Thursday, August 16, 2012

Keeping up momentum...

We are in full saving the pennies mode, and it's going pretty well :)  Neither Lee nor myself smoke, nor do we drink alcohol (apart from the very very odd celebratory drink on occasions), so we can't cut back on the usual cigarettes or alcohol.  We have stopped buying magazines (I am a bit of a magazine junkie at times, loving all the newer craft mags that have hit the shops of late, as well as the country living ones), and cut right back on the chocolate and sweets for all of us.  The kids have agreed that moving to our 'dream' home with the freedom that such a property provides is worth every sacrifice we have to make.  Callum even said he was ok with not buying a new Skylander figure for a while - now that is REAL commitment to the cause, that lad is obsessed!

We are pretty much going without any non-essentials.  We've been meal planning and cooking food from scratch for a long while now so not much saving can be had there, although we do try, and I have started to bake more desserts to save money.  Tonight's pudding was Banana and Raisin Flapjacks served with vanilla ice-cream. Cheap but ever so delicious.

It seems like I am spending almost every waking moment thinking.  I have so many ideas doing a merry fairy dance around my head, so many plans.  I've spent what seems like an eternity posting on message boards, forums, websites etc, begging and pleading to be given a chance to look after someone else's property.  I also seem to have spent what seems like forever fielding off spam mail and scammers that have replied to those messages, frustrating, infuriating, and, well, just grrrrrr!   I know that it will be a long long long time before we are in the position to own such a place (I don't like to say never, but...realistically...) so we have to rely on someone taking a chance on us.  My heart is yearning for it so badly, and I know it will happen, but asking for help is so alien to me.  I am usually fiercely independent, but that trait appears to have mellowed a little with age.  I know that to make this dream happen, we will need help in many forms - support and advice being just two.  I have even found myself doing something I never ever thought I would do and added a donate button to the blog.  That particular action took a lot of thinking about, and I shall try to explain my reasons behind it.

I have been writing Classroom Free for 6 years (previously had other blogs that documented the beginning of the journey, but I deleted them in a fit of tantrum lol).  Along with the postings and pictures you read and see, there is a lot going on behind the scenes so to speak.  I have been contacted many times by people wishing to seek my advice whilst they are travelling on their own home-education journey, as well as families just about to step out of their comfort zone and into the home-educating community.  I have supported people whilst their child is experiencing a bullying issue, and I have assisted people when they have had communication from their Local Authority.  I have written letters, made telephone calls, sent numerous emails, and generally put a lot of time and effort into ensuring that any home-educator that reads my blog can reach out and receive a supportive shoulder.  Over the years there has been an incredible increase in enquiries and I'm currently receiving on average 3 a day.  Some people are nervous about dipping their toes in the water and want to know more, whilst others have already taken the plunge and are seeking support.   Each of these emails are personally replied to - sometimes days later than they should be - but they are replied to.  I don't have any 'one size fits all' response that I roll on out when someone makes an enquiry, each one needs a tailor-made reply and that can often be a long one.

I remember only too well how it felt when I first made that decision to home-educate Chelsea and Joseph 9 years ago.  It was a pretty overwhelming time, with negative and positive comments, the feeling of sudden responsibility, and the 'uh oh, I could be messing up their whole lives here!" feeling.  I had numerous questions and was fortunate enough to meet a lovely home-educating family who went on to introduce me to one of the local groups.  From then on our contact net widened and I felt supported and not alone any more.  I will always be grateful.  Now I hope to offer that support to others, and am often sat up until the early hours of the morning doing so (right now it's 1.15am, I'm writing so late as bubba only crashed out 20 minutes ago).  Emails come in from all over the country - and the world actually - it isn't just local people in my area that get in touch.  That's a price I am paying for having quite a popular blog and I'm more than ok with that.  What started off as a personal journal to document our days for ourselves has turned into an inspirational diary for others.  I'm more than ok with that too.  I've had people say that they've found the blog because their local authority representative recommended it, or that their child's teacher passed it on.  I've even heard that a counsellor of a bullying victim passed on my details, as well as numerous home-educators passing the link around within the community.  As well as the blog, there is also the Classroom Free website.  This costs me £28 a year to host, and there is the additional cost of the domain name renewal.  I've had that site for at least 4 years and always paid for it myself - no advertising revenue or monetisation.

I've never wanted to go down the whole monetising the blog route.  I did once play with the idea of adding the google-ads thing, but I didn't like the look of them here and felt uncomfortable with their presence so they were removed pretty darn quick.  They changed the feel of the blog immensely - it seemed a lot less innocent and friendly, and more 'oh she's only blogging for money' like.  So now instead I've gone and added that ugly looking button on my sidebar.  This is because I just know that the blog readers will also benefit if we realise our dream.  I see it as a you scratch my back and I'll scratch yours situation.

Since talking about our dreams on here, I have received a fair few emails and comments from people saying "That is my dream too, but...."  I want to prove that there doesn't have to be any buts.  If we can achieve this dream, anyone can.  We are a family, living on a low salary, with too many children (I disagree with the latter of course, but it could be said).  Money isn't abundant, but we can change that.  We may not have the provisions or means to set up a new business, but we do have the capabilities to do something.   We can raise funds by selling things - I've made a start on listing items on ebay and have started needle-felting again.  We can sell our unwanted items at car boot sales or through the local newspaper.  Facebook has lots of local groups where people can offer their items for sale or wanted - great if you have larger items that are awkward to post.  Over the next few days we will start the clearing out process and that will keep the moving costs down to a minimum - some items will be offered on freecycle, some will be given to a charity shop, others will be listed on Ebay or offered for sale via Facebook.  We have so many clothes and books to get rid of, amongst other items, and every single penny created will be popped in the moving fund jar.

