A Slice of History Project

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Having our interest sparked by the recent BBC series Victorian Bakers, we decided to look into sourcing some historical Victorian flour, with the view to trying our own Victorian bread and comparing to modern loaves. The series explains that flour back then was more nutritious and flavoursome, and behaved in a slightly different way to modern flours. This was probably just as well since bread made up most of the diet of the working classes.

On hunting for Victorian flours, I stumbled across an amazing website that sells flours from all sorts of periods in history, going way back to Neolithic times. There was born our new Home Education project!

We have made a list of eras which we have found historical flours for, ordered some historical baking/dining books and signed up for a introductory course in Artisan bread baking (I am no bread baker, I have a bread maker, which is used from time to time, but for this activity hands, and some basic knowledge, will be required!).

The plan is to work our way through the eras, month by month, making a loaf as traditionally as we can in a modern kitchen. Exploring what factors influenced the flour, bread and diet of the time, and comparing to modern breads and other periods.

We have ten time periods, including modern, some of which have different varieties of flour, for instance a peasant and standard. I hazard it will take us about a year to get through it all.

There are lots of local Home Ed families that are keen to get involved too, so a monthly baking session at our house is on the cards. I have also contacted our local museum to see if they can run a monthly workshop for us, covering that month’s era before baking day.

Rest assured, each experiment in bread making will be blogged!

Much thanks to Annie Gray, co-presenter of the series, for her tips, pointers and suggestions of suitable books!

Neolithic bread making, coming to a blog near you soon 😉

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Home Educators – Are our Children Really ‘Invisible’

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Apparently Home Education needs greater regulation, and compulsory registration. Apparently this is because our children are at risk and invisible from the watchful eye of the powers that be. This is apparently demonstrated by the tragic cases of various children who have lost their lives whilst being home educated by their parents.

But are home educated children really invisible? Are they really at greater risk of being missed when in need? Are there really no bits of legislation already in place to protect children who are home education? Will a compulsory register really change anything?

I would argue that the answers to these questions are NO, NO, NO and NO. Lets look at each in turn.

The HE Invisibility Cloak

The term ‘Home Education’ is a little bit of a red herring really. It implies that education only happens at home, perhaps in the cupboard under the stairs, or at the very least classroom style at a desk, with workbooks. In reality, for many, this is not at all the case, far from it. Only today I had an email from a company I’d contacted about an educational session, they were surprised I was asking for two spaces, they had thought I would only want one and then return home to teach my son the information.

Generally, in my experience, our children are out and about most days, mingling with wider society. Socialising with other humans ranging in age, in a range of environments and from a range of backgrounds. We have meet ups with other Home Edders on a regular basis. We tap into Home Ed trips to museums, aquariums, zoos, lifeboat stations and many other places, much like schooled children. We have workshops with other families, sometimes run for us, sometimes run by us. We go into town and run errands, have lunch, visit the library, talking to a range of people, young and old, as we go.  In fact, often it’s a case of turning down activities so we can have some down time. Then there’s the usual ‘after school clubs’ that they access: swimming, cubs, gymnastics, drama, football, and so on.

My Home Ed son has a far more vibrant social life than he ever had whilst at school. The vast majority of families, really don’t hide their children from society simply because they’re not educated at school. They really are not Harry Potter wannabees 😉

Home Education – The Welfare Risk?

I briefly mentioned that there have been a handful of very tragic cases where children’s lives were lost. These children were being home educated at the times of their deaths. For each, home education has been blamed for putting this children out of sight, making them invisible, resulting in them being missed by authorities. But, is this really the case? If you look at each case (pretty easily found with a quick google search), in every single one, the child was known to the authority prior to their death. Concerns had been raised already by other parties. The authorities failed to follow these concerns up properly. NOT ONE was missed, or invisible, because they were home educated. NOT ONE.

But Home Education Prevents Investigation by the Authorities

No, it really doesn’t. There is plenty of legislation in place already that allows authorities access to a child where concerns about their education or their welfare have been raised. Social Services have just as much power to access home educated children as they do schooled, or pre school-age children.

Section 47 of the Children Act. Each and every Local Authority has a Social Service department with the power to visit unannounced and demand entry into homes, provided they have a warrant. They can see children, and interview them without the parents present. This is a universal power, regardless of age and mode of education.

