“A week for us involves work books on maths, English, science, French and for our eldest biology and food technology. Our youngest goes to forest school, board games group and multi sports. Both are learning an instrument through weekly guitar and keyboard lessons . They attend a weekly workshop where they are working towards Art Award Explore run by Trinity College. Our eldest has skiing lessons and is starting an online photography diploma course. Our youngest does ballet. STEM Science course, book club and study group just about fill us to capacity. And somehow on top of that our youngest is begging for horse riding lessons as well.”
One of the things I’m always very conscious of as a parent is our family’s finances. These are challenging times for the UK, and there seems to be growing conjecture that times are about to get even tougher. Whilst I try not to worry too much about the wider economic issues that are largely beyond our control, it is important to me to try to keep our own finances under control.
If at all possible, there are two simple things you can do to help secure, and safeguard, your family’s financial future. The first is to put aside as much as you can each month. Then, as a second step, it makes sense to ensure that these savings are working as hard as they can. In terms of the latter, it’s easier said than done given that interest rates have absolutely plummeted over the last decade. Nevertheless, there are still some ways in which you can get a bit more bang for your buck.
Best interest deals on savings
The Santander 123 account used to be a real winner with an interest rate of 3%, coupled with some cashback offers on bills. Unfortunately, this rate was cut in half at the end of last year, although 1.5% is still one of the better deals out there. Bear in mind though that this has a £20,000 limit, and there is a monthly fee of £5.
Further afield, Bank of Scotland’s Vantage account offers 3% interest on accounts with £3,000-£5,000 in them, while Tesco offers 3% interest on the first £3,000 savings. Effectively you can take advantage of this for savings up to £6,000, since you can open two accounts per person with Tesco. However, perhaps the stand out option is the Nationwide Flex account, whereby you earn a more impressive 5%, but only on a fixed amount of £2,500 for 12 months (be warned; it then drops down to 1% thereafter).
Another smart way to earn good interest is to use a Help-to-Buy ISA. This is an account for which prospective first-time homebuyers are eligible, and has a built-in 25% bonus scheme on contributions. Aside from the bonus, interest rates are also more competitive than most, with Barclays paying 2.27% for example.
Switching bank accounts
It may seem like a pain, but switching bank accounts is actually easier than you think. Thanks to legislation passed in 2012, the onus falls on the new bank to make all the necessary arrangements like switching direct debits etc… All that’s left for you to do is follow a few easy steps, and it should all be done within seven working days.
And the good news is that there are some very good deals on offer to those willing to switch account providers. For example, you can earn £100+ from the likes of Co-op or First Direct. Halifax’s £75 is nothing to be sneezed at either. TSB offer a package deal too, whereby you can earn £10 a month by switching to the Classic Plus account, with 3% interest on top of that on the first £1,500 you put in.
There is another option to growing your money, which, it must be pointed out, is not quite the same as savings accounts. Peer-to-peer lending offers returns of up to 5% to those willing to lend their money directly to consumers in need of a loan, via an online platform. It sounds risky, and it must be kept in mind that there is no cover offered on these loans by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme, as there is with ordinary bank accounts.
However, platforms do go a long way to safeguarding the funds of lenders. Borrowers are strictly vetted for creditworthiness, so you aren’t lending to just anyone. They also set aside provision funds to cover any arrears and defaults on repayments. And some have even gone the extra mile by setting up an insurance to supplement this; one which pays out for typical borrower default reasons like accident, illness, unemployment; along with darker forces like fraud and cybercrime. It therefore isn’t risk free, but historically returns have been stable from FCA-regulated platforms. So if you are willing to look slightly further up the risk spectrum, it could be a good solution for you.
However you decide to go about things though, what’s important is to be open to, and aware of, all of the various options available out there. That way you can make the most educated decision possible on the best choice for you, in order to make your family’s savings go that much further.
*Disclosure: This is a sponsored post.
I’m Lynne and I home educate B, my only child, who is 7. We love to get out and about and cram as much as we can into our lives. We’re big nature fans, and spend a lot of time outside walking our crazy beagle Stripe. When we’re not roaming the fields, you’ll probably find us in London in the museums.
