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

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Se7en At School: What Are We Are Learning This Year…

April 17th, 2014 · 9 Comments

We haven’t fallen off the blogging bus, so to speak… we are back in school and as we all struggle and strain under the new constraints of school days, as opposed to long lazy days… my days are suddenly incredibly busy and for a couple of weeks their will be no sneaking off and quietly writing a blog post while everyone is busy elsewhere. We will adjust and our students will discover what I do and don’t expect of them, they will push the boundaries – just to check if I really meant them to do something and I have to keep an unusually vigilant eye on what is actually getting done as opposed to what they say is getting done. Soon enough we will adjust and find our rhythm… we always do. There is just the initial prickly time, where we all see what we can and can’t get away with.


This post is really for all those folk that want to be a fly on the wall and see exactly what our kids are studying for school this year. Most of our days have a very particular rhythm… rise and shine, breakfast and reading and family school around the kitchen table. Then if it is during school time everyone heads for their own core and if we aren’t on an official school day then folk tend to their own projects. At lunchtime we meet around the table to read some more and after lunch we rest and read for a while (depending on just how long I need). Later in the afternoon the kids play and I am available to spend time helping with any teens that still requires some help in the afternoon. Then the usual end of the day chores and an amble before supper and bed.


Family School

This is the heart of our school and takes an hour or two each morning. We cover a little bible reading together. We may do creative writing or drawing. We will do art together… We are usually reading a series of books as a family… and I will pick something from the library and work through it. Books like the Scout handbook are met with a lot of approval (!) and we are reading a fabulous history book together that is just quite unbelievable and deserves it’s own post. We fit any art or creative writing/journaling. During this time we will learn some local skills… South African history, geography and right now we are discovering map work and loving it. My go-to resource for these books is the library, I look specifically for books that will appeal to my hands on students and books that will appeal to my word lovers. I have also introduced a Mental Math challenge and a grammar challenge to this part of school. I thought I would meet all sorts of resistance, but they are actually enjoying it… it appeals to their competitive edge. Honestly, with a mindful exercise like mental math, it has nothing to do with age as to who will be the champion and all to do with who is paying the most attention. My older kids have some very eager competitors chomping at their heels.


One on One Meetings

From Family School we move on to our Sonlight Schooling and this is really all about books. We are avid Sonlighters… always have been. They each have a pile of reading to get through each day and pretty much wander through their instructors guides. I know some folks have this idea of homeschooling, that you spend hours of one-on-one time with your kids, this might be true for some but for us, the truth of the matter is that most of my kids don’t want to have me hanging around their work… firstly I am far to full of ideas of things they could add, or might want to do and secondly this is their path to discovery and they are actually enjoying the adventure themselves.

That being said… I do spend at least half an hour and often an hour with each child, depending on their needs on a given school day. Little folk tend to wake up earliest and when they are up, then I do all their school reading to them for the day… their bible, history and science books as well as any read-alouds are pretty much conquered before breakfast. I usually start with the smallest scholar and working up through the ranks. The older children need to tackle their work without me so that by the time I spend time with them they have something to show me.

All my kids have one or two aspects of school that they will not tackle on their own and would like me to sit alongside them. Usually it is math, in which case I check and admire any good work they have done and enquire (though I never ever get a response) regarding the work they promised, but haven’t done. It is just not the most loved subject around here… but they find their way through it: Singapore and in the lowest grades they do a but of Miquon as well. The middle grades do “Key to…” math with their Singapore… we love it, the books are fast and snappy and change.Usually they are not stuck they just want me alongside them. So I sit with them and check that they understand what is required of them in the next few exercises and leave them to it. The other section of work they often want help with is language arts. Any creative writing project that is listed in their language arts instructor’s guide requires time and attention. They do not love it and it shows: for example write a friendly letter, or write a comparative essay. These assignments are simply there to teach them how to write a particular form of writing and they are not as “creative” as one might think. To be honest we treat it as a bit of mental exercise and they do do their best creative writing during family school.


Our Se7en+1 School Goals

This may sound lofty and airy-fairy, but I am far more concerned that my children learn and grow and develop towards the person they will eventually grow up to be, over the period of the school year than they tick off every box in their Instructor’s Guide. I don’t expect thirty million book reports and I am far more interested in our kids pursuing matters of the heart and things that intrigue them and inspire them to learn more. To this end I have goals for our Sonlight years and I have written about them before as well.


  1. Hood #1 (16) – Two Years-ish from the End:
  2. Core 300 – 20th Century World History; Science 350 – Chemistry; British Literature (over two years); Psychology; French.

