FOOD, HEALTHY EATING, Home Schooling, Learning, Us Time

ONE STEPMUM’S HOME-SCHOOLING SUCCESS STORY

I love the 2nd part of this home-schooling, success story of how stepmum Amy, inspired 7-year-old Archie to become a mini entrepreneur. Last week we chatted to little Archie about his experience of home-schooling during lockdown, this week we get a grown-ups perspective.

ARCHIE with the chickens!

PART 2-AMY’S STORY

It began as part of a home-schooling project. Amy Frost bought a few chickens for her stepson Archie. The aim was to teach seven-year-old Archie about animal welfare and husbandry, as well as where food comes from.

Whereas some families found children resistant to home-schooling, this project turned out to be perfect for Archie. He threw himself into looking after the chickens and was soon collecting far more eggs than the family could eat. So, a business was born selling eggs and his lessons solidified about the importance of local food. He even set up a website up, running, a two-week waiting list and orders started pouring in.

“I needed to find a new way to get Archie excited about maths whilst also helping him understand how it could be transferred to real life. Archie loved the chickens we had recently introduced to our home, so we decided to run a home-schooling project about the hens. For example, we wanted to teach him what they need to survive, how many eggs they can produce in a year, why it’s important to care for the chickens with kindness and love, and the difference between ‘free range’ and battery hens. I felt there was an enormous amount of education surrounding just this one project.” explains Amy.

You can count on eggs to teach you something!

What’s been wonderful about sourcing the local produce is meeting new people, and how enthusiastic and helpful they have been about helping us to educate Archie about how they grow, produce, and make the food. Many have been kind enough to show him around and demonstrate how they work. We hope to bring that education to all our customers in the future.”

 

Amy delivering to locals

“Many locals couldn’t get a delivery at the height of lockdown and were left relying on neighbours to do their shopping, so although not financially viable at the start, we made a conscious decision to deliver to a wider area so that people were not left without food. If they asked, we delivered, even if it was outside ‘our area’.” explains Mark.

Family photo of Amy, Mark and Archie.

“We have been overwhelmed with support from the community – from suppliers, customers and even other local businesses. We have customers sharing our website with friends and neighbours and buying produce as gifts, we have suppliers who have sadly lost so much of their catering trade during Covid and are open to working with start-ups like us, and then we have other local founders who are sharing their equipment to help us grow.

After hearing Archie’s story we were curious to find out more, so here’s what Amy had to say to the questions I asked her recently.

EMMA) What was your initial thoughts on home schooling?

AMY) We were excited about the opportunity to do home-schooling. Although it seemed daunting at first, Mark and I felt we had an opportunity to really get involved with Archie’s learning. It was clear when home-schooling began that we had never really fully known what Archie was learning at school. For example, we had always been told the subject matter, but never the tasks, which made helping and supporting Archie with homework relatively difficult. So as soon as the home-learning tasks began being sent through, we were thrilled to finally be able to understand what he was learning at school and we felt much more informed to be able to support him at home.

EMMA) Where did you get the idea to buy chickens to help Archie and what did you initially set out to teach him?

AMY) Our decision was based around taking him out of the ‘classroom’ environment of the kitchen table, and creating projects that were more hands on and lifestyle based. Archie is great with his school work but his focus became all about sport and he was starting to disengage with the daily subjects of maths and literacy, so we felt that doing something totally different like learning how to look after the chickens would teach him animal husbandry, along with using the eggs to learn his multiplication, adding and subtracting. We had already tried to incorporate sports with his maths learning, such as ‘Maths Tennis’ where we would shout out the times table for every ball we hit, and he learnt his 3’s and 4’s doing this, but as with anything when teaching children, we needed to keep it fun and different.

Our little Chicken Care project developed into a wider range of education that has now taught Archie so much from a ‘school’ sense but has also developed his confidence massively. For the first time he stood in front of 8 children, whom he didn’t know, and led a talk on looking after his animals. This was all through choice, he wanted to explain to them why looking after animals is important. Prior to Archie starting this project he wouldn’t have felt confident doing that.

EMMA) That’s amazing, children feel more self-confident speaking about something they feel passionate about. Do you think schools should offer this more hands on, real life approach to learning, as opposed to sitting in classrooms being taught from text books or media?

Lettuce learn and grow together!

