Birthdays the Frugal Way

Wow it’s been a really busy couple of weeks at the My Borrowed Planet house and the icing (literally) on the cake was both my girls having their birthdays this week.  Quite a few people have expressed their surprise (OMG!) at the fact there is only one day between each of their special days.  Yes family planning was not my strong point, but one thing I know is that birthdays don’t have to be expensive.

I guess I am lucky in a lot of ways.  My girls don’t expect a lot in the way of gifts – even my eldest who I must admit received far more presents in the 6 years before her little sister came along than she ever has since.  In fact, my 10 year old is now soo anti-corporate it makes me smile. She can often be heard exclaiming “How much? What a waste of money for a load of plastic rubbish!” when she sees adverts for the latest must-have toy on the telly.  My youngest is just happy, pretty much all the time.

I have what I consider to be a reasonably large budget for their birthdays of around £40 each.  Their gifts tend to be a mixture of new and second hand and naturally include a lot of the home school resources we will use over the coming 6 months such as games, puzzles and books.  By that time its Christmas of course so having their birthdays so close together actually works out pretty well.  Our extended family and friends also tend to give gifts that will enhance our play based learning curriculum so I’m really grateful to them too.  Crystal growing kits, flower presses and art materials are the perfect gifts and the girls are looking forward to a trip out to a rare breed’s centre where they will get to feed wallabies with their granddad as an extra special birthday treat.

The only downside to having two birthdays so close together is the slight overload of cake, but to be completely honest it’s not really a hardship.  Their dad made some amazing creations this year (he’s gotten so into baking since he’s been unable to work) and made the TARDIS console for my eldest and a pink Dalek for the littley.  They cost less than £3 each and tasted awesome (I must post some pics).

Of course, we should really be getting back into our normal homeschool curriculum today, but to be honest we’re all suffering with festival flu and are absolutely exhausted.  The weather outside is rubbish too so I thought I’d catch up with some blogging and let them spend the day playing.  After all, isn’t that what play-based learning is all about?  I will go and join them in a minute, just as soon as I finish this post.

I’d be interested to know, however, what you think of our low cost birthdays.  How much do you spend on birthdays and what do you get up to?  Do you think I’m an old meanie for keeping things simple or is it a refreshing change in today’s increasingly hectic (and expensive) lifestyle?  Please leave your comments below! x

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Read Alouds – The Homeschooling Glue

I absolutely love this post from Practical Pages about the importance of reading aloud with your kids 🙂

Practical Pages

It is the last week of our winter break and we have enjoyed time off the school schedule, but we have kept reading our read aloud each evening.

Our story is just too exciting to put down and my kids groan if I stop for bedtime.

Read Aloud books are like glue that holds our learning and journey together.  Even older siblings join the younger children to hear the story again – it is a treasured family time.

We pack read alouds for  travels.  When we travelled for over a year, I fitted all my homeschool essentials in one on-board travel case.  Most the space was taken up with books and a few other odds and ends.  Our stories were constant thread amidst the changing and uncertain scenery of our lives.  And despite  the lack of regular schedules, the read alouds kept us growing and learning…

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Success with Barefoot Books – The power of story and why we NEED more story tellers today!

Story Telling at Plymouth Volksfest 2012We had a fantastic weekend storytelling at Plymouth Volksfest 2012.  Four days of sitting in a field listening to some great local bands while my kids got to enjoy unlimited bouncy castles, face painting and craft workshops for free.  How did we get such a great opportunity?  Because mummy is a storyteller!

I’ve been story telling with Barefoot Books for over a year but this was our biggest event to date.  It literally came about after a chance conversation with one of Plymouths play leaders a couple of weeks before.  I’d mentioned that I had dropped some of my writing clients in order to concentrate on Living Barefoot and found out that a story teller was needed for Plymouth Volksfest. A quick phone call and we were booked for the weekend, and what a fab weekend it was.  I would say it was one of the most successful events I have done with Barefoot Books so far.

So what kind of stories did I tell?  As a Barefoot Books Ambassador I  have a fantastic selection of stories from around the world so I picked a few of my favourite anthologies and away we went.  Top stories for the weekend came from The Barefoot Book of Monsters (sadly out of print right now but available as a collection of early reader chapter books), Tales of Mystery and Magic and The Barefoot Book of Princesses, but there were a few surprises too!

