Jane Elizabeth Firth

Writing Guru- I can't stop myself! There's so much to write about... It started as a diary of my life. I sold my house of bricks and mortar for a narrowboat and now live a life afloat, on the beautiful British waterways. My creative mind was suddenly free! 

The Porthole Peeper is my website where you can follow monthly fun, five-minute reads about my journey- at -a lifestyle blog. I began writing this personal blog in May 2020.

Recent Published Content 

Publish-Contena, Medium, Linkedin- Pulse, and my website on WordPress which hosts my regular lifestyle blog. 

Posting links and reels and content to social media- Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, Tumblr, Mastodon, Minds, and Medium; I have written about lifestyle, nature, home education, health, and history.

Contena® Academy Completionist

Contena® Academy Alumni

Contena® Academy Certificate of Completion

Niche- Lifestyle                                                                                          

Take a look at my website at Here you can read about my off-grid, travelling lifestyle. It's where I document true adventures to share with you; living on a narrowboat. 

I enjoy reading other blogs and learning about remote living and travel topics, history, science, and topical interests. I love an adventure, like my recent trip to a Polish wedding!

Published Works

How to Explain magnet Fishing to Your Boss.                                  Surely Giants Aren't Real? Or Are They?                                                    New Writers Welcome- Medium 2022.

Are slugs Really Smart? Contena FrontPage, Halloween Mar 2020.

The Porthole Peeper- Monthly, Off-Grid, Lifestyle Blog Posts at 2020-2022.

The Art of Home Education- LinkedIn Pulse.


As a Primary school trained teacher I've had lots of experience with young children with special needs as well as home-educating my own daughter. I have loads of great advice to offer- a thorough understanding of planning and teaching with the school curriculum, childhood learning theories, and a wide array of learning resources. 

I can share some interesting views too- having completed many essays on various subjects. I am excellent at research and have written and presented a white paper on Gifted and Talented Provision in the educational context. 

Today I deliver part-time private tuition from my boat, an ESL Teacher to China; I've done this for four years.


I gained a Hons. degree in Fine Art-time based media in 2001. I have studied Art History, Life Drawing, Print, Mixed Media, and Photography during my studies. I have studied video art from its beginnings to date and have edited and produced installation artwork for both public and private exhibitions. I worked collaboratively on art projects and edited a film trailer. As part of my course, I have both written about and taken part in group critiques on a variety of artworks, films, and media. I finished my degree with a 2:1 in narrative single screen work- a diaristic story in film. I also enjoy illustration and continue to paint within my local art club. These experiences enhance my ability to produce well-designed and illustrated written work.

Moving forward

While studying I was a full-time mum too- Phew! Now, my children have flown the nest and life is at a much slower pace. I use this quiet time and the peaceful surroundings of nature and the canal, to write content and blog.

As a Writer 

With a very reflective and creative mind, and an interesting lifestyle- I always have a new idea to scribe. My artistic side helps me to communicate both visually and in words, but the quality of my writing is always my goal. I have naturally evolved into a remote career in content writing. After completing The Strategy of Content Marketing, UoC, I'm confident to enter the freelance working landscape. 

This is the view at the top of the Half Dome at Yosemite National Park (Elevation: 8,839)
And the feeling after the most beautiful hike I've ever done and when your dream become finally true.
A Limestone Quarry and a Slap in the Face.
Do you have Internet problems sometimes?

It is so incredibly annoying, isn’t it? To discover upon rising early with good intentions for the day ahead, you can't get on with the immediate tasks facing you because your connection dropped off the radar!

Try living on a narrow boat with an off-grid mobile Internet connection and you might have to learn the art of standing on your head, performing a double flip backwards and fixing back on the arms and legs that just snapped off in your angst, as you stretch and groan under the strain to reach into places you should never go! Pushing wires through vent holes- hot with rage and ranting about the inconvenience of a technological world!

Or you can prepare your choices in advance, (like me- the second time this happened). 

Chill and chow down on a blade of grass, while you accept- life is a little different now.