AMY) I absolutely believe in children being given the opportunity to have experiences which aid their development. Taking Archie to a local lettuce supplier where he can see, feel and smell the lettuces, speaking to the farmers who educate him on how the food is grown and what happens afterwards, and then in turn completing a project about his experiences which he shows to his family and friends, all supported his memory of the education and ignited a passion inside of him.  Maybe it was more fun because it wasn’t the norm, but by using all his senses, experiencing rather than just reading, he took more onboard, listened and learned.

I have worked with many young adults who have been afforded the opportunities to experience working in businesses and on farms for therapy and counselling, but it seems we are not teaching young people life skills to really support them in their adult life. Nor are we giving children the opportunity to have experiences which can teach them, in the early years, important facts which will help them make their own choices as they grow. For example, we have used Archie’s Produce to teach Archie nutritional benefits of food, what is healthy and what is not, what he can feed his chickens and what is bad for them, in the hope that he can make informed decisions based on his own knowledge rather than being told what not to do.

EMMA) I absolutely love that, I even write in my book-The Confident Parent’s Guide to Raising a Happy, Healthy & Successful Child- (CHAPTER 9 – FOOD- MAKING A MEAL OF MEALTIMES) about the fact many children these days think that their food originates from a supermarket and about the benefits of children being involved in growing their own food and learning about nutrition. And I also agree that children need these therapeutic experiences too, to help them learn in new, more relaxing and enjoyable ways. Some children are not academic but hands on learning can help us overcome so many barriers to our children’s success.

AMY) Emotionally these experiences have taught so much, including confidence, empathy, care and to think about subjects, which prior to this, he had not considered. We must bear in mind that Archie is only 7, nearly 8, so the level to which he is learning now is very different to a teenager, however I strongly believe that there is a huge advantage to experiencing learning in a varied environment to keep children engaged and initiate alternative and question-based thinking. It’s certainly worked for Archie.

EMMA) What advice can you share with other parents who are home-schooling to help make the home-schooling experience feel more creative, fun and enjoyable?

AMY) Oh Goodness I’m not sure I’m qualified to offer advice! Many of our friends put an immense amount of pressure on themselves and their children to complete all the tasks set by the school and to keep their children up to a ‘level’. At one point I also felt that pressure and worried that by doing home-schooling slightly differently, were we letting Archie down. All I knew was that I wanted Archie to have fun, after all, school is supposed to be fun! However, we’re not school, so we broke the rules a little:

We played music whilst we drew pictures and made plans, we played the bongo’s and danced when doing music practise, we had reading practise when researching types of food chickens can’t eat, for the most part, learning together and not putting a time limit on tasks really helped. We had regular snack and treat breaks, we added in some enjoyable tasks such as bike riding and football as part of the project. So, once we relaxed about the administrative tasks and took out the pressure of having to learn, or write, or read, those three factors happened naturally.

EMMA) Wow I love this approach so much, again it’s something I’ve covered in my book mentioned above (in chapters 10 – LEARNING FUN FOR EVERYONE and 11 – THE SEVEN STEPS TO SUCCESS.)

Do you feel home-schooling has brought you and Archie closer together?

AMY) Yes absolutely. I’m really lucky that we have such a wonderful relationship, but without a doubt having the opportunity to be able to home-school has enabled us to learn so much more about each other. It has also allowed us to be creative and share new experiences together.

Amy and Archie.

EMMA) It would seem lockdown has had hidden blessings for many of us regarding growth, development and contributions to society, what impact has that had on you all?

AMY) The growth of Archie’s Produce has really opened up a series of conversations from where our food comes from and healthy eating, to the way we school our children and educate each other. Little did we know when we started this project how incredible the impact would be and we are extremely grateful to be able to have a little input into hopefully some major future shaping. We genuinely are a lockdown business and were born in a time when most of our suppliers had lost over 90% of their customer base overnight. The catering sector had closed, the only avenue left for them was retail and most local shops were unable to open. So, we felt a huge moral obligation to both our customers, who couldn’t leave the house to get to the shops, or shops were empty, and suppliers who had no outlet to sell their products. The support of the local community is why so many local businesses have survived, and why customers could eat, so as we are now coming out of lockdown, and trades and businesses are re-opening, it is even more imperative that we continue to support the local businesses, producers and farmers, for they are the ones that work tirelessly to save us when crisis hit, and they more than deserve our continued support.

EMMA) Amazing, well thank you so much Amy for sharing with us your experience of home-schooling. I think there’s lots of great nuggets of advice and insight there to help us all be more proactive as parents.

If you’re a parent who would like to know more about proactive parenting or who enjoys blog interviews, you maybe interested in an interview that I had this week with – The Shelf Life Book Review

Until next time Stay Present,

Em