Home Education in Scotland

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Home Education in Scotland

Source: www.freeimages.co.uk

We have been home educating (homeschooling), since 2007 when our eldest child was six. He had gone to nursery school for a year, and then primary school for one year. Our daughters have always been educated at home. Not having considered home educating before that time, I thought it would be good to write a post about home education in Scotland, partly to give information to other Scottish parents who might be considering homeschooling, and also to let people from other countries have a glimpse of how home educating in Scotland is similar or different to home educating elsewhere in the world.

Now I have the benefit of hindsight, and if we were able to do things over again, I would have aimed to homeschool our children from the start. However, as things are, I am so thankful that God graciously brought us to the decision to home educate our son, through circumstances that at the time were not all easy.

Legal Stuff

In Scotland the law regarding home education is similar, but not exactly the same as in England and Wales. The Education (Scotland) Act 1980 states ‘It shall be the duty of the parent of every child of school age to provide efficient education for him suitable to his age, ability and aptitude either by causing him to attend a public school regularly or by other means.‘ (Italics mine).

Here in Scotland, if a child is already registered at school, the parent(s) need to write to the local authority for consent to withdraw the child from school. This sounds more complicated than it is, and the Scottish home education support charity Schoolhouse has a lot of helpful information on their website on this, including a checklist of what to cover when letting the local authority know how you will be providing for your child’s continuing education.

If a child has not attended or registered at a school however, contacting the local authority in this way is not necessary.

Thanks to the help from Schoolhouse, we really had no problem at all withdrawing our son from school. We were asked to provide information on how we planned to provide for our son’s education with regard to various different categories, and once we had done this and the local authority had accepted it, we were able to relax and ‘officially’ start homeschooling our children.


During the summer holidays after our son finished his first year in primary school, after having found out more information about homeschooling and praying about it, my husband and I decided we would go for it. When we asked our son how he would feel about it, he was very enthusiastic!

We did not buy a huge amount of curriculum to start off with- I bought the Jolly Grammar Handbook 1, as this followed on from the Jolly Phonics reading and writing programme that our son had already been using in Primary 1 at school, and we were happy to continue with the same material- not because we had to do things the same as ‘school’, but he was learning well with it, and it was easy to use.

For maths at the start, we used the cheap maths practice booklets, like these ones, that you can buy in supermarkets and book shops, and I also made up worksheets for him. We read a lot of books together (which we had always done), and did unit studies on ‘minibeasts’, went for nature walks and took lots of opportunities for educational trips to historical and cultural sites, both with our local homeschooling group, and as a family.

Home Education in Scotland

Our family on a nature walk

As I read more about home education from authors that my friends loaned me, we added in techniques that I had heard about, such as narration or ‘telling back’ what the children had learned, and reading quality fiction on the same subject as a topic we were studying. I also downloaded a lot of free stuff from the internet, that other homeschoolers kindly shared.

Finding our new ‘normal’

We later bought curriculum for maths, history and science, as I found out about them from newly-made friends at the homeschoolers group we attended monthly, and in the past couple of years we have added curricula for geography and music.

I found books such as Sally and Clay Clarkson’s Educating the Wholehearted Child, Educating Your Child at Home by Allan Thomas, and One-to-one: A Practical Guide to Learning at Home Age 0-11 by Gareth Lewis helpful in working out how we would ‘do’ home education as a family.

We are probably what people describe as ‘eclectic’ homeschoolers, using a mixture of different curricula and styles of learning. I do particularly like Charlotte Mason’s style of education- lots of reading aloud, narration, nature study etc, but we also enjoy workbooks to a certain extent, and unit studies or lapbooks. You can find out more about different methods of home education here and here.

There is no legal requirement in Scotland to keep records of our schoolwork, but since withdrawing our son from mainstream ‘school’ 7 and a half years ago, I have continued to keep a simple spreadsheet with columns for each of our children and what they do each day that could be defined as ‘education’, (although of course this could really cover most of life!), in case the local authority ever want to see it.

You can see how we started our term after summer last year below. We were reading one of Caroline Lawrence’s Roman Mysteries Series, The Enemies of Jupiter, and after a guided tour of the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh, we began a ‘Government Topic’ in the run up to the Scottish Independence Referendum in September. As a family, our homeschooling is relatively structured, but we do not have a ‘timetable’, (more of a usual routine), and we are flexible about changing what we are doing when, if an opportunity comes up for a trip, or meeting up with another homeschooling family.

Home Education in Scotland

Our first week of ‘schoolwork’, 2014/15

What next?

