Car-schooling

'Edible Poetry' at the library!

‘Edible Poetry’ at the library!

“Homeschooling” is a bit of a misleading term. Most – if not all – homeschoolers I know do their learning in all sorts of places: woodland walks, playground trips, libraries, grocery stores, swimming pools, National Trust sites, leisure centres, doctor’s waiting rooms, friend’s houses, service stations and, most definitely, cars. In fact, one of the beauties of homeschooling is that education can happen anywhere, anytime – no restrictions!

Becoming an electric car family has re-shaped our learning a little. Every day or so we drive up the road to our local rapid charger, and top up. For many, electric cars are still a thing of the future, an inconvenience, a hassle. For us, it’s an opportunity.

A full charge takes around thirty minutes – and it’s as unavoidable as getting petrol for a regular car owner. But it’s also thirty minutes of our day which is internet free. Distraction free. Housework, email, toy and (mostly) phone free. And suddenly what looks like an inconvenience becomes an opportunity.

Our charge time has created a regularity I was struggling to find. While we charge, we read. Usually it’s our current literature read-aloud (Little Lord Fauntleroy, right now, which I LOVE) and a bit of our geography curriculum.

We also spend a fair amount of time driving to and from events, lessons and errands. This travel time is useful listening time, too. We have used it to listen to great audio books from our library (we particularly like Michael Morpurgo’s ‘An Elephant in the Garden‘), inspiring classical music, and an audio version of our history curriculum (The Story of the World). We have plans to listen to Micheal Thomas’ French course soon, and also an audio reading of the Bible. There are so many exciting and educational CDs to choose from, that travel time never needs to be wasted!

Do you do your learning in fun and unique places? Have you got any car-schooling suggestions to share?

Advertisements

Nettle Soup (honestly)

My mother-in-law recently made this DELICIOUS soup. It’s cheap and high in vitamin C, and even my brother loved it. My kids begged for more, and Prince even asked to have it for dessert instead of cake. Now that has GOT to be a winner.

Turn these stingers into something great!

Turn these stingers into something great!

Spring is the perfect time to collect lovely fresh nettles. So get your gloves on, take the kids foraging and follow this simple recipe.  Enjoy!

1 carrier bag of nettle tops
4-5 large potatoes, chopped
4 large onions, chopped
2 chicken stock cubes
2 pints water
Salt & pepper to taste

Collect nettle tops (wear rubber gloves!!) – break off about the top two inches of nettles (try to find some in a good location where dogs are less likely to have weed on them (ew), and preferably away from a main road where fumes will have polluted them). Bring them home and take off the leaves, discarding the stalk. Thoroughly wash and rinse the leaves, then set aside.

Chop and fry up onions in a large pot. Add chopped potatoes and cover with water, stock cubes and salt. Bring to boil then simmer until potatoes are cooked (around 5-10 mins if potatoes are cut small). Add nettle leaves and simmer for another 5-10 mins. Blend all ingredients together and serve!

(P.S.  In my experience, it might be better not  to tell your husband it’s made from nettles until after he’s tasted it… 😉

Vege-table

Here’s a tidbit of info about me: I love vegetables! And I love it when my dinner table is a vege-table.

Princess helping prepare our favourite fish salad.

Princess helping prepare our favourite fish salad.

Being a homemaker, I delight in cooking tasty, healthy food for my family, especially when I can do this on a budget. Vegetables are great in summer and winter, and I enjoy soups and salads all year round. Everyone knows they’re full of vitamins and minerals, but it’s not always easy to find yummy, easy recipes to incorporate them into your diet. So – here are two of my FAVOURITE vegetable recipes, which can be easily added to your repertoire of delicious vegetable meals.

I hope you enjoy using them to turn your table into a vege-table too 🙂

~

Super Quick and Easy Tomato Soup

INGREDIENTS:
1 Onion
6-8 Cloves of garlic
4 tins chopped tomatoes
Handful fresh rosemary (or about 2 tbsp dried)
Salt & pepper to taste

METHOD:
Chop onion and garlic. Fry onions in a large pot. Add salt, pepper and chopped tomatoes, bring to boil and let it simmer for about 10-15 mins. Turn off heat. Wash and finely chop rosemary. Add garlic and rosemary to pot. Blend with a hand blender. Serve and enjoy!

