Favourite books of 2015

In no particular order, here are some of the books that I have particularly enjoyed reading in 2015.

French Kids Eat Everything

I used to think that fussy eating was caused mostly by bad parenting, but now that I have one fantastic eater and one extremely fussy eater my views are a little less black and white! My mum lent me this book and it was a very interesting read, with some helpful guidelines to implement.

Lessons At Blackberry Inn

A lovely old-fashioned fictional book about a homeschooling mother and homemaker, which includes some details of the Charlotte Mason method of home education. It was an easy and pleasant read, and reminded me a little of the Anne of Green Gables series.

Parenting in the Pew

I’m sure many Christian parents have struggled from time to time with the issue of children in church. Rather than focusing on how to keep children quiet and well-behaved in church, this book looks at why children should be there and has lots of practical suggestions for how to teach children to participate in worship.

Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World

A lovely look at this Biblical account and very relevant to women who feel the pressures of busyness, tiredness and worry, with wise advice about balancing time in the “kitchen” (work) and time in the “living room” (worship). I’ll definitely be re-reading this book!

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying

I have read numerous books on decluttering and simplicity over the years, but this is the one that has had the most impact on my life. Personally I found the author’s writing style a little annoying, and as a Christian there are some spiritual aspects to ignore and different values to consider, but the method itself is brilliant. I started doing Konmari back in the summer, took a break for a few months due to morning sickness and have only recently restarted, but it is already making a huge difference!

The Surrendered Wife

This is not a Christian book and no assumptions should be made based on the title! I haven’t finished reading it yet but it’s basically about giving up control in order to benefit from increased emotional intimacy. There are some good ideas which make sense, and also some more extreme ideas which sound slightly crazy! It is a challenging read and mentally I find myself saying “but…” to a lot of it, but I’ve also seen how implementing some of the principles has had a positive impact.

So, what are your favourite books that you’ve read this year? I don’t read as much as I would like but am always interested in recommendations!

Days like today

Today my children were defiant, disobedient and disrespectful. They argued, moaned and drove me crazy all day long.

I wasn’t at my best either. Their behaviour made me feel angry and frustrated, which just made the situation worse. I shouted. I threatened. I said things I regret.

If I could have marched into the nearest school and signed my children up then and there, I would have. Just so that I wouldn’t have to deal with them anymore, for a few hours at least.

Home education is not always wonderful. On days like today it is really hard! Of course, parenting can be challenging and difficult regardless of how you choose to educate, but at times I do envy the break that school would provide.

At the risk of sounding like a terrible mother, sometimes I really don’t like my own children very much! Because they are sinners, just like me. On days like today they need a whole lot of grace. And so do I.

“Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need”. Hebrews 4:16.

Updated learning space

I’ve spent some time this week decluttering and reorganising our little home-ed area in the front room.



This used to be a boring corkboard with a wooden frame. I’ve never really liked it but rather than throwing it out I decided to have a go at upcyling it with some hessian. Much better!


I got rid of a lot of our art and craft stuff because it simply wasn’t being used. The bottom shelf is now home to books and workbooks for subjects other than maths and English. The magazine file contains posters and free resource packs from various organisations that we have collected over the years.


This shelf unit holds all our maths manipulatives, books and games. On the top we’ve made a little nature table area and will use the wooden dish to display our finds.


Our light panel loose parts were previously jumbled together in one big box, so I’ve sorted them into smaller containers to make them more accessible. We use them for English and maths as well as for play. The bottom two shelves of this shelf unit are for our English resources.


I stayed away from reward systems for a long time but Aaron seems to respond well to them. We’ve been using these mini jars for a few months to collect glass nuggets, which are awarded for completing work and for good behaviour. They can be exchanged for a treat when the jar is full.


At some point in the next few days I’ll be posting about our plan for the autumn term.

A family walk

Now that the children are older, we have started doing some longer walks (5+ miles) with them. Walking is something that we all enjoy as a family because it allows us to combine spending time together, physical exercise, an interest in nature and of course adventure! This was one of our most recent walks on a rare sunny day! We set off from Mortehoe towards Lee Bay, walking through farms and fields before eventually joining up with the coast path.





We stopped for a picnic lunch at Bennett’s Mouth, which is between Bull Point and Lee Bay. We were in a hurry so before we left we grabbed some bits from Lidl bakery (Aaron loves the vegetable pizza slices and I like the goat’s cheese and pesto focaccia) along with cheese, peperami sticks, yogurts in squeezy packs and fruit. Not our normal picnic food but quick, easy and not terribly unhealthy.




After lunch we followed the coast path back towards Bull Point lighthouse and Rockham Beach. There were steep paths and hundreds of steps going up and down the headlands. I’ve been working out recently and feel a lot fitter, but oh boy it was hard work! Aaron struggled but Tabitha has great stamina and steamed ahead of all of us!






Once we arrived back at the carpark in Mortehoe, we drove around to Woolacombe to treat ourselves to icecreams and waffles! Colin and I have been eating Big Chief waffles since we were teenagers doing beach mission, although we don’t often go to Woolacombe in the summer now due to the crowds of holidaymakers.


Photo overload!

The problem with not blogging for ages is that I end up with loads of photos to share! July has been a busy month with lots of family gatherings and outings.

We had a great morning with the home-ed group at RHS Rosemoor, doing a workshop on photosynthesis and food chains. Aaron and Tabitha already understood these concepts pretty well thanks to the Magic School Bus!





