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

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Se7en’s Collection of Marvellous Middle Grade Reads for #MGBooktober

November 3rd, 2017 · 2 Comments

I discovered the #MGBooktober hashtag on instagram quite by accident… it was a running tagline for the month of October to seek out and find the best of the rest in Middle Grade Reads. Middle Grade Reads include dozens of our favourites but by the time I was ready to join in I realised that it make a fabulous blog post too. Everyone loves a list of fab books, right? So here it is… Our collection of reads for #MGBooktober Bazillions of Books and we hope you love them all.

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#1 The Book You Are Reading Now



Wonderling by Mira Bartók: This book I have been dying to read, since I first saw the cover… I am 100 out of 400 pages in and it is a very satisfying read. It is fat, it is fantastical and just what I expected so far, but I have a feeling this book has hidden depths and I can’t wait to see it through to the end.

#2 The Book You Love the Most



The Dark is Rising Series by Susan Cooper: These books have been my favourites forever… I have loved them since childhood and I have read them again and again and again…

#3 Your Favourite MG Adventure



The Guild Specialists by Joshua Mowll. These books… beautifully created, packed with amazing and detailed artefacts: newspaper cuttings, old photographs, plans and diagrams… and a gripping adventure. Part historical novel, part spy, part intrigue… gripping adventure from start to finish. Everything to love.

#4 Best SciFi MG


I can’t really scifi… not my best genre. Actually, I can’t even…

#5 Which MG Character is Most Like You



The Outcasts of 19 Schuyler Place by E.L. Konigsburg: I haven’t read this book… but my kids have and loved it. And, look at the author!!! When I asked them for a MG character most like me, this book was their response, and here is why: Margaret Rose Kane’s response to every activity on summer camp is “I prefer not to.” That is so me… me me me!!! So Margaret gets to spend the summer with her uncles, who are the bane of the neighbourhood… because they have spent forty five years constructing towers in their back yard from recycled finds: grocery, scrap metal and suchlike. The neighbourhood wants the “artwork” gone… and Margaret Rose is going to stand up for her uncles’ rights, no matter what. I am now going to have to read this book myself… to see who my kids think I am!!!

#6 Best Book of 2017 So Far



The Wizards of Once by Cressida Cowell: I totally loved it and I totally looked forward to reading it ALL year… worth the wait. Creepy. Exciting. A crazy adventure, but actually all about valiant friendship… the two lead players are such great characters, full of failings, but ultimately endearing heroes. Get it. Read it. It is Fantastic.

#7 Most Exciting New Writer



The Hour of Bees by Lindsay Eager: I loved this book, and I wish everyone everywhere would read it. It is the story of twelve year old Carol, who heads for the New Mexico desert over the summer to relocate her Grandpa. The story happens around the relationship that a gal and her grandpa have, that special closeness as she starts to emerge from childhood. She is still sweet and not cynical about the world around her and he hasn’t given up hope on the world around him. Together they are a formidable team that won’t be told what to do by anyone.

#8 A Book That Made You Cry



Dandelion Clocks by Rebecca Wescott: This is on my list of best books ever… like ever. Not a lot of books are written for children about losing a parent… this book documents the time in Liv’s life around the time of her mum’s death. It is touching and sad, in a beautiful way. this huge thing is going on in her life and yet life goes on around her… there is still school and her high need brother and just life. And then there is cancer, thrown into the mix. This is a coming of age book, Liv does grow up through all of this. I think the word for this book would be heartwarming, you will laugh till you cry and you will cry alongside Liv. Just beautiful and the kind of book all kids should read so that they can better understand their friends that are going through similar life-changing events. This book is definitely an empathy builder.

#9 Favorite Food in a MG Book



The Folk of the Faraway Tree by Enid Blyton: One of my childhood favourites, and my kids’ favourites packed with word images of wonderful picnics, feasts and parties. And doesn’t everyone want to eat some of Silky’s Pop Biscuits… just saying.

#10 Most Awesome MG Friendship



The Moonlight Dreamers by Siobhan Curham: I have said it before and I will say it again… these books are like hot chocolate on a wintry afternoon. Perfect reads about friendship. Four girls from very different backgrounds form a club, called the Moonlight Dreamers, where they support each others dreams and encourage each other through the ups and downs of life. These books cover tons of almost every current and not so current issue that your kids might face in school… and they are a great and relaxed way to talk about relationships, from their own crushes, to their parents… one has a very traditional family, one has two dads, one has celebrity parents who consistantly live on social media, and one’s dad is a widow. So very diverse backgrounds, very diverse problems, very divers kids and friendship that unites them and stands by them through thick and thin.