We’ve been home educating for a little over a year. It was on my radar before B started school as a potential option should we not get the school we wanted. Bullying, and some issues with supporting B with potential dyspraxia, led to us removing him from our chosen school in the end anyway.
I’ve dipped in and out of styles. We tried unschooling and its not for us. We both end up a little stressed and B asked me to provide more structure for him. He find out it really tricky to direct himself, although he has always been very confident in making his own decisions. I think because he knows he’d like to go to secondary school, he worries he may not be doing enough. We’ve looked a little at Charlotte Mason, but have settled into our own semi structured routine. We have goals of work we’d like to achieve over a few week period, and we factor in plenty of days out and hands on learning. Should a fabulous opportunity pop up we wouldn’t turn it down in favour of our routine, but without the structure we both end up feeling a little lost.
B has a lot of hobbies so our week is roughly scheduled around swimming, ballet, modern dance, drama, ice skating, performing group and tap. We normally meet up with other families once or twice a week, either for something planned like an educational trip, or for some informal fun. I usually look at where we can fit in some formal maths, English, and science during the week to make sure we stay abreast of where we want to be. B absolutely loves sitting down with his books, learning from an educational app or working with me so its never a chore.
A recent highlight of our home ed life would be a trip to the Celtic Harmony Camp in Hertford. It was arranged with a group of home edders we’d not met before, and we had the best time. New friends for both of us, and an opportunity to do something we wouldn’t have previously considered.
Personally I love the freedom that home education gives us. We can follow so many of B’s interests, and he can learn at a pace that suits him. He works a few years ahead in maths, and I love that he can explore as much and as far as he likes at home. Being solely in charge of your child’s education can be daunting, as the onus is on you to get it right, but its worth the challenge.
I admit that many of past travel adventures have not been organised with sustainability in mind. In my younger years, I was far less environmentally minded than I am now, so if I had ever used an eco- friendly company or visited a ‘green’ city it would have been nothing more than a happy accident to be honest!
However, I do remember with fond memories one trip along the west coast of USA, which included a stay in San Francisco. Whilst I didn’t realise it back then, I know now that this consistently ranks high up in the greenest places within USA. This doesn’t surprise me with its sustainable food choices, a clear emphasis on the environment and clean transport system. Having reflected on the many places I have travelled, I think this is probably the one that was most eco- friendly. I would definitely love to visit again and see how it has progressed even further in the last decade!
Of course times change and these days I am far more mindful of how my actions impact the environment. For future travel, it would definitely be a major factor in our plans. I would love to explore the world in the most eco-friendly way possible, maybe driving around in an electric camper, visiting beautiful scenic spots off the beaten track, as well as lovely environmentally-conscious towns and cities too. I have a long bucketlist of places I would love to visit all over the world, with Galapagos Islands (closely followed by Alaska) at the top of that list. Closer to home though, there are two places within Europe that are also high on my bucket list; Amsterdam (Holland) and Reykjavik (Iceland), both of which are very eco-friendly.
I have heard all about Reykjavik from various friends who have have visited this gorgeous place recently, and I admit that I have spent hours pouring over their stunning photos. As Green Tourist explains, a major source of the city’s power is from the geothermic activity in this area, which makes it very energy-efficient. Cycling and walking are the most popular forms of transportation, plus hydrogen buses are used rather than vehicles that rely on fossil fuels too.
The geography of Iceland is interesting and makes it a wonderfully unique and breathtaking place to explore, with the geysers and beautiful waterfalls, as well as the point where you can walk between two tectonic plates. I would love to stay in one of their glass domes and hopefully maybe even get to see the Northern Lights if we are lucky. That would be incredible!
The second on my European bucketlist is Amsterdam, Holland. I know a couple of people who have lived here and they have shared many stories about what a brilliant place it is! Most people either walk or cycle around the city, there are very few cars, making it a clean place to visit or live in that sense. Apparently most residential homes and businesses also use, and often generate their own, clean energy too.
