What’s Next?

I have been thinking a lot about this blog. It was a real blessing to our family when we were on the road last year on our tour of Europe which you can read about here. We were able to update friends and family with pictures and stories. But I have had so many requests for updates from others who saw it, in particular the homeschooling elements, that I have decided to update as and when I can particularly on homeschool news. I think there should be more information on hand for people who are interested in homeschooling their children in the UK.

I get an unbelievable amount of questions on the street and in shops from people fascinated in how we homeschool our children and so many people comment on how they wish they had given it a go.

So I hope this may be a blessing to people thinking about home education in the UK or anywhere in the world from a mother of five (soon to be six) who has homeschooled my brood for over six years. It hasn’t always been easy but it has and still is an amazing journey that I thank God for at the end of every day – what a life!

img_20161031_144901_hdr

I will be posting a series of blogs about how we homeschool our family, why and our structure. Hopefully this will shed a chink of light on a real families experiences. In the meantime there are some brilliant websites and blogs out there which are worth exploring. Here is a list:

Education Otherwise

Ambleside Online

Raising Olives

Mom Delights

 

Advertisements

An Ode to my Children

 

Having a large family can be hard at times. Every second of your day is given to others, you serve without glorious accolade, you learn to push yourself in ways that you never imagined possible, you learn to let alot of things go, you never get everything done, your day never goes as planned and you never sleep. But the fruits of these things are more patience (although I’m always working on it), more joy – serving others gives YOU more joy, you learn more about who you are, you learn what is really important and appreciate the small things in each day, you prioritise and finally you stop wasting time on things that don’t matter.

And my children are incredible! I am biased but they are.They make me laugh, they fill my heart with joy when they help each other, they are such great people in the making. I love it when they grasp a maths concept or learn a new letter. I love it when they read a whole book or learn to read their first word. My five year son often gets up before me and sets the breakfast table, my three year old often picks me flowers from the garden, my eldest daughter loves playing with her baby sister and my eight year old daughter loves to read to her little brothers, and my baby girl adores us all.

They really love each other. That is one of the blessings of homeschooling a large family- they have strong relationships and through being together each day they learn to work through difficulties and strengthen their relationships. They still squabble, but they have time to make up. They don’t always listen but we work through the why’s with them. Its not perfect – but it works.

We have been so impressed at how wonderful they have been  on this trip. They have been to 10 different accommodations, thats 10 different beds to settle into but they haven’t complained, in fact they are excited even when we are not. They have often sat in the car for 12 hours and not moaned. They have helped with chores at each accommodation, cooked and prepared meals, paid for shopping, asked directions in French and German and helped pack up the car. When we broke down, they didn’t despair. When we crossed the channel they took it in their stride. When we drove until midnight without supper they sat and waited. What a blessing! Each day I thank God that He gave them to me. They are the best travel companions that I could wish for. So thank you my little ones!

 

wp_20161106_14_14_20_pro

Home, sweet, home!

We are back on British turf! A month after we left, it is hard to believe that we have travelled 4500 miles!

We spent our last night abroad in Dunkirk in a hotel which made the Ibis budget seem like a luxury hotel but we needed a bed close to the ferry. We started out at 7am and saw the white cliffs of Dover by lunch time. My youngest son who’s three still keeps asking when we are going to Europe?

 

After such huge stretching roads, England seems tiny. But our time away has made me realise how beautiful Britain is. So much diversity and richness in such a little island!

When we arrived home, there waiting on the doorstep were bags of food from good friends to welcome us, and thankfully a box of English Leaf Tea! Its good to be back in our corner of Wales.

It has been an incredible journey, which has definetley challenged us and brought us closer together as a family and to the Lord, because we needed Him more. And we are already itching to go again next spring, so watch this space!

I leave you with these incredible words by Francis Drake, which sums up the importance to step out in faith:

Disturb us, Lord, whenFrom www.sethbarnes.com
We are too pleased with ourselves,
When our dreams have come true
Because we dreamed too little,
When we arrived safely
Because we sailed too close to the shore.

