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

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Se7en’s May and Your Free Printable Calendar…

May 1st, 2016 · No Comments


A Couple of our readers have asked us how we use our calendar posts for school. These posts began, and have grown, simply because it was interesting to see what events were occurring on a particular day. We don’t celebrate everyday – but we could!!! At the beginning of each month we print out a new calendar (click on the image and print it landscape, works better that way). Then we read through the blog post and pick the days that we would like to celebrate. We write those days out onto our calendar and pop the calendar onto the fridge. On the particular date we visit the website and have a look at the links or create some fun to post on our blog, like our recent Shakespeare post on his birthday.

se7en's May

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

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Dozens of Days to Celebrate

1 May: Save the Rhino Day.

2 May 1844: Elijah McCoy Inventor (1844 – 1929).

4 May 1971: GreenPeace launched.

4 May National Weather Observer’s Day.

4 May: International Firefighter’s Day.

4 May: World Asthma Day.

5 May: Cinco De Mayo

5 May: Children’s Day (Japan).

7 May 1937: Hindenburg Disaster

7 May 1840: Tchaikovsky’s Birthday (1840 – 1893).

7 May 2014: Space Day.

8 May 1884: Harry Truman’s Birthday (1884 – 1972).

8 May 1945: VE Day.

10 May: Clean Up Your Room Day

  • 11 May: Salvador Dali’s Birthday (1909 – 1989).

    11 May: Edward Lear’s Birthday (1812 – 1888).

    12 May: Kite Day.

    12 May 1820: Florence Nightingale’s birthday (1820 – 1910).

    14 May 1847 : Webster’s Dictionary First Published.

    14 May 1804: Lewis and Clarke Began their expedition (1804).

    14 May 1727: Thomas Gainsborough (artist) born, 1727

    15 May 1856: L.F. Baum’s Birthday (1856 – 1919).

    16 May: National Chocolate Chip Day.

    18 May: International Museum Day.

    18 May 1980: Mt. St. Helens Erupted.

    19 May: Circus Day.

    20 May 1927: Amelia Earheart’s TransAtlantic Flight.

    21 May 1844: Henri Rousseau’s Birthday (1844 – 1910).

    21 May 1927: Lindbergh Flight Day.

    21 May 1799: Mary Anning’s Birthday (1799 – 1847).

    22 May: International Jazz Day

    22 May 1570: First Atlas Published.

    22 May 1844: Mary Cassatt’s Birthday (1844 – 1926).

    23 May: World Turtle Day.

    24 May: The Brooklyn Bridge Opened in 1883.

    24 May 1844: First Morse Code Message Sent.

    25 May: Missing Children’s Day.

  • 26 May: Blueberry Cheesecake Day.

    26 May 1951: Sally Ride’s Birthday (1951 – ).

    27 May 1907: Rachel Carson’s Birthday (1907 – 1964).

    27 May: Masking Tape patented.

    28 May 1959: MonkeyNauts Able and Baker in Space.

  • 28 May 1859: Big Ben arrives in Westminster.

    29 May 1953: Hillary and Tenzing conquer Everest.

    29 May 1917: John F. Kennedy’s Birthday.

  • You can’t beat this list of links from
  • From Garden of Praise – with links and worksheets.
  • Photo History.
  • Great snippets, puzzles and games from Apples for the Teacher.
  • → No CommentsTags: Celebrity Calendar

    Have You Met Henry Finch… And Se7en + 1 Finger Print Activities…

    April 29th, 2016 · 6 Comments

    With World book Day last weekend, we are celebrating with a week of books on our blog.

    I am Henry Finch, published by PanMacmillan South Africa is a thoughtful new release that will inspire artists of all ages and stages… a book full of fingerprint finches is enough to get any artists “arting.” You can meet the author, Alexis Deacon over here, and the illustrator, Viviane Schwartz over here.

    We reviewed this book earlier this year… This is a thoughtful book for the discerning picture book lover. Henry Finch is a fingerprint Finch, that looks exactly like bazillions of other finches. Only Henry Finch is a bit of a thinker and he decides to do something a little bit differently to everybody else… Every morning the finches do the same thing at the same time, and they all live in terror of the daily visit from the green beast (who may overwhelm extremely sensitive viewers). Well Henry Finch decides to face his fear of the green beast, and I love how when you are reading the story and Henry starts thinking his own thoughts, the pages change from a white background to a black background… and some very clever illustrating goes on here, quite understandable to all ages without any translation… Henry Finch has a bit of a brainstorm…

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    Ultimately, after some powerful thoughts Henry has quite an adventure, and manages to convince the beast to become a vegetarian. He returns to his finch family and shares his story, and suddenly all the finches have their own plans. It is a very empowering story and one that will encourages their readers to stay true to themselves and not follow the crowd. Clever, clever use of illustration… this is a great read, you can’t help being very proud of the inner strength of little Henry Finch.

