Monthly Archives: October 2010

More apple recipes: apple sauce and apple upside down cake

Despite the glut of apples taking up a corner of my kitchen I was foggy enough to BUY some on Friday. So they need using. We had apple sauce with Sunday Dinner today. That’s really simple to make.

Peel, core and chop apples and put them in a smallish saucepan.

Add a little water and cook until soft. Mash them up and there’s the apple sauce. If the apples are tart add a little sugar. I added a dollop of apple jelly instead and stirred it in. Very nice.

Then I peeled and cored even more apples and sliced them. In a larger pan I melted a large dab of butter (about 3oz) with a little olive oil. I always add oil to stop the butter burning-and it does work. Sprinkle about a teaspoon of good cinnamon in and then add the apple slices and cook them until just about soft.

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Light a little candle in the dark.

I’ve never read Dante, although it’s on my “To do” list, but I do like his idea of circles for heaven and hell and I assume there are even circles of purgatory; though as I said, I haven’t read his work yet. (Is that a terrible HE mother admission or what?)

As Fr Ray points out, the Church doesn’t presume to know who is in hell and therefore there have been those like von Balthasar who suggest hell may only be populated by Satan and his fallen angel comrades. But I think if we are realistic and look hard at Free Will, (and listen to Our Lady at Fatima and other places and other saints like St John Bosco) we know that ain’t so.  The angels were all in heaven before the Glory and Love of God and still a third of them chose to nose dive out of there, at the point of St Michael’s sword; so it’s only

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Blist’s Hill a little Vicotorian world.

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We went to Blist’s Hill Museum on Thursday. A good time was had by all.  The photo of Josh and his dad standing in exactly the same pose, drinking their tea made me laugh. Neither of them realised what they looked like together.

I loved the posters and Alex loved the chip shop, with their lovely cooked in beef fat chips.

Heleyna enjoyed the moment she nicked my seat. Cheeky child!

Anyway – a lovely place;  not cheap but not overpriced. I recommend it. If you can get the Passport you can visit all the museums in the Ironbrdge area for next to nothing really.

Apples everywhere; recipes to take advantage.

I don’t know what it’s like around your neck o’the woods, but around here there has been an abundance of apples this year. As usual they haven’t all grown big, shiny and Euro approved looking, but there are lots that can be done with an apple glut.


You can use cookers like Bramley that haven’t quite made it or crab apples or any apple that’s tart and hasn’t bothered to grow big. (For bigger apples there are better uses I think).

You will need a preserving pan or cauldron for this.

Take all the apples and chop them in half or chunks leaving the core and pips in. the pips have pectin and that will help the jelly set later.

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Stupid quote of the day on Fibromyalgia.

The NHS put out a little booklet put together by ARC the Arthritis Research Campaign about Fibromyalgia. Although Fibro comes under the umbrella of rheumatology, it has very little to do with arthritis so I am at a loss as to why ARC produce the booklet in the first place. 

It’s not a very accurate booklet in lots of ways but this quote really gets me:

There is no cure for fibromyalgia but with the help of your doctor and family, it may be possible to find ways of managing your symptoms so that you can continue with your normal activities. Your doctor may be able to help you by making the diagnosis of fibromyalgia and reassuring you that despite all the pain, you don’t have a condition that will cause permanent disability.

The bold is my emphasis. The first time this was read to me I was sitting in my wheelchair!

Most people with fibro only get their dx once “normal activity” has become next to impossible. We just have to learn to adjust to a new “normal” for us. Being in daily pain for the rest of your life IS a permanent disability- and that’s before so many of us need crutches and wheelchairs.

The booklet also assumes that all fibro sufferers also have depression. In fact around half of those dx with fibro also have depression, some before the onset and some in reaction to the constant pain. As around 50% of us don’t have depression there has been some initial research into whether those of us without depression suffer less pain or are able to deal with it better – but there are no answers yet.

 The last flare took a little more away from me. It’s harder to walk and I’ve had to get used to more pain on a daily basis. I can do it. But to have some “expert” write that I can have “normal activity” (it took me 3 hrs to make a shepherd’s pie yesterday) and that it wont disable me is not just inaccurate. It’s shockingly cruel.

