Sunday, 15 July 2018

Project 42: The Stone Age

We had signed up Solomon to a home education natural learning workshop on the Stone Age, and decided to supplement this with a few other activities to make it the focus of this week's project.

The workshop at Ferry Meadows involved shelter building and fire making. Solomon preferred the shelter building to the fire making, as the fire making was a bit tricky - which is probably a good thing as we're in the middle of a heat wave.

Making shelters and fire at Ferry Meadows
We supplemented the workshop by reading Stone Age in the DK findout series, and watched the BBC Story of Britain videos about the middle stone age (below) and new stone age.

We got Stone Age as part of a series of books we bought when doing Project 28: Dinosaurs. It's the perfect level for Solomon, and covers everything from day to day life, to beliefs, making tools, and mammoths.

TED-Ed have created a 360° animation about cave paintings, so we downloaded Google Cardboard and bought a decorate and play virtual reality viewer for the kids to watch it with. Calibrating the viewer was a bit trickier than I'd expected, but we got there eventually. The kids really enjoyed exploring 360 videos, as well as decorating the viewer (albeit with non-stone age pictures).

Decorate & Play VR Viewer
Next week: Museums!

Sunday, 8 July 2018

Project 41: Britain

Project 41 was a double project/holiday: two weeks travelling around Great Britain by train with an All Line Rover ticket, from Thurso (the northern most station) to Penzance (the southern most station). Unsurprisingly there were plenty of opportunities for teachable moments along the way, whether visiting local museums, sharing a train with Prince Charles, or just looking at the objects we saw along the way. 

We visited three local museums and a gallery over the two weeks - we had planned to visit more, but the train travel didn't always go to plan. The McManus gallery and museum ( in Dundee is currently renamed the McMenace in celebration of 80 years of the Beano, and after discovering the Beano in the previous week's project on comics Solomon has been obsessed with it.  
We visited the Caithness Horizons Museum and Art Gallery in Thurso (, with it's exhibitions on nuclear research, local wildlife, and medieval stones. 
Skinnet and Ulbster stones at Thurso Museum
Finally, we visited Shrewsbury Museum and Art Gallery ( Unfortunately we only had an hour to look around, and despite the ticket seller assuring us that was plenty of time, it was a bit of a rush as there was lots to do and see, with plenty of hands-on activities for the kids. It currently has a big exhibition on the Titanic, but as with many museums where you have to pay, it was very very quiet. Although the 3rd class cabins on the Titanic are often compared unfavourably with Titanic's 1st class, you can't help but see the similarities with the modern sleeper carriages we were on. 

Caledonian Sleeper or Titanic 3rd Class
We also visited MOMA Machynlleth, after an unexpected change on the train. Unfortunately for a museum of modern art, the modern art gallery was closed! 
Just MO
As well as the museums and galleries, there was also a host of public objects and art works that provoked discussion along the way. From prehistoric henges and public walks, to scientists, writers and fictional characters. 
Balfarg Henge and Offa's Dyke Walk

Charles Darwin and Geoffrey Chaucer
Desperate Dan and Paddington Bear
You can't travel the country on 39 trains without at least one picture of a train, and our favourite train trip was Porthmadog to Blaenau Ffestiniog ( on a narrow gauge steam engine.
The 'David Lloyd George' on the Ffestiniog Railway.
Obviously there's too much to be covered in a single blog post, and we're thinking about writing up the whole trip as a book, current working title: How not to travel Britain by Train.

Next week's project: The Stone Age

Saturday, 23 June 2018

Project 40: Cartoons

After two weeks of history we decided to study something a bit lighter, and explored the topic of cartoons. We looked at political cartoons, comics, and some animated cartoons.

We explored political cartoons with the British Cartoon Archive, searching for a variety of different terms, including events, people and objects (e.g., Lego), and discussed who was represented and what they were showing.

Although Solomon has read some graphic novels, we introduced him to the traditional British comic and took him to a comic store to see the American superhero style. He instantly loved the Beano, and we got him to draw his own comic strip in a similar style.
Solomon's first Beano

Solomon's 'Crazy Baby' comic strip

Many of the early animations are now available online, including Fantasmagorie, which is considered the first animated film and reminds me of the CBeebies DipDap:
We also watched Steam Boat Willie, and took the opportunity to introduce Solomon to many of the Disney and Warner Brothers cartoon characters that he's not come across yet.

We wanted to go to the Cartoon Museum - but unfortunately we caught the train to London only to find the museum unexpectedly closed, and we're still not sure why!

Next week's project: Britain

Monday, 18 June 2018

Project 39: The Saxons

To accompany the previous week's project of The Vikings, we looked at the Saxons. Unsurprisingly there is a lot of overlap between the projects, and many of the books we used were the same: History of Britain: the Saxons & Vikings, Great Stories of British History, and Horrible Histories: Smashing Saxons. We also looked up what was happening in the local area in local history books, and overlaid an old map of the area showing a Saxon burial ground with a modern map, showing that there was a Saxon burial ground at the end of our road!
Saxon burial ground at the end of our road
BBC Bitesize have a wide range of guides on the Saxons, about their culture and kings, and Solomon enjoys the fact that they are more interactive than the usual videos and books. 

