The life and times of a home schooling mom of se7en + 1.

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Happy Brilliant Birthday to Hood 4…

June 19th, 2018 · No Comments

Happy Brilliant Birthday to Hood #4… Our big hearted lad, who is so serious, and who loves to make us all laugh and can literally run like the wind. The kid who has shot up this past year and is taller than all of us… and is always looking for a “little” snack. To the fabulous brother… hope fifteen is a fantastic year for you…


Our very mad hatter…

Who never stops flying…
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And running…
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And flying…

And running…
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And Mountain tops…

And running…

And drawing…

And Mountain tops…

And origami…

And adventuring…

And beach cleanups…
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And more drawing…

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Happy Brilliant Birthday


Our master of disguise…


Feet never ever on the ground…


To our lover of style…


And always a ready smile…


Always ready with a good story…


And the biggest brown eyes…


A Blast From the Past…

2017: Hood #4 Turns 14…

2016: Hood #4 Turns 13…

2015: Hood #4 Turns 12…

2014: Hood #4 Turns 11…

2013: Hood #4 Turns 10…

2012: Hood #4 Turns 9…

2011: H00d #4 Turns 8…

2010: Hood #4 Turns 7…

2009: Hood #4 Turns 6…

→ No CommentsTags: Home Truths · Our Events

Se7en Things to Pack for School on the Road…

June 13th, 2018 · 2 Comments

This past month a couple of friends have asked me what we would take for school, if we were going on an extended trip. I decided to reply with a blog post. Firstly, I have to say that traveling with kids is such a completely consuming event that most families will be learning so much together that there will be no need to learn anything more and I certainly wouldn’t bother about your kids falling behind… if you read to them everyday and they play a couple of games, and all the while learn amazing things as they travel… well you just can’t find that kind of learning sitting in a desk, ever.


Before I even started packing, I would begin with a map… and if I was traveling locally then I would get a local map. Keep it handy, roll it out everyday and write on it the progress you made. If you went for a walk, or if you visited a landmark, or experienced a thunderstorm… mark it your map. Your map will be a momento of your trip. It will get worn out… but that it the point. Is there anything better than a lived in artefact.


Se7en Things to Pack for School on the Road

  1. A Journal: This is going to be their “memory box” for years to come… let them use a double page spread a day. And document their days… a sentence or two about their day. Not a heap of writing. If they look like they can’t think of anything to write then gather together a list of questions you could ask them. Pop your list of questions in your own notebook and ask them just one leading question each day… What was your favourite thing you did today? Did you meet anyone interesting today? What did you eat today? Otherwise, once a week add a nature page, or a landmark page. Give them lots of free space to add and stickers and things they collect along the way, wrappers and pamphlets, postcards, till slips and such like. Journaling is something you can do as a family, creating your own journal will give you the space to create the “perfect memoir” for each of you, and will give the kids a bit of space to put whatever they want to into their own journal. Courtney Adamo posted a fabulous post on Journaling their trip around the world on her blog, Somewhere Slower.
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  3. A Journaling Kit: Keep it really simple. The simpler the better, you really don’t want to lose all your enthusiasm because you can’t find what you are looking for or have a family drama, because someone sat on the fancy paints. Keep it simple, so that if anything gets lost you can replace it at any town grocery store. This would be my list:
    1. A Large Notebook for each journaler, we just use a hardback school notebook, that you can get from any store tat sells stationary.
    2. A couple of pencils, erasers and a sharpener each.
    3. A pair of scissors, a glue stick and we use bostik all purpose adhesive in the tube, for things that don’t stick in with a glue stick. And a roll of contact paper, or wide transparent tape… fabulous for taping in things that are awkward to glue… like seeds, or a pinch of sand from a special spot.
    4. If I was going to splurge, I would get a set of great watercolour pencil crayons, and pop a few paintbrushes in with the pencils. That way they can colour in their drawings and all you need to turn your colouring into a painted artwork is a little water from a water bottle and a paintbrush.
    5. Avoid markers, kids love them, but they always bleed through the page and mess things up. If you want coloured pens just get a set of coloured ballpoints and be happy with those.
    6. I would take a pile of scrap paper as well… because kids love drawing and you don’t want to pack their journals with a million random drawings on the first day.
    7. Cover your book before you leave and spend a day… sticking a printable map on the inside cover, so that they can track their journey. And write a list of things they are packing and taking with them… it will be fun to look at later, not to mention you can add things to it when you are on the road, that you should have thought of before you left home. Also, as part of your preparations, stick a large envelope inside the cover of the book, for storing small collectables, like maps and such, that you may not want to stick into your book.
  4. Books: I would definitely take a small pile of favourite books. I would include a story book… a collection of stories is the best. Something you could read everyday and make part of your routine… like the Rebel Girls Book. A collection of local stories would be fantastic and a collection of just jolly fun stories something that your kids will look forward to that you can read a chapter at bedtime or mealtimes when the waiting is terminal, or a rainy day… there will be those. Pick a family classic that you will all enjoy and read it, just a chapter a day… Mary Poppins or Heidi are great family favourites, you would be surprised how quickly you will all get used to reading time. I would also let each kid bring a favourite book or two… something old, something new… if you get tired of a particular book, mail it home or leave it behind. You are most likely not going to the far side of the moon and should be able to treat your kids to a new book once in a while.
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  6. Nature Study:
    Children thrive on asking questions about the environment they are in… we use a range of nature books for traveling and creating nature journals. Kids love collecting leaves, feathers and so on. If it is small and flat let them. These things can easily be stuck into your journals, and the odd flower or leaf that you tape in, will naturally become a pressed leaf as you travel, as your journals will be closed most of the time. Beware of the little stone collected, rather encourage rock rubbings… paper and a wax crayon rubbed gently to and fro as you press on the rock and you are winning. What can I say… we had a rock collector and ummm there is only so much a car can hold before it is overcome by the weight of it.

