Homeschooling is still very rare here in Scotland, and so when I tell someone who's just asked me about my kids' schooling that I homeschool, a variety of reactions come my way.

We have the:

'What! You have your kids around you all day' 

... kind of reaction. When I smile and say with genuine enthusiasm, 'Yep, I have them with me all day. It's great!', the reaction normally translates into some version of, 
'You need your head seen to'.

Then we have the 

'Homeschooling? What's that?' 

...ones. They have truly never heard of such a thing, and can't quite get their heads around it.

Then we have the

'Er, are you really allowed to do that?' 

...ones. When I point out that these kids are my kids, and that legally, the responsibility for a child's education actually rests on the parents (though most parents choose to deligate the day-to-day education to a schoolteacher), they normally react with an, 
'Ahh... I suppose you're right. I never thought of it like that'.

And then there are some who react with:

'What? You teach them at home? Aww man, that's fantastic. Oh, I'd love to do that', 

'Oh I wish I'd known about that when my kids were school age'.

When we first began homeschooling, I had no idea the whole concept would grip me like it has done. I had no idea I would grow to love it like I have done. I had no idea that I would genuinely come to the place I'm at where I can imagine no other life but that of homeschooling my kids.

Is it hard work? Yes.

Are there days I would love to put my feet up and have silence in which to read a good book? You betcha.

Would I swap it for any other way of life in the world? No, I wouldn't. Not for anything in the world.

To anyone who has ever considered homeschooling but has real doubts as to whether they could do it, I say: Try it.

Try it. If it genuinely doesn't work for your family, then it's not the end of the world - the kids can go back to school.

But, if it does work, you will never be more glad of anything you've done as a family than this. 

Homeschooling is so much more than simply 'doing school at home'. It's a whole way of life which does, of course, include formal education. That part can be fun at times, or tedious at times, or mundane, or exciting. Some days, the kids will be enthused with what they're learning, and other days, they reckon pulling teeth would be preferable to the work they're having to do. Hey, that's life, and a lesson worth learning in itself. Whether a duty is fun, or horrendously boring.... there are times when it's just gotta be done. 

But it's all the rest of what homeschooling means that makes this life, for me, more than I could ever have hoped for. Here are just some of the aspects of my day to day life which I love:

I love that we can linger around the breakfast table and noone is rushing for a bus;

I love that when we sit for our morning devotions, we have as much time as we want. I love that any questions can be discussed, and that the Bible has something to say about pretty much anything and everything that life has to offer.

I love that our kids are part of each others' lives every day. I love that the Wee Guy knows his brother, who is ten years older than him, as well as he does. This level of intimacy would be difficult with this age gap if they were at school or college.

I love that in the middle of a Maths lesson, I can be told that I'm loved, or that Genghis Khan was amazing, or that Big Brother's sheep are going to be moved that afternoon and so schoolwork has to be done quickly, because - as you all know - Big Brother can't do anything with his sheep without a certain Wee Fella helping. 

I love knowing that at any given time, I can have any of my kids wander into the room and say Hi. 

I am constantly amazed that God brought this homeschooling life to me. I am one of the least likely candidates you can imagine. I am what is not suited to being a homeschooling Mum in a thousand different ways, and yet God saw fit to gift me in this way. I am humbled. I am grateful. I am blessed beyond words.


Winds and Woes

50mph winds. Temperatures not getting out of the 40s. Rain pelting down.

Oh well, this is life in Lewis for the past couple of weeks.

My poor, poor vegetables. 

This photo was taken out the Family Room window the other day. And very often in Lewis, May can be give us the best weather of the summer. Let's hope that's not gonna be the case this year.

 Anyway, never mind the weather, girls...

Here are Catherine and Calum feeding a couple of lambs in the barn. Aren't they lovely.
 And the lambs aren't too bad looking either!

Lest any of you were wondering why I'd married the Builder... this week, he built another wee greenhouse for me - all from recycled materials. Hey, I'll have the Greens on-side yet...

Even the perspex roof was something he was re-using.
 We carried this roof from the garage to the greenhouse in 50mph winds. I'm no kidding. It was blowing a hoolie, and the Builder and Big Brother had the task planned with military precision.

Sadly, they didn't take into account that if I ever have to be very, very serious, I always have one reaction. I laugh. Thankfully, even whilst laughing, I'm able to hold perspex roofs in place. I'm a woman. I multitask.