Our 13 year old son is now at the stage of choosing the subjects he will study for the next two academic years- what would be called S3 and S4 if he was at a state school in Scotland, (the ‘S’ being for ‘secondary’). In the UK it is usual, although not compulsory, to sit exams at the end of each academic year for age 16, 17 and 18, in order to gain entry to college, university or the job market.

The Scottish Qualifications Authority has recently changed the system for 16 year olds to ‘National 4’ and ‘National 5’ exams, but 17 and 18 year olds still sit ‘Higher’ and ‘Higher Still’ exams. Unfortunately these SQA qualifications are not amenable to home educators studying them from home, due to their continuing assessment component, which would be marked by a teacher at school, but thankfully we are able to do iGCSE examinations instead, which are used in English and international schools, and in some private schools in Scotland. This is because most iGCSE results are based on the exam only, and do not require the pupil to submit continuing assessment. The home educated child can then sit the exam as an external candidate at an exam centre or a school that has agreed to it.

There is an excellent HE Exams Yahoo group for UK home educators where you may ask questions and take part in discussions on doing exams from home, and they have made a Wiki page with a lot of information on the different subjects and exam boards available to homeschoolers.

Home Education in Scotland

Source: www.freeimages.co.uk

Of course there is a huge diversity of different ways of homeschooling within any one country itself, and amongst all my home educating friends, there is a wide range of homeschooling methods used, which fit each particular family. You can see some Frequently Asked Questions and answers regarding homeschooling on my Home Education in Scotland FAQs page, including links to some of the UK homeschooling organisations.

This post had covered some of the details of how to start home educating in Scotland, and specifically how we do things in our family. How does homeschooling differ where you are from? How is it similar? Or are you a home educator in the UK? Let the rest of us know what homeschooling looks like where you live in the comments below.

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Cheddar Cheese Bread Machine Pizza Recipe

Bread Machine Pizza Recipe

This is our family’s favourite pizza recipe, which I have adapted from various pizza recipes that we have come across over the years. We often it have on a Saturday for our ‘family movie night’, and it is very versatile- although I make the dough using the breadmaker, you can make it by hand, or even just use self-raising flour or baking powder, if you are really in a rush!

The cheddar cheese makes this a bit more of a British recipe, but if you would prefer mozzarella, or another cheese, you can go ahead and substitute it.

To make this recipe a bit more frugal, all of the ingredients I used were generic supermarket ‘value’ brands, and the black olives were from Approved Food. They were unpitted olives, and when I googled how to deal with them, this video was really helpful. Only my son and I like olives in our family, which is why only part of the pizzas have olives!


Cheddar Cheese Bread Machine Pizza Recipe

Bread Machine Pizza Ingredients

Makes two 12″ pizzas. Preparation and cooking time approx. 1 hour, plus mixing and rising time in bread machine.

For the dough:

1 1/4 cup water (warm but not hot)

2 tsp sugar

1 tsp salt

2 TBsp olive oil (or oil of your choice)

3 cups bread flour (I use chapatti flour mixed with wheat bran, but you can use your preferred flour)

1 tsp fast action dried yeast

Add the ingredients to the bread machine in the order listed, (this helps to ensure that the dough mixes better). Put on dough setting. When the dough is ready, divide it into two pieces. Setting one piece aside, use a rolling pin to roll out the other into a 12″ round on a floured surface, then transfer to a baking tray. I use silicone tray liners to prevent the pizzas from sticking. Repeat the process for the second piece of dough.

For the pizza sauce:

2 TBsp Olive oil (or oil of your choice)

1 large onion

1 clove garlic, minced

2 x 400g/ 14 oz tins chopped tomatoes or pizza sauce/ passata

1 TBsp tomato puree

1 tsp basil

Salt and pepper to taste

Saute the onion and garlic in the oil until tender. Add the other ingredients and simmer for 15 mins. Spread on the pizza bases when they are ready.

For the topping:

3 cups grated cheddar cheese (or your preferred cheese)

Vegetable or meat toppings of your choice- I used sliced peppers and black olives this time, but we also like ham and pineapple, pepperoni or tomato, depending on what we have on hand!

Sprinkle the cheese then your toppings over the bases and sauce.

Bake the pizzas at 200 C, 400 F, or Gas Mark 6 in the oven for 20 mins, or until the cheese is golden and bubbly, then enjoy!


Bread Machine Pizza

What pizza toppings does your family enjoy? Do you have a secret ingredient that makes your pizza even better? Please share in the comments below.