~

My Granny’s Best Fish Salad

INGREDIENTS:
Large tin salmon or other fish
Canned beans (optional)
1 small onion (red is sweeter, though I personally prefer white)
3-4 small/medium potatoes
Various salad vegetables (tomatoes, peppers, sprouts, cucumber, apple, etc.)
Mayonnaise and natural yoghurt
Vinegar (red wine is my favourite)
Olive oil
Piri-piri sauce or shake (optional for extra heat!)
Salt & pepper to taste

METHOD:
Chop potatoes into large bite-size chunks and boil (or cook whole and chop afterwards). Meanwhile, dice or slice the onion and put into a large salad bowl. Sprinkle with a generous amount of salt and add two or three tablespoons of vinegar. Next, chop and add your vegetables except tomatoes (and tinned beans, if using) to the bowl. Add the tinned fish, drained, and about 1/4 to 1/2 cup (in total) of mayonnaise and yoghurt, (also add your piri-piri if using). Mix this all together. Now add the potatoes and tomatoes, sprinkle again with salt, and with pepper, and pour over about 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil. Mix again. Lastly, cut up leafy vegetables (fresh spinach and rocket is a favourite here) and add to the bowl. Don’t mix them in until ready to serve, then toss and serve.

The beauty of homemaking

I always knew that becoming a mother was a career choice for me. To my mind, it can’t be anything else. Raising children is not something to be done on the side, in our spare time, but something which calls for the highest standards of commitment, sacrifice, dedication and effort. I’d like to share some of the common reasons I hear against mothers choosing to stay home with their children, and my responses to these reasons.

1) Some people seem to think that women who choose to stay at home full time are unambitious. Firstly, ambition is not what life is about. Secondly, I think being a stay-at-home Mom is probably the most ambitious career out there! A housewife and mother has to master so many different facets of life. She is a cook, a cleaner, an arbitrator, a psychologist, a day-care provider, a mentor, a friend, a nurse, a teacher, a personal shopper, a playmate, and a care assistant. On top of these she may well specialise in a few other areas, such as baking, craft making, research, nutrition, health, sports, music, or just about any other subject or vocation you can think of. Being a full time homemaker is anything but boring!

There are joys in motherhood that can never be found in another career.

2) The other objection I frequently hear against being a stay-at-home Mom is that of financial strain. I admit that sometimes this is an issue. However, I think it is much less of an issue than most people perceive it to be. If you are thinking, “We can’t manage without two incomes.” I would encourage you to think again. Our lives are usually full of unnecessary stuff, which could be cut out to reduce our monthly expenditure. And if you really do need more money, then there are ways to work around this and still stay at home. Right now, for example, I am bringing in some extra money for my family by joining Usborne and selling children’s books. This allows me flexibility to work around my kids, rather than mothering around my work. It’s important to really evaluate our priorities, and make sure we are backing what we believe by the way we live. It’s no good wishing we had the resources to stay at home, but in reality placing a higher value on home decoration.

3) The last reason I commonly hear for women not staying at home is, “It’s just not for me.” This may be true. But what about your kids? To simply say “it’s not for me” seems a rather selfish reason. If you have carefully weighed all the pros and cons, if you have decided that you need to prioritize something else, or if you have prayed and prayed and prayed and still believe it is ‘not for you’, then I respect that. God has certainly called each of us to our own ministries, and we must act accordingly. But if you simply have a fear that you won’t like being a homemaker, then I truly hope you will stop and think again. There are such joys, such excitements, such challenges, blessings, and wonderful experiences to be had when you make your kids your career.

In closing, take time to read one of my favourite passages of Scripture, encouraging young mothers to keep her priorities right in the sight of God.

“Older women likewise are to be reverent in their behavior, not malicious gossips nor enslaved to much wine, teaching what is good, so that they may encourage the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, so that the word of God will not be dishonored.”  Titus 2:3-5 (NASB)

The ministry of a mother: part 1, ‘Her home’

In my life I find many opportunities for ministry, but I would like to share some thoughts about just three of them over the next few blog posts: my home, my children and my husband. As a stay-at-home mom these are the biggest areas of ministry in my life, yet often I find they are areas people fail to see as a ministry at all. I am excited to serve God in these ways, and hope that some of what I say will inspire the same in you!

