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

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The Week That Was… #222

August 19th, 2017 · 1 Comment

Hello blog world, last week I took the weekend off and an entire week flew by before I sat down at my computer screen again… life’s like that!!! And I am all for that… a week of early nights and embracing every moment of time with my gang. Sometimes you just have to read stories on the couch and listen to the rain… Yes!!! We had a little rain and it was lovely!!! And if it wasn’t raining we were hiking… one of those weeks!!! So I thought I would bring you a week that was post…

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Otherwise…

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It is the season of endless sunrises…

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And the prettiest evenings…

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And really quick suppers…

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And hot pies…

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And evening ambles in the freezing cold… I cannot tell you why my children are in shorts and t-shirts, that is one of life’s mysteries…

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And this is for all the folk that think catching the whole gang for a smile and wave photograph is easy… I have one chance and then they scatter… so absolutely no chance of perfection. There are never all the eyes open, all the smiles smiling… I have one chance at it. Boom Done!!!

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And making memories…

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And ice-cream in winter… because everyday is a beach day, and treats of course.

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Outings…

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And so many outings…

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Especially for the kid who has never been to the Scratch Patch… there are disadvantages to being the youngest of eight!!!

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A weekly coffee/hot chocolate date with Hood 2… who discovered the whole vitality points thing… and you get rewards for so many points for exercising and counting your workouts and so on… I am all for it. I have no idea about the details and it sounds way too technical for me… but if he wants to workout then I am all for joining him!!!

Let’s Talk about Gym

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It’s been almost half a year of working out… and ten minutes off my park run time, and finally ten kgs gone… I am loving it. It was totally the time for me to just get moving. I have learned so much and loved the journey… I wouldn’t call it a habit yet, but that is a whole ‘nother post. Consistency is key though and embracing the whole “slow and steadiness” of it all… in this crazy instantaneous world, I think the slowness of it all has been the hardest part for me. After every workout I feel like I could conquer the world… then I walk past the mirrors and it turns out it is just the same old me!!! I can’t see the difference myself, but I can feel the difference and the numbers show it… so I’ll take that and just keep at it!!!

Hiking

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There has been a lot of hiking… I really wanted to do a 52 hike challenge this year and we are on hike 31… so hiking away!!!
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We aren’t always the first folk up…
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Beach Cleanups Galore

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And Getting Things Done…

This is my year of getting things done… Although I kind of stuck on getting myself sorted out, sleep, gym and that sort of thing, and the actual idea was to sort the house out. Meanwhile, I feel our home crashing down around me. I know the only way to get something sorted, something that is way bigger than just a drawer… is to get started. I began by moving the giant pile of “we must donate these now items” out of the house and away… that is always a good place to start. Then for a while there I was just sort of staring at every corner and saying: “I must do something…” but the year is winding on and I had to get into gear… so I am sorting out spots around the house. I have way to many projects to do before the year is out, there is no more time for idle staring. We have corners where things have been dumped for weeks, if not months… and I am reclaiming my space back… bit by bit!!!

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School crates have been sorted and craft drawers… sorted. The joy of having cleared spaces is that you choose what to do on a day… you don’t have to think… I wonder where… everything is, or fight your way to find the things you need… you can just decide to do the things you love doing… it works!!!

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And it’s not just me who has the spring cleaning bug… my pack rat (I will not mention names!!!) has been decluttering and decluttering and decluttering… and every time he finishes, I say “play it again…” eventually we have whittled out all the recycling (that was saved for potential projects), the toys/clothes/things that he has simply outgrown, the collections of goodies that he doesn’t really love… I feel like Marie Kondo should come and live over here for a while. I have to say… cleaning out until you are done. And then doing it again. And again. And dare I say… again… has actually worked. I see the floor, I see the shelves and more important, I have hope!!!

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Let’s Talk About School

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This past week was devoted almost entirely to arting… I really like that my kids think that school is art, I am all for it!!!

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Hood 8 has been diving into Ancient Egypt and found these fun print outs on the Lonely Planet printable page…

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And these hieroglyphs that we bought years ago… when we visited the British Museum.

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And of course The Usborne Time Traveller… but do you know this fabulous Diary Series…

In the same series there is a Roman Diary, a Castle Diary, and a Pirate Diary. These are great, richly illustrated books with very, very short chapters. Easy reading for your “just beyond beginner” reader and easy reading to read aloud too. They are packed with living history, who wouldn’t want to read a diary from days gone by!!! Fun times and plenty of inspiration for acting our what you have learned.

Game of the Week

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We appear to be having a chess revival over here… chess, chess and more chess. And Sudoku… it has been the year of Sudoku over here!!!

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Books of the Week

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All these books were the best!!! Loved them and read them again and again…

We discovered audiobooks in the library… I know, its taken us a while… but this one is tip top, we are loving every moment of it. The story of a very inventive lad, with a notebook, and a quest… secrets and conundrums to unravel… we are loving it!!!

Artwork of the Week

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Even I appear to be confused… I think all art is definitely school… when Hood 7 was inspired by a snippet about Amelia Earhart in a book this week, she spent the day creating this artwork to celebrate her discovery. I am all for that… create away little one!!!

The Gallery

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Since I never got around to posting our Madiba Day mural on our blog… we volunteered with SanParks to upgrade a play school in Ocean View… and here are the results…

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→ 1 CommentTags: The Week that Was

Se7en’s Fabulous Fun Post #352

August 11th, 2017 · 2 Comments

Hay Hay Hay it’s Friday and raining in Cape Town… how wonderful is that… cold wintry weather predicted for the weekend… and so… I am leaving most of my family and heading on a hiking adventure… it’s going to be cold and wet and well… did I say cold!!! And I just can’t wait!!! But I thought I would leave you with a Fabulous Fun Post…

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I have been Blogging Over at The Sport Science Institute of South Africa:

Lovely Links from This Week

  1. This brings back happy memories: A Guide to Mykonos on the World of Wanderlust.
  2. And if you need an adventure Trekking in Iceland… on Hike Like a Women
  3. Now this is the way to do your vegetable shopping…Parkside PYO – one of London’s Best Fruit and Veg Farms on Babyccinokids Just totally love it!!!
  4. Alisa Burke… and Creating with your Feet… I just loved this kiddable fun!!! And let’s just mention her white pen collection: My favourite white pens by Alisa Burke. What I wouldn’t do for a white Sharpie… actually any sharpies right now, my collection of colours has definitely seen better days.
  5. Parenting teens… Oh Meg Duerksen on Whatever has a way with words: I Can’t Save Them.
  6. I have to read Seth Godin everyday and posts like these will tell you why: He deserves it, but do you?
  7. Love the Artful Parent and her 18 Creativity Quotable Quotes to Live by…

A Blast From the Past:

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That’s us… hope you have a fabulous week!!!

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→ 2 CommentsTags: Fabulous Friday Fun

What’s New and Great at Pengiun Random House South Africa for Kids…

August 9th, 2017 · No Comments

Is there anything better than good reads… and good reads of kids, well those are the best of the rest. I recently attended Penguin Books South Africa’s launch for children’s books for kids reads over the next couple of months. As usual there were a bunch of books that I know my kids would love reading…

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Let me take you on a tour…

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Any function that serves hot chocolate to their book reviewers because they know that kids books really should be read with hot chocolate beside you…

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Let’s begin with the Ladybird books, which were there in all their adorable red and spotty glory… and is this not the most perfect ladybird cushion ever.

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Otherwise…

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Gotta say, “How cool is this book…” iDinosaur… that comes with an app… I am not one for gimmicks at all… but Hood 8 would literally die of joy if a dinosaur walked across his hand and out of the book he was reading. There is going to be a bug version too… look out for it. It gets a “galactically cool” from me!!!

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I passed on the Marvel comics…

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I was dashing to take a look at what they would be launching for Christmas…

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I think we are going to have to read our way through this very cool box set from Matt Haig…

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I don’t think we have read Matt Haig before, I know we are missing out on something!!!

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Could I just say Roald Dahl rebranding win… so much loveliness… Great big giant books, for great big giant stories… filled with all the loveliness that is Quentin Blake illustration.

Roald Dahl’s Matilda Wonderful Sticker Activity Book: Matilda is right up there with Roald Dahl’s most loved books ever, it is the story of a sweet little girl, who loves to read… tossed into the worst of the worst, only Roald Dahl could imagine, kind of schools. The formidable headmistress, Miss Trunchbull, is world famous for her dreadful punishments… but then Matilda discovers she has a friend and a secret talent, which together rescue her from her plight. If you haven’t read Matilda… stop and read it now. For Matilda fans of all ages there is now an activity book… it is too sweet… and I am just going to say: stickers!!! A double page spread of just glorious Quentin Blake Stickers. Otherwise, there is a wordsearch and spot the difference, codes and mazes, not to mention pages for wild creativity like design a pile of books that Matilda would like to read. It is sweet and for the child that loves Matilda it is perfect.

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George’s Marvellous Medicine by Roald Dahl: This is the book behind the most amazingly awesome experiment book, Georges Marvellous Experiments, that we love so much. George’s very grouchy Grandma is there to keep an eye on him while his parents are out. George gets himself busy, looking for a cure for his Grandma’s insufferable bad mood. There is a fair amount of trial and error involved… a lot of our Roaldalian fun and of course the little guy comes out tops… after thwarting grandma and not succumbing to his parents exploitation either. Good fun, though I wouldn’t say good clean fun… because his concoctions do have some fairly messy results!!! The end of the book has a few fun pages, including a Revolting Rhyme.

The Penguin Random House Goody Bag

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Possibly the coolest goody bags ever… LIKE EVER!!! Stickers, posters, notebooks, samples, bookmarks, and books of course!!!

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Can I just say: The Magic Tree House Series…

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The Magic Tree House Series: And where have I been, an entire Magic Tree House activity kit? How have we never discovered these books… anyway, amongst the bookmarks and the stickers and all the goodies… was a map. Well Hood 8 was hooked and we have been grabbing every single Magic Tree House Book from the library ever since… I had to have eight kids before we found this series, something just for the two of us… unchartered waters so to speak. They are a huge collection of sweet adventures of an eight year old boy called Jack and his sister Annie, who discovered a tree house filled with books. If they open a book and wish they are there, they are magically transported anywhere in the world and anywhere in time… they go on a little adventure, but they always keep their treehouse book in their backpack, so that they can wish themselves home safely. Each book has nine or ten short easy chapters, so they can be read a chapter a day or as we read them, about five chapters a day… Great reading appeal for a se7en year old that is just into chapter books, right now we are alternating paragraphs through them. So far we have been to ancient Egypt, the Amazon, Ireland and the Caribbean and we have so many more to go. The books are all easy chapter books, there is another series the Merlin Missions that are for more advanced readers, which we haven’t got in our library and non-fiction Treehouse Fact Finders, that we will have to look out for. If you are into printables, activity sheet and just plain reading fun… then head over to their website, there are masses of resources for each book in the series there.

