Venturing into the classical

Recently, we’ve been moving towards a classical education-based approach. Having spent the first six years of our home-educating journey following our son’s interests, we can see that he keeps coming back to Ancient Greece.

So we started to wonder about building on his extensive foundation in ancient history and mythology.

When I started looking into classical education, I discovered that the seven ‘liberal arts’ subjects happen to be all the kind of things that our son tends to gravitate towards anyway – science, philosophy, mathematical arts, history, literature, language and art.

(During this exploratory phase, I was particularly struck by the clip of David Foster Wallace speaking in this video. I also found Caroline Taggart’s book A Classical Education useful, and the first few chapters of Anthony Esolen’s Ten Ways to Destroy the Imagination of Your Child inspiring).

So far, using these seven areas as a guiding framework is helping me to offer exposure to things that we wouldn’t otherwise stumble across.

This approach seems to suit us as a family, as it supports a number of things that feel important in our home-educating life: richness, choice, whole-to-part learning, and intellectual stretch.

And most importantly, the freedom to be curious. Not just for our son, but for me too: it’s allowing me to follow threads of learning that I never got to explore at school (for example, I have a degree in Literature, but never covered any of the Ancient Greek classics).

As ever, I’m drawing from a wide range of sources (mostly free resources I find online). These resources in particular are ones we’re finding helpful at the moment:

Grammar for Grownups’ book by Katherine Fry & Rowena Kirton

OpenLearn courses (currently we’re following ‘Getting Started on Ancient Greek’ and ‘Introducing Homer’s Iliad’).

Art –

The Wooden Books series, for lots of subjects –

For history – World History Encyclopedia

Youtube – for all the fascinating documentaries about the lives of Greek philosophers and scientists, recordings of dramatic performances and informational videos etc

When our son hit ‘secondary school age‘, it did make us have a think about what we would be doing instead – for now, it seems we’ll be staying in the ancient world a bit longer…

The ripple effect

When ‘a quick walk’ turns into an extended morning of exploration, including…

Investigating the different ripple patterns you can make:


A spot of botany:

And the inspiration for a cartography project, to map what you’ve discovered.

Days like these are such a lovely reminder to leave room for stepping into the unknown.

Analogue Pursuits

We’re focussing on analogue pursuits for a while, to discover some more offline activities.

Sketchbooking is part of the plan. We have a sketchbook each, and we’ve already enjoyed taking turns to pick a theme and each doing our own interpretation. I also found some printables around geometric art that should keep us going for inspiration.

I also want to explore learning some more practical skills together. We’re starting with gardening and darning. For some more ideas, I got hold of a retro Scouts Proficiency Badges book. We’ll see how we both respond to the challenge…

Science Fiction Immersion

Although I’m a literature graduate myself, Science Fiction isn’t a genre that I’m that familiar with (bar the Star Wars movies), so my son’s interest in it has been a great intro for me. I put together this theme so we could delve a bit deeper, using these resources:

History of Sci-Fi:

HG Wells video from Extra Credits

Jules Verne video from Extra Credits

Who Was Jules Verne? book (we’ve watched the Who Was Show on Netflix, so it’ll be interesting to read one of the books)

Clips from the documentary Tomorrow’s Worlds

Analysing Sci-Fi

What is science fiction, actually? video from Tale Foundry

Jules Verne 20,000 leagues – animated movie 2004

I also found an audiobook recording of BBC Radio Sci-Fi classics that included The Time Machine (free on BorrowBox).

Writing Sci-Fi

This activity could be a nice warmup – adapting the ‘4 images’ task by giving them to each other to create a sci-fi mini saga

As a follow-up activity – writing a sci-fi Hero’s Journey story, set on Earth 2100, using this template

A while back, we also wrote a sci-fi ‘choose your own adventure’ book, called Earthlantis, (inspired by the setting of a video game), using the Storyjumper site to share it with friends.

For more themes we’ve explored, see the posts and tags below. For a note about how I choose suitable resources for my son, see the About This Blog page.

Philosophy: Virtue and Evil

We love discussing philosophical ideas that come up in books, TV shows and movies – deep reflections about morality in The Truman Show went on for weeks.

I put together this theme to explore philosophical arguments about virtue and evil, using some cultural texts we’re familiar with.

I used info from the ‘…and Philosphy’ series of books to make links with stories and characters we know well –

We watched these Crash Course Philosophy videos to feed into our discussions:

The Problem of Evil video

Aristotle & Virtue Theory

In the course of researching this theme, I also found a couple of videos of TV personalities being interviewed about religion, which linked in with this topic.

I initiated a debate on ‘is there such a thing as evil?’, to see where that would take us. The boy offered some great examples of several Pokemon characters that are both good and evil (not easily categorised as one or the other), so he took the reigns for a bit and showed me some video resources to illustrate his point.

We discussed whether people are inherently ‘bad’, or if painful experiences can impact on their behaviour. I was reminded of a similar theme in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, and found this animated SparkNotes video

I sometimes forget how rich conversation-based learning can be – but this theme reminded me!

For more themes we’ve explored, see posts and tags below. For a note about how I choose suitable resources for my son, see the About This Blog page.

Photography Project

I found this great article with ideas about photography exercises for beginners –

Using the article as a guide, we used my smartphone and took a walk to find pictures relating to 3 of the themes: colour, shape and reflection (spread out, so we did one theme per day).

We then used photo editing functions like crop and filters, and printed them to make a display.

For other themes we’ve explored, see the posts or tags below…

Shapes & Angles

Here are some resources we’re using to explore this theme in interactive ways:

Angles & Trigonomentry

History of trigonometry video –

What is trigonometry? video –

Inventioneers app – to discuss how angles help achieve objectives in the game.

Perimeter, Area & Volume

BBC Bitesize visual guides –

‘Area and Perimeter’ app

Polygon matching game that I created from a printable I found online.

Drawing Shapes

BBC Bitesize videos (incl drawing in perspective)

You can find more themes we’ve done by using the tags below…

British Dragon Mythology

Dragons have been a fascination in our house for a long time (the Dragonology book below is a favourite):

This week we took a closer look at British dragon mythology, (beyond George). Using the resources below, we drew pictures of these dragons, which we stuck around our UK wall map, with an arrow pointing to the location the stories originated from. We also discussed the geography, historical context, crest iconography and etymology of the dragons’ names.

Dragons From British Folklore article –

Sockburn worm

Stoor Worm

Worm of Linton

We also found some videos about the history of dragon mythology on Crash Course and Extra Credits.

If you liked this post, you can find more themes we’ve done using the tags below. For a note about how I choose suitable resources for my son, see

History Of Our High Street

Our local shops have been there for 100 years, so we used this BBC resource to learn a bit more about the history of the high street

We also did these activities:

Watched this episode of ‘Turn Back Time The High Street’ – Edwardian Era

Learned about the changes before to shops through the eras

Photo timeline: I found archive photos from our local library website, and we tried to put them in order using clues like cars and signage.

High Street quiz from – this was a lot of fun to do together (me being a child of the 80s)

Created a ‘now & then’ photo, using this guide

If you liked this post, you can find other themes we’ve explored using the tags below.