I test the Internet when we first arrive in this lovely woodland location. My faithful connection speed checker registers ‘4 mbps’ then dives downward to zero, as I trot up and down the canal towpath this way and that, thrusting my phone high in the air while trying to recover its performance. But far from showing a much-desired upwards surge; its revival is not going well. The great lime-stone quarry surrounding me, which blocks my mobile signal, is here to stay.

Photo on unsplash

This drives me to my pre-planned but early morning evacuation- a car ride out to my Mum’s house a few miles up the road, so I can begin and end my workday. For an on-line teacher, today it’s a necessity! So in my hurry I push the washing up to one side, grab my bags and slide the damp, cold hatch cover back. Then step out in my giant muddy boots with my neat laptop, zip up the boat awning and tread, a little tentative, across a wet and slippery pontoon- so as not to start the day sprawled on my back with a dislocated limb, or worse- a dive into the icy canal.

Photo on unsplash

The first perfect pure white snowdrops light up a wet and early, dark morning of deep puddles and sloppy wet mud on the woodland pathway. 

They are tiny lamps showing the way. Popping up like magic-they weren’t there yesterday. 

These graceful and drooping teardrops forecast aloud, ‘Spring is here, at last!’

A little further on the path a yellow daffodil, just one.

Wet, fresh, alive, but with a sting! This is living! It is as if I have woken up from, a long unconsciousness, like the slow uncurling foliage. What was stagnant is now invigorated, and the icy wind, the frozen wet rain, runs down my face, waking me up with uncomfortable urgency and slaps me with glory and life!

Photo on unsplash

Would you contemplate such an early stroll in the frosty, dark rain, living in your typical house? No! Not likely! Unless you’re one of those jogging junkies! Now, don’t catch cold, you slip back down into your safe, silk, warm duvet and dream some more! However, you might miss a resplendent moment, like this early awakening- a memory I cherish-now scribed as by an artist with a sharp pen, etched deep into my mind. 

My story is, each day a new, broken from regime and conventions, ever changing; exciting! But my way of life is also inconvenient, uncomfortable, unpredictable, risky, and scary too. 

The woods are dark and silent, as all alone and with a torch I stumble.

But choice of occupation, is the crux of many a would be boater. Retired people live their dream. Holidaymakers out for a day or two, sip wine at the stern, while he dons a sailor’s hat and she sits at the bow, reading a delightful book. But a few of us are still young enough to be working. So this takes some planning and a little creative thought.

Photo on unsplash

I was cheerful to leave behind the 8am till 10pm duty of teaching for half salary, although why did it take an illness to persuade me?

Photo by alice dietrich on unsplash

My artistic personality, however, is now driving me to more exciting places- writing, reading, illustration, painting… I’m learning anew, like a child with so many questions.

I notice this in my companion too. He follows a more mathematical pathway, but we are both sitting here, tapping away at keyboards, fine lining an illustration or writing with new found enthusiasm, sitting next to the calm and peace of the water, wildfowl and trees. Here, work is pleasure- as productive as honey bees in a hive and as synchronised as two calling songbirds returning to each other their repeat serenades!

Newfound knowledge opens a door- 

I’m a two-year-old again! All those questions-What? Where? Who? How? When? Which? Why?… It’s FUN! 

What is this zeal that lay dormant so long? Is it the divine force of God, who placed us on a boat because he knows us better than we know ourselves? 

A child’s dummy- finally, I trust but part reluctant, now that I'm all grown-up- I drop it into the bin. 

The rug pulled from under our feet. The warm duvet with rude manner- whipped away. Thrown abrupt into a world full of risk. I ask, is there a way to both work and play? We pull in our ropes and tug-tug along the canal to the mantra of the two-week stay deadline. Resilience doesn’t form while we are warm and too comfortable. It grows through overcoming discomfort or pain- stretching us and moulding us into something more chiseled and refined.

Photo by Damir Spanic on unsplash

The school education system emphasises, ‘a need to build resilience in children’- alas, resilience is nowhere to be found! Instead, we wrap our little ones in swathes of cotton wool, giving in to their faddy protests and stamping tantrums. They grow but don’t grow up! They expect the world to give to them, but don’t give back. 

We cultivate a virus-a culture of blame and greed. Law suits and protests. It is a generation with no direction who bury their heads deep in the sand when the tiniest of trouble arises! 

