When we chose to move to the country, one of my main aims was to teach the children as much as possible, through real life, hands-on experiences.

Recently we have been so incredibly busy with the renovations that I was wondering how much learning had been going on, outside of their book work? I paused today, when I realised that, without me trying to plan learning into their week (which I find hard, as I’m more of a winger than a planner), learning was constantly happening.

This week though, we sadly found blood in our chickens’ poo, that was following the loss of three of our new chickens in fairly rapid succession. Our new battery hens appeared to be a dud batch, but after a quick Google search (yes we are Google farmers), we found out the cause. It appears that our hens have coccidiosis. This is apparently normal for hens, but our weak and stressed battery hens had not become immune to it and have thus succumbed to the bacteria. Phil quickly found the right treatment, and hopefully our hens will soon be right as rain. This has been a great opportunity to learn a bit of science, whilst taking care of our lady layers.

Our piglets are doing well, but we have had to take special care of one of them. Wilbur, as he has now been named, was not thriving, after a week or so, his front right leg just wasn’t working properly, and so he couldn’t get to the milk. As the week went on he was not getting better and was rarely with the rest of the litter. We decided that if we didn’t do something, then he would die of starvation. We got him a bottle and some pig formula and very soon he was happily sucking. After a couple of days though, his mother must have sensed his change in smell, and we saw her pick him up in her mouth and throw him against the wall! We quickly picked him up, before he met with an untimely end.

We are keeping him in an old dog crate, lined with straw, with a heat lamp over him. He has milk four times a day and we also take him out a couple of times a day for a play and a cuddle. He is now thriving and his leg is healing and he’s now ready to start on some dry pig food. We’ve done some maths, by weighing him and his sibling, to compare weights, we’ve calculated his formula quantity and his mum’s dried food quantities, as she requires more food now her piglets are growing. The children are loving hand raising the piglet and are learning the responsibility of taking care of him. They have all understood that he is being raised for meat and thankfully they all seem ok with that.

We’ve also been discussing bringing in the pumpkins and the onions, to dry out in the greenhouse. This reminded me of Mr McGregor in the Peter Rabbit books, as Peter’s eyes watered when he was around the drying-out onions. I hope to extendthis activity to improve the younger children’s language skills, by reading the Beatrix Potter stories, which are full of wonderfully rich language, with words like ‘soporific’, which are sadly not found in modern children’s literature.

We are up to our eyeballs in building work, plaster dust and tradesmen’s radios blaring out from various corners of the house. Trying to keep Katie safe is a constant challenge, as she is just so curious! The main part of the build is complete, but there is still much to do. This week our kitchen will start to go in, which we are very excited about. Washing up in the utility room is quite a large extra task, and I shall be very grateful when we have running water in our kitchen and a dishwasher. We’ve really made the most of our new patio and have been able to have a few friends round for dinner and afternoon tea.

Much practical learning has also been gained, as the children are also being constantly exposed to all the skills of the tradesmen who are doing the renovations. They are often found shadowing the plumbers, joiner, electricians or builders and asking lots of great questions, often starting with why?! Thankfully all the workmen are extremely patient, and they even seem to enjoy the children’s curiosity.

Today we decided to try our hand at making Rosehip syrup, from our own Rosehips. We used honey as the sweetener, and it was generally popular. Apparently it has 20 times as much vitamin C as an orange, and should help to fight off the winter bugs.

I’m currently being reminded that seasons of life are not just dictated by the weather, but also the current situation we find ourselves in. We are currently in a very busy season but thankfully God is providing lots of natural learning opportunities, through his creation and through his gracious provision of our home, which is making it much easier to find learning opportunities around every corner.

During these busy and often tiring, but blessed days, I look out on God’s creation and remember,

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness. Lamentations 3 22-23

A week last Saturday our piglets arrived, all 12 of them. It’s taken a while for me to post an update, because I took 6 of the children on holiday, with lots of other Christian home educators, last week, and I’m still busy unpacking and catching up on the washing.