    I would definitely get a kid friendly nature guide for traveling and possible the adult version to browse and inspire as well. Did you know that you can get the South African Wildlife Guide as an App? Follow the link and download it… and for more local wildlife apps.
  7. Games: I totally understand that space is limited… you can’t actually beat a pack of cards for fun… teach your kids patience and they will play on their own, otherwise rummy. UNO is totally playable for all ages and that right there is all the math training your kids need, if they play daily their math skills will soar. For word play, with a little help even small people can enjoy bananagrams or boggle. Other small and packable games would be Spot it and my kids love and adore Story Cubes (and there is an app for Story Cubes as well).
  8. Audio Books Are Your Very Friends: Pick a series from audible and listen away, a story collection gives you the best value for money on… I would recommend The Narnia Collection if your children haven’t listened to it yet. Otherwise my kids have absolutely loved The series of the Incorrigible Children of Ashton Palace, and we have all loved the Little House on the Prairie Series, narrated by Cherry Jones. Otherwise, look online for the CD Roald Dahl Collection… that set of CD’s took us happily to Lesotho and back. Over and above that, I would choose something that makes everyone laugh and can lighten the mood… because there will be times when you need a little humour… a Dr Seuss Collection, or a classic Winnie the Pooh, trust me Winnie the Pooh is hilarious for kids and especially for their adults. Otherwise, search for Classical Kids on iTunes and download some of their stories with a classical music theme, our kids love these: Beethoven Lives Upstairs, Mr Bach comes to Call and many more.
  9. Actual School Stuff:
    If your kids are normally school goers and you are breaking free so to speak, I would definitely set up a rhythm and routine… a journaling half an hour everyday, a reading time every day, a game playing time and running about in the great outdoors time. If you just can’t leave school behind, then head for your local stationary store and grab some grade level workbooks, but really that is just busy work and your kids really don’t need them, they will keep up with their grade level by living a learning lifestyle. Maybe to help yourself stay calm and not panic… get hold of a kindle copy of Sarah Mackenzie’s The Read Aloud Family, or listen to her podcast, the Read Aloud Revival… and you will hear from someone other than me, that all you have to do is read to your kids and they will be fine.