    PanMacmillan invited us to join the Picture Book Party and play along with them and discover some fun while reading I am Henry Finch. And we came up with se7en+1 fingerprint activities…

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    Se7en+1 FingerPrint Finch Activities…

    1. You can’t have a party without a cake and a treasure hunt:
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      Make a few fingerprint stickers… and hide them in plain sight around the house.

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    3. Fingerprint Finches by the million:
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    5. A Tree of Finches:
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    7. Giant Finches: Google fingerprint images, and print them out on A4 paper, they are great for colouring.
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    9. Fingerprint Finches quickly led to local birds:
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    11. And our Local Birds quickly led to Mini-Bird Books:
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    13. And the Local Birds led to Wildlife:
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    15. And Animal fact Cards:
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    That’s it, from the very thoughtful Henry Finch… who deserves a hug for his bravery…

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    Thank you so much to PanMacmillan South Africa for the copy of I am Henry Finch for review purposes and the invitation to join the Picture Book Party. This is not a sponsored post, we were not paid to create it and the opinions expresses are, as usual, our one.

    → 6 CommentsTags: Book Crafts · Reviews · Tuesday Art Task

    Se7en Reviews The Healthy Life by Jessica Sepel…

    April 27th, 2016 · 4 Comments

    So it’s the end of April and the beginning of May, we are well into the year and long since anyone is thinking about healthy living and new year’s resolutions. The point is that healthy living isn’t about a resolution on the first day of the year, it is a whole lot about consistency throughout the year. Honestly, Autumn has set in and I sense most folk are getting ready for a couple of months of hibernation. Let’s hear a grand entrance for Jessica Sepel and her new book The Healthy Life, published by PanMacMillan South Africa:

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    This book has been sitting on my desk for a little while now, I just didn’t know where to start reviewing because it is everything to love. It is genuinely a book on Healthy Living. While it is a recipe book, it is also a whole lot more of a journal to good health. There are so many books out there that promise great results in five minutes a day, or just give up this or eliminate that… this book is nothing like that. It is all about moderation and more of the good stuff… especially rest. And since this is my year of figuring out rest – this book went straight to my heart – it resonates.

    Se7en + 1 Things to Love About This Book

    1. It is a beautiful book… in everyway. There is signature prettiness on every page, it feels a bit like you are walking through fields of spring as you page through it.
    2. The first section defines her ten principles to healthy living… step by step she gently winds you through her plan. You can either read it in a sitting, as I couldn’t help myself doing, or you can do it step by step, working on one principle for a couple of weeks before moving on to the next.
    3. This is not a passive “read and leave on the coffee table for a couple of weeks” book, it cries out for some active participation. Each principle ranging from balancing your blood sugar, to less stress and more rest, keeping hormones in check and sleep… comes with a number of journal pages to fill in to help you assess where you are now and where you will be after a couple of weeks.
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    5. Throughout her book she is a shining light of encouragement… in each principle she manages to wind the story back to loving yourself enough to care for yourself… words that so many moms that get lost in the trenches, need to hear.
    6. The second section of her book is devoted to nutrition, as a nutritionist she is more than qualified to share her expertise… honestly if you get nothing else out of this you will just be dying to eat more greens.
    7. The second half of the book is devoted to recipes… pages and pages of beautiful looking recipes… honestly the photographs and inspiration literally want to send you running to the local farmer’s market for more fruit and veg… loveliness on every page.
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    9. This is the sort of person, who is open and honest about her life and her personal journey with food… that would make a great ambassador for healthy living in general. In a world full of cranky health freaks that capture our teens attention with their crazy eating habits and ideas… this is one book that I am happy to leave out on the coffee table for my kids to peruse… and for sure they can follow her and get daily inspiration from her site.
    10. More than 300 pages of really practical tips, dozens of “aha moments,” and plenty of little tweaks and changes that you could make today, right now. Tips on how to rest better, eat better and sleep better. And to top it all, in case you haven’t read enough, there is a fabulous resource section filled with websites, blogs, apps, and dozens more ideas on where you can find ideas and encouragement for healthy living.