There are lots of unusual places to visit in Amsterdam, such as the KattenKabinet (cat art gallery) and the Bloemenmarkt (flower market), as well as lovely quaint little cafes and eateries. I am sure visiting Anne Frank’s house would be a truly memorable experience too. Apparently there are also many wonderful outdoor walks to explore, taking in the pretty sites. And I personally would love to stay in one of the fantastic houseboats on the canal, that I have seen in many photos. They look amazing!
Of course there are many other European destinations on my bucketlist, as well as travelling the rest of the world too, but these are two places that particularly capture my attention – and my heart! Happy travels everyone!
Where is top of your travel bucketlist? Or have you been to an absolute dream place? Tell me your story in the comments!
*Disclosure: This is a sponsored post. Thank you to the friends who have contributed their wonderful stories and lovely pictures, fuelling my wanderlust further!
I’m Nicola from Yorkshire and home ed my 5 children ages 13, 10, 8, 5 & 2.
They have never been to school. I met another home educator before I had my first child and decided it was something I would love to do. My inspiration comes from my parents who brought me and my brothers up with lots of fun crafts and activities. I love watching them learn new things and bond as siblings.
Our home ed is structured Mon- Thurs with lots of practical activities as well as following our workbooks. Fri- Sun they have lots of free time as well as their sports activities and visiting family.
My advice to other home edders would be that everyone’s home ed journey is different. Follow their interests and take it from there.
You can read more about their fab home ed adventures on Nicola’s blog: The World is Their Classroom
You can also follow them on instagram to see their lovely photos, including their own 100 days of home ed challenge:
My name is Francesca and I’m Mom to nearly 5 year old Xanthe, and 3 in a fortnight Hugo. We live in the West Midlands. We have a blog that records our home ed journey called The Penny Three.
Xanthe was diagnosed with Autism, development delay, learning difficulties and severe anxiety around a year ago. To begin with she was in a mainstream nursery. Rated outstanding by ofsted and with myself as a parent governor, they tried really hard to make it work. She had one to one support and small group work, they put emphasis on her making friends and becoming integrated but Xanthe’s anxiety just continued to grow.
When it came to choosing a school for her Reception year and onwards, I began to worry about how she would cope. I did some research and discovered that due to her birthday I could possibly get a “Summer Born Deferral.” I approached the local authority and armed with evidence from the senco at the nursery and Xanthe’s consultants – they agreed.
I thought that was the answer to all our problems. Sadly that wasn’t the case, when Xanthe went back to the nursery after summer, they had changed things such as the room her group met in, the children had changed too and they left her pretty much to her own devices whilst they settled in the new children. Her anxiety became so extreme that she began to regress, and could no longer count to 10 for example. Getting her to Nursery became a huge battle. I spoke to her consultant at CAMHS (Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service) and they agreed that the nursery was causing more harm than good.
So in November 2016 I removed her from the Nursery. I was really anxious about my decision, and questioned whether it was the right choice – I soon discovered that I really didn’t need to worry.
To begin with we thought about purchasing a Waldorf Steiner home ed curriculum, as certain aspects of the philosophy I really like. The emphasis on child led play, and using natural resources, reducing screen time and being outdoors… but I soon learnt that sitting down with a set routine of work, was not the best way to reach Xanthe. So we firmly headed into Unschooling territory. Unschooling means that I very much follow her lead and interests and I’m pleased to report that her ability to count to 10 came back, and further breakthroughs have been made. She now is attempting to write, and will listen to stories.
We spend a lot of time outdoors, as that is where both Xanthe and Hugo feel at home. We have a number of home ed groups that we join in with as and when we can – Forest School, Trampolining, Science events. We also have other clubs that we want to get involved with – swimming, horse riding, ice skating and craft club. There are many more to choose from!
Our highlight of home ed last week, was getting out into the garden now the weather is improving and Xanthe being able to identify a number of different flowers. We also headed to Norfolk for a few days and stayed on the Broads. In a couple of weeks we head to North Devon for a week and having just bought a tent, we have lots of trips planned for the summer. We have a couple of festivals booked and some uk based trips, and then next year we are planning on a longer European trip with the tent. We are currently thinking France/Italy/Switzerland. We can’t wait!
