Meal ideas for January



Meant to get this up before now, sorry Katie, but hope this gives some helpful ideas for meals.

Here’s to a new year of table feasts of conversation, food, and life.

January 2016 menu planning


reflections on our home learning journey week 14/2

It is the end of term. I cannot believe we got here but we did. We celebrated with friends this afternoon and then on into town to meet Mark after work to have the now traditional end of term supper at Waitrose. The three of them love it. Only last night they had been wondering if it would happen this year. Their squeals of delight when they read the activity card for today and learnt it was going to be a meal at Waitrose was worth it even if it was early morning.

The Advent calendar is a big indicator of how far we have come in the past year as Bob now reads the Bible verses and activities whereas last year he would look at it, maybe say a word or two and hand it to us, but now he goes down early with the others eager to read it for them and is also working on his 3 times tables as that let him know which day he was doing himself.

While I had initially planned Christmas themed activities for this last week it got taken over with Tim Peake’s trip to the International Space Station. So Tuesday we spent a lot of time watching the launch, docking and hatch opening events and other space science programmes connected to it all. Bob got full kitted out in his all in one weather gear, closest we had to space gear and then squashed himself into our backpack to pretend he was in the Soyuz capsule. He decided after 30 mins he would just do an imaginary 6 hour trip to the ISS when I indicated how long he would have to be there if he really wanted to be there for the entire flight. In the midst of all that Mark had his viva and successfully defend his PhD thesis. One days the children will be able to acknowledge what that meant but for them this week has all been about space and space travel with some Star Wars thrown in.

We also completed our first year of grammar which was nicely timed and will begin the next year in January. It was encouraging to see how many of the poems we have learnt over the year he has remembered when he had to recite them for his final lesson.

I am hoping to take time over our two week break to give some thought to how we go forward in the new year, so that all 3 get more balanced attention and one on one time. It will mean encouraging Bob to become more independent in some of his work so that he can be set tasks while I do other work with the younger two. I also want to rework our living spaces as I had not envisioned that we would still be here at this point and we need to rethink how we make it work for living as a home learning family.

For now though it is time to unwind, breathe and celebrate Christmas before embarking on a new term and the need to start planning for the year ahead, in particular as I am realising that Zog has very different ways of learning and so need to reconsider the early years material for him in a way that will hold his attention.

Till 2016.




Taking Joshua’s Tree forward in 2016

Mark has now completed his PhD (subject to viva on this Tuesday coming up) and we are seeking God’s way forward from here. There have been very few Old Testament specific teaching jobs come up so far, in fact only one that was OT, others have had a wider Biblical Studies focus. We have also considered church jobs but as of yet no clear way forward has emerged. Mark is currently working for a company in Cheltenham on a full time temporary contract doing data entry. We are thankful that they have extended this first contract for a further 3 months come January. It is not the job he longs to be doing, but it uses skills he had built up from before his study break. The husband and wife team who run the company have been supportive of Mark, his longer term goals, and offer great communication which makes a significant difference in how one feels, treating their staff like real individuals. They are also open to considering him going part time after the next 3 month contract if the right projects come up.  This would then give him a day or two to work on research, writing resources and supporting church leaders with their church’s theological teaching. This is a real encouragement.

For those of you aware of our longing for Joshua’s Tree to flourish we need to find an appropriate home that would give room for family and ministry life to flow around each other. We recognise that right now is not yet the time to host over night guests on a regular basis but there is still lots of our dreams for Joshua’s Tree that could flourish in a day to day basis with the right setting.

As we are blessed with Mark’s current job and the great home education group we are part of and a church we are part of it seems sensible to us to stay here rather than simply move to some other part of the country just for the sake of a move when we have networks here and the children have strong friendships. So in order for us to step forward we need to find a new home nearby that would give us the right space. Where we live though is not cheap and moving to a house with even just a bit more room comes at considerable expense.

We have found a potential ideal home just further down the road from our own home.  As with any house this size though in this area it comes with a significant extra increase in rent and therefore in council tax and bills. While Mark’s job at present covers our current costs it would not by any means cover the increase in living costs, especially if he were to go part time.

So we are asking for prayers, wisdom and advice for how to go forward, ways to raise the money that would let us provide the ministry we long to do, ways to connect with churches and make links, people we should speak to. At present an extra £1500 a month would cover the increase in rent, bills and hospitality and travel. Any month there was surplus from the money would be set aside for further ministry purposes and cover a reduction in salary from Mark going part time.

For those reading this who are unfamiliar with the idea behind Joshua’s Tree you can read more here


reflections on our home learning journey 13/2

If I had sat down this morning to write my reflections there would have been many tears shed, much angst and hopelessness. Tonight though late I am writing from a place of restoration and peace. Mark is out for his work Christmas dinner and once Kanga and Zog were asleep Bob and I sat watching Christmas cookery programmes snuggled up together and then I got to do bedtime with him. It was a much needed evening of reconnection and redemption.