A ship of fools sailing this way and that, before a calamity befalls them and they sink. They can't swim!

Next time your Internet connection drops out, take some time out to consider your own connection-with yourself. Relax, your regular day crashes down before you, but there are greater things to discover! Yes, have your tea and toasted cinnamon bagels or a smoky bacon butty. Then, get up, get dressed and go out!

Do you still recognize that feeling as a small child long ago- when you first woke? You leap out of bed and dash to greet every morning- you’re excited!- but not on a school day. A great big adventure! 

So embrace- Your New Dawn! Look, what’s out there? Chat to friends and neighbours-not online. Feel both your pain and joy- 'OW! Whoopee!' When did you last laugh? Take some risks. How far can you jump? Can you fly yet? What’s on your bucket list? Life is brief, as a momentary breeze blows through the tall, winding mountains; here, then gone! What do you do? 

Climb on the wind as it passes, quick, let it take you by chance, to unexplored places. Photo by Sanjeev Kumar on unsplash Or you can be like a fish in the canal, who every once in a blue cloudless sky, pops his head out to see sunlight. 

He never knows the world outside, beyond the tank that confines him. Living in this dark water bowl, he knows not of the freedom we possess, and as they drain the stagnating pond, he flips and flops around, thrashing his tail and curling up-a resistant demonstration, until someone kind, lifts him out and places him in fresh waters. 

And so, I finish the washing-up. The sink plug pulls out with a glug and a gurgle, the water circles in a clockwise direction, diminishes- runs out and as I gaze down the deep black hole I wonder…

What kind of life will you choose?

Jane Elizabeth Firth

5 minute read
Published on September 9, 2020
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Two Pairs of Wellies and a Bovine Beast.
Delicious, creamy, nutritional raw milk is the best! 

My digestion has improved a hundredfold since starting to drink it. To Find somewhere that sells it close by, can be difficult. But the other week, when passing a farm close by, we saw a sign advertising milk and investigated.

We pull into the courtyard of a small farm. An old farmhouse, sheds full of contraptions I can’t name, all covered in cow poo and that sweet smell of hay and cows, that carries a bite to the nose! A quick knock on the farmhouse door brings a shout from a distant room, then a man of rugged stature, ruddy complexion, and pleasant welcome, appears.

“Yep! Can I help?”

“Hi, do you have any raw milk? We were looking to buy some.”

"Half an hour too early!" We ask if we can hang around until they milk the cows.

Hang around a working farm too long, looking idle, and they might offer you a job!

“You can help bring the cows in if you want it quicker”, says the kind farmer. My husband embraces the invitation a little quicker than expected. Was he joking!

Stood in the farmyard in a pair of sandals, I look incredulously at my husband for being so forward. “Only got these, and I didn’t bring any wellies!”, stutter I. “No problem!” he returns. 

So generous, he drops two pairs of giant wellingtons before us both. Are you serious, I think? “That’s very kind!”

With no socks either, I slip my small, pale, Cinderella like bare feet into the over-sized, green, rubber boots, the feel of old straw and dried cow cake between my toes. I am excited, but somewhat grossed out at the same time. Our new friend points us toward a gate leading to a distant field, and off we go! 

“Will they chase us?”                                                                                                      “Nah, the’ only tend t’ do that when they’re on heat”, he declares! As unsure of myself as the cows are of the two newcomers (for the cows know we’re strangers), we wait behind the gate. 

The farmer chats to us about our whereabouts and undoes the creaking gate behind which he pats one cow, now standing in a size-able group before our narrow, muddy path. Close up to these great bovine beasts, they eye us with suspicion, nervous now as they leap away from us and our invasion through their territory. I feign confidence as we trudge past, sliding around in deep cow poo and mud and the stench, in the heat of a hot day. How can milk be so pure and so white?

I stumble on, hurrying past the slurry pit, which we are told someone once fell into, and on through another gate and into the first green, grassy field. 

In bare feet within over-sized wellies-I now know I have a hole in my right boot through which deep cow poo seeps into, coating my bare foot in a warm, thick, oozing liquid coating. “Err!” 