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How Our House Move Turned Out

Dreamstime Stock Photos

(c) Zaliha Yussof | Dreamstime Stock Photos

As I have already mentioned, we have moved to the Scottish Hebrides islands. (That’s “heh-bri-deez”, for  those who don’t know!) We have been in our new home for six weeks now, so I thought I’d give an update on how our move actually turned out.

First of all, the entry date for our house was moved forward by four days. This didn’t matter too much, as we didn’t have anything extra planned, but I think psychologically it made us feel slightly more rushed!

The weather on the day of the move turned out to be damp where we were, and heavy snow at our new house :-O with areas of heavy snow on the 5 hour journey in between!

The (somewhat crazy) arrangements for our move were: my husband drove a hired van up to the new house on day 1, along with my dad and a friend, driving back to my parents’ house late that night; then on the following day, he drove the van again with our son and my dad, with me following behind in our car, with the girls and my mum. We did it this way because the access to our new house prevented us from self-driving a 7 ton lorry, and we have left about half of our possessions in my parents’ garage due to the dining room here being in need of major repair work (the walls need a damp-proof course put in, and that part of the house needs re-roofed).

Here is a photo my mum took on the journey:

House Move Weather

At least the road was clear at this point!

It was very beautiful, but I was a little nervous at some points, particularly when it was snowing hard and the snow was lying on the road. However, we are thankful to God that on both days we had safe journeys, and absolutely no problems at all due to vehicles, weather or injuries from heavy lifting.

It was a huge blessing to have had the help of my parents and my husband’s friend for the move, and it really made things a lot easier.

Moving House in the Snow

How things looked on our arrival!


On arriving at our new home, it was very cold. It took about a week of having the fire on all day (we have a wood and coal burning stove), to get the house nice and cosy. The stove heats our water tank, but for the first week we had no hot water and had to boil a kettle every time we wanted to wash the dishes. Let me just say here that I am so thankful to have had running water at all, and we do have an electric shower, so we were still able to have a wash! It really made us realise how much we usually take these things for granted, when there are so many people in the world who have nothing like these luxuries.

Moving House- Our View

Our View the First Morning in Our New House!

At any rate, the draughts and cold have forced me to be at least a little creative (!), making a draught excluder and putting some extra linings on door curtains using blankets etc.

We had a week’s holiday from homeschooling for the house move, and spent most of the week cleaning, and gradually unpacking boxes. There has turned out to be more work needing done in the house than we had anticipated, but my husband is very good at DIY, and personality-wise, is not the kind of person to put things off for long (unlike me- cringe!), so he has done a massive amount of work in the following 6 weeks.

The girls bedroom has gone from this:

Bedroom renovation

to this:

Renovating bedroom

to this:

Bedroom renovation

and the kitchen has gone from being a health hazard (!) to this:

Kitchen renovation

These two rooms were not ones we expected to have to renovate, so we still have a sizeable amount of work to do elsewhere in the house which we were expecting, but the jobs that have been done have made the house comfortable and useable, which is great.

I wrote earlier this year, when we were looking forward to Our Big Move, about  tips and advice I had been given or read about regarding moving house. Looking back now, I think the most helpful things we did put into practice were:

  • using disposable plates, bowls and cutlery – in hindsight, I would have bought enough for a whole week’s worth.
  • buying easy-to-cook meals- again a week’s worth would have made even more of a difference, especially as we ended up gutting out the kitchen.
  • having a ‘first night box’- this made finding the bare essentials we needed for our first night in the house much easier.

What we could have done better:

  • not brought boxes with us which are not really needed just now, and are sitting in the dining room unused, while some things I wish we had brought (recipe books, plastic food storage boxes, extra fiction books for the children), remained in my parents’ garage- maybe if we had numbered and indexed our boxes when we were packing, we could have avoided this, rather than just labelling the boxes with their contents.
  • we should have printed (or written) out in advance a list of useful phone numbers. We had no landline telephone or broadband for the first week (not long, I know), and no phone book or Yellow Pages, so setting up utilities and other services was more difficult, as we had no way of finding out the numbers, except by phoning my mum on our mobiles, when we had signal (sorry, Mum!)
  • preferably moved all we needed to move at the moment in one van load, as it was incredibly tiring doing the move over two days as we did, with the long distance involved. However, circumstances really prevented us from doing it otherwise.

All in all, the move went very well, and we have been settling in to island life, getting to know people, and finding out where everything is. We have been made welcome by our nearest neighbours, and have met lovely people at churches, youth events and even fitness classes (yes, really!), so that has made the transition a lot easier.

If you have recently moved house, what worked well and not so well? Do you have any great tips for moving house that I haven’t thought of? Please let me know in a comment below.

