27 July 2016

Critiquing the Unknown

As I walked past a bench, in my local town, I caught a snippet of the conversation the ladies sat there were having.  It might have just been a conincidence that they were discussing home education, but as Cameron had just walked past I couldn't help but think that that had something to do with it.  Their words pricked me like a pin, widening the wedge that I feel is being driven into me by some.

When you chose to do something that is 'different' it is inevitable that you will come up again a difference of opinion.  When that opinion becomes a challenge or a criticism it is harder to deal with, especially when it is made by people who have no experience of home education, it is akin to reviewing a book without reading it.

I am under no illusion that home educating is an easy choice.  Every decision I have made and will continue to make has been considered carefully with each of my children's individual needs at their heart.  A few days ago most school children in England finished school for the Summer, it is the end of the school year here and for Cameron's peers at school this is a big time in their life.  After seven years of being at the same school they will move up into the school where they will remain for the rest of their school life.  Cameron will not be joining them, he will continue to be educated at home.    My decision has engendered criticism amongst a small proportion of my friends and family.  Talking about it to a friend recently she suggested that some are critical through fear, that by my actions I am myself being critical of them and their choice of education for their children.

I am not anti school.  I never have been.  My niece has just finished her A levels and her school life.  She absolutely loved school and is really sorry it has come to an end.  She is a really thoughtful, perceptive young woman about to go out into the world on her own, for whom school was absolutely the right setting for her to learn.  She was the right shaped peg.  Schools, by definition, cannot completely individualise each child's learning.  Teachers only have so much time for planning, I know how long it takes to plan for my two children so to do so for a class of 30, even allowing for some similarities and repeating in subsequent years, it would be a huge task. So you end up with a plan that will suit some, hopefully most, children but not all of them and however hard you try, round pegs won't fit into square holes properly.  I am absolutely sure my children would be the round pegs.

There are plans to make the English National Curriculum more knowledge based a move which I will admit to being completely baffled by, knowing facts is not my idea of preparing our nation's children to be the employees of the tomorrow.  I believe they need skills such as motivation, self confidence, problem solving, initiative and organisation all of which need to be learnt not taught and are much harder for them to learn quickly.

So to the ladies on the bench I would like to know why you think that it should not be permitted to home educate a child at secondary school age (11 - 18).  I would like to know why you think that the National Curriculum is the only framework for learning.  I would also like to inform you that if my children wanted to learn about nuclear physics* it is perfectly possible to do that outwith a classroom.


*what I actually overheard was......education at primary level is all very well but at secondary it shouldn't be allowed, they wouldn't be able to do nuclear physics at the kitchen table now would they...........


I am sorry if you were reading any other posts here in the last week and found yourself unable to leave a comment. One of the links I had added to the last post I published seemed to corrupt my blog and disabled all links, it took me a while to work out what the problem was. A huge thank you to the lovely people who emailed me to let me know, it was much appreciated!

19 July 2016

Spring Makes

Over the Winter months I joined in with a lovely linky party where each month we shared what we had been making, I have missed this during the Spring, it focused me on writing about it.  My time hasn't allowed for as many posts of late so my making has stayed hidden from the world.

It has been a busy season of birthdays which means more making for me, there are far too many for me to make for them all, but I make what I can find the time for.  It has taken me so long to get round to writing this post, its ironic that when I am busy I have so many blog post ideas floating about in my head and half written on paper and when I life is quieter I have more time to write posts and am scratching around looking for ideas.......

Alice has a birthday in Spring and it goes without saying that I spent much of my time making presents for her!  She also wanted me to make party bags for all her friends (and their siblings) whom she had invited to her party, so of course I said yes.........

....nine bags made entirely with fabric from my stash, small leftovers pieces from larger projects.  They seemed to take forever to make, but it was worth it when I saw the looks on the children's faces as they were given out.

The birthday girl herself got more clothes for the the best dressed dolly in England and a drawstring bag which I don't seem to have taken a picture of and I can't find the bag.  The bag contained a book on learning to knit and the pieces to make her own knitting needles, we are going to start on that new journey next month.

