Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Rise and Shine

People often ask how we manage (on the whole actually, but a particular query is how things go in the mornings!)  My eldest two went to early years school for a couple of years and I actually found it more stressful and anxious back then; trying to get the correct items of clothing on (and trying not to be caught out by fundraising non-uniform or Christmas jumper days)... putting up packed lunches and making sure we had them... gathering up all the right pieces of homework and reading books... PE kits in the correct school bags... instruments for the day... babies bundled up and strapped into the pram/buggy... making sure they had their dinner money and remembering if they needed extra money for the regular fundraising or charity days or book fairs... remembering if today was the special reading breakfast I had to attend with the siblings or the trip out or parents' evening or the parents' curriculum briefing...  trying to be pleasant to neighbours and familiar faces who stopped to greet us and chat and worrying about getting there on time... worrying that I was leaving my small children in the care of people I did not truly know...

So, as for tips on how to make mornings easier... I will have to bite my tongue on the major thing we expelled from our lives which makes our mornings run more smoothly!

Our morning routine evolved as each of the children came along and as they all grew. It pretty much always included, give or take a few mornings, some radio to help it along.  I do not mean pounding music, bombastic voices and caffeine-fuelled (surely!) japes... that stuff would give me a headache to start the day with, and it doesn't really create the sort of atmosphere that sets the kids for a good day of learning and interacting with each other.  We went through a phase when my first children were very little of CBeebies Radio until they grew and it since became podcasts which I cannot warm to as much.  But ever since, we have used the fabulous....

Friday, 12 December 2014

7 Great Craft Gift Ideas (including Anna and Elsa dolls + a Bing Bunny!)

Crafting gifts yourself can be a lovely way to show someone you thought of them. 

For neighbours and community colleagues, the children and I bake biscuits or fairy cakes, then pop them in a little bag with lots of ribbon.  The kids wear their festive gear and we head out to walk the rounds, calling on our neighbours and volunteers who are on duty to hand them all out.   We do the same at Halloween, giving the kids a chance to dress up in costumes and call on people we know.  It might all sound a bit Waltons, but it gives the kids a chance to take part in the seasonal atmosphere by carol singing/trick or treating without then going on to demand money or sweets afterwards.

Putting together larger crafts for people you love is not always cheaper than buying gifts, but it is often cheaper than the bought equivalent e.g. £5.00 would not buy you a handknitted scarf crafted by someone else, but would buy you the range of wool for a beautiful long colourful scarf you handknitted yourself.  Just lumping a hamper of bulk-made jams to everyone you know might not be the best idea... Aunty So-and-so never eats anything sweet, or Grandma Bob would rather eat the best-bought stuff, etc.  Tailoring the gifts to the person you gift them to can make a world of difference, otherwise it isn't really any more thoughtful than buying in Boots 3-for-2 toiletries sets... just a lot more effort for you.

Friday, 5 December 2014

Out-of-cheese Emergency Burrito

This was a highly successful ad hoc meal yesterday.

Although I am very glad we never had to lose the oven during the kitchen work, I am getting a bit fed up with the variants on the theme i.e. something baked + potatoes + vegetables . I am not actually sure the children have noticed.  If they have, they seem ok with it.

I like to make use of the oven and so put the vegetables in a lidded casserole with a splash of hot water to cook alongside or roast them in a little rapeseed oil on the top shelf.  This week, the vegetable sides have taken the form of spinach and sliced green pepper one day, a dish of sweetcorn and peas on another, a dish of baked beans from a can, and, my favourite, whole roasted carrots.  Potatoes can be cut into chips, chunks or baked whole depending on how long the oven will be on/how big the potatoes are.  One day this week, I used a couple of packets of instant mash!

The main problem I have is scouting the house for suitable ingredients and implements.  Hence this burrito; everything was within a few paces! 

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Textbook Learning

There is a lot of choice out there when it comes to curriculum for home schooled kids.  We keep an eye on the National Curriculum for a few reasons: 1) it is actually quite a sensible learning guide for the most part, 2) I don't want the children missing out on chunks of knowledge the vast majority of their peers have, 3) circumstances are never fixed; if something happens in the future and the children have to go into state education then I want the transition to be as easy for them as possible.

There are a wealth of homework textbooks and workbooks out there, cheaply available in discount stores, that follow the National Curriculum.  These are perfect for the early years of home schooling, complimented by our own projects and activities, e.g. after finishing a textbook chapter on dinosaurs this morning, they are currently enjoying the BBC's Dinosaur Planet game. If you have the time to research the internet, you can find a great deal of free resources from school's own websites for reading guides etc, and from the BBC and TES.   As the children grew older, however, I found we needed to introduce a resource to encourage more focused learning to prepare them for the exam years to come. 

Tuesday, 2 December 2014

An Easy Crocheted Purse

How cute is this purse?!
I did one in a mottled blue/red yarn too.  All you need to do is use the guide below but use a coarser textured yarn so that the work holds stiffer than the mould-to-your-head finish of the hat.  I originally intended to make a hat with the gorgeous coloured yarn but found the texture of it made the hat too stiff to be comfortable. 
But mistakes often bring revelation!
It worked so well as a purse that I have had to make two of my girls one each.  I fancy doing a larger version with plarn as a strong shopping bag. 

Monday, 1 December 2014

Whole-Oven Sunday Dinner: Gammon with Vegetable Casserole, Baked Potatoes and Cumberland Gravy, and a Mint Choc Shortbread

The kitchen is on its way towards completion, but I still haven't lost my oven yet!  There is very limited space for prep (now done on the dining table) and the hob is out of use as the kettle and toaster are sitting on it! I usually have my dinner at least in some way prepared for getting back from church.  Not this Sunday.  It felt like I was chasing my tail this weekend with volunteer commitments and the children's commitments.  I scurried into the house around 12.45 and dinner was on the table by 2.  So that wasn't too bad going... especially as the children had enough hobnobs, digestives and juice after the church service with their friends to keep them going!  Next time I make this meal (and I will) I would set it up in the oven ready for the oven to switch on an hour before we got home.

This is what I came up with: Gammon, Vegetable Casserole, Baked Potatoes and Cumberland Gravy, and I was told "this is the best Sunday dinner we ever had!" "we are definitely having this again", and lastly, from my husband "the gammon is really good. And what did you do to the vegetables, I've never had peas and carrots nice as this before." (from someone not over-keen on spinach, especially when cooked, so that is a real compliment!)  I should have pretended I did something magical... that I have a special touch... that I am an amazing cook... unfortunately for me, it really was pretty simple.