Choose Kind Journal by R.J. Palacio: This is divine… an “any year” page a day diary/journal… with the tag line: “Do one wonderful thing every day.” A stunning, stunning… page a day journal, with a question or a prompt to help you think about or do something wonderful every day. Lots of loveliness, lots of quotable quotes. Lovely paper to write on and stunning colours… and plenty of space to write every day. Ideas on every page to think about like: Give someone a chance to help you today; Write about a time when you felt happy for somebody else; Look out for students who react with warmth, what warm reactions did you observe?; How can you share sunshine with someone?… 365+1 pages of loveliness. I love this book, my teenage daughter loves it even more!!!

The BFG by Roald Dahl: This has to be one of the most whimsical, dreamy, lovely Roald Dahl stories of all time. The book begins when Sophie is unable to sleep she peeps out of the window and she captures the attention of the BFG… the Big Friendly Giant, who picks her up from her bed… terrifying for Sophie, not so terrifying if you are reading along. Luckily the BFG is the best kind of giant. The magic in this book is filled with the Giant’s wonderful pop-fizzling language… The BFG and Sophie are a formidable team on a quest to get rid of the wildly bad giants. Of course there is the true Roald Dahl funniness, and inventive plotting and planning, silly jokes and shocking villains, all in good fun. We haven’t seen the movie, so cannot say anything about it… but the end of the book is filled with a few activity pages… how to fill your dream jar, how to draw the BFG and such like. In the spirit of fun, this is such an enjoyable read.

Other Reads from Penguin Random House for Kids

BodyGuard Assassin by Chris Bradford: There is a new Chris Bradford out… in the Bodyguard series. My kids are huge Chris Bradford fans and you can read their interview with him, The Man Behind the Samurai Sword, here. This book was literally inhaled before it even landed on my desk… passed from kid to kid as they filled their Young Samurai hearts. Chris Bradford has mastered the art of a fast paced gripping story. In this, the fifth Bodyguard book in the series, we find the hero of the series Connor Reeves having to work with his rival, Jason… to protect Felix, the son of a frightfully wealthy Russian politician, Victor Malkov. This has a kidnapping, assassination attempts and the mafia, and most unlikely villain. Gripping, fast paced action all the way through and a shocking twist in the tale. Action, weapons, combat… and just the sort of potential movies my older boys would love to watch… meanwhile they are very happy to read the books!!!

I Funny: School of Laughs by James Patterson and Chris Grabenstein and illustrated by Jomike Tejido: Can I just say this team of writers is prolific… the books just keep rolling out and my twelve year old loves them. As they roll off the shelf he reads them. They are fat books, feel like you are reading a grown-up book, but they are also picture rich and the chapters are short. Perfect for readers that are not super confident but are also way beyond beginner chapter books. In this book Jamie Grimm is a teacher, who happens to be in a wheel chair, is on a quest to save the school library. The new head master, who likes to be called coach has decided to destroy the library for a gymnasium. And the book is all about saving the library… in-between all sorts of regular middle school happenings including bullies. The jokes roll thick and fast throughout… on every page and every illustration… they will come back to you. If you have a middle schooler, who loves jokes, they will read this in a flash, it is heartwarming where the bullies definitely do not come out on top.

House of Robots: Robot Revolution by James Patterson and Chris Grabenstein: The hero of this book is Sammy, he lives with his sickly little sister, his Mom, who is a robot inventor and his dad, who is a comic book creator. It sounds like a regular family, but their house is run entirely by robots. This as you can imagine, is great when things are going well… and not so great when they aren’t. Sammy is working on his science fair project and his mom is busy with a top secret invention. Sammy has to deal with the household robots “losing the plot.” There is also a new school yard nemesis that causes Sammy endless trouble in his day to day to-ing and fro-ing. All the pressures build up on Sammy… until… Sammy’s science fair project boosts his mother’s new invention unexpectedly. A great for middle schoolers, picture rich and quick and easy chapters… a heartwarming book with family values in a world full of robots.


All these books were given to us for review purposes by Penguin Random House South Africa. This is not a sponsored post and opinions expressed are entirely our own.

→ No CommentsTags: Brilliant Books

Se7en Visits the Veld and Sea Team for a Gardening Workshop…

August 7th, 2017 · 2 Comments

Last week I visited the Good Hope Nursery for a Gardening Workshop and it was fantastic. We have been visiting them for years and years… and the last time we visited we learnt all about foraging. They have branched out from a nursery to Food Foraging and Gardening Workshops… you have to take a look at their Veld and Sea website.

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The Water Workshop

The Good Hope Nursery have a series of garden workshops running at the moment: Water, Earth, Air and Fire… I attended the one on water and I have to say there was a lot more information than I expected. I thought I would learn a little bit about conserving water, and watering wisely… there was that, but so much more…

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How to harvest and store your rainfall, how to set up a filtration system for your grey water… I was fascinated from the get go. This was all new to me. We are living through an extreme drought situation, and I don’t know anyone that doesn’t store their shower water, or their dish water, or flush the toilet with a bucket of grey water rather than using water from the tank. In fact we have discovered that our grey water is quite enough to keep our toilets flushing and our garden well watered. It takes longer of course, but isn’t that the case when you are doing the right thing. For those of you reading through this, that aren’t living through a drought and are wondering what grey water is: Grey water is water that you have used once and is still clean enough to use for most domestic requirements, except obviously for drinking. So water that you have caught in the shower, water that you have managed to save from anything really… is good enough and wet enough(!) to use again.

