Da Vinci — Last Supper

Realised I missed our last Da Vinci art study.

We actu­ally skipped one of them alto­gether as too ill but I’d planned the Last Sup­per to be our last one to tie in to Easter.


The Last Sup­per isn’t actu­ally a fresco as it was painted on a dry wall.  How­ever it looks like a fresco and in the spirit of try­ing some­thing dif­fer­ent we went for a fresco tech­nique.  We mixed up plas­ter of paris in a plas­tic pot, when it was nearly set but still damp Sam painted it with nor­mal block watercolours.

The idea was to do an ‘Easter theme’ but I’m told that each colour rep­re­sents a sea­son so not only is it ‘east­ery’ it is ‘christ­massy’ and ‘hal­loweeny’ too.  Not much you can say to that :)20150415_3

Posted in Art, Curriculum, Da Vinci | Leave a comment

Eggcellent end to a Smashing Project

Sorry :D

We have had really good fun with our farm­ing project even though ill­ness man­aged to scup­per the end and our bread week never came off.  Our egg theme actu­ally ended up tak­ing 3 weeks as we have been tak­ing things very easy and are now in hol­i­day mode but it was Easter so — can’t have enough eggs at Easter.

We looked at dif­fer­ent eggs. These are duck, chest­nut maran and blue­bell aurancana.

20150414_15 Did some bak­ing and cook­ing with the eggs.

20150412_2620150412_24Made mosaic pic­tures with the shells. 20150414_14And a spring flower wreath with the boxes.20150414_3We watched the videos on the EatHappy site and did the activ­i­ties on egg for­ma­tion and maths that were linked.

20150414_18We tested eggs for freshness


We had a go at turn­ing an egg inside out.  It failed but we hadn’t used sel­l­otape.
20150412_16  Show­ing weight dis­tri­b­u­tion by stand­ing on eggs was more successful.

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We had fun with a char­ity shop kit for build­ing egg tow­ers. It held the egg for about 1 1/2 seconds :)


20150412_2120150412_23Easter wise, boys had an easter egg obvi­ously but only one small­ish one. we opt to make rest of our treats.

Nests  20150412_7 Brownies20150404_9

Creme egg spring ani­mals with fon­dant icing.

20150406_15Sam wove a bas­ket from card and raf­fia for some dec­o­rated eggs.  We have Den­nis the Men­ace and Volde­mort.
20150404_520150404_6We brought our farm project to a (rough) close with a col­lage farm.  I say rough as still watch­ing Edwar­dian Farm and dab­bling in farm based stuff for work.


Posted in Curriculum, Farming, Festivals and special days, Geography | Tagged | Leave a comment

Not much of note…

…actu­ally as ever adds up to quite a lot.  Ill­ness is finally at long last start­ing to ebb away.  I’ve spent a lot of the last 10 days on the sofa/bed/bath so lots of self directed learn­ing going on (prob­a­bly ;) ).

Fire sta­tion theme con­tin­ued with lots of (fake, cheap, rub­bish) lego build­ing and play­ing.  Don’t rec­om­mend fake Lego but sup­pose we’ve had our mon­eys worth from the build­ing alone.

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A trip to the library pro­vided read­ing mate­r­ial about fire fight­ers plus lots for our new after Easter project as well as trashy nov­els some light read­ing.  We also col­lected our fired and glazed pottery.

11084265_10153327616920832_3128992210581656803_n 11084303_10153327621120832_3035632709514332475_nPlenty of com­puter play.  Timez Attack, Minecraft, a trial of Clever Drag­ons, some mil­i­tary strat­egy type stuff (medieval and WW2), Scratch and design­ing and build­ing his own Legoland.

He’s devour­ing his Mur­der­ous Maths books which are giv­ing rise to inter­est­ing discussions.

We’ve watched more TV than usual not sur­pris­ingly, a cou­ple of films, a doc­u­men­tary about vot­ing, moved on to Edwar­dian Farm and Jack and I are work­ing through Doc­tor Who series 5 (Sam dip­ping in and out).

Elec­tric­ity project has con­tin­ued when energy has allowed as has farm project with an egg theme for Easter — both will get their own posts.