Disturb us, Lord, when
With the abundance of things we possess
We have lost our thirst
For the waters of life;
Having fallen in love with life,
We have ceased to dream of eternity
And in our efforts to build a new earth,
We have allowed our vision
Of the new Heaven to dim.

Disturb us, Lord, to dare more boldly,
To venture on wilder seas
Where storms will show Your mastery;
Where losing sight of land,
We shall find the stars.

We ask you to push back
The horizons of our hopes;
And to push back the future
In strength, courage, hope, and love.

This we ask in the name of our Captain,
Who is Jesus Christ.

 

 

Swimming in the snow

We have been without WiFi access for a few days now so apologies for no contact. Here’s a quick update.

The snow in Austria did  limit our travel, and we were advised to wait before making the trip to Innsbruck. When we finally did I saw why. The road is over mountains and very steep at times. We could not have done it on icy roads. So we didn’t get much time in Innsbruck but did make it to Absam nearby where a man called Jacob Stainer once lived. He was a violin maker who lived before Stradivari (around 1550) and is considered one of the fathers of Violin making. It was a valuable trip for Papas research. Austria is an awesome place, very humbling in its beauty and magnitude.

img_20161107_121317_hdr

wp_20161105_12_36_08_pro
Jesus in the workshop

We then got a phonecall telling us that the car was ready and we had 24 hours to pick it up and drop off the hire car. So we had a decision to make, bearing in mind that the garage is 400 miles north in Erfurt, Germany and the weather is unusually bad, we decided to cut our time short in Austria and start from Erfurt towards home. Rather than take the chance of travelling all the way back down to Austria and the roads being dangerous we will head home and come back in spring to finish our research off in Austria and Italy. At least access will be better and we can make sure the car is up to it.

So after 12 hours travel through traffic and more snow in Germany we picked up our car and a hefty bill! But the European breakdown RAC were excellent and arranged everything, they paid all taxis and hirecar costs and did all the translating between Ford and us. Which made it  easier when we realised the next day that……..all our coolant was gone again!

wp_20161108_07_34_16_pro

We had driven another 200 miles to Hochsauerland and Papa checked to find, yet again, no coolant. The work had been done but the garage had failed to put the cap back on! Can you believe that ? So another call out, check up and we are praying that,  that is all that was wrong.

After such a lot of travel and waiting around we decided to treat the children on the way home to a three night stay in a resort with a pool- so here we are. No research, no garages or shops or museums or libraries or churches or meeting people – just family time resting and swimming. And it snowed again the night we arrived but at least we had our wellies and warm clothes. The pool here is inside and also goes out into a heated pool, so last night we all swam out under the stars and it was gently snowing, which was quite magical. They have really enjoyed stopping and playing in the snow and the pool.

img_20161107_121304_hdr

So now each mile we drive is a mile closer to home, we are excited about getting back. We need everyone’s prayers to bring us home safe and healthy.

We have travelled over 3500 miles, slept in 9 different beds, visited five different countries, spoken two languages, visited countless museums, shopped in about 50 Lidl and Aldi shops and eaten about a thousand croissants and pain au chocolates, too many creme Patisserie’s, brotwursts and stollen!

We’ve seen oceans, lakes, woods, mountains, hills, castles, waterfalls, cities,  villages, churches, cathedrals, statues, towers and lots of violins!

We miss, our dog, real tea (I’d even drink ty-phoo), cheddar cheese, fresh milk, water from a tap, washing machines, driving on the left side of the road and of course our family and friends. But WOW- what a trip! Every minute has pushed us, shaped us and stretched us but we have seen some incredible sights together as a family.