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    Se7en+1 Recipes to Try

    There is something to be said for taking a few minutes longer to create a beautiful plate of food… I got to try a few of her recipes at her book launch… and was her food so very beautiful. The one truly fabulous thing about all her recipes is that she provides heaps of alternatives and plenty of “build your own” ideas: pick a base form five choices, and your favourite flavour from ten choices and then select a topping from ten more alternatives… very quickly you find your own personal favourites amidst so many ideas… its a very fun way to cook, using up ingredients you already have on your pantry shelf.

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    1. Masses of smoothie recipes and dozens of combinations.
    2. Blueberry, Orange and Ricotta Hot Cakes…
    3. Signature Gluten Free Loaf…
    4. Breakfast Protein Balls…
    5. Stuffed mushrooms…
    6. Her Mum’s Crusted Roast Chicken
    7. Tomato and Basil Stuffed Peppers…
    8. Chocolate Frozen Yogurt…

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    The Book Launch

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    A couple of weeks back the book launch was held at The Forum, Embassy Hill. A beautiful venue, where you feel like you are stepping out of time, away for the busy world and into a little bit of paradise. Every detail has been thought of for you, it was Cape Town’s first drizzly day of the season and there was a stack of umbrellas in the parking lot… just thoughtful details wherever you looked. They seemed a little surprised by a nut allergy in their preplanned menu, but other than that, they were absolutely on top of the whole of event… beautification absolutely everywhere. Exquisite looking tables, beautifully created meals and very helpful and friendly staff.

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    Danielle from Women’s Health Magazine introduced us to the event and did one of the best interviews ever… great leading question that had Jess telling us her journey and all of us listening to every word.

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    Let’s Meet Jessica Sepel… she was born and raised in sunny South Africa, her mum taught her everything about healthy living. When she was about twelve she moved to Australia, as you can imagine her life felt somewhat out of control and she spent her teenage years trying every fad diet, every diet product… to try and regain control. Her life revolved around her war on food and it was anything but under control. After school she started studying nutrition… her motivation might have been for more control, but it resulted in a galactic “aha moment ” and turned her life around. Her honest story is truly inspirational. This is a story that folk stuck in the endless cycle of food fads really need to read. She turned her life around with the use of lots and lots of common sense. She began a blog to write about her food journey, a health diary… of the changes she was making. Her passion for health turned into a career.

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    It has been a journey towards health… from over exercising to committing to stress relieving exercise, from over supplementing to eating whole foods, getting off social media every day and relaxing. And her number one secret to health and beauty… sleep. I hear you: “Sleep is the biggest contributor to our health.” Otherwise add greens, drink tons of water, lose sugar forever, rest and balance. As she says, extreme diets are expensive, unbalanced and often crazy… if there was a particular diet that worked for all of us, then we would all be on it. I really liked her common sense approach and I liked that her journey is ongoing. While she loves creating healthy food, she is not a chef so rather than spending hours cooking in the kitchen she likes to create quick and easy meals. She does spend 2-3 hours of time doing prep work for the week and then she can grab her ready fresh and good to go ingredients later in the week when she needs them. She showed us how to make her protein balls…

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    Protein Ball Recipe

    • 1 cup of oats
    • 1/2cup of flaxseed
    • 1/4 cups of chia seeds
    • 2-3 dates
    • Cranberries
    • 2 tablespoons of nut butter
    • Coconut
    • Cinnamon
    • Honey
    • Handful of nuts
    • Coconut oil(good for killing bugs in your gut)

    Zap it in the food processor. Roll it in balls. Roll the balls in coconut. Leave to set in fridge in 30 mins.

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    I’ll say it again, this a great book to leave out on the coffee table for my teens… there is something for everyone in it. Sometimes your kids need to hear from somebody else that the secret to crystal clear skin is a whole lot more sleep and sugar really really is bad for you in every way. For myself, I am never going to be thirty years younger again but that doesn’t mean that I can’t master a few new tricks. Sleep better, eat better and not fret that I feel unable to go bootcamp, when I am walking a couple of times a week and hiking to the top of a mountain in-between. In a culture where all things healthy appear to be some sort of punishment… her message is clear a love yourself enough to step off the treadmill, be gentle with yourself and you will be surprised to see where it takes you. It was an absolute pleasure to meet Jess Sepel, her book launch was out of this world, and her book inspirational.