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Our Favourite Language Learning Resources

This post contains some affiliate links. Shopping through them won’t cost you any more, but if you buy something, our family will earn a few pence.

Our Favourite Language Learning Resources

As homeschoolers, or home educators, we really enjoy learning modern languages in our family. I have always been interested in the differences between English and other languages, so I suppose this has rubbed off on the children.

We started by learning French a couple of years ago, and have since added German last year. Due to our move to the islands, we have now started learning Scots Gaelic once a week. I learned Gaelic at Primary School and for one year at university, so I have some memory of the language and pronunciation, but I am very rusty, so I am refreshing my own learning alongside the children.

We have bought some curriculum for French- ‘Voici Une Famille Francaise’, by Rosalind Surtees, and the Speaking Our Language: Guide to Learning Gaelic  books for Scots Gaelic, but other than that, we use as many free resources for languages as possible.

Here is a selection of resources we have found useful:


French CurricullumFrench Curriculum







‘Voici Une Famille Francaise’ workbooks, by Rosalind Surtees – Christian curriculum for French (available to buy direct from the author).



Radiolingua language learning– Offers free podcasts and extra paid-for content, either direct from their website or via iTunes, for a wide range of languages. We enjoyed their ‘School Run French’ audio course, although we listened at home, not on the ‘school run’! Also offers ‘High Five French’, a video course for children.


Duolingo Link

– An interactive language learning program which you can use on their website or download an app.




BBC French – BBC’s Primary Languages website for French. Includes video clips and games.

Talk French [DVD]
and Talk French (book and CD) – both from BBC.  (I got these secondhand from a charity shop)

Orchard Toys Trouvons L’image –  audio picture match game and KLOO’s Learn to Speak French Language Card Games Pack 1 (Decks 1 & 2) from Amazon.

Picture Books from the local library


BBC German – BBC’s language learning page for German. Includes links to games, video clips, and BBC Bitesize, their online learning resources for Primary and Secondary age children.


Radiolingua language learning


BBC logo

Duolingo Link

German-Games.net – Free online German interactive tutorials and games.

Picture Books from the local library.


Learn Gaelic.net – A wide range of online tutorials, games, and worksheets for the Speaking Our Language videos.

Speaking Our Language Videos – Clips from the Speaking Our Language series.

Picture Books from the local library – our library has a particularly good selection of books, tapes and CDs in Gaelic, with it being in the Scottish Hebrides, but you may be able to get these on inter-library loan where you are

Please let me know in the comments section if there are any other free or cheap language learning resources you would recommend.

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Household Planner 2015

Since January 2014, I have been using a household planner. This came out of almost 15 years of having no real plan or schedule for when I would do housework, despite having had a chore rota for the children since our eldest was about 4 years old. I would just do the housework items that were my responsibility as and when they needed to be done. Or at least that was the theory. In reality, I would do things like cleaning the bathroom every week, but the things I considered to be of lower priority would get left longer and longer, until eventually they would need to be done so badly that I couldn’t stand to leave it any longer. Of course by this point it would have become a much bigger job. Dusting, and cleaning behind furniture would be cases in point 🙁

Cover from Strangers & Pilgrims On Earth

After reading encouraging posts by bloggers such as Strangers and Pilgrims on Earth and Amy Roberts of Raising Arrows I realised that I needed to be pro-active about planning when to do these less routine household tasks, otherwise they would seldom get done. The planner I ended up with is the free one from Susan Heid at The Confident Mom. She also sells a supplement of add-ons for the planner, which includes pages for planning gifts, weekly menus and household maintenance, to mention a few.

Household Planner Closeup

With this household planner, you have the option of printing out a pre-filled planner (this is the option I chose), or you can opt to print out a blank planner, which has the same spaces for each day of the year, but you would fill in which chores are specific to your own family, for each day of the year. I felt this would be too time consuming, so I printed out the pre-filled version, and I just cross out the chores that are not relevant to our household, such as ‘vacuum upper floors’ (we live in a bungalow!) or ‘clean 2nd car’ (we only have 1 car).

For each weekly page of The Confident Mom Household Planner there is a section at the top which allows me to shade in which days I have remembered to do certain tasks, for example ‘take vitamins’, ‘start laundry’, ‘get moving’, and ‘personal quiet time’. Particularly with the ‘personal quiet time’, I do not want shading in these circles to become a legalistic “I’ve ticked the box, so I’m a good person” type of thing, but I have found that with my personality, this sort of accountability works, and I certainly need that for the ‘get moving’ category, to see how much exercise I have been doing!