I stumble across the path of shortest grass, over solid, hard ridges of earth-baked in today’s tropical sun. My sloppy wellies rub at my ankle with every step. And the cows stop chewing grass, a momentary interest, the newcomers! They moo, and move away from me- reluctant, rebellious, pawing the ground. “Don’t go so quick!” I call out to my husband.

They flick the flies away with their cow muddied tails, stand- and stare. 

I've never enjoyed being the spectacle of an audience and I am a bumbling moron here; they know so much more than me, about farm life! Another slimy slipway, another metal gate. Black and white hulks grouped together, my husband well ahead, now gone! I squeeze past, “Hello!” I say. The shit gets deep here as it again slides between my toes.

The next field is extensive and the herd, spread out wide. I Scan the horizon and spot the farmer’s wife in the farthest right corner, an ant-a small dot- far away. My partner had taken the middle, so let’s take the left. 

I find a route close to the rough Hawthorn hedge. Thoughts of running from an angry cow rush through my mind!

The hedge too high and the barbed wire too sharp, I see myself athletic like, dive over the hedge at a low point and forward roll, jumping up onto my feet. Reality halts my run away thoughts with a jolt, as one might come back from time travel, I remember my age!

As I consider being cornered between cow and hedgerow, my best option is to be assertive; to march right through the middle of the group. I fool the cows, but to be honest, they’re more interested in the sweet hay than me.

With boots rubbing sore, I wince, as with the afternoon sun zapping my energy, I at last reach the last cow. She tears up substantial chunks of sweet grass from its roots and tears it off with a flick of her great bovine head. 

She’s the rebel, the adventurer, and I see a Spanish bull in my mind- head lowered, ready to defend its corner. Then I’m glad, as today we are among ladies!

The cows know their routine and why we are here. I walk behind her and clap my hands. “Go on!” She could overpower me! Instead she moves forward, slow and reluctant, but obeys. One by one, they rise, lifting their heifer weight onto awkward, limp legs. Inquisitive, playful- spurring each other. Friendly! Intelligent?- I’m not so sure. 

I let out a deep breath, smiling and confident now. I’m herding cows!

The farmer’s wife often does this alone. It must take her forever to bring in an entire herd! I’m tired already! How unfit and undisciplined I have become. How hard farmers work for so little! 

My ankle is sore with every step and I limp along like one of the old cows, who bides her time and takes advantage of my husband’s soft heart and an extra bite of grass as she goes. I copy the farmer’s wife, watch and learn. Not shouting, waiting for them to drink, not rushing them. She is fair, calm and kind.

As the cow’s group at the gate, a wandering cow lured by the longer sweet grass at the edge, distracts my attention for a moment. When I turn back, I’m too close to a cow’s behind and step back quick! If she lifts her tail, watch out!

A bottleneck forms where the path narrows, the ladies stand around. 

But three rodeos we are- skilled now-a team- we call out with clapping of hands and slapping of legs. 

A long slurp at the water trough. They each take their turn, moving forward at a leisurely pace. The farmer waits beyond to receive the herd, and I grin, glad to have helped. “How did it go?” he asks. “No calamities or spatterings?”

“Everything’s fine. It was great!” 

The cows move as an incoming tide, across the farmyard and into the barn. 

The farmer takes control and the cows know him well. He shouts and they move faster and jump into line. He’s the boss, giving simple instructions and like cows, we too, obey. I lean over a pen to see a proud mother of two calves. “One’s adopted”, he says. She doesn’t seem to know.

The sore on my ankle and the cow muck being rubbed into it, isn’t a happy combination. I slip off the large wellingtons, “What a relief!”- to reveal a bare foot caked in thick mud and wet cow poo. 

“Oh dear!”, says the farmer. An audience stood on the concrete yard and all staring at my foot with wrinkled noses and disapproval. No one offers a water tap so I hop to my car and scrape it off with disinfectant wet wipes, kept for killing Covid.

My husband makes a straw bed for the cows while I’m invited to sit in the garden until the job’s done. Sipping warm mugs of tea, we chat about the pitfalls of milk production, the trauma and tragedy of Foot and Mouth, the dreams of a farmer who never wanted to be a farmer but had no choice, and living on a narrow boat.

