Field Trip to Butser Ancient Celtic Farm

Butser Ancient Celtic Farm - navigating by joy homeschoolers

What better way to round off our study of the Celts than to visit a “real” (reconstructed) Celtic village?  I love the way learning leads the way to new experiences – I didn’t even know Butser Ancient Celtic Farm existed until recently, and there it was just 40 minutes’ drive away, waiting for us to spend a very pleasant Sunday exploring.

Everything at the Farm has been constructed using authentic Celtic/Iron Age materials. The houses looked just like our model Celtic Roundhouse (not! :-D)

The Farm was having a Celtic weekend when we visited, which meant there were lots of hands-on activities to try.

C ground grain into flour (rather coarse flour – apparently Celts’ teeth were very worn down!).

Butser Ancient Celtic Farm - navigating by joy homeschoolers

She mixed flour, yeast, oats and water to make a kind of bread which she baked on a Celtic stove.

Butser Ancient Celtic Farm - navigating by joy homeschoolers

She also made yarn out of sheep’s wool.

Butser Ancient Celtic Farm - navigating by joy homeschoolers

We crushed chalk, used for building roundhouses and levelling their floors.

Butser Ancient Celtic Farm - navigating by joy homeschoolers

There was even a mock archaeological “dig”!

The site also houses a reconstructed Roman villa …

Butser Ancient Celtic Farm - navigating by joy homeschooling

…complete with underfloor heating.

Butser Ancient Celtic Farm - Navigating by joy homeschooling

There was an opportunity to make mosaics in the Roman house.

mosaic making at butser ancient farm - navigating by joy homeschoolers

While C was baking, spinning and grinding,  J was hunting around the village for the answers to a scavenger-hunt-style quiz on Celtic kings and Roman emperors.

Our field trip was a perfect complement to our study of the Celts and a great introduction to the Romans. 🙂

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How to Make a Model Celtic Roundhouse

how to make a model Celtic Roundhouse at navigating by joy homeschoolers

This full-size model was not made by us 🙂

As our year studying Ancient History draws to a close, we’ve returned – for the first time since we looked at Stonehenge – to the ancient peoples who lived in our part of the world:  the Celts.

I like to use living books as much as possible, but I didn’t find many on the Celts suitable for younger children, so I decided to go hands-on instead.

how to make a model Celtic Roundhouse at navigating by joy homeschoolersAt our library we found Step Into The Celtic World.  I asked C which of the projects appealed to her and she chose the model Celtic Roundhouse. This tied in perfectly with my plan to visit a local Celtic Ancient Farm!

We only loosely followed the book instructions, partly because I’m not very good at following  instructions (or even reading them – ahem), and partly because the dowel rods I ordered online took several weeks to arrive.  (Big J later told me I could have picked some up at the local DIY store;  I have much to learn about hands-on project supplies.)

What You Need

  • A long strip of card (for the walls of the house)
  • Straw (the type that’s like hay, not the drinking-type)
  • Plasticine (for the walls).  I found this “animators’ plasticine alternative” very cheaply on Amazon.
  • A large, thick piece of card for the roof
  • Glue

How to Construct the Roundhouse

how to make a model Celtic Roundhouse at navigating by joy homeschoolers

1. Cover the long strip of cardboard (wall) with a thin layer of plasticine.

2. Press scraps of straw into the walls. (I forgot to get a photo of this.)

3. Stand the wall up in a circle shape, leaving a gap for the doorway. You might want to use tape or glue to attach it to a base to help it stand up. (My photo was taken before pressing the straw into the walls.)

how to make a model Celtic Roundhouse at navigating by joy homeschoolers

4. Cut out a cardboard circle for the roof.  Make it into a cone shape that overhangs the walls.

5. Now for the messy bit!  Cover the roof with straw, using glue to stick it on. The picture in our book showed long neat strands of straw coming together in an orderly thatch. The only straw I could find was scrappy bits used for small animal bedding. But as I reminded C and J, the Celts used whatever materials were available locally to build their houses. 😉

Verdict

Our Celtic Roundhouse may not be the prettiest ever, but we were pretty pleased with it! We had so much fun working on it together, and it definitely enhanced our subsequent experience of visiting an Ancient Celtic Farm.

I’ve been wanting for a while to do more hands-on projects as part of our homeschool.  They’re memorable and fun, and this is the age to do them (my kids are 7 and 8). My lack of practicality – combined with perfectionist tendencies – has held me back in the past, so I was very pleased that we got round to doing this project (and simplifying it to work for us).

Further Resources

If you want to make a more sophisticated model Celtic roundhouse, try this one.