The week started in an alright place but I put my back out trying to move furniture around on Monday afternoon and that left me in considerable pain and having real difficulties holding Kanga. Then when I thought it was much better on Wednesday and I was holding her she did her usual swing out to reach something in the opposite direction and out went my back again. Unlike the previous 6 years we are now in a place where Mark is working Monday to Friday set office hours and so was unable to be flexible with his time. He was brilliant though because he did everything he could before leaving in the morning to get us to a place of readiness for the day and took on all duties as soon as he walked in the door. With my back being out that impacted sleep along with small people who don’t yet go all the way through and my inability to keep on top of home as I like and as tidying does not come naturally to Bob, Zog or Kanga it meant that by this morning the place had started to implode on itself. I don’t mind chaos within a day that then gets cleared away but chaos that has overflowed from previous days ruffles me something crazy.

On top of that it seems that staying in this location is what is next for us and while Mark is not doing his ideal job, we are very thankful for the job he has and for his extended contract and the way they respect their staff. Some christian places could take a leaf out of their book on how to communicate and speak to folk going through the interview process. So for now while I know he would far rather be doing a different job I am thankful for the place he has got and for his two bosses, who see him for who he is and are supportive of what his real hopes and dreams are. With that said we would then ideally love to be able to move to a slightly larger house, that would give us all some elbow room, place to provide hospitality, have an open home for others, a place for the children, a bathroom with a window. But the reality we have had to face this week is that it is just not financially possible for us to make the next step up. Which has been made even harder this week having found what looks like the ideal home for us 3 streets away but as with all others requires an extra £600 a month rent. The cost of living in a well provided for village with great views and easy access to a main town and motorways. It is at times like this that I hate that my immediate space and environment impacts so directly on my frame of mind. And so that disappointment and the chaos the house has been in this week rubbing up against a sore back and broken sleep has meant I have been way of ball this week with the children and they can tell and have struggled in their own ways with it all.

So where does home learning fit into all that muddle I have had. Well we have kept things simple with maths and grammar and a little bit of writing and science, completing our final planet in the solar system, Mercury. Bob decided to work his way in toward the Sun. Lessons have been done from the comfort of our bed and finished by 9am as I have been very slow to move.

It has also been a very buys week with events on and we needed to declare yesterday a duvet day even though we should have been on our nature walk but there comes a point in order to keep going that you need to stop and rest and it has done us all the world of good. Tuesday saw Bob trying a new sports group which he loved. When I initially put it to him on the Monday having sorted out a lift and knew he could go he was very hesitant about it all. After some questioning and talking it through it came down to the fact that it was a new event and I would not be there, he was going with a good friend and he did not know what to expect. To be fair to him sport is not his natural strength and so this was a big step as he is so aware of fairness and justice and his view of sport so far from friends who play football and rugby is that it is not always fair and just. We talked it through though as I knew it was going to be more about games and being active with lots of his friends trying it out also for the first time that day. We talked of how he went to other events like forest school and youth group and did not know what to expect from them and now loves them and so he decided he would give it a try and fully embraced it. For the first time though I did wave him off in the car and an unsure face looked back at me. He came home beaming. A number of other parents who had been there told me later he had clearly been fully enjoying it and involved which was so encouraging. The prize though was his beam when he got home, not only because he had loved it but because he had gone in the first place out of his own decision.

This Wednesday also saw him attend a session along with his friends at the Wilson Museum which is our local museum in Cheltenham. Every 6 or so weeks they run a home educators afternoon and this week it was on Edward Wilson who the museum is named after and his trip to the Antarctic. He loved it and since then anything at home has been adapted as skies, a boat, a hut and I had found a great book at Waterstones which we have lost him to since Wednesday in which he fills in his own information. He has also discovered the first two episodes on BBC player about historical British boats and so far has been learning about ‘The Matthew’ which sailed to America and ‘The Pickle’ which raced home to report the victory of the battle of Trafalgar and the death of Nelson. Forest School this afternoon and youth group tonight have finished off a very full on week for him.