I made another noughts and crosses game, using slightly different ribbon this time as I couldn't get hold of the spotty one I used last time.  This was sent off along with several beanbags, to a very old friend of mine's children whose birthdays are on consecutive days.  It was a rather heavy parcel, due to the weight of those beans, something I had foolishly not considered before making them.

I took part in a swop for the Summer Solstice, we were all paired up with someone to send a parcel of goodies to.  I sent my swop partner, a knitted washcloth and a bar of soap, a drawstring project bag, two homemade beeswax food covers and a book which was one of my favourites last year.  It was well received!

I made an appliqué sun for our seasonal table, we had it hanging in our tent for the summer camp.

Over the last two years I have made many play capes.  Each time I make one I am left with a quarter of a circle of fabric (plus a few strips too depending on how accurately the shop has cut the fabric).  I have kept every single one of those quadrants and had amassed quite a pile of them.  I have had a few ideas for projects to make with them none of which have come to fruition until I came across a photo whilst surfing online and knew that I had found just the thing.  Rainbow wings.  I have no idea where I found that original photo or whether what I have made looks anything like the same.  I made it up.  I used bias binding across the top of the wings with elastic sewn in to attach the wings to the child.  I need to redo this, it has pulled away in places as has the elastic but they still get used all the time despite the fact that they are currently held together with several safety pins!

I have slowed down a little now the summer is here.  I am hoping to make myself a dress and I have a few projects on the needles, some of which are nearly finished.  I know come the Autumn I will be busy making and creating again!

15 July 2016


Outside my window it is overcast but bright, it was forecast to rain all day but it has yet to arrive.....

I am thinking about some dear friends who I don't get to see that often.  Today is their wedding anniversary, we travelled to Utah, to be with them on their wedding day eleven years ago.  They have had a really hard month, coping with the news that one of them has been diagnosed with cancer.

We have just returned from a wonderful family holiday, I am thankful for this time we were able to all spend together enjoying each others company.

In my kitchen is two sourdough starters bubbling away, a container awaiting granola to be made, pumpkin seeds soaking before baking to make a tasty snack, a box of seeds, a pile of washing up on the side.

A friend of mine is having a baby at the end of the month, I am creating a small knitted item as a present.  It is a long time since I have knitted a baby knit and forgot how quickly they knit up, unlike the cardigan for myself which I also have on the needles.

We are staying at home today, a much needed day at home.  I am going out later to do a D of E pre-expedition check.

My garden has survived my being away and grown loads, I am wondering whether I should sow some more seeds soon so that I have a good steady supply of some of my vegetables.

I am reading Solar by Ian McEwan one of my favourite authors.  I have yet to decide whether I like this book, the main character is abhorrent.  I have had many reading 'failures' recently so am feeling a little unsteady about my ability to find a good book to read.

A home educating friend, who returned to her homeland in the US a couple of years ago, is coming over for a visit.  I am looking forward to hanging out with her on Sunday and Wednesday next week.

Around the house the children are creating a huge lego village upstairs, books are on tables, chairs and floors, the holiday washing is hanging to dry and sitting in piles waiting to be ironed or put away, the top step of the stairs holds a pile of bits waiting to go into the loft, for once the house is reasonably tidy, I always tidy before going away, and it has yet to be lived in enough for it to any messier.

I have been reading a recently published book on Home Education, it is providing me with the support I need right now, particularly a favourite quote which I have written out for myself for those times when the words of others are hurting 'You are not doing it wrong; you are just doing it differently from them.  But some of them cannot see beyond the confines of mass thinking'.

I thought I had managed to keep July to be a fairly quiet month but somehow it has become rather full, I am working to keep just a few plans for August, a week of camping and nothing else in the diary for now.

We don't stop our rhythm and learning for the summer, it continues to rumble along in its gentle way, but I also use that time to think about and plan the coming year for Cameron (I do so for Alice at Easter).  I am pondering and looking at different curriculums, picking the bits I want, to make our own.