20150406_4 20150406_5 20150404_4 20150404_6 20150406_16 20150404_9It’s a creme egg sheep although we all agree def­i­nitely more like an Adi­pose20150406_17 I’ve been using the enforced inac­tiv­ity to crack on with some sewing.  Good phi­los­o­phy for life ;)


And we made some bal­loon Min­ions just because :)20150330_3



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A Gentle Guiding Hand

We are a house of lurgy at the moment so not a great deal of note hap­pen­ing.  There­fore there has been a bit of time to reflect.  I’ve also had time to glance at the edu­ca­tional phi­los­o­phy I wrote sev­eral years ago and realise how out­dated it is.  It sounds a lot more struc­tured than we actu­ally are and rather anti-unschooling which has never really been my view.  Def­i­nitely time for a rewrite.

This April marks 10 years of attend­ing home ed meets and 8 years of hav­ing a child of com­pul­sory edu­ca­tion age.

When the boys were younger we def­i­nitely had a sea­sonal approach to home edu­ca­tion.  Indoors more over the win­ter; read­ing, work­ing on craft projects, more struc­tured edu­ca­tion.  Basi­cally free range over the sum­mer when there were a lot more social oppor­tu­ni­ties and the boys just wanted to run about in the park.

We still have a sim­i­lar sea­son rhythm although for dif­fer­ent moti­va­tions.  In the Autumn/Winter/early Spring my energy lev­els and drive are at their high­est so I am in a position/mood to arrange longer more inter­est­ing trips and to source resources etc to fol­low them up, to arrange group trips/activities and more social occa­sions, to have the moti­va­tion to do messier more involved projects.  I hate sum­mer, detest being hot 20 degrees is as much as I can com­fort­ably stand.  We’re all wheezy, itchy and seri­ously sleep deprived from about May to Sep­tem­ber.  I can’t com­mit to activ­i­ties as both of us have up and down health/moods.  I strug­gle to deal with the social side as pretty much get a 4 month headache and tend to find other people’s chil­dren are much louder than mine (although mine are loud enough in a group).  Sam also lacks moti­va­tion to leave the house.  Sum­mer is when his drive has to carry us.  We let the more rou­tine stuff and plans slide and take things day by day.  In real­ity I sus­pect we don’t actu­ally look that dif­fer­ent to out­siders more a men­tal shift in my head.

Per­spec­tives on Learning

I believe it is nec­es­sary to be inter­ested in some­thing in order to learn, engage and gain some­thing from it.

How­ever I feel wait­ing for chil­dren to show an inter­est in some­thing is doing them a dis­ser­vice and car­ries a risk of quite a nar­row edu­ca­tion.  I see it as my respon­si­bil­ity to extend my children’s hori­zons, it is my job to intro­duce new inter­ests and make sub­jects that might not oth­er­wise be, entic­ing to them.

Skills that need prac­tice I feel need some sort of moti­va­tion from the child them­selves before they can be fully mas­tered.  I believe push­ing a child to read or write for exam­ple when they are not ready does more harm than good.  I see it as my job to pro­vide the build­ing blocks, the tools that will let them pull it all together when they are ready.

In Prac­tice

I aim to pro­vide a bal­anced, well rounded cur­ricu­lum.  I believe in being flex­i­ble and con­stantly adapt­ing to cur­rent inter­ests and sit­u­a­tions.  At all times the focus is on how the chil­dren learn and their input into what we cover and how is huge.  This doesn’t mean how­ever that we only ever do things they request.  I am the adult I believe that life expe­ri­ence has given me a bet­ter grasp of ‘the big­ger pic­ture’, I also know my chil­dren well enough to know expe­ri­ences and inter­ests that I believe will benefit/interest them that they would never con­sider them­selves (don’t always get it right).

I come up with ways to make projects/subjects as inter­est­ing to the indi­vid­ual child as I can.  Expe­ri­ence says with the right hook most things are inter­est­ing.  Some­times the inter­est flags very quickly. I try not to have a long list of learn­ing objec­tives from a topic, a cou­ple of key objec­tives and the hope/expectation that when they dig below the sur­face they will find their own interests.

Some­times despite my best efforts there is no inter­est there so the topic sub­ject is left.  Either I’ve not found the right tools/approach to entice inter­est so I need to go away and research or I’ve picked the wrong time and we need to return when they have matured a bit or that the sub­ject is just not of inter­est at all, in which case I need to assess how essen­tial I feel it is that they learn about it and either come up with another approach or let drop.