    The end is actually in sight, and I cannot believe it… while he is still trying new things and has no idea what he wants to do after school… the focus has become one of creating a great looking portfolio. Finally all the years of practising presentation are coming into their own. He is also starting to work outside of home and volunteer and has to get used to keeping school deadlines and up to date with a college course or two, all the while being busy with real life responsibilities and tasks… way beyond the level of domestic chores. Busy, interesting times and the work is pretty relentless, but lots of new and different things to look forward too.


  3. Hood #2 (14) – Middle High School:
  4. Core 100 – American History; Science 150 – Physical Science; British Literature (over two years); Economics; French.

    This is a student that likes to rush on, the goal is to try lots of new things – he loves anything to do with electronics and computers… and recently discovered online courses. We may have lost him!!! There will be a lot more putting work on actual paper, and following through and finishing assignments that have been begun. The thinking is that while he is welcome to fly and follow his heart, he still has to be able to demonstrate what he is learning along the way. So we are going to figure out ways for him to present the work he is doing in an acceptable way.


  5. Hood #3 – Junior High School:
  6. Core G – World History Part 1; Science G – Geology, Physics and Origins.

    This is a student that likes to tick all the boxes and announce done… but at this stage I am requiring a little more depth. So a book may be read and the box ticked… but what is to be learnt from it… is their a spark of a project, is there a something that the reading inspires – a new hobby to try or a pastime to explore. This is a child that loves and adores cooking and food and we are thinking about expanding horizons with these courses. In the meantime we have plenty of cookbooks that nobody will mind if they are cooked through… this may be a good year for feasting.


  7. Hood #4 – Upper Primary:
  8. Core E: Introduction to American History – Part 2; Science E: Electricity, Magnetism and Astronomy.

    This is a hands on learner if ever there was one. I really need to introduce tons of hands on projects and scatter books with potential projects in his path. He is not the biggest reader in the world and while he loves dipping into non-fiction for a couple of facts… this is the year I would like to see him getting into reading more fiction. He loves a good story and has listened to hours and hours of audio books so I am not concerned about cultural literacy, but rather I would like him to discover the joy of reading for it’s own sake.


  9. Hood #5 – Primary:
  10. Core D: Introduction to American History – Part 1; Science D: Biology; Taxonomy and Human Anatomy.

    Well this is a student that loves what everyone else is doing and likes to tag along on a number of projects that his siblings are doing. Because of this he is used to lots of guidance and endless advice (!), but he is actually really capable at anything he tries. I would really like for him to discover projects of his own and that will require rather more strewing on my part. Otherwise he is getting the hang of reading and this is the year that he will most likely dive into fat chapter books and get lost in the reading of them. This is also the year that he will discover “finding things” in a major way… words in a dictionary, places in a atlas and so on.


  11. Hood #6 – Junior Primary:
  12. Core B: Introduction to World History – Part 1; Science B: Animals, Astronomy and Physics.

    While this little one knows how to read, she is not yet comfortable with reading ion her own. She will read if I am alongside her, but not if I move away. This is the year to get her confident with reading because after that all her school will become so much easier for her. This is a student who needs to start learning to do little bits of school work on her own and I plan to teach her about working independently by strewing copious amounts of crafty inspiration, and she l=…


  13. Hood #7 – Beginner School:
  14. Core A: Introduction to World Cultures; Science A: Biology, Botany and Physics.

    This is a student who loves and adores school and may quite outstrip everyone in her gallop to the end. This is the year we do “100 Lessons” and learn how to read… all of my kids have taken months and wandered through this book slowly. Well we have literally covered half the book in three weeks. So this is going to be the year of hundreds of easy – readers… I am looking forward to that.


  15. Hood #8 – Pre-Pre School:
  16. Core P3/4/5: Fiction, Fairy Tales and Exploring god’s World;
    Our youngest really likes to be part of our school day and his time slot is immediately after lunch when we lie on the bed together and we are steadily reading our way through our entire collection of picture books.

→ 9 CommentsTags: Organizing School · Se7en at School

Saturday Spot: Pick’n Pay Women’s Walk… and PinkDrive…

April 14th, 2014 · 3 Comments

This year, all over South Africa folk are joining the Pick’n Pay Women’s Walk. Hood #3, sometimes Hood #6, and I set a challenge to walk all the walks that we could possibly get to…


And so we have woken up early couple of times on a Saturday morning and dashed out in the early morning to join thousands of women… and men and children, people of all shapes and sizes, super-fit and not…


Thousands of folk all dressed in Pink, all in an effort to raise awareness for cancer, particularly breast cancer.


