One of the best things about Home Educating is that the whole ‘Back To School’ furore rather passes us by. Our summer takes much longer to fade and we’re really only just starting to get into the swing of an Autumnal house.
But whilst we don’t do school lunches anymore, we do still do lunch (obviously… we don’t starve them…), and one of the loveliest things about home ed is actually the time we get to spend together over meals each day. Breakfast is slow and unhurried, lunch is at a rather loose time when everyone starts getting hungry and heading for the kitchen. We try and make them self-reliant for lunch to improve self-reliance and cooking (and cupboard foraging) skills, and the boys tend to cook up something (which usually seems to involve large quantities of cheese or in one case pan-popped popcorn).
But the 10yr old? Old habits die hard, and she still loves what she deems a ‘proper’ lunch. She’d prefer it to be served in a container of some sort, and she loves a sandwich or wrap, some fruit, and a pot of something sweet. So when Hartley’s sent us one of their nifty new limited edition lunch boxes and some of their no added sugar jelly pots to try, I didn’t have to search hard for a willing volunteer!
But of course my girl isn’t so little anymore. Long gone are the days when a lunch date with my girl would involve long and convoluted chats about what cat paws feel like (actually, thinking about it, she still wonders that. For a cat-obsessed girl there’s a serious lack of actual cats in her life), whether Spongebob would like her new lamp and if I thought Unicorns could hop (yes, all real past topics. A lunch date with my girl was never a dull thing).
These days there’s a little more pre-teen angst, occasionally some tricky friendship issues to navigate, some serious world-news worries to talk through and a limited amount of Roblox/Minecraft updates (limited by me, that is. Be fair, there’s only so much I can take and if I didn’t put my foot down that’s ALL I’d hear about).
But those cosy little 30 minute spells in a busy household? They’re pretty special – to us both. With four children my time spent alone with each of them is always much less than I’d like. But that short little lunch break we get a few times a week when the teenagers are racketing about the kitchen making ‘pizza wraps’ (quesadillas) and Dad’s busy working is a small space of ‘ours’. We’ll bagsy the table space (or head outside if the sun is shining) and she’ll refuse to share and I’ll have to go rummage for my own lunch whilst the slowest-eater-in-the-west begins her snail-pace chew of her wrap.
And in between watching the birds we see in the birdbath out the window, discussing the latest book she’s reading, convincing her that a hairbrush is a good idea and playing silly games of I Spy, those serious subjects tend to slip in. I’d not really thought about it before, but chatting over lunch is a free and unpressured place for her to talk through all the things that are unfurling in her brain. It’s the perfect time for a constant connection each day as she moves towards puberty and her world gradually changes, and she wobbles in her own jelly-like fashion between the child she was, and the amazing young woman she’ll become.
We still chat about Spongebob, but we’ll also talk about the effect of a Hurricane on an island far away, too.
She’s capable of making her own sandwich these days, and there’s a sad lack of them being cut into interesting star shapes. But she still loves popping it into a plastic box to eat from, will still stick stickers on her bananas, and she really REALLY loves those jelly pots, thanks Hartleys!
(I’m not kidding – LOOK at how many of those pots have disappeared while I was photographing ‘for research purposes, mummy!”. And only one was pinched behind my back by a big brother…)
The jelly pots are actually perfect for lunches – they don’t need any refrigeration, and they’re sweet enough to feel like a real treat, though there’s no added sugar (they contains naturally occurring sugars), and of course there’s no artificial colours and flavours, and they’re gelatine-free so suitable for vegetarians too.
Hartley’s has created a fun video series focusing on the weird and wonderful things kids talk about over their lunchbox – for some light-hearted watching for mums. At Hartley’s, we know how stressful back to school season can be, so to make life a little bit easier, they are also giving away lunchboxes when you collect 12 Hartley’s lids.