Saturday, 3 October 2009

Home Made vs Mass Produced

We've been making the most of our abundant hedgerows over the last couple of days. Yesterday we took some fellow home educating friends with us, we all had a great time plucking the various berries. Whilst we were gathering sloes, a dog walker stopped to chat asking if I was planning on making some sloe gin. We had a bit of a chat about the methods and different recipes, and as she carried on her walk she said:

"Well I tried it once, but I don't think it was worth all the effort."

We've had gales here today, but when it had calmed down a little we all went out and spent a good hour and a half walking, talking, and stopping to pick berries. We saw a rainbow which prompted one of the girls to tell us about a conversation she had been having with a friend in an online forum about rainbows and how they are actually circular. I had no idea about that, but that's what life here is like - my children teach me an incredible amount. Anyway, that's by the by.

I decided to try making Pontac with some of the elderberries we'd collected yesterday, it looked so rich and delicious in the recipe photo that I just had to give it a try. It's quite a time consuming recipe, and I always knew that it would yield relatively little for the effort, but I thought it was worth trying, even if just once. I was very disappointed when I bottled the finished product and discovered that I had just over half the estimated 350ml that the recipe said it would yield. It's supposed to be best if left to mature for 7 years, but I decided that I would add a small amount to the spaghetti sauce I was making for tea. Oh my goodness! The children noticed a difference to the flavour and commented on how delicious it was. So I guess it was worth the effort and no doubt I will be making it again, but will make sure that next time I double or maybe quadruple the quantity.

As I was pulling today's haul of elderberries off their umbrellas, I got to thinking about what a labour intensive job this was, and about the comment from the dog walker.

Not many people seem to have the patience for making things from scratch any more. We find it easier to nip to the shops and buy things ready made. Yet take a drive and look at the signs outside pubs all shouting *Home Made Food Here* or one we saw on holiday which said *Good Home Made Food Here* as though someone might advertise bad! Watch a few adverts on the telly with Jamie Oliver extolling the virtues of cooking your own food with fresh ingredients. Read in the papers about the drive for more locally produced goods and the over use of that horrible buzz phrase *buy local think global*.

Home made is trendy - look at the success of sites like Etsy, and the many crafting blogs, books and magazines that are about now.

Home made shows that you've put some effort in. Your home made gift shows that you put your heart into making it, that you willingly gave of your time to create something especially for the receiver. That it was made and given with love.

And yet... the *home* in Home Education makes people suspect something not so good, something lacking in effort, something second rate. Why is that? The old saying *home is where the heart is* still rings true, doesn't it? So what has happened to make home suspect when coupled with education? I think it's about time we made more of the *home*. We like being at home, yes, we go out, we enjoy visiting other people and seeing other places, but we are not ashamed to say that we spend plenty of time at home. There is so much to be learned from the simple things in life, so much pleasure to be had, so much experience to be gained. Why do we rush out to be entertained, to buy experiences, why are we so quick to shun expanding a bit of effort?

"Happiness includes chiefly the idea of satisfaction after full honest effort. No one can possibly be satisfied and no one can be happy who feels that in some paramount affairs he failed to take up the challenge of life."

To me, home education is *taking up the challenge of life*. It is living fully, taking responsibility not shrugging it off. It's worth the effort, even when that effort seems awfully hard work for little return, you can guarantee that the rainbow moments are just around the next corner.


  1. Elaine G-H Couldn't agree more. I think the home is under attack. It seems just about anywhere will do for children to be, except at home. Even some home educators go to great lengths to explain that they are hardly ever at home.

    From a book I'm reading now about organising.

    'I'd gotten it backwards. The outside is not the real world. Our house IS the real world. The outside world existed to support what happened inside the house!'

  2. Ooo - so are we 'home made' educators? Or 'craft educators'?

    I like the ring that home made education has though ... Hmmm must muse on this one ;-)

  3. Wow, I'm completely amazed at your hedgerow bounty!
    Great post :o)

  4. Home made and home tailored items sell well on my website as so many customers value individuality over mass production. The slow fashion and slow food movements are gaining momentum as consumers eschew the exploitative and unsustainable methods which dominate both industries. Why should children be mass produced in the name of education just to suit the exploiters?

  5. Brilliant post Tech. I bought a fabric calendar kit from a lady the other day. She'd been meaning to make it for a few years but never got round to it. I've always wanted one as the chocolate filled mass produced ones annoy me. She's asked me to take it back when she's next at the shop to show her. We all love making things in our house, I can't imagine life any other way.

  6. Love this post; you are quite right:)

    (And very amusingly my word id to type is in fulogro!)

  7. Have to say that in my extended family we are looked down on for giving home made gifts as well as for our home education. Apparently you buy love rather than make it.

    But there you go. At least I have friends who appreciate the effort that's put in.

  8. I love to be at home too, although not as much as I have been lately. Love the things you are making and am so jealous, I am completely missing out on the autumn harvest this year. Got some elderberry champagne in the garage and the cordial will just have to wait till next year.

  9. Bang on, Tech! :) Love the 'home made education'. And the Bennett quote. Love the whole post :).

  10. What a great post - I love the home grown connections - and it is all connected too! A veritable web of life.

  11. I agree with all the other comments, you're spot on with this post, Tech.

  12. Blimey, thanks you lot, it's good to know that I'm not alone in this :)

  13. you are right, and your post makes me think, so thank you!