Tag Archives: home education

Living History Events for Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge

Our family’s home education journey has taken us to many events over the years. One type of event that has always proved very popular with our boys is Living History. Here in North East England, the Romans, the Vikings, and the English Civil Wars have all played their significant parts in our local history.

We have enjoyed some wonderful learning opportunities at Living History days at museums and Roman forts around the North East. We’ve met people dressed in authentic costumes of the era and learned all about the lives of the people they represent. As a parent, I have found this kind of ‘hands on’ approach has really brought the history alive for our boys. For Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge this week on the topic of ‘Events’, I thought I’d share with you a few photos of some of these Living History events.

Children having fun at a Roman history day
Young trainee gladiators learning their moves at Arbeia Roman Fort, South Shields

That’s my young gladiator, second from the right 😉

Tablet weaving at Viking living history event, Great North Museum, Newcastle upon Tyne
Tablet weaving demonstration at a Viking living history event, Great North Museum, Newcastle upon Tyne

Another thing we have found with the participants on Living History days, is their generosity with their time and knowledge. We talked to this lady for ages about her Viking tablet weaving. It was fascinating to see how the different patterns were made.

Musket-loading demonstration at English Civil War living history event
How to load your musket – English Civil War living history at Segedunum Roman Fort, Wallsend

Our boys took a close interest in how to load a musket at this English Civil War living history event held at the Segedunum Roman Fort, Wallsend in Summer 2010. Later in the same Summer we saw muskets and Civil War artillery in action at the re-enactment of the Battle of Hylton Castle.

Sunderland’s Hylton Castle was the scene of this important English Civil War battle in March 1664. The rivalry between the North East cities of Newcastle and Sunderland is legendary, especially in terms of football. Back in 1644, things were no different! Newcastle supported the Royalists and Sunderland were on the side of the Parliamentarians.

The Parliamentarians really needed to win the Battle of Hylton Castle to keep the port of Sunderland out of Royalist hands. The Parliamentarians did win which meant the port of Sunderland was also able to continue to supply their allies, the Scottish Covenanters, which in turn meant that the Scottish Covenanters were properly supplied for the pivotal Battle of Marston Moor on 2nd July 1644 – the largest battle ever to take place on English soil.

Battle of Hylton Castle - English Civil War battle re-enactment
Battle of Hylton Castle – English Civil War battle re-enactment

This large-scale re-enactment was organised by the Sealed Knot re-enactment group and a very dramatic battle it was too, with musketeers, pikemen and field artillery. The armies marched to the beat of their drums. The smell of gun smoke filled the air as the musketeers lined up and fired off their muskets and the field cannons were loaded. “Have a care!” they called out, before,”Boom!” the cannons were fired off too. The sturdy pikemen in their steel helmets clashed pikes in noisy groups on the battle field. The ‘injured’ were tended by the female camp followers.

As well as the battle re-enactment itself, there was also a large living history encampment with demonstrations of food, entertainments and various skills and crafts of the time. We spent the whole day at this event, exploring the living history encampment, watching the dramatic battle and soaking up the atmosphere among the crowds of people who had come along to experience the Battle of Hylton Castle.

Do take a look at the events others have shared for Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge this week.

J Peggy Taylor

Cee's Fun Foto Challenge Badge

Bluebells in woodland

Making More Thyme for blogging …

I can hardly believe it is 10 whole months since blogging was unwillingly squeezed out of my life by other competing priorities.

As a parent, my children always come first. As a home-educating family, we find education is not so much a 6-hours-a-day activity as a way of life. So, last April, when one of our boys needed extra input to achieve what he had suddenly decided was his lifetime’s ambition, my responsibility as ‘education facilitator’ became much more intensive.

I don’t resent the fact that I was suddenly so much in demand. I was secretly rather happy … at least with the Damascene moment one lunchtime that possessed my son with an ambitious drive to learn whatever was needed to get him where he wants to be. But, his new learning momentum meant I too had to work at a corresponding pace to provide the necessary support.

I’m one of those people who always likes to try and ‘do everything’, so for a few months I persevered with my blog, burning the midnight oil and then watching the sunrise … but the limitation of time is always the factor that frustrates and sleep really is a necessity.

Thus it was that I took a reluctant sabbatical from blogging. I missed my blogging and all the wonderful WordPress folk. I thought wistfully about it for a while, but, no. I had to be firm with myself – sleep won the argument! Though, I knew I’d be back at some point – the question was only ever, “When?”

We love walking in our local beechwoods in Springtime when the new leaves are just bursting from their tightly rolled buds
We love walking in our local beechwoods in Springtime when the new leaves are just bursting from their tightly rolled buds

Spring has now well and truly begun springing here in our corner of the UK and I happened to be sowing another pinch of Thyme this week. That same day, a comment on a gardening post I wrote two years ago arrived in my inbox and I went to my blog to reply.

Sowing another pinch of Thyme
Sowing another pinch of Thyme

I saw everyone’s new posts in my Reader when I logged in. The yearning to start blogging again welled up inside of me, like tree sap in Spring. ‘Time’ and ‘thyme’ spun puns together in my head as I sowed my herb seeds and I thought, “Shall I? Can I?”. “Making More Thyme for blogging” germinated, like a little thyme seed.