I have started to use my camera entirely on manual mode, I am learning, slowly, the different features and settings.  I have tried reading about it but it goes in one eye and out the other, by doing it I am learning so much more.

I am wearing the same blue linen trousers I had on when I lasted posted a daybook, along with a jumper and my wooly slippers, it is chilly here today.

As I sit and write I am listening to the children laughing upstairs, downstairs it is still and quiet.

A peek in to my day.

10 July 2016

How does your garden grow?

As I was walking round my garden looking for suitable subjects for the photo scavenger hunt, garden category I realised it has been a long time since I had taken any photos out there and shared them on here.  I did write about my hopes for the garden early on last year but sadly those hopes were not realised, four courgettes about the same number of cucumbers, one meal of broad beans, no French beans you get the picture.  A few things did really well despite the lack of sun (or warmth) I had my first red tomato in years, we have just finished eating last years garlic and the potato crop, exclusively gave us a couple of meals a week from August to March.

This year it is looking to be a much better year, let's face it anything could be an improvement on last year!  All my seedlings are doing well and we seem to be managing to keep the pests at bay.  We have been fortunate to have had just the right mix of warm sun and rain the perfect combination for a gardener.

So come with me and I will take you on a little tour (all text relates to the photo above it)......

This is the view from the garden gate, a necessity to keep the rabbits out, otherwise all of this growth would be nibbled to nothing (you can just make out the fencing on the left side of the picture).  There is a narrow strip of land down the side of the garage/workshop building.  There is a path down the middle a bed to the left where the orange flowers (orange hawkweed) are growing along with out of control mint and a few heather plants, to the right is a small wood store.  At the end of the building the garden widens to it full width approximately 6m, it is nearly 17m in length.

Immediately behind the building is a small paved patio which has a larger wood store on the right hand side (you can just see it on the right side of the picture) and my washing line, a whirligig, which you can see in the first photo.  My entire garden is on a slight slope as you move away from the house, in order to be able to cultivate this we have created a series of beds each one slightly higher than the next in the first part of the garden.  This mass of green is my unruly herb bed which has taken over some of the paved area.  The chives, in particular have spread everywhere but the bees love the flowers so they stay until they are done with them at which point I cut them off in a vain effort to stop them spreading.

As we move up the garden, using the path that you can just make out to the left side of the first photo, the bed on the left of the path is one of my wild patches.  Only two of the plants in this thin strip have been planted by me, a honeysuckle and a euphorbia, the rest which includes a Rowan tree, a hawthorn, lots of buttercups, columbine or aquilegia and an abundance of wild strawberries have either spread from next doors garden or have been provided by the birds!  I do very little to this patch and the birds love it as much as I do.  The children love to go and forage in this spot for the little red fruits of sublime sweetness.

On the other side of the path is a big fruit cage which houses a blackcurrant and a white currant both of which are laden with fruit.

The path curves round the back of the fruit cage past a trellis covered with this lovely climbing plant, Actinidia kolomitkta on the left, the leaves change colour in the sun.

Behind the trellis is a very overgrown wildlife pond.  It is quite difficult to get in there to weed so it tends to only get any attention in the autumn/winter to cut it all back.  The birds love this spot too, they use the pond to drink and have a bathe, there is a small willow tree which provides food for some.  The trellis has a small bird box on the this side which houses a blue tit nest year after year.

The above three pictures are of the next bed up the garden.  This bed is always used for vegetables and this year houses, courgettes, red onions, turnip, carrot, leek, garlic (the pond is behind them)  and the odd stray potato plant from potatoes that we have failed to dig up!  The path weaves round three sides of this bed in a reversed C as you move up the garden.

The path then weaves its way through this trellis covered in a very unruly honeysuckle to the top of the garden.  The wooden box is a wormery which needs some attention as sadly it is falling apart, we were given it twelve years ago and it has provided us with some great compost.  Over the winter we hope to take it apart and rebuild it using the parts of it that are still sound.  On top of the wormery are some bean plants which have now been moved......