We haven't really had many project-based trips in recent weeks, so it was good to have two for the Saxons. Firstly, we had a day trip to London, to visit the British Library and the British Museum, and then we went to the Peterborough Heritage Festival

We ostensibly went to the British Library to look at the sorts of manuscripts the Saxon monks would have been working on, but the treasures gallery is full of interesting items and objects, from Ada Lovelace's 'first computer program', Leonardo da Vinci's notebooks, to Beatles lyrics. Like all small children Solomon enjoyed the interactive elements - the touchscreens and audio recordings - as much as the objects. He particularly enjoyed the recording of Beowulf and Alan Bennett's recording of Alice in Wonderland. 
We went to the British Museum to see the Sutton Hoo collection, and other items from the Saxon period. We last went to the British Museum as part of the project on Ancient Egypt, but with so much to see there, it's always good to focus on a specific collection. 
Hoo's on first?
The Peterborough Heritage Festival covers a wide range of historical periods, from Romans to World War 2 with a bit of Steam Punk thrown in on top. Solomon enjoyed the vikings, and even had a giant game of Nine Men's Morris (introduced in the Board Games project). 
Nine Men's Morris
Saxon Viking Camp
Next week's project: Cartoons

Sunday, 10 June 2018

Project 38: The Vikings

The Vikings is another of those obligatory home education projects for young children, and Solomon picked it as this week's project. As we had had a few days in York earlier in the year (visiting the Jorvik centre etc), we focused on discovering the Vikings through books, videos and song, looking at the history of Vikings in Britain, and Viking myths and legends.

The history of the Vikings made use of a number of books: History of Britain: the Saxons & Vikings, Ladybird Book of British History, and Horrible Histories: Vicious Vikings. We also coupled the 'proper' history with some relevant stories from Great Stories from British History, about kings Edmund, Swayne and Canute. Solomon was thrilled to discover a recipe for conker soap in the Vicious Vikings, but disappointed that it was the wrong time of year for conkers. As well as Solomon's favourite The Story of Britain animation, we also watched some BBC Teach clips with Neil Oliver.

We also made use of BBC resources for learning about some Viking myths and legends. They have a number of Viking saga songs, to form the basis of music lessons, as well as the usual animations. The Thor and the Giants tale has also been made into a TED Ed video:

Most importantly this week, we also compared the classic cartoon Vicky the Viking with the more recent Vic the Viking, and came to the conclusion that the original was better!

Of course no Viking project would be complete without a picture of a longboat:
Solomon's Longboat
Next week (on a similar theme to coincide with the Peterborough Heritage Festival): The Saxons!

Sunday, 3 June 2018

Project 37: Metals

We had already got Science-files: Metals from the library, so decided to use that as the basis for this week's project. Using a host of online videos, and A Beginner's Guide to the Periodic Table (previously used in Project 19: Science and chemistry), we explored: the bronze age, iron age, industrial revolution, precious metals, modern alloys, and recycling.

Solomon's reaction to the first video, showing the smelting of copper on an open hilltop in Israel, was that he wanted to do that this week, and was a bit disappointed that we had to say no!

He particularly enjoys BBC Teach: Story of Britain videos, watching the whole series rather than restricting himself to those on the bronze age and iron age.

Hands-on experiments with metals are a bit limited with a 5 yr old, but we did explore the hallmarks on some of the 'precious' objects in our house:
Birmingham palladium and Sheffield platinum
And the magnetic properties of the change in our pockets, and how this has changed along with the composition of UK coins.

Next week's project: The Vikings!

Monday, 28 May 2018

Project 36: Poetry

As this week included a trip to the North East for a wedding, we decided to have a primarily paper-based project so we could take resources with us. We chose Poetry.

The start of the week included the usual TED-Ed videos and BBC Guides, looking at things like rhyming, alliteration, metaphors, what makes a poem a poem, and the poetic form:
Following on from the introduction to alliteration, we looked at a variety of tongue twisters, and followed a simple guide on how to write your own tongue twister. After which Solomon wrote his own tongue twiser:
Hungry Harry had a hot and hairy house, in the house Harry had a ho ho hula hoop.
The Poetry Society have an extensive collection of education resources. We worked through the guide to The Jumblies, watched an animated reading of the poem, and drew our own interpretation of the Jumblies:
Solomon's Jumblie

We also explored the Missing: Daisy poem in the Poetry Train booklet, with Solomon writing his own version about a missing parrot:

Anyone seen my parrot?
Small and red,
Blue and yellow,
Squawk the smelly parrot. 

She loves her babies,
She likes her cage,
She hates her poos.

Anyone seen my parrot?...

I miss her talks,
I miss her squawks,
I miss her lovely feathers.

Anyone seen my parrot?...

Next week's project: Metals