Obscure but fascinating people: Claudia Procula

As far as we know Claudia Procula was the granddaughter of the Emperor Augustus. She had been born in rather dubious circumstances to Claudia the third wife of Tiberius. However the young Claudia Procula was deemed a good girl by her grandfather who had her live in Rome under his guardianship.

Meanwhile the politically savvy and utterly corrupt Sejanus had grabbed the power of Rome sending the paranoid Emperor to live in isolation and continued fear on the island of Capri.

With the whole Empire in his hands Sejanus set about handing over nice little titles and places of work to his personal cronies. Most of these men had reputations as vicious and corrupt, and it has to be said that Sejanus friend Pontius Pilate of the Equestrian rank fitted the bill nicely.

It seems as though Claudia was married off to Pilate to help solidify his political possition and then he was given the Governorship of Judea, arriving there with his wife in about 26 AD. It has been suggested that as Claudia actually accompanied her husband rather than staying in Rome, that their marriage was a happy one. Legend has it that they had a son Pilo who was disabled in some way, and was apparently healed in the Church.

If that had been the sum of Claudia’s life, she would have been a mere footnote in obscure history, but the thing that brought her just a little more attention was the dream she had one fine siesta around Passover in the year 33AD (ish). She dreamed something about a Jewish rabbi who was behaving and speaking as though he was King of the Jews.

The High Priest who had very coincidentally remained in power while Pilate was there had the man in question standing for trial. Claudia sent a message to her husband begging him to have nothing to do with the man on trial because of the dream she had just had.

Pilate obviously valued his wife’s opinion and must have taken her dream seriously because he spent a great deal of effort trying not to have this Jesus of Nazareth crucified.  But in end he had to agree to it all.

Pilate had Christ’s title written on the board for the cross; Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews and he refused to change it. He then went on to break with the normal treatment of crucified criminal in allowing a relation of Christ’s, Joseph of Arimathea and his friend Nicodemus to receive the body for proper entombment.

While some of Pilate’s caution may have been to do with his shaky political position under Sejanus at this point, there is pretty well grounded speculation that Claudia Procula encouraged her husband to behave the way he did.

The Vatican Archives have a first century letter that was apparently written by Claudia. It was found in a monastery in Belgium and has been translated into English.

From the Gospel of Nicodemus and Acts of Pilate, apocryphal books, it is suggested that Claudia was baptised and became a follower of st Paul.

The implication is that she separated from Pilate, and served God with the other women. She is a saint in the Eastern Orthodox churches and her feast day is today,.

But there is also a story that suggests Pilate was also baptised and was even martyred. His is a saint in the Coptic church alongside his wife.

We will probably never get to the whole story of Claudia Procula, but I think it’s fair to say that traditions often have a huge amount of truth to them.

Claudia Procula’s feast day is today.

Home Education: the joys and memories of childhood (part 2)

  Education is for life. It is a way of gaining the tools to live, work and find contentment and even happiness. I had a conversation with Ronan who is 7 where he asked me why I read and listened to so much stuff. I told him it was because i was still learning. He was surprised and said “Don’t you know everything yet?” Cool

When we are doing what we are supposed to be doing there is a peace of mind and soul that isn’t all that easy to explain or describe, but which when you have it, you know you have it, and when you don’t, you might not know you don’t but you know something is missing.

Part of the importance of education for children must be in the building of joy and memories so that they have that precious, but somewhat intangible thing “childhood”. We adults know all too well when this goes wrong. We say “They grew up too soon,” or “They never had their childhood.” But it is much harder to describe what “childhood” should be, despite the number of books on the subject such as the Neil Postman books.

I hear parents complain that they can’t fit all the childhood stuff into their busy weeks. It’s what Dr Ray Guarendi describes as the manic “go, go, get, get, do, do” approach to childhood. The children are in so many clubs,m activities, extra lessons and tuition that they barely have time to eat and sleep, and there is certainly no time for family life. Meanwhile Unicef (an organisation to be treated with caution imho) found that Britain’s children were the most miserable in Europe. I remember that many in interviews said they wished they could be with their parents more often.

Much of the stuff and activity is aimed at adulthood and that all important CV which will get the child into University or high wage employment. There are so many parents and grandparents of very young children who are putting the children’s childhood on hold while every spare penny and moment of time is spent making sure there’s some kind of account to pay for University.