For example, only one child had heard the story of The Princess and the Pea before! I couldn’t believe it.  It was one of my favourite stories as a child and one that I always used to play act when getting out of the bath (she was so wet that you couldn’t tell where her hair ended and the rain began).  Well we soon rectified that one and many more kids will be wondering about the royal museum where the pea is still on display.

Another shocker for me was that although the vast majority of children had heard the story of The Gigantic Turnip at school – not one of them knew the moral of the tale!  When asked why it was the hungry little mouse who got the turnip out of the ground every single one of them thought that it was because he was super strong.  Oh no, dear children, the mouse wasn’t that strong.  The reason the gigantic turnip came flying out of the ground when he joined in was because it doesn’t matter how small you are you are big enough to make a difference – and if you all work together you can do ANYTHING you want!

So goodness knows how they tell stories in schools (I’m soo glad we home ed) but it seems to me that whoever told them that story totally missed the point.  Stories are there to help us learn about the great concepts in life, to explore universal themes that transcend culture or religion and to help us to realise that no matter where we come from, as human beings we share a commonality that has lasted throughout the generations.

One thing I learnt this weekend was that the work I do is as important and relevant today as it has ever been throughout history.  Telling stories is how we connect as human beings.  Sharing them with others creates a special kind of life and energy that cannot be recreated through the commercialisation of childhood which is sadly so omnipresent in our society today.  The closeness and the intimacy of gathering a group together to share a good tale is something totally unique.   Despite all our modern technology and the ability to share information at the click of a button, nothing comes close to the experience of sharing a story.

Storytelling at Plymouth Volksfest allowed my whole family to have such a fantastic weekend.  I can’t wait until tomorrow when we’ll be doing it all again and taking the story tent to Freedom Fields Community Festival too.  We really need more story tellers throughout the UK, though, so if you’d like to become part of the Barefoot Community then why not join us as an Ambassador?  The starter kit is just £59.99 until the end of June which means you can be all ready with everything you need to make story time an integral part of your family’s life too.  Love Living Barefoot ♥!

Just some of the stories we told at Plymouth Volksfest 2012

The Story Tent before the festival opened

Sharing a story with mum after a whole lot of bouncing!

Find out more about becoming a Barefoot Books Ambassador!


Lifestyle Entrepreneur – So that’s what you call this work from home thing!

I came across this term the other day – Lifestyle Entrepreneur.  Finally I have a name for what it is I do, or rather why I do the things I do.

If I’m honest, my anti-consumerist, anti-capitalist politics have never quite sat right with the fact that, on the whole, I make a living by selling things.  Yes they are planet friendly, socially responsible, good quality things but they are things all the same.

However, the things I sell are also things that immensely benefit my life.  My kids benefit from having a good selection of books, toys, puzzles and games to play with.  I love the fact that I have a massive basket of books, toys and CDs on the floor for my 3 year old and a shelf full of more mature titles for my eldest.  It’s strewing at its finest yet all my business samples are easily accessible and (mostly) in one place, ready to be taken to an event at the drop of a hat.

As for the rather lovely collection of blue glass bottles that line my bathroom.  Well, they not only support organic farming and are largely fair-trade but all the products and even the packaging is manufactured in a little eco-factory in the UK so have a very minimal carbon footprint.   And I really do like having a nice moisturiser to use, especially as my acne prone, stress-susceptible, sensitive skin is looking a thousand times better now than it has ever done before.

At the end of the day I have always worked in sales – with the exception of working in catering for a brief period of time (the “spilling the last portion of trifle down a customer’s back” episode spelled the end of my Nigella aspirations).  I’ve worked in dozens of shops, done more than my fair share of telesales jobs, sold advertising space for an international merchant banking magazine (yes, really) and even used to sell roses in pubs and night clubs when I was saving money to go to uni. Do you know what? I was good at it too.

Even though this particular flower girl had a shaved head, a face full of piercings and a pair of para-boots on her feet, she used to shift around £200 of roses in a night.  How?  To be honest I have absolutely no idea.  It might just be because I love chatting to people and that at the time, selling roses was my only opportunity to get out for a night and go dancing. However I do remember one customer saying that the only reason he was buying a slightly manky rose from me was because I had “an honest face”.