A Day In The Life of a British Homeschooling Family

a day in the life of a british homeschooling family - navigating by joy

Like many homeschoolers, there is no “typical” day in our household.  Our week is loosely structured around external activities like sports classes and our weekly homeschool group, and there are certain subjects that I aim to cover in a week, but other than that,  I like the flexibility of a routine rather than a fixed schedule.

Having said that, here’s an example of a typical, non-typical day!

530am I get up.  I’m not normally this early!  But it’s such a beautiful morning already  I decide I’ll enjoy some quiet time to myself.

645am I go back to bed and meditate/play Words with Friends until 730. I love how my iPhone lets me have a permanent scrabble game going with my mum who lives in Wales!

830am We’re having poetry tea with friends later, so I bake some gluten free/sugar free cookies with the children.  J has been so much calmer since we reduced his dietary sugar, gluten and dairy five months ago (on the advice of a complementary health professional) .  Since most bought products are either sugar or gluten free, I find myself baking a lot.  I’m not an experienced cook, so the recipe substitutions I make can be a bit random, as can the end products. Luckily the children are very forgiving.

850am As we put the eggs away, J asks if we can make pancakes.  I promise him that if he gets on with his maths and English without any fuss, there’ll be time to make some before we set out for our friends’ house.

855am Incentivized by pancakes, J physically drags me into my office, where C and J do most of their individual schoolwork. He does copywork from “Fox In Socks” and we practice phonics and spelling using The Wand.  For today’s maths we look at negative numbers in Primary Grade Challenge Math.

915am  J makes pancake batter. He and C got very good at making pancakes shortly after we changed his diet – gluten and sugar free English pancakes, made with goats’ milk, work really well!

10am We arrive at our friends’ house.  C and J run off to play with the other children (aged 12, 10 and 9)  while I catch up with my friend.  Later we sit at a beautiful table and eat cookies, drink tea from fine cups and saucers, and take turns reading poems aloud. These are the friends who introduced us to the Brave Writer lifestyle, and I love sharing Poetry Tea with them; it’s such a pleasure hearing the poem each person has chosen.

I read “A Summer Morning” by Rachel Field, because even though it’s only May, temperatures have been in the 80’s today.  After the weather we’ve had in England recently, it definitely feels like summer!

1130am On the way home we stop off at the park to enjoy the sunshine.

12pm We make another stop, this time at the garden centre, to pick up some compost: it’s finally safe to put the tomato and pepper plants outside!

1230pm Lunch.  J learned how to make cheese and ham tortilla flatbreads at our homeschool centre yesterday; he decides to make them again today. It requires a brick, apparently.  C obligingly finds one in her den at the end of the garden.  J teaches C how to make his new dish.  I do the bit at the hob, involving flattening the tortilla between the griddle pan, a saucepan and a tea towel-wrapped house brick!

homeschool gardening - navigating by joy

1pm C waters her vegetable patch while I plant out the tomatoes. J bounces on the trampoline then retreats from the heat inside.

phantom tollbooth - navigating by joy homeschoolers145pm C and I go to my office for her English and maths. We continue our discussion of literal versus metaphorical meaning using The Arrow and our novel, The Phantom Tollbooth. We discuss what clichés are and pick out a few from a list I had printed out; then we start an exercise from The Arrow, creating a story taking metaphoric meanings literally. It’s about a king standing on the tip of an iceberg.  C enjoys this so much that when I suggest finishing, she begs to do a bit more! Always a good sign 🙂  We finish by reading aloud a chapter of The Phantom Tollbooth.

We use Primary Grade Math Challenge for maths and C answers the level 2 questions on negative numbers.

245 pm Science: we continue our space travel project. The children make edible space shuttles following directions in this NASA Educators’ Guide.

We watch a You Tube video of the shuttle taking off and look at a printables of the parts of the space shuttle and the sequence of take-off, orbit, and landing.  C and J then assemble their own shuttles using bread, carrot, celery and hummus.  I video them “narrating” their own take-off to landing sequences on my iPhone.  C leads the narration but J contributes a piece of information he remembered from our recent visit to the Kennedy Space Centre – something I hadn’t even realised he’d taken in at the time – I love it when that happens!

edible space shuttle - navigating by joy homeschoolers

J follows his space shuttle snack with a plum from the fruit bowl, and then asks me to point out to him the plum tree in our garden. We look at the hard, grape-sized plums on the tree and I tell J how I ate the sweetest, juiciest plum from it on the day we moved into our house on 31 July 2007.  He said he is going to keep an eye on the plums’ progress. Sometimes I wish I made more time for formal nature study in our homeschool; then I realise that thanks to the huge amount of free time they have to spend outdoors, C and J are actually quite in tune with nature and the seasons.

boudicca - navigating by joy homeschoolers4pm History: I decide to squeeze in a bit of The Story of the World before swimming classes. J groans (he never likes the idea of history) but he soon joins C pleading for more when I stop after half a chapter on the Celts.  Half a chapter is all the Celts get in The Story of the World, but as they are our bit of ancient history, we’re spending a bit longer on them than our curriculum suggests. I read from our living book on Boudicca while C spontaneiously makes a Boudicca “doll” from a feather the cats brought it.