The best place to start any kind of discussion – let alone one on ministry – is Scripture. Here are three I have chosen for today:

  • Proverbs 31:27, speaking of the wife of noble character: “She watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness.”
  • Titus 2:5, Paul saying that older women of faith should teach the younger women: “to be busy at home”
  • 1 Timothy 5:14, Paul advising young widows: “So I counsel younger widows to marry, to have children, to manage their homes and to give the enemy no opportunity for slander.”

First off, it is clear to me that God desires – to at least some degree – women to take responsibility for managing and caring for their homes. I don’t want to spend time discussing my stance on women working inside and outside the home, but I do want to clarify that there is a Biblical premise at the heart of why I choose homemaking as a ministry in the first place.

Ever since I was in my mid-teens I felt excited by the idea of taking care of my home and family to the best of my abilities. You know that feeling you get when you have a vision of a project which you plan to work hard and excel at? That’s how I felt when I thought about being a stay-at-home wife and mother. I find it so sad that in our modern culture this choice is often seen as a being a weaker, more boring choice than an outside career, and a cop-out to hard work. Rather, I think it should be viewed as Kathy Peel, of The Family Manager describes it,

“We need to take [family management] as seriously as career success, because home is where success really matters.”

So what does it mean to ‘take family management seriously’ and make your home a ministry? The following are some ideas I’ve picked up along my almost-ten years of being a homemaker:

  1. Something I learnt from Linda Dillow’s ‘Creative Counterpart‘ is that whether we realise it or not, each home has its own particular atmosphere. Think of the homes of your friends and relatives and pick an adjective to describe each one. Some homes in my life are ‘productive’, ‘comforting’, ‘relaxed’, ‘free’, ‘worldly’, ‘peaceful’, ‘friendly’ and ‘stressful’. Now think of how you would describe your home. How would your family describe it? How would your visitors describe it?

    One of the ways we use our home to share Scripture. We change it daily, each family member taking a turn. This was one was chosen and written by my Prince, age 5.

    Here is your first ministry opportunity: choose some adjectives you would LIKE your home to exude, and work on making it so. Some I have chosen for my home are ‘God-focused’, ‘loving’, ‘welcoming’, ‘peaceful’ and ‘family-focused’. You’ll have to ask my friends and family how well I’m doing on those…! But it’s a work in progress, and I hope to keep working on it daily 🙂

    One of the most inspirational quotes I have ever read, and which causes me to think about intentionally creating a Godly atmosphere in my home, is this one by Peter Marshall:

    “I was privileged, in the spring, to visit in a home that was to me – and I am sure to the occupants – a little bit of Heaven. There was beauty there. There was a keen appreciation of the finer things of life, and an atmosphere in which it was impossible to keep from thinking of God.” (Emphasis mine, taken from A Woman After God’s Own Heart‘ 2006, pg.155 by Elizabeth George)

  2. To help my home have a positive atmosphere, I find it important to keep it clean and tidy. While this is not how everyone operates (I have many friends whose homes are a joy to be in, but who keep the ‘a clean house is this sign of a wasted life’ motto!), I find it to be valuable in my house. When my house is in order I am less stressed, my kids are more creative, and my husband feels blessed. Everyone has their own ways of tidying. Some people I know do it on a schedule, but I’ve tried that and it doesn’t work for me. Rather, I find it better to do bits and pieces regularly, when they are needed and in between other tasks. I find that I naturally fall into a very vague schedule – for example, I tend to do a bit of an after-weekend-clean-up on Mondays, as I don’t do much of it on Saturdays and Sundays. I also find that I am more motivated to clean the kitchen first thing in the morning rather than last thing at night (I have NO idea why… all I know is it’s true!). I specifically try to tidy up before we go out, and make a special effort to clean and tidy shortly before my husband comes home from work, as I know how much he appreciates walking into order rather than chaos.
  3. Kids being creative on a nice clean floor 🙂

    Lindsey O’Connor, in ‘If Mama Ain’t Happy…Ain’t Nobody Happy’offers some practical ideas of ways to make your house a place of joy. She suggests using candles, pictures and music to help create a positive atmosphere. She also advises taking – and making – lots of opportunities for celebrations and special occasions. To build on these ideas I would encourage you to look at the talents God has given YOU and put them to work in your home. If you are a baker, then bake for the benefit of others. If you love to create things, make things to display God’s love in your home. Wherever your God-given talents lie, I’m sure you can find unique and creative ways to use them to advance the ministry which is your home.