Sub­jects we lack inter­nal moti­va­tion for I try to find exter­nal moti­va­tion, but in a fun way.  One of our favourite and most suc­cess­ful approaches is to study in small groups with another fam­ily or two.

Skills such as Maths and basic writ­ing skills I believe need to be prac­tised reg­u­larly but are far eas­ier and more fun if bro­ken into small indi­vid­ual blocks.  We make as much into a game as we can.  I believe that when a child has the basic skills behind them, they will be able to pull them together them­selves with lit­tle adult sup­port as soon as they find a rea­son that they need to.

Why a ‘gen­tle guid­ing hand’?

Because that is how I see my role.  Even though I take a more struc­tured and adult inter­ven­tion­ist than many I still see my role as to stand behind and let him lead.

My inter­ven­tion takes the form of try­ing to find things that I believe will inter­est him and make them as engag­ing as pos­si­ble.  I can pro­vide a gen­tle push from behind to guide him into the topic (usu­ally a big day trip or a prac­ti­cal activ­ity) but if despite that there is no inter­est there no amount of push­ing from me will make him learn any­thing about that topic that will last longer in his mem­ory than a day or so.

At times he will have inter­ests that he has devel­oped of his own that he wants to run with and my hand is needed just to help rather than guide.  In the most prac­ti­cal sense my role here is usu­ally orderer of sup­plies, but at times it is gen­tly guid­ing him to con­sider new aspects of the interest.

This is the hard­est part of home edu­ca­tion know­ing when to offer guid­ance and when just to help or keep out all together.  Spot­ting when an inter­est is exhausted and the sit­u­a­tion is drift­ing with no one gain­ing any­thing and when it looks like not a lot is hap­pen­ing exter­nally but things are going on inter­nally, recharg­ing and inter­nal­is­ing.  In other words when to apply that guid­ing hand.  I still and no doubt will always get it wrong sometimes.

Assess­ing Home Ed

We very rarely have a ‘fin­ished project’ to show.  We pro­duce lit­tle in the way of writ­ing as it is not some­thing he enjoys or feels the need to do.  In time if exams are to fea­ture I know we will need to develop this area, how­ever at this age it is not a con­cern.  We prac­tice skills such as hand­writ­ing, gram­mar and spelling so that when/if the time comes to build up this are the foun­da­tions are there.  The way my son demon­strates learn­ing is through dis­cus­sion, while I do do some prod­ding at the time to check if things are going in the real proof of the suc­cess of home edu­ca­tion is what comes out in every­day con­ver­sa­tion.  That is how I know he is under­stand­ing, inter­nal­is­ing and mak­ing links.  It is a test of faith but 8 years in I’m a lot more confident.

The other aspect is that I can see socia­ble, car­ing, thought­ful, rea­son­ably well man­nered boys in front of me.  We have a good bal­ance between oppor­tu­ni­ties to develop social skills and here I include the abil­ity to work in a group rather than just socialise.  There are strong long term friend­ships as well as ease at mak­ing new friends.

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Fireman Sam

Sam was actu­ally named after Fire­man Sam by a 3 1/2 yo Jack.  I vetoed Paddington :)

After the excite­ment of last week’s Par­lia­ment trip this weeks was a lot sim­pler and nearer to home.  Which was good as have a major case of jelly legs after heavy cold.  We really wouldn’t have been up for any­thing longer/further/more complicated.

Fire Sta­tion was our des­ti­na­tion to tick off an ele­ment of one of Sam’s Cub badges.  One notice­able effect of all of these cuts in recent years is that these sort of trips once so sim­ple are now very dif­fi­cult to organ­ise.  They don’t have the man power avail­able to run the vis­its.  We had very lim­ited num­bers, restric­tions on age and a need to spec­ify clear learn­ing objec­tives — play with the hose wasn’t going to cut it.  Despite that (or maybe because of it with the way I’m feel­ing at the moment) it was a very good trip.

Only a cou­ple of pho­tos of Sam, cour­tesy of another home ed mum.  We’d split into groups and we were in dif­fer­ent ones.

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Knowing your limits

Things have been going too well for too long!

