It’s about time I did our camping field trip write up since we’ve been back a while, and everyone has been asking how it went and where the pictures are. The holiday has given me so much to build on at home that we’ll be learning from it for a long while yet and I didn’t know where to start. First and foremost, this trip was a family holiday. We just picked somewhere we wanted to go and it just so happens to be educational, but that’s exactly what autonomous learning is all about. Tony drew this itinerary for Skylar, so she knew what we would be doing, and we kept asking her to remind us and check it each day to let us know. She’s not good with surprises (I think her imagination runs away with her, so if you tell her we are going on a surprise day out, nothing can compare to what she thinks up and she always ends up disappointed) we thought this would give her a perceived element of control. It seemed to work and there was not one whinge about where we were going. Of course there where whinges, and sulking a plenty, I’m not about to make unrealistic claims. But not about what we were doing. She was really excited about some things I thought she would find boring which was a really nice surprise. Our first campsite was Batcombe Vale in Somerset. This was my favourite of the holiday. There is a video review by Cool Camping here. The site was beautiful. As were the lakes to walk around and we loved the rowing boats which were free and available at any time. The toilets and showers were clean and looked nice too. Kai, the camp site warden was awesome. He left us to it and didn’t parade around and interfere like some wardens do, but he was happy to help if necessary… (like when he saw us struggling for an embarrassingly long time trying to fold away Skylar’s pop up tent. Those things have a mind of their own). Whilst at this site, we met a mother and son who are on the road home educators. They live in their tent all year round. Skylar was eager to make friends with any child she came across, and had been dramatically grieving for the loss of friendship of a little girl she’d been playing with over the weekend, who had gone home to school. So she was so excited when she spotted this boy and it wasn’t long before he was by our fire, carrying out an experiment on some tree sap he’d found. This kid was a few years older than Skylar and he was awesome. He was incredibly bright, polite and interested with everything. He was a scientist, a photographer, and explorer. We spent some time speaking to his mum and she was kind enough to give us lots of contacts and information about their inspiring life style. They had a very similar experience of early schooling as Skylar, and seeing this boy now, with traditional school long in his past, I am filled with confidence for Skylar’s future. Whilst staying at this site, we had day trips to Avebury stones, Cheddar Gorge caves, and Stonehenge. All of which have significant value in understanding history. Well technically, prehistory isn’t history, as there are no written records but I think that the best way to help teach about the world to Skylar, past present and future, is to start in chronological order. And maybe it doesn’t matter, but my memories from primary school history is a random jumble. I vaguely remember a roman banquet, learning about the plague, making a Tudor house, the second world war. None of these things had any order or interest to me. Avebury is the largest neolithic stone henge monument, (containing three stone circles) in Europe. It is often overlooked by Stonehenge though. Unfortunately, most of my photographs from this day and the next few are ruined with a Tiggy sized finger print smudge to the lens. We also went to nearby West Kennet Long Barrow, which is a neolithic stone burial chamber. The following day was Cheddar Gorge caves, this was my favourite day, I really love caves. Skylar really enjoyed having her own audio tour guide and rushed ahead to listen to it all. These photos are really smudgy too so I’ll only add a few of the hundreds I took.
Our second campsite was in Looe, Cornwall. The view as we drove up was jaw dropping. We had booked a camping snug for this stay. Basically a glorified shed, but we were officially glamping. Despite the stunning view and not having to set up and put down the tent, this wasn’t my favourite site. It had all the view and no atmosphere. Unfortunately the snug was surrounded by gravel, and the nearest surrounding grass was on a steep hill, so it wasn’t suitable for crawling Tiggy. We couldn’t put her down at all, except in her high chair where she was trapped a lot of the time. Luckily we had planned to be off site so much it wasn’t too much of an issue. We noticed a nearby empty snug (in a less desirable spot to ours,in terms of view) had a flat bit of grass next to it, and asked the campsite owner if we could switch to that one. He told us we couldn’t, because someone was arriving there the next day and it would mess up his rota. Fair enough. When we left a few days later, it was still sitting empty, so we did feel a bit let down by them. The showers were great, the toilets were very clean but were attached to a stables, and in an attempt to mask the smell were so outrageously covered in air fresheners (6 of those stick in gel tabs to each toilet, plus automatic spray freshener) that I was left retching from the chemical smell mixed with stable smell every time I went in there. It’s a small thing but it made a big impact, I dreaded having to go in. Whilst we were there, we really enjoyed the monkey sanctuary and the Eden Project. We made a bit of a mistake of not thinking we’d need a pushchair while we were away. Carrying a 22lb baby in a backpack carrier around a rain forest when it was already at least 28 degrees outside was an endurance. On route to the last campsite, we made a slight de-tour to visit the Living Coasts aquarium in Torquay. I’d love to go back and stay in Torquay, all the buildings we drove past were Mediterranean style, and the main road had rows of palm trees, and although it is a British tourist seaside town, it looked (from my brief drive through) like it was delightfully incomparable with Blackpool. I always compare tourist sites around the world to Blackpool… Places of natural beauty surrounded by streets selling tacky slogan t-shirts and sticks of rock. Due to very bad traffic (making the slight de-tour a rather big de-tour) we only just made it in to the aquarium, but it was worth it. It hosts mainly marine birds (and otters and seals) rather than fish. You could walk around next to the penguins. We didn’t have much time to do more than glance at all the exhibitions though. The last campsite we went to was in Lyme Regis. It wasn’t our favourite kind of campsite, it had on site wardens, lots of random rules including a curfew on when children could use the playground. The washing machines were strictly moderated and expensive, so I hand washed everything out of stubbornness nappies and all. But we had quite a bit space, the toilets and showers were great,and we were only a few minutes from Lyme Regis town. We went fossil hunting, Skylar found ammonites on the beach which she is still ecstatic about. Since we’ve been home we have been doing lots of talking and reading and activities on prehistory. We’ve been looking at fossils, reading about how fossils are made, about Mary Anning (a girl who found famous dinosaur fossils in Lyme Regis,who I think is Skylar’s current idol) what a paleontologist is, what an archaeologist is. We’ve been learning about caves, about the stone age. We’ve done cave painting, made salt dough ‘fossils’ and made a cave out of paper maché. We’ve talked about cave formation, about stone age tools and food the progression from paleolithic to neolithic. Most importantly we’ve discussed that because there is such little evidence left behind, we don’t really know and that is part of the beauty of prehistory. Some of the books state things as facts and cave men as savages, and we’ve discussed that this isn’t actually the case. I want her to be interested but open-minded and to foster a sense of critical thinking.
Here are the books we’ve been reading: I was planning on moving on to the Bronze and Iron age with her soon, but I’ve decided there is no rush. We’ll keep going on prehistory until we’ve exhausted it, for as long as she’s interested, because we aren’t stuck to a curriculum. She spent her birthday money on Stone Age Playmobil which she loves (it is pretty awesome). Currently, she’s desperate for a cave girl outfit, and she wants to wear it to go foraging. I love that she’s so excited about it, but I can’t say I relish the idea of walking round the local woods with her dressed in said outfit… watch this space.