I do feel bad moaning about the weather when so many people have had their lives, their livelihoods, and their families devastated by tornadoes. My greatest worry is my cauliflower and that makes my moaning very pathetic.

I hope you all have a great weekend, and remember to enter the Giveaway if you haven't already.


Harris Tweed Bags, and a.... Giveaway!

And so to the final Harris Tweed post for now. No doubt, the subject will crop up from time to time, but for now I'll show you some photos from a visit I had with a long-time friend.
Don't you love the Harris Tweed curtains she made for her Family Room?

And don't you absolutely love her wooden cabinet. That was bought in a thrift store, and it's absolutely gorgeous. How I love wood. How I love love old wood!

My friend, Anne Marie, uses Harris Tweed and makes gorgeous bags. Here are some of her materials.

It's unbelievable how much work goes into what she does.

The leather she uses in the straps comes like this.

Er, Anne - how on earth did you think leather came?

The leather is cut up into countless, equal strips - some narrower than others, depending on the kind of straps going on the bags.

The strips are then glued, back to back, to make a strap.

Then every single strap has to be edged - by hand - top and bottom.

Every single strap. Cut. Glued. Top snipped to curve; bottom snipped to curve.

And that's only the straps...

The inside of the bag is finished beautifully with a cord lining.

And her own personal ticket: Sunny bunny 

The bottom of the bag supported and finished with lovely studs.

Some of the tweeds are in traditional tartans. The bag below - finished, apart from the handles - is the MacKenzie tartan.

Other tweeds are plain, or herringbone, or have modern and bright colours.

Each bag is finished with the Orb mark, proving that the material used is, indeed, pure Harris Tweed. Even the badge is finished beautifully.

All in all, it's a work of art, and..... you guessed it, I have a bag to give away.

In the MacKenzie tartan, this bag will make you stand out amongst your friends. Hey - few of them will have a totally handmade Harris Tweed bag. Certainly not in the MacKenzie tartan. And most certainly not from my blog!

So, to enter this Giveaway, all you need to do is leave a comment.

If you are already a follower, I will enter your name 3 times.

If you follow as a newbie, I will enter your name 2 times.

And if you don't want to follow but want to enter the Giveaway, please feel free. I will enter every name.

Please mention in your comment either:
I was already a follower;
I am a new follower; or
I am entering the Giveaway but not following.

This Giveaway will remain open until 6pm (GMT) on Friday 4th June. That will be 1pm Eastern Time, USA.

All the best guys!


Weaver's Poem

I'm not keeping you all in suspense intentionally. My final, final, post on Harris Tweed will be tomorrow, and - yes - the Giveaway too. But bear with me for this interlude...

Kathleen has this poem on the wall behind her as she works at her loom.

My life is but a weaving
between the Lord and me
I cannot choose the colours
He worketh steadily

Oft times He weaveth sorrow
And I in foolish pride
Forget He sees the upper,
and I the underside.

Not til the loom is silent
and the shuttles cease to fly
Shall God unroll the canvas
And explain the reasons why.

The dark threads are as needful
In the Weaver's skilful hand
As the threads of gold or silver
in the pattern He has planned.

He knows, He loves, He cares
Nothing this truth can dim
He gives the very best to those
Who leave the choice to Him.


Lunch....not made by self

Just before I post my final Harris Tweed post....

Yesterday, Catherine and I went out to lunch to the Woodland's Centre in Stornoway. This cafe is situated in the Castle grounds in Stornoway, right beside the inner harbour. It serves home-made soups, rolls and lots and lots of lovely home-made baking. The last time I was there, I had a mid-morning sausage roll - not a pastry sausage roll, but a sausage roll. 

You know, like a bacon roll, but with sausage. I loved that the sausages were local butcher sausages. And I loved that there were three of them on the roll.

This time, Catherine and I were having lunch. Ham and cheese Panini with a gorgeous salad. And then a Coconut and Cranberry Cake. And a pot of tea.

We sat upstairs, where there are some tables and one corner with a couple of comfy sofas. A young couple were sitting in the sofas when we went upstairs, so we sat at the table. But just before our food arrived, I saw the young lady sitting forward and putting her hat on. I whispered to Catherine, "Oh, they're leaving - I'm off to sit over there!". I think I vaguely remember Catherine, with a slighly embarrassed air, whispering, "Oh, Mum, wait at least until they've gone. Pleeeease!".

