Tag Archives: art

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!

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.