Two very different lifestyles brought together!

Twenty-two generations of farmers behind him, he tells an emotional story, very personal and sad. “When the army took over to cull my cows, I was a ghost on my own farm. No longer the boss. No one spoke to you. It was the lowest point of my life!” This, after working a farm year after year, for no profit. 

Who else would stand up again after such a fall, and go on working, except the farmer? They belong to their way of life. 

I applaud them, for this is resilience, true tenacity!

With a clean silver jug, he fills it with natural milk. From this we fill our own plastic bottles. I drink a cup full-it’s sweet and creamy. He doesn’t want any money. “You worked for it, you’ve been great sports!” he says. 

We have to refrigerate it quick. Downhearted- kind of sad to go. “We had a great time, herding the cows and chatting!” “Come back anytime!”

New friends, better understanding, and a first time cow herder. Truly an adventure!

So spare a thought for the farmer, those resilient, hardworking and traditional folk. As you adopt a polar bear or protest about some other dying, endangered species, remember our own!

Jane Elizabeth Firth

6 minute read
Published on September 25, 2020
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The Art of Home Schooling.

I remember when my husband and our youngest made a putt putt boat together. It feels cool to see something you made tugging around the bath water under its own steam. This led onto them designing and making a model hovercraft which flew fast- a little unpredictable upon its homemade skirt of air. We test ran it on a large puddle formed by tidal flooding-great fun! She studied science while gaining the confidence and the approval of a Dad.

Father and daughter together-their relationship closer! Happy and relieved as the unfair and unhelpful expectations of state school lift from her heavy shoulders and with it the strain on her health- we allow her to recover at her own pace.

So where is the theory for home education?

Piaget- a well-known children’s theorist says, ‘Children learn in different ways at different ages-they are little researchers'. 

They learn by using their senses to explore how things work.’ Do we allow our children enough scope to explore the world using their senses, most days spent behind the school gates?

Hours spent together, discovering history around us-limestone kilns. Researching questions- how, why, when? Discussions- about past and present religion, politics, money, failed systems-values and beliefs-talking about the real-life problems of the times and considering solutions..

Fruit picking, jam making, cooking-passing on family history, learned knowledge, and sharing skills. You have lived and you have much to teach, not just from the life lessons you have learned, but also the knowledge passed on to you from generations past.

Children need interactions on a one-to-one basis and these conversations will assist their learning, according to Vygotky’s ‘Zone of Proximal Development.’

Did you know that children learn a huge amount first, from their parents?

Educational theories show this. Our children’s brains are hard wired, they are born this way, to observe and copy their parents. Reaching school age, not as empty vessels waiting to be-filled but as individuals with a wide range of experiences, social skills and understanding about the world.

Arnold Gezel argued that the heredity of a child determines their readiness to learn, and teaching children before they are ready is a mistake. Each child is unique. So why do we group school children by age into set groups pressured to meet set standards at the same time?

The art of learning together...

As children grow their social circles also expand. Dewey says that interacting with other people, working both alone and cooperatively with their peers and adults is important-we need to help children to live and exist in our society.

We ride out on the car ferry to meet with a home-schooled group on the sunny lake. We canoe around the small islands there-splashing and shouting! Then cook food on the lakeside beach. Pooling skills, helping each other, carrying canoes, collecting wood, erecting a den, lighting the fire. Making friends with strangers of all ages, gaining resilience and overcoming the restraints of a long illness.

Howard Gardner believed arts and creativity to play major roles in children’s learning.

I have read about the schools that found the courage to re-build all their lessons upon creative experiences. Asking questions, performing investigations, measuring results, drawing conclusions. They transform a poor performing school on the verge of being closed down to one with a waiting list and outstanding results.

Gardner also says learning happens when in social settings and contexts and from peers. Do you notice how children love to be with other older children- how they follow, look up to and engage with them? Good schooling offers an opportunity for this- ‘Peer to Peer Learning’.

Socialising with peers and the wider world is key to a child’s happiness.

This is a challenge during frequent lock-downs and isolation, but also for sick children. An only child, or an individual restricted by health problems, can become depressed or rebellious even, when not able to spend time with friends.