I love that Xanthe and Hugo get to learn at their own pace and explore their own interests. The hardest thing is making sure that as their education falls solely to me, that they get a well rounded view of the world and grow up with love and tolerance at the forefront of their personalities. My role is not to “teach” them, but give them the tools to explore, learn and discover.
My advice to other parents considering home ed would be… do it! It seems like a big leap, but you soon fall into your own rhythm and routine, and no decision has to be forever – you can always go back to school if that ends up being the right choice for your child. Throw yourself into the home ed community – we have so much going on, that we can’t possibly join in everything! Give yourself a few weeks to settle into your new life and then watch your children blossom -the really will. It was the best decision that I’ve ever made, and for Hugo he will go straight into home education.
Hi, my name is Sam . I’ve got six children, spread over a quarter of a century. Currently, three older ones are married and left home. Three are home educated. They are 14, 10 and 4.
How long have you been home educating and why did you decide to?
We began by flexi schooling in 2005. We started home educating in 2008 ,and we had removed all our school aged children in 2009. Initially we started in 2005 flexi, as a temporary measure, because of bullying. We then started removing children from school to home educate full time because our children’s needs were not being met with school. The younger two have never been to school because we now believe that home education is the best education, for our children.
Briefly describe your home ed style. Do you have a ‘typical’ week and what does it include if so?
I think our style varies as much as our week. Each week is very different. I am somewhere between structured and child led. Depending on the child’s age and learning style.
Each week we tend to have a couple of meet ups arranged. My children have aspergers, so they like to know what they are doing each day. I usually write up the days tasks on the whiteboard because they like that.
What was your highlight of home ed last week?
Hmm we have a few highlights.
My non artistic son took a clay sculpture class and couldn’t wait to show us his work.
We finished reading a Long Walk to Water by Linda Sue Parks. That book created a lot of good conversations.
This week, my four year old wrote my name.
We went to An Owl and Reptile sanctuary and that was fun.
What is your favourite thing about home edding your children?
Being flexible to meet their needs. Getting to be with them and them getting to be with their siblings.
What do you find most difficult and why?
Having to be flexible, being with them all the time (see, it’s a plus and a minus!)
What advice would you give to other home educators?
Relax and enjoy your children.
My name is Emma my son is Jordan but every one knows him as Jay.
I’ve home educated since May 2011. My son was failed educationally at school and was 6 yrs behind in Maths and 2 years behind in everything else. He was also very badly bullied and the teachers refused to deal with any of it and in fact on occasion they themselves made fun of Jay. I pulled him out when he was suicidal at age 11. Had I not I firmly believe he would not be alive today.
We are radical unschoolers. We never have a typical day or week, everything is 100% child led, no structure, no timetables, no arbitary rules, no screen limits, no set meal times or bedtimes. He has chosen to sit GCSE exams but they are totally his choice as are any subjects…..he started out looking at 3 for June but dropped it to one exam. He has decided to do another next year.
There’s so many highlights it is very hard to pick just one. Jay is disabled plus has a chronic illness and uses a wheelchair. So what may seem insignificant to others would be a major thing to us. Despite being disabled Jay does a lot…..he is a Level 1 golf coach. He volunteers at Hensol Golf Academy at various times through the year and volunteers with Golf Development Wales.
He was an ambassador and mentor for Swansea Inclusive Futures when it ran, and he is a member of the Golf Development Wales National Youth Panel. He has been a Rhondda Cynon Taf Future Champion for 3 years, he is a Gold Young Ambassador, and he is on the Disability Sport Wales National Youth Board. He has played for the disabled Welsh team 3 years running. He has won awards for all he does for and in disabled golf off The PGA, ISPSHanda, The Golf Foundation Presidents award and more. He was a finalist in the BBC Sport Wales Young Coach of the Year category in their awards in 2015. He has played in ProAms with famous golfers.
