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

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Se7en’s August Holidays and Your Free Printable Calendar…

August 1st, 2014 · 1 Comment


Can you believe it: Welcome to August… Already!!!

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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!!!

→ 1 CommentTags: Celebrity Calendar

Se7en + 1 Steps to a Great Rock Pooling Outing…

July 31st, 2014 · 7 Comments

I mentioned in our previous post that we have just had a science week and we try and include some sort of scientific outing in our science weeks. Luckily where we are we are spoilt for the great outdoors and most of our scientific outings are related to natural factual observations. There are few better escapes than a couple of hours spent rock pooling.


  1. Where to Go: We are spoilt for good places to go rock pooling. Beside every sandy beach there is a rocky outcrop… and rocky outcrops are good spots to go rock pooling. Certainly next to most Tidal Pools in Cape Town you will find some excellent rock pooling. We have had great success rock pooling in front of the Shark Centre between St. James and Muizenburg and of course in the Cape Point Nature Reserve.
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  3. Check Out the Tide: Low tide is the best time, google “tide table and your location,” and you will find the time of the high and low tides and be able to plan your outing accordingly. Basically it is low tide in the morning every other week and low tide in the afternoon the weeks in between. If you head out rock pooling during full moon or new moon then the tide will be even lower. Keep in mind that low tides reveal slippery and slimy seaweed on the rocks and tread carefully.
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  5. Special Equipment: Goggles are fun… but the real winner is a clear plastic tray from the recycling. The deeper the tray the better, push it into the water and you get a close up underwater view of the interesting things you can find in your rock pool. Otherwise a magnifying glass is fun and a couple of ziplock bags, petri dishes and sealable jars are great for examining tiny things. Just be sure to put back the things that you pick up and look up.
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  7. Respect the Animals: If we do pick up an animal to look at, then we put it exactly back where we find them… some of these little animals spend their entire lives in a a carefully chiselled out little nook in their rock pool… it is only right to return them home. If an animal is firmly attached to its little piece of rock then leave it there.
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  9. Time Flies When You Are Having Fun: You will be amazed at how time flies when you are taking a peek into a different world. Take hats and clothes to cover up in… and also water. You can get really hot and sticky while rock pooling and with so much water all around you, there is nothing to drink… it is very much a case of bring your own.
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  11. Pick One Rock Pool: And explore it carefully, some sea-life likes to bask in the sun and you may not see them camouflaged on the rock pool floor… and others really enjoy the shade. If you to carefully move stones around to look around then carefully return them to their original spot. Often times you don’t need to move anything, just lying on your tummy and quietly peering into the pond will reveal a lot.
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  13. Take a Good Guide Book: You will discover things that you have never imagined… it is fun to look them up in a good local reference book is fantastic for finding out about local ocean critters.
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    And the Se7en + 1th thing…

  15. Document Your Findings: Many folks take clipboards down to the shore and sketch their discoveries. We do take our notebooks for quick sketches but we have found that we do better observing at the shore and taking photographs and then draw our findings afterwards at home. As close to the outing as possible.






Other Beach Fun Posts

Brilliant Beach Days

Se7en + 1 Easy Beach Creations

Se7en + 1 of the Best Beach Games



The stunning rock pool featured in this post is the Venus Rock Pool at Cape Point Nature Reserve.

→ 7 CommentsTags: Outings · Science · Se7en at School

Se7en + 1 Tips on Curbing the Homeschool Chaos…

July 30th, 2014 · 4 Comments

A couple of months back as most of our readers ended their school year… I received a number of emails asking me how do I deal with the end of year homeschool clutter. We have just had a two week “science breather’ and I realised, now as so many folk are thinking about a new school year, that the end of year chaos could easily be resolved at the start of the school year. New books, new plans, new ideas, but there is a problem, there is still a pile of last year’s work lurking on almost surface. There are books, papers, and piles of stuff that got put on the side when guests arrived… popped into closets when family came to stay and who knows where all the important papers, that you really meant to file are… buried all over the place.


I know that end of year overwhelming feeling and you can’t shake it off and start fresh… it sits like a little cloud over your summer and certainly dulls that “new beginning feeling” if you have to start your new year buy burying into piles of chaos before you even begin. I know one always plans to spend the last week of the year tidying and sorting and getting ready for the next year… finishing up those relentless projects and putting anything away… but friends visit from out of town, and family comes to stay… not to mention you are out of energy. And those lofty plans to end your year all sorted… sort of wither away and summer break takes over.


Now to an outsider our school year is pretty much all year round, we have this thing called family school where we sit around the table after breakfast and learn new things together. For the more official part of our school year we use Sonlight, and go pretty much 36 weeks straight and maybe add in an extra week or two for science, here and there. We are about a third of the way through our official school year and we took a breather a science week. It was a chance to stop and think about how we avoid the end of year chaos. I should add as we tend to school throughout the year the fine line between the end of one year and the start of the next has become a little less defined. Also, we school and live in our kitchen… we have nowhere to hide. Our school stuff has to stay more or less under control throughout the year. So we don’t have such a huge end of year problem to solve, and we pretty much have a “tidy as you go” policy…

Se7en + 1 Steps to Finishing Your School Year Without Too Much Chaos

  1. Start As You Would Like to Finish: Create a vision of what you would like the end of your year to look like. If like us you kind of slide into the end of year then you need to have thought of some sort of system for finishing before you get there. Obviously I would like our students to end their year filled with enthusiasm and eager to learn more, but this post is all about the “stuff of school.” In the world of measurements, I need our kids to have something tangible to show for their year of school, a couple of things just to demonstrate that they learnt something. So each child has a journal, that is a work in progress; a file showing their schedule week by week; and a handful of workbooks.
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  3. A Place for Everything: At this stage we pretty much have a system of “a place for everything.” If we consistently store our journals and papers throughout the year then their isn’t anything to sort at the end of the year. Each child has a crate where they keep their current reading and their Sonlight schedule. They also have a box for their workbooks, when we began homeschooling I used to just store their box of workbooks at the end of the year… but our schooling has tended further and further away from workbooks and we don’t actually do enough to warrant a whole box of workbooks per child per year.
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  5. Leave Lots of Gaps: It is lovely to have the school year begin with your shelves filled and neat but I have found that by leaving gaps on the shelves that I am creating spaces for completed work. As a child finishes a workbook, so it is placed on the “finished work book pile” and their crates of current school reading are never so full as to not have room for a couple of library books on a topic that has peaked their interest. When they finish a section of work those books go back onto the grade shelf… the next student will be reading them in a year or two.
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  7. Know What Records You Need To Keep and Keep Them: I do discard a lot of stuff at the end of a school year… but usually isn’t from the year we have just completed, but from two years previously. I have a storage space in a top closet, out of the way and we only visit it once a year. In it I have saved a box for each child with a growing collection of journals; their Sonlight schedule and their workbooks for the previous two years. At the end of the year I add in their just completed journals – yes I keep them all. These are pretty much their diaries of learning and a record of their art, their stories, their outings and their learning. I think they may enjoy looking back on them in time. By the time they are finished school they should have ten to fifteen journals that they can choose to save or discard themselves. Otherwise, I pop in their just completed Sonlight Schedule and workbooks and toss out the ones from two years previously.
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  9. Consistently Packing Away: School needs to end each day… just because we homeschool doesn’t mean that there is always schoolwork going on, I think it is quite important that our kids know that school is out. If they choose to do projects as part of their play time, and they often do… while that may be learning it is not school and I am not necessarily available to help, I may be working on my own project at that stage. We have a lot of “Educational pharisees” in our house that feel if they take out every single school book and workbook and spread them on the kitchen surfaces then they are doing a LOT of work… this is not necessarily the truth, but the grand show of stuff everywhere appears to them to be a clear indication of a lot of work happening. This may or may not be the case… and even so, everything has to be back in its place before lunch. Often some folk do a little school in the late afternoon and then they tend to take out just what they are working on.
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  11. Be Realistic About Your Time: I know this is a hard lesson to learn… and I pretty much fail at it each year. But you will not have more time for school in the coming year than you did in the past year. I used to pile up about a million ideas of things we would do in the new school year… so much stuff. All the stuff that we never got round to the previous year and then a few more things that could be added into the mix. Unless you open up and schedule time for new things, you will not miraculously have more time to do new things… if you plan to spend an hour doing art every morning for the first time ever, then you are going to have to shuffle your schedule to fit it in. You have to leave gaps in your schedule as well as on your shelves. What has helped for us this year it to have a shelf with all our current reads for family school on it. A pile for each day of the week… all the art books in a pile – that’s Tuesday and Thursday; all the Mapwork books, that’s Wednesday; and so on… having the books readily available, we pick up the pile and head for the table… and return them to the shelf when we are done. Nothing else gets stored on top of those books or around them… easy access is key.

    Otherwise… and this will happen, there are somethings that you didn’t tackle last year… you just never ever got to it, be it a spelling program or math manipulatives, or even a series of fantastic dvd’s… chances are you are never going to get to it… give them to someone who wants to use them and forget about them. Just move on… they take up unnecessary space and energy as you constantly think we must get round to that – experience says you won’t get round to them – ditch it and make space for the stuff you really want to be learning.

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  13. Lingering Projects: We have a lot of those… and I doubt that we are alone. You have no idea how bad we are at growing things – well mould, we grow a lot of that. Every time we are assigned to plant a couple of beans we carefully grow some fresh mould. These mouldy projects can linger a lot longer than necessary. Other natural factual finds have been placed on a museum shelf… it is working so far and we are gathering a collection of jars and petri dishes of things to examine, not only mould. Otherwise, because we do school in the kitchen we clear most of our surfaces every day… we have one large surface for drying paint and glue-related projects… but that is usually cleared by the weekend and we start our week with fresh school surfaces. Some projects do take weeks… and that’s fine. But abandoned or completed projects need to find a home that is not the kitchen counter. Generally the owner of the project is pretty quick to figure out the importance of keeping a project going when they realise it is going to be kept going in their own space. If it is something they are passionate about then they find the space and if it is something they enjoyed but they are finished with then out it goes.
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    And se7en + 1th thing…

  15. I Don’t Waste Time on Papers: My kids create papers… a large portion of them go straight into the recycling. If is schoolwork and it can be glued into their journal and demonstrates something that they have learnt, then it is their responsibility to stick it into their journal on the day. Work not stuck in is considered incomplete, or unimportant and heads for the recycling and yes I should invest shares in a glue stick company. Then there are more important papers, certificates from extra-murals or on-line courses they have done, outside classes they have taken part in… basically anything that they could one day use to create a school-leaving portfolio… goes into an in-tray. That’s it, I pop it into the tray and forget about it. Every now and then, like once a year when the in tray looks full-ish, I take an hour or so and while I am listening to a podcast and I sort those papers into each “childs’ portfolio folder.” The papers are already in chronological order because they get stacked in the in-tray as we go. That’s it… I cannot at this stage predict what sort of portfolio my children will need and so as long as they papers are in order and saved all together in one place they should be fine.

Basically curbing the homeschooling chaos is pretty much like any other project, even cooking dinner: Start as you wold like to finish, clean as you go and ditch what isn’t working. Schedule in heaps of space for unexpected and delightful surprises and don’t stress too much… the pile of papers that gets jammed in a drawer because guests are coming is probably not going to make the difference to whether your child is going to get into college or not, and if it is such a vital document then put it somewhere safe already. I have a feeling that it is far more important to be spending time learning and exploring new things than organising and taming the accumulated stuff… you don’t actually need a whole room, or walls of carefully mounted storage systems… dive in and learn with what you have and if you just can’t face cleaning as you go, then schedule in “work days” every couple of weeks, for clearing out and cleaning up and starting fresh.

→ 4 CommentsTags: Organizing School · Se7en at School

We Are Blogging Over at CitySightSeeing South Africa Today…

July 28th, 2014 · No Comments

Follow us over there to see…

Se7en +1 Fabulous Surprises About Traveling on the Cape Town Red City Bus

All about the ins and outs of taking a Red City Bus Tour. And what a great outing it is for families.










→ No CommentsTags: Cape Town · Outings · Saturday Spot

Sunday Snippet: Let Your Tears Flow Like a River…

July 28th, 2014 · 6 Comments

The other day one of my kids asked me, “What is the big deal about tears?” And I had to think about it a little bit. Why don’t we like to cry? We are all told, forget “big boys don’t cry…” let your kids cry, but then we all avoid tears ourselves. A dear friend’s mom dies, another friend discovers cancer, a brother loses his job and just can’t cope… but we think that everyone is okay because they aren’t crying. When folk ask “how are you doing?” it’s considered a brave move, because, what if that person isn’t alright? What if that person cries?


We all know that crying doesn’t make you any weaker. But nobody likes to cry. The point is crying is awkward. When a friend tells you something sad and you feel that lump in your throat… why do we suppress it? When we were small children we knew the power of a good cry. How many of us haven’t kept our tears inside until they erupted into a flood of frustrated tears and eventually fallen asleep only to wake up a while later somewhat refreshed. If you can’t remember this yourself, take a look at your own children… it happens to all of us. And yet we battle to cry.

I could get all scientific and say that there are three kinds of tears:

  1. Tears that continuously keep our eyes lubricated.
  2. Tears that occur when something irritates our eyes, think onions…
  3. And those emotional tears… tears of joy and tears of sadness.


And it is those emotional tears that are filled with beta-endorphins, which are our bodies’ natural pain relievers, which make them so different to those other more functional tears. These tears literally wash away the chemicals that build up in our bodies when we are stressed. They are a good thing, we were designed to cry to relieve stress and pain, tears literally wash our pain away. Consequently, those folk who find crying easier than others are healthier, just like those folk that laugh more… It is not just a blessed little thought to say that laughter, and tears, are the best medicine.


Now tears form a large part of our lives, difficult, impossible things happen to people and they are sad. The bible is filled with tears… for all sorts of life-events and many folk have wept bitterly throughout the pages of the Old and New Testaments. In fact, when Jesus was under emotional stress he cried real tears. In Luke 19:41 he wept over the impending destruction of the city of Jerusalem. And in John 11:35 “He wept,” He cried when His friend Lazarus died, even though He knew His friend would be revived. Jesus knew the cleansing effect of tears on our souls. In our modern culture we desperately avoid tears. We might say to our kids, “There, there, have a good cry.” But we kind of hope it won’t end in a sweaty miserable mess on the store floor.


Let’s face it, tears appear to be more than a little awkward. They reveal our souls, and in a world that embraces our appearance over our health… there is no place for streaky faces, let alone tears. It is more than our appearance, though, tears reveal our hearts and nobody likes to wear their heart on their sleeve.


In fact, we have crying down to such a fine art, that we can often decide wether to cry or “to be strong.” Strange that we think “not crying” is brave. Then again there are those tears that appear to not notice that we have suppressed them or not, they just appear to seep out us, like a jubilant spring our sorrows bubble… and really we kind of hope nobody notices because there is nothing at all we can do about them. Now I am not suggesting that everyone starts rushing about and dramatically crying at every turn… but we should be aware that while we say, “it’s okay to cry,” that we actually mean it.


I make it no secret that we choose to live with our tent flaps open and so many friends do drop in for a cup of tea or coffee through out the day and we sit at the kitchen table and chat. And very often chatting turns to matters of the heart… and folks cry about difficult times, things that happened years ago, but they never got around to crying about it back then. So right here, right now today… I am inviting you to make a cup of tea, and find a quiet moment and have a good cry. In Lamentations 2:18 “… Let your tears flow like a river…” it is for your health after all.

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→ 6 CommentsTags: Sunday Snippet

Se7en’s Tour of Colourful Cape Town with CitySightSeeing’s Red City Bus…

July 27th, 2014 · 7 Comments

So last year we discovered one of Cape Town’s best kept secrets when we went on a CitySightSeeing Tour all around the South Peninsula. This year we were invited to explore the City Centre. There is a lot to be said for being a tourist in your own town. We live in one of the most beautiful cities in the world but we don’t often visit the city centre.


We headed straight for the Waterfront, where the Red City Bus begins its tour…


We started out bright and early… on a glorious winter’s day.



One thing we can say about Cape Town is there is a lot of construction and technology… and my construction kid was in her element.




And our city is full of Red City Buses…



The gang quickly got into the spirit of hopping off and on the bus…




Definitely a City of Blue Skies…







City Streets







And Statues





Busy SideWalks









Our First Stop was Cape Town Tourism

There was much heated debate about where we were on the map and we were instantly “lost”… never mind there are lots of helpful folk in the centre of town and they all new where to send us. And what a warm welcome we received. We now have a veritable mountain of pamphlets for dozens of potential outings. Such helpful staff and so excited to tell us about where to go and what to see… not even slightly phased that we were Capetonians, because, “Surely everyone wants to see all the sights this wonderful city has to offer.”


Green Market Square

By this stage the square was beginning to stir and stands were being set up and getting ready for action… no rushing around mind you, this is chilled out Cape Town… and there is only one pace, the slow pace. There are so many colours and sites to see, definitely worth lingering over.




St. Georges Cathedral

We were so close to the cathedral that we thought we should stop by… we are always on our way past it to a museum or something and our kids had never actually been inside. We recent;y read about it in history and they all wanted to take a look at the stained glass windows.




There was a little surprise waiting for us around the side… all of us were looking very respectively at the tombs until a man came past and picked one up and put it down to the side… Turns out it wasn’t a real graveyard at all and we had stumbled onto the Homeland (season IV) set…


The Company Gardens

This is one of our favourite places to visit in the city… you find the best soda splits here and lots and lots of interesting things to see. What really grabbed our attention was the newly planted vegetable garden… stepping back in history to when the Cape was a refreshment station, for ships traveling between Europe and the East.









The Company Gardens happens to be at the hub of Cape Town Museums: The Natural History Museum, The Slave Lodge, The National Art Gallery, The Holocaust Museum, the Planetarium, to name a few.





District Six

Then we hopped back on the bus for a drive through the city neighbourhoods…




The Castle and the Grand Parade




The Bo-Kaap

This was our next stop for a quick lunch before we went for a wander through the colourful houses. We made a quick visit to the Bo-Kaap Museum and we did a little shopping at the Atlas Trading Company, where you can buy any number of wonderful spices and curry powders… and the smell is just heaven. We lingered at a corner cafe for cool drinks before hopping back onto the bus.










Table Mountain

Back on the bus and we went up to the city heights and the base of the Cable Car Station, all ready to take visitors to the very top… Honestly, when you are just beneath it, I cannot believe we hiked up there… anyway, it is very scenic and lovely and yet again another spot that we don’t often visit… and the whole point of being a tourist in your own town is to head for places like these.





Lion’s Head

We stayed on the bus… and had a careful look at a potential future hike…



Camps Bay

And down into Camps Bay, a seaside town like our own… but much more upmarket. This is where you are quite likely to bump into the rich and famous and the associated paparazzi. We didn’t meet anyone, we had one purpose and that was ice-cream.






Sea Point

Back on the bus and through Sea Point, past the Promenade…




Moullie Point

Near the end of the tour and this is a brilliant little corner to stop… We didn’t stop here this time, but when my kids saw all that was going on, well… there is mini-golf, the teeny tiny blue train, and of course out favourite park: Green Point Park.



Two Oceans Aquarium

And back on the bus for a quick ride back into the Waterfront and a stop at one of our favourite places… the aquarium.


Se7en + 1 Quick Facts About the Tour

And that is a Tour of the Centre of Cape Town thanks to City SightSeeing and the Red City Bus… I can say we had an absolute blast.