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    Thank you so much to PanMacMillan South Africa for the invitation to the book launch and for the copy of The Healthy Life for review purposes. This is not a sponsored post, I was not paid to write it, and all the opinions expressed are as always entirely my own.

    → 4 CommentsTags: Cook Book Reviews · Monday Munchies

    Se7en’s Fabulous Fun Post #313

    April 26th, 2016 · 6 Comments

    So this weekend was our anniversary, I have no idea how time has traveled so fast… time is a strange thing indeed.

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    Lovely Links from This Week

    1. Se7en Steps to Combat Blog Content Thieves… on the Problogger.
    2. I love this recycled Lighthouse craftiness… on Time to Craft.
    3. The Year of the Period on Design Mom… on Design Mom.
    4. If you feel like it used to be the mobile phone has replaced the land line, frankly, the text message has replaced the phone call… then this is an interesting read… Saving the Self in the Age of Selfie, from the Age of Scholar.
    5. Fun, fun, fun… Happy Day’s Popsicle Favour Boxes.
    6. The Sunrise Swimmers from Tao Farren-Hefer on Vimeo.

    7. A great friend sent me the link to this video and I had to share it… I have huge admiration for this gang that brave the water every single day of the year.
    8. Because it’s Shakespeare’s 400th Birthday, I am reading this book and loving it:
      1. Happy Birthday and An Instantaneous Globe Theatre…
      2. Here’s a fun Flowchart!!!
      3. Teaching Shakespeare to Multiple Ages on Blog, She Wrote.
      4. A BraveWriter’s Life and Shakespeare’s 400.
      5. Simply Convivial: Shakespeare for Kids: An Easy 5-Step Plan.

      And the se7en + 1th link:

    9. A Blast From the Past:


    GiveAway Winner

    It’s time to reveal our GiveAway winners from last week’s GiveAway: Se7en + 1 Fun Ways to Get to Know the Periodic Table, and it’s a GiveAway…

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    All the entries…
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    Mixed in the mug…
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    And the winners are:
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    Erin M. Apr 15, 2016 at 1:06 pm My oldest is starting Chemistry next year. This would be a nice resource to have. Thanks for all of the resources for learning the periodic table. They make the task seem less daunting and even enjoyable.

    Cheryl Apr 19, 2016 at 3:29 pm My youngest is fascinated by the periodic table, at the moment. Eldest took the challenge of learning the table last year. She was pretty good at it. I’ll share the resources you’ve listed, with them. We love the “Meet the Elements song”

    Congratulations to: Erin and Cheryl expect an email from us shortly so that we can get your prizes to you as soon as possible.

    We would like to thank MapStudio who supplied us with a copy of this book to review and GiveAway. We were not paid for our review, this is not a sponsored post and the opinions expressed are as usual our own.

    That’s us… Hope you all have a fabulous week!!!

    → 6 CommentsTags: Fabulous Friday Fun

    International Book Day… And a Last Call for Books…

    April 24th, 2016 · No Comments

    So the 23 April is the day that is traditionally celebrated as Shakespeare’s Day… recognising the day he was born and the day that he died. In fact this day is International World Book Day on account of that great birthday. We live in a home full of books, our children are surrounded by books and a weekly visit to the library means that our children have fresh books and new ideas flowing past them all the time. This is not the same life experience for many children living in our city.


    Previously I have blogged about our annual project to create a library for underprivileged children. This year we are supporting a whole primary school of children, that live in one of Cape Town’s most impoverished areas… where books are just not even an idea, let alone a way of life. I don’t know if you have ever used a book to get away from a difficult day… or to relax after a hard week. I know I do, I can escape into a book for hours, get completely lost and return a while later relaxed a ready to face the world again. Wouldn’t it be great if these children could have the same opportunity.

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    The school we are supporting has been rebuilt and after the previous buildings were proclaimed totally uninhabitable… they have a new school building, they even have bookshelves. The crucial ingredients though, and that would be books, are totally missing from the equation. That just goes to show, the powers that are in charge to not come from a culture of books or see the importance of reading because honestly what is the point of a library without books… And for so many children that is a lot of hopes and dreams that have been dashed away completely before they have even begun. I can’t even imagine a school full of eager little students, and no books to read.