 

As we begin to wind our way home, we thank God for watching over us and coming with us every step of the way. I just cannot put into words what an incredible earth God has given us, just the tiny bit that we have seen on this trip is enough to fill my heart with joy for the rest of my days.wp_20161104_12_41_07_prowp_20161104_12_40_59_prowp_20161103_17_14_48_prowp_20161103_16_59_12_prowp_20161102_12_39_48_prowp_20161101_17_04_33_pro-3wp_20161101_09_01_51_prowp_20161031_11_54_30_pro

 

Just another thousand or so miles left until we are home.

Be blessed.

Mittenwald

Before it snowed we had the chance to go into Mittenwald. Home to the famous Klotz family of violin makers and many others.Mittenwald sits just north of the Austrian border in Germany.

The town itself is sat in a valley between the huge Karwendel mountains  It is breathtaking and quite a special place.

 

wp_20161105_11_33_47_pro

There really were lots of men walking around in traditional clothes. We didn’t see any events going on so I’m not sure if this is normal but there was a man with a flag too.

 

The houses are very decorative and covered in ornate woodwork and painted exteriors. This place is famous for its school of violin making and has a museum which we visited. The collection itself was very good although the museum was not very child friendly. In all the other museums we have visited, which is nearly every violin making museum in Europe now, the children have been welcomed but this one is definetley not for the large family.

In fact the curator of the museum in Marknakurchen actually gave the children a private performance of the hurdy-gurdy, without us asking. We loved the museum in Marknakurchen for its openness to little ones.

The violin makers here were again, close communities that worked together and encouraged each other, sharing ideas. Religion had a huge influence and they would all have met every Sunday in church which must have had an effect on their work.

wp_20161105_11_33_15_pro

The children have all come on with their German. The boys are quite happily greeting people and introducing themselves now and the girls have a much better understanding, they now know how to ask for chocolate bars in German!

 

Its ‘alwhite’ in Austria

We arrived in Austria on Friday!

We were relieved to move on from Fussen, although we loved Bavaria, our apartment was a bit small and we couldn’t relax because there were too many stairs and the baby girl kept climbing!

wp_20161104_10_19_11_pro
Leaving Oy-Mittelberg Friday morning

When you enter Austria you must display a vignette (a pre-pay toll road sticker) on your windscreen otherwise you can face a hefty charge. So after an hour of hunting for a garage in Germany that sells them, we finally found a garage on the border. In fact that took longer than the journey, but had to be done.

The drive through Austria was incredible. Mountains and hills, castles and dangerous looking cable cars stretching up into the sky. It is too beautiful to describe. The sun was out shining down on the glades and valleys, it was dry and clear so we could see the mountains. The roads wound on and on through the mountains and the houses changed shape and size.

wp_20161104_11_39_04_prowp_20161104_11_45_28_prowp_20161104_11_34_03_prowp_20161104_11_39_50_pro

The mountains domineer the small towns that sit at their feet and I think it must be easier to keep perspective on the important things in life growing up here. It would be hard to take nature for granted or doubt its importance in such a dramatic landscape. We drove through some lovely towns and villages that have definite centres. I have found in some parts of Germany that there is no centre to a town, there is perhaps as barber or Sparkasse (cash point house) but nothing else and you have to hunt for the bakery or grocery shop.

wp_20161104_11_57_26_pro
A town sat at the foot of a mountain

 

We arrived at Scharnitz just after lunch and we were all relieved to find a great apartment waiting with incredible views on both balconies.

Frau Reidl made us welcome and commented on Papas german being ‘sehr gut’ (very good). She is a very tiny gentle, sweet lady who reminded me of my grandmother in so many ways. The house is huge and we have the top floor. All of our accommodation so far has been so clean, the standard over here is very high.