After the excite­ment of Monday’s Par­lia­ment trip the week has fiz­zled out really and I’m not hold­ing out huge hopes for the next 4 days to be hon­est.  Bugs have hit and hit bad, get­ting all of us!  Have a humdinger of a head cold and a really chesty cough.  Man­aged to strain some mus­cles in my back ear­lier in the week too, although a cou­ple of days of lit­tle move­ment and a hot water bot­tle strapped to the back seem to have done the trick.  Only hurts when I sneeze, which unfor­tu­nately I’m doing quite a bit.

Core work has been shelved this week and every­thing else has been a bit hit and miss.  But you know what in the great scheme of things it really doesn’t mat­ter, when I list it I’m sure it will still look a lot.  This is why I pre­fer to think of my edu­ca­tional plan­ning as a sug­gested guide, a list of ideas rather than a todo list.

We’ve done some of an elec­tric­ity lap­book.  Play­ing again with sta­tic electricity.

20150328_5We only lightly touched on our food theme for the week, bread.  Watched the videos from the Eat Happy project and had fun with some bread facts.  Plus we used the free study pack from the Grain Chain to look at dif­fer­ent stages in the milling.  Back wasn’t up to knead­ing so only actual food stuff we made was some bread bowls by hol­low­ing out the ends of loaves for soup.20150328_820150328_6I was look­ing to clear out some resources so we’ve played a lot of our edu­ca­tional games to make a call on keep v’s go.  Fun after­noon play­ing mainly maths games.

Sam has been explor­ing a free trail on Clever Drag­ons and has had a few goes on Timez Attack — for fun!

He had his group Span­ish tuto­r­ial and we spent an after­noon in the local pot­tery paint­ing cafe with friends.

20150329_26 20150329_25

We’ve spent a lot of time work­ing our way through War Time Farm and man­aged a morn­ing out in the spring sun­shine vis­it­ing the farm where it was filmed.  Sam was very happy to learn that they didn’t slaugh­ter the pig on the show and she’s alive and no longer fits the name ‘Shorty’.


Lovely morn­ing iden­ti­fy­ing places from the show, watch­ing the ani­mals and feed­ing chick­ens and ducks.

20150328_1020150328_1120150328_1620150328_2120150328_2220150328_2420150328_2620150328_3220150328_3320150328_3520150328_4120150328_2820150328_3820150328_2320150328_37We’ve also man­aged some film watch­ing — Diver­gent (with Jack who had a sick day) and The Lion,The Witch and the Wardrobe as Sam is reread­ing the Nar­nia series again.  Other read­ing has been Mur­der­ous Maths as I man­aged to pick up a box set of the old series from Amazon.

Gang Show rehearsals are get­ting longer with a fort­night to show week!



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Houses of Parliament

Yes­ter­day was one of those remem­ber for a long time/for ever trips.

Pot­tered up to Lon­don for a stroll on South­bank, cof­fee in the shadow of West­min­ster Abbey and then an edu­ca­tional visit to Parliament.



We toured Houses of Com­mons and Lords and sat in the gal­leries while they were in ses­sion, saw the old parts where the court sat that sen­tenced Charles the 1st, stopped in Cen­tral Lobby a few times which was amazing!

We spot­ted some famous faces such as Floella Ben­jamin in the Lords.  The most famous per­son we saw though would hap­pen to be my least favourite politi­cian ever — Ed Balls!  Unfor­tu­nately I was too busy wor­ry­ing about get­ting on the esca­la­tor (bit of a pho­bia of down esca­la­tors usu­ally avoid at all costs, I can just about cope if no one is behind me and I don’t feel rushed and who was behind me but Ed Balls!) to turn round and kick him in the shin.

Pho­tos not allowed not sur­pris­ingly in main area.  But here’s one of the old hall.

20150324_8After the tours we did a vot­ing work­shop, which turned out to be a lot more relaxed and fun than anticipated.

20150324_9 20150324_10We then had a ques­tion and answer ses­sion with my local MP.  I actu­ally like her a lot more now as she coped valiantly with the fact that a lot of the kids lived out of con­stituency and didn’t know or care who she was, she instead got to lis­ten to a story about cats poo­ing on someone’s lawn but it was okay as the own­ers moved a few weeks ago so they don’t need the MP to go and talk to them any­more.  Then it just degen­er­ated into what the kids would do in power, lots of very wor­thy sug­ges­tions and lots of dis­cus­sion on the prac­ti­cal­i­ties of giv­ing every­one a hamster!