#11 Favourite Animal MG Book



Sam Angus writes our favourite animal stories by miles, they are deep, packed with emotion and always explore topics that you wouldn’t normally explore with your kids. These books will describe emotions and feelings like nothing else you have read before. We read them aloud as a family and hang on every word, not pausing for anything… read on, read on. They are absolutely brilliant and we can’t love them enough… you will laugh and you will cry and cry and cry… indeed there will be lots of tears. They are war stories after all.

#12 Favourite MG Fantasy



The Unicorn Secret Series by Kathleen Duey: This series is definitely not just for girls, and if your kids are into breathtaking suspense, mystery and exciting adventures. An orphan girl, called Heart, is on a quest to discover her roots and on the way discovers unicorns. Your kids have to read these.

#13 A Book That Makes You Joyful



My Family and Other Animals by Gerald Durrel: This is one of our family favourites… that we have read outloud over and over again. Gerry… the youngest in the family is an animal collector of note and when his very eccentric family gets to spend a year on the island of Corfu… he narrates about the animals he discovers and his older siblings’ lives as though they were one and the same. Just his observations of the world around him. Absolutely genius writing, this has to be our family favourite and just a mention of the name… Joyful!!!

#14 The Classic Everyone Should Read



The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry: it is short it is sweet and has to be savoured. You can’t read this book in snippets, it has to be read in chunks, else you lose the flow of the story. A remarkable book that everyone should read… a story that is breathtaking and emotional and well everything. Has to be read.

#15 Favourite MG Illustrator




Chris Riddell, Chris Riddell, Chris Riddell… is our hands down winner of favourite illustrator ever. We actively seek out Chris Riddell’s artwork and books… he is a wonder of illustration and words. Our favourite, favourite.

#16 The Book You Wish You Had Never Read and Why



The Boy in Striped Pajamas by John Boyne: I am so glad that I read this book, but oh the pain. This book is so so heart wrenching… World War II through the eyes of a curious child. His childhood hero is his father, of course and friendships count for everything. Devastating, tragic… excellent read.

#17 The MG Character You Love to Hate the Most



Matilda by Road Dahl: I don’t think you can write a post on Middle Grade Readers without mention the fantastical classical Roald Dahl. They are filled with characters that you love to hate and is there anyone worse than The Trunchbull!!! If your kids won’t read these because they have seen the movies (remember movies are not ever as good as the book) then get the audio collection and go on a road trip… really childhood is too short to miss out on the wonders of all that is Roald Dahl.

#18 A Book With Great Themes



Land of Stories by Chris Colfer: Twins Axel and Conner entire the world of fairy tales for a series of unbelievable adventures… packed with your favourite and not so favourite fairy tale characters these books are a whirl through another world. These books are Hood #6’s best books ever… I never dreamt she would read them, they are great big fat chapter books, but clearly the story is fantastic because she powered her way through all of them… again and again and again!!!

#19 The Book You Wish You Had Written



Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh: This was my favourite childhood book, and this book turned me into a reader. I loved this book, I was Harriet and I could do anything… including wear blue jeans and sneakers and carry a notebook everywhere.

#20 Which MG Character Would be your BFF



Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren: Pippi… the best friend ever, spontaneous fun… always surprising and always full of adventure… love her!!!

#21 Best Detective MG Story



Detectives in Togas and Mystery of the Roman Ransom by Henry Winterfeld: A Detective story and history… set in ancient Roman Times. A group of children have an strange mystery to solve, and of course not enough time to solve it in. Lots to love, these are great great reads that our kids have loved.. If your kids are ready for chapter reads then they are ready for these.

#22 Which MG World Would You Most Like to Live in



The Children of Noisy village by Astrid Lindgren and illustrated by Ilon Wikland: The Bullerby Children have to be my all time favourite families and I would love to have to grown up in this magical world that celebrated all the seasons of the year and childhood in style. Simple beautiful living, without all the drama and busyness of life in the fast lane. I loved this book and all the other books in the series. They are delightful, packed with people that you would want to be friends with. Happy memories are kept between the pages of this book.

#23 The Book that Made You Laugh the Most



Timmy Failure by Stephan Pastis: Timmy Failure is a slightly off beat character, funny and packed with cleverness… Timmy and his sidekick Polar Bear are together the “best” detective agency in town… they make mistakes, honest blunders

#24 Favourite Book Cover



The Puffin in Bloom Collection: Beautiful Classics in beautiful covers… I absolutely love these… All of these!!!

#25 Best MG Realism



928 Miles from Home and A Seven Letter Word by Kim Slater: Gotta love Kim Slater’s writing, about real live kids with real live problems in a real live world. Love them… kids in these books need help and while they try to find it, they have to figure out their problems and solve them on their own. They are great books about brave kids in a world of bullying, they overcome and ultimately get the break they need. Good books, good problem solving skills and great reads.

