Tuesday, 28 July 2015

Fantastic Kids' Groups on a Shoestring

When you home ed, the socialisation aspect and the different learning environment aspect of organised groups make them a great supplement.  It takes some responsibility off the parents’ shoulders, if only for an hour a week, when someone else provides a high-quality activity with expertise.
This can be costly.  I know of parents who have their kids out every evening and at the weekends – I am in awe of the number of hours spent just organising meals at different times and driving around, dropping kids off and picking them up again.  But even if a child only attends one group per week, if you have several children, it all adds up.

Where to Look
Not only do the groups below cost less than profit making (private or council) groups but they offer a wide variety of activities. This gives the opportunity to explore dozens of activities instead of the flavour of-the-month.  With the costs around our way, the 50p-£3 for the groups I list below are a much better bargain than the 6-week course in cartooning for £80, or the £10 per week musical-theatre.
These groups can often use extra support to help them keep up and running.  If you offer to help out in the session,  you might even get a discount for your child’s fee or be able to bring along your other children (as long as they know how to behave of course, and do not take enjoyment away for the kids the activity is aimed at.)   Assisting in sessions will also look good on your CV.  A huge incentive for me personally is that I do not have to leave my children in the care of someone else, even if they have been trained and police-checked and seem very lovely.
Which Groups?

We find the following brilliant value for money, if not free, and thoroughly worthwhile.

Wednesday, 15 July 2015

Elderflower Porridge

Porridge is such a great breakfast.  Oat cereal contains calcium and protein, and if you buy the fortified stuff, has plenty of vitamins and minerals added. 

It is cheap at 75p per kilo *  and still cheap when you mix it with the fortified ready oats at 2.37 per kilo *.  I like the creamy lighter finished product when ready oats are added to the pan - it somehow has an element of baby-food comfort about it, combined with the more grown-up chew of the rolled oats.
(*Asda Online accessed 15/7/15)

But on a summer morning? 

Yes. It works. Honest.  With our homemade elderflower jelly, it makes a gorgeous floral creamy cereal to keep you going until lunchtime.  Of course, you can make a Bircher Muesli by soaking the oats overnight and having them cold, but I always find it stodgy and hardwork.  No, I much prefer warm cereal with the light rivers of milk and wobbling dollop of sunny jelly thank you.

This serves 8 medium appetites.

Tuesday, 14 July 2015

Elderflower Jelly

As I mentioned when I posted our Gooseberry and Elderflower Jam recipe, the kids and I have been enjoying jaunts to pluck gorgeous fragrant elderflower in the nearby woodland.

I love elderflower jelly - it is a lovely sunny burst of floral summeriness throughout the year.  I always make jars and jars of the stuff, giving some away of course, but making enough to see us through until the next summer.

It is nice just on toast for breakfast, or on brioche like in the photograph above, or beautifully dolloped on porridge for a morning treat.

It really is simple to make - no straining in jelly bags or tedious boiling with lemon pips in muslin...

How we make it

Monday, 13 July 2015

The Environmentally-Conscious Household

We do not have a purposely built ecohome, but we can try our best to conserve and wisely use the Earth's precious resources. 

Electric over Gas
In our house, we try to use electric rather than gas when we can.  We have an electric oven, but if it was a gas oven then I would try to use the slow cooker a lot more often than I already do.

We have one gas fire, but rarely use it; when winter comes, we try to heat the one room we are using with an electric heater rather than using gas central heating throughout the whole house.

We avoid using the hot water tap when cold water would do, and try to have showers rather than baths to use less gas-heated water.

Water Conservation
"The world will face a 40% shortfall in freshwater by 2030, according to the UN’s 2015 World Water Development Report." from the Guardian "Live Q&As" published online 2nd July 2015.

We try to be conscious of our water consumption, by implementing the usual school-advice as routine i.e. turn the taps off fully, do not leave water running, etc, etc. 

We also try to never throw a half-full cup of water away - if it is genuinely unrequired for drinking, then it can go onto growing plants or into the stockpot/casserole, etc.

Showers rather than baths, again, are another way to reduce water consumption.

Recycling and Reducing Waste
I would like to think that with the ease afforded to us by Local Authority collections  that we are all sending our recyclable materials off to be recycled.  However, we can go out of the box by recycling at home rather than throwing away...

... Repurposing is a great term I came across on U.S. blogs, meaning to create a new item with an obsolete one.  Create a cushion from an old jumper, or make rag rugs from worn out clothes (there are loads of tutorials on Youtube) or convert dresses into skirts like we did here, also making hair bands to match. 

Items we no longer have use for are offered on Freecycle or Freegle, and we make these groups our port of call for an item that we require rather than purchasing new, in order to reduce landfill and waste.  With repurposing in mind, this can lead to accepting a offer of a small dressing table to be used as desk, or collecting an unwanted bookcase to be used as clothes storage shelves having added a pretty fabric curtain to hang over the front made from strips of worn out clothes sewn together.

Food waste should be as close to zero as possible.  We stick to our list and meal plan fairly well.  We use leftovers in other meals or freeze for another day (creating homemade readymeals.)  Practicing portion control also helps to reduce leftovers in the first place.

What are your best tips for an environmentally-conscious household? Please share in the comments!

Thursday, 9 July 2015

Knitting and Crochet Lessons: A Skill for Life

When should a child start?
A child is never to young to start learning to create something useful from yarn.

Although I was shown intermittently how to do basic knitting if I asked when about 10 years old, I largely taught myself as an adult and find it, along with being able to sew, a basic life essential.

If you have a child with only a little patience, they can get worked up very easily trying a new fiddly skill like this.  One of my children was getting very panicked and annoyed until I realised it was because she thought dropping the yarn - not a stitch - just simply not grasping hold of the end when about to wind it around the needle, was proof of her failure and the difficulty of the craft.  Explaining that there was no need to panic, that we are taking our time, enjoying learning, and that I even drop stitches and sometimes have to backtrack and mend my work (particularly when hurrying or tired!) seemed to help.  She is now quite determined to master it.

Why should I teach my children how to knit/crochet?
It is a great activity for them on rainy days, or for cold dark evenings before bed.  One of my daughters (the same daughter as above who struggled with being patient and calm initially) takes hers to a dancing class for working on during rest periods.  It encourages a practical hobby which allows them to feel success and achievement, building their confidence.

Friendship bracelets, then later blankets and cushion covers or more complex creations, can make lovely handmade gifts for family and friends that are affordable and yet full of effort and thought as you can tailor them for the recipient's style/taste.

It also gives them a skill to aid them in self-sufficiency: in adulthood they will be able to create clothes and blankets for themselves and their family for a more affordable cost than buying them made.  They will also be able to offer warmth and care to others who do not have this skill and are in shelters, refuges and care homes, or are living on the street, or to the elderly people struggling to get by in the winter, or to those abroad suffering disasters and disease.

How should I teach my children how to knit/crochet?