But schools often struggle to find realistic social settings outside the school gates. With large class sizes, ability grouping, supervision needs and the expense and distance of travel and lodgings; outings are an occasional experience. So education exists in isolation from the changing outside world; it is always left behind and running to catch up.

Home schooling groups are essential for home educators!

They often meet together with various age groups. Crafting, experimenting, going on outings and problem solving-together. Maybe one day in the forest, another at a science or art museum, in a working environment or in a simple village hall.

It’s important to engage with other children of different ages! But also with adults of varied backgrounds and skill sets. Parent's muck in together to provide interesting activities and everyone knows each other well. The home schooled, I notice, develop more confidence and a mature attitude- leading to mutual respect when speaking to strangers and adults.

If we prevent children from meeting together or making friends for many days, we might risk damaging their mental health and social development. How do we feel during a lock-down? They should be able to socialise, even if it has to be in small groups during challenging times.

Math and English tuition -"Help!"

Sure, we had to teach Math and English too. The Little Arthur Independent School, provided excellent quality coursework to GCSE Cambridge standard. We posted assignments and received them back in the post, marked. You can take GCSE exams with them later. It was unfortunate that my daughter was too ill to make the journey. Though she had a solid foundation on which to build.

Growing up with home education.

By sixteen years old, her health had improved enough to attend college, GCSE’s in English and Maths passed the first time. Then following a two-year course in Computer games development, and an ‘A’ level in Mathematics, she passed college with flying colours and went on to University to follow Computer Games Design. Now a full fledged Computer Programmer- making the move to work and survive in London, I take my hat off to her - What an achievement!

The fear of failure-doing things different-a long illness-all overcome!

I guess being educated at home didn’t do any harm!

But what is it you are trying to teach? 

What does a child really need or want to learn? What are they naturally good at? Broad experiences are best at a young age. Its a challenge when adolescents are undecided in their direction. So work experience in the real world can be helpful here.

Comparing home education with state education; it was easy for me to see the holes!

One is resilient, with a positive outlook. A problem solver with creative solutions. The other is-negative, impatient, quitting. The first is confident, independent and unique. The last is easily led- bowing to peer pressure. dependent on others and follows safe and mass uniformed opinion. An ability to love, trust and respect versus questioning-integrity, suspicion and insecurity. Building up- Knocking down.

Would I do it again?

Yes, absolutely! I know both my children would have thrived. At the very least, I would find my children an education that resonates with the qualities discussed. Who knows what the future will bring? But the damage of a bad state education-I wouldn't take the risk! The extra effort is worth it!

It’s easier to home educate in the younger years but as children become adolescent, as they draw away from you towards their peers, their social life is key. Home education groups at this age are few. But if more people chose this path then this could change. And a small group can continue with a meaningful education where large organisations are shut down.

I guess what I want to say is chill out, don’t panic about children getting behind! One can learn valuable lessons during tough times. They will find novel ways to learn-and when they exhaust their curiosity near home, they will venture further.  

Learning doesn’t stop at three thirty p.m as the school gates close!

Can you show them creative ways to succeed and the resilience to bounce back? Guide them, show how to love, tolerate, be-kind and respect others. Give it some time. Listen-let them have a say. Take time out doing something fun together. Talk to each other. They’ll tell you what they need, but sometimes it’s time to let go. There is no perfect recipe. You do your best, that’s all!

Or, you can just be- ‘Another Brick in the Wall.'

Jane Elizabeth Firth


5 minute read
Published on September 28, 2020
Teenage girl homelearning homework on a macbook in the family kitchen
The Home Schooling Adventure Begins!
A recent internet search for info on home schooling proved very disappointing!

This is understandable when you face the serious and somewhat daunting task of educating a child at home. The obvious first search will be for some reputable tutoring program or a trusted tutor. Someone who can take all your problems and questions and just like magic- Abracadabra! - Your home schooling worries vanish!

It’s of no surprise then, that the very next questions that register close to the top of Google’s search results are ‘Affordable Home Schooling’. Putting your hand in your pocket to shell out hard earned cash is a painful and often unreachable goal for most of us!