#26 Favourite MG Writer



How even do you choose!!! If someone where to ask me to recommend a great MG reader for their kids… then I would immediately answer Michael Morpugo for real life and great emotional reads, Lauren Child for pure fun and enjoyment, Dick King Smith for endless animal stories and Kate Di Carmello for magical fantasy.

#27 The Book You Are Most Excited About on Your TBR Pile



The War that Saved my Life and Brown Girl Dreaming and Mr Limoncello: Can I just say I am dying to read this, don’t actually own them, and haven’t spotted them in the library yet… but I sure am looking out for them!!!

#28 Favourite Grownups in MG



Claude by Axel T. Smith: All the Claude’s… we just love. On the easy reading end of middle grade reads, Claude is a very cultured little pup who wears a red beret and has a best friend called Sir Bobblysock. He goes on wonderful little adventures and is hysterically funny throughout. His grown ups are Mr and Mrs Shinyshoes, that’s all you ever see or know about them. ’nuff said, the best!!!

#29 Which Book Do you Think will be a Future Classic



The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick: This book is beautiful, in fact a work of art, with the most exquisite drawings to illustrate the journey through it… one feels as if you are reading a foreign language, simply because the words have a deep richness to them. Not to mention that it is set in a Paris station… The book is about Hugo, an orphan who is on a quest to understand the message from his deceased father, hidden in his intricate notebooks. His quest is interrupted by an old man who runs a toyshop on the station and a girl who just loves books. Everyone is interconnected, but how… this is a mystery within a mystery within a mystery. Compelling reading… this book is truly a work of art.

#30 Favourite MG Scary Story



Black Cats and Butlers: Book 1 Rose Ravensthorpe Investigates by Janine Beachman: Just read this and absolutely loved this delightfully creepy and intriguing mystery. Not often you get a murder mystery for middle schoolers, and this one is brilliant… for those that love creepy intrigue. When the cats of Yorke start to disappear, and every time a cat vanishes, so a butler dies. There are people in town that believe this is the result of a legend… but Rose knows better and is determined to figure thing out. This is a must read.

#31 Most Scary MG Character



How to Train a Dragon by Cressida Cowell: Hiccup’s Mother, hands down the scariest character ever… my kids sat in bed with eyes like saucers whenever she came on the scene. I kept saying we needn’t read this and they were: “more, more, more.” So we read on!!! They loved it… but hands down the scariest character ever!!!

And that’s us… go and look for #MGBOOKTOBER on Instagram if you are looking for more great reads.

→ 2 CommentsTags: Brilliant Books

Se7en’s November and Your Free Printable Calendar…

November 1st, 2017 · No Comments

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And suddenly it is November again… wishing you all the best month ahead full of lots of exciting plans and adventures…

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

→ No CommentsTags: Celebrity Calendar

When School Science is Real Science with Cape Citizen Science…

October 30th, 2017 · 2 Comments

Inspiring kids with real live science in the great outdoors, has been the way for us to introduce practical and experimental science into our school this year. It is fun, it is rigorous and teaches them all the good things about doing experiments with the necessary care and correct documentation. Science experiments are always brilliant fun, our kids consider science to be just another extension of arts and crafts. This is true, a scientist does have to be filled with creative inspiration to ask interesting questions and to think of innovative ways to answer them. To this end we have been enjoying participating in Citizen Science for the while… it takes the level of doing science to a new level, when your results count and you have to take care with each and every step of the process.

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Location Location Location…

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A while back we did a year long Nature Watch Project on Elsie’s Peak, and so when we had the chance to do a little bit of Citizen Science on Elsie’s Peak we were all very keen to head out and learn. Our task on the mountain side was to take a closer look at those plants around us that were dying and to see if we could figure out why there were dying. A number of things effect plants, including harsh environmental conditions, bird life animal life and so on… we were keen to figure out why some of the plants on our mountain were in fact dying.
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There are a fair amount of steps involved in getting up our mountain, and so you really have to want to do this kind of science. A big advantage is that we do have a lot of dead and dying plants that we hadn’t noticed before. After years of looking out for living plants and dashing up the mountain to draw and observe the local fynbos you do have to train your eye a little bit, to notice the plants that are struggling. That being said, once you spot them you can’t help yourself and so begins the wondering… what happened to that plant, and that one, and that one?
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Is it something attacking the routes, are their bugs on the plants, is there fungus? Lots of questions…
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And time for some real science to see if we can find any answers…
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It is All About the Gear

Turns out scientists use a lot of gear, for accurate data collection you need to be able to collect samples carefully and accurately document your discoveries. You never know when your next discovery is going to be a huge one and carful recordings make for valuable and useful science.