→ 2 CommentsTags: Homeschooling

Happy Brilliant Birthday to Hood 2…

June 12th, 2018 · 2 Comments

So birthday season has begun and Hood #2 just turned nineteen…


Another licensed driver in the house and…

How do I even have such grown up kids…

Always Mr Cool…

Always able to sleep anywhere…
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And otherwise bouncing with energy…

Fabulous big brother…

And always good for a laugh…

And the ultimate techno kid…

And the reason we have house rules!!!

This little face…

And those little curls…

Previous Birthday Posts

Hood #2 is 18

Hood #2 is 17…

Hood #2 is 16…

Hood #2 is 15…

Hood #2 is 14…

Hood #2 is 13…

Hood #2 is 12…

Hood #2 is 11…

Hood #2 is 10… An interview with an inventor.

→ 2 CommentsTags: Our Events

World Oceans Day and Introducing the Living Shores…

June 10th, 2018 · No Comments

World Oceans Day seems to be the perfect day to write about the Living Shores: Interacting with southern Africa’s marine ecosystems, the new and updated version of the book that describes the shoreline of South Africa in great detail. The previous edition of this book has literally been read to pieces in our home and we were thrilled to receive a copy of this one for review, from Struik Nature South Africa.


The first edition of this book was just that, one glorious big book… but this edition is actually the first in a two part edition. Volume I examines coastal habitats, along the South African coastline and Volume II will take a closer look at the plant an animal life along our shoreline.

Let’s Meet the Authors

George and Margo Branch describe themselves as a “beach bums par excellence,” in actual fact… they are prolific writers and teachers in the marine community of South Africa. To their scientific skills they each bring an illustrative component, George brings photography and Margot brings art, and together they produce beautiful books to educate and enrich our lives.

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We have been lucky enough to bump into George and Margot Branch on our beach cleanups in Muizenberg Corner and I can assure you that a morning spent exploring the rocky shores with these two is an entire education all of its own… their knowledge and wonder at all things to do with the ocean is engaging and compelling. They are a font of knowledge and excited to share what they know with even the shortest ocean enthusiasts.


Let’s Look Inside the Book

Let’s begin by saying that this book provides details for all the regions along our shoreline, as well as further out to sea. The information is packed into this book, chapters are broken into manageable chunks and then broken down further into boxes of information and beautiful illustrations to explain, where words simply aren’t enough, as well as that, the book is richly illustrated with hundreds of photographs, creating a visual encyclopaedia of anything and everything to do with the ocean.


The book is presented in two parts, Part 1 is everything to do with the Ecosystems along the South African Coastline, and Part II is about The Human Factor. In the Ecosystem section you can look more closely at Rocky Shores and Sandy Beaches, Kelp Forests and Estuaries, not to mention the Open Ocean and other areas of out coastline. There is a lot to look at, and discover about our shoreline and we love the detail that the authors go into to firstly explore everything they possibly can about the coastline and then the lengths they go to to explain their discoveries.


The first section of the book on ecosystems explores all the living things: the nature of the plants and animals along the shore, the different features found in each zone and most importantly, why certain creatures prefer certain areas and

The more the authors learn and discover the more we as readers get told… you really feel as if you are exploring along side of them, and it is a wonderful way to learn. they have asked numerous other scientists to tell us about their work in the ocean environment and they have managed to present all this information for us in a way that is understandable and interesting.

The second half of the book entitled The Human Factor, describes the influence of man on the ocean around us… a fascinating and well balanced presentation of the all sorts of human interactions with the ocean… the fishing industry, the mining industry, the effects of climate change and the need for marine protection.

I thought I would read this book to our kids for school this year, little bit by little bit… and I left it out on the coffee table for a while before getting started on it. Turns out I won’t need to read it at all, because almost every time I walk into the room someone has the book and is dipping into it. This is exactly the type of book that has your children saying: “Did you know this?” or “Did you know that?” as they read away.

More importantly, when we are exploring rock pools invariably one of the kids well say… “I read in the Living Shores that…” Clearly what they are reading is becoming part of their understanding and they are ready to take the new found knowledge out into the field. This is the quintessential book for all ocean lovers to have on hand… when they need a question answered and when they want to learn something new. The fact that this is only part one of a two collection of books is great news for us… because we have thoroughly enjoyed getting to know this book.

Photo Gallery

Living Shores

I received these books from Struik Nature for review purposes. It is not a sponsored post, and all opinions expressed are entirely my own.

→ No CommentsTags: Brilliant Books

Our Latest Reads from Jonathan Ball Publishers…

June 8th, 2018 · No Comments

Just getting your weekend reads together for you… here are the latest and greatest books that we have been reading from Jonathan Ball Publishers. Something for everyone…


A Picture Book

Not Yet Zebra by Lou Kuenzler and Julia Woolf: This story is a delightful romp… Little Annie, who is a “quite in charge of things, thank you very much” kind of gal, is trying to paint her way through the animal alphabet. And then she has a very keen and enthusiastic little friend, Zebra, who really should be last, who is desperate, desperate to be painted.


She gets through Aardvark, Bear and Crocodile… and Zebra gets more desperate, resorting to dressing up. She resorts to “Shoo Zebra,” and finally in desperation while she is painting Yak, “Go away, Zebra, it is not your turn.”… And of course then when it is finally Zebra’s turn, he is nowhere to be found.

Annie, starts to feel a little remorseful, “Was it something I said?” Turns out Zebra has exhausted himself bouncing around and has simply gone to bed. Lovely bouncy rhyming story… and a chance to learn a little empathy at the same time. Very sweet book. You can meet the author, Lou Kuenzler over here… and the illustrator, Julia Woolf, over here.

A Chapter Book

The Midnight Gang by David Walliams: This is a fabulous fat book and richly illustrated by the zany Tony Ross. This is the perfect chapter book for the kid that whiffles through books really quickly and never has enough to read… 478 packed pages. And a less enthusiastic reader will happy bounce through this book as well, as there are plenty of illustrations to carry them along.


The story is about the Midnight Gang… a collection of children on the 44th floor of the Lord Font Hospital. A somewhat draconian hospital, in England, where children are sent to suffer in silence… except for the Midnight Gang, that literally comes alive at midnight, when all other children are sleeping. This book certainly feeds into the idea in every childs’ mind… that all good things happen long after bedtime. It is packed with the flippant wit of young lads, and many a joke has been packed into these pages. The nicest thing about this read is that David Walliams is a fairly prolific author and once your child discovers that they like the The Midnight Gang, they then discover heaps more books to read by the same author… it’s a win win. You have to take a peak at this book on David William’s website… there is a lot of fun stuff over there, including an excerpt to listen to.

A Historical Saga

The Sealwoman’s Gift by Sally Magnusson: I loved this book. Not often that I will say that… but I loved it and stayed up nearly all night reading it. I have to be honest, its a slow starter and it took me a while to get into it… but once the story started flowing I could not put it down. It is an epic, set in Iceland and North Africa, about 400 years ago. The book begins with heavily pregnant Asta, and her fellow islanders, that have all survived a brutal attack being carried off on a ship, in horrendous conditions away from the land they love. When she and the remains of her family, as well as a newborn, arrive in Algiers, the family is divided and sold to different quarters, she becomes a member of a wealthy businessman’s harem. The Muslim business man recognises, Asta’s Christian husband, Olafur as the leader and pastor of the clan, and sends him “home” to Denmark, to recover a ransom. He was sent on his own adventure, perhaps never to return. Meanwhile, the women gather each evening on the roof to swap stories and legends from whence they came and Asta’s skill and storytelling and knowledge of Icelandic mythology, brings her to the attention of her wealthy owner. He asks for her more and she is clearly not like the other women he interacts with, and they grown closer. When it appears that her husband will never return, they become closer still. But a twist fate and a messenger from afar, reveals (spoiler alert) that her husband is indeed alive… now she needs to decide between returning to her first love, in the cold and poverty of her homeland, or does she stay in her new wealthy world, where her children will always be just out of reach. A hard decision and one that Asta has to make for the book to reach its finale. This book is full of highs and lows and apparent contradictions, a wealthy life in captivity versus a life of poverty and freedom are continuously played against each other… it sounds like she had an easy choice to make, but then again, matters of the heart are never trivial. This is a historical fiction based on true facts of the time and I really love that the story is told from Asta’s perspective… a women’s perspective of a hair-raising raid, followed by years of captivity, one can only imagine. It is not often that we get to hear the feminine version of historical events, especially in an era when men were conquerers and women apparently, sat by the fire and darned socks… this book will throw that stereotype right out of the window. Asta is no push over, she is a woman of deep and abiding strength, she stands by what she believes throughout and doesn’t let her readers down as circumstances beyond her control rock the world around her, she stays firmly grounded. You can meet Sally Magnusson on her website here.

A Time Travelling Mystery

The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton: Let me start by saying, I did not love this book… but I was intrigued. Absolutely intrigued, I had to read this book all the way through. While I never felt emotionally connected to the characters, the author has created some very interesting characters and his plot just keeps you reading on. From the blurb, I was expecting something of a “Groundhog Day/Murder Mystery” type book… you can safely get Bill Murray out of your mind and stick with the Murder Mystery. There are murders and there is a mystery and it all begins with man with amnesia, running desperately through a forest towards what appears to be a Manor House, to report a terrible crime. It feels like a classic crime all the main players are gathered together for a celebration and surely you just need to hear each story to resolve it, but it is nothing like that… because the protagonist keeps changing throughout the book, each time our main player falls asleep he wakes up as a different person from amongst the characters,and you see the window into his world through very different eyes. He has eight hosts and eight days, or rather one day that keeps repeating, as he tries to understand, to figure out who is who and what it is all about. This is time travelling, but on the spot… until you realise that you are embroiled in a re-visit to a murder that happened nineteen years before. Not only do the goal posts move all the time but the players constantly change “side” from good to bad and back again… as your main narrator changes character. The point is, the victim remains the same. As the reader, you will love some of the unusual characters, you will loathe others, but that is neither here nor there, the point is you will really want to know if Evelyn can be saved from her inevitable fate, not only that… but why, why, why? There is a lot of cleverness in this complicated plot, and a lot you will still wonder about long after you have finished the last page.

And a Classic Collection

100 Books that Changed the World by Scott Christianson and Colin Salter: This is journey through time looking at 100 Books that have shaped our world… from I Ching in 2800 BC all the way through history to Capital in the Twenty-First Century by Thomas Picketty in 2013. They have managed to select a wide variety of books, through science and mythology, from every corner of the globe, religion and contemporary, classics from days of old and classics in our own time… Each book is on a double page spread, including a cover photograph and perhaps an illustration from within, and a full page write up about the author, the book and they have managed to take us behind the scenes and often provide a fair amount of back story to the book as well. It is the fastest track to inspire you to read all those books you “should” have read, as well as perhaps a quick way to find out why some of those books that you were told you must read, you never managed to get around to reading. I have to say that is packed with a lot of my favourites, including Jane Eyre, which may well be one of my desert island favourites… as well as other favourites of mine: Maya Angelou, Dr Seuss, Rachel Carson and can I mention Euclid!!!
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This book is very giftable, a beautiful hardback with page after page of book lover’s delight… not quite coffee table presentable in our house it does contain Vatsyayana’s S.tra amongst Homer’s The Iliad and the Odyssey and Dante’s The Divine Comedy. There is also Thoreau and Lewis Carroll, Tolstoy and Anne Frank… and for all the fans, Tolkien. Many books you probably have read and many that you wish you had read. This is a lovely collection for browsing through before a trip to a second hand shop, not to mention a trip down memory lane through your own reading journey.

Thank you to Jonathan Ball Publishers for supplying this fabulous collection of books for review purposes. This is not a sponsored post and all the reviews are as usual my own.

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Three Green Living Questions That We Asked an Environmental Engineer…

June 6th, 2018 · No Comments

This week we celebrated World Environmental Day, and we continue our series of Three Green Living Questions. We interviewed an Environmental Engineer visiting Cape Town, all the way from Paraguay.


Introducing Patricia, who Works in Environmental Education

My name is Patricia and I studied Environmental Engineering in my country, Paraguay, and Conservation of Biodiversity in Costa Rica, I work on a lot of things but always related to environment and nature.

Patricia has been working on environmental projects in Cape Town over the last six months, and we have been so lucky to have her join us on a number of hikes, we have learnt a lot about her home country, Paraguay, while she has been here and while we are very proud of our locally grown rooibos tea we have learnt to love her special tea called terere (when it is served ice-cold) or mate (when it is hot), which she carries wherever she goes.

Three Green Living Questions

  1. What one thing do you do in your home that you feel makes a difference to the environment?
  2. I tried to use less plastic in my everyday. For example: I go to the supermarket with my own bag, I don´t buy bottled water (I´m generally carrying my own bottle or my terere or mate with enough water), I don’t use straw (except my metal straw for drinking terere/mate) and as a woman I decided to reduce my monthly waste by using the menstrual cup. Oh! And after living in Cape Town, I am MUCH more conscientious about water care too!


  3. If you could tell your community one thing to change what would it be?
  4. To manage better the garbage and reduce the waste. I will love to see my city clean and with a responsible comsuption.


  5. If you had an opportunity to speak to world leaders what policy would you ask them to implement?
  6. To take advantage of the protected areas and link them to environmental education programs for all the citizens. I will love to see a world full of people getting outdoor, getting to know the nature and taking care of it, and I think that a experiential education is the key for that: To take care of something, you have to love it and to love it, you have to know it first.

    Previous Posts in This Green Living Series…

    Watch this spot, same time same place next week… for another Green Living Interview…

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Se7en’s July… and your Free Printable Calendar…

June 3rd, 2018 · No Comments


A Couple of our readers have asked us how we use our calendar posts for school. These posts began, and have grown, simply because it was interesting to see what events were occurring on a particular day. We don’t celebrate everyday – but we could!!! At the beginning of each month we print out a new calendar. Then we read through the blog post and pick the days that we would like to celebrate. We write those days out onto our calendar and pop the calendar onto the fridge.

Click on the image, it will open in a fresh tag… print it using landscape mode and colour away!!!

  • 1 June: Donut Day.
  • 2 June 1896: Radio Patented.
  • 3 June 1965: First U.S. Space Walk.
  • 4 June: Aesop’s Birthday
  • 4 June 1896: First Ford built.
  • 5 June 1783: First Hot Air Balloon Flight.
  • 5 June: Gingerbread Day.
  • 5 June: Richard Scarry’s Birthday.
  • 5 June: World Environment Day.
  • 6 June 1944: D-Day.
  • 8 June 1867: Frank Lloyd Wright.
  • 8 June: World Ocean’s Day.
  • 9 June 1934: Donald Duck’s Debut.
  • 9 June 1672: Peter the Great Born.
  • 10 June: Ball Point Pen Patented.
  • 10 June: National Iced Tea Day (U.S.A.).
  • 11 June 1770: Great Barrier Reef Discovered
  • 11 June: The Queen’s Birthday.
  • 11 June 1910: Jacque Cousteau’s Birthday
  • 11 June: E.T. Movie premiered.
  • 12 June 1929: Anne Frank’s Birthday
  • 13 June 1865: William Butler Yeats Birthday (1865 – 1939).
  • 14 June: Flag Day
  • 14 June: World Juggling Day
  • 15 June 1215: Magna Carta Signed.
  • 15 June 1752: Benjamin Franklin’s Kite Experiment 1752.
  • 16 June 1976: Youth Day 1976 – South Africa.
  • 16 June: Father’s Day.
  • 16 June: National Fudge Day
  • 17 June 1898: M.C.Escher’s Birthday.
  • 18 June 1815: Napoleon defeated at Waterloo.
  • 19 June 1846: First Organized Baseball Game in New Jersey.
  • 19 June 1978: Garfield’s Birthday.
  • 20 June: Bald Eagle Day.
  • 20 June: International Picnic Day.
  • 22 June: National Eclair Day.
  • 24 June: U.F.O. Day

  • 29 June: Camera Day
  • 30 June: Meteor Day
  • se7en's May

    If you would like to now more about how we use our calendar for school as a fabulous resource of famous people and events then do pop over to the Almanac page for an explanation… Meanwhile, we hope you have a joyful June!!!

    Related Posts with Thumbnails

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