Here is the view from our balcony on Saturday (yesterday):

img_20161105_091746_hdrimg_20161105_091719_hdrwp_20161104_15_45_32_pro-2

And here is the view from our balcony this morning:

wp_20161106_15_53_04_pro

Yes, you thought I had misspelled the title! But no, it is all white today! It has snowed all day and the children have had their prayers answered. I think I was counter-praying that it wouldn’t snow but hey-ho it has been decided. I always associate snow with getting stuck but I have been assured that in Austria, unlike the UK, everything carries on as normal. Motorways don’t shut down, people don’t get stuck overnight in their cars because somebody just stopped in the road due to the snow, shops don’t sell out of bread and milk from panic buying, and cars don’t suddenly pull off the road and ring the AA. In Austria snow is normal and they are equipped to deal with it – so I’m told.

The children had a great time in the snow today. Of course we were so well prepared for this sort of weather, we did bring water-proof coats, wellies, hats, gloves and extra jumpers but guess what? Its all in our car, which is being fixed, in Erfurt! So we are coping with what we could find. H forgot her coat the night we broke down but luckily I had two. None of us have wellies and H only has shoes but we managed. We can’t really go on proper walks into the wilds but we are doing OK all things considered.

Also I am praying that we won’t get stuck here in Scharnitz (as lovely as it is) and that Papa can still get his research done in the nearby towns. We are really enjoying Austria so far.

 

Bavaria – land of fairytales!

We are in Bavaria. We have travelled 6 hours south toward Austria and are now staying in a very dramatic landscape near the Austrian border. Yesterday we visited a beautiful city called Fussen.

wp_20161102_11_37_07_pro

Fussen is amazing, definetley our favourite city so far, mostly because of its backdrop of mountains but also the centre is so pretty – streets and arches, incredibly old buildings that are well kept.

The mountains here are awe inspiring, billowing clouds and snowy caps.

This is the most breathtaking landscape we have seen so far. It is amazing here. We are near the Schloss Neuschwanstein and which looks like something from a fairy tale. It was the castle used in the film ‘Chitty Chitty Bang Bang’ – yes it was a real place!

neuschwanstein450

neuschwanstein_bildth

wp_20161102_12_18_44_pro-2

This part of the world is so magnificent. It is so moving to be here. It really speaks of Gods creativity and you cannot help but just wander around in complete awe of such a creation. We drove out this evening and the sky was burning pink and orange with the silhouette of the mountains. wp_20161103_16_59_12_prowp_20161103_17_14_48_prowp_20161103_17_30_54_pro

We visited the City Museum which is housed in a former monastery. It has a very comprehensive collection of instruments. It is an excellent museum and we really enjoyed everything not just the instruments.

wp_20161102_11_34_13_prowp_20161102_11_25_20_prowp_20161102_11_28_07_pro

On a very high peak that overlooks Fussen is Kalverienburg. It was made to mimic Calvary in Jerusalem in the late 1600s. It is quite wp_20161102_12_07_23_prowp_20161102_11_37_21_prooverwhelming to look up from Fussen and see the three huge crosses that preside over the area.

It shows a lot about Christianity’s influence in this part of Germany in that time.

Tomorrow we leave Germany and head to Austria. We have really loved Germany, it has been a great experience. The children have seen so many aspects of life and culture, history and differences. It really dawned on me, what a wonderful thing it is that a child can see how different people and cultures can be at any early age. They have been so open to travelling and experiencing new things. We marvel at how well they are coping with the constant change and upheavel of travelling, especially the younger ones.

Hunting for food in the Czech Republic!

It’s mushroom season here and everyone is out with baskets, taking strolls in the misty woods – my hunt for food was not quite so romantic.

We changed accomodation on Saturday from near Leipzig, down to Werda in southern Saxony. Its really different, much more mountainous and covered in pine forests. So, so beautiful but very rural. A lot of winter sports take place here especially skiing.

And a lot of violins are made here too, which is why we are here. It seems  that violin making and lace making go hand in hand.

We are also very near the border of the Czech Republic. We took a drive over to Kraslice, which is just over the border. It is a very different feel to Germany. It is a country that has had alot of political unrest. Communism and socialism have taken its toll, splitting the country from Czechoslovakia into Czech Republic and Slovakia which did cause economical instability. The buildings were quite run down, some of them crumbling, and often empty. There weren’t many shops and the centre seemed quiet. Very different to their German neighbours who have a higher level of income.

