19 September 2014


Last week we ventured out one afternoon for a spot of foraging.  We were on the hunt for blackberries and managed to pick five pounds worth.  We were also looking for rose hips which we weren't so lucky with either a human or bird had beaten us to it as the bushes were stripped bare, I left the few that hadn't been picked.  In the morning before we went out we did a bit of investigating and reading about fruiting plants. I thought it would be good to show how these plants germinate, flower and fruit and devised a life cycle of the plant, to any botanists reading this who are squirming as I have used the wrong words - please put me straight!  As I was devising my cycle I was struck by how similar it is to the learning that takes place in our house.

As we enter our sixth year of official home education I can hostly say that I am totally comfortable with it.  Of course I have times when I wobble and wonder what I am doing, but don't we all have them whatever path we choose in life?  I love the groups we engage with, the friends we have made, the activities we join in with.  It has been hard work, lonely at times, especially in the early days, but it is always worth it.  A seed is sown by a variety of sources a book, a documentary, a friend, an idea, which germinates a desire to learn more about it, the learning, growth, happens all over the place and from many sources as it flourishes, flowers, it often leads to learning about other things too, pollination, sometimes following unexpected directions on the way, if the learning, fruit, draws to conclusion (usually temporarily) a new seed is then sown.

Our rhythm has also followed this cycle over the years, evolving from ideas that I try out to see what works best for us.  Now that it is September this is a time of year that I often review it and make changes.  The summer is a time for being outside as much as possible, for going away and for our regular commitments stopping for a time, at the end of August I find myself thinking about the rhythm returning as our groups start up again and the weather turning cooler drawing us into our home more.  This summer has felt more chaotic that usual, my voluntary commitments taking over our lives at times and  I have realised this year that, rather than try and keep the same rhythm going for a whole year I should alter it with the seasons, maybe one for autumn and spring, one for winter and one for summer.  That way perhaps I wouldn't feel like I was fighting to stick to the same rhythm all year and our days and weeks would flow better.  I am still learning what ingredients we need to make our rhythm tick and those seeds of learning sowing and germinating.  So as we head into autumn I have started to pull together some ideas.

A day to focus on music, I added this to our rhythm earlier in the year.  I think I need to more focused on what we are doing each week I have ideas to play instruments new and old, learn some new to us songs, try out some clapping rhythms repeating the focus each month.  In the afternoon we attend a singing group with friends which also includes time for a play.  Sadly we won't be attending the afternoon concerts that I discovered earlier this year, they now clash with Forest School!  I had forgotten about them completely when we were rearranging our day earlier this month, you can't do everything!

A day for nature, outside for the afternoon whilst the weather is still good, birdwatching, bike riding, walking or exploring.  The morning spent with some time learning about something we will see or do in the afternoon.  Perhaps with crafts, stories and poems to enhance our learning.  We have been reading the relevant pages from the lovely book Come Out of Doors : A guide of nature lovers by C. D. Dimsdale, it has a short chapter for each week of the year.  This day may change as the Winter and cooler, often wetter, weather sets in.

A day at Forest School.  This is a whole day activity we leave the house soon after breakfast and return in the middle of the afternoon needing some quiet time with a book or maybe a DVD before tea.  Each week we focus on a topic or theme for which each family prepares facts, poems or short stories to share.  We have a book which each family takes home for the week to write up what we have been doing, adding pictures, the shared facts, poems and stories.  We will do our preparation for this as part of our nature day, most likely making it our focus during the Winter months.

A day at home to rest, tend to the home, garden and ourselves, maybe invite a friend(s) over to play in the afternoon.  I have yet to decide the focus of this day.  I am thinking it should be different each week maybe science, craft, art and something else rotating during the month.  I will see what we feel like doing and what I have had time to prepare.....