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We needed to record your location with a gps…

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Document discoveries with a camera at first…
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And oversee all your proceedings with a gopro…
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Because we are looking for plant disease and we are aware of pathogens that we might bring into the area, we have to be careful that we are not bringing new diseases into the area ourselves… and we have to be careful that all our tools and implements are clean between taking each sample collection as well.
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Sample Collection

Clean tools and equipment are critical as we mentioned before, to avoid contamination from other locations…

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And collecting samples from as close to the roots of the dying plant as possible …
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Each sample needs its own bag, with a label with its identifying name or number, as well as the accurate location and any special comments.
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Laboratory Preparation

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Once our samples were collected we headed home to prepare them for laboratory testing and analysis.
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And of course photographing everything…
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Everyone taking extra care with their samples…
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Tape them shut…
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And label everything carefully…
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And our samples were good to go to the lab… where we met up with them a week or two later…
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Off to the Laboratory

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We took a trip out to Stellenbosch to meet our Citizen Scientist, Joey… who was there to show us around his lab and help us to process a whole lot of soil samples, including our own. We got to explore the lab…
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And a little classroom experience for our gang of homeschoolers…
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And a presentation…
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And learnt about the fynbos biome…
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Into the Laboratory

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The plant disease we are looking for is phytophera, and that is a little microorganism that likes to swim…
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So our soil samples were placed in baths….
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And then we took a look at some of our previous soil samples…
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Which had healthy ivy leaves added to it…
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Where the ivy leaf was blackened, new samples were created, because this could essentially be an indicator of the disease we were after.
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Everything was kept sterilised and clean, in order to prevent cross-contamination…
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Everything documented…
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Everything photographed of course…
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New petri-dishes created…
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And lots of microscope work…
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Because microscopes make everything more exciting…
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And a Whole Lot More Science


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Because look how beautifully these things grow…
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And creating new samples…
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And there you go…
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The Photo Gallery

Cape Citizen Science

If you want to know more about Cape Citizen Science, and join their project then take a look at their website here.

→ 2 CommentsTags: Science · Se7en at School

Se7en’s Fabulous Friday Fun #356

October 22nd, 2017 · 4 Comments

It’s been a reading all weekend kind of weekend, you can expect a pile of book reviews to be up on the blog this week!!! Otherwise catching up with friends and getting used to the idea of SUMMERTIME!!!

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I have been blogging over at the Sport Science Institute: How to Measure Progress When You don’t Appear to Be Making Any…

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Lovely Links from This Week

  1. I absolutely love Styling You: Our blogs are the same age, we are of the same era and she blasts clothing and confidence and what you are wearing out of the water: Here are Styling You’s 15 Swimsuit Confidence Commandments for 2017. Basically get out there and enjoy the summer.
  2. Adorable Superhero Leaf Masks on Babyccino.
  3. Tim Denning on Addicted 2 Success on How I Spent the Last 3 Years Becoming Minimalist and Why You Should Too.
  4. You have to take a look at Malala’s Magic Pencil on Mr Schu Reads and watch the videos. This is a hugely anticipated book in our house.
  5. Hmmm… 5 Ways to reduce your Oil Consumption from Eco Kids.
  6. Dozens of non-fiction printable goodness from The F.C.B.G. National Non-Fiction Resources… in preparation for November.
  7. Food for thought: On mnmlist.com: The difference between our needs and requirements.
  8. And this folks is why I never miss a post from Who’s the Mummy, she literally makes me laugh until I cry.

A Blast From the Past:

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This Week: Museum Night at the V and A Waterfront

We are so looking forward to this on the 25 October 2017… diarise it and look out for it… we loved the previous Museum night, check it out here…

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Cape Town International Kite Festival 2017

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Details:

  • Saturday 28/Sunday 19 October 2017
  • Zandvlei Nature Reserve
  • R40 for adults, R15 for children under 12
  • Kites from China, England, Germany, Malaysia, Netherlands, Poland, South Africa
  • Proceeds to support Cape Mental Health
  • Details on the website here, #righttofly #CTKitefest

That’s us… hope you have the most fabulous week!!!

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→ 4 CommentsTags: Fabulous Friday Fun

Se7en Discover that Writing is Fun… Creative Writing for Kids…

October 18th, 2017 · No Comments

The fabulous thing about homeschooling is that when something isn’t working it is in your power to change it and change it for the better. For a while writing just wasn’t working for us at all. And folks kept saying to me I can’t get my kids to write anything, and I kept thinking, “Well my kids write.” But to be honest, while my kids were writing they definitely weren’t loving it and some of them were digging their heels in so firmly that I did start to think that they might never actually write an entire sentence. However, I did notice that they were happy to write the things they needed for a game they were playing or a letter they wanted to write to a friend. I thought I would build on that.