Thousand upon thousand… You have never seen so much pink in all your life…


There is time to kit up and…


Get your hair done…


And your laces laced… before you walk.


You will meet a survivor and hear her powerful story…


And this gal… from PinkDrive… we salute her…



She has literally taught thousand of folk how to do their self-examination.


And then you get walking…


And once everyone is walking there is pink spread out for miles as far as the eye can see…


There is plenty of time to stop and take photographs…





Plenty of fun… all around…



And at the finish…


A Fabulous Goody Bag for a reward.


Everyone that takes part is making a small difference in the fight against cancer… an hour long walk on a Saturday morning is really good fun and a part of something bigger, each walker is making a small difference in the fight against cancer. Look out for these Pick’n Pay Walks in your area… Take part… really we enjoyed them and we think you will too!!!

→ 3 CommentsTags: Cape Town · Outings · Saturday Spot

Se7en’s Fabulous Friday Fun #218

April 13th, 2014 · 2 Comments

A Friday Fun Post… on a Saturday. And Cape Town has been glorious…


The weather just goes on and on…


And fish are jumping…


Tomorrow is Palm Sunday and we will be making bookmarks…


It’s an Easter Tradition over here as we prepare for the Easter Weekend.


Here are some lovely links from this week:

  1. It’s not even spring but Aimee of Simple Bites wrote this brilliant comprehensive post on the Kitchn and I am so inspired…
  2. I confess that I have a pinterest board called bags and boots… I confess!!! And this bag on A Beautiful Mess got pinned without me stopping for breathe!!! and yes there is a little more, you can take a peak inside this bag.
  3. I spotted lots of lovely courses this week… A Beautiful Mess’s “How to Pitch a Book Proposal” for $8… looks fab… and if I lived in Singapore nothing would stop me attending this Food Styling and Photography Course of Bloesom’s, you have to look!!!
  4. Alisa Burke really made me want to go out and buy a bunch of flowers… We just haven’t done that for a while.
  5. It is Yuppie Chef’s Sixth Annual Easter Hunt… Trust me on this you should be following… it is fun and the prizes are fab.
  6. LeCreuset are showing us how to colour eggs… and they are just so pretty!!!
  7. And here is a house tour that I just can’t get enough of… the colours, the stairs, the bike cushions and the bunting… Our house needs some attention, clearly!!!
  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…

→ 2 CommentsTags: Fabulous Friday Fun

Homeschooling in the Western Cape, Especially the South Peninsula…

April 11th, 2014 · 2 Comments

Just lately I have discovered templates, and in an effort to stream-line my workflow I am actually using them. I have always used templates for certain work, standard run of the mill posts, I have a template and I drop the information into the post and “tada…” I have templates for emails, a lot of the F.A.Q.’s on this blog, many of the quick “what, where, why and how?” questions. But there is one question I cannot answer and it is the most frequently asked question on our site. At any one time I have two or three of these questions crying out for help in my inbox. Dear readers, it is time for you all to write us a blog post!!!


“We are moving to your area and would love to know about homeschooling resources in your area.”

I have no really helpful answer… other than: ummm we homeschool, we always have. That means we pretty much do everything at home. So the art we do is mostly at our kitchen table, the reading happens around the table or draped over the biggest bed in the house and sport and fitness, read “races in the driveway…” well they are in the driveway. That being said, there are tons of home-schoolers in our area and I know that some homeschoolers do co-op and others have weekly meet-ups and there are heaps of varied extra-murals ranging from anything to everything. There are high-school groups and pre-K groups, every group. You can sign up for sports day and prize-giving, both are things that some homeschoolers love their kids to be part of and we kind of think it is a perk of homeschooling that we don’t have to attend. I know these groups exist but we haven’t been part of them, however I would love to share this information with our readers.


What Do I Say?