...into this bed, round a frame I built with sticks I found in our supply.  It is a little wonky but I hope it does the job.  I will add more rounds of twine as the plants grow bigger.  This is a narrow strip of bed that runs alongside our polytunnel without which we would struggle to grow as much as we do.  Inside there are amongst other things....



...and a salad leaf bed.

At the top of the garden we have a bed which is the full width of the garden.  When we moved here it was a raised patio area which had a surface reminiscent of stormy sea.  We removed the paviors and used them to make the path, threw some soil in and made a big bed.  This year it is home to....

...red cabbages...

 ...white onions...


...and pok choi as well as white cabbages and carrots.

As we return back to the house this is the trellis from the other side, looking through to the garlic.

I leave you with a view of the green roof that covers the garage and workshop roof.

That is my garden in June, I hope to be back again in July with larger plants to share with you and maybe even some more produce.  What is growing in your garden?

05 July 2016

30 Days Wild

During June a UK based wildlife trust challenged us to 30 Days Wild.  In a world where nature is abundant everywhere but we are becoming increasingly disconnected from, this challenge is one small way to help re-establish those vital connections.  It wasn't meant to be about walking up a mountain every day or going to places where you won't see another soul, it was about looking at the cracks in the pavements, observing your local tree, noticing the flowers wherever they grow or watching the sky.  Whatever it looked like it was about stopping, looking and noticing.

We spend a large proportion of our time outside, even more so at this time of year.  I went for a see what happens approach, with the exception of Wednesdays which are our nature study day, the rest of the month was something we observed by being outside.
  1. Carried out two hedge transects, studying the plants in a 30m section of hedge, on a local hedge as part of our study of the hawthorn tree.
  2. Paddled in a stream with a home ed group
  3. Observed Spotted Flycatchers in the bushes at the end of the garden, I only saw this bird for the first time last year and was amazed to see it living so close to us!
  4. Watched the blue tit parents flying in and out of the nest box in our garden.
  5. Took our canoe out on a local lake, observed many birds including several geese families, had a swim in the lake.
  6. Watched a mouse exploring and a sparrow feeding its young, both in the garden
  7. Observed sparrows mating and a spider spinning its web.
  8. Watched lightning 
  9. Made a river using silver foil
  10. Took a closer look at a peony flower 
  11. Observed the rabbits in a neighbours garden which led us to realise that they have created a new den in and amongst some tree stumps 
  12. Observed an osprey carrying a fish, it flew in front of the car
  13. Identified wild flowers, picked nettles, lit a fire and made tea with a home ed group
  14. Identified bees on the comfrey and chive plants in the garden and listened to them drinking the nectar
  15. Identified wild flowers and plants for foraging on our village walk
  16. Picked cleavers and nettles to make a pot of tea
  17. Pressed poppy petals that had fallen from a flower in the garden
  18. Watched the clouds to work out what the weather was going to do
  19. Listened to the birds in the trees all around us as we waited for our friends to arrive of our annual summer camp
  20. Camping always brings you closer to nature, you are much more aware of the weather, the time of day from what the wildlife, particularly the birds, are doing
  21. Heard green woodpeckers 'laughing' in the woods and another sound that we couldn't identify but had fun trying to track (still camping)
  22. Identified a meadow brown butterfly fluttering in the long grass behind our tent
  23. Watched wren fledgings in the garden, we had no idea we had a nest (we found it after some hunting!)
  24. Listened to a song thrush singing from the top of a tree in our neighbours garden it has done the same every day since.
  25. Observed a frog hopping about in the garden, enjoying the rain
  26. Watched rooks flying overhead and making a lot of noise, we couldn't work out why perhaps they were just conversing?
  27. Had a close look at buttercup flowers, the seed heads were totally unexpected
  28. Blew a dandelion clock, had a close look at one of the seeds, watched the seeds fly away and followed some of them, they flew a good distance.
  29. Watched a spider trapping and wrapping a moth in its web

I really enjoyed this challenge.  It did make me stop, look and be more aware of my surroundings.  I loved that most of what we saw was not hunted out it was there for us to see with the right mindset.  Some days we saw more than I have noted here, but for me these were the highlights. I would love to try doing this again in a different season, I am going to give it a go in September another month with 30 days, so another 30 days wild who knows what we will see then?

