Weekly Wrap Up – The One With The Snow

Homeschool weekly wrap up Navigating By Joy

We had our annual snow this week, so snow fun was top of the homeschool agenda. The highlight was hitting the sledging run on Monday morning when all the other kids had gone back to school (tee hee!).

We just about managed to  fit in some other types of learning around the edges, too. 🙂


We’ve been reading about the rise of Islam and the Islamic Empire in The Story of the World Vol 2: The Middle Ages. This has sparked some interesting questions and discussions about Christianity, Islam and other belief systems.

C and J are 9 and 7 so at the moment we’re learning history as an exciting story without much detailed examination of complex causes and motivations. But I love, love, love it when I notice them making spontaneous connections.

It happened this week when we learnt about how the Visigoths who had settled in Spain invited Tariq bin Ziyad over from North Africa to help them deal with internal conflict. I was so excited to see C’s eyes light up as she exclaimed, “That sounds like when the English invited over the Anglo-Saxons and ended up being conquered by them!”


This term I’m bringing maps in wherever I can. We use the WonderMaps software which lets you view and print maps showing as much or as little detail as you require.

The WonderMaps package also includes historical maps, so to complement our history study this week we’ve been looking at a map of the medieval Islamic Empire, side by side with a map of the area as it is today. As we learn about each important place in history the kids find it and mark it on the map.

I try to select maps that show Britain on the same map as the area we are studying.  If that’s not possible, I have to hand a separate, smaller scale map showing where we are in relation to the area. I think this helps the children (and me!) form a joined-up mental map of the world.

This week we all enjoyed learning how the name of the British colony at the south of Spain is derived from Jabal Tariq (“Tariq’s Mountain”) – the rock of Gibraltar!


We use Life of Fred as our main maths curriculum, but from time to time we supplement with other materials, to consolidate learning, practise techniques and fill gaps.

This week we’ve used Maths Made Easy workbooks and Mathletics as our supplements. C has been learning about factors and J has been practising arithmetic. Workbooks can be fun when you don’t use them all the time!

English/Language Arts

The People In Pineapple Place

C and I have been enjoying reading our current Arrow book The People in Pineapple Place and doing copywork and dictation from it. We also restarted Spelling Power which had fallen by the wayside about a year ago. We’re going to try doing it once a week, instead of daily,  to try and keep it fresh.

Luckily I don’t have to keep reinventing the wheel when it comes to J’s language arts programme, which is progressing nicely.

I’m pleased to see him choosing to write a bit more.  One evening this week he produced a “magna carta” for the family to sign.  “How sweet,” I though,  adding my signature to his charter declaring that “Mummy gets to do what ever she wants” – shooing away cynical thoughts about the location of the small print.

Five minutes later a triumphant J reappeared, revealing the rest of the “magna carta” which he had written in invisible ink before we signed – “Jasper gets to do games all the time”! (Honestly, you’d think we kept him in chains!) It’s so true that a child will write if the desire is strong enough!


Appreciating classical music is so easy with You Tube! C chose our current composer, Chopin.  We’ve all enjoyed listening to the pieces she’s selected this week.  Sometimes we have the music on in the background, other times (especially if it’s a funny clip or original instruments are being played) we watch the accompanying video via Apple TV.


We made an acid/base indicator with red cabbage! I’ll be writing a separate post all about the fun we had with that.

Red cabbage acid base indicato original  2

We hope you’ve had a great week too.

We’re appreciatively linking up here…

Homegrown Learners

How a Homeschool Schedule Works for Us (Sometimes)

how a homeschool schedule works for us (sometimes) at navigating by joy homeschool blog

We started puppy training classes this week with Harvey, our four month old cavalier spaniel/bischon frise cross. The classes are on a Wednesday morning and take out (for the next few weeks) one of the six half-days we actually spend at home.  Of course all of us, not just Harvey, are learning at the classes, but it is putting a bit of a squeeze on our week!

The solution, it occurred to me, was a schedule! (Colour-coded, naturally.) Don’t you just love the beautiful dance between structure and free-wheeling that is homeschooling?!  At the start of September (all those many – er, weeks – ago) I happily shared with a good homeschooling friend that we were taking a fairly autonomous approach this term.  She said that her family were doing the opposite, and had begun the new school year with a very structured timetable.  At the time we laughed, and said we’d each probably be doing the opposite before too long.  And so here I am, colour-coded schedule proudly in hand. 😀

I wrote a few weeks ago about how we’ve been using the big rocks time management system to prioritise project-based learning around the good maths and English habits we already have in place, and that’s still working well as a guiding principle. But recently my left-brain had begun to get a bit antsy about how weeks were slipping by without Cordie doing any copywork or dictation, and then she decided to try a new approach to learning maths, which was great but required a bit more planning …  and my free-wheeling right-brain decided it was time to take a back seat for a while.

And guess what? Just like when I move around the furniture to the exact same position it was in 6 months earlier and declare joyfully that it looks “So Much Better!” – we’re getting so much done!