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Some folk’s outing journal over here looked a lot like: “We went to “pick any place” and it was fun. The End.” Every single outing. I knew that I had to make some changes. I decided to add a little writing inspiration to their lives and see where it would go, you know just gently up our writing game… really easy like. Looking for fun books with writing ideas in them in library and just taking them out every other week or two and dipping into them as part of our family school. My kids responded surprisingly well to that.

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They loved creating characters and had a lot of fun figuring out new settings and so on. Teeny tiny writing projects, I have a feeling nothing overwhelming is a big part of writing for fun. Everyone was happy, we were slowly beginning to win at writing. The ultimate goal is that my children write for pleasure, so that when they have an idea they will have the skills to jot it down. If they want to develop their story further… then so be it. Honestly, I was so surprised by how much they enjoyed it all.

A Writing Week

I decided to up the game a little more and declared a writing week. Normally when we take a break from school, we have science week and do tons of science experiments. Well a writing week works just the same… just a fun writing project everyday. Honestly a writing week requires very little preparation… a pile of paper, some pretty paper, old photographs and magazines for picture inspiration, and colourful pens and pencils help a lot too. Not to mention stickers. I was very intentional about our goal… the writing was to be pure fun for everyone, and it was to be completely voluntary. And it was to feel, as far as the East is from the West, like anything remotely to do with school. I admit, I made it very arty and crafty and there was tons for them to play with and inspire them to write more. But the point is, they loved it and wanted to write more.

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To start our writing week I gathered a few books for inspiration… put all our materials together in one place: notebooks, one or two magazines for pictures, markers and watercolours and such like. Our very first meeting we spent covering and decorating our notebooks… yes, you could buy fancy notebooks and skip that step, but it turned out to be quite fundamental to setting the tone. Firstly, I sat there and created my own sketchbook with them (always a win if I join in) and we spoke about all the things that you could expect in a writing club… writing for instance!!! I am so glad we did that… because expectations are quite important to establish right from the start.

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I kept it really simple, and if the only writing they did was one or two words, then so be it. My intention was to keep it joyful and once we had made one page together in our notebooks they were very keen to carry on creating more elaborate projects on their own. They really just needed to get this project started and they were good to go the extra mile. The idea is that they love writing… and of course they will learn how to write a formal letter, and a comparative essay in time… but half of my students are in primary school… it is alright for them to have a playful attitude towards writing, the fact that their older siblings want to join in and play along too is really just a winning situation. One day we turned ink blots into cartoons… and I love how every child has a completely different interpretation of the same project. Another day we pretend we were someone else and created passports.

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Another day we created a party cake in a mixing bowl…

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And I love these…

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Life got a little busy and I forgot about it for a while… and then my kids started to ask if they could write during our family school time in the mornings. Stop. Read that again. They enjoyed writing so much, that they asked if they could do some writing everyday as part of their family school. I said, “I would think about it.” While secretly dancing a jig for joy!!! Anyway, writing week, became writing club and once a week or so we spend time together doing a writing project.

Free Writing… Really?!?


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And we have upped our game again and added free writing to our family school routine as well. Quite the most astonishing thing… I told them I would only do writing if everyone arrived at the table with paper and a pencil ready to write and as long as no one complained about it, we would continue with it. After one person’s complete melt down at the start, “I can’t write, you can’t make me, I will never be able to write…” Everyone else was so absorbed with what they were doing, that said person realised the drama was wasted and just got on with it. It has become our favourite part of school time, no-one complains, everyone is busy and from grade two till twelve we are writing every single day. Some people write a page, some people write a line… I don’t mind. I especially don’t worry about spelling and details of that nature. This is free writing in the very free sense of the word.

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Free Writing for the Win

All you need is paper and pencils and a timer. And a topic jar… we create our topics by going round the table and giving everyone a turn to drop a topic of their choice into the jar. We begin each day by selecting a topic for the day from the topic jar… and set the timer and off we go… all of us, particularly me. I began with the timer set for two minutes, thinking that any longer would overwhelm some of my frail writers… well it took us a week to build up to five minutes and three weeks later everyone thinks they are still writing for five minutes, but I have steadily built it up to ten minutes a day. My kids are writing, without complaint for ten minutes a day. They are writing for themselves, for their own enjoyment and they are happy with that. Once a week, they each select their favourite peace of writing from the week, prepare it and choose to read it to us.

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The key really has been joining them because writing is hard. It isn’t like a workbook where you fill in the gaps, there is a lot going on. Not only do you have to concentrate on penmanship, but you have to concentrating on expressing your ideas as well. One thing you can do to ease the pain is to write alongside them… this has helped my kids enormously. To see me stumped by a topic during our free writing time, or to see me just keep on writing when I have actually run out of things to say. Work through it and write on, write on… it has been good for my kids to see that they can actually do this… it is not impossible. It doesn’t have to perfect, for them to want to carry on with it and keep at it, it has to be fun.