Thrown in at the deep end!


I discovered home education, along with my husband, in a moment of crisis. My daughter was too ill to manage school life. We found ourselves subject to a school only concerned about attendance figures and offering no suitable provision. An alternative education began- two half days a week, in an old school building facility catering for excluded children with emotional and behavioral needs. The bar set so low- we decided we could offer a better choice!

As a trained teacher, a mother and a home schooler, I feel I have some amount of expertise to draw conclusions from- I’ve experienced both camps.

No doubt you will need to know the answer to a torrent of questions from, ‘What are the rules?’ ‘What daily lessons should I teach?’ ‘Are there any home education groups out there doing this?’ or ‘How do I measure progress?’

You might, as you search for help, come across headings like 'An A-Z Guide...', a 'No 1 # Provider' or 'No Cost Home School Resources', but if you are true to yourself, right now you feel like you are crossing a minefield of unknowns, right?

Add to this potent cocktail- Covid 19 and six months of school closure..

You can’t see straight and tomorrow is too far ahead to even consider!

No wonder so many people have developed drinking problems! These are unprecedented times which make for an uncertain future for your children’s education. Jobs are at risk, incomes being slashed and borrowing is through the roof! 

With bored adolescents, botched exam results and police efforts to disperse your ever partying teenagers! It is not unusual to see news headlines appear at the front of your search results, with key descriptors like- ‘Despair’ and ‘Frazzled Mum’!

So when I first scour the internet for answers on Home Education, I realise that the top search terms just reflect the mess and confusion we are in! They don’t lead us to a good place, but to chaos! Where is the creativity? The enjoyment of learning? The success stories? Not one interesting description I see!

Something has to give!

One thing my husband and I learned early on was that you can’t both work full time or perhaps even part time. One of you or both of you has to give time up to support your child’s education. But your children are your future, more precious than gold! And remember, your children might be your carers one day. 

If you don’t take care of their learning no one else will care as much as you! 

It's not the end of the world, well not yet. Sure, taking a pay cut is not always possible. Perhaps you’re a single parent or struggling on a low income. But for those that take the leap, there is an adventure waiting! 

Don't be afraid to get creative. Ofsted inspected and failed schools in tricky catchment areas- are known to have turned around their bad results and reputations to become over subscribed schools of outstanding performance. How did they do it? Creative learning put at the heart of all lessons, out performs previous teaching methods. 

So what is Creative Learning?

Its fun and memorable! You might wrongly think it has to involve paint and an easel, but don't worry! Creativity is also a broad term for asking questions, doing an investigation, finding different interpretations. It's messy sometimes. And it's fine to make mistakes because analysing results, solving problems, presenting and making something new- is how we learn. Creativity is -as the pulsing heart is to the blood in your veins. These are higher order skills and essential for life and jobs. 

Getting out and about

Challenging circumstances and restricted access to public buildings may make educational and social trips out, difficult, but there's still plenty you can do. If you can still meet in small groups, social activities are a welcome break from the home. Children learn quick and willingly from their peers and usually love to engage with friends of a similar age. 

Learning together

Building relationships and developing social skills are just as important a part of learning. Team skills, confidence and general happiness and well-being depend on them. Meeting a range of people from different backgrounds teaches tolerance and respect for others. Travel and experience of different cities and cultures is great for this.

Climbing a mountain!

Resilience comes through facing up to fears, challenges or hardships and is hard work. It's like climbing a mountain but you feel fantastic when you reach the top! Getting up again after falling down- if you can show your children that you can overcome your difficulties, they will likely adopt your positive attitude, and creative skills will help you along.

So believe in yourself- who ever you are! 

You can educate your own children and you can do it well if you keep these building blocks in mind. What experiences have you got to tell about? What do you both want to know? Where would you all like to go? It's time to stop hiding in the house. Don't be scared, to be different.  Reach out to others and talk. Together we are stronger so take a stand! Make plans. Have dreams. Laugh. An adventure is waiting for you!

by Jane Elizabeth Firth

3 minute read
Published on September 28, 2020
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Are Slugs really Smart?

The slug is perhaps one of the most unlikable creatures on the planet, right? But maybe I can change your mind.. 