Your Name’s on a List, You’re Safe From Harm

Really, who honestly believes that a register of all HE children will serve to protect them from harm? I would hazard there are very few HE children that aren’t registered in some capacity already: at birth, for tax credits, for child benefit, with GP surgeries, with dentists… The list is endless.

Schooled children already have their names on a register, they are still at risk of neglect and abuse, at home, at school and in wider society.

The source of your education (teachers at school, or parents at home) does not determine whether you’re at risk of neglect or abuse or not. Being named on a list does not protect you from neglect or abuse.

If anything, having a compulsory register, or worse still regulation, of all HE children will make matters worse. It will be harder to find the children that really need help, it will cost the UK much more money to implement and maintain.

So, what exactly is the purpose and benefit?!

Positive Intention of Cooking from Scratch

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So, at the turn of the new year, I expressed several positive intentions, one of which was to go back to cooking more from scratch. To help me along this journey, and give me the best chance of success, I subscribed to a cooking service. The one I chose was Gousto. I promised to report back on how I was finding it.

I am very impressed. Since starting we have had home cooked food most days, with take away just twice, and ‘easy food’ a small handful of times since starting.

Today I received my third box. We have so far sampled five different recipes, across two boxes. Here’s my review.

The box arrives at some point during the day selected. Everything is well wrapped, in appropriate measures. Insulation is provided by sheep’s wool, which seems to do an amazing job of keeping everything nice and cold; suggestions are provided to re-use the wool, I am saving mine to construct a cool box for the summer. In fact, most of the packaging is recyclable in some way.

 

All the ingredients are there, apart from the odd splash of oil or knob of butter, all fresh and many organic. There are clear recipe cards provided, with step by step instructions, and a letter listing your meals and the ‘best prepared by’ date.

So far we’ve tried five different meals, over two boxes, there is only one recipe we disliked. There has been the odd issue with a couple of things, but these have been dealt with quickly and appropriately by the company, who appear to have fantastic customer service.

It has really taken the hassle out of cooking from scratch, the ingredients are all there without planning, in the right amounts, all you have to do is assemble them. There is a wide range to choose from on the website each week, although as a fairly fussy family, there has been one week where it wasn’t possible to choose anything we would likely enjoy.

The whole meal is provided, so no sides to sort out. We have tried ingredients and types of food we normally wouldn’t eat, and enjoyed them! It’s like having another cook in the house, bringing their own tastes and flair to the table.

Tonight we have minute steak cheese melts… Yum!

To give Gousto a try go to: http://www.gousto.co.uk   To get up to £25 off your first box enter code: NEVIN99744

Our Journey into Home Education

The History

My eldest child has additional needs, with a diagnosis of Asperger’s Syndrome. He found school very difficult, he found everything very difficult. When our family made the move South, from the midlands to the South West, O was seven and he struggled a great deal to settle into a new school. He did not yet have his diagnosis at this stage.

What followed was five long years of being repeatedly failed and let down by our Local Authority. He spent more time at home on exclusion than at school, this was the result of the lack of appropriate support, or even a basic attempt to understand his difficulties. I was trying to complete a degree at University at this time, training to become a midwife.

The upshot was, between the ages of seven and twelve, the vast majority of O’s learning occurred at home. I unofficially Home Educated him through his endless exclusions.

He is now settled in a very small ‘mainstream’ independent school that understands and supports him. He is happy and has chosen to be there to complete his GCSEs.  I had to fight the Local Authority every single step of the way, and to get the school fees paid through his statement (fees which are significantly lower than the alternatives that the LA were suggesting!).

Moving On

As a result of my experiences with O, I was not in the dark about the option to Home Educate, nor was I shy to make that choice if I felt it was right for my child(ren).

E had always adored school, he loved learning, asked questions all the time, and skipped to school daily waving hello to all the local villagers along his way. It was the right place for him to be.

Until we moved house, and E had to change schools. Within two terms I had made the decision to deregister E from his new school, a school that has broken him. He no longer looked forward to school. He no longer asks questions about everything. He started to dread school and had very much lost his love of learning.

E’s home education journey began in September 2013. The deregistration letter was handed in on the last day of the summer term, and the the summer holidays were what E needed for deschooling (getting the mindset of school out of the child, and parent). We are now beginning the second term in our third year of home ed.

E’s Home Ed Journey

Having researched ‘proper’ home ed (as opposed to the unofficial, off the cuff, no choice left, home ed I had done with O in the past) I knew there were as many ways to approach it as there are children experiencing it. On of the key positive points is that home education allows flexibility to fit around each and every child’s needs and preferences.