  1. There is a special deal on KIDS tickets until the end of October. During school holidays, public holidays and weekends: two children go free for every paying adult. That is a drastically reduced price and pops this outing straight into the “must do category.”
  2. If you buy your tickets online you can reduce the price of your tickets by almost 30% more.
  3. This outing is right up with the Aquarium for outings that are specifically geared towards families in Cape Town. The staff are all incredibly friendly and helpful. We declare this a tip top family friendly outing.
  4. Your children will not need extra entertainment during the bus ride at all, there is so much to see and do.
  5. Such an easy outing, you need to take are the clothes you are wearing, because you are in the city center there are tons of places to hop off and get a snack, a cool drink and find a bathroom.
  6. If I was an overseas visitor, I would say this is a must “get on and go” outing… As a local it is possibly the easiest way to get to see all the landmarks you have been dying to see but just can’t face the traffic…
  7. You and your kids will learn so much… as a homeschooling family, I would consider this trip to be an entire semester of Social Studies. Getting to know your city – really well worth it.
  8. And the se7en + 1th…

  9. The bus trip takes just over two hours, we highly recommend that you make a day of it… visiting heaps of good spots for kids and families all over Cape Town.


We would really like to thank CitySightSeeing and the Red City Bus, for giving us the tickets, for review purposes, so that we could take a tour and tell our readers about the fantastic special deal for families. We were not paid to write this post and the opinions expressed are entirely our own.

→ 7 CommentsTags: Cape Town · Outings · Saturday Spot

Se7en’s Fabulous Friday Fun #231

July 26th, 2014 · 2 Comments

So this past Monday we went on the Red City Bus… we took together about 2000 photographs, I kid you not… and then our week filled up with… curious little incidents, that kept me well away from my laptop not to mention ho hum school. Needless to say my post on our recent chess adventures, getting off to a good school year, or even our se7en + 1 top Photography tips for kids… never actually made it onto my screen let alone near a “hit publish button.” So I just want you all to know that I am thinking about blogging, but sometimes I have to take cognisance of the fact that I homeschool eight kids and have a blog. And sometimes the balance flows more towards the one than the other, especially now that my older kids are well older. They just require more time and attention, in a good way.


So here we are Friday night and I think it may well be time that we got back on track and started posting posts on their particular day of the week… it worked. So Saturday Spots will be back and Thoughtful Thursdays… So give us a little time and there will be a little shuffling about and we will be back to particular posts on particular days… no matter what. So here is a Friday Fun post on a Friday…

The Book of the Week

I have wanted to read this book, about forever. A friend lent it to me last week and much as I would love to read it in a sitting I am being very disciplined and spreading it out over the week… I am savouring it. Katie Davis’ adventures began in her final year of high school, when she went on a three week mission trip to Uganda. She was her senior class president and homecoming queen, to be honest I don’t actually know what that is but it sounds very important and about as far from raising more than a dozen daughters in Uganda as you can get. This book blows the idea that some folk are just better at getting things done than others. I love that Katie is a regular girl, not a super hero… just someone who got up and did something. She didn’t wait until she had better skills, or until she was better trained, or any other excuse… she got up and went where she was called to go. It is simply the story of someone who believes that each little action adds up to one great event. She doesn’t just believe in serving with all her heart, she acts on it. I am loving this book and sure do want my kids to read this one too… I love that there are people in the world that don’t just talk, they do. Her book is a wonderful humble and humbling read. I love the interspersed pages from her journal, and I love that she just writes so eloquently about the life she is living. A fascinating read and one that will stir your heart.


Lovely links from this week:

  1. If this very wintry winter ever ends… Then Emma Bradshaw’s Picnic Loaf is Top of the List to make…
  2. The Crafty Crow had a brilliant round-up of Photography for Kids…
  3. On Simple Homeschool: Homeschooling on a Zero Budget. Lots of useful links and resources.
  4. I’m Listening to the Read Aloud Revival and really loving it… a podcast all about reading fabulous books with your family.
  5. Competitions you might want to enter: Draw some monsters for ANORAK competition… And Usborne Quicklinks has a cool competition…
  6. Love the DKBLog’s Cardboard Box Inspiration…
  7. Absolutely love this Adventure on Proof/NationalGeographic… Taking family adventure to a new level…
  8. And the se7en + 1th link:

  9. A Blast From the Past: And here are a couple of links to posts, this week, from previous years:

That’s us… Hope your weekend is a fabulous one and we are so looking forward to another week of blogging with you all…

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→ 2 CommentsTags: Fabulous Friday Fun