Needless to say, I didn't listen to a word she said. By this stage, I was over at the sofa, and very politely leaning over, asking, "Oh, were you just leaving?".

It worked. The pair of them stood in a flash, and they were off.

Result: sofas free for us!

(For any of you concerned about Catherine's state of embarrassment.... she's over it now ;)

In between some of the windows in the Woodland's Centre are these:

 Large plaques giving some history of the island.

Fascinating stuff.

See in 1747... The Seaforth Highlanders were set up. 
They fought and died the world over.

Many of you will have heard the famous answer General James Wolfe, who was to become the hero of the Battle of Quebec during the Seven Years' War, gave when asked where they would find more soldiers to fight on the American continent:
He suggested the Highlander, saying, 

"They are hardy, intrepid, accustomed to a rough country, and it is no great mischief if they fall."

 It's difficult to read, but 1919 - the Iolaire tragedy. Remember, I posted about it here.

1905: Orb and Cross trademark introduced for genuine Harris Tweed...

 And below, look at 1923, and the sailing of the 'Marloch' to Canada. I told you before about my mum's aunt who left on this ship. Sadly, she was to die shortly afterwards of TB in Vancouver.

The shop also has locally made gifts for sale.

...including some Harris Tweed cushions.

All in all, we had a lovely, relaxing lunch.

As you leave the Woodland's Centre, the drive out of the Castle Grounds takes you past Stornoway's golf course.

I do love being home. I am happy to be home all day and every day, and do not feel the need to get out and about. In fact, I'm reckoning on a grocery delivery soon, so then I will not even need a weekly trip to town for the shopping.

But I must say, if I do have to leave home, lunch with one of my daughters is as good a reason for it as I can think of.


Harris Tweed Song

 The lyrics to the song are pasted below. I appreciate that they will mean absolutely nothing to non-Gaelic speakers, but I thought it was still worth posting - both the song and the lyrics.

It's basically a funny song about the frustrations of a weaver (you remember all the individaul threads in Kathleen's post? Well, when something goes wrong, can you imagine having to go through each and every thread looking for the problem; and then having to undo work you've already done so you're able to sort it out.

In the song, the weaver wonders whether the loom is going to be profitable for him; whether he'll want to chuck the whole thing and head to Australia if it all becomes too much; whether he'll end up a laughing-stock for bringing such an item to his home in the first place.

And the chorus comes back again and again to the frustrations of this loom when something goes wrong.  Enjoy!

Sèist (Chorus)
'S i bheairt a rinn mo shàrachadh;
'S i bheairt a rinn mo shàrachadh;
Nuair a chuir mi innte spàl
Bhrist ise h-uile snàth a bh' ann.
'S i bheairt a rinn mo shàrachadh.

Ged nach eil mi eòlach oirr',
Tha eagal orm nach còrd i rium;
Tha na h-iomallan innte cho dlùth
Agus chan eil sùil far 'm bu chòir dha bhith.

'S a bheil sibh an dùil am pàigh i dhomh,
No am buin i ri mo nàdar-sa?
Ma sin fìor, gun tèid mi fhìn
A-null air sgrìob a dh'Astràilia.

'S e chanas cuid dhe mo chàirdean rium,
"'S ann ort a bha am fàilligeadh;
Bha thu gun diù agus 's tu bha faoin
Nuair a thug thu 'n taobh-sa phlàigh bha sin."

'S ged bheirinn Eachann Sheòrais thuic'
'S gun cuir e i an òrdugh dhomh,
'S e chanas e rium, "Chan eil innt' ach a' bhrùid
Thàinig a-nall à Uig - nach bu chòir i sin."


A Busy Day with a Difference

We'll take a break from Harris Tweed today, and have a look at how our Saturday panned out.

Calum was promised way back when it was his birthday that he and his pals would go ten-pin bowling.

 We are so advanced in this neck of the woods... ten-pin bowling alleys an' everything.

Catherine and the Wee Guy. I think Calum's trying to tell her how it's done!

Today was a sheep-moving day. Group A went to field 3; Group B went to field 2; Group C went to field 5; Group D..... er, you get the drift.

(By the way - I haven't a clue what I'm talking about it, but I do know that the sheep travelled from lots of different places to lots of different places.)

