September 12th, 2014 · 4 Comments
Once again we bring you a pile of the latest and greatest new kids books, hot of the press…
A Family Read A Loud: We have absolutely loved Sam Angus’ previous books: Soldier Dog and Hero… so much so that I read this as soon as it landed in our review pile and I am saving it until we are finished our current read aloud… to share with the gang. Sam Angus writes war stories… stories about children and animals caught in the throws of the Great Wars. They are incredible reads, she has the knack of carrying your emotions to the edge and back – there will be tears of anguish, there will be tears of joy… there will be tears. In her latest book Captain, you are taken with young Billy Bayliss, who at fifteen faked his way into the war effort, into the heart of Galipolli. Captain is not a donkey, as you might have guessed by the cover, but a quick witted refugee and someone who is of the same age as Billy… together they find themselves in a man’s world. How often we have a romantic ideal of a a distant war, in a distant time, in a distant city. This beautifully written book brings Galipolli home, you will never forget the men and boys that fought for their lives and essentially our freedom. If loyalty and bravery could be learnt within the covers of a book then you would definitely learn those qualities in this book.
The Hoods Are Reading…
Deep Blue, the first in the WaterFire Saga by Jennifer Donnelly:
Hood #3 vanished into this book, and Hood #2 was intrigued after her rave reviews. They both took a day off from the world to read it from cover to cover. I don’t know if I am dying to read a book about mermaids, per se… but I had to take a peak after they both enjoyed this book so much. This book is a mystery… and a saga, it is the first in a series of four. Serafina is a Mediterranean mermaid about to get betrothed to Prince Mahdi, of the Indian Ocean. Serafina is part of the Mer-world, a whole world invented and created just for the saga… Serafina has been having troubling dreams and as you wander into the book you discover that these dreams are more than dreams. You are in the world of mermaids, there will be magic and myth intertwined, and lots of it. This book is not nearly as grown up as it looks, so a good read for the younger teen set. A little love, but nothing untoward or intense, and lots of very capable girls or should I say mermaids directing the story. The book is also full of puns and while the story is a serious one, the puns and humorous style, keep it light. I liked the little details in the book, all the text is blue – adding to the whole “undersea effect.” If you love all things ocean, and pretty and dramatic, then this is a fabulous read… The book ends with a bit of a cliff hanger and you will want the next book in the series to be out already – it isn’t of course.
Really, Really Big Questions about Science by Holly Cave and illustrated by Marc Aspinall.
I totally and absolutely love and adore this book. Everything about it screams vintage. It feels like the kind of fact book I grew up on, only the facts are current. Five Chapters: Life and Living Things; Amazing Me!; The Weird and the Wonderful; Bright Ideas; and the Big Wide World. The whole book reads like the author is chatting to you… the pages are big and clear, with one fabulous question per page and a fabulous retro illustration to go with it. The questions alone are intriguing and enough to get even the most sluggish brain thinking or rather reading: “Why am I always late for school? Why don’t I look like a banana?… Why can’t I jump like a superhero?” and so on. Also, on almost every page there is a little “Brain Burn Box” filled with the most mind blowing fact. The illustrations are glorious and you really do feel like you may have stepped back in time!!!
Foxy Tales by the Caryl Hart and Alex T. Smith… Oh you are in for some fun… anything with Alex T. Smith on the cover is going to be great fun… Foxy Dubois is a very fancy fox, filled with airs and graces and she is off to Jollywood to find her fame and fortune. Only one thing stands in her way and that is Alphonso Alligator, a delightfully impolite alligator with an insatiable appetite… anything and everything is at risk of being eaten, and a series of burps and other bodily smells and noises are emitted… Much as Foxy tries to get rid of him, she can’t, one of those “friends” that sticks like glue. The illustrations are as much, if not more part of the tale… lots of slapstick funniness. After hood #5 read this one to himself and laughed hysterically out loud to it all… I was forced to read it to the younger group too… they loved it. This book is a bit more work than an easy reader, and a lot less work than your typical chapter book… perfect for the just reading reader. Perfectly silly through and through, the sort of book reviewers would call a delightful romp… and for once they would be right.