We had shopped on the way to Werda on Saturday, just enough for a meal and breakfast. On Sunday we drove to Markneukirchen and realised that the supermarkets were all shut but we had enough potatoes for a gratin. It was on the way home we remembered that it was ‘Reformation day’ on Monday and was a bank holiday. Panic set in as I knew we really had nothing else to eat after this meal and worst of  all – we only had two teabags left!

If you know me, you know that one of my greatest pleasures in life is a well brewed pot of tea. I had of course planned ahead and brought enough tea to last the whole trip but that was now in the car – in the garage – in Erfurt. And ever since, I had searched every supermarket like Lidl and Aldi, but to no avail. I don’t think the German people drink very much tea.

I searched the internet for open shops and we drove from petrol station to petrol station but it seems that in Saxony they do not deviate, they keep bank holidays. Then it dawned on me, the Czech Republic didn’t celebrate the Reformation, we could cross the border and bring back food. But we didn’t have Czech money and i knew we would stick out like a sore thumb. We remembered that just over the border we had seen  a run down building, with a few market stall type shops,  it said ‘Bargain Border Shop’ and it was our last hope because it might take euros, being so close to the border.

wp_20161029_13_58_58_pro

The next day we drove over with empty tummies and prayerful hearts. I went in alone so as not to draw attention. It was the strangest shop I have ever been in, more like somebody’s garage than a shop. Stacks of boxes of food, mostly spirits, coffee and ………wait…..what’s that…..?  Tea! A huge box of what resembles English tea. After a big search, it was here in this unlikely place!

People were rooting through and it was really busy. I suspect there were a few Germans there, caught short by the bank holiday. I managed to find some spaghetti and tinned tuna, some passatta and UHT milk. There was some strange looking food in a fridge but I took no chances, some of it had hand written labels and it definetley looked like meat. Hooray, we wouldn’t starve today. When I went to pay the lady she was a bit indignant that I only had euros but she took it. Its amazing how out of your depth you can feel when your away from familiarity, and if I had spoken the language then I’m sure it wouldn’t have made me feel so overwhelmed but it is hard being a foreigner with so many little people depending on you at times.

Needless to say we had a hearty tuna spaghetti bolognese and I have never been so pleased to see an open Lidl the next day. I did have a good stock of emergency tinned and dried food but guess what? Its in the car – in the garage – in Erfurt!

It was yet another experience that stretched me but, God blesses those who come to him and ask, and He even threw some tea in! Praise be to You Jesus.

“Very truly I tell you, my Father will give you whatever you ask in my name….Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete.”

John 16:23,24

So don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’ These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs.”

Matthew 6:25

It can be a hard thing to put onto practice- not to worry. It is the bit that really tests your metal. When we broke down I didn’t worry as much as this occasion when we were running low on food. I don’t know why, perhaps I forget that God is in charge of even the little things too. That He does not let even a pebble roll in the wrong direction but has everything in the palm of His hand. And He wants to help those who ask.

Be blessed.

hand-in-hand1

Werda

 

The next leg of our journey took us down to south Saxony. Not a huge journey, only about two hours drive. The land became densely covered in pine forests and still lakes. Large tree covered mountains surround small communities. The Vogtland ski arena is here, and there is obviously a big skiing tourist trade. We are here for two locations, Klingenthal and Markneukirchen. Both were once full of Violin Makers churning out thousands of violins each year. I was expecting much bigger, richer towns but actually these are really small places, very rural and cut off from the larger Cities. But surrounded with high wooded mountains, very beautiful.