Zog and Kanga has got the rough end of the stick this week with all the events out and about being for Bob and in the midst of my frustration and fog I have taken a tight hold of Bob’s lessons and focused on accomplishing that and then we have muddled our way through the rest of our time. I hope that our final week of lessons can be more family oriented rather than me trying simply to keep a sense of head above water ticking certain lessons off my list for Bob. This may well be possible because I have taken 20 minute blocks today and tackled the imploding chaos and feel a sense of calm returning and have started to reconnect with Bob, Zog and Kanga once more. I also need to be way more thought through to know how to incorporate Kanga. Where Zog has always been ready to sit at a table and loves nothing better than to join in and be doing what Bob is doing, Kanga is her own views on what and how things should be done and we have some way to go with cooperation being a natural instinct:) She might just find though if she cultivated some all our days would be happier. She also needs words but it would seem that like her brothers she will be waiting till she is good and ready at around 2 1/2 to bother using words and then use all words in one breathe and to keep talking from there on in. Until then we have a lot of frustration though to be fair to her, if I stop and listen and watch she is well able to communicate her needs/wants but if I do not get it straight away or she is ignoring my request for no there is a lot of shouting and crocodile tears.

This has been one of those weeks where I can now say from a place of calm that I have much growing and learning to do and need to consider how I respond to circumstances and in turn that will make life smoother and happier for us all.



reflections on our home learning journey 12/2

I am attempting to  to write this while Kanga sits on my lap. Be it a developmental leap, a sense of detachment needing strengthening she has been my velcro girl the last couple of days and is never further from me than holding hands. She like Bob does not like to welcome sleep with open arms and so is fighting it with all she has got and for a 2 year old she has a lot of fight in her. I am hoping that she will become more open to it as Bob is when his world is totally calm and known which thankfully it has been for the past week since his osteopath appointment last week.

Lessons this week in the formal sense have been around maths, grammar and handwriting. The past two days have been really encouraging with Bob and numbers which has boosted his confidence no end and mine to be honest. He even wrote a page of maths equations for his uncle who is a maths teacher but he decided not to send it as he decided Uncle Kevin would still be busy with term time and would not have time for it. Zog also requested some christmas maths pages to do and so I got our some jolly postman based addition pages. Bob gave him some direction for the fist page which was a joy to listen to and yes I deliberately stayed outside the room when I heard him teaching Zog how to do addition. Zog then got on and did the rest of the sheets all by himself with no errors. Zog has always been the more confident one with numbers but I think for a large part for Bob it is not that he does not know what he is doing but that numbers do not stay put or the face the right way so confusion easily sets in. This week taking the time to watch him I could see his frustration as I knew he knew what he should be doing but it is as though he himself is caught by surprise by a number where he is not expecting it to be.

We have also entered the wonderful season of Advent, and so while many friends write about carving out times of silence, reflection and waiting I have found myself laying that aside and coming alongside 3 little ones who are over flowing with excitement and joy at all things both Christmas and wintery. Our christmas box of books was brought out today as their activity for the day and so its been a day of pjs and reading and what I love is that Bob and I can share the reading so for a time today we were all upstairs with him reading aloud to us all and I was able to potter around doing some tidying and sorting that was long overdue. Art work has also filled many hours this week which has been fun as we have listened to carols.

Our nature walks are still happening and a highlight of the week on a Thursday but the wind and rain or threat of rain means they are not as long or quite as enjoyable as they are at other points of the year. The older boys still paddle in the stream but there is more water at this point and so younger ones are not paddling. Everyone comes home wet and muddy and the washing machine is put to good use. It was lovely yesterday as an older couple commented to me as we all got off the bus on the way home that it was clear we had all had fun and that the boys were really well behaved, (Kanga was asleep, naturally just at a point in the day when I rather she just push through to a sensible time  for bed). They were interested to hear about home education and thought that the freedom to play in the park and paddle and get muddy was wonderful and that we were clearly doing a good job. With being at home 24/7 introspection sets in and you sometimes cannot see the fruit of what you are trying to teach or the ways you are training your children and so conversations like that are a gift. They could easily have said nothing but they went out of their way and it made a difference to my day and no doubt encouraged the children too.

I hope over the holidays to be able to take some time when Mark is also off to reconsider and regather my thoughts for the term ahead of what works and what needs changing. I am leaning more and more toward Charlotte Mason style learning with note booking which is an easily adaptable style continuing to use the material we are already working through. For the time being that will require more diligence from myself to do the note booking while Bob grows in his writing confidence but I now feel like I am in a better place to let that rest for his and my sakes. My hope is that the note booking can also be done in a way that is more inclusive for everyone so that they can all have more of my attention rather than jumping from one to the next and not really doing anyone justice unless one gets lots of time and the other two none which leads to ruffled feathers, and disgruntled feelings expressed or quiet mischief being carried out.

We have been joined this week by Flat Stanley from Boston who is making his way around the world and will be heading off on his travels again next week. They are loving his company and taking him places. Next week we will write up a picture postcard and let his friends back in Boston know how he is getting on.

All in all this week is ending on a high affirming that this is the right path.  My use of time and how we learn still need tweeking but that is no surprise and my early christmas present of a slow cooker is already proving its space in the kitchen providing some great meals and reducing the 5pm melt downs from all of us.