A day in our local town, our food shop, a visit to the library to change our books and our weekly swim.  Taking the children swimming regularly has done wonders for their confidence and skills, eighteen months ago neither of my children could swim now they can both swim a length of the pool unaided and jump in the deep end (3m) without fear, but plenty of caution!  One of our local groups sometimes meets on this day and we will join them if they are doing something that takes our fancy.

Interspersed with all this will be lots of play, drawing, maybe some writing, probably some maths.  these all usually just happen and take whatever form the children choose, perhaps doing mental arithmetic in the bath............On the days we are at home for lunch this is the conclusion of our morning, taking our time to enjoy our food together at the table.  We finish the meal with the chapter from our current book I read to them and a poem relating to the season or the days focus, before heading out for the afternoon.

At some point each evening, before bed I tell the children about what we are going to be doing the following day.  If we are going out what time for my eldest, in simpler terms for my youngest, what we need to sort out before we go and when we are likely to be back home.  I find this gives them a chance to think about what they might do and when the next day.  When they go to bed I talk with each of them about their day, asking them what the best thing for them has been and telling them mine, bringing the day to a close.

I am still working on how to fit in all the bits that keep our home ticking over like the laundry, cleaning and hoovering.  The last two need more attention at this time of year when we are in the house more.  The garden also needs some time spending on it to get it ready to overwinter, preparing for next spring.  Whatever we end up doing it is always a matter of balance, of not having too much time out of the home or in it,  of not being too busy, of not having too much structure and maybe most importantly of being mindful that if something is not working then it is not a failure, perhaps a change is needed.  Home education really is a way of life.


The seeds are wild carrot plants, all in the same patch.  I was struck by their beauty and the different colours of each seed head, I am guessing as a result of different stages?

17 September 2014


...is for Swing...

...a tree swing, the best kind in my children's book, it is one of these inscribed with the words Up and Away.  This is one of many in the grounds of a local castle that we love to visit, used by adults and children alike............

Joining in with the Alphabet Photography Project

15 September 2014


...this week of...

...happiness at watching my children play with friends they haven't seen for a while, getting our rhythm right this week by being mindful of downtime, a long train journey to my parents, a day out with my extended family

...sadness at a friend who is struggling with one her friends right now, their friendship runs long and deep but is not working and leaving my friend in knots

...reading After Me Comes the Flood by Sarah Perry, to the children  The Hut-Man's Book by G.D. Fisher and these picture books* you can read a short review of them here, 225. Another Fine Mess by Tony Bonning, 226.  I absolutely love animals by Lauren Child, 227. Hickory Dickory Dog by Alison Murray

...creating a slipper, a sleeve, a hat

...learning about dinosaurs, planes, fruit, seeds, blackberries, rhythm

...thinking about our weekly rhythm 

...hoping to visit a museum with dinosaurs this week

...wondering about science and focusing on it a bit more

...looking forward to spending the day with my great aunt, she is wonderful company at 97!


*as part of the 300 Picture Books Challenge

I hope you have had a lovely week too......................enjoy the one to come!

12 September 2014


There was a time when I did all my food shopping in the supermarket.  It was convenient, everything was under one roof, I worked full time and usually went shopping after work.  I didn't want to use up too much time and thought that was the most efficient way to shop.  I would wander through the fruit and veg picking up whatever took my fancy, paying no attention to where it was grown and whether it was in season.  At home I would make whatever I could with the food I had bought usually by looking through my recipe books getting frustrated most weeks by the one vital ingredient I didn't have!  Over time I migrated away form the supermarket, but not entirely, to using a variety of different local shops.  I am aware that I have plenty of time to devote to my food shopping should I want to but I did manage to shop that way in a lunch hour when working part time.