Donna Wilson’s Creative Creatures: We have reviewed this lovely book before, but it is out in soft cover now and worth a second shout out. This is a book for the “makers” of this world… packed. packed with lovely ideas of things to make and do… quick and easy crafts and other’s that will require time and effort. Paper crafts, fabric crafts… owls and kittens, monkeys and foxes… sock puppets, paper dolls, soft houses and pop up cards… there is really a craft for everyone in this book… EVERYONE!!! Now that our child, that just can’t stop making things is old enough to dive in and conquer any craft completely unattended, this book is the book for her!!! Don’t for a moment think this is just another children’s craft book… it is packed with loveliness for all ages and stages. We totally love this book, it is a keeper and will be lying on the coffee table inspiring someone for weeks to come.
Handa’s Surprising Day by Eileen Browne
is just delightful… an easy reader of the sweetest variety, with a story that is interesting and fun to read… Handa is a young gal growing up in a village in Kenya. My children delight in reading stories about children in Africa and really we wish there were more around. Anyway, Handa is your typical young gal who has a tendency to misplace things. One day she leaves home with a large basket of fruit on her head, all the animals she passes on her journey are very happy to help themselves and when she reaches her destination she has a large collection of tangerines instead… life sure is full of lovely surprises. Three really lovely stories in one… and just at the right level for a beginner reader to tackle with a little help.
The Flying Bath by Julia Donaldson: Honestly, who knew that all the bath toys have a wild and energetic play after everyone leaves the house in the morning. The bath goes on a bit of a rescue mission – all over the world. It is Julia Donaldson, so there is clever rhythm and rhyme, lots of it and of course a repeatable chorus that gets louder and rompier towards the end. This is a picture book and it was appreciated as that… but there is a little more, almost all the writing is in speech bubbles, the words are very simple and my beginner readers really enjoyed reading the predictable text and really got that the story was a conversation between the main players. A fun read but not an awesome read… nowhere near as easy reading and poetical as the Gruffalo or A Squash and a Squueze, say.
And the se7en + 1th Books:
Hugless Douglas by David Melling:
I know we have blogged about Hugless Douglas before, but honestly he is so darling and his funny bunnies and cuddly sheep… just the perfect guy to cuddle up with for a story… Everything to love!!! And Hugless has activity books too… filled with adorable pages of “how to draw” and spot the difference, and puzzles and fun for the junior set… but I have to say it is the dozens and dozens of the cutest stickers that get me… I just love them!!!
That’s us… hope you have a weekend full of great reads…
We would really like to thank Pan MacMillan South Africa for providing us with all the books to review for this post. We would like to declare that we were not paid to do these reviews, just provided with books. All the opinions are as usual, entirely our own!!!
Tags: Brilliant Books
September 10th, 2014 · 21 Comments
I really wanted to write a post for World Literacy Day and then we ended up spending the afternoon reading through a huge pile of books and it occurred to me that that was a far more appropriate way to spend any day, especially World Literacy Day. I am all for literacy… and placing a real live book in the hands of every child. But I think the world has become a little obsessed with reading. Gasp… I hear a gasp. Now I am no educational expert, and I have a relatively small number of students in my school, but hear me out:
- The Myth of a Literate Society:
We claim to live in a world of such advanced education and everyone is dashing to get ahead. Little children have less and less play time all in the name of learning how to read. How many times do I hear the lament: “If only my child would read…” When I went to school, it was to learn to read, now if your child hasn’t done two years of preschool and sitting at a desk, they are on the back foot, behind before they begin, in fact.
But for all the advancement if you look at many modern picture books written for a preschooler and compare it to say, anything by Beatrix Potter, our children will understand and get both – but there is no literary comparison. It turns out in the era when people were not so busy with flash cards, or “how to read apps,” children and the ordinary adults that read aloud to those children had a far greater vocabulary and dare I say a closer affinity to the true meaning of literacy.
- Reading and Literacy Are Just Not the Same Thing:
Not all my children are good readers, but they are all literate, in the sense that they have heard and internalised hundreds of great books. I am really not afraid to say it out-loud, horrors of horrors, we homeschool and not all my children are good readers. We haven’t struggled over reading, we haven’t ever said – this child is a good reader or that one is an appalling reader, but for some readers it takes a while for their decoding skills to catch up to their listening skills.