I hole punch my planner and keep it in an A4 ring binder. Although Susan Heid’s planner is a colourful one, I printed it out in black and white, purely to save colour ink, and I have used the lovely Home Management Binder Cover from Strangers and Pilgrims on Earth as my front cover, as I really like the vintage look to it, and the JR Miller quote. I have re-used an old binder, so it is perhaps not as good looking as it could be, but it does the job 🙂

Household Planner 2015

You can see from the photo that I also keep a monthly calendar on the left hand side of my binder, facing the household planner for each week. In fact it is really supposed to be a 1 week homeschool planner, which I printed out from Money Saving Mom for free. I decided not to use it for that, and so hole punched it on the ‘wrong’ side so that I could reuse it as a calendar to see what is coming up over the next month for our family. You will also see how much (or perhaps how little!) of my housework I actually did that week- can we blame it on the fact I was not in my own house at the time?!

Household Planner Dividers

The other thing I have done (not my own idea!), is to use dividers, so that I can easily find things in different categories. At the moment I’m not really using this function of my planner- let’s face it, we just moved house 3 weeks ago, so the priority is to get the basics done- but you can see that in the preparation for our move, it was useful for me to have separate sections of my folder for things we would need to buy, items I wanted to make sure we didn’t pack away, and Christmas planning, as we were going to be spending Christmas at my parents’ house.

Please let me know what you use to plan household tasks (if anything!), and if you have any extra tips!

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Beginner’s Sewing Project- Draught Excluder

* Warning- Experienced and Accomplished Seamstresses Look Away Now! *

Homemade Draught Excluder

Let me begin by saying, I am not gifted in sewing. I will have a go, and I have been keen for a long time to make homemade furnishings and other crafts, but I am not very skilled or delicate in this regard! However, in the event that someone else is reading this who is in the situation I was in when we got married (i.e. artistically and aesthetically challenged!), perhaps this post will be of help.

Our new house is a traditional Scottish highland croft house- stone built, and at the moment quite draughty. My husband has already made huge progress on damp and draught-proofing the house, but in the mean time, I have been putting up door curtains with blankets sewn on behind them, and I have made a draught excluder for the front door, which needs repaired.

Step by Step Instructions to Sew Your Own Draught Excluder:

1. Measure the width of the doorway. Make sure you add a couple of inches to this to allow for seams, and the material stretching over the stuffing.

Fabric for Beginner's Sewing Project

2. Measure out the correct amount of your chosen fabric to match your doorway (I had been given a fairly large piece of thick fabric with Latin writing on it, from a kind customer of my husband’s, before we moved), and mark on the fabric with pencil or chalk.

3. To make a nice wide draught excluder, measure 12 inches wide, and again mark the fabric with chalk or pencil.

4. Cut out your fabric using sharp scissors, fabric sheers or a rotary cutter. You should now have a large rectangle of fabric, 12 inches by whatever the width of your doorway is.

5. Fold the fabric in half lengthwise, with the pattern on the inside.

6. Pin one of the short ends and the long side, leaving the other short end open, to allow stuffing to be inserted.

Draught Excluder Instructions

Click to enlarge instructions.



7. Sew the pinned sides leaving a half inch border outside your sewing. Be sure to go over each end of your stitching, to make sure it doesn’t unravel.

I used a sewing machine for speed and neatness (I already mentioned my lack of skill in sewing by hand!), but you could sew it by hand if you don’t have a machine.

Sewing Project in Progress

8. Snip off a small triangle of fabric from outside your seam, at the corners of the small end you have sewed. This will allow the stuffing to get completely to the ends of the draught excluder and the corners to sit properly.

9. Turn the fabric the right way out again and stuff with something cosy that will keep the draughts out! If you have shop-bought stuffing or batting that is great, but I cut some leftover blanket from my curtain lining job into strips, and used that.

Stuffing for Draught Excluder

10. Fold the edges of the open end inside the draught excluder about half an inch, and pin them shut.

11. Machine or hand sew the end closed, removing the pins as you go, and making sure you go over the start and end of your stitches so that it does not come undone.

12. Place your newly finished draught excluder in front of the offending door- it should now be a lot less draughty!

Homemade Draught Excluder

The finished draught excluder! This door is a bit more photogenic than the broken door with duct-taped cat flap that I am actually using it for!

In future I would like to post on more Beginner’s Sewing Projects. Please comment below if you have any ideas or (gentle) constructive criticism!

You can download a PDF of the instructions for the draught excluder sewing project below, if you would like to print them.