The past week's weather has been wet and windy. Most days had winds of between 50-60 mph, so it's been a week for the plants in the glasshouse, not the ones in the plot. (Although happily I can report that all the brassicas in the cages are alive and well - these windbreak cages really do work)

Some salad leaves, partly eaten

We took our two tubs of pea plants into the glasshouse because of the winds, and they seem to be much happier in the warmth and shelter. I'm fascinated by the pea plants: we've never grown peas before, so this is a real learning curve.

I've planted brassicas in both cages, but left two rows in the second cage for a later planting. Here are some of the cauliflower seedlings we'll plant in a few weeks' time.

Courgette plants: this will be new for us too. Watch this space!

Another 'first' for us: strawberries. They're in growbags....under glass too. Again, I'll keep you posted on progress.

I like to have coriander at all the different stages of growth. Here are some smaller plants...

 and this is what's ready to use.
I also have another two pots with seeds: one has seeds which haven't even popped through yet, and another at an in-between stage.

This was a first for us too: last November or December, we planted onion sets in tubs and left them in a cold frame. They were dormant until the days began to get lighter, and now we have lovely onion bulbs - not quite ready yet, but they will be soon. 

Some of this year's onion sets have been planted in tubs in the past few weeks, but the ones going into the plot are still waiting. If only this rain and wind would stop!

Here's the 'greenhouse'. The two large tubs at the bottom are the peas; the long, narrow tub in between is coriander; in front on the left is the tub of salad leaves; and the strawberries are on the right.

On the shelves are seedlings - leeks (I planted half the leeks last Saturday, and these will be planted, all being well, next week), kale, cauliflower and broccoli. There's also a selection of pepper and chilli plants, as well as tomato plants. These are all 'firsts' for us too.

I'll return to some Harris Tweed posts next week ;)

I hope you all have a blessed Lord's Day.


Harris Tweed, Part III

I visited one on my friends yesterday to ask her about life as a weaver.

Kathleen, who has 5 year old twins (extememly gorgeous twins, I have to say), decided when they went to school that she wanted to earn some money. She wanted to be around - at least from mid-afternoon - every day, and she wanted to be free at the school holidays. So she reckoned weaving was the perfect solution.

She had never sat at a loom until a year ago, but she went to Lews Castle College for a 12 week course, and learnt the workings of the loom, and how to weave.

The 'bobbans' as they're delivered to her from the Mill.

She gets her tweeds from Shawbost mill, but there are couple of mills on the island.

The 'back' of the loom, with all the threads - the warp - coming from the beam at the bottom. The threads have to be threaded individually through each heddle board.

Each one of these threads has to be tied to an existing, older thread on the loom - seen in the next photo at the bottom of the loom.

One thousand, four hundred and sixteen tie-ins. Yes, that's right, 1416 individual knots to be tied by hand. That's a lot of knots!

On the upper part of the loom, you can see the woven tweed.

The main colour of this tweed is the darker purple, and it has a pink thread running across and down, giving a pink check.

Can you see the pink thread and purple thread (bottom left of photo) running to the front of the loom? These threads are the weft.

The threads on the loom already (coming up from the beam) are also purple with the one pink thread every so often. For this thread, every 50 or so threads is pink.

Here's our weaver peddling to work the loom.

Part of the legislation governing the authenticity of Harris Tweed says that the loom must not be mechanically operated. Its work must be manual.

What a fantastic way to keep fit, don't you reckon!

When I was growing up, the clickety-clack sound of the loom was heard in every village. If my memory serves me correctly, this is the sound to which I woke on many mornings.



It's a good sound. It is in my memory anyway.

Here's Kathleen, peddling away busily.

The light underneath the loom makes it easy to see the threads, and any mistakes will be easy to find. Theoretically anyway.....eh, Kathleen?!

Here, towards the front of the loom (the right of the photo) you are able to see a couple of inches of the woven tweed. Just to the left of the woven tweed, you can see the warp. The rapier carries the weft to the other side, then back ...

 and fore...

 Legislation covering the making of Harris Tweed makes the industry a real cottage industry: no more than two looms are allowed under the same roof, and the great majority of Harris Tweed is woven by home-based weavers - normally, like Kathleen, weaving in a shed beside their home.

Although most of the island's weavers have traditionally been men, no doubt more and more people in Kathleen's position will see the benefits of this as a viable cottage industry.

Thanks, Kathleen, for allowing me into your weaving shed for a spell; thanks for showing this ignoramous a thing or two about the loom; and thanks for allowing me to hear the clickety-clack of the loom once again. It brought back happy memories...

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