On Thursdays we only have until 1130am at home, but by the time we left the house this morning we had done a stack of English and  maths, Cordie had had her project time, the children had enjoyed plenty of time playing in the garden, and we’d even done some history notebooking and had the paints out making Anglo-Saxon coins!


Here’s how a schedule works best for us:

In short bursts. Once it’s helped us find our groove, I’ll happily let the schedule itself  fall by the wayside.  It’s served its purpose.  “Tools, not rules” as my friend Sarah and I say. I can always create a new schedule when the need arises again. (And that colour-coding is so much fun :-D)

A schedule saves time spent arguing about “who goes first” with mummy in the morning. Even though both Cordie and Jasper enjoy their one on one time with me, tearing themselves away from their book/lego/trampoline and  getting around to actually starting is a different matter.

I see a schedule as a set of goals rather than a strict timetable. Although there are times written on our schedule, I rarely look at the clock. The timetable just serves as a rough guide to who does what next.  There’s plenty of leeway for following rabbit-trails and spending a whole afternoon doing  projects or partnership writing a long story if the mood takes us (right brain satisfied), but the timetable helps me remember what else I’d like us to cover in a week (happy left brain).  Win win. 🙂

Where are you at right now in the scheduling/free-wheeling dance?

Field Trip to Benjamin Franklin House

field trip to benjamin franklin house at navigating by joy homeschool blogWhenever I write about a field trip I  feel like I’m back in infants school writing in my “news” book on a Monday morning: “We went to a museum.  It was fun.” (Though back then apparently all I ever wrote as “news” was that we’d been to the rubbish dump.  Easily pleased we were, back then.) (I might get out my crayons to draw a picture to go with this post.)

So.  Last week we visited Benjamin Franklin House, and it was fun, as well as educational.

Where is Benjamin Franklin House?

benjamin franklin house at navigating by joy homeschool blogBenjamin Franklin lived at 36 Craven Street, London, for sixteen years on the eve of the American Revolution (between 1757 and 1775). Franklin first came to try and negotiate with the British, so the building was really the first US embassy.    The house was built in 1730 and is the world’s only remaining Franklin home.  It has been carefully architecturally preserved. So when we were told of the “air baths” Franklin would take – standing naked at tall windows of the very room we sat in – it was easy to imagine ourselves back in time and giggle as we wondered what the folk sitting in the house directly across the narrow street must have made of the sight!

Before our Visit

Our visit fit in perfectly with Cordie’s electricity project.  In preparation, she read aloud to us How Benjamin Franklin Stole the Lightening, a wonderful living book about Franklin’s life and inventions, including how he harnessed lightening in his famous kite experiment.

how ben franklin stole the lightening

Electricity in Action

At the house, we saw a demonstration of the kite experiment, as electricity (generated using a Tesla coil) jumped down a (miniature) kite string into an attached key. A model church next to the Tesla coil showed us how lightening is attracted to tall buildings, and how a metal lightening rod protects the building by grounding the lightening (while a plastic rod has no effect).  A great opportunity to experience the sight, sound and smell of electricity up close!

benjamin franklin house lightening rod experiment at navigating by joy homeschool blog

lightening experiment at benjamin franklin house - navigating by joy homeschool blog

A Trip Back in Time

The museum’s educational team enthusiastically engaged the children in a number of activities throughout the house.  There was even an actress playing the part of Franklin’s landlady’s daughter, Polly Hewson, to take us on a guided historical tour!

benjamin franlin house historical experience at navigating by joy homeschool blog

Polly’s husband ran an anatomy school from the house, so there were hands-on anatomy-related learning activities, including an exhibit of human bones recently found in the basement of the house.

anatomy activities at benjamin franklin house - navigating by joy homeschool blog

Planning Your Trip

The Benjamin Franklin House Historical Experience is open to the public from Wednesdays to Sundays (£7 for adults, children go free).  On Tuesdays the house offers pre-arranged educational visits (including to homeschool groups), taking in the Student Science Centre, at no charge.  Check the website for up-to-date information.

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. 🙂

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. 😉


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!


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.


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.

Ancient Egypt To Ancient Greece – The Bits In Between

To think we nearly skipped right over Nebuchadnezzar and onto the Persians – the fun we would have missed!

The Bits In Between Ancient Egypt and Ancient Greece

Since we finished Egypt, the last few lessons in our history curriculum have been about some of the less well-known ancient peoples who lived and fought in the Middle East, like the Philistines, Phoenicians, Assyrians and Babylonians.   A homeschooling friend who’s using the same curriculum admitted she leapfrogged right over this bunch and got stuck into Ancient Greece.  Her confession prompted my inner headteacher to grant me permission to do the same, but instead of skipping the units completely, I decided to consider whether to do them on a week by week basis.


My kids will happily listen to stories all day (especially when the play dough’s out) and our history spines – The Story Of The World  and A Child’s History Of The World  – are such entertaining reads that we’ve actually ended up enjoying all the “in between” people.