There are many situations where my slower readers would have been labeled and they would definitely have been placed in a remedial class in a school, but in the learning environment they are in, they are oblivious to labels, blissfully unaware that there is an age by which reading “has to be mastered.” The point is there is no reason, in this day and age, for the child that takes longer to learn to read to be necessarily illiterate. And there is no reason for the child, who takes longer to actually read, not to love books.
- Reading is a Skill:
I cannot tell you how often I receive requests from parents asking me how to speed up their children on their educational journey. Their child is way to advanced for their age, everything “age appropriate is totally dull” and what activities can they give their children to get ahead. My answer is always the same: let them make mud-pies. I firmly believe that children should be playing, and that the “academically advanced child” probably needs to get outdoors and needs to play even more than most.
Children that are truly advanced in their thinking should be spread wider and opportunities for them to explore the world should abound. Honestly, reading is a skill and is all about being able to decode what is written on the page. The child that teaches itself to read at age three is no more brilliant than the twelve year old, who quietly progresses from sounding out words to fluency without anybody noticing. These children might have different reading skills, but that doesn’t make one brighter than the other. And certainly, there is no reason on earth why one of these children should end up more literate than the other, or why one of them should be read to more or less than others.
- Children Should be Playing:
All sorts of developmental things have to happen in a child’s life before a child can read. If a student is three or thirteen reading is still a skill. I am sure that somewhere there is good research that says it is more important for the young child to play outdoors, to run and jump and leap than it is to spend hours sounding out words in easy readers. When a friend of mine told me that her child was repeating grade 1 and wasn’t allowed to do any extra-murals because her reading was behind, and she had to stay in for extra seat work. I could have wept on the spot. That child is unlikely to grow up with a passion for books. When reading sounds much more like a punishment than a privilege you cannot possibly expect to be encouraging a love of reading. And you have to notice that passing tests, getting a certain grade and ticking boxes on a developmental chart have become far more important than actual literacy and a love of reading.
It is quite common practice to read excellent books to a child until they start to learn to read and then they have to read mindless books. Beginner readers are very often, nothing short of dull. And forever after, these young readers are left to their own reading devices. May I encourage you that in order to keep them excited and interested in reading you have to continue to read to them – good books, excellent books, exciting books, books way above their reading level. Don’t be impatient with your reluctant readers, don’t rush your beginner readers. I am all for kids doing hard work and there are times when learning to read is just that. But in the name of literacy, if your children need to work give them chores to do, and then settle down and read to them.
- When Folk Insist That Their Children Read:
How on earth do you force a child to read – I have no idea, the child that doesn’t want to read simply doesn’t look at the words. However you can not prevent a child from being hooked by a good story and listening away for hours. A good book is a good book for any age and telling a child to read a book because it is a good one is the most effective way of ensuring a child will never ever read it. However, when I have suggested sitting down and reading the same book to the same child I have rarely been turned down. And when I have been turned down, there is nothing to stop you sitting next to the “lego construction” of the day and simply beginning. I have found that even the most intense lego architect will slow their construction rate for a superb book.
If you have never read to your children, or you fear your reading skills are not up to scratch, or you just can’t face reading a five hundred page book out loud. I could allay your fears and say: your skills are fine or just read a chapter at a time. If you still aren’t convinced welcome to the world of audible books. So many books are available online for free, borrow an audible book from the library and listen together. Buy a classic, with a great reader, from audible books every other month and listen to it together. Your life will be richer for it. And you will be doing heaps for your family’s literacy.
- Don’t be Misled by the Avid Reader:
The child that flies through thousands of books isn’t necessarily more literate than the child who is reading one good book over the Summer. This is my problem with reading programs that reward children for reading a number of books. The child may indeed wind their way through series after series of book. But that doesn’t mean they are more literate than the child who has plodded through one great classic. One has to ask, who has used their imagination more who has spent more time in deep contemplation. Let’s face it there are plenty of series aimed at the reluctant reader, packed with every trick to entice them to read. It is the same story again and again with a different cover on it. I have found that reading a variety of good books to my kids and smothering them in rich language and ideas does more for their overall literacy than making them sit and read through a beginner reader series and ticking off the chapters on a chart.
- The Myth that if they Don’t Read they Won’t Read:
Reading requires practice. “When you read to your child you remove their impetus to read for themselves.” This could not be further from the truth. When your children are in the habit of listening to good books being read to them, the rich sounds of good language, those are the books that they will seek out to read for themselves eventually. Do not discount the reading your children are doing, little as it may be, even my children that were slowest to pick up a book were reading heaps: they read slogans, they read labels, they read shopping lists, they read instructions, they read comics, they read and read and read, but they may not be reading the books on their school reading list. Honestly I don’t really care what they read, as long as they have opportunities to read.
I have one child who is obsessed with reading food labels and another who can’t wait for the weekly newspaper to be dropped off because they pour over the “specials” pages from the hardware store. Whatever they are reading, they are reading and that’s fabulous, but not necessarily making them more literate. Similarly, the child who reads thirty thousand easy readers about fairies, that aren’t exactly edifying but getting gold stars because they are reading books, aren’t necessarily becoming more literate. I feel that by reading aloud to them I am covering their literary skills in a way that most children aren’t getting because they are not being read too. I have found that once our kids reading skills catch up with their listening skills they will start by reading books they have loved having read to them and they will follow up with good books because that is what they are used to.
And the se7en + 1th thing…
- A Shared Experience is a Memorable Experience:
Oh the theory is that it would be so much easier if our kids did all their own reading. Easier isn’t always better. I don’t want to foster a world where “they read their books and I read mine.” There is a lot to be said for the shared experience and a great way to live alongside your kids and to create memorable memories, is to share a good read with them. My kids are perfectly capable of reading many of the books we read together as a family but a lot of the joy is the collective experience of a good book. Don’t wish all the good books on your kids, share them with them, books take us out of our daily grind, out of our small world of dishes and laundry. With books we are able to connect on a multitude of levels. Our kids can spot a stack of sticks and immediately everyone of us will be snapped straight back to the very rainy night that we sat and read about Eeyore’s house together. Heaps of experiences like that create a shared memory. Heaps of good books, if your children read them or you do, create a family culture that ties you together.
It turns out that while the ability to read is life-changing and there is no denying that reading can raise folks life experience enormously, there is a whole lot more to literacy than being able to read and write. Many a child is turned away from reading because they see it as yet another “test they have to pass” or “yet more homework that has to be completed.” It is up to us to turn literacy into something much richer for our children than just another box to check on the list of things to do for the day. Literacy is all about filling minds with rich words and language and giving our children a cultural and family heritage, a pride in who they are and where they come from. Yes, I am all for literacy and placing a book into every child’s hands and then reading it to them.
Tags: Language Arts · Se7en at School
September 8th, 2014 · 4 Comments
I was planning to post our source to the sea river hike this weekend, and then I realised that this week is South African National Parks Week, so I thought I would post our favourite family friendly hike in Cape Point. We have spent the last year doing a number of hikes in the Cape Point Nature Reserve, in the Table Mountain National Park, some are really easy walks and others have been really difficult hikes… but by far our favourite has been the hike down the coast from Gifkommetjie to Platboom.
Let’s back track a little… South African National Parks Week: “The week grants free access to most of the 21 national parks for day visitors, especially people from the local communities.” You do have to have a valid identity document, click on the link or call your local park for details and terms and conditions. There is so much to do within the nature reserve: picnicing, ambling, rock pooling. Most visitors fly down the central road and head straight for the light house at Cape Point, and then return the same way… we highly recommend getting off the beaten track a little, that is the most likely way to see the fairly shy wildlife and discover the beauty of being out in the wild outdoors, without ever being far from “civilisation.”
Most of our hikes begin with a morning spent with our ranger, and a class in the great outdoors. This was a wintry day and we were learning about baboons…
Let’s Get Hiking…
This hike begins above Gifkommetjie and the trickiest part of the whole hike is a right at the start, a couple of flights of fairly steep stairs taking you down to sea-level and then you walk the entire away along the coast.
The beginning of the hike is tricky enough for your older kids to feel as if they are on an adventure and easy enough for a four year old, or any small child that can manage stairs, to handle.
On our way down to the plain it started to rain so we stopped in a very conveniently located cave for our lunch.
And climbing… as one does.
After that it was down and down…
And across a marshy swamp towards the shore… Now this was a month or two back in the middle of the harshest of the winter rains and so we were very grateful for the stepping stones.
While I am sure this is mostly dry in the summer it was really wet when we got there, and one or two members of the gang had just received their new shoes for the year and were more than a little upset that for several meters the stepping stones were really knee deep under water… there is damp and then there is soaked…
It was time for a life lesson, in times of trouble, you can’t just sit in a heap, give up or turn back… you have to figure out a plan. They made full use of Hood #1, and he made some fresh stepping stones, out of the swamp and onto the rocky shore… deep admiration all round and problem solved.
Could this be a fan club!!!
Some new stepping stones out of the mire…
And we continued for a short distance, boulder hopping…
Once we had completed the boulder hopping so we carried on on a sandy trail…
There were lots of birds to look at…
And colourful rocks…
And just over the dunes a lake…
And flat easy walking…
And the magic of this trail… Tracks of every kind…
And these two were looking at something as well…
Just over the dunes there is some coastal fynbos…
And a group of Eland.
All along the ocean crashing…
The walking never got harder than this…
A little further along… Bontebok…
We knew there were baboons nearby, we could hear them and there were plenty of footprints, but they stayed well away from us… and we didn’t actually see them…
We stopped for a rest and a picnic…
And further ambling down the beach…
To the finish… an easy and lovely afternoon’s walk, filled with animal tracking and spotting and not another person along the way… you really do feel like the only people in the world. The ocean crashes beside you the whole way and you do sense the wildness of the whole Atlantic landing smashing into the coast. This hike is a good mix of wild and yet achievable and is by far our favourite hike in Cape Point so far.
Other SAN PARKS Hiking Posts
Hiking in the Cape Peninsula
Cape Point and Outings with SAN Parks
Tags: Cape Town · Outings · Saturday Spot
September 7th, 2014 · 2 Comments
A Fabulous Fun Post… and Spring is in the air… though I suspect, not quite with us yet…
Heaps went on behind the scenes on our blog this week, lots of little upgrades, lots of fabulous impending posts and great giveaways are coming your way…
All our Homeschooling Posts have been updated in to one spot:
And all our Parenting Posts:
Here are some lovely links from this week:
- This Pizza Puzzle, on a Beautiful Mess, is just the best!!! And since you are looking at amazing and incredible creations take a look at The corner shop on Anorak Magazine this week.
- A BabyccinoKids Vacation Spot, generations old and built in Love… I think this vacation looks like the most fabulous holiday…
- When Kara Fleck writes about money matters, stop whatever you are doing and read it. This week on the Art of Simple, Kara Fleck on Money.
- Superb post on TeachMama: How to talk to kids about Instagram… Read this, it doesn’t just apply to instagram.
- I loved this two minute video on Connected Kingdom: Education is a Privilege not a burden.
- This post cannot pass you by: Shaun Groves Post: Five Responses to Extreme Poverty…
- Stuff for Kids:Have you heard of the Global Cardboard Challenge… or Make your Mark… if you are looking for a fun kiddable project then step right over. It’s almost Roald Dahl Day… you may want to check out the Puffin Blog:Willy Wonka’s Inventing Room….
And the se7en + 1th link:
- A Blast From the Past: And here are a couple of links to posts, this week, from previous years:
Remember we introduced the Fabulous Jeff and George to you… well it is time to announce our GiveAway Winner…
All the entries…
All shook up…
And picking and choosing…
And the winner is:
And the Winner is: Esda Aug 31, 2014 at 10:21 pm
I’m a true bookoholic and loves books. This is an awesome giveaway. The book and illustrations are gorgeous!
Congratulations to: Esda, expect an email from us shortly so that we can get your prizes to you as soon as possible.
We would love to thank Emily and Julia so very much for spending time with us and we would like to thank Penguin Books South Africa who provided us with two copies of the book, one for review purposes and the other for a giveAway. This is not a sponsored post, we were not paid to write the review and the opinions are as usual entirely our own.