We had a big family gathering with two of Colin’s siblings and their families and his uncle, aunt and one of his cousins. It was a miserable rainy day (like most of this month) but after a lovely meal we went for a stroll down to the beach. Colin and Aaron seem to be genetically programmed to enter any nearby water and got completely soaked. Tabitha was more cautious but got her legs wet. Good thing I was expecting it and packed spare sets of clothes!








We met up with one of my mum’s cousins who was on holiday from Ireland. Afterwards we were browsing through the book section and Aaron found a great activity book. He read it to us on the car journey home and wanted to do some of the activities straight away, so we looked at our fingerprints and played with a non-Newtonian fluid.



Colin was forced to take some time off work before his redundancy so that they didn’t have to pay him extra for his holidays, but it was nice to have him around more. He spent a few days working really hard at making an amazing wooden sword and scabbard for the children.





Last week the home-ed group met at Tapeley Park for a permaculture workshop. We tasted unusual plants, made insect hotels, picked flowers to arrange into bouquets and the children ate lots of berries!



There have been three birthdays in the extended family recently so there have been several family gatherings. Tabitha, as the most willing and responsible cousin, often gets the job of holding her baby cousin on rides. The children also had a lovely time at another cousin’s party at Atlantis Adventure Park. Afterwards we stayed on with Nanny to explore the maze and play crazy golf.



My parents are having their house renovated so we’ve had a few days out with my mum to help her escape the chaos! One day we took a picnic lunch out to RHS Rosemoor. The children took their walkie talkies so we split up and had fun trying to find each other. Then mum sat with her knitting and I sat with my crochet while the children played. (My mum made Tabitha’s dress, isn’t it lovely?)












We’ve also enjoyed a walk to Velator pond, planted some flower seeds at the allotment, been on a bike ride to the park and visited the beach.









Colin is now redundant so the next few weeks are rather uncertain. He’s had a couple of job interviews already but hasn’t heard back yet, and I have an interview for a part-time job next week. We are trusting that the Lord will provide for all our needs. On the positive side, the children have really enjoyed taking it in turns to go out and spend some one-on-one time with him, and hopefully we’ll be able to fit in a few family outings too.

Aaron’s journey to reading


As a child I was an avid reader. I was fortunate to grow up surrounded by books; we lived in a big three storey townhouse with bookshelves in almost every room and more boxes of books in the attic. By the time I left primary school, I had finished almost all of the books in the children’s section of our local library and had moved on to the adult section. My secondary school English teacher gave me an exemption from having to keep a reading log because I would often read several long books per day!

Reading was really important to me and therefore I just assumed that my children would be early readers. When I first started considering home education, I was very much focused on the academic side of things. I even dabbled with the Doman method for a while, wanting my children to be smart and advanced. Over the years my perspective has changed and I’ve come to realise that early academics are not necessary or important. I still believe that Doman was right when he said that babies and toddlers can learn to read, because the human brain is an incredible thing, but academic skills are just a tiny part of holistic child development.

Of course, learning to read at a certain age is important in the school system because otherwise children get left behind. I remember chatting to a worried parent of a just-turned-4 year old whose reception teacher said he was behind with his reading! But there is no critical age for learning to read. In other countries children don’t even start school until they are 7 and have caught up or overtaken their British counterparts in just a couple of years. Amongst unschoolers, you will often hear of children who learnt to read much later than the norm but became proficient very quickly. There’s an interesting article here about how children can teach themselves to read.

My experience with Aaron has been somewhere between the two extremes. When Aaron was three, he learned the entire alphabet (names, sounds, upper and lower case) in less than a week from a video on his Leappad. By the time he was four and a half he could read some simple CVC words, mostly thanks to playing Reading Eggs on the computer. When he was six I bought him the Biff, Chip and Kipper reading scheme. He liked the stories and gradually worked his way through the six levels over about a year (that’s the equivalent of less than one book per week). It wasn’t until he was seven that he seemed to grasp the purpose of reading and actually want to read. This realisation came about because of road signs, shop signs and a computer game called Scribblenauts, which requires reading in order to solve problems. The leaps in Aaron’s learning have always happened when he is motivated by something that is interesting and meaningful to him.

Over the years I have read him picture books and chapter books, used Montessori materials, played I spy, sounded out words together and done many more educational activities. But in terms of regular, systematic instruction in reading, we’ve really done very little. There have been times when I’ve tried a slightly more structured approach and encouraged Aaron to do some reading every day, but whenever he became resistant I let it go. I never pushed him because I figured that being put off reading would be far worse than learning to read a bit later!

I have no idea how Aaron’s reading level would compare to that of his school peers; I suspect he would be behind some but ahead of others. There are still lots of longer words that he can’t read (but also lots that he can) and he hasn’t yet started reading chapter books by himself (although he probably could), but he does now read fluently and well. A while ago he was very much into jokes, so I bought him a joke book and he spent the entire day wandering around the house, joke book in hand, reading to us. A few weeks ago he offered to read me an entire chapter from the Bible while I was washing up. When we sing one of his favourite choruses at Sunday School, he eagerly puts his hand up to read out the first few lines.

I can honestly say that I’m not in the slightest bit worried about Aaron’s reading, or about Tabitha learning to read. They will both get there eventually in their own time. I’m really looking forward to Aaron enjoying some of the wonderful books that I loved as a child, but there’s no rush. He has plenty of years of reading ahead of him and in the meantime I will carry on reading to him!