Food is important to me, using good ingredients I always cook from scratch from necessity as I become ill if I eat too many preservatives.  I don't worry about five a day or seven or ten or whatever the latest research/advice is.  I think more about the overall week to keep our diet balanced.  I do this through planning, the basis of which is vegetables.  We eat a mainly vegetarian diet, I am vege and do all the cooking!  I buy meat once a month at a farmers market which I will cook about two to three times over the month.  At this time of year all our vegetables come from the garden for the rest of the year, a veg bag from a local farm co-operative.  I devise a menu of meals for lunches and teas from the available veggies.  At the same time I also plan (or try to) our weeks' activities so that I know how many picnics and quick meals for late days out to plan.  Any ingredients for our planned meals that I don't have in the cupboard go on a shopping list along with items that I have run out of that I don't buy that often which I record on a small blackboard in my pantry, a cupboard under the stairs that we have incorporated into our kitchen!

Planning meals focuses and reduces my shopping time,  I can do all in less than an hour, despite visiting several shops and having two children in tow.  My list keeps me focused especially in the supermarket, I am not tempted by offers, reductions etc unless they are on my list.  It is also saves us money as I only buy what we have planned to eat so every fresh ingredient gets used before it has a chance to go off and we throw away virtually no food.  What little does go off ends up in the compost bin or on the bird table.

One of the major, and in my book best, advantages of planning meals ahead is it has gotten rid of the twice daily dilemma of what to eat, but I still need to focus on our meals.  There is definitely a better flow to our days when I have thought ahead about which meal on the list we are going to have and what time we are going to eat, otherwise I have hungry children snapping at my heals as I try to throw a meal together which is not a great combination.  It is difficult to come up with lots of meals that are quick to cook so sometimes I prepare bits in the morning to speed up the cooking when we do get home.  This salad is a good one for that.  It is a recipe that I have forgotten the provenance of I have no idea where I read this or if I made it up but this is what I do, actually recipe is perhaps a little grand for this as the quantities are made up as you go along.....

Broad Bean Salad

Broad Beans
Fresh Mint
Olive Oil
White Wine Vinegar

I have not given quantities as it is really hard to work out the weight of broad beans from their pods.  The pile above yielded 110g of beans.

  • Remove beans from their pods and steam for a few minutes.
  • Put beans in a bowl of cold water to stop them cooking and to make them easier to remove from their cases.
  • Remove cases and put in a bowl, I know this is a faff but for this salad the beans taste so much better.
  • Chop enough feta into small squares so it balances the quantity of beans.
  • Likewise with the mint. which you finely chop.
  • Combine oil and vinegar 2:1 I used 1tbsp oil and 1/2 tbsp vinegar for this salad and drizzle over other ingredients.

Stir, eat and enjoy!


So are you a menu planner or do you prefer to fly by the seat of your pants or somewhere in between?

10 September 2014


...is for Red...

...one of the colours of autumn along with golds, yellows, oranges, purples and browns.  The trees are starting to slowly turn round these parts, splashes of yellow and red dot the trees.  The leaves are starting to fall as the trees prepare themselves for the cold months of winter.  Cells at the base of the leaf swell to slow down the transport of nutrients between the tree and the leaf, once it is totally blocked the leaf is blown away or falls off.  The red colour in some leaves is created to stop attracting aphids who are attracted to the colour yellow.  The yellow is a result of less chlorophyll in the leaf, which makes the leaf green, as the tree closes off the cells to the leaf.

Joining in with the Alphabet Photography Project

08 September 2014


...this past few weeks of *...
...happiness live music, camping with friends and family, a tidy house, veggies from the garden, sunshine returning, walks, time with friends

...sadness having to say goodbye to a dear friend who is emigrating

...reading 70% Wool 30% Acrylic by Viola Di Grado, to the children The Lion The Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis, and these picture books* you can read a short review of them here, 209. The Fantastic Mr Wani by Kanako Usui, 210. Topsy and Tim Play Football by Jean Adamson, 211. Ferocious Wild Beasts by Chris Wormell, 212. Get Well Friends by Kes Gray, 213. Alfie Gives a Hand, 214. Angelina's Baby Sister by Katherine Holabird, 215. Angelina's Ballet Class by Katherine Holabird, 216. Fox's Socks by Julia Donaldson, 217. Rabbit's Nap by Julia Donaldson, 218. Hide and Seek Pig, 219. Minty and Think by Emma Chichester Clark, 220. You Can't Eat a Princess by Gillian Rogerson, 221. Primrose by Alex T Smith, 222. Zoe and the Wishing Star by Jane Andrews, 223. Let's Find Mimi: At Home by Katherine Lodge, 224. Out of the Blue by Alison Jay