I usually refer folks to a post I wrote about homeschooling in South Africa, it is by no means definitive, but explains our experience. And I know that you can connect with other homeschoolers on this Resource Page… and here is another fabulous page packed with heaps of useful links. But what else… and this is where you all come in…


Please Leave a Comment

If you know of a fabulous resource for home-shoolers in the Western Cape or the South Peninsula then leave a comment… Is there a regular writing group in Cape Town, an art class, a homeschool meet-up, a language class, sport, music… if you are looking for something for your kids to join then leave a comment too, tell us what you need because somebody reading our blog will have the answer. It doesn’t have to be local, homeschooling is universal, as are pen-pals, there are online classes and free-resources all over the world. So now is your chance… leave a comment, a fab resource for homeschoolers that you know about. Share away and help our readers…

→ 2 CommentsTags: HomeSchool Questions · Se7en at School

Happy Birthday to Hood #3…

April 10th, 2014 · 13 Comments

And just like that I became the mum of three teens…


Happy Birthday Hood #3


To the girl who just discovered Jane Austen…


And who loves Yuppie Chef as much as I do…


To the girl who will walk for a cause…


To the big sister that will read anytime anyplace…


To the girl who spends hours with her dad…


To the girl who loves the great outdoors…


And the ocean…


To the girl who is not afraid to try new things…


To the girl that loves baking…


And arting…


To the girl who is not afraid to stand up in a crowd when she has too…


But would really rather be baking…


Really… baking…


To the girl who loves bedtime stories…


And babies…


To the girl who will conquer great things…


To the girl with the ready laugh…


To this girl…

I salute you…

You are magical and wonderful and I love you… wishing you the best year ahead, may thirteen be filled with wonderful adventures and loads of exciting discoveries.

Se7en + 1 of Your Favourite Things…

  1. Favourite Feast: Ice-cream
  2. Favourite Outing: Beach
  3. Favourite Colour: Turquoise
  4. Favourite Occupation: Baking
  5. Favourite Past-time: Reading
  6. Favourite Movie: The Sound of Music
  7. Favourite Book: Heidi
  8. And the se7en + 1th…

  9. Favourite Afternoon: Chatting with Friends












Time Really Does Fly When You Are Having Fun…

→ 13 CommentsTags: Home Truths · Our Events

Se7en + 1 Go Out Walking: The SirkelsVlei Walk at Cape Point…

April 8th, 2014 · 6 Comments

And just like that a monthly hike in the Game Park has been added to our daily ambles. If my children remember nothing else about their childhood I would like them to remember the heaps of time they spent together in the great outdoors…


Once a month we head for Cape Point Nature Reserve, for a morning out with a ranger…


And that involves a little classroom time


And exploring the great outdoors with friends.


And a picnic lunch…


But that is just the morning. The rest of the day is ours to explore… Some days are meant to be spent under clear blue African skies…


We are still looking for a fabulous map of the area, but in the meanwhile there is a lot that you can download off the internet and we got our route instructions from this link, at Slingsby Maps. When you arrive at the Main Gate of the game park you receive a map and we headed for one of our favourite spots: Olifantsbos, we like going there because we can be sure to meet a little herd of Bontebok.


Olifantsbos is a beach on the Atlantic Coast, and behind the beach is a mountain… Up you go… this is the hardest part of the whole walk and it is about fifteen minutes of rocky path and uphill…


From the top there is a stunning view…


The rest of the walk is almost entirely on the flat and very easy walking… I wouldn’t pick the heat of summer, a cool autumn day was perfect. As you walk across the plain. It looks like a blank canvas as far as the eye can see…


But you will find a whole lot of lovely surprises… Rocks to twist and turn through…


Not to mention clamber on…


Did I mention it was a little bit windy…


And on the sandy path… footprints…


That lead to real live eland…


We want to go back and visit that again…


Rocky outcrops…


That you can wander right through…


Because we didn’t have a map we had to rely on the signposts… and the route was well signposted all the way. Though about half way through the hike some of my gang were a little concerned that it appeared that we were walking further and further away from the start of the hike… they could see how far they had walked… and “the circular route” didn’t appear to be turning back.


Turns out that the path is taking you to an beautiful landmark. When the directions said that there was a lake, we were expecting a marshy spot… it has just been summer after all we thought the lake would have dried up. In fact we actually thought that we had missed it, but just as spirits were lagging the path gave a little twist and we were amazed to discover a real live and large lake…


With it’s own beach


And some bontebok at the far side.


Spirits were lifted… a large patch of water can do that for children that live alongside the ocean… they were back in their comfort zone and good to go on.


After the lake the path did indeed turn towards the ocean… we made our way back across the reedy plain, with lovely rocky stepping stones all the way… which means this must be quite the swamp in winter!!!


Across the plain and back to the start along the ridge overlooking the most fabulous and what felt like to us, undiscovered beaches. We have to return here with a picnic.


This part of the park felt totally untouched – of course it isn’t, we were walking along a path… but it is off the beaten track of the main road down the park that thousands of visitors drive up and down each day to visit the famous Cape Point. There was lots to look at…


Even ruins to wonder about… we have to find out more about this spot… so we will have to go back.