Finding the balance is so difficult for many of us. Being afraid of the future is endemic within our culture it seems to me, and it’s that fear that seems to drive the “do, do, go, go, get, get” childhoods. And all that costs so much money that if there are both parents they both work, often long hours, to provide it all.

I have come across more than one HE mum who says that her child has had a friend wistfully say somnething along the lines of “I wish my mum loved me like that.” It’s tragic.

In the end we have to decide between what is good, better and best for the children and beware of giving so much good that it becomes bad. It is a long haul thing to work out the right priorities and be prepared to change direction if it all starts going wrong.

Having the family time so that everyone can just be together, eat together and muck about doing not much together is important. Perhaps that is one way home education works so well. School doesn’t take up so much of the day and we aren’t left with children who have learned so little during the school day we have to get tutors in the evening or weekends for them to do extra on top of all the homework.

There’s a call for the Freedom to Home Educate, and I think there needs to be encouragement for free time for family (and friends).

Home Education: The joys and memories of childhood.

 Squirrel   It was a bright October morning on Thursday when my friend arrived to pick up Ronan and Avila and take them on a day trip to the Safari Park.  Avila, who is 5 went armed with my camera and took some pretty good photos while she was there. The children all had a wonderful time and were still talking about it when they got together for history and art today.

K’s children have had a rough couple of weeks with the grandmother dying and the funeral being on Wednesday. Please keep Margaret and her family in your prayers. Yesterday and today were good days to try and get back on track.

The trip to the Safari park was free. Not something you would expect, but they went about three weeks ago and were offered a free re-admission ticket so long as they took up the offer before the end of the month.

My older, wiser (more cynical) daughter concluded that these tickets get handed out because it makes the park look good, but in reality few people will have the time to take the opportunity to return so soon.

The joy of Home education is that you can always (nearly) find the time.

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I am actually quite impressed with the photos Avila managed to take.

While most of the Charlotte Mason Nature Study stuff is about pine comes and birds and squirrels, there’s nothing wrong with the occasional elephant and camel is there?

(And just in case you’re thinking, ‘Call that Charlotte Mason Education!’ my crip-scooter basket is packed with pine cones.That’s better isn’t it?)

The Education of Last Resort.

The council sent a letter addressed to my 3 yr old, whose name they spelled incorrectly. The letter wasn’t to her anyway, it was to her dad and me.

It used legalistic jargon to tell me that by the time my 3 yr old is 5 I am legally obliged to ensure she is receiving a suitable education…and here are the forms for primary schools I should complete.

The whole thing went into the bin.

There is no hint in this officaldom nonsense that home education even exists, much less being a very good suitable choice for the education of our children.

My friend received her letter for her 3yr old daughter too. She has written all over the form that she and her husband are choosing to home educate and they are pretty unimpressed that the council doesn’t even mention this as a viable option, as choosing any school.

Back when I sent my older children to school I had never heard of home education. Later I discovered homeschooling in America, but it was some time after that I heard of home education in the UK.

These days when I mention to people I meet that we home educate, nearly everyone has heard of it. Many have even considered it as an option, but most still react by telling me how “brave” I am to do it. Frankly I think it’s “brave” to take the risk of sending children to school these days.

More and more studies, stats and research show that more and more children are not receiving a suitable education in school. I see parents having to buy resources and pay for tutors to make up for the lack of school education. So the children come home after 6-7 hrs of school to face the homework, the “extras” and even tutors.  This happens so much that Letts, Dorling Kindesley and other publishers have whole networks of books aimed at this extra-at-home market.  I am not just talking about extra tuition for exams at gcse either – I mean primary school and early secondary.

I do think as HE is more widely known of, the more parents will keep their children away from the failed school system. This isn’t brave, it’s just performing our legal (and moral) duty to ensure our children receive a suitable education.

School should be a last resort for parents and children who need that option. If it was a last resort class sizes would be smaller and maybe if parents had their power back, they could demand a better system.

Resources for your delectation.

I am listening to the lectures from the Institute of Catholic Culture. They aren’t too acedemic, which is good. There’s plenty of good history to be had which I am sure many of you can use with your children. In fact these lectures are straight forward enough for teens I would think.