He is a total cat whisperer and can tame even a feral cat. He is straight edge by choice so no drink, no fags, no drugs etc… He is totally open to anyone and is anti racism, anti homophobia, anti cruelty of any kind to anyone, etc… He is a huge gamer and has his own You Tube account. He has taught himself to play the electric guitar and taught himself to draw/art. None of this was forced on him, he chose to do whatever he wanted to do, no timetabes, only time we work to a time is for hospital appointments. He has had 5 offers of jobs including at big places where it’s hard to get a job.
The best thing about home education is the total freedom and its 100% what fits you and your family not a cookie cutter class room where they are just another kid going through the system. Theres nothing I find difficult about home ed and I never have found anything difficult.
My biggest advice to other home educators is please don’t just do a school at home with heads in books and strict timetables. Let your kids be kids, let your teens be teens, let them follow passions and interests. Trust them and they will amaze you.
My blog though woefully needs updating is A Welsh Unschooling Journey
I have 3 children: my 15 year old transferred from reception in Sheffield to years 1 and 2 in a small school in a Hertfordshire village. I then home educated him from ages 7 – 12. He then went to a small secondary school in Ireland before moving to a local secondary for year 10 in Hertfordshire again.
My 7 year old and 5 year old went to my aunt’s preschool for a couple of years and then into home education.
How long have you home educated for and why did you decide to do it?
I’ve been home educating for 8 years. My younger siblings all experienced various amounts of time in home education and I was always a little bit jealous of that! For me, it was the fact that my son had already moved schools twice and was likely to move schools at least twice more in primary alone. I wanted him to have more stability. Also school left him grumpy and irritable by the end of the school day which was affecting our relationship. Home education sorted all that.
My older daughter was very introverted and cautious and I knew she wasn’t ready for reception. I never even considered school for my youngest.
Briefly describe your home ed style. Do you have a ‘typical’ week and what does it include if so?
My older daughter does a core of violin practice, reading a page of her book, a little maths and a little spelling workbook. Altogether it takes about an hour and a half. If she wants to, we do work in other areas like comprehension, music theory etc. My younger daughter is a very self directed learner. She chooses activities from maths, jigsaws, writing and pretty much directs it herself. I have a few Montessori materials which she uses. I was expecting her to play or colour or draw so this desire to formally learn these more academic subjects has taken me by surprise. I also try and do some sort of art thing with them regularly. Recently they did printing with feathers and egg decorating.
We’ve recently combined with a couple of other families to set up a French and history group that I host on Mondays. My older daughter does ballet and a violin lesson on Tuesday and swimming lesson on Thursday and stem science on Friday. My younger daughter has a Bollywood class on Wednesday. I’m trying to persuade the teacher to set up a home ed Bollywood class but I think she’s hampered by personal circumstances at the moment.
What was your highlight of home ed last week?
I always love the Monday french and history group but my daughter’s enjoyment of the science class surprised me. My younger one has decided to write numbers in order. She is now up to 60 which I find entertaining.
What do you find most difficult and why?
The pressure from well meaning family members who loved school and believe their children loved school and even if they didn’t, you’ve got to go to school to “have your corners knocked off” and learn how to “integrate into society”. Very frustrating.
What is your favourite thing about home edding your children?
I always love seeing them learning new things. I love that if my children feel a bit under the weather, they can have a day off. I love the freedom they have to enjoy the weather and outdoors whenever they want for as long as they need. I love not having to structure my life around terms and for my children to learn at their own pace.
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Maxine works from a small studio in South Harrow. She also teaches classes and will soon be running workshops for parents to make their very own My&Me Jewellery with BaB courses. This practical workshop will be organised with the attendees convenience in mind; parents can bring babies, toddlers and home ed kids along with them and they will be entertained in the same room while parents can enjoy the workshop without the issue of childcare. Brilliant thinking!
The range includes shaped silver charm pendants priced from £49 for a single charm to £124 for a pendant with four charms. Or opt for a disc shaped or heart shaped engraved single charm bracelet or necklace (£55). You can even save 20% off just by signing up to their email list. These lovely items of jewellery would make a fabulous gift or a wonderful treat for yourself!
For more information see the website:
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Competition closes 12th May 2017. Open to UK residents only. Other T&Cs apply.