Being a homemaker is a challenge, a joy and a wonderful way to minister to others. So many people are in and out of our homes – why not make the most of every opportunity to be a blessing to them and share God’s love?

Nothing like kneading

I recently decided to change from buying store-bought bread to only having homemade bread. I’m not sure what first made me decide to do this. I think it was a combination of wanting to eat healthier, seeking to spend less money, and starting to re-watching Little House on the Prairie! The first thing I did was look at an old bread recipe book that was left in our old house by an elderly couple. It had lots useful tips and interesting information, for example:

  • Yeast is a living plant that gives off bubbles of gas, which is what causes the rising of the bread. There are different kinds of yeast used to make bread and you need to make sure to find out what kind you are using, and use it correctly.
  • Flour (especially strong bread flour) contains gluten, which stretches like an elastic network to trap the gas bubbles from the yeast. There are also different kinds of flour, with differing amounts of gluten.
  • Sugar (or honey) can be used to help activate yeast, as well as adding a nice flavour to the bread.
  • Different liquids can affect the bread in different ways. Milk makes a softer crust than water.
  • Salt adds flavour, but is also useful in helping to control the yeast’s action.
  • A ‘preliminary mix’ is useful for developing the gluten in your dough.
  • The best way to knead bread is to push it away from you, using the heel of your hands, and then fold it back over itself, turn a quarter turn, and repeat. Kneading should be done until the dough is smooth and elastic. Kneading done by hand should go on for at least 10 mins (yes, this is exhausting, but fun too!)
  • The dough needs to rise in a warm, draft-free spot. It should rise until doubled. A good test to see if it has risen long enough is to make about a 1/2 inch indent with two fingers. If it bounces back, it needs more rising; if the indent remains, it’s ready.
  • To get the dough out of the bowl easily, punch in the middle and pull the edges in, then turn out.
  • To test if it is ready to bake, gently touch the dough. It should feel light and springy.
  • To test if it is baked through, tap the loaf – it should sound hollow.
  • Cool bread on a wire rack.

After gaining this useful background knowledge on bread making, I checked out the recipes. There were many exciting varieties, but before getting adventurous I wanted to start with a basic wholemeal bread, suitable for everyday use. Unfortunately, there was no such thing! The closest recipe in the book was a part white/part wholemeal loaf, which used quite a few different ingredients – not what I was after.

Perusing my goal of a simple, easy and healthy wholemeal loaf, I called up my Granny! She has told me many times before that she can’t understand why she – and everyone else – doesn’t make bread more often, as it’s so easy. I also knew she only uses wholemeal flour. Over the phone I jotted down some quick instruction and ingredients. If you know my Gran, you know that she NEVER follows a recipe, or even measures her ingredients, so as you can imagine my directions were a little vague! Still, excited and determined I went ahead and followed them.

I loved the simplicity of the recipe from Granny – she uses just water, wholemeal flour and salt. Nice and cheap, nice and healthy. My first attempt at making a loaf was…. interesting! The dough was definitely too sticky, and I ended up throwing away about half of it which was stuck to my hands, my arms, the bowl, the board, and more! It was also too floppy to properly shape into a loaf, but I cooked it, and it tasted okay. I tried the recipe again another 3 times over the next week or so, each time with slightly different results. They all tasted okay, but none of them were easy to work with, which made the process very long (due to extended clean up time) and awkward. So I decided to turn to Google, and look for something which used Granny’s ingredients, but gave me more specific instructions!

As usual, Google had just want I was after. I found a few good-looking recipes, and have now made two loaves (well, almost – the second one is in the oven baking as I type!), with great success. The recipe I settled on and I like best is this one. Although it calls for sugar, I expect that could be left out. I haven’t experimented with it yet, as I wanted a few successful tries just following the recipe exactly so that I gain experience and know what the dough is supposed to look and feel like. I’m looking forward to trying out some variations soon, and will probably start with fruit bread and cinnamon rolls.  YUM!

Homemade Wholemeal Bread

Latest successful loaf of bread!

If you are thinking of making bread, all I can say is: DO IT! It’s fun, it’s healthy, it’s cheap (though you can buy ready-made bread at about the same price if you are buying the cheapest, but then that’s not healthy), and it’s really good exercise too! My arms are killing me today, but I look forward soon boasting bread making muscles as fine as Ma Ingalls 🙂

%d bloggers like this: