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

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Se7en + 1 Things That Have Changed Our HomeSchool for the Better…

September 4th, 2015 · No Comments

It is back to school in the Northern Hemisphere… and this is good news for us, because it means that for them Summer is turning into Fall, and for us: Winter should be turning into Spring. Anyway the internet is packed with posts on How to Homeschool, What to Homeschool and even Why to Homeschool. If I was new to homeschooling and I was in my first couple weeks of school I would probably crawl under a blanket and hibernate for a couple of months.

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Now we split our school year in two – half the year we unschool and the other half of the year we use a curriculum, throughout the year we read tons and spend heaps of time outdoors. It turns out we are a couple of weeks into our school year… and after homeschooling for twelve-ish years for the first time ever I feel confident enough to say that our schooling is going well. That is a lot of years of to cover before I stopped actually fretting about how our homeschooling is going and actually just enjoyed it for what it is. That doesn’t mean that I haven’t enjoyed homeschooling, I have loved every second of it, but I realise somewhere along the way I have lost that gritty worry that maybe our kids weren’t doing enough or weren’t up to speed. Our kids are our kids and learn at their own pace – that’s the point of homeschooling after all.

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So I thought I would blog about things that have made the difference. It isn’t anything we have changed in our school… we still use the same curriculum, Sonlight and we love it, it is still the same kitchen table and the same kids, not to mention the same teacher. Turns out it isn’t about coping with the clutter that homeschooling creates or even worrying about what the homeschooling paparazzi are up to. Turns out it is about listening and heeding the needs of our family and our little school.

Se7en Things This Mother Just Can’t School Without:

  1. Actual Sleep: This is so huge, I could write a book on it. But being disciplined enough to get to bed timeously and sleep night after night. I get that many moms have little people, but long after my little people were in bed nights and sleeping through, I was staying up on the internet, looking for interesting resources for school and/or blogging. Turns out there are not enough resources available to beat a good night’s sleep and if I want to find things that will interest my kids then they have to actually look for them, themselves. So blogging is slower, sleep is moreish, bedtimes are better adhered to all-round and our school is so much better for it. Being awake enough and ready to face the day in the morning is huge, for all of us.
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  3. A Jolly Good Morning for Everyone and a Positive Attitude: A bright and breezy good morning to folk who really don’t want to get up, can make the world of difference to everyone involved. Remember we live in the house of a couple teens and some of our gang really, really battle with mornings. Just saying a “Good morning, and hope you are ready for a fabulous day as they emerge from under the covers… sets the tone and is a great start to the day. I have banned the negative, from myself and between our kids, it has gone and it is never coming back. I just don’t want to hear moaning and groaning about anything or anyone. No more “I can’ts”, no more “impossible’s” If they need help with their work, then ask for it. If it really is too hard we can adjust it to fit better, but we won’t moan about it. Along with positives words we are banning the shouting out of “mam” everytime they think they might need me – this one is long overdue. But there will be no more, “he who shouts my name out loudest” gets attention.
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  5. Lose those Mini-Interruptions: To state the obvious homeschooling happens at home and so it is full of the interruptions of life. And that is the joy of it, no two days are exactly the same and that is a good thing… interruptions happen – friends get ill, opportunities arise, folk want to stop by. Those interruptions are part of life and I ride the wave… but those little interruptions – the endless mam, mam, mam… from my kids all day can leave me feeling somewhat shattered long before lunchtime, not to mention that it is severely distracting for the child I am helping at the moment. The amount of times I turn and say yes, only to hear “I’ve forgotten what I was going to ask.” Enough was enough and we are conquering this. It is an important lesson to learn: you can’t just spill whatever words are in your head whenever you like… if your words are important enough then it is worth waiting a moment until someone is available to listen to them. We are mastering the art of “Excuse me” just once… no need to repeat yourself, “excuse me, excuse me, excuse me” be gone. If the interrupter is desperate they may rest their hand on me and wait quietly. I won’t forget they are there and that moment to complete a thought or a sentence is just invaluable to the folk who are being interrupted.
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  7. The Biggest Interrupter: Along the same lines of the previous point, I have a number of readers who are emerging writers in our school. They are just past the stage of writing with happy abandon and they have realised that in order for someone to read and appreciate what they have written they actually need to write correctly. The “How do I write…?” and “How do I spell…?” can go on and on and on… and the more they write the more they ask. I am all for it. I want them to ask and I know that by repetition they will get the words they use most often and build their “writing vocabulary.” The problem is with at least four children at this stage at the same time it was time to address this: Word books have been the answer… as soon as they asked: “How do I write…” they were issued with a tiny notebook that fits into their pocket – they love them and can use them any time and any place. I fold each page in two and when they ask for a word I write it down once… then they copy it into the second column. Slowly their lists are growing and they can look back at a word they have asked before, before they ask for the same word again.
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  9. Lots of Little Mini-Breaks: Previously I sat in the same spot during school time for most of the day, and the kids would chop and change and take turns with me. This year I still have the same spot, I claim it – because it is sunny, but I get up and walk around when I change students… I check the post box, I go and take a look at the sea (there might be whales), I hang the laundry… previously I always tried to do all my moving around before school and I didn’t realise how stagnant I was feeling towards the end of the morning. Well mini-breaks really do give your brain a little refresh. try it, it works.
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  11. Real Live Exercise: I while back we began taking an evening amble, it was hard to get into and I found so many excuses not to head out, but always felt refreshed afterwards. It has become a habit and without an evening amble I can hardly make it through dinner, let alone get folk to bed. I need that escape to the great outdoors and without it I suffer immensely, and so does everyone else.
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  13. Let Some Things Go: Last year we focused on getting everyone’s reading up to speed… it was life changing. But other things were let go and math, besides mental math, boardgames and card games, was on a very slow burner. In the back of my mind I had to stop saying “What about the math?” and I am so glad we did that, everyone’s reading is so much better and that means independent work is so much easier. They can actually read the questions in their math books this year and understand them. This year we are focusing on math and everyone is literally flying through it. It is as if the break gave them the strength to press on. You simply cannot push every skill, every day and all day long… pick what you are focusing on and go with that… the other skills are not being neglected, it is almost as if, while a skill is on the back burner it is being mulled over and established, ready to be picked up and strengthened later on.
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    And the se7en + 1:

  15. The Great Outdoors: I know this is crazy, but I can no longer go weeks without a hike or spending time under the African sky… I have to get out and not a little bit out… it has to be away from the maddening crowd and the sound of traffic, it has to include the smell of fynbos and packing sandwiches and water bottles at the crack of dawn. It used to be enough for me to do our reading out doors in a sunny spot and to be honest we spend a huge part of our days outdoors… there just isn’t enough space indoors for everyone to be inside at all… but outdoors has become way outdoors and we are so spoilt with a beach and a mountain so close by, but even if we have to go into the city for some reason or other… we find a park, a natural space and linger longer. Somehow all the fresh air gets brains into gear and refreshes them for tackling school work again the next day.
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→ No CommentsTags: HomeSchool Questions · Se7en at School

Another Week Another Hike, Through the Recent Burn at Cape Point…

September 3rd, 2015 · 2 Comments

Another week, another hike… Slowly but surely hiking routes are beginning to open up after the devastating fires of last summer. We have been very eager to get into the area and see the regrowth and the new life. This past Friday, in wild and stormy weather, we headed out to explore the mountain above GifKommetjie in Cape Point Nature Reserve.

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It was bitterly cold, even the most warm blooded of our kids had multiple layers on… and there was very little lingering, we had to keep moving to keep warm.

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The last time we walked in this area we were finishing a very hard hike along the beach, it was so good to explore the mountain top and look down on where we had been before.

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The Meandering Path

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From a way away the hike looked like it would be fairly exposed to the elements the wind blowing off the plain on the one side and the ocean on the authorised… but the path turned out to be one of those delightfully twisty turn paths between the rocks.

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There were places to hide and play between the rocks and it was so good to be out. There was plenty of new growth and a surprising number of shoots growing in the nooks and crannies.

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These two…

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One always climbing and the other flying…

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There were plenty of places to stop and look at the view…

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View from Above

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After the Burn

The strip along the coastline was green, looking inland across the plains what was once colorless is now slowly beginning to turn green.

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This is a close up of this same are, within a fortnight of the fire… not a shoot of green anywhere…

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What really surprised us beyond all surprises was this little dell full of flowering bulbs…

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Birds and Beasts

From hiking through burnt areas in the past we know that there will be quite a few animals out to feed on the fresh shoots and leaves…

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There were plenty of tracks from buck wandering through…

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And as we were leaving a large troop of baboons moved in on the slopes below us, we were quite happy to move on really fast… We didn’t even stop to take photographs.

As We Were Leaving

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These poor things were battling in the wind…

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And these three were keeping their eye on us…

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Other SAN PARKS Hiking Posts in the Cape Peninsula

Table Mountain National Park.


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→ 2 CommentsTags: Outings · Saturday Spot

Se7en’s September… And Your Free Printable Calendar…

September 2nd, 2015 · No Comments


Welcome to September…

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Click on the calendar page, it will open in a new tab, print it out and then colour it and fill in the days that you want to celebrate… pop it on the fridge and you are good to go. You can still find all the calendar pages down the right hand side of our website and they are all gathered together in our Almanac page for easy searching… If you have holidays or ideas that you would like to add then please go ahead and comment, I would love to have our calendars packed to the brim!!!

→ No CommentsTags: Celebrity Calendar

Sunday Snippet: He Stilled the Storm to a Whisper…

September 1st, 2015 · 4 Comments

Our Bible Verse of the Week…

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Psalm 107:29

He stilled the storm to a whisper;

The waves of the sea were hushed.

Week by Week

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→ 4 CommentsTags: Sunday Snippet

Se7en’s Fabulous Fun Post #287

August 31st, 2015 · 4 Comments

There is always that little tease of spring and then winter returns unashamedly. Well winter is full force right now. Despite that we managed a week of evening ambles and an extreme hike in the wild and crazy weather… everyone had sweaters on – it was that cold!!!

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Lovely Links from This Week

  1. I cannot understand why we have never gotten around to Stick Loom Weaving, I love this on Babyccinokids and we have to get round to this!!!
  2. Because I just love Art Supplies… My Favourite School Supplies on That Artist Woman…
  3. I discovered the Zero Waste Home… And so Many Tips, lots of interesting reads…
  4. This is fun, my kids would totally go for a few additions suggested in this post: How to Create a Backyard Adventure Playground on the Forest School for All.
  5. A Galactically encouraging kind of post: On YTravel: 9 Lessons Learned from the Problogger Conference.
  6. Oh Happy Day was taking a break and left this fab collection of great reads behind…
  7. Since we blogged about Making a Museum Earlier this week here are two helpful links: A Kids Guide to Collecting Things And the Smithsonian, on Kids Collecting.
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    It is Bandana Season again… And if you haven’t noticed Bandanas are back in Pick’n Pay Stores… All over Pick’nPay Stores… this is a good thing because you can do so many stunning things with a bandana and buying a bandana supports a very important cause that is dear to our hearts, take a look at The Sunflower Fund Website and see how you can support them.

    And the se7en + 1th link:

  9. A Blast From the Past:

Book of the Week

Stoked by Chris Bertish, Published by Penguin Random House South Africa: A couple of weeks back my gang and I headed out on a wintry evening to attend the launch of this book… Never suspecting that the venue, “Shout Out to Tiger’s Milk in Muizenberg” for fabulous service in very difficult circumstances. Turns out everyone wanted to be at this launch and everyone and their friends and family had arrived. We never actually saw Chris Bertish, we stood together squashed at the back of the restaurant, huddled together and watching endless platters of fabulous food fly past us… we were treated to the most divine pizza, and we did have to return later to to experience the food when it wasn’t nearly so crazy…

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I did say that we didn’t get to even see the author amongst the crowds… but we did get to hear him speak and my teens rushed home to read the book, they wanted to discover more. The book is the story of Big Wave Surfer, Chris Bertish, and we mean Big Waves… 60 ft faces, and 350 tonnes of water smashing down and Chris Bertish is one of the handful of folk the world over that pursue these waves, they are inexplicably drawn to surfing these mighty waves. This book is thrilling and inspiring all at the same time… he tells how he began surfing as a young boy and never looked back and how he relentlessly pursued waves all over the world. There were times when he literally had to sell the clothes off his back and he just never gave up.

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The irony was not lost on us, that the night of the book launch there were literally the smallest waves ever… and then in the final chapter he practically surfs a tsunami. This book is about adventure, a person prepared to follow their passion at any cost, and the work involved in pursuing his dream. If you love the sea, or you have a dream… any dream, then this book will be a fabulous read. You can read more about Chris and the work he does at his website… it’s a treat go and check it out.

Stoked was given to us for review purposes by Penguin Books South Africa, we were not paid for this review and the opinions expressed are our own.

That’s us… Hope your weekend has been a fabulous one and we are so looking forward to another week of blogging with you all… not to mention a GiveAway or Two…

→ 4 CommentsTags: Fabulous Friday Fun

Se7en Review: A Box of Rocks… Rock Collecting 101 for Kids…

August 29th, 2015 · 3 Comments

I know I don’t usually post a book review on a Friday night, but this so follows on from yesterday’s post: How to Turn a Collection into a Museum, that it actually has to go here…

Our love for the great outdoors and certain folks’ predeliction for collecting meant that this book ticked all the boxes. Box of Rocks by Nick Norman is published by Random House South Africa. The book begins with an introduction to rocks in general: igneous, sedimentary and metamorphic… followed by a closer look at twelve commonly found rocks.

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Se7en + 1 Reasons to Love This Book

  1. It is simple enough for kids (and their mother person) to understand. It is not one of those books written for adults and dumbed down for kids. It is readable in bite size chunks and not overwhelming at all.
  2. Each type of rock gets its own double page spread with information about it’s appearance, interesting facts about the rock, and where you can find it locally, in South Africa.
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  3. It is so good to have a natural factual book written in the local context… so many of our nature books we use for school are written for the overseas market… it is good to have something our kids can relate too.
  4. That being said, kids the world over will love this book because it has a detailed instructions on how to make your own rock collection.
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  6. There are fabulous photographs throughout the book… close ups and details, so that when you are out and about you will be able to identify rocks for yourself.
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  8. There is a whole section on fossils, how they were formed and where to find them… photographs of the process.
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  10. Not to mention there is a list of great rock features found throughout Southern Africa… so should you happen to visit a rocky feature, like Table Mountain or Victoria Falls, then you can read up on it yourself.
  11. And the se7en + 1th…

  12. This is about our favourite science for school this year and a great addition to our collection of nature books that are left lying about to inspire little nature lovers to go out doors and observe close up the things they normally jump about on.

We would like to thank Penguin Random House South Africa for a copy of this book. This is not a sponsored post, the book was given to us for review purposes and the opinions expressed were as usual our own.

→ 3 CommentsTags: Science · Se7en at School

Se7en’s 52 Week Challenge #4: How to Turn a Collection into a Museum

August 28th, 2015 · 7 Comments

Maybe you guys enjoy visiting a fabulous museum as much as we do… the more hands on and interactive the better. The things is, it is one thing to visit a museum and it is quite another to live in one. I often blog about decluttering and keeping surfaces clear, but what about all the accumulated treasures. Because one man’s clutter is another man’s museum and all that. Not to mention that I live with quite a collection of kids and if nothing else, kids are designed to collect things. No-one returns from an amble empty handed… an outing, a trip, just a quick visit are all good reasons to collect and gather.

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Children are natural collectors, and to be honest I love to see what they collect. They are driven to gather things on nature walks, piles of papers and museum pamphlets, special little things and well not so special little things. I am for letting them collect what they must collect and quietly discarding what I just can’t handle – think the child that collected two bags of bones from a picnic spot recently… (no those were not ancient artefacts at all) they had to go. But piles of empty sea-shells brought up by the tide or stones gathered on an evening amble… that’s fine. Feathers, sticks and so on… We have a spot outside in the garden for collecting natural factual goodies as they come in the gate. But still there is more. So amidst all the ongoing decluttering it was time to build our own museum. To sort, discard, organise and present.


  1. An Outing: Well naturally there are lots of lovely museums to visit and we make good use of Museum day and Heritage Day, when most of our museums are free. And if you are anything like us and sometimes you just want to see something new and exciting, then there are bazillions of wonderful museums to visit virtually. In fact if you have a museum you are longing to visit, even on the far side of the world then google them and head straight and follow their link into the education section. You will find heaps of online fun to enjoy.
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  3. A Challenge: We needed a challenge, and it is an on-going challenge… we wanted to coral all our collections into one spot. I have a plan, it is a good one… and this is really just the beginning of it. The first decision that had to be made was just what were we collecting… because when we put all our collections in one spot – trust me, we had a lot of them. Turns out we have a map collection from ancient National Geographics and friends around the world; we have a fantastic postcard collection from previous postcard swaps; not to mention all the natural factual collections; and of course all those little treasures gathered on our collective travels.
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    An historical home

  5. Something to Learn: We took a look at museum floor plans. Most museums have a map of their floor plan online, so that you can pre-prepare yourself for an interesting visit. Floor plans can be intriguing, and not all museums are the same by any means. Some museums had picnic spots amidst their display rooms, most museums have a hands-in room, and lets be honest it is always good to know if there is a coffee shop corner. The floor plans that intrigued my kids the most were those of historical homes… there is a lot to look at and think about and imagine… when considering who might have lived there and who might have played there.
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  7. Something to Discover: We created a miniature museum… and what will follow is weeks of discovery under the microscope… there is so much to explore and discover in a whole new world of exploration.
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  9. Create a Museum in Se7en Steps: We decided to create a continental museum. Who knew that we had been to so many places and had friends strewn so far and wide… there are a couple of little surprises in each box.
  10. Most collections come in bits and pieces, that is the nature of collections… so you need a number of suitable containers.

    1. Sort your collection into things that you must keep and discard the rest. It helps to have a good look at your collection and to have an idea of the volume and the size of your accumulated stuff… believe me you will have to show some discernment and throw a few extraneous objects along the way.
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    3. Find suitable containers. It looks good to have containers that are all the same shape and size for a particular collection. We had a heap of boxes from a previous project. Look around you probably have containers ready to use.
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    5. The first part of the project was to paint them white…
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    7. Then decorate away… Stickers were our friends, but really this is the time to get into decorating.
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    9. Pop your collections into their boxes… we had lots of little artefacts for continental boxes: beads, cards, tiny books, nick nacks, fridge magnets… literally look around your home and you will most likely find treasures that you didn’t even know you had.
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    11. Labelling and categorising is a very important part of museum collections. Make a list of what is in your collection and keep it in the box. Also consider things that you might like to add to your collection. For example, we actually have nothing in our South America Box… how can that be? We totally drew a blank and will have to put our thinking caps on.
    12. Finally, admire your museum and show it to friends. There is nothing worse than a museum that is not on display, ours is in a quite central place and folk are welcome to take it down and examine it in detail.
  11. Make it a Habit to Look After Your Collections: Looking after your treasures and collections is something that needs to be done properly. By specifying the things that we collect it is easy to decide what gets to stay and what doesn’t, when we are decluttering. Also, by declaring a certain collection a museum has meant that those items are so much better cared for, rather than dropped at the bottom of junk drawer, when we clear the surfaces, and forgotten.
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  13. Something to Present: Some of the Hoods really rose to the occasion and created fabulous mini-museums… the rock collection deserves a special mention and it’s own special post is looming.
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  15. The Museum Gallery:

Turns out there is something very relaxing about creating an ordered collection and pottering around and arranging and rearranging treasures, that would otherwise be jammed out of the way and completely forgotton. There are so many different “museums” or collections you can create… we made a continental collection for this post, we also have a mini-museum collected in petri dishes, and a shelf in our courtyard devoted to natural factual finds. I am sure that if we looked a little closer we would find more things that we can gather and store and by the end of the year we should have a working museum and a little place to visit for drawing inspiration…

The Challenge Collection

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Last year a number of followers asked us to blog about the sort of things that we learn during family school… and this year we are blogging the answer to that question in a series of Weekly Challenges. In each challenge we will try to include: Somewhere to visit; something to ask; something to learn; something to discover; something to make; something to work on; something to present and so on. Well we began with enthusiasm and then the year simply got away from us… well we are back and the dozens of ideas that have been lurking on the back burner will be begin to emerge again…

Challenge #1: The Big Book Challenge…

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Challenge #2: The Best Bread Bake-Off…

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Challenge #3: Computer Maintenance…

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→ 7 CommentsTags: Science · Se7en at School