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This workshop made our water saving efforts appear to be just the first step in a project that could become way more intense than I ever expected. I would never have considered creating ponds in our garden as a means to store water before. I learnt how to create a well… something I never thought I needed to know… but on second thoughts, this could become something I really need to know and sooner rather than later. Not that I am about to dig our own well, but a practical skill is never a wasted one… and I now understand the whole process.

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And one really practical tip about storing water, and that is “What to do about the mosquito problem?” Simple answer… pop a gold fish in there and your mosquito problem is solved. I am quite prepared to give that a try!!!

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The Classroom

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We started off in the classroom… there is so much to see and look at here, you kind of feel a need to linger and explore…

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Chatting about all things water-ish… with a collection of fab notes to work from…

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And not a few distractions…

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Followed by the prettiest snack time…

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The Walkabout

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Our lesson was followed by a walkabout, just exploring and looking at water… how to spot it in the great outdoors and how to get it to where you need it…

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The view is breathtaking…

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And this lonely little kayak on the bottom of what should be a dam of water… is fairly alarming. We live in a winter rainfall area and there just hasn’t been enough water. Not even a drop of water in the dam… and we are past the middle of winter.

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The Feast

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After all that learning we were welcomed to an amazing feast, infused with fynbos and wonderfully foraged food… salads like never before and sausages sizzling over the fire…

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Fresh, home grown ingredients… and so much hard work creating a beautiful day out…

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Everything to love…

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And the perfect mini-holiday for myself!!!

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If you are keen to dig deeper into your gardening adventure…. then these workshops for you. If you are looking to escape from your hum drum reality for a day and head out on an foraging adventure, followed by a feast then head straight for The Veld and Sea Website and look around, there is definitely something there for everyone to enjoy!!!

Veld and Sea...

Thank you so much to The Veld and Sea Team for gifting me with the fantastic workshop. This is not a sponsored post and opinions expressed are as usual, entirely my own.

→ 2 CommentsTags: Outings · Saturday Spot

Se7en’s Galactically Huge “How We Are Homeschooling Right Now” Post…

August 4th, 2017 · 5 Comments

For most of our followers around the world it is Back-to-School time, and for most of the folk here in South Africa, we have had a winter break and are heading back into their school year. Some folk are refreshed and good to go and others… well judging from my inbox others are a little overwhelmed. I thought I would write a homeschool post for you all and just say: “Don’t panic…” Honestly, from the outside looking in, it looks as if my kids do very little that looks like actual school… In fact only the second half of the morning on a few days a week, would anyone think they were doing anything remotely schoolish. The rest of the time they appear to be lying around reading, doing projects and playing. But by reading through this post hopefully you will see that we have over the years incorporated our schooling into our lifestyle. I do not stress about “if they anyone is doing enough” and I do not stress about “if they are keeping up with their contemporaries who are in school.” We are homeschoolers, we learn differently and different things at different stages… the end result, that they finish school competently is what counts. I do slightly stress about the fun factor, and I make a lot of effort to create a fun learning environment for our kids to learn in. I want them to love learning, and I want them to be keen and curious… I can’t make them that, I can only create that environment and lead by example.

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I thought I would just share what we are doing for school right now, the “What, Where, Why and How?” of it all, and hopefully this will answer a few of the dozens questions that have popped into my inbox lately. I have to say that there is no such thing as a typical day. Our homeschool is designed so that when opportunities arise, like a beach cleanup or a hike or visitors from afar… that we drop school and we embrace that. I am not very obsessed with getting all the school done every single day, but over the period of a week most folk get through a good chunk of learning and I am happy with that. I am also quite prone to declaring “apparently” zero school days and heading for the beach, or hiking or having a reading all day kind of day (that is school… but no-one in our house would think that)!!!

My Sonlight Badges

Otherwise, if you are new here, you might not know it but we are avid Sonlight Curriculum fans we have homeschooled all the way through our homeschooling journey with Sonlight, and our children basically read their way through our Sonlight library for school… starting at the bottom shelf they read their way up to the top shelf… when they finish the shelves, they are effectively finished school. Of course we do other things with them for school, but Sonlight is the literary backbone that we rely on. Not only does it educate our children, but it has given me the best education ever, over the last fifteen odd years of schooling alongside our kids.

Our Typical Homeschool Day

I get home from gym around 7:30 and spend a little time with the father person before he dashes to work, and the kids start waking up at about eight. I work for about an hour and a half on blog related things, while the kids do chores, and their school reading and generally get ready for the day. We have breakfast together around 9:30… and then begins what we call family school, and a lot of folk in the blog world call morning time. We follow family school with meeting time… and that is one on one time for each child with me and I see one or two children a day and we just rotate through until it is your turn again.

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Family School

Family school changes and varies as we begin new things and end other things, sometimes we focus on a theme, and we always have something sort of Bible Study, History, Around the World, Poetry, a family Read-A-Loud. No my kids don’t play with anything while I read, no lego, no puzzles, no colouring… they just listen and it is all very conversational… so reading and chatting. Usually we just read a double page spread in a given book and at the end of it I ask everyone for an interesting fact they just learnt… starting youngest to oldest, everybody wants their turn, so they listen away!!!

  1. Bible Study: For the last year or so we have just been reading the bible together, no extra bits and pieces and it has been so refreshing. Why didn’t we do this years ago? Everybody brings their own bible to the table and then we read a chapter a day. Everybody reads a few verses. The beginner readers might need a little help and just sit in my lap as they sound it out, and we wait patiently for folk to stumble their way through… it has produced the most remarkable reading improvement. And little people are so proud to be reading the bible for all its worth. We alternate Old and New Testament books and at the end of the book we reward ourselves by watching the relevant video on The Bible Project (we also print out there summary pages for our journals).
  2. History: We are reading through this book of English History, just a double page a day… it isn’t easy. But it is interesting. Yes, everyone listens, it is only a double spread and it is intriguing. The way we get through books that are trickier reading is by sharing a fact that we learnt from the spread… either as soon as I have read it, or the next day… that ensures folk are listening because nobody wants to be left out… ever!!!
  3. Around the World: Our World map is smothered with information, it is right next to our table and anytime we read about a place someone jumps up and marks it on the map. We have friend locations and book locations, we have all the kids from Children Just Like Me on there as well. We traced the Hokulea Journey on our map, and we have been following the Logos Hope from port to port around the world too. This year we have been using the Draw Africa book on the Kindle, a country a day… slow and steady, we are getting there!!!
  4. Poetry: We always have a poetry book on the go… always. Either from the library, where you will find a lot of wonderful and suitable poetry or from our own school shelves. A little tip here is that if you find a poet you like, then pop over to Youtube and search for them. You will often find that a poet has made excellent videos of themselves reading their own poetry… it is lovely!!!
  5. Another Language: In South Africa most folk speak two if not three languages, it is a great advantage to them. While we have taught our children smatterings of languages to our children, from countries we have visited, we have never been hugely successful with teaching our children a second language until about two years ago. We tried activity books, we tried flashcards, we tried all sorts of things… nothing worked. Everyone was fairly eager to learn… but nothing stuck. It was only when they started having Afrikaans friends over that some of the language started to stick. It is absolutely true… immersion works. So I began by reading to our kids… I read Afrikaans stories and nature books, and I read a sentence and then translated a sentence… and slowly but surely we made our way through books. But this only worked to a certain extent… the mistake I was making was in the translation. I went much, much simpler and started taking picture books out of the library and reading them during family school. And here is the trick I learnt, since immersion is the key: I read the same picture book to them again and again and again… through out the week we had it from the library. The first time I am met with blank stares. The second time they understand it and by the third time they are repeating phrases back to me… when phrases started to click we could start piling it on. So we keep it really simple with picture books and poetry books. And I just read them again and again and again and this has been the best way to learn for us.
  6. Read Aloud: We always have a story going around the table… a family read aloud. It is an eclectic mix of classics and contemporary, books that I have fond memories of and must read books read and reread from our shelves. I have been trying to introduce my kids to audible books in this slot… to no avail. Much as they love audible (and that is a whole ‘nother post) they still need a book going read by the mother person… and I am more than okay with that, long may it last in fact.
  7. The Project: We always have some sort of focus or project on the go… something South African, that isn’t part of our curriculum. This year we have been working on an environmental project and we have been working our way through information on the Karoo… but in this slot we typically look at Game Parks around the country or learn about local wildlife.

My older kids move along after this… not very far because all school happens around the kitchen table. Not to mention, while they may wander away from the hub of things, they certainly are still listening because they are always contributing and joining the conversation.

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Meeting Time


At about eleven we take a break, run around, hang laundry, do a seven minute workout, dance, snack… whatever. After this my kids settle down and work in their journals or in their workbooks. We have slowly whittled their workbooks down to as little as possible, I am all about free time and having time to play. So the quicker they do their work, the quicker they can move on to their own thing. During this time I have a one on one meeting with our kids, one by one rotating throughout the week. I sit with them and we talk about the reading they have done, the history, the science and so on, I look at what they have written in their journals. Then I take a look at the next section of math they are working on and make sure that they understand so that they can work through their workbooks on their own until we meet up again in couple of days. The idea is that I check what they have done, and I make sure they have the knowledge they need to go on, until our next meeting. Our school day is very definitely over by lunchtime, which is at 1pm. Immediately after lunch everyone, including myself, reads for a time and then the afternoon is free to do as they please… and that is the busiest time of day… projects fly and I spend a little more time working online. At the end of the afternoon we head for the beach or the library or something, an afternoon walk. This is followed by dinner, bed and some more reading. This is the house of reading!!!

School by Grade Level

While each of our kids are on their own school level, and they each have their own shelf of books that they are reading, our school is definitely split into three levels… My seniors are in the latter half of high school, middle school and primary school. By the time my kids enter middle school they are reading independently and doing all their reading on their own, it may take them until middle school to master reading… that’s okay, but by the time they are reading all their school independently then it is time to start out sourcing school. By the time they have finished high school they have hopefully accumulated some solid work experience, spent a good deal of time volunteering and learning has become second nature to the air that they breathe.

Pre-school and Below


We are not in this category any more, I have no idea how that happened, but we have finally outgrown it… but this is an area of schooling that our most asked questions are in. I really don’t expect any of my preschoolers to spend more than five or ten minutes on anything called school. Their work is to play hard, and that is what I expect from them. By the time they are in the year before school they mostly want to sit at the table for a few minutes to emulate their older siblings. I spend a couple of minutes reading through Teach your Child to Read in 100 Lessons. I have said it before and I will say it again, that is in 100 lessons and not 100 days… it took us a least a year if not more to wander through that book with all my kids. When our oldest began school and he had three or four younger siblings at play, then he was a natural early bird and he and I would get up early and spend fifteen minutes together covering his school work, while everyone else was still sleeping. Later, when more children were doing school and more little people were underfoot, we would do their history, science and story book reading on the floor or a bed with little people clambering on us, and capitalise on nap time for anything that required one on one attention. I did find as my younger children were born into a homeschooling environment that the little ones were quite happy to sit on my lap or clamber on me while I read, and as they got older they naturally moved a little bit away to play as time went on. I do have a post on What Do Little People Do During School? A while back… you may take a peak there.

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Primary School

I really believe that kids learn through play… and they can only get the skills they need to do the school they are going to want to do later if they have had their fill of play. Hood 8 is se7en and I still do all his reading… a spread of history, and science and a chapter of a story each day. He creates a line or two and sometimes even a page in his history and science journal and reads to me from his reader… he spends a few minutes on math and explode the code and he is done for the day. So apart from family school he doesn’t spend more than twenty minutes on school and he is free to work on his own projects. Hoods 5 and 6 are 11 and 9 years old, I read some of their history with them but otherwise they do all their own reading. And the time they spend with me is really just admiring their journals and seeing that they understand the next couple of pages in their workbooks.

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Middle School


Hood 4 and 5 are twelve and fourteen, and are in that stage of school where I am preparing them for high school and a lot more independent learning. The biggest difference between middle schoolers and high schoolers, is that they read all their own history and keep their own history journal, it is quite a jump from me reading their history and it takes time and effort. The truth is I could read their history and it would be quicker and easier for everyone, but we are in no rush and they are learning how to learn. At this stage we start to outsource their school a little bit, our kids need to get used to learning from a teacher that isn’t their mother. They attend classes for a second language, and my kids chose French because it is spoken so widely throughout Africa and the world. What begins as an hour of playing games and chatting once a week, quickly turns into more in high school. Otherwise, while their lives are not entirely, but pretty much screen free until this time, it is time for them to get some online skills before they require it for work… Our kids have learnt a huge amount through Tim Chase’s Courses at Impact Virtual, he runs an online learning school that has been instrumental in getting my kids through school, I cannot imagine a world of learning where our children won’t have to be very familiar with learning in an online classroom. His first course is a prerequisite for his following courses and is called Digital Learning: They learn about cyber safety, how to create their own website, and the tools they need to make that website great, how to present their work online and peer reviewing. This is not an airy fairy course, and one of those online courses that starts off trivially and then you can fizzle out when the going gets tough… it is fairly time intensive and your child will be busy online, learning in a safe environment. My kids have all had to raise their game and work hard to complete the requirements, and have the reaped the rewards of a job well done. This is a great course to get your kids to up their school game, problem solving and presentation skills will shoot up, all with a class of peers encouraging them to work harder, rather than their homeschooling parent.

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High School


In the last few years of high school, they read their way through the final years of the Sonlight Curriculum and we try and pack in as much real life learning and opportunities for job experience and volunteering as well. We want our kids to be well equipped for the working world that they are about to enter. They continue with their French studies and up their immersion time a week to two and later three hours, and by the end of high school they are pretty much fluent and get a certificate of competence through the Alliance Francaise. They also start to attend college courses at this stage, and they head to a local college one evening a week with their dad and join the class, they do the assignments, write the essays and complete the tests, all the while raising their game higher than if they were doing the same course for me… I feel it is critical that learn from other folk. They accumulate great skills, how to write an essay, how to fill the lecturer’s requirements, which are often quite different to what they think the requirements are (!), and how to reference correctly and present their work. Otherwise, they continue with their coursework at Impact Virtual, doing all sorts of courses, from coding to photography, from Shakespeare to Cold War Studies, these courses are fabulous and have made learning fun, and my teens have thoroughly dived into topics, that they may breezed over otherwise. I am all for gaining work experience at this stage and they do a number of jobs… including online tutoring and volunteering. They volunteer at the aquarium and I have no problem with them taking a day or even two days off “what otherwise looks like school” in order to do this, because they learn so much from working with other people, for other people and amongst other people. The life experience and work ethic that they develop is invaluable to whatever they might want to pursue after school. And the multimillion dollar question that folk ask is how do we finish high school… once my kids have read through their Sonlight Library, they have covered more than enough in terms of education. The sign up and write GED exams and SAT exams, we don’t do any special focused studying towards these exams… I reckon they have an education and they just gaining the piece of paper to prove that they have an education.

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School by Topic

Everybody in our school covers certain topics each week… the what, the where, and the how are slightly different, tailored towards each child’s learning. But they all have a notebook to keep track of what they are up to… and we just work our way through the list during our one on one meeting.