There’s a great Science Narration set from That Resource Site

My history timeline set is there too.

I like this Headventure Land site too for Classical stuff. I found this via Classical Acedemic Press. I haven’t bought anything from them yet but I emailed asking about downloadable pdf books and they replied straight away, which I think it pretty impressive. They are working on downloadable books so keep an eye on them.

Also you can get your fables in Latin for learning and translation. We don’t use this yet as the children are nowhere near that level, but it does look very good.

Dyslexia- Are reading difficulties innate or taught, and is Dyslexia just a reading difficulty anyway?

nce upon a time I had three little children who all went to Primary school. My oldest boy was on the old SEN 1 because he was finding it difficult to learn to read. My second son was on the old SEN 3 because he was finding it almost impossible to learn how to read and my daughter was happily in school with no apparent problems.

The school was using the “Whole Language Real Books” approach to reading. No reading schemes here, just story books with lots of reading. I really don’t remember much phonics goings on, it was whole word and word pattern recognition.

Then the school introduced THRASS, something so complicated there were whole parent nights dedicated to trying to get us to understand it. I hated those charts and they became Alex’s nemesis.

Josh who had struggled to begin with, suddenly found his feet and his reading took off. He was removed from SEN and that was that.

Alex continued to struggle and the fact that his reading was so bad effected a lot of his other work and then made him so stressed in the lead up to the first SATS tests that he started being sick in the mornings. SATS were a pointless nightmare.  (I only wish I had known about Home Education back then). One other aspect that may have effected how he learned was the fact that he was the youngest child in his class with his August birthday. For little children a few months can make a huge difference in development.

It was when we moved house that I decided to change the children to a more local primary. As it happened I was to move them from one at the top of the Government league tables for the area to one quite a bit lower down. But it was a good move. The new school understood special needs and had a dedicated and intelligent (and holy) SENCO. Josh went to Secondary school at this point and Alex and Iona moved to this new Primary school. Alex was immediately given intensive help and taught to read phonetically. Then at this point the Iona’s teacher spotted that she couldn’t read or write properly either.

I was shocked that I had not realised how bad it was for her. But I had concentrated so much on sorting Alex out, after school, that she had slipped by me.

As it turned out her problems were worse than Alex’s.

Alex has dyslexia which means he finds word patterns difficult to perceive and this effects reading. But he also finds letter shapes difficult to perceive and letter order. He finds it hard to see the correct order for things in  patterns, although he has very good visual spacial and colour awareness. His artistic talent is innate in some ways and his difficulty with ordering his thoughts, sensing order in objects, shapes and words also seems to us at least to be innate also.

Iona has similar problems with words, but she also has dyspraxia. This means she finds it difficult to judge space and shape; hence her proclivity for walking into things, missing chairs when she tries to sit down and tripping over furniture that has been moved. When she was younger this was a major problem for her. She took a long long time to learn how to tie laces and use a knife and fork.

Josh has none of these problems. Neither does Ronan. He has some distance awareness problems but that’s because he is blind in  one eye. He has no problems with reading, writing or patterns.

Avila does. She needs a lot of attention to help her remember how to work out new words from the right direction and to write letters and numbers the right way round and in the right order.

I use a phonics based approach with a reading scheme for the younger children. Ronan reads fluently now he is 7 and is no longer using the Scheme. Avila is reading Oxford Reading Tree stage 7 with some  “real” books of her own choosing. I went through a bit of a glitch with her reading and we went to the McGuffey Readers which are purely phonic based. This worked well and she returned to ORT with no problems and has recently “clicked” with reading. Her writing has improved a great deal, but she still struggles a lot with number direction, even though her mathematical skills are very good. She is 5, so I think it is too early to suggest she may have dyslexia and anyway she is reading ahead of school peers so it would be silly to say she even has difficulties in reading.

There is a battle over dyslexia. On the one side are those who insist this is a neurologically based perception disorder that is innate to the child and effects how they learn. On the other side are those who say dyslexia is a “learned” disorder in reading because children are not being taught properly and properly means phonics.

