Families of Instagram #2: Loopy Gibbens

“One of the beauties of home-educating is not having to set an alarm clock or wake the boys before they’re ready,” says Louise Gibbens (@loopygibbens), whose photos of family life have amassed 92k Instagram followers. We take a look behind the scenes…

Louise Gibbens is a photographer living in Kent with her husband Spencer and their two sons: Archie, nine, and Jody, five. The boys are educated at home.

Our mornings are… Slow, thank goodness. One of the beauties of home-educating is not having to set an alarm clock or wake the boys before they’re ready. We have our own morning routine. Archie rises early and enjoys an hour to himself, usually reading or playing Minecraft. I love to lay in bed for a while after waking before showering. I can’t face the day without that little ritual. Jody is our sleeper. He is often not awake until 9:30am. He and I have our breakfast together, by which time Archie is often on his second helping. If we have to be somewhere by 10am these days it’s a challenge.

My kids mainly wear… things they’re comfortable in or love. My eldest, Archie, is not fussy and would stay in his pants all day if possible. His younger brother, Jody, is far more discerning when it comes to clothes. They work their clothes hard; they have to be compatible with tree climbing to pass the test. I can see the attraction of cheap, mass-produced clothing when children grow so quickly and wear their clothing to play in but it just doesn’t sit right with me: I try to buy clothes that are ethically and sustainably produced. I’ve found Instagram to be the most amazing way of discovering brands that suit our lifestyle. Current favourites include Red Creek Handmade, Play Is Work, ABC123Me, MorMor, Smalls, Superlove, and Bobo Choses.

Louise Gibbons - Loopy Gibbens - theearlyhour.com

I cope with clutter by… Ha! I don’t! I live with so much clutter and it plagues me. In fact, I’d go so far as to say it has a detrimental effect on my health. Seriously. I’ve started to apply the Mari Kondo method of tidying but it’s a slow process. So far the strategy for minimising and storing our clothing has worked amazingly, and I’m thinking far more about what we buy in a way I didn’t before.

I never leave the house without… My phone.

When they’re not looking I… eat chocolate in our cupboard under the stairs.

I encourage creativity by… allowing my kids free rein with mess-making, art materials, paper, pens etc. They also have plenty of time to just experiment with their ideas. I’d love an immaculate house but it’s not where I’m at for the moment. They’ve drawn on the walls and their bed and that’s OK, the house is so messy it’s not a problem. Jody has his own tool shed where he potters about sawing and nailing and glueing. They both attend a local youth theatre group and we visit the theatre and festivals regularly. I’m never without my camera and they’re both quick to notice and point out interesting light to me.

Loopy Gibbens family photos…

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I’ll never be able to part with… a few select items from their baby days. I’ve made a point of handing down lots of outgrown clothes but I have kept one small bag of bits that are just too precious to part with.

When all else fails we… Get outside in nature. It never, ever fails to turn things around. Locally our favourite spots include a small woodland with a fast running stream that we’ve nicknamed the fairy woods, a wonderful open meadow with a great climbing tree just five minutes from home, and Wye Downs where we head when it’s windy – it feels as though you’re on top of the world.

We’re also close to the coast and especially like Joss Bay and Kingsgate in Thanet. Further afield we’ve fallen in love with west Wales and “the secret beach” near Penbryn (introduced to us while staying at the wonderful Fforest camp) and Barafundle Bay (not far from The Welsh House, Bryn Eglur, where we stayed) with its perfect combination of sand dunes and rocky caves. Gruinard Bay in the Scottish Highlands will forever have a place in our hearts; pure magic.

Follow Louise on Instagram: @loopygibbens