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History:

History is thoroughly covered by Sonlight, through reading and reading and reading. I have found that for some of my kids that battled with reading that audible books were hugely helpful. After reading through Hillyer’s Child’s History of the World six times, I was very happy to get the same book from audible and let my kids listen along multiple times. Otherwise we got the audible version Susan Wise Bauer’s Story of the World, and we use her activity books, in the years that my children cover that. Don’t be afraid to dive in and use audible, your kids will love it, it gives you a break and your brain knows that reading is reading. Honestly, with all the other school they are reading, I am quite happy to give those that need it the break. Not to mention, I am an even happier that my children that prefer to just read, get some good listening skills in as well. The comprehension skills that children use when they read and when they listen are different and they need to learn how to learn using listening skills as well.

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Science:

We use Sonlight Science books all the way as well… a double page spread from their books as they read through them each day. Last year we had a zero school budget (doesn’t everyone have those years?), but luckily our Sonlight library is pretty much complete, and I didn’t buy replacement science sheets to fill in. Instead our kids started making science journals, very much like nature journals… certainly for my younger children they love it, they are learning and it works. I ask them to create a double page spread in their journal each week, they can write, create, copy, invent… whatever they want… something from what they have read in school that week. Once they reach High School our kids switch to Apologia Science, it is a great programme and they also make notes. At this stage it becomes important that they are familiar with writing tests and I use the tests at the end of each module as an opportunity for them to learn how to study and get used to a test environment. Finally experiments… my word can these overwhelm a homeschool mom. I leave all their science materials available for them to potter, tinker and create with and then we have a dedicated science experiment week once or twice during the year… where we gather everything we need to do and we make long lists of all the experiments we want to do and work our way through them together… it has a kind of a festive feel to it and everyone feels a bit like, this is a mini-vacation.

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Language Arts:

This is the one place where folk really just ask me for help all the time… so I am going to spend a little time here. Essentially, language arts is a subject that contains many smaller subjects: Spelling, grammar, vocabulary, writing and so on… Sonlight has a language arts programme that we used for years, and it is something folk ask us about a lot… it never really bothered us, but some kids just don’t love it. I don’t mind that, I just make sure that they are getting fun from writing and such like as well.

  • Hand Writing: I am not sure why this is always popped into language arts, other than you need to be able to write to communicate. We use Hand Writing Without Tears during the Pre-Primary and Primary years and then we never look back. I have always been a little anti dictation and prefer copy work, because I prefer my children to spend time writing out correct things, rather than anything and then correcting it. To this end, I know they have science journals and history journals and a certain (small) amount of copyworb goes in there.
  • Spelling: My primary school children are all working on reading skills and their reading skills are not strong enough to work on spelling skills as well. I totally ignore teaching spelling until Middle School, in fact (don’t ask me how I know this!) if you wait out until High School, as their reading skills improve… their spelling skills improve as well and you needn’t do spelling at all. That being said, I do do Spelling with my Middle Schoolers, we use Spelling Power, I am all for a program that is a one book covers everyone kind of a programme.
  • Grammar: Again, I also wait until Middle School, while my younger students might hear about nouns and verbs and such like, it is only when they are slightly older that I really start to do anything about it. Our kids work their way through the Winston Grammar Programme with me, during their meeting with me. Very, very slowly… sometimes only half a page a week. It is enough, just dripping the information into their minds. There is no point in rushing through programmes and pushing forwards here, slowly covering the work over and over again helps it to stick there firmly.
  • Vocabulary: We use Explode the Code for a bit of Phonics and Writing Practice and then once they have finished that they move onto Wordly Wise… books that start off easy and develop all the way as they grow older. When they are writing and they learn or need a new word they pop those words into their special spelling notebook.
  • Writing: Can I just say that I have five boys, and that I totally understand when folks tell me their boys hate writing. I get that. I have had moments of panic when I see a friend’s child’s writing… and then I take a breath and say… my kids are homeschoolers, they learn differently and they don’t have to know everything at once. For writing we use a very gentle approach, my kids do write for all sorts of reasons. In fact they probably write a little something everyday… nothing huge and I really don’t ever bother to correct it, though I do admire it!!! If it really is unreadable… then I will write it out correctly for them next to their work, so that they can read what they have written later on. Otherwise, we write a little bit every day… a letter here, a recipe there… all sorts of things that I spontaneously think up for them to write down for me. For years now my kids have been writing a “story” in their “Outing Book” about an outing that they went on in the past week, they can add any memorabilia and ticket stubs and so on. One of my children goes on the most wonderful, incredible, imaginative (totally not real) outings every week and my youngest has dutifully written: “We went to ….., it was fun,” every single week and drawn a beautiful picture to go with it. I am happy with that. He is writing, he is creating, and I know he can tell a story. Could he do better? Yes. Is it worth the fight? No. Just recently I have noticed a line or two more added into the mix, just as a whole lot of other skills took a jump up too. Kids learn in leaps and bounds and if they sit on a plateau that’s fine. Otherwise to spur our creativity onwards and upwards I started a writing club in the holidays with my littles… we had a week of writing fun. And what started as just as week has turned into something that they were asking to do with me every week… it deserves a blog post… I’ll write it up and link back. What I can say, having an array of all ages kids teaches you to relax, even the most reluctant writer will eventually write when they need to and they will also do it well. They have had years of listening to good stories and they are well equipped to tell fine stories and communicate what they want to communicate. My kids eventually all are able to write letters of motivation, submit forms and hand in college level essays. Writing is work, and it is a skill that they develop… but they have their whole school career to master it. Somethings don’t need to be conquered by next week, or next month or even next year… Writing takes time and while they are learning it may as well be fun.