Then there’s little ol’me who thinks they are both right. I think there are plenty of children who can’t read because they haven’t been taught properly, but I would question how many of these actually have dyslexia. On the other hand there are children whose difficulties in perception are far wider than just reading; who find ordering their thoughts and words difficult; who can’t remember simple patterns like the alphabet or times tables.

But I do think that spending time with a child with this leaning and teaching them sound and phonics is important because they simply can’t grasp whole words either as patterns or just for memory. I don’t know how it will end up for Avila. But I do think taking her back to the old McGuffey Readers was a wise move because it has really helped her. So long as I point at the first letter of a word, she can break it down and work it out. Gradually I hope I can teach her to see for herself where the first letter of each word comes and to recognise the spaces between words.

Ronan just learned to read. I don’t think I had to take extra time over it with him. He always understood words were separate and had first letters.

The problem schools have with dyslexic children is they need someone’s time and when you have 29 other children who also need your time, perhaps having other developmental and learning problems – well, then some children wont get to learn to read very well.

Charlotte Mason didn’t think children should go to school until they were 7. She believed that before then a child learned from his mother and sometimes father. If a child gets to learn at home with a loving adult, by the time they are 7 they will probably be able to read pretty well.

But no one is going to suggest that as a way to do things are they? And that is precisely why so many HE families have children with learning problems in them. We know the schools can’t cope.

The well oiled family machine.

We have a routine. We tend to do certain things on certain days whether lessons, work shifts or which night Iona does the cooking. It’s a kind of groove for our family life, without becoming a rut to get stuck in. For it to work well there needs to be some flexibility, so that everyone chips in for emergencies.

This flexibility helps ensure there isn’t too much unnecessary stress. We all just shift around a bit taking over one another’s usual jobs so that it all happens without making a crisis out of a bit of a problem.

So it was today. I watched the whole process shift nicely to accommodate the sudden Vertigo and vomiting attack of Miss Heleyna. I was already in the kitchen preparing the dinner. Roni was getting ready for Beavers and  had arranged who would take him.

As small child clung to her mother with the world spinning and vomit flying, the well oiled family machine kicked into action.

Iona came down and fetched clean clothes for the dizzy one while I washed out bowl, got changed and started a wash going. Then I took back the dizzy one while Iona set about the cooking. Meanwhile Alex came to the rescue to take Ronan to Beavers.

We all just shifted around a bit. No stress.

And the vertigo attack ended after an hour or so and she’s back to normal. Lovely.

It’s funny ‘cuz it’s true…

I was on the Fibro forum t’other day when someone mentioned the book Diana’s Story by Deric Longdon. I had this book recommended to me some years ago when this whole fibro thing first started up and the doctors were less than useless and so often rude and cruel. It was made into a TV film called “Wide Eyed and Legless” in the UK but changed to “The Wedding Gift” (for some reason) for the American market.

Here’s part 1. (Youtube carries the whole thing in 9 parts.)

Part 1 here is so much what happened to me it’s uncanny. I really think films like this should be compulsory viewing for medics in training (and revision for those who are already in bad habits).

Diana probably had ME/CSF which even today along with fibromyalgia gets little understanding or care from most medics. I do recommend the film, but have a hanky on hand. It’s funny and sad. It’s funny because it’s true.

I don’t think I’ve got the guts to read the book as well.

Yesterday – home education happened anyway.

Yesterday as I had a hospital appointment mid morning I didn’t bother with the usual lessons. I heard Roni and Avila read and then it was off to the hospital. That went well. Got a pass on my kidney’s and heart. The hypertension has dropped from stage 2 to borderline but this could be because I am on meds and out of flare so I’m to stop some of the meds and go back for further tests in 2 months. Got the next appointment through this morning!

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One of the things I still find surprising about the way HE works in our family is the way the children get on with learning even when I am not organising it. They have formed the habit of learning, and anyway, they enjoy it. So, although the usual lessons were shelved, they got books and read to one another and then Ronan got Josh’s old Open Uni molecule making set and starting working out what chemicals might do what. This culminated in us looking up what air is made of and he made air. We had to make a couple of molecules out of paper, but it worked fine.  He really loves the idea of making molecule modules. I’ll have to invest in some other sets for him later I think.

