I have a confession to make... as a child and a teenager I found history lessons extremely tedious and boring. I could not see the relevance of any part of history to my own life. I was young, I was living for the moment, history was in the past.
However, since having my eldest son a decade ago, my passion for and knowledge of history has grown immensely. I’ve found a context that makes sense. I’ve viewed it through the eyes of a curious child and I have lived and breathed it for short periods of time. Suddenly I am very connected to those who have gone before me and I am inspired by my own ancestors as well as by fabulous characters from the past.
It is clear to me now that history is not about big events and remembering facts, it is about people’s lives, the food they ate, the clothes they wore, the lives they led and the things they believed. I love history.
Our Dig for Victory Garden
When we chose to home school our son in 2017, I wasn’t sure whether I would be teaching him history or he would be teaching me, so we decided that the best thing to do would be to learn together.
As he was, and still is, obsessed with WW2 and we both enjoy being outside as much as possible, I suggested that we start our own Dig for Victory Garden and, for reasons unknown even to myself, that we grow enough food to allow us to live off war time rations for a week in the summer.
He was, of course, completely up for the challenge and we set about digging over our vegetable plot, finding containers to grow things in and he constructed an air raid shelter with his father from the baby’s old cot!
We read books about the seeds we should plant, we made compost, we watched the weather closely and we grew as much fruit and veg as we could. Suddenly the realisation of what life would have been like during that time hit me hard. Food was essential, if our crops failed we would go hungry. Waste would not be an option.
As the summer drew closer we looked at war time recipes and discovered The 1940's Experiment website by Carolyn Ekins. It is full of tasty, authentic recipes based on 1940's rations. We used it alongside history books and cookery books to write a 5 day meal plan based on the rations we would have been allowed, plus whatever we had grown in the garden.
One of the funniest parts of this was my son’s face when we weighed out his sweet rations for the week!
The rations week arrived and utterly changed my life. There is something liberating about stepping away from modern life and being able to take time to focus solely on your family, their needs and nutrition. The food was delicious and we rarely felt hungry. Every day we learned something new and every day we appreciated a little more the life we had. I would recommend this to anyone.
It was so good, that even when my son returned to school the following year, we repeated our experiment for another five days and I intend to carry on every summer. There are many blog posts about our experience on this website, click here to read if you would like to know more. I am also in the planning stages of a book about this project, so watch this space if you want to join in too!
War time cookery lessons
During lockdown and the pandemic, our dig for victory garden has taken on a whole new significance. As life was turned upside down, we spent more and more time in our little garden and although none of us have ever experienced a global pandemic before, the garden and the skills we had learned during our summers of living on war time rations really came into their own.
I knew that I was more resilient than I felt, and I also knew how to make food with few ingredients. At the beginning of lockdown, being so rural and also struggling with severe anxiety, food was difficult to come by.
The garden gave me purpose and routine and we nurtured each other through incredibly difficult times. After months of lockdown, my children and I decided that a full week living on War Time Rations might be a bit too much, so we decided that this year, we would share some of our favourite war time recipes in video form so that other families could make them at home as well.
Below are the five recipes we chose to cook. Click on each picture to link to the YouTube Video and you too can have fun with some wartime cookery!
Visits to historical places
History is such a vast and fascinating subject, it is difficult for me to offer specific activities to help you learn about it. So, what I suggest is that you learn about the people and places that interest you most. Local history is a great place to start, the history of your village, town or city might be something you want to know more about. Or maybe the history of the people who lived in your home before you.
I highly recommend visiting as many historical places as you can. There is something very special about being in the places where significant historical events have happened, and there are also some fascinating, funny and fearless characters who inhabited these places.
These are some photos from a trip to Portsmouth Historic Dockyard and The Mary Rose Experience. This place was so huge and so interesting that we went twice in a week!