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    The idea is that we gather books with the help of our readers, from all over the world, and we fully intend to fill those shelves with books. The books have been flowing into our home for weeks, and I know some books have gone directly to the school… but if you would still like to contribute books to our collection it is never too late to join in…

    How Can You Help?

    The children have recently moved to new school buildings… they even have a dedicated library space, all that’s missing is the books. So near and yet so far. Wouldn’t it be great of we could fill this shelves with great books that will inspire them and help them to fulfil their dreams.

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    Step 1: Select a Book or Books

    1. You can search through your books for gently used good quality books that your children have outgrown or no longer love.
    2. You can buy a book or two with your children and package them up.
    3. You can shop at Amazon and ship directly.
    4. And you can shop on-line, locally at Loot, and ship directly as well.

    If you are shopping overseas and would like to buy local language books then click on the South African vendor to find books and they will deliver locally for you.

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    Step 2: Contact us.

    Leave a comment and tell us that you intend to help or contact us. I will reply to you all as soon as I can with the shipping details, with the address to send the books you have chosen. There is a human person behind each and every email (that would be me) and they take time… please be patient the address will get to you.

    Step 3: Let us Know All About the Books You Chose

    We would love if you could photograph the books you are sending, or a list of the books that you ordered. If you have a blog and write about it then let us know and we will have a Progress Post each week. I will pop the photo’s you send into the blog post and if you do have a blog there will be a chance for you to link up as well…

    Previous Posts in this Series:

    Books Are Pouring In…

    Huge thank the folk enough who are sharing our dream and shipping and shopping for books for the library, you have no idea just how much we appreciate your help… and can not thank you enough.

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    Libraries Our Readers Have Created in the Past

    Living on the Southern tip of Africa, we are in a part of the world where this isn’t actually the standard protocol and many many children have no access to books, let alone the luxury of books in their own language or books about their own culture, not for school, not for fun and certainly not at bedtime. We can change that, book by book… I firmly believe that wherever you are, and whatever situation you are in, you can always escape into a book… but that is only if you have an opportunity to connect with a book. The project that we choose will have children that need to be able to escape the world around them, more than most of us.

    We would like to thank Biblionef South Africa, for helping us to find a community in our area that needs a library, over the years they have provided us with unprecedented support in helping us to pursue our dream to provide books for children just like ours, who otherwise wouldn’t have access to books.

    Disclosure: The Amazon and Loot links are affiliate links and our blog will earn a very small percentage of the book sales made there, we pledge to put any of our earnings from books for the school directly back into buying more books for them… this is their project and we don’t in any way want to gain financially from it.

    → No CommentsTags: Caring and Sharing

    Earth Day, and Life a Year After a Trip to Zambia…

    April 23rd, 2016 · 3 Comments

    It’s Earth Day and always a reason for us to celebrate. We have always been somewhat environmentally friendly. A couple of years ago I wrote a post, I never intended to be a Green Mother… but somewhat green we have been. Last year I went on an epic and very green adventure, I traveled to Zambia to plant trees with GreenPop. Like most people who head for a week of planting trees in Zambia I was super excited, it was all about the trees. Honestly I thought about nothing else for months, I worried that I wouldn’t be able to plant enough trees, I worried I wouldn’t be able to plant any trees… turns out I could plant trees, it was a heap of fun planting trees and anybody who has ben tought how can actually plant trees. Then again it turns out it wasn’t entirely about planting trees.

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    The truth is, it was a fairly epic step out of my comfort zone… to leave my kids for the first time ever, hop on a bus and travel across a couple of countries, the first time I had actually crossed a border on my own and first time I had traveled into the heart of Africa before. I know I am a grown up and I have traveled heaps before, but there were a lot of firsts in there. Not only that… the first night there… I slept all along in an empty campsite and I had had all my luggage stolen on the bus as well. I had to take a breathe and say this is cool… who gets to sleep all on their own on the African plains. Regarding the luggage, well for the person that is quite comfortable behind a screen, I had to step even further out of my comfort zone again and ask for help with absolutely everything, from poor sweet folk that I hardly knew. Somethings I was just never brave enough to ask for… sunscreen I never got round to… but I did get some Tabard!!!