Now I don’t really know what he meant by that, but I guess it might have been something to do with the fact that I really didn’t mind if someone bought my roses or not.  I’ve never been a pushy sales person who’ll say anything at all as long as it closes the deal.  If you don’t want what I’m offering, it’s fine with me.  There’ll always be someone else who likes it, and as I now only offer products that are ethical and in tune with my ideology,  I’m happier today than I ever was in any of my previous jobs.

Despite my politics, it seems that sales is my thing.  It’s what I enjoy doing and for some unknown reason I seem to be good at it.  However I’m really not one of those people who is motivated by making huge amounts of money.  I’m not saying I wouldn’t like to be better off financially than I am right now, but the thought of acquiring vast wealth really doesn’t float my boat.

Instead, selling things and running my own business allows me to earn a living while spending time with my kids and that is something far more precious than all the wealth in the world!  The fact that I get to support fair-trade initiatives, promote children’s literacy and empower people to live healthier lives at the same time is a bonus, and one that helps me to see that what I do is about far more than just selling alone.

I love the term “Lifestyle Entrepreneur” and I’m glad I discovered it this week.  It’s the perfect way to describe my aim of living a sustainable, happy, healthy life with my family while getting to enjoy some very nice things without it costing the earth.


Write your own success story with Barefoot Books – Starter kit special offer!

 

*** edited to say that you can now find out more about becoming a Barefoot Books Ambassador at www.barefootnaomi.co.uk

Just a quick little post here to let you know about this fantastic offer from Barefoot Books!  For a limited time you can join the Ambassador program for just £59.99 instead of £89.99 and receive books, puppets, puzzles and business tools with a retail value of over £200.  I’ve been an ambassador for 2 years now and Barefoot has become an integral part of our homeschool curriculum as well as a great way to earn a living from home by doing something really worthwhile.

Becoming a Barefoot Books Ambassador allows you to really make a difference in your community.  It’s not just about sharing amazing stories (although that is quite a big part of it).  You have the freedom and flexibility to run your own business in the way that suits you best – be that through parties, community events or running children’s book groups in your area.  The wealth of support and resources available means that you can even earn money from working as a story teller or by running children’s birthday parties.  It really is up to you what direction you take your business in.

Whether you just need to do a few extra hours to top up your tax credits, or you want to make a substantial income by becoming a sales leader or building a team, the Barefoot Books Ambassador program is flexible enough to allow you to achieve your goals, big or small.

You will have the benefit of being part of a global community of parents, grandparents, teachers, writers, storytellers and artists. There are plenty of opportunities to connect with others and encourage children to explore new worlds, while instilling a love of reading, art and stories that will last a lifetime.

As I said earlier, usually the Barefoot Books starter kit is £89.99 but for a limited time new ambassadors can begin their Barefoot journey by purchasing the kit for just £59.99 instead. This “business in a box” contains over £200 worth of books, puppets, puzzles and business tools – everything you need to start a successful work from home business.  Not only that, but you will have the support of an experienced team leader who will be help you grow your business in a way that suits your lifestyle.

For more information click on the link above, visit www.barefootnaomi.co.uk, like us on Facebook, or contact me to find out more.  Love living Barefoot!

*** edited to say that you can now find out more about becoming a Barefoot Books Ambassador at www.barefootnaomi.co.uk

 


Sod the Recession – Let’s Play!

Since the government announced we’ve gone back into recession in the UK, I’ve now reached the point where I really couldn’t care less.  It seems that no matter how hard I work we’re still going to be hard up so it’s time to stop worrying about it and start embracing everything we’ve got.

Like most working families, the last few months have been pretty tough for us – even before George Osborne announced his crippling budget earlier this April.  My partner had an accident at work in October, crushing and dislocating his right hand.  He’s still waiting for scans and despite the fact he’s in pain every day, he’s had no treatment at all for over 6 months.  It’s forced him to close his recycling business as he can no longer drive his truck, do any lifting or any other work for that matter.  I mean, can you think of ANY job where you don’t have to use your right hand? If you can let me know, we’d love to find out!

I’ll admit that I kind of panicked.  Money was already tight and we’d now lost quite a bit of our income so I started writing for another client to try and boost the money we had coming in.  For a couple of months I was working every hour I could for an extra £20 – £40 a week.  Every little helps, right?