30 June 2016

June in Photos

So June, you have passed in a blur.  A blur of wonderful weather and lots of time outside.  It is the month of our favourite home ed camp, to celebrate the summer solstice, a highlight of our year.  I have once again joined in the Photo Scavenger Hunt hosted by Hawthorn Spellweaver so here are my photos inspired by words and words inspired by photos for June.


I already mentioned that we attend a get together to celebrate the summer solstice, it is a wonderful time surrounded by friends in the beautiful countryside.  We are always blessed with the weather.  On the afternoon of the longest day we always have a small ceremony at a small stone circle sited in the woods close to where we camp.  In the middle we create a small altar which is the centre point of our circle.


A little further on from the stone circle, a short walk through the woods takes you to a stunning view of the sea.  I could never tire of this view which changes throughout the day as the tide changes.  As you come out the dappled sunlight of the wood the world suddenly brightens and the colours change completely.  This photo was taken in the late evening light.  It is a truly special place.


It is rare, in these parts, for the sky to be completely void of clouds.  The hilly nature of the terrain around here ensure that they are nearly always a feature.  It is possible to forecast the weather from the cloud types, a skill that Cameron has learnt through a recently project on the weather.  Clouds may, sometimes, bring rain but they also give you the most amazing sunsets.


I could spend all day in and amongst the trees.  I have so many pictures that it was hard to choose which one.  In the end I chose one of the area of wood just above where my tent was pitched for our summer solstice camp.  It is the place I go to mediate in the early morning, a place to watch the beauty of the sea, to listen to the birds singing, to gain some peace and quiet in the hustle and bustle of camp.


I have alluded to the sea a few times all ready, so it just had to have a picture for this category.  This is the view from my place of meditation.


A place of marvel, a wonder of nature.   This was once the home to a wasp.  It lays its egg in the the fresh buds of our native oak trees.  The grub releases chemicals which causes the leaf bud to distort in shape resulting in a round green gall with a central chamber housing the grub.  Not only does it release chemicals to get the tree to build it a house it also does so to get the tree to divert nutrients for it to feed on.  By August the chamber has become more brown in colour and come the autumn it will most likely be empty, if it hasn't been opened and eaten by a predator, with a small hole from which the adult wasp has emerged.  The adults are < 2mm in length.  Next time you pass an Oak Tree look out for them, the Oak Marble Gall.


My garden is lush and fertile this year thanks to the wonderful weather we have been blessed with.  After the cold, cold summer of last year my garden looks like a completely different place.  Everything I have sown has germinated and grown into strong seedlings and in some cases good small plants.  These are my bean seedlings waiting to be planted out, they are sat patiently waiting on our wormery.  I just need to make some space for them!  I hope I continue to be blessed with good weather and haven't just tempted fate by raving about how good it has been.......


Back in April I featured a photo from my favourite local woods, a place steeped in memories for me and, I should think, a good many other people.  There are so many features about this wood that I love in particular this gate.  It is in full working order and engineered to open both ways, it serves no purpose at all as the fence boundary is long gone most likely removed as part of metal collections during WWII.  I remember the first time I came across it and wondered who might have used it, how many hands have touched it, where they were going and why.  I still ponder this each time I walk past it.  The eagle eyed will note that this photo was not taken this month!


When we first started to create our garden I wanted it to be full of either edible or interesting and unusual plants.  I forget where I discovered this particular plant, Actinidia kolomikta, but I loved that the leaves changed colour in the sun.  We planted it about twelve years ago and it is now a lovely mature plant covering the trellis it was planted by.  It provides a good shelter for the bird box attached to the back of the trellis.  Our climate means that in some summers the foliage remains a resolute green, but this summer it is a blaze of colour greens, whites and pinks.

