One of the most used items in our house has to be the vacuum cleaner (or hoover). It feels like the minute I put it away in the cupboard it’s back out again to clean up the trail of crumbs that my kids seem to enjoy leaving everywhere they go.
So, I’m sure that it won’t surprise you that I think that getting the right vacuum cleaner is a pretty important purchase. But with so many options to choose from it can be pretty overwhelming, especially when you’re on a limited budget!
With this in mind, I thought it might be helpful to review my personal experience of a range of vacuum cleaners that I have used over the past few years. Hopefully you might find it useful when making your own decision on what hoover to buy next.
Henry Hoover (or Hetty)
To start with, I thought that it would make sense to talk about our current vacuum cleaner, Hetty Hoover*. Yes I said Hetty (the girl version), not the ever so popular Henry*.
This is because we had a lovely little Henry Hoover for about 8 years. He was like a part of the family. He was totally reliable and even battled through some tough periods when my boys were tiny and thought that he was some sort of ride on toy. However, when he did eventually pack in I decided that I was happy to get another vacuum cleaner like Henry, but this time I wanted the girl version. I just thought it was about time there was some pink in my house of big and little men.
This time, however, I haven’t been as pleased with this range of hoover. I don’t know if there has been some sort of change in the manufacturing of the vacuum cleaners or maybe there is a difference in quality between Henry and Hetty?
Like I said, I’m not sure, but we have had Hetty for about 2 and a half years and we have already had a replacement tube sent out as they were constantly slipping in and out of each other when you’re trying to use it. Just last week the plastic part which attaches the tube to the main body of the vacuum cleaner split, which means it constantly falls off.
Now I have to hold my hands up and admit that I probably haven’t been as careful with the hoover as I possibly should have. This can be hard, though, as the design of the hoover is to follow you as you move around, but maybe I should have took more care when manoeuvring around corners.
All this being said, I did use the Henry version in exactly the same way for 8 years and we didn’t have to replace any parts.
On a positive note, the capacity in the vacuum bags are great and they are very easy to replace. Also the suction power is amazing. I especially love the super suction setting when cleaning our deep pile rug!
Another vacuum cleaner that I have been using recently is my mother-in-law’s Miele Complete C3* Cat and Dog Bagged Cylinder Vacuum Cleaner. It’s a bit of a mouthful but I thought I’d best write the full title as there are quite a few ranges on Miele vacuum cleaners.
Like the Henry hoover this is a pull along type, although it is much lighter than the Henry Hoover. Personally, after using it quite a few times I feel that it is a much better product. It has been designed in a way to make using it easy and it feels like a higher quality vacuum cleaner.
The reasons why I think that it has been designed in a much better way are these:
The accessories for the vacuum are cleverly kept in a compartment in the main body of the hoover. Which means that you never have to rummage through your under-stairs cupboard for each little accessory, they are always to hand whenever you need them.
The main attachment is secured to the tubes by a clever little mechanism that clicks into place. So unlike the Hetty Hoover, the Miele parts aren’t constantly coming off when you’re using them. You can easily and securely swap the attachments confident that nothing is going to fall off.
The final design feature that I like is the button that you press (with your foot) to wind the wire back in. There’s no need to break your back bending down to wind it in manually. It is as simple as pressing a button!
If I was to pick out a negative for this hoover I think it would be that it can’t be stored very compactly. But I suppose that that’s only an issue if you’re tight on storage space.
The final vacuum cleaner that I’m going to write about is the G-Tech Cordless vacuum*. I do some cleaning for a friend and this is the vacuum that they have.
It is the most modern of the three with it being both cordless and bagless. Now I’ve got to admit that it is brilliant using the vacuum without having to deal with any wires. Constantly plugging and unplugging it as you move around the house. However you do need to be organised and make sure that you have charged the battery before you need to use it.
Like I said earlier, it is also a bagless vacuum. The storage compartment for the dust is very easy to remove and empty, and you can see exactly how full it is, so you don’t need to worry about overfilling any bags.
However, the only downside that I have come across with the bagless vacuum is that if you have a dust allergy this is not the type of vacuum for you. My mother-in-law (who I spoke about earlier) is allergic to dust and after buying a bagless Dyson vacuum, she had to replace it with the Miele as the clouds of dust that come out when emptying the compartment was affecting her allergy.