Oozing slime from behind; a sticky, nasty goo that won't wash off! I pick a long one up and it shrinks to half its length but twice its width, now making its self fat and squat. I feel the movement across my fingers and the glue that sticks my fingers together. It makes me want to vomit! An unwanted guest in the house-heading for the dish of left over cat or dog food kept on the floor. 

Photo by Daniel Jensen on Unsplash

In the dead of night they slither out of their dark hiding places with a slow persistence, like zombies that have woken up-still groggy from sleep. Yet by daylight, suddenly, they're gone! Just a shiny trail left behind. The detective starts work, but the slug eludes all!

This shell-less terrestrial devours your garden plants, fruit and vegetables at a speed equal to that of a hungry wedding party. In-fact, if you had bionic hearing, I'm sure you'd hear their loud munching all night long. Throwing egg shells and bark shavings at them won't deter them. So what's left to really love about this gastronomical slime ball of a gastropod mollusc?

Some animals delight in a diet of slug! 

Hedgehogs and toads are partial to the odd gooey aperitif. Foxes and badgers will partake in one or two of these culinary delights when desperate. Birds, of course enjoy feasting on a menu of variegated colours of slug.  Now Sir/ Madam, which cuisine do you prefer?  The garden slug -Arion Hortensis- the short one with the orange belly. There is the Great Grey- Limaz Maximus- or Leopard Slug, the longest of these creatures, who come with dark spots. Or you can feast on the Large Black-Arion Ater, who is a little shorter and is black or orange, but always with a black head. 

Photo by Jane Firth

I had an infestation of slugs in my garden once, so bad that on a warm summer's evening you often stood on several slugs mooching upon the doorstep. That was until we acquired two great big Aylesbury ducks. They run across the garden in anticipation at the mere sight of a spade in your hand. They ate the lot and never another slug seen out in public. Problem solved! Then there was the elusive slug that each night left its silvery trail upon the lounge carpet. But I could never discover it by day! I later uncovered it in the dark, edging out from the chimney. Oh yes, they can climb to great heights! 

Slugs are here for a reason!

I know it's absurd to consider this mucousy mollusc helpful in any way, but actually we do need them. There really are some benefits! I often thought they should be illuminated at night to emit some pretty design that lights up the garden. To display a light show for our entertainment, a selfish desire perhaps.

Photo by Aziz Acharki on Unsplash

Shared family include the Steamer Clam, the Giant Squid, and the Periwinkle. Indeed, the snail, the 'mini sledge', my children called them, or 'escargot' to the French, is eaten too, by notable people! But alas, not the slug. In defense of this poor gastropod, he is always up for a night out, and a beer with you! However your beer guzzling foe may not survive the depth of your can and unfortunately for him, he will succumb to a 'bitter' doom!

We can find antiseptic properties in slug and snail slime. 

Each night they arrive for their work on time, to slither onwards, an army devouring the discarded debris of humans- and their dogs, worms and fungi. Processing accidents and indeed purposeful mess, into much needed quality compost. (So please don't leave behind your dog poo problem in a plastic bag!) This slime is so squeaky clean that scientists collect it to make possible, new treatments for healing skin conditions. Slap it on! 

This sticky mucus turns out to be a blessing! Antiviral properties contained within it might be used to kill the M.R.S.A bug (a multi-drug-resistant bacteria) now rampaging our hospitals. Anti-fungal, antibiotic and natural additives are other benefits that the slug could bring. An infirmary full of molluscs! Does this sound like an episode of Dr Who or some sci fi horror movie? Yet it might be the future of medicine, and it is nearly Halloween!

Photo by Delaney Turner on Unsplash

I think slugs are smart too-I once observed them climbing up a post and sledging across a long washing line, to drop to a dish of rabbit food- pretty clever! Can we turn the slug into a hero after all? Perhaps a hand gel (it doesn't wash off so easily) to protect us from Covid? A throat pastel anyone? The slug has thicker slime than the snail, who instead has a shell to protect it. So here's the Crunch! - Escargot?- Off the menu! And slug juice here we come...!

Jane elizabeth Firth
Front Page
3 minute read
Published on October 13, 2020