Well yes… and no.  All my other projects (including this blog) started to fall by the wayside and oh my gosh I was so stressed out!   It started to occur to me that producing high quality work for less than the minimum wage was not helping me, my family or the economy in the slightest.  In fact, I finally realised that if we all start working for less than we are worth the implications are phenomenal.  It drives the value of our work down and creates a never ending spiral of giving more and receiving less in return for all that hard graft.

I was snappy and irritable and even started to experience anxiety attacks whenever I left the house – it was getting absolutely ridiculous and I knew it had to stop.  I have so many good things going on in my life.  My business was starting to blossom and I didn’t have the time or energy to invest in it, not to mention the fact that home educating the girls was meant to be a joy rather than a worry.  So I stopped.  I took a deep breath and I started to look at everything we still had.

My partner was home full time for the first time in a decade and we could finally start spending time together as a family.  I LOVE having a house husband – he’s a bloody amazing cook, fantastic company and the girls are just over the moon at having him around.  I’ve been freelancing with a reputable SEO company for the last 18 months and I’d rather increase my workload with them than get ripped off by some new kid on the block.  We’ve got some amazing opportunities open to us now, and I fully intend to take advantage of everything on offer.

At the end of the day there will always be someone who is prepared to do the same work for less money and that’s fine with me.   I have finally started to appreciate my own worth.  As a mum, as a business women and as a lover of life with all of its ups and downs.  It doesn’t matter how hard I work, we’re still going to be skint, but that’s the reality of life for millions of families in Britain today.  Money isn’t real, it’s just numbers on a screen or on your bank statement.  There are never enough of them, but somehow we survive.  Living life to the full is what really counts and that’s what I intend to do.  Sod the recession – let’s play!


Sometimes you just can’t do everything.

Wow I’ve neglected this blog over the last couple of months!  However it’s been a very transitional period both personally and professionally, so I’m not going to give myself too much of a hard time about it.

Lots of changes have been taking place in the My Borrowed Planet household.  My partners timber recycling business, TRIP, has started to take off which is brilliant, but has left even less time in our busy home schooling / home working lifestyle.  I have been out most weekends taking Barefoot Books to lots of local events such as the Freedom Fields Grow & Eat Show, Pagan Pride Southwest Festival and various other fairs  in the Plymouth area.  Becoming a consultant for NYR Organic, the home shopping branch of Neals Yard Remedies, has also opened a whole load of new doors for me. Party bookings are filling up quickly and there’s so much to learn, but tbh I’m absolutely loving it! I really feel that our dream of a sustainable lifestyle is getting more achievable by the day.

But what about the kids?  I think this is one of the hardest things about being a home schooling, wahm.  With so much buzzing around my head it can be difficult to focus on finding activities for them as well.  And let’s face it.  They are the reason I started working from home in the first place!  I think that all home educators go through that panic at one point or another.  Are my kids doing enough? Are they keeping up with their contemporaries? How do I know they are really learning?

I had a long chat with my eldest the other day, asking her if she’d like to go back to school.  The answer was an unequivocal and resounding “NO”.  Why would I want to go back to a noisy, disruptive group of kids who spend so much time playing up that we never get anything done, then the whole class gets punished for their bad behaviour, even if we actually did what the teacher asked?  This was her argument, and I can totally see her point.

At our last home visit, the LEA rep told us that school kids average a measly 1.5 hours of learning a week while in school.  A week!? Well, I’m not sure where she got her figures from but having chatted with some of the other mums from her old class (and helped out in the school myself) I can see that these figures probably aren’t too far off the mark.

We are in the small minority (25%) of homeschooling families where both parents work – because we have too – but the kids still come first.  So sometimes the less important things like blogging don’t get done.  The girls have had an amazing summer playing with their friends at festivals and events.  My eldest has been learning about the healing power of herbs, making things down at the workshop and, occasionally when I have the panic that “she’s not learning enough” even sitting down with the odd workbook or two.  The youngest goes to nursery for 3 afternoons a week to mix with other children her own age and get messy, and two days a week are devoted to going out and about.  I think we are doing ok.

So.  I’m not going to give myself a hard time about not having blogged for a while.  It’s bloody hard to get everything done, but somehow we seem to manage – even if it’s sometimes by the skin of our teeth.  The next few months are going to be super busy, but that’s the way I like it!

“Kids who are in school just visit life sometimes, and then they have to stop to do homework or go to sleep early or get to school on time. They’re constantly reminded they are preparing “for real life,” while being isolated from it.”
Sandra Dodd


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