This being said, I do think that it is a great vacuum. It was light-weight, really easy to manoeuvre and very flexible, so I can clean underneath furniture without having to move them first. It also has a little carry handle for when you go up and down the stairs.
However, I think that my favourite feature has to be the lights on the front. I don’t know why all vacuums don’t come with this feature? It makes it so easy to see mess in dark places such as under the sofa, but it also highlights every crumb that’s in your path, which means you do an extra thorough job!
Which Would You Choose?
Ok, well there are my three vacuum reviews. I hope that they have been helpful for you as you try and figure out which is the right type of vacuum cleaner for you!
Well about 4 years have passed since writing that post and things have certainly changed. As of September 2018 we made the leap and took our two boys out of school! So I wanted to tell you how we got started and share some tips if you’re thinking about homeschooling yourself.
How to get started
If you have already decided that homeschooling is the right choice for you and your family, or, if you’re still in the process of making that big decision, then you might be wondering how to get started?
Here are the first steps you’ll need to take, along with some homeschooling resources I’ve personally found really useful.
Informing the school
If your child/children are currently in school, then you will need to inform the headteacher of your decision. It’s important to remember that at the time of writing in England this is completely legal, so you don’t need the school’s permission to homeschool your children. The school does have the right, however, to refuse a request to send a child into class part-time.
What you will need to inform the headteacher of your decision is a letter requesting that they deregister your child from the school. The school will then pass on the information to your local education authority. To make your life really easy you can use the free template of this letter from www.home-education.org.uk
The day I handed the letters into my boys school I felt a real mix of excitement and nerves. I was happy with our decision, but I was also trying not to feel overwhelmed by the thought of being solely responsible for the education of my children. So it was really nice when I got a phone call later that day from the headteacher telling me that they will really miss the boys, but also that if I need any help I can always ask them.
If you are planning on homeschooling your children from the very beginning, then you don’t need to write a letter to the local authorities to get them deregistered, as they won’t be registered with them anyway.
There are so many options available today with regards to resources that it may feel a bit overwhelming. Don’t let this bother you. What I have come to learn is that you work out over time how you and your children work the best.
The route that I decided to start with was to buy some workbooks for my boys age groups that support the national curriculum. We decided to use the Gold Stars range* and found that they were a bargain. We bought ours from The Works* for about £4 each but they are similarly priced on websites such as Amazon* and Wilko*. I felt that it would be easy to use the workbooks as a foundation for each subject and then to build on the topics in more detail.
I was informed that Pinterest has a huge amount of free resources that you can download and also some really great lesson ideas for kids of all ages. It really is true, Pinterest is a great place to find ideas to make lessons fun, but people also share lots of great worksheets too.
However, I did feel that I was spending a lot of time in the evening preparing for the following days lessons. This is because even though both of my boys are in KS2 they are in different year groups, so I was having to search and find appropriate work for both of my boys and if I’m being completely honest, it was quite time consuming putting together lesson plans from scratch.
I then remembered a website called Twinkl that my friend who works in a nursery mentioned. As it turns out, my boys old school also uses resources from Twinkl which didn’t surprise me because I think that it is a great website. It is a website designed to help teachers (and also homeschooling parents) with a huge amount of lesson plans, worksheets, activity packs and the list goes on. They are created by teachers for teachers and I can’t stress enough how much Twinkl has helped me.
To use Twinkl you pay a yearly subscription fee, and the amount you pay depends on the type of pack you want. Once you do this you then have wonderful resources at your fingertips to print off. I think that one of the reasons I really appreciate this website is because it gives me peace of mind to know that I am teaching my children in a way that is recommended by teachers. It also saves me a lot of time and the worksheets are so vibrant and colourful that my boys really enjoy the activities. However, this is my personal opinion, there are many different ways to teach your children, and a lot of people choose to steer clear of the type of work that is done is schools so please remember to do your research and only choose what is right for you.
YouTube is another great place to find help. There are lots of great videos that can help with basically anything that you need help with. I would recommend checking the videos out yourself first, though, as one of the problems with YouTube is that you never know exactly what you might find.
One of our favourite YouTube channels is Mathantics, it’s very fun and vibrant and his teaching methods seem to click with children.
Plan a schedule
Depending on what type of homeschooling you are wanting to do, another important step may be to create some sort of schedule.