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Ways Our Family Saves Money

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British coins

Source: www.freeimages.co.uk


I am not an expert in frugality or being thrifty by any means, and I don’t do extreme couponing, but over the years, there have been several areas in which we have developed our own habits and ways of saving money. Most of the following, I have gleaned from helpful friends or blogs that I like to follow, but I have recently found lots of useful tips on Pinterest! Here are some of the ways our family saves money:

1. Make homemade as much as possible.

I am still learning how to make things at home. Often I have been surprised that I am actually able to to make a homemade version of something, or that actually tastes good! Currently we make homemade:

  • Bread (although I do use a breadmaker)
  • Most main meals!
  • Washing powder
  • Fabric Conditioner
  • Marmalades, chutneys and jams
  • Play dough
  • Toiletries and beauty items
  • Cards and Gifts
  • Haircuts!

Obviously it takes more time and effort to make homemade versions, but it is (usually) cheaper. To make homemade bread more cheaply, I buy sacks of chapatti flour from Tesco, as strong bread flour is so expensive, and add wheat bran to this (which I got from Approved Foods), to make it healthier.

2. For Non-Food Items and Clothes, Buy Secondhand or Get it Free.

We have found that often secondhand items are in such good condition that they look new, (although I am willing to accept the less-than-perfect look, I realise not everyone else is!)

Good places to buy secondhand are:

  • Charity shops
  • eBay
  • Gumtree
  • Preloved
  • AmazonFree items:
    • Freecycle
    • Freegle
    • Our previous homeschoolers’ group has a ‘Giveaway Table’ at each meeting, a great way of sharing used books, clothing etc. with other homeschooling families.

    We also purchased a foot measuring gauge from Startrite Shoes, so that I can measure the children’s feet and buy the correct size of shoes secondhand.

    3. Extra Ways to Save Money on Food Shopping

    Saving Money on Food Shopping

    Source: www.freeimages.co.uk

    This site was recommend by  Angelic Scalliwags blog a few months ago, and since signing up to it, I have definitely saved a lot more on food!

    I already order my food online and buy generic ‘value’ brands on most of our food (although I do like to buy fair trade tea, coffee, bananas and chocolate, and organic beef, which are obviously very expensive), but mysupermarket allows me to save even more, not only by comparing prices between the top 11 supermarkets in the UK, but also by telling me if something I usually buy could be swapped for a similar item which is currently on offer.

    Say I usually buy Asda Smartprice Butter at 98p, but their standard butter is now on sale at 87p, mysupermarket will show ‘swap and save 12p’ when I click on my usual butter. This means that although I am shopping online, I will still always see the best deals. I then ‘click and collect’ my order from the supermarket, which is free.

    • Order from Approved Food

    A good friend let me know about Approved Food a couple of years ago. They sell foods that are near or past their ‘best before’ dates, and are therefore cheaper. You pay the same delivery charge up to a certain weight, whether the box is full or empty, so it is worthwhile filling a box to it’s maximum weight, which you can keep an eye on in the sidebar.

    Sometimes when I have a look on Approved Food, they only have junk food or other things I wouldn’t normally buy, but I have often found things like dried beans, wholemeal pasta and wheat bran on there that are much cheaper than I could get elsewhere, so I have stocked up on them.

    • Buy in Bulk

    I do not do a lot of bulk shopping, but items I will buy a large quantity of are lentils, dried beans, nuts and seeds and flour (the chapatti flour I previously mentioned). Obviously I will only do this if I have room to store it, and the unit price is actually less than a small pack.

    I have been able to find these larger packs of food in some cases in the supermarket (as in the case of the flour), but otherwise I have ordered from Amazon Subscribe & Save or Approved Food. I have friends who shop at Costco in Edinburgh, or at cash ‘n’ carry stores in other cities in Scotland, but so far we haven’t travelled that far afield to buy food 🙂

    4. Earn Vouchers to Spend

    One of the biggest ways I save on what we would have spent is by earning vouchers to spend on what we want to buy.

    I am a member of various survey companies, for whom I complete online surveys as and when I am able:

    I have tried other companies before but these ones are the companies I prefer, as they do not send me too many surveys, or a lot of surveys on topics that are irrelevant to me, which I would get ‘screened out’ of after a few questions, therefore wasting time.

    I take part in Shop and Scan, where I scan any food items I buy each week. This only takes me slightly longer to put away my shopping than otherwise, and is a fairly low-input way to earn vouchers. You can apply to join Shop and Scan here.

    From these and other studies I take part in, I use the vouchers I earn mainly to buy books for the children from Amazon, but also toiletries and occasionally for home and DIY items in other shops.