They also sup­plied us with a load of fab­u­lous free resources.


I’d worked myself up into a state of worry the day before most unlike me.  In the end my worry over the num­ber of adults going in and them even expect­ing us was put to rest early morn­ing.  We ended up in the wrong place but that was their instruc­tions and most groups do the same appar­ently!  All went fine until we got back to Fare­ham and I ended up with one vom­it­ing child and one des­per­ate for the toi­let with no work­ing toi­lets on the sta­tion — in my dooms­day imag­in­ings I’ll take that as an accept­able low point on an oth­er­wise fan­tas­tic day.

Oh and here’s our South­bank sight of the day (love South­bank always throws up the weird and won­der­ful).  He was giv­ing it every­thing, wig­gling and singing and you can’t see the ran­dom plas­tic animals.



Posted in Days Out, Politics, PSHE | Tagged | Leave a comment

Filling in the Gaps

I have a habit, prob­a­bly like most blog­gers, of focus­ing on groups, trips and projects but so much more goes on. So here’s a brief sum­mary of what else we man­aged this last week.


Mainly Math­let­ics, focus­ing on col­umn addi­tion and sub­trac­tion and some mul­ti­pli­ca­tion.  Sup­ple­mented with Timez Attack.


Hand­writ­ing was prac­tised.  We use Getty Dubay.  Work­ing on book C so start­ing to learn cur­sive.  Gram­mar was focus­ing on pre­fixes, in par­tic­u­lar dis and un and how they change the word to mean the oppo­site.  We started Writ­ing With Ease level 2 and he’s man­ag­ing the leap up and dic­ta­tion well.  Spellings never trou­bled him.


3 days of Duolingo prac­tice and weekly Span­ish tuto­r­ial with a native speaker.


Using “Latin’s Not So Tough” we started an level 1 which was far too easy, on level 2 now and intro­duc­ing vocab­u­lary.  Isn’t par­tic­u­larly inspir­ing but only takes a cou­ple of min­utes and the sim­plic­ity of it appeals to Sam.  Won’t turn him into a flu­ent Latin speaker/reader but we’ll keep plod­ding through as long as he’s happy as like the idea of a bit of basic Latin to sup­port Eng­lish and Span­ish.  He is already spot­ting similarities.


We read through our sci­ence book on Mon­day to take us up to where we needed to be for Tuesday’s Sci­ence club.  It turns out I don’t really under­stand Elec­tric­ity so well.  I’ve bought a dreaded lap­book that we’ll hope­fully work through this week and next to help both of our under­stand­ing.  One of the big ques­tions about home ed is what hap­pens when you don’t know some­thing — well this — you find out.  I iden­ti­fied my under­stand­ing was lack­ing so researched and found a resource that I think will give us both a bet­ter grasp of it.

At group we looked at elec­trol­y­sis and cir­cuit dia­grams.  Made dif­fer­ent cir­cuits and inves­ti­gated the effects on a bulbs bright­ness from dif­fer­ent num­bers of bat­ter­ies and bulbs.  We also made our own switches.

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Friends round for Sci­ence and a play on Tues, off to another friend’s for the after­noon and then Cubs.  Weds was a group trip.  Thurs had friends for Span­ish.  Fri­day was a play in the park with other home ed fam­i­lies while we failed to see the eclipse.  Love watch­ing how good he is with younger kids and then he got to make a new friend as an old friend’s brother has joined the local home ed ranks.


Posted in Electricity and Magnets, English, Latin, Maths, Science, Spanish | Leave a comment

The moon is made of green cheese

Or it might be for all we saw of it this morning.

Eclipse hap­pened behind solid cloud cover.  Only sign was a freez­ing wind.  So much for my prep buy­ing glasses.

Sam was happy with an early morn­ing play in the park though.

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After a trip to the shops and a bit of a rest (boy not quite right and energy lev­els keep drop­ping) it was on with the dairy topic.

We churned our ice cream.  It is lush, pos­si­bly the nicest vanilla ice cream I have ever tasted.  Faff to make though!

20150320_15We then mixed up some arm pit fudge so he could do the mix­ing bit while he did a bit of Mathletics.