The day of the piglets arrival was a normal sunny Saturday and at just before lunchtime Christopher suddenly rushed up to the window calling, ‘the piglets have arrived.’ Initially I misheard and thought the biscuits had arrived, but realising that a Hob Nob lorry was sadly not outside our house, I came to and figured out that Mrs Piggy (Posy) was busy delivering her first litter. The family rushed to the scene and found Posy seemingly fast asleep, with 3 piglets already born, 2 had found there way to the milk and the third just needed freeing from his cord. After that 5 more arrived in quick succession, with a mixture of oohs and aahhs from the children and the occasional ‘that is just too disgusting!’ Phil felt well prepared for piglet delivery, having delivered our last baby single handed. The process was very similar, but after piglet number 8, came a curve ball. The placenta came out and we thought we must be done, but then another piglet followed fast behind. We were now confused, as this was a significant diversion from our human birthing experience! Another 3 piglets then arrived, the last requiring lots of rubbing and silent waiting, as the children willed it to live like its brothers and sisters. Within a few minutes it had started taking little breaths and the children could be heard breathing their own sighs of relief. I knew our home ed learning experience was in full swing when Matthew ran into the kitchen asking, ‘can we please have a bin liner for the placenta?’

This was what we wanted when we came to live here. We wanted our children to experience learning in a hands on way, a way which enabled all their senses to memorise their experiences.

Soon after the birth, Posy stood up and we moved her behind her farrowing bars. These bars are there to enable her piglets to get to her, but to prevent her from squashing them. This worked well for a few days, but her desire to get to her piglets clearly overcame her when we discovered that she’d broken through into the main pen. Thankfully by this time all the piglets were a bit larger, and she was more adept at avoiding sitting or lying on them.

I must say, I am finding them totally captivating. Whenever I have a moment, I am to be found just watching them. Their antics are endlessly entertaining and stories about them are shared around the dinner table, as we discover many of us have been secretly sneaking off to piglet gaze. Today Elizabeth shared how the piglets had argued over their milk, over who should get which spot, and 3 of them had gone up to mummy’s face and told her in no uncertain terms that this wasn’t fair. Elizabeth said their grunts almost sounded like ‘no, no, no!’.

We plan to sell about 8 of them and raise 4 for meat. Will we be able to sell and eat these gorgeous little grunters? I have no doubt we won’t mind, as they won’t be cute for long and they’ll soon lose their novelty, as the amount of mess they make grows. I’m very thankful to Madeleine, who has taken on the job of pig mucker-outer. She loves to muck out and care for horses, and this is the nearest we can currently get, so she is getting in lots of practice. We are considering loaning a horse for her, if one becomes available.

After the huge excitement of the piglets on the Saturday, we spent the Sunday packing, as I had arranged to take the youngest 6 away to Wales for a home ed holiday, with lots of friends. I thought it would be hard work, taking them on my own, but as we currently have no running water in the kitchen (the water is in the utility which is the other side of the house), it seemed like a good idea to get the children out of the house. Phil needed to stay here, as Jonathan and Madeleine needed to go to school, the animals needed care and the builders needed lots of questions answering. As it turned out, it wasn’t really hard work, as I had loads of help from some lovely teenagers at the camp, and I ended up coming home refreshed and rejuvenated.

Phil on the other hand had discovered how much there is to do at home, even without all the children. We found the experience to be really helpful and it gave us both food for thought. We have been running on empty for a while and have barely stopped in the 2 years, since we arrived. After a few strong words (which we rarely have) with one another and some prayer, we realised that we had been failing to listen to God’s best advice and rest one day in seven. So yesterday we took a real rest, oh my, it was good. After church, we ate lunch, went for a family walk and then came home for a cup of tea, it was bliss! Phil is a very driven man, whose favourite question is, ‘what do we need to achieve today?’, but sometimes, the best thing we can achieve is to rest, and yesterday, we began to learn about that.

‘So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation.’ Genesis 2:3

If you would like to receive email updates, please click on subscribe, blessings, Vicki