    5. Use Comparison and Cashback Sites

    I know some people find this a hassle, but I switch our companies for telephone, broadband, utilities, home and car insurance every year.

    It takes a bit of effort each time our current contract is up, but it saves hundreds of pounds every year, rather than allowing our deal to revert back to a standard or even higher tariff at the end of what we were originally offered. Using the comparison sites such as Go Compare, moneysupermarket.com or comparethemarket allows us to find the cheapest deal.

    I have also received over £300 cashback over the past 5 years by buying products and services through Top Cashback (we have also previously used other cahback sites such as Quidco). Sometimes the cashback is only a few pence, but other times if I am buying a ‘big ticket item’ (not often!), or switching our utilities, the cashback is tens of pounds. It is only worth it if the cashback will make the item cheaper than any other good deal I’ve found through a comparison site, of course.

    6. Use the Wealth of Free Resources for Homeschooling (and Homemaking!)

    There are so many free homeschooling resources we have benefitted from since we started home educating in 2007, I couldn’t possibly list them all here (or even remember them, more to the point!), but here are a few of the most helpful I have found:

    Free Online Home Education Resources

    Free ‘Real Life’ Homeschool Resources

    Free Homemaking Resources

    So these are some of the ways have discovered to save money as a family! Please let me know in the comments section if you have some other ideas for families to save money.

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Moore Family Films Freebie

We have enjoyed watching Moore Family Films over the last year. So far they have five films to download or buy on DVD, and we particularly like to watch them because they are about, or feature, Christian homeschooling families.

This weekend they are offering one of their films free to watch online- More Than Maple Syrup. You can watch it on their website for free until noon EST, Monday 23rd February.

Maple Syrup Moore Family Films

40 Acts for Lent- Living Generously

I’m a day or two late here, but just found out from a friend about the ’40 acts’ challenge for lent, from Stewardship. It gives daily reflections and simple challenges to carry out each day to encourage us to live generously and compassionately.

As a family, we have not tended in the past to ‘do Lent’ in a big way, but we have sometimes used Lent prayer guides in the run up to Resurrection Sunday (Easter), including those produced by charities and designed to get us in the ‘giving mood’. However, this is the first time I think that I have seen practical challenges to complete for Lent, so I am looking forward to this.

You can see the trailer for the 40 acts challenge here:

Please let me know if you decided to sign up to 40 acts, and what you did…

Encouraging Our Children to be Outward Looking

Encouraging Our Children to be Outward Looking

What I mean here by encouraging our children to be ‘outward looking’ is looking outside myself, my wants, my interests, my enjoyment, my fun and even my education/ career, to others. This doesn’t mean that we don’t teach our children how to take care of themselves, but just that in our society there is an overwhelming emphasis on satisfying self, so we want to encourage them to be first of all, focused on God who created us, then on others and what we can be doing to help them. Recent research has even found that people who volunteer to help others are happier and may live longer.

We don’t want to raise children who are ungrateful for the huge opportunities and comparative wealth we have here in the UK, (even though some here would consider us to be towards the lower end of the income scale), or to have no idea of the huge difference that there are in cultures around the world.

Here are 6 ways we encourage our children to be outward looking:

  1. Praying for Different People Groups and Countries in Our Daily Bible Time
Encouraging Children- World Watch List Map

Open Doors UK’s Kids World Watch List Map

Before breakfast my husband reads the family a passage of Scripture, but after breakfast and chores, and before the children begin their written schoolwork, I have a Bible and prayer time with the children, using some sort of devotional aimed specifically at children (for example, we currently print off Postal Bible School lessons, or for a shorter devotion, read Tony Hutter’s book ‘The Milk’s Been Stolen Again: 52 Spurgeon Stories for Children’), followed by a time of prayer for family, friends, current items in the news, and a specific country or people group.

The children take turns choosing the country we pray for. For example, on Thursdays, it is our youngest daughter’s turn to choose, so in the past we have asked her to pick a country on the globe (yes, slipping some geography learning in there!), then I would read out a bit about that country from Operation World, and a few appropriate prayer points.

Currently, we use the  Children’s World Watch List Atlas poster (a list of the 50 worst countries in the world for persecution of Christians) from Open Doors UK, and when she has chosen the country, I will read out the section on that country from this year’s World Watch List booklet before we pray.

2. Material World  book, by Peter Menzel

This is a coffee-table-style book with lots of large photographs, which pictures people in different countries around the world, outside their homes, with all their possessions. It includes details about each family’s daily life and general facts about each country. It also has special throughout, such as food around the world and toilets around the world.