Lunch was a cheesy pic­nic on the liv­ing room floor watch­ing War Time Farm.  We taste tested var­i­ous cheeses (regional British ones).  I’d writ­ten down the descrip­tion from the pack­age so he could guess which was which.  We then tried to describe the sticky tof­fee cheese I’d fool­ishly been unable to resist — vile about cov­ered it.

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After lunch we had another go at mak­ing but­ter and it worked bril­liantly.  Lots of fun shak­ing and rolling it while we fin­ished the week’s English.

20150320_27 20150320_2620150320_28We also watched the Tesco online field trip on mak­ing cheese.  Then made our own fol­low­ing the instruc­tions in their les­son plan.  Per­haps not authen­tic but quick and easy and gave the idea.


We also made some non-armpit fudge.  This is my stan­dard recipe that goes on camps a lot using choco­late Philidel­phia.  We were adapt­able today and made a half batch and used white choc (needs must from what was in cup­board), bit too sweet for me but sus­pect boys will like it.  Plus used up the last of the full fat milk which no one wanted to drink with some sur­face ten­sion exper­i­ment­ing.


Then there was milk­shake, chess and Minecraft.  He’s try­ing to look drunk.


Jack came home from school and went run­ning :D  I only laughed a bit.

This evening while Jack’s at Scouts and Pete is ‘social­is­ing’ he has been ser­e­nad­ing me while I’ve been doing a bit of work and typ­ing this.





Posted in Curriculum, Farming, Geography | Leave a comment

Milking it and the Mona Lisa

By late Weds evening both Sam and I were look­ing rough and feel­ing it too.  Day on the farm was lovely but trig­gered aller­gies and hay fever.  Yes­ter­day morn­ing we were left with the hang­over feel­ing.  I know Sam was def­i­nitely feel­ing rough as his first words to me were “I don’t want to do art group today”.  So I can­celled it.  He ral­lied a bit dur­ing the day but didn’t go to Gang Show — hav­ing friends over for short time for Span­ish drained him.

Soon became obvi­ous we needed a day off rou­tine, but no where near ill enough for com­plete aban­don­ment.  So morn­ing started curled up on the sofa watch­ing War Time Farm, we’re lov­ing the local aspect of it.

20150319_2We then car­ried on with our milk theme.  Ear­lier in the week we’d watched the online field trip from Tesco’s Eat Happy project and looked at this cd-rom.


We’d also done some taste tast­ing of var­i­ous types.  Rice milk is vile!


and looked into pas­teuri­sa­tion.  He wrote a diary entry from the per­spec­tive of Louis Pasteur.


Yes­ter­day was there­fore about using milk.  Inspired by the farm ice cream on Tues­day we made vanilla cus­tard, which has been chill­ing overnight ready to be frozen and churned today.

20150319_3 We also made ice cream in a bag.  It did freeze but didn’t taste great.  Pro­vided fun though.

20150319_7 20150319_8With the left over egg whites from the cus­tard and some manky look­ing bananas dis­cov­ered at the bot­tom of the fruit bas­ket we made cake.  May have started eat­ing it before remem­ber­ing to photograph.

20150319_9 20150319_10 While cake cooked we looked at homogeni­sa­tion and test­ing knowl­edge with a quick cross­word.20150320_4 After lunch and Span­ish group we decided to do art just us.  Mona Lisa was the order of the day.  We talked about the idea of a ‘sit­ting’ and how mod­els would pose day after day, how in the days before cam­eras this is how peo­ple had their like­nesses recorded.  We also focused on the back­ground and how this was an ‘imag­i­nary landscape’.

So here is me with an ‘imag­i­nary land­scape’ — being shot by a space ship :S  Oil on can­vas.  Haven’t used oils for ages for­got what a pain clean up is.

20150319_12Realised I never men­tion the work­sheets we do on them.  We start off with a pic­ture study in the Char­lotte Mason tra­di­tion.  Look at the pic­ture for a while and then draw from mem­ory adding in as many details as we can.  We also do a fact work­sheet record­ing the medium, date etc and most impor­tantly look­ing at devel­op­ing opin­ions on what he likes and doesn’t.  Here are the Vit­ru­vian Man sheets — detailed art crit­i­cism is a work in progress.

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