Meanwhile it was their dad’s birthday, so after doing some of her Open Uni work that must be handed in soon, Iona made a birthday cake.

We had some reading time together, where I read to them and then they played before their dad got home from work for his birthday tea.

A good day.

H/T BWYA for telling me how to make a slideshow 🙂

Does state controlled compulsory education ever work?

I vaguely remember that when we were in the thick of the fight to keep Badman and Balls out of our families lives that there was a small suggestion, that really we should be looking at getting the state out of education all together. There was much talk about how compulsory education had failed so spectacularly that even Oscar Wilde’s Lady Bracknell couldn’t have predicted the direness of the outcome.

Whether we like it or not, or care to admit it, Britain and America tend to follow much the same path in cultural changes especially in areas of education and the more concerning trends. I’ve come to the conclusion if there’s and idea that is going to harm people America will try it and see it is bad and Britain will see what America has done, and do it anyway. Like the fool that has to learn from his own mistakes, rather than the wise man who learns from other peoples.

Then the trailer for ” Waiting For Superman” goes out and the debate heats up.

H/T InsideCatholic

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Are we drifting away from Miss Mason? That Narration Thing.

arration is at the heart of a good Charlotte Mason approach to learning.  By the time a child has reached the age of 7 and is ready for school (in the gentle world of PNEU) he should be getting fairly adept at narration having heard the poem or passage only once. You see, this skill is rooted in Miss Mason’s discipline of habits – the habit of listening.

It occurred to me today as I packed away all the worksheets and workbooks, that we are drifting away from the living books approach and heading down the “it looks more like learning” approach of, dare I say, “school at home.” I am unconvinced that piles of completed worksheets are any indicator that the children are learning.

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My favourite Psalm from Nonna.

Nonna wrote this song some time ago when she was 16 and before the fibro had taken so much away from her.

She is making these videos as precious memories for her children. I think that’s a very important thing to do. However ill we are we are more than the “fibro” and the memories we make with or for our children reminds them and us of that. The Psalms are very human as David calls on his God at times of joy, sorrow, sickness and distress; and I must admit I like the fact that in places the Psalmist is just a little grumpy with God.

As Nonna says, the doctors are now beginning to realise that fibro is a progressive illness that slowly takes a little more from us each year. It’s very important when we have children to give them a glimpse of something that is strong and healthy- such as Faith.

The fact that I love this Psalm which is so much part of Divine Office, is an added bonus.


Just learned my friend K’s mother has died this morning. Please pray for the repose of her soul and for her grieving family and friends.

Heal me! I’d go back…promise!!

I managed to get to Mass today and I am grateful. I managed to sit through it all and come out at the end without feeling like I wanted to curl up and die; and I am grateful for that.

The Gospel reading was about how Jesus healed the ten lepers and sent them to show themselves to the priest at the Temple. Only one, a Samaritan, returned to say thank you.

Father preached about giving without condition. He pointed out that Jesus healed all of them, even the nine that didn’t come back. He was happy that they had been healed.

He then told us the story of an old woman he was called to advise who had just come into a large amount of money. She didn’t need the money at all, and so had decided to divide it between members of her family and give a substantial sum to a dear friend who had always been there for her and was now going through chemo for cancer.

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Home Education and the “socialising” of siblings.

I recently met with a  friend who has just about finished her long career in home educating her children, though of course she is still a mother.

In passing she commented on the way my children were playing together and how they get on well. I nodded, adding “most of the time.” Continue reading

free resource

There are a whole stack for freebies HERE including a lot of Montessori material.

The old dragon and her sphig.

Look at the cake Iona made me!  This is what she was  doing when I was being banned from the kitchen.

Of course she’s trying to tell me I’m an old dragon, but we’ll let that pass. 🙂

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It’s my birthday

 Birthday Party Blower Birthday CandlesIt’s my birthday and the younger ones have persuaded me that they don’t need formal education today while Iona has banned me from the kitchen. LOL.

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Food is Love (and so is home education).

 I love my children. That should be normal for a mum, although I know only too well that isn’t always the case.

I don’t love them in a sloppy sentimental way; frankly that’s useless love. I love them even when it’s hard going and that often means when they are standing facing the front door or sitting on the stairs. That is love because although it means I am making them do something they don’t like, that they will learn from it, the easy way. If I don’t teach them how to behave they will find out the hard way in the big world.