5pm C and J go to their swimming classes while I squeeze in half an hour in the gym. When the children were at school, exercising often felt like a chore.  Now I cherish my gym time!  We eat dinner at the sports centre cafe, and C and J have some time jumping around in the soft play area.

7pm We go straight from the sports centre to take C to Cub Scouts (where she is one of only two girls). Normally this signals the end of my day’s “work”, but Big J’s commuter train is delayed tonight so J and I go back out to collect C from cubs at 830.

930pm I’m relaxing with an alcohol free beer and watching The Vampire Diaries.

A good day!

First Time Notebooking – Ancient China

Ancient china notebooking for homeschool

I’m excited that our study of ancient world history has brought us to China, which I know next to nothing about.  I love learning alongside the children!

Resources

This is an area you could easily dive into very deeply; there is a wealth of resources out there (for example, Jimmie’s Squidoo lens).  But we’re passing through Ancient China fairly quickly this time so we kept things simple. (I want to make sure we make it to Ancient Rome before our Rome vacation in July!)

I like knowing that, because we are following  classical four year history cycles, we’ll revisit this time period again before too long, and we can spend more time on Ancient China next time around if we want to.

The Story of the World

We read aloud chapters 10 and 32 of SOTW.

Ms. Frizzle’s Adventures – Imperial China

Ms Frizzle's Adventures in Imperial ChinaWe love the Magic School Bus series and these spin-off “Ms. Frizzle’s Adventures” history/geography books are great too.  Imperial China is a fun story with lots of sidebars about Chinese inventions and customs.

Find Out About Early China

I picked up Find Out About Early China on our public library shelves.  It’s a textbook (rather than a living book) so I haven’t read it aloud from cover to cover, but it’s nicely illustrated and has information about the key areas. We referred to it when we wanted to find out more about the clay soldiers (“terracotta army”) that were buried with China’s first emperor, for example.

Notebooking

This was our first time notebooking!  Before we started, C and I watched Debra Reed’s video instructions on her Notebooking Pages  website (“Our Notebooking Story”, front page).  This fired up C with enthusiasm and helped her understand the purpose and process of notebooking much better than if I had tried to explain it to her!

These are the steps we followed to make our notebooking pages:

1.  Read aloud, narrate

Chapter 32 of SOTW covers several topics relating to Ancient China.  We discussed each topic (narration style, as usual)  after I read the relevant section aloud.

Ancient China notebooking at navigatingbyjoy

2. Elicit keywords

Ancient China notebooking at navigatingbyjoy homeschool blogAfter C and J had narrated each section, I elicited from them a few  keywords, using  “Who?” “What” “How?” type prompts, and wrote the words on our whiteboards. We don’t normally do this step; it was a great way of highlighting names and key facts.

2.  Choose a notebook topic

After we’d read the whole chapter, I asked C and J what aspect of Ancient China they wanted their respective notebook pages to be about. C chose to write about the Great Wall, and J wanted his page to be about the First Emperor’s tomb (I think it was the automatic crossbows that did it).

3.  Choose and create a notebook page

C and J each selected a notebook page from Notebookingpages.com .  I printed off the template and C enthusiastically hurried off to a quiet room to write her page.  Meanwhile  J dictated a couple of sentences for me to write, then added a drawing (an automatic crossbow, of course). C illustrated her page with a photocopied a map of the Great Wall from Find Out About Ancient China and some hand-drawn graphics in Ancient Chinese colours.

Notebooking page on Ancient China

C's Notebook Page on The Great Wall of China

Notebook page: First Emperor's Grave, Ancient China

J's Notebook Page about the First Emperor's Tomb

Verdict on notebooking

Our first time notebooking was a great success!  The biggest surprise for me was how notebooking gave the children real ownership of their learning.  I hadn’t anticipated how much C and J would enjoy selecting topics for their pages, and C (being older) also really liked being able to select the template and how to illustrate it.

I’m always looking for the children’s input as to what they want to learn and how they want to learn it, but often they don’t know what they want to learn. Notebooking gives them choices that are sufficiently structured so as not to be overwhelming. As they mature, I think notebooking will be a useful tool in helping them on their paths to becoming independent learners.

C’s verdict: “I love notebooking! Can we do it again tomorrow?” 🙂

Extra Goodies

For much more about notebooking, have a look at Jimmie’s excellent Notebooking Exhibit lens and her website The Notebooking Fairy, which has stacks of free notebooking pages.

My Library Thing

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