Although slightly dated (it was published in 2000), we have found this book to be helpful in showing our children how priviledged they are in many ways, and also just how other cultures do some things differently. (There is one photograph of African women dancing which contains top half nudity, in case your family would avoid this book or censor it for that reason).

There are some more books of this type that are on my ‘Wish List’ at Amazon, that I may consider buying in future:

What the World Eats, by the same author, Peter Menzel.

If the World Were a Village, by David J. Smith

3. Watching Selected News Clips

If my husband and I see a news clip online which we think would be suitable for the children to see, for example this one about children in Malawi recovering from flooding, we will bookmark it for the next time we are all using the laptop together. Obviously, this will often lead to further discussion, and maybe finding out more about what we watched from other sources. We also watch documentaries, for example on BBC iPlayer, from time to time, which look at other cultures. The BBC’s ‘Wild China’ programme last year was a good example of this.

4. Reading Widely

Another way to encourage our children to think more outwardly is simply by providing them with a wide range of quality books for personal reading. As I have mentioned already, we are a family of bookworms, so this is not too hard, but we also have a family read aloud time after Bible time each morning, and I try to pick a variety of books from different time periods/ cultures/ social settings for us to read.

Patricia St. John’s books are particularly good at giving the children an idea of what a different culture is like, for example in North Africa or the Middle East (particularly in Star of Light and The Secret of the Fourth Candle). We have also read about, amongst many others, Slovenia and Yugoslavia during WWII and the Communist period in Of Whom the World Was Not Worthy, by Maria Chapian, (although I had to heavily edit this as I read for graphic descriptions).

5. Lapbooks and Special Projects

We have found that a good time to learn about other countries is when doing a special project or making a lapbook for schoolwork. You can find lots more information about making lapbooks here.

For example, for the 2010 Football World Cup (or soccer, if you prefer!), the children made lapbooks and included information about some of the different countries that were taking part. We also did this for the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. This is also a time when we might look at the art or music of a particular culture, or try examples of their food.

I couldn’t find a photo of our cross-cultural lapbooks because of our move, but here are a few of the lapbooks we made during our Highland Clearances topic last year:

Encouraging Children- lapbooks

The lapbooks our older two made


6. Fundraising and Giving

By fundraising and giving to a worthy cause, our children get personally involved, and want to know more about where the money is going. We started this by filling shoe boxes for the Blythswood Care Christmas appeal, (similar to Operation Christmas Child, run by Samaritan’s Purse each year), first through our church, and later together with our homeschooling group. The children enjoyed choosing items to give to the recipient of their box.

Later we used a Push the Pedal fundraising pack from Gospel for Asia UK to organise a sponsored cycle. This raised enough money to buy several bikes for national pastors in Asia, and the pack included activities that the children used to learn more about why this was needed.

Gospel for Asia UK Button

Our two eldest children went on to organise their own baking and table-top sales, as they now had more understanding of the great need there is for us to be willing to share what we have. At the moment we keep a glass jar in the kitchen for Barnabus Fund’s ‘Children of Courage’ campaign, so that any of us can add to it throughout the year. We have cashed-n our coins to the bank 2 or 3 times so far, and with the size of jar we have, managed between £30 and £40 each time.

Several times over the last year we have used Open Doors UK’s photocopiable template for making cards to send to Syrian children. You can see on our template below (unfortunately I had just sent off the most recent cards our children have made before I thought of taking photos), that there is a space for the name of the child writing the card, and a message in both English and Arabic.


Encouraging children- Cards for Syrian Children Template

Open Doors UK’s Cards for Syrian Children Template

Finally, we also made homemade Christmas cards in November to send to British Armed Forces personnel who are serving abroad, through Support Our Soldiers, and they kindly sent us a certificate afterwards, and said that our cards had been included with parcels sent out to Afghanistan. No matter  what my opinion is of the politics of the situation, I think it is important for us to show our appreciation to those in the Forces, and again it gives the children another opportunity to have an outward focus.

How do you encourage your children to be outward looking? Kind comments are welcomed below!

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May be linked up at Making Your Home Sing MondayModest Mondays, Art of Homemaking Mondays, Mom 2 Mom Monday, Good Morning Mondays, Monday’s Musings, Thoughtful Spot Weekly Blog Hop,  Titus 2sdays, Teaching What is Good, A Wise Woman Builds Her Home, A Little R & R Wednesday Link Up Party, Hearts for Home Our Simple Homestead Blog HopFaithful at Home FridaysFellowship Friday, Grace and Truth Linkup, and Faith Filled Friday.


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