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Math:

For math we use Singapore Math all the way from grade zero to hero… yes there are other math programs, yes my kids used Miquon work books in their younger days and yes I do do The Life of Fred with my youngest and we love it, but Singapore Math remains at the heart of our math programme. So many programs come out, we are bombarded with new, better, easier methods… I don’t get distracted by new programs any more, I stick what we have and we work through it. If you are consistent then it works. The idea is not that they can solve every single problem ever thrown at them or that they are doing advanced calculus by age ten, but rather that they have the tools they need to learn the next step, that they if they don’t immediately know how to solve a problem that they have developed enough problem solving skills to ask “How do I tackle this?” before they give up and that they aren’t afraid of problems that look a little different to the norm. Otherwise, a great way to practise basic logic and arithmetic skills, without resorting to boring “busywork” workbooks is to play games: boardgames, card games… any games… and my kids play a lot of games together… in fact it is scheduled into their day to play a game and once a week they have to play a game of chess against me. I am not very good at it, but the better they get, the better I get.

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Extra-Murals:
We do and we don’t. Basically, if they are old enough to get there themselves and or passionate enough about something to work it out for themselves… then go for it. My older kids do French and that requires them to walk to and fro a couple of times a week. My boys do woodwork and my middle schoolers do Rangers, not to mention a whole lot of church activities. Basically, when we had one or two kids our kids did do extramurals, but it became unsustainable once we had a handful of kids and I just couldn’t spend my little kids entire lives sitting in a car driving to and fro. Also our children do enough… I never want my kids to have to hurry through their school just to get to an extra-mural. Slow days are good, if they want to linger on something they can, if they want to have friends over to play they can… if they want to immerse themselves in their latest passion or project or dare I say LEGO, then they can. There is a balance between extra-murals and free time. We have chosen to gift our kids with free time.

Hopefully this post will answer tons of reader questions… but often that leads to more questions. If you want to ask me more questions… feel free… ask away, now is the time. Not to mention I am sure I am leaving something out… let me know what it is and I will include it!!!

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Se7en’s August and Your Free Printable Calendar…

August 1st, 2017 · 2 Comments

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Well hello August, I have no idea how it can be August already…

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Click on the calendar page, it will open in a new tab, print it out (landscape is best) 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!!!

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Se7en Salutes Our Rangers on World Ranger Day…

August 1st, 2017 · 4 Comments

During July our country celebrated Madiba Day, a day when the whole country joins together for at least 67 minutes of service to the nation. I believe that our country desperately needs help and there are no limits when it comes to opportunities to serve. That great vibe that South Africa generates on Madiba Day can actually carry through to every day. Often when folk hear that you volunteer their first thought is that you must be working in soup kitchen, you could be, but realistically there are millions of other ways to volunteer. There is no doubt in my mind that there is something for everyone to do, we just have to look around for the right thing to do.

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For the last eighteen months or so I have been volunteering to help train Junior Rangers in our local National Park. I love hiking with kids, so this works really well for me. July 31st is World Ranger Day… and a good time to write a post about what Junior Rangers do. The Junior Rangers that I work with are a widely diverse group of high-schoolers, from all over the wider Cape Town area, that are learning how to be Park Rangers one day.

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On Saturdays a bus collects the kids near to their homes, and brings into the park where they will learn about the environment, work on assignments and experience the great outdoors. These children come from very diverse backgrounds, some may spend their vacations in Game Parks, and some have never been to a Game Park before ever. While their backgrounds may be different, they all have a passion for the environment and conservation. Months of hiking and working on projects alongside each other brings them together to work as a team.

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The most exciting times for me are definitely showing kids things for the first time… what is just a regular walk for a seasoned hiker, could well be the first time any of them have seen an ostrich or a bontebok… truly exciting times!!!

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A lot of hiking and gaining experience, projects to help them learn about the environment they want to be working in one day, interacting with different types of Rangers, and doing beach cleanups and preparing displays for visitors, cleaning whale bones for display (some jobs are smellier than others!). Learning new ways to get around and monitor the park… there is a lot to learn.

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It’s not all a grand adventure, sometimes it is standing in a shopping mall on a Saturday morning… sometimes it means painting a school or an old age home… community service is part of the role of a Ranger, after all.

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Rewards for hard work, like camp… I am guessing most people wouldn’t want to jump on a bus with 40+ teenagers and head out into the wild for a weekend away… I can think of nothing better… especially if it means night hikes…

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And saving Cape Leopard Toads…

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Other rewards like getting up long before dawn, to take the kids on outings to totally different places…

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And the annual camp to a Game Park further afield…

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I get to look out for kids as they sleep under the stars, I get to sweep bugs out of the bathroom, and remove unusually large spiders from bags. And there is always one child with a passion for snakes who will bring one to show me specially…

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It is a slow and steady process… month after month it all adds up…

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Discipline is required to be a Ranger, and Junior Rangers learn this, not just by getting to the bus on time in their uniform, but from other skills they are also learning, like remembering all the scientific names and habits of local plants and animals, the knowledge is somehow absorbed…

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Respect is learnt and earned…

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It is a load of fun, it is a grand adventure and it is hard work… I love it.

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These kids are inspired by the great Rangers that work in our National Parks, they may not all grow up to be Rangers one day, but they will all take with them a love of the great outdoors and an attitude of “How can I help?” I reckon that that is a great start for any school leaver to have in their back pocket.

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