A Couple of Fun Resources

Writing definitely can be fun, and when it is fun it is amazing how inspired your kids will be to try harder things and go the extra mile.

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Se7en’s Spring Tide Beach CleanUp With the Beach Co-Operative…

October 16th, 2017 · 8 Comments

This past year we have been joining the Beach Co-operative for a monthly beach cleanup at Muizenberg corner.

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Their mission is: “Our mission is to engage with single use plastics at all points of its supply chain: remove it from the beach, refuse it when making purchases, work with brands and companies who want to use less plastic, and encourage manufacturers to design plastic packaging with a circular economy in mind (design for recyclability).”
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Writing by Beachscriber

Apart from developing a bigger heart for beach cleanups, it is helped our kids enormously to be part of a real scientific study. Data is collected from each beach cleanup and analysed carefully, statistics are kept and hypothesis are tried and tested. There have been some very interesting discoveries for us… for instance garbage is seasonal… a lot more garbage needs to be collected on days when it has rained and more debris is washed from the surrounding area onto the beach.
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A lot of the garbage collected is related to the local restaurant industry and to this end these restaurants have been encouraged to green-up by using less plastic packaging – fewer shopping bags, alternatives to plastic straws and so on…

Raising Eco-Warriors

Raising eco-warriors is very trendy right now, and changing our behaviour and impact on the environment has become a top priority in educational circles the world over. Wherever your children are in school they are most likely learning about environmental issues and what we need to do to have less on an impact on the environment. The thing is there is a vast gap between head-knowledge and practical application. For many of our kids’ friends there is a vast chasm between knowing the reason why we should use less fossil fuels and then driving to the library to exchange books, when they could easily walk there.

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And gathering together for a beach cleanup on International cleanup day is not the same as taking “3 for the sea” every time they go down to the beach for a swim. It really has to become a habit, something that we all just naturally do… the ocean is full of plastic and garbage and we have the power to make a difference, just by participating in beach clean ups.I think the goal for our kids is that they are active citizens, doing something practical for the environment not only makes a difference to the environment, however small, but it has to give us hope.

Surfer’s Corner in Muizenberg


Surfer’s Corner in Muizenberg is a very popular surf spot for people from all over the world, it is one of the best spots to learn how to surf and somewhat of a surfing mecca. The popularity of the spot means that there are a number of fast food spots and restaurants there and the resulting fall out onto the beach means that it is a good spot for garbage to collect on the beach.
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Now Muizenberg has been a blue flag beach and is a very popular Cape Town beach for families… warm water, white sand, and miles and miles of gentle surf. A veritable army of cleaners, thanks to the City of Cape Town, keep the popular, surf friendly area of the beach surprisingly clean. However, just off the beach towards to mountain side is a rock pooling haven, it is less frequented by the public and specifically visitors and so gets less attention from the cleaning staff and beach cleanups in general.
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Every new moon, when the tide is at its lowest and the rock pools are the most exposed, we have been joining the Beach Co-op for a beach cleanup. It is the perfect way to expand our family lifestyle of beach cleanups to a more community based project.

The Beach Co-Op Clean Up


We collect two kinds of garbage at this clean-up, your regular garbage that is found lying on the surface or somewhat submerged in the rock pools and then the garbage, that we collect in a separate bucket of things extracted from sea-anemones.
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For most beach cleanups the first thing we see is the amazing natural beauty and wildlife… but as our eye “tunes in to garbage” it is fairly easy to spot plastic shopping bags more than partially buried and filled with sand, as well as plastic bottle lids and tons of individual sweetie wrappers.
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All the Garbage


And then there is the garbage… bottle tops, plastic and glass, straws and cigarette ends, as well as carrier bags. The carrier bags are possibly the hardest to collect and only after your eye has adjusted to noticing the garbage do you actually spot them. They are almost always weighed down and semi-buried in the sand, trapped in the rock pools.
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They tend to be filled with and buried in the sand, which make them really hard to un-earth and pull out in one piece, nobody wants them to break up and have small pieces drift away.
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A sinker and fishing tackle removed from an anemone.

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A typical haul from our cleanup

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Some months you collect a lot of a particular item… for instance the month we found half a dozen bottle tops

At the end of each cleanup the garbage is washed of marine debris and taken back to the lab to be counted and measured. Statistics are kept and analysed.
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All the RockPooling Magic

The first surprise to most folk is the incredible natural beauty that you find amongst the rock pools. Nobody suspects that so close to home is this magical world filled with incredible beauty. Starfish abound, as do sea anemones… even the kelp is a fresh new rainbow of green.

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Just a fascinating project, real science and a community project, that we have enjoyed being part of, you can follow them the Beach Co-Op on instagram.