E is a reader. In the early days I got caught up in the ‘buy lots of workbooks and sit and do them for a couple of hours a day’. This cost me a lot of money, time and sanity. E hates workbooks. Absolutely detests them! I quickly learnt that E prefers to learn by reading. So I shifted the approach to a loose, very flexible, timetable and trying to cover as much as possible through reading, rather than workbooks.

In the early days heels were dug in and a distaste for a timetable expressed. So we discussed what might help and agreed a work basket for each week, with a clear written list of what work ought to be completed for that week. He trialed this, with the intention to have finished the list by the Sunday when he went to bed, giving a full week. He quickly decided to go back to the timetable!

Our Timetable

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We follow a loose timetable, and loose term times as well. The main reason for this is having one child in school.

I have a flexible approach to lots of things, our home ed timetable is no exception. It is a laminated sheet of paper with boxes for each ‘lesson’. Then there are subjects (also laminated) which blue tack on to the timetable, and can be moved around. The day starts at 10am and finishes at 3pm. There are two 1 hour session before lunch and one 2 hour session afterwards.

If we have something else to do, or don’t feel like doing something right then, it’s simply missed or moved to another time. Full flexibility to allow for the freedoms and joys of home education (as well as the bumps in the road of life). We often ‘ignore’ the after lunch sessions 😉

How Our HE has Morphed

So, we’re a third of the way through our third year. Things changed a lot in our first year, as we tried things out and settled into a way of doing things that worked for us. Whilst remaining mostly stable after that initial settling in period, things still change as we discover new ways of working, new interests, or E decides he doesn’t like the way we’re tackling something.

Home education is a fluid and flexible journey, as fluid and flexible as you need or want it to be. That is the beauty of it!

New Year’s Positive Intentions

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A positive intention is as good a resolution. right? Especially if it’s a bid to improve the health of the whole family.

Resolutions are renowned for being made at this time of year, and swiftly forgotten or broken. There’s a surge of good intentions expressed and shared every new year, how many are realistic, and still ongoing come March? I don’t normally bother with resolutions myself,  for this very reason, the feeling that I am merely setting myself up to fail not so very far down the line…

This year is different. For several months I’ve been a bit lazy with many aspects of family life, something I’ve noticed and resolved to fix. But I want to succeed, so I have striven to find the most foolproof way possible to start out in the new year. To have the best chance of success, surely a helping hand, even if just at the start, is a good thing?

So what are my positive intentions for the family this year?

1     Cook more from scratch again – something I used to do a lot, but have got out of the habit in the last few months, and have been struggling to get it back.

2     Bake more – I home educate my youngest (10) and he loves baking, as with cooking, I used to bake regularly, I have hardly baked anything in the last 6 months.

3     Get outside more – I have done a lot of this in the last year, but for work, not for pleasure. I hope to change this for the future, getting out with one, or both, children for leisure.

4     Use my breadmaker more – another thing that used to be common in our home, but has been neglected in recent months.

Making life as easy as possible, at least in the beginning, will hopefully increase my chance of maintaining these positive steps for as long as possible, into the new year and beyond.

I have found some subscription services to help me out with 1 and 2, and take some of the hassle out of them.

Gousto ( https://www.gousto.co.uk/refer/Nevine/NEVIN99744 ), will send me all the ingredients, and instructions, to cook from scratch. I have the first order arriving tomorrow, with two meals in it, after that I can choose from 2-4 meals each week, fortnight or month. I expect to have a monthly subscription, and will be sure to report back on how I’m finding it! I can cook, but am hoping this will take the hassle out of remembering to take meat out the freezer, and then deciding what to create with it.

Baked In ( https://www.bakedin.co.uk/ ) will be sending us something to bake once a month, again everything is included (apart from fresh ingredients) so all we have to do is bake… and EAT!

Number 3 will hopefully be covered by our new dog, daily walks in all weathers are already feeling refreshing and becoming a normal part of daily life.

Number 4 I’m still working on a way to realise, having failed to find a subscription service similar to the baking. Perhaps I will make my own plan of a new bread a month…

I also have a new toy, a bridge camera, which I intend to learn to use properly…

Watch this space for updates on my progress, and how we’re finding the subscriptions.

Whatever your New Year Positive Intentions, good luck with them 😀