It’s the same with food. I love my children enough to make sure they eat properly.  So yes, we have those traditional conversations along the lines of “If you don’t eat your greens you won’t get pudding.”

We are on a tight budget (like most one income households in the UK) so food does eat the budget so to speak, but I still try and make sure the children are eating good food and not junk. Anyway I am beginning to think junk costs more.

I have mentioned that Iona is doing THIS COURSE WITH THE OPEN UNI on Human Nutrition. It’s all very technical and has got her wondering around the house talking about “free radicals” and the best places to find vitamin B12, but it has also got her thinking more about food and how we eat and share it.

She told me today to get watching These Vids on Youtube wherein Jamie Oliver a Chef from the UK heads off to Huntington West Virginia to try and start a food revolution, much like the one he started in schools here. Now, I have to admit I have never been much of a fan of Mr Oliver, but these four programmes have given me a new respect for the man. But even more so, these programmes have really shocked me and left me gutted for some of the families and children in the programme. And knowing that things are only a short few steps behind on the slope over here, it’s just scary.

Huntington was chosen for Jamie’s revolution because it came top in some Government figures for deaths due to obesity.  Now this is a sensitive thing to do. Going somewhere because the people are eating themselves to death and trying to change things needs to be handled with some sensitivity, but also with realism. To be fair I do think Jamie tried that approach. He certainly won over one family who  ate rubbish until he helped them find a better way.

But I was absolutely blown away by the schools. I can’t imagine that many parents choose to homeschool because state schools are pushing the most horrible junk down their children’s throats, but if there are parents doing so for that reason, well, they are right.

Now, I let my kids eat junk now and then. But the whole diet in these schools and the extended community was the kind of food we would eat once in a while and some of it is stuff I would never feed my children. 

Jamie asked a class of 6 yr olds (grade 1. year 2) about basic fruit and veg. Not one child recognised even a potato!

I did a quick impromtu lesson with my children. I sent the three younger ones off in search of a potato. carrot, tomato, banana, pear and something else can’t remember. The three of them, aged 7, 5 and 3, all managed to come back with the correct items with no help and then sat and watched some of the programme while eating the pear, banana and carrot.

Meanwhile on the screen they watched as children their age and older were allowed to throw away most of the their dinner, no questions asked. This was both the yukky stuff and the stuff Jamie introduced against massive opposition into the school. 

This school had 400 pupils so it’s about the same size as most of the primary schools over here. When I worked in such schools it was normal for adults, teachers, assistants and lunch time supervisors to be with the children while they ate to ensure the children were eating properly and help them with cutlery. In fact it was a bone of contention that even hit the press that too many children come to school without proper table manners and that the schools are having to teach this. Nevertheless the idea that a load of very young children should be left to eat food without proper adult attention was not even considered.

The school sfaff seemed surprised when Jamie said that children wouldn’t be allowed to throw food away like that back home. The waste was utterly shocking and then they have the nerve to complain about school food budgets! Not that I blamed the children. The school served breakfast; get this: Pizza, sugar packed flavoured milk with a cereal covered in sugar loaded flavoured milk. Can you imagine giving that to your children?

Things happen in these programme’s that begger belief. The conversation about children in the primary (elementary) school using cutlery was …I was astonished. They couldn’t understand why Jamie wanted the children to use a knife and fork!! The grumpy woman even demanded proof that children in UK primary schools do use knives and forks!  Of course they do!

Things did begin to change, when even the school Principle (who I didn’t rate) got involved in helping the children learn what to eat and how to eat. But the battle will be longer and harder because so many of those children have never been taught how to eat good food around a table where there are loving adult role models. The added problem that they never get to use cutlery properly just makes the whole thing harder than it need be.

How we feed our families is, I truly believe,  a sign of how we love them. Having enough care to cook good nutricous food so our children can grow,  learn and be as healthy as possible is what we are supposed to do.  Part of that is teaching the children how to cook.  Otherwise the bad habits set in and it effects generations. We need to say no to the children at times and that’s just the way it is.