...creating shawl, some slippers, a sleeve, a pattern, picnics, camping food, cakes

...learning about dinosaurs, adding up, drawing straight lines, writing, spelling, dolphins, bridges, China

...thinking about things to do when we visit my parents

...hoping to meet up with friends whom we haven't seen for weeks

...wondering why my decision is not being respected

...looking forward to a spot of foraging


* I hope you will indulge me as I have not written a moments post for a few weeks


*as part of the 300 Picture Books Challenge

I hope you have had a lovely few weeks too......................enjoy the one to come!

05 September 2014


I live in an area that is popular with tourists, starting in Spring the roads get steadily busier and we encounter the occasional queue!  For a few weekends in August the traffic through our village becomes unbearable as several large events are held in our village and the next one to us.  The volume in itself would be just about bearable but coupled with the speed it becomes very noisy and dangerous.

We chose to live in a rural area as we love the peace and quiet.  We are situated on a main road which enables us to get out and about easily, it is a quiet road by the standards of many main roads.  When the traffic is heavier I have noticed how much more agitated and on edge this makes me feel.  The noise that hundreds of cars travelling 10 to 20 miles in excess of the speed limit is difficult to block out, coupled with my need to know where the children are at at all times and I am not a good person to be around.

We have speed limits on our roads, in built up areas whether in a village, town or city this is 20 - 30 mph, a limit imposed to keep us all safe in and out of vehicles.  An accident at speeds higher than this could be very serious.  There are some that argue that speeding is not the major cause of accidents in this country and use this as an argument against speed cameras.  I note that they are not arguing about the removal of speed limits.  So why is it that if we break the law by speeding and get caught on camera this is felt by some to be an injustice.  We are lucky as are most people in the world, to live in a country with governance (what we think of that is a whole other post) that enables law and order to thrive and whilst there are citizens who break the law they are very much in the minority (again this could be disputed but is not up for discussion now).  So why is it in a country of (mostly) law abiding citizens so many feel it is acceptable to ignore the law when they drive a car?

I took my children to the cinema the other week, they were very excited not least because it was a film they both really wanted to see and because it was their first time watching a film in a cinema.  Well strictly it was the second time for my eldest but he doesn't remember the first time so that doesn't really count in his book.  The Lego Movie was fun to watch but I missed so much of it, it was so fast paced.  If I tried to watch the visuals, I missed the audio and if I listened to the audio, I missed most of the visual.  I guess this probably deliberate to get you to watch the film over and over again, not that I am cynical or anything.   I couldn't help feeling that it was also deliberate as life in general for most is fast paced.  Rushing from one thing to another, dipping your toe in many things but not with any real chance of savouring any of it or with any real concentration or connection with what you are doing.  Instant gratification is the key.  I often watch school groups in museums who seem to flit like flies from one exhibit to another herded by a harried looking adult trying to stick to a schedule that is difficult to achieve and with no chance for the children to really concentrate and absorb the things that they are really interested in.

Sometimes I look at the world around me and think that I have entered a different vortex.  My life is slow and steady.  I am fortunate that I rarely have to rush about, which is a good thing as I know it would send me to an early grave.  My life is far from dull, it is rich.  I enjoy the simple pleasures, I am happy to wait whilst my children spend twenty minutes absorbed on something, concentration is a useful skill to have.  But sometimes I cannot help feeling that my life is at odds with the world, that I am pushing against a very large tide that is growing exponentially.  It is easy for me to hide away in my own world but sometimes I feel that is not for the best, that I should be out there extolling the virtues of a slower pace.  Somehow I think I could be left behind in the rush.