Klingenthal sits on the Czech border and is very quiet. There isn’t really much there anymore. A couple of shops and the Vogtland Arena. It is better known for its sking now than its Violin Making. We visited the Musical Instrument Museum, which is a small museum in the centre of town showing what a rich heritage there once was here.

wp_20161102_10_08_52_pro

Markneukirchen is different. It is similar in size but is much richer in architecture. Town houses and elaborate churches suggests a much more affluent history. The musical instrument museum here is bigger and is quite special. It has a garden of hands-on instruments for children. Steps with bells attached that they can run up, drums and vibraphones. It is quite something, very well thought out. The children loved it, we stayed outside for ages. And inside you can hear many instruments being played. There is a Violin making school here so the craft is still very much alive.

Our accommodation was lovely here. A small converted barn full of original timbers, balcony’s and beams. The children loved this place and they all had a bed under the beams, they thought it was like ‘Heidi’ and kept asking for goats milk and bread.

wp_20161029_11_26_47_pro

Here are some pictures of the area:

wp_20161029_12_52_15_prowp_20161029_11_16_37_prowp_20161029_10_58_27_pro

We passed over the border and into the Czech Republic, but that is another story – yet to come.

Be Blessed.

Leipzig

We loved Leipzig.

Despite the rain, we had a great time. Leipzig is soaked in culture and music. It is a city but it isn’t too big. The architecture is lovely in the centre and there are lots of spires of towers and churches. Throughout the centre are trees and parks and it seems like there is music everywhere, recitals, concerts, quartets.

wp_20161028_12_55_24_prowp_20161028_12_54_48_prowp_20161028_12_52_31_pro

Leipzig still has trams, the boys were very excited!

Johann Sebastian Bach was cantor there until he died. We visited the church where he worked. Thomaskirche is in the centre.  There was a duet practicing on the balcony which sounded lovely. He is celebrated outside in the form of a  statue but inside the church it is quite plain and modest and they pride themselves on being a working church not a museum.  Mozart made the same visit that we did in his young life too. He was a great admirer of Bach and visited Thomaskirche, he was asked to play the organ, thankfully we weren’t !

How We Are Homeschooling On The Road

Thank you for your kind messages since the car blog. I will update as we hear more. It is Reformation day here in Saxony tommorow so its a bank holiday, hopefully we may hear Tuesday.

A few people have asked how homeschooling is happening so here’s an overview:

Before we left the UK we had organised our van into a kind of house on wheels. Stackable kitchen boxes, first aid, travel equipment, kitchen utensils, homeschool books, toys, clothes and emergency breakdown equipment. Well, most of that is still in our car and as it was a kind of ‘midnight flit’ grabbing  whatever we could, we mainly got clothes and the cot. So we are having to improvise. I did manage to get the children’s travel journals and a box of pens and pencils so we can get on with those.

I’m using everything I can on our travels to set work. Where we have been and what we saw today – write a description. Then I am using maps to look over distances travelled and terrains – find, colour and copy routes. Then we look at people from these places such as Joan of Arc or Luther or events such as the War and we talk about them – I get the children to narrate back to me what they understand about them. Oral narration is the foundation to creative writing, listening and then making a concise description helps language and logic skills. For the older children they write it up, covering handwriting and spelling ; and for the younger they draw and I write up their narration whilst they watch. I can tell them things like “We add a full stop here” or “this has a capital letter because its a name”. I also encourage them to follow what they love and I can improvise work as we go, for example my son loves machines and saw some WW2 tanks so he drew them and we copied some words out as we talked about they’re function and made stories to go with them. We draw a lot too – trees, flowers, houses, landscapes.

img_20161031_144901_hdrimg_20161031_144820_hdr

img_20161031_150149_hdr_kindlephoto-13140127

They all have their own travel diary which I don’t really interfere with unless they ask for help. I’m looking forward to reading those a bit later. We read scripture and memorise it most days so that it is natural to us. Memorisation extends a childs vocabulary, especially a challenging text such as the bible or poetry.

