Hay Festival, Abu Dhabi 2020

Today was one of those homeschooling dream days. The Hay Festival was making its first appearance in Abu Dhabi and Little T and I popped over to Manarat al Saadiyat to have a look. I often think it is a real perk of home educating that we can attend events like this. Today I thought this as well, but we arrived to bus loads of school children. I am also glad that school children have a chance to take part, but I do feel we still have a slight advantage, our freedom. Today I saw group after group of children walking in lines to and from specific activities, they also would be on a time schedule whilst we were free to stay in any area as long as we wanted. 

To be honest we didn’t take part in much of the actual festival but just spending time at Manarat was a treat and taking in the atmosphere was enough to make for a great day. 

The little man actually did not want to leave the house this morning, he was happily engaged with some games on his iPad, but I knew we would really enjoy ourselves if we could get out of the house. A play date with friends in the afternoon helped get him out the door, as well as continuing to listen to our latest audio book (The Wizards of Once: Knock Three Times) in the car. Before he agreed, I even had the moaning teenager voice, “UGH, why do we have to go to this festival?!”

But as soon as we walked in he was as taken with the atmosphere as was I, and right in the middle of the atrium there began an interpretive dance featuring three men. I have to say Little T was mesmerized and as I often do in moments like these, I had a little tear thinking about how fortunate we are to have these experiences on our doorstep. I think how these moments are so different and varied from what I experienced as a child. In no way do I think a few visits to art galleries and festivals will make this child become an artist or a lover of fine things, but I do think it is exposure to new things and that is what I want to give him, opportunities to find something that really sparks joy in his own heart. 

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After the performance we checked out the book sale and then wandered around towards the back, and climbed some stairs to look over Larte restaurant. There was a sculpture of King Kong with spiked bracelets on that got some real interest from him, as well as some chairs hanging from the ceiling, “What if you sat on that chair????” followed by lots of laughter. 

We had a look in the art studio, firstly in the shop for him to choose some special items: purple glue (he is in a slime phase at the moment) and a colorful rubber band ball. We had a tour of the art space and found out there is a drop in area, 30 AED ($8.17/£6.34) for 2 hours of free reign in their art space which includes four separate art ideas as well as painting/drawing and a few different types of building materials. 

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Whilst having a look I had a lovely chat with the employee who showed us around, it was a perfect advert for unschooling. She inquired about what Little T was interested in and I said video games, she said, “Ahhh, that is how it all started for me. Now I want to draw the characters, I will soon go to school to be a graphic designer.” The hard part to hear was that she had already been to nursing school to fulfill the wishes of her parents, and now she is working at the Manarat with hopes of going on to fulfill her own dream. It made me feel so excited that this lifestyle we have chosen will allow Little T to explore and find his passions at a much younger age than most of us have, if you are lucky enough to have had the opportunity!

After the art studio we had a look outside. There was an interesting fixture to listen to podcasts which also turned out to be a perfect place to roll the rubber band ball. The skate ramp at the back was perfect for this as well. 

It really was such a positive and enlightening visit and I am so glad to know we have ‘another’ potential day out nearby.

-Mrs T

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