Below are excerpts from my own home education experience, originally posted on Instagram. I wanted to show by example what I had had in mind in my Tips for facilitating your child’s learning resources. You can follow us on Instagram here.

High on Energy

Yesterday, we ventured into a territory I’ve been holding back on for a while. Physics and Chemistry are foreign languages to me. As soon as I could help it, age 13 to be precise, I streamed into Liberal Arts so I’d never have to study them again.

 My Sonshine, on the other hand, came out of the womb dressed in a lab coat with microscope in hand. Science was his favourite subject at school and one of the main ways he and his Dad bonded. 

So, you can just imagine how nervous I’ve been to introduce our Energy, Forces and Motion curriculum from The Good and the Beautiful into his studies? Name the video or resource, I’ve gone for it.

After an unusually lacklustre Friday morning, I finally I decided to face the dragon. I sent my boy out to play whilst I put on the enchantment. I laid out a feast of books and science experiments, lit a scented candle and put on calm music and garnished it all with his favourite: warm milk and caramel syrup topped with whipped cream and marshmallows. I figured, if the topic flopped, at least I’d win on  atmosphere. 

I laid out my lovely TGATB topic overview in PowerPoint so we could both look at the inspiring photos as I introduced the topic. After a rather woody and disjointed start, I decided to pause the curriculum talk and go back to the drawing board. I had him pull up definitions of energy from four of the science books we had on the table. I typed these up as he read. Then we discussed each definition and why we preferred the TGATB definition. This approach allowed him the space to correlate our new knowledge with prior knowledge. Gosh, do we need to make space for those rabbit holes! 

Then we watched three short “Intro to Energy” YouTube videos, which ushered in the key features, forms and types of energy with humour, song and the right amount of gusto. This left me with the final task of reinforcing the facts using the TGATB curriculum. 

I then left him to carry out two energy related experiments whilst I prepped dinner. 

At 5am this morning, I woke up suddenly to two bright eyes on a face a with a disturbing look of glee peering at me. “Mum”, he exclaimed, “I can’t stop thinking about science. I’ve been brainstorming with my eyes open. I’m not even dreaming!” 

To think the last thing I said to my son as I tucked him in last night was, “Darling, I’m so sorry I couldn’t introduce your favourite topic with more passion and confidence.” Maybe, just maybe the Charlotte Mason method of simply facilitating our children’s learning by laying the feast of good resources is all it takes to whet their appetite to do the work themselves?

Time Traveling Through the Ages

You would not believe it if I told you but Sonshine and I are now time-travellers. In the last four months we’ve travelled 5,000 years from Ancient Sumer to Medieval Britain. 

What a trip that was! Not only have we amassed a shelf full of much cherished handcrafted artefacts, we’ve also cross checked our collection against world class museum displays to make sure weren’t tripping. However, this did not protect me from those surreptitious moments of cognitive dissonance, as I tripped somewhat in trying to reconcile my prior knowledge with new discoveries.  Let’s just say, I am grateful my faith is as grounded in an experiential relationship that corresponds with my understanding. I am confident in what I believe.

Back to time traveling. 

Imagine Mr Peabody and Sherman in their shiny red ‘WayBack’ time machine. Ok, not so fast. Let’s face it, Sonshine has a higher chance of being more like Sherman than I could ever dream of being the awesome  genius dog, Mr Peabody, but you get the picture. 

Ancient Sumer

Early one September morning, we headed off to the civilised city of Sumer in ancient Mesopotamia. Our first encounter was a cultural orientation lesson on the epic tales of Gilgamesh. He was the first Sumer demigod king who, devoid of virtue and self-restraint, used his superhuman strength and lust for power to lord over his people. Well, he soon met his match and legend has it, many of his successors learnt to play much nicer after that. 

Traveling through Sumer, we became enraptured by the similarities between their way of life, culture and architecture and those of the early Egyptians. We lingered over their use of clay for writing and stamp-making. What enthralled us most was the audacious story of the first baby to be found floating in a basket up a river. You might know this mysterious baby turned royal gardener, the then King of Kish’s cup bearer, military dictator and first ever empire builder, as Sargon the Great. 

Babylon, Assyria and Persia

We moved down stream to Southern Mesopotamia in Babylon, where we took our first human rights lesson from the just king Hammurabi. As we unpacked his Code, we found an uncanny resemblance between it and the Mosaic laws. It must be the Ur-Abrahamic legacy. 

After much scrambling for power between northern and southern Mesopotamia, we found ourselves crouched in a large cave containing the library of the lion hunting Assyrian King, Ashburnipal of Nineveh. I’m sure Jonah the prophet would have had words about our affinity for the fierce librarian king, through his insatiable appetite for reading and collecting great stories. 

Off we went again, this time back to Babylonian Empire where we found ourselves obsessing over the visionary design of the hanging gardens of Babylon. Sonshine even tried to create a Lego replica of his own. Notably, it was the love story behind this, the most glorious wonder of the world that stole our hearts; well mine at least. A note to future hubby: be inspired by Nebuchadnezzar’s infinite love for his Persian wife, Amytis. 