Mole, Spring cleaning - The opening chapter of The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame. This special centenary edition is illustrated by Charles van Sandwyk.
Mole, Spring cleaning – The opening chapter of The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame. This special centenary edition is illustrated by Charles van Sandwyk.

Just like Mole in Wind in the Willows, Spring always tempts me to get ‘out there’ and explore the wider world – but this time, it’s the virtual world of blogging. So here I am! It’s good to be back – I’ll be dropping by to see you all soon 🙂

J Peggy Taylor

Learning by observation and photography

Caution! Children learning … for Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge

Watching your children learning about the world around them is one of the pleasures of parenthood. For Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge this week our theme is ‘Catching People Unawares’. As a home educating family, taking photographs is one way we use to record our children’s learning experiences. This means I take a lot of photographs of our boys getting involved in all kinds of interesting activities. For this week’s challenge I decided to pick out some unusual or fun images from my archives.

History and the out-of-doors are two favourite family themes for our educational excursions and sometimes they overlap, making double the learning fun.

Trying out blacksmithing
Trying out blacksmithing under expert guidance

A woodland and heritage skills activity day in one of our local woodlands gave Matt the irresistible opportunity to try out the old craft of blacksmithing. We have previously seen blacksmithing demonstrations and also visited a renovated blacksmith’s shop complete with working forge. Entering that old building was like stepping back in time!

In days long gone, every village would have had its village blacksmith to make or mend items locally in iron and steel. Nowadays, it is mainly by people blacksmithing as a craft and as an art form that has prevented this heritage skill from dying out. On this occasion Matt produced a rather impressive pendant under the patient guidance of the visiting blacksmith.

Learning to build a two-stroke engine
Where does this piece go? Learning to build a two-stroke engine.

At last year’s annual Heritage Skills Festival, Matt learned how to put together an old two-stroke engine with the helpful assistance of an engineer from the local museum service who was overseeing this activity. Learning to maintain two-stroke engines was once part of the standard apprenticeship training for young engineers and was a particularly useful skill in our north east region as two-stroke engines were widely used in industry and ships. Shipbuilding used to be a huge industry on Tyneside up to the late 20th century.

Studying Roman history -John Collingwood Bruce's bookcase
Learning about John Collingwood Bruce and Roman local history

The UK-wide Heritage Open Days are often a good chance to visit places and learn about things that are not always open to the public. One such event we enjoyed was at the end of our ‘Roman Summer’.

We’d visited special touring exhibitions and been on guided tours of Roman forts with a renowned expert on Roman history. We’d learned about “the oldest surviving handwritten documents in Britain” – the Vindolanda tablets, among many other Roman treasures at Vindolanda.

Then in September, the Heritage Open Days gave us the opportunity to spend a morning with the county archaeologist, learning about a very significant nineteeth century local historian with a keen interest in Roman history, John Collingwood Bruce. Bruce is best known for his systematic study of Hadrian’s Wall. His “Handbook to the Roman Wall”, now in its thirteenth edition, has continued to be the main academic guide to Hadrian’s Wall.

On our visit, we were able to examine a copy of Bruce’s original “Handbook to the Roman Wall” – the large brown tome you can see on the table in my photo is Part 1 of this work. We also saw other books, maps and artefacts belonging to John Collingwood Bruce, including the rather magnificent wooden bookcase at the end of the room. Incredibly, the bookcase is made from old bridge timbers.

While dredging work was being carried out on the River Tyne, Bruce arranged to have some old bridge timbers salvaged from the river bed. At the time, he believed these timbers were from the original Roman bridge across the Tyne – Pons Aelius. However, the archaeologist explained to us that it is now understood these old timbers were from medieval bridges that had subsequently been built in the same place. The timbers were then carefully dried out and Bruce had them made up into this elaborate bookcase. The bookcase now stands in the Archaeology Education Centre at Arbeia Roman Fort in South Shields.

Getting close to nature - ground level photography
Sometimes nature photography requires meeting the subject face to face

When studying the natural world, sometimes there is no better way than direct observation. For our boys, this often seems to include lying on the ground to capture the best view of the object or creature under scrutiny …

Getting close to nature - ground level photography
Getting a close-up on nature means getting down in the dirt

… especially when there is the possibility of a competition with your brother for ‘best shot’ 😉

The creature under scrutiny in these images was the rather beautiful, though predatory, Green Tiger Beetle Cicindela campestris.

Tiger beetle near its burrow on a sandy bank
Tiger beetle near its burrow on a sunny and sandy bank

This relatively large beetle is about 1.5cm (5/8th inch) long and is irridescent green with yellow-gold spots. Green Tiger Beetles have quite long, maroon legs that enable them to run around rather energetically on this steep sandy bank where we find them on sunny Spring days. These beetles choose bare earth or sandy banks for their burrows as it warms up faster in the sun and this is beneficial for the Tiger Beetle’s hunting technique.

I hope you have enjoyed my ‘candid camera’ shots of our boys engaged in active learning. For more images of ‘Catching People Unaware’ do please visit Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge this week.

J Peggy Taylor