The family Jamie went to work with were lovely, but they ate unbelievable rubbish. The mum was horrified when she realised what she was doing and I think she did want to change, but it is a tough battle to change the habits of a lifetime. The fact that their son just heading to be 13 was already obese and on the verge of diabetes shocked the family-hopefully enough to help them really make the change.  I did get the impression, though I can’t be sure, that the adults really had not realised how much rubbish was in the food they were all eating. Somehow they had gone through school and never come across anything about nutricion.

They are members of a church where the Pastor is so tired of members of his congreation dropping dead that he now preaches about eating properly. Good for him, but how sad.

Jamie got the parents from the elementary school and showed them in no uncertain terms what was being fed to their children and they all said they didn’t want that. It’s a good start. I think he might have made better headway if he had started with the parents in the first place- over riding the rights and duties of parents is never a good plan and schools already do far too much of that.

In the High School he went to he got a lot more support from the kitchen team. That must have made things easier. He also put together a team of young people from the school and taught them to cook, and is setting them up as food ambassadors. The children had their own very serious reasons for wanting to be part of this. One girl had lost her dad when she was 13 because his obesity killed him. She had recently lost an uncle the same way and another girl was morbidly obese herself and discovered she had about 7 years left to live. She is just  a teenage girl and food is killing her.

While Jamie is campaigning in schools first I think it’s the churches and parent groups that need the attention. If parents are encouraged to take back their role, rights and responsibilites they will see that their children need to eat well. Then the parents can demand the schools change the food and maybe even get some parents in the schools to help make sure the children know how to sit properly and eat properly.

From there parents can start to ensure their children grow up learning how to prepare and cook good food properly.

There is an unhealthy view that learning to cook isn’t acedemic enough and so doesn’t matter that much. Yet when we look at a mother feeding boxed pizza and fries to her children all the time so that they are already obese before they hit their teen years, we surely have to rethink that. If those children live long enough to have children of their own (and it’s a big if) then how will they break the cycle without education?

We need our children to know about food, to prepare it well and to eat it properly. It means saying no to children sometimes and making them eat green beans and broccoli. That is love.

Home Education – a parcel and funny stuff with a strange tile making session.

It was Friday morning and I was getting everything ready for our History and Art day.

In the middle of the prepping, which I never can get around to doing the evening before so I can look all organised, the doorbell rang.

The postman was standing there with a box in his arms. My kind friend of Become What You Are fame had sent us some excellent Seton Books, plus a couple of extra ones she had AND some bits’n’bobs; silly bands, American flags and a lovely prayer card and medallian of St Benedict along with some good Texas postcards. These included a picture of one of my favourite animals, an Armadillo.

As far as I’m concerned the fact that Armadillo’s and sloths exist is tantamount to empirical evidence that God has a great sense of humour.

In history the children are learning about the Byzantine Empire and one of the activities was to make a tile.

Now, thanks to fibro-fog and such like I can’t read so well at the moment, so K took over the reading. Then between us, we “professional” type home educators managed to completely misread the insructions for making the tiles.  🙂

Having mixed up one pot of plaster and have it set so quickly the children hadn’t even arranged their marbles for the design yet we set about another lot of plaster. Meanwhile the children had all liberally coated the inside of pots with Vaseline and neatly arranged their marbles.

Heleyna, however was very taken with the silly bands and arranged some into her pattern. As I have mentioned before we let the pre-schoolers join in if they like and she does like.

Finally with marbles (and in Heleyna’s case silly bands) duly arranged the next lot of plaster was poured in.

Then while they were left to set we wondered if we had indeed read the instructions correctly. K went back and checked and  Blushy  discovered we should have put the plaster in first and THEN the marbles.

So when we took the tiles (more like bricks) out of the pots there was some serious chipping to be done. We’ve decided to give it another go next week.

Ronan liked his, but I think we all agreed that Heleyna’s turned out best with her silly band addition.
we’ll see what we manage next week.

The art session was about illuminated manuscripts and book covers. So the children all made their book covers and next week, my friend has some lovely parchment type paper for them to make a good illumiated page for their books.

As we don’t have boxes to tick or targets to jump at, it’s not a complete disaster if something goes wrong, we can just have another go next time.

Tomorrow we will start with the lovely Seton books BWYA has sent.  Thank you 🙂