We are home educating our children for three years now and through that time we acquired a circle of similar minded home educating families. It is very encouraging to see us supporting each other in the quest to give our children the best possible education, expose them to different worlds, views and approaches in an environment that is flexible to meet their needs.
In April, thanks to our home educating friend Angela we had our very own day at the Flag Fen to explore the archeological site and immerse in the world of ancient Britain.
The pre-history of Britain is very much my core interest and taking my children to such a special place like Flag Fen was an exciting prospect.
Flag Fen is an unique and archaeologically rich site. It first was brought to the attention of the world by Francis Pryor who was conducting the Dyke Survey in 1982 when he stumbled upon a piece of wood. He discovered the first post of the ancient causeway and platform. The section of causeway in situ is available to view in the museum hall.
In the following years, the eight logboats, known as Must Farm Boats, were discovered as well. They were deliberately sunk and the oldest one is 3000 years old. The boats are being currently conserved in the Preservation Hall. During the visit you can have a look at this lengthy process which will take a couple of years to complete. Still, it is amazing, such old, should perish by now, objects are in such a great shape after so many thousands of years buried in the silt.
At Flag Fen, we were met by two lovely ladies, archeologists who explore the ground underneath our feet and are custodians of the site. Because at Flag Fen archeology is everywhere, one is not allowed to dig anywhere without permission.
Our guides for the day were very good with children, taking them on the time trip and helping them to put all the events in the context of time. It was mind blowing to see our children’s surprise discovering that human beings are here on Earth for such a short spell of time. On the imagined Earth’s calendar year timeline, we humans appeared here by the end of December, less then a day in all of Earth’s time.
Finally, they were able to handle real artefacts, ask all kind of questions about them, figure out what they could be used for and put them into correct historical ages: Neolithic, Bronze or Iron Age or Roman.
Later, the children got their hands dirty making their very own clay pots and decorating them in the way ancient people did. At the end, we visited the round house replica and listened to a story about fairies, an inquisitive boy and a sword.
While walking around the site, we have been introduced to local plants which ancient people knew and used extensively in their everyday life. Be it, for food, making clothing or as building material. Nothing was wasted, everything was used and reused until it was destroyed or damaged beyond repair. Archeologists experiment at the site by introducing some plants and learning how they could be used in the everyday life of the ancient Britons.
At Flag Fen, archeologists introduced animals like the old breed of sheep to establish the way the ancient people where cultivating the land. For example, it turned out the ancient breed of sheep is capable of jumping the small fences and escaping. Therefore, some ditches along causeways or hedges were introduced.
Personally, the most surprising and interesting fact was the use of a common nettle in the Ancient Britain. Not only, was it used as food especially in the early spring when food was scarce. It was used to make clothing as well. The cloth made of nettle is very soft, very much like silk. Not only, linen or hemp were used in the past, but nettle cloth made a very good choice for underwear or shirts.
The trip was a success with children and us adults alike. It was structured enough to entice children, even younger ones to join in, listen and learn. They played and soaked up the knowledge and the next days it was rewarding to hear questions, reassurances about facts, stories.
It was how I love home education to be, happening naturally, children following their interest, joining in when they are the most interested. Playing and not noticing the learning as it happens, and cherishing their natural hunger for exploring. Learning, discovering not schooling.