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    Turns out if you are ever packing for a trip to Zambia, you will need to: Travel in clothes you intend to plant trees in, jeans and a t-shirt are perfect, and some warm layers for the night time… it does get colder than cold. I made it without a sunhat, but I was very grateful that I had a beanie in my jacket pocket. The days are warm, if you take a shower when you get back from planting trees, and quickly wash the clothes you were in, they will literally dry while you are in the shower. The campsite food is superb, have no fear of a vegan diet – you will eat a beautiful feast at every single meal and there is absolutely no need to pack snacks of any kind. There is ice cold water and tea and coffee table available all day/night long… though I should have been tempted to take some cocoa with me, nothing really beats the comfort of a warm drink before bed after a long days’ work.

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    Anyway, this isn’t about luggage… what I wanted to say was that I did something really hard for me, in the name of a very green cause… and I loved it. This went way beyond choosing to use our own shopping bags, or recycling, it was saying to the small world of mothering and homeschooling and blogging that I live in and saying, this is important enough to step out for a time and go completely green. And I loved it. I really loved it. The lesson I learnt was huge… small changes are great, and if you want make a real difference you can, no matter how tiny your contribution is to the bigger picture… honestly I wasn’t the fastest tree plant their!!! But I have to say that when I took the leap and leapt higher than I thought I actually could, I realised that it wasn’t about the trees, even though it was, it was all about the beautiful big hearted people I met, from Zambia and on the GreenPop team… but it was more about completely changing the way we lived, every single day. That one week changed my look at the world…not just for one week of the year… but for life…

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    Se7en+1 Ways to Take a Leap and Go Green.

    1. Start the Day with a Stretch: Every morning the campsite began with a stretch in the great outdoors… it has made me take a moment in the morning before I start the day… 2 seconds or 2 minutes, depending on the day. Just step out the door, reach for the sky and take a moment to breathe in the day. Just do it. You will have a better day for it, every single time you take that moment.
    2. Shop, Create and Eat Beautiful Food: Feeding the people on the earth, in a sustainable way, is one of the leading green topics of the day… it takes a little longer to make your food beautiful than just to toss it on a plate… just another sandwich can become something really delicious without too much effort and it is so much nicer to eat. And why oh why do we accept fresh produce in our stores, that has flown across the country, or worse the world. The green “foot-stamp” of an imported tomato just can’t compete with the fine flavour and yumminess of one that is freshly grown.
    3. Lose the Plastic… Just stop it: We know the oceans are full of it, and yet we buy it. There are alternatives… just say no and never buy a plastic water bottle again, lose the plastic food containers, just boycott plastic packaging… that can be your personal campaign. In an ocean full of plastic, one more plastic shopping bag might not look too bad… but in an ocean full of plastic, one more shopping bag may just shut the ocean down. The campsite was bag free, and something I thought we could never achieve turned out to be a really easy option. Now I just said no to plastic bags. If I forget our plastic bags at home then we have to figure out a way to get our shopping home. Do that once or twice and you will never forget your shopping bags again. Plastic bags are just a no. In fact plastic – just no.
    4. Compost Heaps: The guys in the Greenpop campsite were always talking about composting and I had always thought how we don’t have a very big garden and where in the world would we put a compost heap, let alone find stuff to put on it. This is the same garden, where we do a clean-up every couple of months and have a real problem trying to get rid of the garden garbage. Out garbage trucks don’t collect any garden garbage (actually ours hardly collect any garbage ever at all, but that is a whole ‘nother story)… and I know because our neighbour tosses hers into our garden – we won’t mind an extra bit of garden garbage – because we have kids. (There is a logical disconnect in that previous sentence, but it isn’t mine, so I will let it stand. Honestly, I have no words, but will always choose to avoid a confrontation). So when I returned home from Zambia and saw all the kitchen goodies that we were tossing out and the garden garbage that was going nowhere fast, it made perfect sense to “grow our own” compost pile… After a year of composting we have a rocking compost pile.
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    6. Reduced our Garbage Significantly: We have always recycled, its an easy and reliable green choice for any family… but we now recycle everything…. in a big way. Where packaging used to really annoy me, I now choose to not bother with packaging at all. If we have packaging it is cleaned and recycled. If a store insists on wrapping their fruit and veg in packaging then I can refuse to buy it. If you miss out on apples one week or you can’t get a favourite vegetable this week, take a stand against packaging. Recycling obsessively, making eco-bricks with the leftovers, not to mention composting has reduced our weekly contribution to the landfill from almost three bags (I shudder) to less than half a bag a week.
    7. Learn More About It: I learnt so much just sitting around the Greenpop campsite, chatting and meeting people and well learning… it was energising, it was inspiring… and I have been reading away and learning away all year ever since.
    8. Clean-up Everywhere: I can write letters to the newspaper and I can blog about picking up litter, but nothing beats making a real difference than by just stopping and picking up the litter. Beach cleanups, mountain cleanups, it is amazing how much litter washes up… there are some hikes that we have been on, even in places that are intended to be pristine… that have been spoilt by the amount of trash tossed on the path. Now we just carry a garbage bag in our backpack. Don’t just talk about it, do something.
    9. Get Outdoors and Enjoy It: There is no point in saving the planet if you don’t live in your world and enjoy it. Living green isn’t meant to be an academic exercise the you figure out at a desk… you have to get outdoors and do something. We spent a lot of time outdoors before I went to Zambia. After a week of not stepping into a building at all, except to go to the bathroom, I realised that it is quite possible to shift your life outdoors and be better for it. Take your book and read out doors, take your table and do school outdoors. Honestly, lose the gym, why on earth would you walk on a treadmill when you can walk on the beach. I know not everyone has a beach… but outdoors… take your life outdoors, if you plant a few trees while you are there that’s all well and good too.