Flower (my choice of category)

I just love these flowers, Orange Hawkweed, that have taken up residence in my garden.  I have no idea how they arrived but they are a most welcome visitor which seems to be thriving.  I love that they flower in groups and the heads open up in the sun and close when it is wet or at sunset.

So now we head into July.  A month for a family holiday which means I will be offline for a week or so at the beginning of the month.  I will catch up with you all on my return.  I am hoping to schedule some blog posts to publish whilst I am away, time permitting.........

Looking forward to all that July as to bring, including the photo prompts!

24 June 2016

In My Kitchen

I love to cook, good food is really important to me.  If you are anything like me you spend a large amount of your life in the kitchen preparing good nourishing food to eat, so this is what has been going on in my kitchen this month.  If you would like to join in you would be most welcome, leave a link in the comments section.

June has been a full month, days full of mostly being outside enjoying the sunshine.  We have eaten so many meals outside either at home or whilst out and about.  It has been mostly about salads with the odd warmer meal thrown in the mix for those, rare, cooler days.  This post is a little later this month, we were away for our annual summer solstice camp and I completely failed to factor in writing a blog post before we went away.  Better late than never!

I rekindled my love for an old recipe book on my shelves this month.  It is one of those books which rarely fails to let me down.  I discovered a section on breads that I hadn't previously noticed.  The recipes are a mix of yeasted and batter breads, the latter being more like a savoury cake.  I tried two.  A savoury nut and a cottage cheese and dill.  The picture is the nut bread which was definitely the better of the two, I have made it twice this month and we have eaten it with salads, hummus and bean spreads.  I am going to try freezing it next time I make some as it makes a big loaf which hasn't been keeping in the heat we have had, the birds enjoyed it too!

Sometimes digging through old recipe books for new ideas can remind me of favourites that I have forgotten.  So carrot pie made it back on to our menus this month, a pie that looks dramatic, tastes wonderful and is really easy to make.  It has a pastry base and a filling of cooked onion and carrot mixed with cream and cheddar cheese, egg and herbs which you cook for 45 minutes.  It is delicious hot or cold and I just love the way it looks when you cut into it.

We celebrated a birthday in our house this month.  Alice turned seven.  She told me exactly what she wanted to do on the day, including the guests she wanted to invite and the food she wanted to eat.  Her chosen guests meant that the menu had to be gluten, egg and dairy free so my usual birthday cake was out as were all the recipes in my recipe books.  The result was a vegan cake which was incredibly rich, fed all the party guests and kept us going in cake for nearly a week afterwards!  I used this recipe which looks nothing like mine (I don't think my blueberries were the right variety to give such a purple shade to the top layer) it didn't suggest what size of tin to assemble all the ingredients in but clearly I used something much bigger.  However given the richness I think this size was perfect.  We ate lots of salads before the cake, beetroot and feta, chickpea, red rice and a green one accompanied by lots of potato wedgies.  It all got eaten a sure sign that I got it right.

One thing about being busy is that you forget to take photos so I don't have any more to share.  Courgettes are back in our veg bag now and we have been enjoying a courgette and cheese bake and lots of delicious salads.  The asparagus season lasted a long time this year and we have been eating the salad I shared last month every week, I could never tire of it.  We have tried a butter bean and brie salad, a new to us mixed bean salad and lots of salads made with whatever is in the fridge and the garden.  I have started to cook a curry each week which has introduced us to some more new recipes all of which have been delicious.

I have had quite a few conversations about meal planning recently, it is something that I have done for a number of years now.  I am not evangelical about it as I know that it doesn't work for everyone however it does save money and time and I am sure it could help to reduce food waste if more people did it.   Planning means that when I have the time and feel inclined I peruse my recipe books looking for new ideas for meals.  When time is precious and I am tired then I throw together a menu of old favourites the list of which is always increasing!  Are you a meal planner?

I am not going to share a recipe with you this month, I hope you are ok with that.  I will be back in July with hopefully a few more pictures and a recipe for share.  In the meantime I need to go off and do the weekly shop.  What have you been cooking lately?