Enter the Medes and Persians. Cyrus the Great, the Persian king who sent the Israelites back to their homeland, had quite the childhood. You know the tale where a power-crazed uncle/father/ruler gets a premonition that a young child will one day overthrow him, so he then conspires to get rid of the child before they come of age but by some divine intervention, somehow the prophecy is fulfilled anyway? Yeah, that story. It’s found in the Greek myth of Oedipus, Shakespeare’s Perdita in a Winter’s Tale and dare I say even our very own Christ almost endured a similar fate at hands of Herod the Great. 

Saxons and Vikings

Gliding swiftly past the familiar territories of Greece and Rome; heaven knows, we beat that Trojan horse dead enough last year, we headed up north to meet the “barbaric” Celts, Saxons, Angles, Jutes  and Vikings. We had just got settled into building longships, Sutton Hoo masks and Milnors, when William the Conqueror booted us out of our comfort zone. Now we are stuck in a medieval castle, and Sonshine has volunteered himself as a Page to learn all things chivalrous and knightly. I on the other hand, utterly refuse to languish in a  keep, wasting my “golden years” waiting be rescued. I’m strategizing my own cunning plan. 

#astoryoftheworld #educationotherwise #classicaleducatedchild #ancientmesopotamia #blackhomeeducator #christianhomeeducation #homeeducationuk

Bodiam Castle

My teeny iPhone camera does not even begin to capture the imposing magnificence of this 14th century moated masterpiece.

Bodiam Castle was built in 1385 by Sir Edward Dalyngrigge, a knight of Edward III, with substantial support from his well-to-do wife and the permission of Richard II. The Castle’s raison d’etre was to protect the area from French invasion during the Hundred Years’ War, a series of conflicts waged from 1337 to 1453 by the Plantagenets,  rulers and the House of Valois over the right to rule the Kingdom of France. Naturally… one kingdom is never enough? 

Surrounded by 24 acres of breath-taking lush, green landscape overlooking the nearby village, Bodiam is positioned to give visitors ample time to walk and take in her historic splendour and grandeur. 

As we got closer to the Castle, my heart was immediately thrown into a euphoric, childlike state of joy! I couldn’t decide whether it was the joy of giving my son the opportunity to experience learning in this tangible and authentic way or if it was the feeling that I’d just walked into the perfect romantic medieval film set. Perhaps it was just that reckless abandon I often feel when overcome by the beauty and fresh air of stunning, green open spaces. Seriously, I’m talking the sudden desire to do cartwheels, burst into song and dance or suddenly hug people around me. Don’t take me to the countryside.  

Being far too British to let it all hang out, I channelled my sudden burst of giddiness into capturing the memory.

Sonshine on the other hand, captured his joy through music by selecting the perfect soundtrack for the moment. So, with Vavaldi’s Four Seasons in mind, birds in the air, delight of little animals and insects scurrying around in the green and seeing cordial fish dancing in the moat, our hearts were duly full with a multi-sensory awe, suitable for entry into a majestic, medieval castle!

In Search of Sunflowers

May has flown by so quickly, along with our fascinating study of the life and work of Vincent Van Gogh. His story is not the easiest or most inspiring to share with a young child. However, thanks to Home Ed, I have the freedom to coach such sensitive life lessons within a context of faith and hope. 

This Sunflower is our second Van Gogh painting from last month. This one has taken a little longer to finish than Starry Night. However, I’m so proud of Sonshine’s determination to soldier-on, I’ve decided to post it as is.   The first lesson he learnt in the process was, when you leave a painting half done, it’s hard to get the exact paint colour mixture next time round. 

We started our art study with our go-to text Usbourne Book of Famous Artists, which we heavily complimented with a bio from the Van Gogh Museum and bits from Wiki. I then turned these articles into a nicely laid out handout, punctuated with a few of the artist’s most famous paintings. 

We also listened to a fascinating National Gallery talk about the five Sunflower paintings in various museums around the world.  Having seen Starry Night at MoMA last year, we ended up making two trips to the National Gallery to see the Sunflower. Our second trip to the Gallery was an attempt to circumvent Tate Britain’s expensive Van Gogh exhibition. We got to the National Gallery, only to find that the one painting we really wanted to see had been borrowed by the Tate!  

For our application, we created an Artist Factfile and two lovely copies of our favourite Van Gogh pieces. 

I think I can close this chapter now and move on to our next artist study.

Raising Butterflies

We’ve been raising caterpillars and butterflies for the past three weeks. We’ve become experts on Painted Lady Butterflies, and have read about, drawn, modelled and recently watched a fantastic @curiositysteam documentary on their migration from Morocco to Europe.

It’s been a remarkable experience watching my Sonshine delight over their transformation at each stage. The morning of the day of each new stage was literally a cause for celebration. As for the day the first butterfly that emerged… Put it this way: we hardly did anything but stare, for hours. 

Letting the butterflies go this evening however, was rather anticlimactic! First, they wouldn’t come out, then when they finally did, we blinked and vamoose! They didn’t even linger for a good photo for old time’s sake.

Someone please tell me that kids leaving home is nothing this. Not sure what I was expecting; a linger on a finger or tickle on a nose perhaps, or a rest in our garden or something. Gosh, butterflies nowadays, so ungrateful.

Bear with me, I must be having withdrawals. It was an intense three weeks of nursing. To think, I wasn’t even the foster parent!

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