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    So yes, I did step out of my comfort zone and I did learn how to plant trees and I did meet some of the most incredibly caring busy people ever… but a whole lot more than that, a week in Zambia changed so much of how we as a family, live our day to day lives. Turns out that sometimes you do have to take a giant step to make a few significant changes. Green changes that I thought were too hard for us turned out to be a lot easier than I had expected. All the “I can’t’s” where rearranged into a pile of “I can’s” on a bus trip to Zambia.

    → 3 CommentsTags: Caring and Sharing · Green Living · Zambia

    Se7en At School and the One-on-One Meeting…

    April 22nd, 2016 · 12 Comments

    A couple of weeks back I wrote a post about “A day in the life of our school,”… I blogged a little bit about our start to the day with family school and the question that came up was, “When do we do all the real school?” I smiled at that… I am guessing that when most folk think about school they think mostly about the reading, writing and arithmetic aspect of school. I also think when most folk begin homeschooling they are very concerned about their kids keeping up with the basics and not falling behind… but years down the line, we are not that concerned about our kids keeping up with the Homeschooling Jones’s, it is just as important that our kids spend hours of their day in free play, in the great outdoors and immersed in heaps of books. Real school work progresses at whatever speed our kids’ work best at, but really lessons seem to come naturally through playing… numerical skills from games, reading from being read to. Living life seems to be the best place to linger a little and get a whole lot of learning done.

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    The question still remains, when do we do “real school?”

    So a typical school day begins with our family school time together, and that takes us from about nine to ten thirty… then we have a little break, maybe hang the laundry, do a few chores and run and jump and leap about… because sitting all day is for the birds… then the kids spread out to their favourite spots around the kitchen and get on with their “real school” until lunchtime, so that’s from about eleven till one pm.. During this time I have a one on one meeting with two or three kids, one after the other until lunchtime. I very often play gentle music here, often just the greatest hits from our musician of the week, this week was Beethoven… because let’s face it, open plan offices and every individual humming to their own drum can drive everyone a little mad.

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    Let’s Talk About What Folk call Real School

    So the real school being the reading, writing and arithmetic part of our day… If I were to look at all the school that our kids have to get through in a year, or in a week or even in a day… I might be somewhat overwhelmed, so I chunk it into small manageable time slots. To explain how we do our school you need to take a peak at what we actually do. It is no secret that we are huge Sonlight fans and for thirty-six weeks of the year they each power their way through their grade of carefully selected Sonlight readers. Normally our kids begin their school day with their bible, history and science reading and then they dive into their files and tackle a handful of workbooks. For math we use Singapore math and for the younger set Miquon as well. For language arts they use Explode the Code and Wordly Wise. Everyone over here has a notebook, just an ordinary old notebook, wherein I keep a running list of the school they are doing, and the school I expect from them before their next meeting with me. I start by looking at their work where we left off before and then we look at the work ahead and we learn together and prepare everything we need for the week ahead.

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    The One on One Meeting

    I begin working with our littlest guy, this is his year to get a handle on reading… so we are winding our way through The 100 Lessons together. He has about three workbooks, he calls them activity books and likes to be read to, while he does a page or two from each… so this is when I read him his history and science pages for the day… it literally takes ten minutes. Most days we spend a little time in his school journal, which is a big fat book where we stick and glue all the little bits of paper that seem to accumulate, we either write a couple of sentences about what we have read, or an outing we have been on… And then we are done, and he is off to play, twenty minutes max. He very often chooses to stay at the table so that he can listen alongside to the school I do with his older siblings. Oh, the heady thrill of conquering an older sibling’s math problems!!!

