaulieu and heard of the motor museum.  Now I can confidently say that I highly recommend it, with or without Truckmania!

relaxing with a book over lunch!
relaxing with a book over lunch!

Nature learning, home and away

Well, we’ve had several ‘firsts’ over the last couple of weeks.  It’s been all about the nature here and a lot of new learning for me too as the triop has grown to about 4 times his size and the caterpillars have all formed their chrysalids and have taken a road trip around the M25.  Apparently butterflies travel well!  The carrots and wild flower seeds are shooting through.  The bee house is our only failure at the moment as I just can’t manage to secure it.  The bees will have to find their own homes for now.  On reflection, the ant farm is also a non starter as collecting 40 ants proved to be very difficult.  We’ll have to go back to that one! Continue reading Nature learning, home and away

Immersive learning at the Harry Potter Studio Tour

This quote is displayed on a screen in Olivanders. We loved it.

Best trip ever apparently! I’m in the good books for being the mummy to arrange it.  How long that will last we’ll have to see: Only the Friday before I was the worst mum ever for not buying the Harry Potter outfit he saw while we were out!  The emotional roller coaster of parenting!

It was only on Sunday that I told the boys where we were going and I did this with a set of anagrams I found online, there are loads to be found –  this puzzled him for quite a while and he was of course delighted when he eventually made the connection.

Can you solve these anagrams?

Can you solve these anagrams?

And so to the preparation learning.  He is still loving Pottermore, I need to get onto this myself to be able to fully evaluate the learning here, but any reading opportunity or enrichment is good in my book; and he’s constantly sharing facts he’s picked up on there.  I found some Harry Potter word problems online, pitched just at his level so we had a fun ‘using and applying’ maths lesson that stretched over  the two mornings, along with golden snitch spellings…

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These were great, I wrote up the ‘ough’ spelling pattern which has been proving tricky on his last pieces of writing and we created a spelling version of Quidditch.  The idea was to fly the snitch in to the centre of the ‘pitch’ read it, turn it over, write it.  If it was correct he scored.  Incorrect, it moved towards my goal, resulting in a second and then third attempt.  It’s basically ‘look cover check’, but a bit more interesting!  I’ve made this before in class, as a football game.  It’s a fun way of reinforcing a spelling pattern being learnt.  C made it more difficult by insisting he scored 150 points for each goal scored, so building in his own maths too!

The last task I gave him was to look at the studio tour website and plan questions he wanted the tour to be able to answer, along with listing priorities for the visit. He also helped me check the route on the map.  Useful skill this with me as the driver, as I do have a tendency to get lost wherever we go 🙁

As with previous trips, I’ll leave it to him to tell you about our day.  It was fascinating. Packed with excitement and learning that really can’t be compartmentalised into neat subjects as he learnt about prop making, animatronics, special effects, life on set, make up, set design, and so much more!  Little L was overheard explaining to a friend (in his 4 year old way) how ideas transform from your head, to paper, to the model, before turning it into the film.  It’s amazing what can be grasped by having hands on experience.  Of course all of this took place while being totally immersed in the imaginary world for the day as Harry and Ron!

Olivanders, in Diagon Alley
Olivanders, in Diagon Alley

Warner Bros. Studio Tour – 

The Making of Harry potter

Yesterday was the best trip EVER! We went to the Harry Potter studio tour in London.  We drove for an hour and a half to get to Watford and we didn’t even get lost (for the first time, with mum of course!)

How I felt when we arrived


I felt very excited but nervous because I didn’t know what to expect.  Some of my friends told me about it so that’s what made my excitement build up.  The Warner brothers built up the excitement by having GIANT pictures on the outside of the studio building.   It felt like we were going into a really important building, like nothing I had ever seen before…

Starting the Tour

We had to line up to a VVVVEEEERRRRYYYYY long line but after that it was amazing!  We were taken into a cinema to watch Daniel Radcliff, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint reveel some secrets to us (but I will not tell you them because they won’t be secretes) before we went into the Great Hall.       

My best bits

We had to find the golden snitches! I found all of them! And the best thing was flying a broom-stick! It was very hard because you had to fly through

the streets!  I like going on planes which is why that was my favourite bit.

Something interesting I learnt

For the broom sticks they put a green screen behind the actor and the same for the flying car. It is realy clever how they put a pictures on the green screen. The mirror of Erised  was a normal mirror with his parents behind him.

I wonder why you carnt have a red screen or a blue screen etc?

We’ve followed up the visit with the recount writing you’ve just read and he’s in the process of creating a comic life story of ‘Harry’s sidekicks’, using the photos from the day to create a story.  He’s spent most of the time in his gown, casting spells with his new wand and travelling around on his nimbus 2000 Firebolt.  Total immersion!

learning wand moves
learning wand moves

I wonder if he’ll go to secondary school still ‘being’ different characters  depending on who is favoured at the time!

History in Hastings – incidental learning

Our Easter ‘holiday’ seems to have lingered on, partly because we have continued bits of learning throughout what would have been the school holiday and so are still in holiday mode for another week, with some craft projects still to complete before we get back into routine, whatever that is these days!  There are plenty of blogs, Pinterest links and Facebook posts about Easter activities and so I won’t bore you with our Easter related learning here.

I thought instead that I would re-acquaint you with Katie, our classroom in a camper.


The sun was shining, she was looking lonely and so, deciding that a sleepover was in order, we headed in the direction of Hastings, with a quick stop off at Scotney Castle (which is beautiful).  The times table practice folder was also in the van for some learning on the move.  No slacking here!

Continue reading History in Hastings – incidental learning

A Brief History of The Vikings

As a regular reader of our blog you would be forgiven for thinking we seem to be jumping about a bit with our topics.  That’s because we are jumping about a bit with our topics! There is no link between recent topics other than the fact that the moon decided to partially block the sun a week before our planned Kent Life Viking day trip!

And so, fresh from viewing the Eclipse (for eclipse substitute grey cloud cover) we have thrown ourselves into another mini topic.  It needs to be mini, as Easter is fast approaching, with all the chocolatey plans that we have!

Continue reading A Brief History of The Vikings