My children work best with a routine, they like to know what time lessons start, what lessons they will be doing each day and how long the lessons will last for. Amazingly they like to start early, so we aim for an 8:30 start so that they can finish early too. But we also do a lot of cooking, baking, p.e lessons and outdoor activities. This means that they are learning for the majority of the day but in a fun way.
Remember that you can change your schedule as time goes on and you find a routine that works best for the whole family.
One of the easiest things to do when your starting on your homeschooling journey is to stress out. I am a natural worrier and so this was something that me and my husband spoke about before we made the leap. Whether my children were in school or at home, I would worry about all sorts of different things. However, teaching your children is a wonderful experience and an experience that we want our whole family to enjoy.
I’m trying to remember that I am learning too and it will take time to really figure out how our family will benefit the most from this new journey. I took a week off after handing the letter into school to get myself organised and I’m really glad that I did.
So there we go, a few simple tips on how to get started with homeschooling in the UK. Obviously I am only writing about what seems to have worked or is working for us, but hopefully you might find something in the post useful. Keep a look out for more posts that I’ll be writing about our experiences.
A little while back I told you about a different eco-friendly washing detergent I was wanting to try called ‘Soap Nuts’. I heard about them from a friend of mine who was thrilled with the totally natural and mild detergent. After using them for a few weeks I thought that it would be a good time to let you know how I got on.
What are Soap Nuts?
If you haven’t heard of soap nuts* before, then here is a quick overview of what they are.
Soap nuts (or Indian wash nuts) are a totally natural product that grow on trees in areas such as South India. They are are harvested in October and dried out. Once the kernels have been removed they are ready to use.
They work as a detergent when they come into contact with water because they create mild suds which gently wash your clothes. The fact that they are 100% natural and a mild alternative to your conventional detergents has made them appeal to a variety of different people.
What has my experience of using soap nuts been like, though?
When the bag of soap nuts arrived I was really disappointed that the small wash bag* that was supposed to be included in the package wasn’t there. This obviously delayed me being able to try them out because we had to wait another couple of days for them to arrive. However, the company that we bought the soap nuts from were very apologetic and reimbursed us for the trouble.
Now, because I was going down the whole eco-friendly route I decided that I wanted an eco-friendly fabric conditioner too. My friend advised me to use white vinegar with a few drops of organic natural essence oil. I think that this is a bit of a trial and error area because you need to find the right smell for you and also you need to work out the ratio of vinegar to oil that you feel works best.
Personally I preferred the organic lemongrass oil* at a ratio of about 1 cap of vinegar to 10 drops of oil. But like I said, this is completely up to you.
How long do they last?
The instructions that came with my bag of Soap Nuts said that 5 half shells in a small bag should last up to 5 washes before they need replacing. This is great value for money as you can buy a 1kg bag of soap nuts* for around £10!
Once you’re finished with the nuts you can either pop them in the bin or to be super eco friendly you can chuck them onto your compost heap.
How well did they wash?
OK, so I suppose that the main thing you’re all wondering is whether they actually work or not. The answer to that is yes they definitely do wash your clothes. They look clean and bright which really did surprise me. Although I have got to admit that I struggled with the natural fabric conditioner at first, I didn’t feel that the clothes were as soft as usual but I persevered!
Now even though the soap nuts washed the clothes quite well, I did notice that the natural mildness of them meant that they struggled to remove the harder marks or stains without the help of a stain remover pre-treatment. I suppose that for some people this wouldn’t really cause any issues if maybe you only have to do it rarely or maybe you do that as part of your normal laundry routine anyway, but for me this was an extra effort that I didn’t really have the time to do. I think having 2 young boys who seem to pick up grass stains and chocolate stains on a daily occurrence it felt like too much effort.
Would I swap?
Would I swap my regular detergent for the cheaper, eco-friendly soap nuts? I’m very sad to say that I wouldn’t. The reason that I’m not happy about this is because they could possibly save me a (very) small fortune. They are such good value for money that I don’t think there is another detergent out there that can come close to how much they can save you.
I’m also sad that I won’t be making a permanent swap because I love the idea of using something 100% natural. Knowing that it doesn’t harm the environment and that they aren’t harsh on the boys skin are two reasons that I really wanted them to work for me.
However, even though all of the above are very good reasons for using the Soap Nuts, unfortunately for me I just can’t spare the extra time in pre-treating the clothes before each wash.
If you aren’t too worried about pre-treating some of your clothes before popping them into the machine then I would definitely recommend that you give soap nuts a try*!