History Odyssey also suggests as a spine the Usborne Encyclopedia of World History.  We find it a bit textbookish so don’t bother much with reading it, but the illustrations are wonderful, so I lay it out on the table with the relevant pages open while I read from the other two  books.

Bonus Learning!

Each week there have been some extra fun or learning titbits:

  • Canaanites and Philistines – gave us an opportunity to read the bible stories of Samson, and David and Goliath.  (Bible study is not a regular part of our curriculum but the bible does contain some great stories that are an important part of our culture so I incorporate them whenever I can.)
  •  Phoenicians –  “the people who invented our ABCs”, without whom we might still be writing in cuneiform.  Here we went down a fascinating bunny trail about glass-making. We enjoyed a few YouTube videos about heating sand to make glass (the clip we watched is no longer available, but I’m sure there are others), glass-blowing  and colouring glass.  And J got a new favourite insult – “You stink like a man from Tyre!” – ensuring that the knowledge of how the Phoenicians crushed snails to make purple dye in a very smelly process will remain with him for a long time!
  • Assyrians – a pugnacious lot, but also invented the first libraries.

…and finally, today’s joy …

  • The Return of Babylon – where Babylon gets its own back on Assyria.  What study of ancient history would be complete with a rendition of Boney M’s By The Rivers Of Babylon?  Which caused much hilarity in our house and led to an afternoon of dancing and guffawing to all Boney M’s 70s hits.  This version  of “Daddy Cool” was our overall favourite.  It gets rather raunchy at the end but C and J were too busy admiring the male dancer’s Afro, and his ability to incorporate nearly falling off the tiny stage into his dance routine, to notice. 😀

Still to come before we get to Ancient Greece – the Persians.  I wonder what gems we’ll find there?


Yay, we got to Britain in our History Odyssey  ancient history study – “Europe Builds Monuments”!  J was quite excited to be finding out about the place Doctor Who’s Cybermen visited … 😐

We’ve passed Stonehenge several times in the car this year, on our way to and from Centerparcs. I now wish we’d taken  the short detour to park the car and get up close – next time! –  but at least I remembered to get the children to pause their car DVD players as we drove by!

The Amazing Pop-Up Stonehenge is not quite a living book, but its cool pop-up and lift-the-flap type features more than make up for anything lacking in the text, and its short paragraphs conveyed enough information to arouse the children’s curiosity.  I was on the verge of losing J at one point during a paragraph about how sloping holes were dug for the stones, so – necessity being the mother of invention – I brought out moonsand, wooden blocks and playmobil people, and the children created their own “Stonehenges” (I did point out the scale inaccuracies!).  They also had fun burying playmobil weapons and armour in the sand and then, as archaeologists, uncovering the artefacts!

Stones were rolled using “logs”

A “barrow” (burial mound) – you can just see the tip of the buried person!

We finished by watching Making History: Secrets of Stonehenge (45 minutes) on YouTube.  In between the historical narrative and interviews, this documentary features a digitally-enhanced re-enactment of how the huge bluestones were moved and erected, and in addition shows how the special effects were created – highly recommended if your children, like mine, have in the past attempted their own green screen effects!

Later I found this in the garden:

Times like this you can forgive the use of your peg basket to carry dirt…


We got our Ancient Egypt unit off to a great start today.  This is our third week of the History Odyssey: Ancients (level 1) curriculum and I feel ready to start adapting it a bit to best meet our family’s interests and learning styles.

C and J love secret codes so we leapt straight into hieroglyphics (which fit nicely with the curriculum).  I pinned up a copy of the hieroglyph chart from Pepi and the Secret Names and without any prompting the children eagerly began writing their names on their whiteboards.  They carried on writing for about an hour – everyone’s names, messages to friends who are following the same history curriculum, and messages to each other.  J even wanted to play “consequences” in hieroglyphics! (I must admit I didn’t go with this one… we stuck to the English version!)

While they wrote, I read “The First Writing” chapter from The Story Of The World vol 1 and a section from Horrible Histories’ Awesome Egyptians.  I like the way Awesome Egyptians talks about how hieroglyphs were deliberately complicated so that those who were able to read and write them were more important, and how scribes were trained in temples, so that when the last temple was destroyed, the ability to understand hieroglyphics was lost for many hundreds of years.  This led nicely into finding out how the Rosetta Stone was the long-awaited key to cracking the secret hieroglyph code!

J enjoyed deciphering this message from Awesome Egyptians - he insisted on writing out the hieroglyphics before the English 🙂

"I love you mummy", by C 🙂

C and I finished up by watching the Ancient Egypt chapter of the DVD Time Life’s Lost Civilizations (from LoveFilm) – not the highest quality documentary in the world, but the visuals brought what we’d been learning about to life, and the commentary about early European plunderers fitted in nicely with our recent learnings about the key role archaeology plays in our understanding of history.

We’re looking forward to continuing our Egyptian unit soon.

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