Surfer's Corner Beach CleanUp

Previous Beach Cleanup Posts

Se7en Celebrates World Turtle Day With a Beach Clean Up

Se7en Tune a Beach Clean Up into Eco-Brick Construction

Another Week, Another Beach Clean Up at Cape Point

Just Taking a Week Off School to Volunteer

Se7en+1 Steps to a Beach Clean Up

International Coastal Clean Up Day and a Quick Report

Diaz Beach and a Quick Clean Up

A Muizenberg Clean Up

Where Does Your Garden Go?

Thinking About a Green Manifesto for our Family

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Se7en + 1 of the Latest Kid Reads from PanMacmillan South Africa

October 13th, 2017 · No Comments

What can I say, when you don’t post book reviews for a week or two… the review pile on the coffee table gets crazily high and suddenly we have quite a few lovely book posts coming your way. I have to confess I saved this post up for a Friday, because is there anything better than a collection of good weekend reads? I had to bring you a review post of these fabulous books, every single one of these is a firm favourite over here, and they have literally just landed.

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Se7en+1 of the Latest and Greatest Kid Reads

Chris Riddell



Travel’s with My Sketchbook by Chris Riddell: I know, don’t ever out your best book first… but I have to say this has to be our book of the year. This is not technically a book for children, it is a book for people, especially folk who love books. While I have read each and every word, my kids have all dipped into it and followed the inspirational Chris Riddell on his journey as Children’s Laureate.
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A while back we spent a wonderful morning with the magical Chris Riddell, and yes he is just as magical as you imagine him to be. We poured over his pile of sketchbooks, we learnt about his favourite pencils and listened to his stories… It was a lovely morning, a peaceful moment in time, when things stood still while the busy-ness of being the Laureate carried on around him.
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And this book is just like that morning, only it is a snapshot of a glorious time that was his time as the Children’s Laureate from June 2015 through to December 2016. Sketchbook page after magical sketchbook page, documenting his journey through through the laureate ship: school talks, library discussions, visits to book stores, plans for impending books, and some of his political cartoons… this is a book that you can dip into or like we did: read right through it and then turn back to again and again and again. It is packed with delightful moments, little visits into Chris Riddell’s world… stories of his childhood and his children’s childhood… insight into his life and times, snippets from his books, and impending books, the things he loves and the things he hates… all of it. What can I say, his work is so good, because he works so hard… unceasing!!! The book is a chunky hardback, with a fabric spine and has the feel of a delightfully fat notebook. Lots of attention to detail about the presentation of the book, as you would expect from Chris Riddell. All that is magical and then some. This has to be our book of the year…


Ottoline and the Purple Fox by Chris Riddell:
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When you believe that you are Ottoline, and then you spend a morning with him and at the end of the interview he says, “I am inspired to write another Ottoline book.” And that is how Ottoline and the Purple Fox was born… Ottoline has been a firm family favourite for a number of years and we are reading the series again… as one does. Ottoline is a smart young gal, who together with her best friend Mr Munroe, set out to solve a number of problems… and in this book they have a dinner party to organise. I love these books, they are picture rich and perfect for emerging readers who get overwhelmed by vast swaths of words. That being said they are real stories with a really classical feel to them, stories to get lost in and kind of join in. Nothing frilly and no space wasted on nonsense, a good story beautifully illustrated and the presentation is of course out of this world… and like all Chris Riddell books there is a little surprise waiting in the back of it…
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The Snark by Lewis Carroll and illustrated by Chris Riddell: And now for something completely different, another Chris Riddell!!! And I have a feeling that he had a lot of fun creating this book. The Snark is nonsense poem written by Lewis Carroll, author of The Jabberwocky, it is a little longer and lot more nonsense… a group of folk on a boat, set out hunting for a Snark… they don’t find it, and have endless shipping trouble… and you read on and on, up and down waves and in and out of the water… pure fun, lots of new and remarkable words and they do not find the Snark… and then they do!!! Pure fun and lots of it, intriguing and detailed illustrations all the the way through with fabulous colour as well as black and white. It is a hardback with fabric binding and icy blue frosting sprayed on the edges… this is a very giftable book and will make a fantastic keepsake for lovers of words of all ages.

Where’s Wally

Where’s Wally? The Totally Essential Travel Collection by Martin Handford: This is the ultimate Where’s Wally Book. You know we are big fans, Wally and I share a birthday in fact. And there are tons of Where’s Wally books out… but this one has all se7en classics included inside it, as well as hidden inside the cover… postcards to colour in. There are also flaps to lift up for extra searching… this is a really great collection.

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It is about the size of a chunky notebook with a shimmering gold stripes on the cover, perfect to toss in your backpack and go… and then hours and hours of fun. It is bound like a hardback book and lies pretty flat when it is opened up… so no split covers or exploding pages… no matter how often it is paged through. The book has a great rugged quality about it, it has been thoroughly loved and dare I say overused over here and is showing no signs of it’s burden at all. For Where’s Wally fans… Another perfect gift.

