Sunday, May 13, 2012

Castles and Princesses

We recently joined the National Trust for Scotland. It's a bargain at only £5.50 a month! We get free parking and entry to all their properties. The kids of course have been wanting to take full advantage of this. So on any nice days lately we've been off to castles to explore and learn.

First we went to Fyvie castle. We went there on a day that Daddy was off work, though sadly Daddy wasn't feeling too good! We took a picnic in our handy dandy American style cooler, and as we arrived it started pouring with rain. We hid out in the car for about ten minutes and it passed, then the sun came out thankfully so we resumed picnicking.

The kids in front of Fyvie Castle.

Sadly this is the only real picture I have from Fyvie, because you're not allowed to photograph inside it. We had our own personal tour guide though and the kids loved seeing all the different rooms, all the guns and armour, and hearing stories (particularly about the Lairds racing their horses up the massive stone spiral staircase!). Cora's favourite was the bedrooms and the accompanying tales of princesses sleeping in the four poster beds.

When we got home that evening, Maia promptly went and built Fyvie castle out of duplo blocks. She keeps asking to go to more castles, she loved it!

That Saturday Cora was off to Edinburgh Zoo with Brownies, so we had planned a family day out. Unfortunately Aaron wasn't well enough to come with us, so it was just Calvin, Maia and I. We went to the cinema to see the £1 showing of Cars 2 which we all loved, followed by shopping at Costco. Before we left I looked up on my phone where the nearest NTS property was, as Costco is about an hour from our house so I thought maybe there would be somewhere nearby to go that we normally wouldn't drive to. Success! I found that we were only 15 minutes from Castle Fraser, where I had been once or twice before but never inside. It was a gorgeous sunny day so off we went.

Calvin and Maia at the side of Castle Fraser.

The view of the Castle you see when you walk down from the car park.

Inside the court yard.

We went to the shop to get our tickets and headed into the Castle. There was a wedding so part of it was closed off unfortunately. But we got to just wander around by ourselves. We went up one of the towers and it was up a series of very steep spiral staircases.

In front of an exhibit at the top room of the tower.

Another exhibit at the top of the tower.

Calvin was interested to learn that the children here were home schooled. Their teacher lived off the library in her own room and every day the 14 children that last lived here had to learn lots of subjects like Latin and Greek.

After the tour we headed back to the gardens and there was a Woodland Secrets Play Area. Much fun was had here! There are all sorts of fun things for the kids to do.

Climbing on rocks in the stone circle.

Then there was the big Wigwam, which the kids decided we could camp out in if only they would let us!

I spy with my little eye, two monkies!

Inside the wigwam.

Maia reading the map to tell us where to go next.

Inside a wooden hut.

Climbing and playing!

I was amazed that she managed to get up here by herself!

A cool tunnel provided much entertainment.

Calvin really wanted to know why this was here. He thought it was very cool but just wanted to know why it was in the middle of the play area!

Inside what will be a tree playhouse I think, all the trees have been planted to grow into a dome shape, but they're young so not much coverage yet.

The magical blue tree!

We never did figure out what exactly this was for!

And last but definitely not least, their favourite thing in the garden! 

I expect our membership is going to be money very well spent.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Pleasant Surprises

One of my absolute favourite things about home educating is when my children's knowledge surprises me. What I especially mean is those times when I realise they know something that I didn't teach them consciously. I notice this most with Maia since she's the youngest, but with the other two as well. Sometimes I just wonder how on earth they know it! It's only recently that they're starting to read, so it's not from books, and we don't have TV either, so who taught them these things?

Before I home educated, I really had no idea how much children absorb when they learn naturally. It should be obvious when you think about how much they learn before school age, but it's not something I paid a lot of attention to before. Sometimes they teach me new things!

Maia and I did word puzzles the other day.

She knew almost every letter. I couldn't quite believe it at first! She's not quite three yet and the others weren't recognising letters at this age. The thing is I know in the end this all balances out - her being an early reader may be a possibility, and although that's fab, it doesn't mean she's better or smarter than Cora who is just now grasping reading at 8 years old. All children learn in their own time, and the amazing thing to me is just how much daily life really does teach them. The more time goes on the more I believe in unschooling, not following a set curriculum, letting them follow their interests and learn as they go about life. 

I've often wondered if Cora and Calvin would secretly like to go to school. I know they do feel they miss out in the sense of not seeing their friends every day. On April Fool's Day I told them they were going back to school. I thought they would laugh and know I was joking, but they both instantly burst into tears! I felt terrible, but on the bright side, my husband remarked that at least now we know for sure how they truly feel about it. And as for me?

I love watching my children learn. :)