The Classroom Free blog will continue as it is, but with the addition of charting our dream process.  We will talk about home-education, our projects, our experiments, and everything else we do in our day to day lives, alongside the steps we have taken to achieve our dream, then on to the new chapter of vegetable growing, self-sufficiency and exploring new territory.  The Classroom Free main website will have an overhaul and become our following our dream site.  The HE stuff will stay of course, but in addition to that there will be the new chapter - from the start and beyond, with useful links, video blogs, and articles. Again, it's another passion of mine - and you have seen how much I go on about this home-educating passion huh?

Anyway, enough of the reasons and ratifications, the donate button is there for those that wish to use.  I don't expect anything of anyone, and I'm also providing others ways that people can support us if they want to - buying from our Ebay listings or choosing something I've created.  Just hearing the words "I'm so happy for you, you can do it" is wonderful in itself and spurs us on to achieve.  End of.

In other news, we thought our car was fixed (yay!), but it wasn't (booooo!).  We went to our nearest town (Newton Abbot) with no problem.  The car started fine, pulled away ok, drove nicely, and once parked it restarted immediately.  Fab we thought, clever Lee and his engine cleaning!  We talked about which filters we should replace first and thought that changing the spark plugs was a must-do job.

Lee had to go to town to run an errand, so me and the girls went charity shop browsing.  We only found one thing!  A fabulous horse book, all about the anatomy and movement, it was just 99p.  I did make Chelsea promise that she would read it as we were meant to be saving money not spending it, but it did look like a decent and useful book so we went with it.

We met back up with Lee and visited the library where I managed to find a few smallholding and veg growing related books.  I also found the book Nature's Child by John Lister-Kaye which sounds rather fascinating and well and truly on my wavelength.  If I find the other books to be of any use I shall mention those at some time too.

A quick visit to Asda turned Taisia into a tizzy tantrum performing mess.  It was such a shame as she had been so good throughout the day (nothing unusual there, she is a genuinely lovely happy child who is very easy to be around).  We had sung songs as we walked around shops and skipped where we were able.  Gone are the days when I was remotely bothered about what people thought of me, making my baby giggle is far higher on the priority list than appearing to be sane.

We had done the shop (not too many items), and were waiting in the queue.  Why oh bloomin why do they have to have a chocolate and sweetie section right next to where you stand awaiting your turn to be served? Scrap that, of course I know why.  It's to prey on our vulnerability at that moment.  We are forced to walk passed and wait in line, and as such, our children are forced to do likewise - only the chocolates and sweeties in their brightly coloured packaging are situated right at their height.

Now I know it could be argued that we are free spirits and we can actually say no to our children.  Point taken.  But, when you are already flustered from a not too pleasant trek around the store, where your toes have been stood on, your butt has been trolleyed more times than you care to confess to, and your invisibility cloak has obviously worked a treat as people have behaved as if they can walk right through you - well, forgive me for not wanting to start world war three with my 22 month old tired bubba.  She wanted chocolate and it was conveniently situated right at her hand height.  I lightly resisted... "Oh I don't think you really need that...." but could immediately tell that wasn't what she wanted to hear at that moment so today I chose the easier option of giving in instead of the game of 'wants to be with friends' we usually play (don't ask).  To cut a long story short, even my yes turned into a battle - she didn't want to put it on the conveyor, she wanted to open it there and then, she wanted to sit on the floor right in the serving aisle and eat it, etc etc.  In the end I had to scoop her up out of the way of others and carry her out to the car.  We were ok, she wasn't too upset, but I do resent this deliberate targeting approach by the stores.  Asda, you will be getting a disgruntled from Devon letter very soon, very underhand advertising tactics that are preying on the vulnerable - bad bad you.  Families are already paying a fortune for their groceries, I'm sure you really don't need that extra 70p at the check out.

To top it off, we got back into the car, turned the key and ..... nothing.  A bit of choked spluttering but not a lot else.  Darn, blast, grrrrr.  We sat for about 15 minutes until finally it burst into life and we managed to get home with no other issue than the warning light coming on for about 5 minutes then going off again.  Very odd.  Lee is on the case but I'm guessing that a) it will be complicated (that car is always complicated when it has issues), and b) it will be costly - right at a time when we are trying to save money.

Something is always there ready to kick you down huh?

You won't win this time though Mr Something, we will win, we are going to achieve our dream, so there!

Finally I will leave you with "Alice".
This little lady has been needlefelted throughout, and will look splendid on your seasons table display as she forages for goodies.  She costs just £8.50 (plus £2.50 for her transport to your home), and is available (at time of writing) from the Classroom Free facebook page.


  1. Have emailed you - and also passed on request for help or information on my blog. You can actually do this. We are living proof. Just don't take your eye off the ball!

  2. flip-di-doo-dah! Big decisions! Good for you. I hope something rears it's opportunistic head, you seem geared and ready for a big change, all of you. Thank you for emailing me by the way, we have been tied up with golfing so haven't been able to come along, pity - the crabbing thing really appealed to us....

    Love the needle-felting - stay focused! x