And then we were back at the start, looking down on the bontebok and quick walk back down the mountain slope and back to the beach.


And the sun on its way down…


This walk was well worth the effort… a 3 hour walk and it took us 3 1/2 hours… the first half we lingered and explored a lot, the second half we hurried, actually ran, because we suddenly wondered if we would miss the closing time at the gates… so that is something to remember to check next time… What time do the gates close? Sometime close to sundown, so if the sun is still way up in the sky then you are good to keep on ambling.


Now there are lots of walks all over the park and we intend to explore a whole lot more of them… to figure out how easy or difficult they are for a family amble, to discover their hidden secrets. So you can expect, a couple more hike-like posts over the next few months, as we explore our local game park. I have a feeling that our daily amble, that has just become a monthly hike as well, could lead us on some great adventures and we love adventures. You really don’t have to be a multi-displined athlete with expensive gear to enjoy the great outdoors. This is very much a scenario where ordinary folk, like a family with a bunch of kids of very average athletic ability and very ordinary equipment: comfy shoes, a water bottle and a sweater, can do something extra-ordinary like spend whole days discovering the wonder of the great outdoors.

→ 6 CommentsTags: Cape Town · Outdoors · Outings · Saturday Spot

Se7en’s Fabulous Friday Fun #217

April 7th, 2014 · 4 Comments

This was going to be a Friday Fun Post on an actual Friday, then on Saturday… and here we are and it is Sunday. For the first time this weekend I am actually sitting and I will not move until our readers have a post… It turned out to be the weekend that we had nearly nothing happening to one that was ever so slightly hectic and top that with glorious weather and having to spend every moment in the sunshine – enjoying the blue skies…


We Are Really Building a Library Book by Book

Firstly a warning, if you decide to build libraries, with the help of your blog readers then from time to time your house is going to be smothered in books…SMOTHERED!!! We are thrilled to show you boxes and boxes of books that have been pouring in – really we cannot thank our readers enough for their commitment and their love… If you would still like to contribute we will be collecting books for the next week or two.


Book of the Week

Dandelion Clocks by Rebecca Westcott, Published by Penguin Books, South Africa. This is one of those books that is pitched at early teen, tween girls – but absolutely anybody can read and, I have to say I totally loved it. But Hood #3 really lived and LOVED it. This is the story of your typical eleven year old girl, Liv, who loves photography and doing her own “eleven year old, wish I was sixteen year old” thing. She is in the sweet hinterland of childhood, where older looks so appealing but younger is well worth hanging onto. She has an older brother with Asperger’s Syndrome, which puts her in the awkward position of being younger and yet responsible. She loves him dearly and if you didn’t know more, from the book jacket, that would probably be enough of a story.

But there is more, Liv’s mum is dying and the book begins a couple of months before her death… and follows Liv and her mum through this tragic time. It is sad, you will cry… but these two have a special relationship and you will find yourself laughing your heart out as well. You will find conversations you have had with your daughter in this book, and conversations that you know you must have… This book covers topics where most of us wouldn’t dare to tread… but it is funny and lovely and tragic. Grab the tissues and read away. It is brilliant and special, a book about real people in a real family and they are so heartwarmingly normal that you may well know them.

I love that the author has been writing diaries since she was a young girl, and kept them… not knowing that one day she would create a book. Perhaps the honesty in this book could well be because she could look back and see the world through the eyes of a young girl. A brilliant first novel, I would put this onto my pile of must read-books with any of my impending teen/tween daughters. What a debut, we are looking forward to more from Rebecca Westcott, This book was given to us by Pengiun Books, South Africa for review purposes. We were not paid for our review and the opinions were as usual totally our own.


Here are some lovely links from this week

  1. Gotta love these Home Made Journals on A Beautiful Mess…
  2. Oh Alisa Burke… so very much to love: Driftwood Flowers… and Lucy’s Fairy Gardenin a Pot.
  3. 16 Gifts for New Mothers… on the Art of Simple… I don’t have a friend, new mom or not, who wouldn’t like to be gifted from this list… really fab ideas.
  4. Well Keeper of the Home did a fab round-up of all the books I need to read write now!!!
  5. Everything you ever needed to know about having folk over on Apartment Therapy.
  6. Oh you are going to need some inner strength to read this post from David Murray’s Head Heart Hand: The Widow’s First Laugh.
  7. 50 Photos of Cape Town that Will make You Want to Live Here on TravelStartBlog.
  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: The Easter Edition…

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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→ 4 CommentsTags: Fabulous Friday Fun