We cover our literature at the moment from audio books, we’ve had King Lear these past few days. They have their own reading books and we read aloud between journeys. We are walking lots and talking lots. We are picking up lots of new language, in fact when ‘W’ learned Guten Morgan, he said it all day to everyone we met. I am also writing down bits of language that we need as we go and the girls have used duo lingo a few times to learn new things.

wp_20161020_13_10_02_pro

It is all happening quite naturally at the moment and I am not having to push them at all. The only subject that feels like school to them at the moment is maths, but having to use euros is helping. Today they put on an opera off their own backs. They wanted to do it and they made the tickets and wrote the parts, even the three year old acted his part out to perfection. We are also going to a lot of museums and places of interest so they are absorbing a lot of culture and meeting people along the way. They keep postcards, tickets, receipts and add them to their journals. Oh and I am always getting the older ones to go over their times tables by memory in the car (which they do not love but hey ho).

So overall we are finding a rhythm to a new kind of learning, one of seeing, hearing and experiencing more than book work.

Colditz Castle

Once we passed Eisenach the land began to change dramatically. There are miles and miles of alpine woods sprawling over hills and winding around the tiny villages. People take pride in their homes and villages and the towns are clean and well ordered. It is a beautiful part of the world.

Churches are the centre of every village and town and the area is largely protestant. The closer you get to Leipzig the more music and culture is highly regarded. We felt really peaceful in this part of Germany, and people here, on the whole, seem gentle and welcoming.

As we were staying only 8 miles away we couldn’t leave without seeing Colditz Castle. We expected a dark cold looking building but actually it is really a beautiful building in an amazing situation. Surrounded by the town of Colditz nestled in wooded mountains.

 

 

 

 

The children loved the stories about the British POW’s that tried to escape during the war. The boys favourite one was the glider that the British officers had made in the attic without anyone knowing. They used wood and fabric and even built a runway on the roof – incredible! Lots of tunnel attempts and dressing up as ladies. Some of them succeeded, some got pulled back. Very clever men.

This trip has really given us all a different viewpoint on World War 2. It is an amazing opportunity for the children to see and hear stories and visit places across Europe where it affected peoples lives. We briefly visited the landing beaches in Normandy, and it struck me how much France still honours and celebrates the men who fought for their freedom. Whole villages displaying posters and flags, memorials and war cemeteries everywhere. It is very moving and the children instantly recognise that. We have talked so much to the children about the history of the War and its effect on places as we have travelled through the land. The reminders seem to be more physically present over here than at home.

It has presented a huge opportunity to deepen their education.

Homeschooling for us, has been about giving a child a LOVE of learning. Not just regurgitation and ticking boxes but getting excited about learning and wanting to know more. It is a terrible disservice if we put a child off learning, because it stays with them their whole life. Teach a child to teach themselves and it will never stop, we should continue learning new things our whole lives.

As we are learning on this trip, the violin makers of the early eras didn’t learn in a school or college, they were taught by people, at homes and workshops. A passion for their skill was the key and that is why their instruments have survived until today. When we try to make learning into a factory –  teaching too many people at once, something is lost. Human contact, love perhaps? I always remember when it first struck me that, when I left my daughter at school there was nobody there who loved her. They may look after her and care for her needs but I knew they didn’t love her at all, all day. Love effects our ability to learn, to teach, to feel confidence and to love those around us. I know the subjects I excelled in at school were a lot to do with the relationship I had with the teacher. It really matters to a child and that matter carries on throughout their whole life. It is one of the many advantages of homeschooling, that we can fuel their passions and nurture their needs.

Homeschooling is illegal in Germany. You have to send your child to school. People here are amazed to see children in town during the daytime, in sunlight hours. Bringing five homeschooled children to Germany is not for the faint hearted, we’ve had some odd looks! But it has started lots of conversations and people seem in awe.

It is wonderful to have choice, in the UK we are not forced to send our children to school, we can take responsibility for our decisions and think it through. Whether we decide to take our children’s education into our own hands or not, at least we get to choose.