Rabbit & Bear

Rabbit and Bear: The Pest in the Nest by Julian Gough and Jim Field: When we met Rabbit and Bear for the first time, we knew we had discovered a classic. Just slightly more words than an easy reader, and perfect first chapter books. They are great for reading aloud or being read too… and the stories are seriously funny. Folk with a somewhat dry sense of humour will love Bear and Rabbit… Rabbit is quite a fiery personality and doesn’t do anything by halves… and every nuance is capture by the genius illustrator, who is Jim Field. Bear is the lugubrious bystander the bringer of peace and understanding, the calming factor that every fiery personality needs from time to time.

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In this story, as the woodland friends start to surface from their wintry hibernation a woodpecker arrives in the hood. And the bang, bang, banging causes quite a disturbance in the neighbourhood. Let me just say, rabbit almost loses the plot… he is very upset about the happy noise of the industrious intruder, and his friend tortoise just sadly sleeps through it all, well rabbit is not happy about that either. There is a life lesson in there. It is funny, it is light reading and just great. We love Bear and Rabbit and will be looking after for more of them.

Cressida Cowell


The Wizards of Once by Cressida Cowell: I was so excited to get this book to review, I couldn’t help myself I had to just dive right in, I wasn’t waiting around for the kids after reading the entire How to Train Your Dragon Series out loud, I felt I earned a little me time with this one. Now this book comes with a lot of hype, and it is well deserved, it is written by the wonderful Cressida Cowell after all. My kids will LOVE this book, I certainly did. I have to say there are some scary parts, but judging how they loved the scary parts being read to them in the How to Train your Dragon series… I am guessing they will love when I read this to them as well. My older kids will read this in a flash, but I will definitely be reading this to my younger three, because firstly it took me a while to get into, there is a whole new world to define and secondly because the scary parts are scary.

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So the story is about Xar a wizard lad and son of a King, who appears to have not received any magical powers, he does however have a naughty defiant streak and a good heart. The kind of kid where everything around him explodes and his face has a look of innocence and his mum says, “He is a good kid really.” And then there is Wish, a girl child from the Warrior tribe, a fearless and feisty gal, a heroine of note… and yet a bitter disappointment to her Warrior queen mother and therein lies her tragic streak. The two tribes are sworn enemies and interaction means war. However, they do have their common enemy, witches are long extinct. Or are they? It turns out that long extinct witches may not be that extinct after all.
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An evening of independent mischief has both Xar and Wish flung together, with all their combined fury… both of them are considered to be “self seeking losers” by their tribes and it turns out that they are both heroes in their own rights and while they have their own best interests at heart, they do rather save the day… or do they? Clearly a series, and hopefully a long one, is going to follow after The Wizards of Once.

Alex T. Smith



Claude: All at Sea by Alex T. Smith: Claude is a fabulous series about a fabulous dog… one of our favourite series in fact. Claude is a little dog, who lives with Mr and Mrs Shinyshoes and his best friend Sir Bobblysock. As soon as Mr and Mrs Shinyshoes leave for work in the morning Claude and his best friend get up to all sorts of adventurous antics. Whatever they need to complete their adventure, a paintbrush or a bath duck, for instance, well those can be found inside Claude’s beret… his expandable, bottomless beret.
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In this adventure Claude finds himself at sea, and when he and a number of is friends find themselves in the tummy of a magnificent sea monster called Nigel. And then Claude comes to the rescue. He totally saves the day using the contents of his beret. And when Mr and Mrs Shinyshoes get home from work at the end of the day and find Claude sleeping in the bath tub they do rather wonder what went on while they were out… And Claude just smiles a little smile. Delightful, sweet stories… little adventures and loads of fun, and packed with adorable, witty illustrations.

Oi


Oi Cat by Kes Gray and Jim Field: Oh when you spot Oi and Kes Gray and Jim Field on the cover of a book… it is going to be fabulous, grab it, sit down and take a read. You just can’t go wrong with the Oi books, so very much character is expressed between the pages of this books, there is everything to love here: fabulously funny illustrations, and witty words all the way through. Gotta love them. In this particular book, Frog informs Cat that he has to step away from the gnat… and Cat hates gnats… he should be a pony and sit on macaroni… fun, rhythm and rhyme, exactly want you want to read aloud and a twist in the tail… that is revealed by a large lift the flap. Pure fun, a bedtime romp… and a picture book that nobody will mind reading again and again and again…




Huge thank you to PanMacmillan South Africa for supplying this fabulous collection of books for review purposes. This is not a sponsored post and all the reviews are as usual my own.

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