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    Primary School

    So a typical meeting with my primary school girls… begins with me looking in their notebook and then reading their history and science together from where we left off the previous time. At this stage their reading isn’t proficient enough to do their own school reading. But they are beginning to read their science books to me, honestly their science books are mostly usborne books and so fun and easy to read, a good way for them to suddenly realise that they will soon be able to do all their own reading. Then we open up their school journal and I admire any new work that needs admiring… usually there is a new story for me to look at, or some sort of book review. Then we take a look at the language arts and see what story they will be writing next… and we prepare and plan it and create a little word bank for them to use. We learn the next step in math together and then I make a list of problems they should be able to do after the lesson and they are free to go on their merry way, this doesn’t take more than about 45 min for each of them… and that’s about the maximum stretch of school work I would expect from a primary school child anyway.

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    Middle School

    On to the late primary/middle school boys… I try and see them on alternate days to their younger sisters… so we meet together at least two, if not three times a week. Both boys are fairly competent at getting their history and science reading done at this stage, but I do have to ask them to tell me about what they have read and to show many any notes they have made in their journals… because, well boys!!! They have exactly the same subject list to work through as their younger sisters, but getting this sort of thing done is not their top priority in life… in that regard, I accept any progress as good progress. Sometimes they are caught up in the moment and they read ahead and sometimes they don’t… I’lll take what I get and move on. So I look in their journals and see what they have been up to since we last met and then we take a look at their workbooks. At this stage we don’t just use vocabulary books, they begin Winston Grammar alongside me. And they do this over a period of years… there is no rush to get the book done this year or any year… by the time they are finished high school we will have grammar basics under our belt. Then I take a look at their math… look at what was difficult and help with any problems and then move on and teach the next steps. The thing with this way of learning is that it is incremental, sometimes they don’t realise how much they are learning and they shoot ahead… then we have to wander back and review a little. But mostly they just plod along. Lastly I help them with whatever writing project that they will be doing before I see them next and we get a slight outline going before I send them off to work on their own.


    High School

    Now high schoolers are very different students and the last thing you want from a late sleeping teen is a morning meeting with them to see how their work is going. Trust me, that is a recipe for frustration on every side. By definition, nothing is going well first thing in the morning with teens and the fact that they join us all at the table for family school is our privilege. I don’t take it for granted and I do appreciate their efforts, because at this stage they have heaps to contribute to what we are learning, and they can add a lot of fun to our school. One of our high-schoolers love lists and ticking the boxes that’s pretty straightforward to keep tabs on, the other is all about progress. If there is progress it’s good. At this stage I feel that their school is there responsibility, and I don’t oversee every step of their journey, I do however ask them about their work and ask them to show me what they are working on. Immediately after lunch we always have a school break, a “read your own books, and have a rest from the crowd” kind of a break, and after that I will usually grab a teen and ask them how their work is going. I try and have an actual sit down meeting with them once a week or so, basically a progress meeting and a “teach you whatever you need to know to move forward” meeting, but honestly chatting with them while we get ready for dinner and so on, is usually enough for me to see that they are wandering forward on their educational journey.

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    How Do You Measure Progress

    I think a very real part of most “real schooling” is that children are tested continuously, to ensure that they are learning, and if I had a class of thirty kids then I would rely on tests to see if my kids were doing their work as well. We find that our kids don’t need tests, they know what they are learning and they retain it. They talk about what they are reading and learning so much that you can’t help knowing that they are learning. The very nature of a one-on-one meeting with each of the kids, makes it quite apparent to see if they are progressing forwards or not. For the little ones skills improve all the time… and that is easy to see in jumps and spurts, things that were difficult do get easier. My principal measure of progress is really in the lunchtime conversation – the student that has nothing to say about what they are learning is the student who was probably reading through their pile of library books, rather than schoolwork. Well reading is reading, and eventually school work gets done.


    Hopefully that answers your questions about when my kids do their “real school,” we do only spend an hour or two on it every day, but that is plenty of time to get a heap of work done. For those folk that are worried about whether our kids are learning their a.b.c’s or their 1,2, 3’s… because it appears as if they never stop playing… they seem to be getting the basics covered and that’s enough for me right now.

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