That’s us… Hope your weekend is a fabulous one and we are so looking forward to another week of blogging with you all…
Tags: Fabulous Friday Fun · GiveAways and Swaps
It was one of those weeks were very little got done around here. While it is frustrating to get “nothing done” it was wonderful to conquer a heap of reading. Mountains of books have been read, recipes have been tried and tested and before we knew it the pile of review books was looking slightly under control again. So here you are some great books hot of the press:
A Recipe Book
Jamie’s Food Tube: The Family CookBook by KerryAnn Dunlop published by Penguin Books South Africa. I would pop this book onto the “Can’t Leave Home Without it Pile.” This is the recipe book for folk who want to be able to cook the basics without any airs and graces… good simple recipes and just the sort of meals that you wold expect to dart at home and if there is a twist, then it is a simple twist and one worth pursuing. It is not often that I get to review a cookbook and I don’t have to buy any extra ingredients… the only thing we didn’t have were red peppers… that folks is unheard of. Cook book reviewing inevitably finds you dashing about looking for obscure ingredients and trying desperately to figure out how to scale the recipe up for ten. This book is nothing like that… regular meals, regular ingredients and if it says it serves ten then it does.
This is also not a huge format, glossy hardback coffee table cookbook it is a practical softcover that survived two weeks of intense time and attention on our kitchen counter and still looks good to go many many more months of meals. The book is divided into easy access sections: breakfast, snacks, batch cooking, dinner dishes and sides. I was a little surprised there were no desserts, but there were a few sweet treats in the snack section. So what did we try: cheesy scrambled eggs, sweet eggy bread, jam tarts, roasted tomato soup, majestical mac ‘n cheese, pimped up baked beans, roast potatoes and honey and cumin roasted carrots. There are heaps of other easy and practical recipes that are on our list to eat later on in the month, chicken pie, lasagne, spaghetti and meatballs, lots of family favourites and comfort food. Written so that even the most domestically challenged couldn’t go wrong… this is a great “go to gift” for kids in the coming of age or leaving home book… a practical guide to many meals that everybody enjoys eating. Armed with this book you really could set up home.
This is a fairly small unassuming cookbook and it is absolutely packed with recipes that you can actually use, written by KerryAnn Dunlop, one of Jamie Oliver’s original Fifteen team. You can take a look at Kerry Ann Dunlop’s YouTube Channel over here to see her recipes in action.
Warsaw Boy by Andrew Borowiec is memoir, published by Penguin books. Andrew Borowiec was born in Poland in 1928, by the time he was eleven Britain and Poland were at war. This is the stark reality of his childhood, his life growing up and surviving. This is definitely the year for heaps of war stories to be published, if you are planning to read one then this is it. Apart from the fact that it is true, it is written from the heart. When he found himself in a prison of war camp, the Red Cross medics provided him with sheets of toilet paper to write on, he kept notes and journalings of his daily life… and so began his memoir more than half a century ago.
This book is not a collection of arbitrary memories popped together because one must, it is a well thought out plan, begun by a very young man. The book launches with a small boy playing with tin soldiers and takes us on a journey through a terribly difficult time in history. Not only does he write his story as the world around him cascades… but he comes of age, through incredible pain and hardship, tragedy in fact, will be found within the covers of this book. And yet true to life, there is humour and a warmth, not to mention an overpowering will to survive. This is a very real picture of a terrible war, as seen through the eyes of a child, while survivors are few and stories change over time… this story hasn’t… his notes kept him closer to the truth than faded memories.
This is one of those books that you will read and then have to pause and absorb before carrying on, but you also cannot put it down… you have to read this book through. This is an adult read, it steps back in time and very clearly shows you a crazy world of war and all that goes with that, as seen through the eyes of a child. This is an excellent read, I would put this on one of my must read list for this year.
The Long Ride Home by and published by Penguin Books South Africa. This book is about Rowan, who has lived an incredible life and done incredible things and yet he is so young and yet he is autistic. His parents thought he was unreachable, and saw their hopes and dreams for their son slip away. A chance meeting with the neighbours horses and a discovery that while Rowan is in the presence of the horses he makes amazing leaps and bounds from being unable to communicate at all, to conversations. This book is the story of a family’s journey as they seek spiritual healers around the world, to help them reach the heart and soul of their son. I found the parents confidence and absolute belief in what they were doing quite different to most parents, “we’ll do our best and see how it turns out” attitude. They have to succeed, there is everything at stake, not least their relationship with their son.
Their journeys take them to Mongolia, Namibia, Australia and to the Arizona… When I saw this book, I think I may have had a somewhat romantic idea that it would be the true story of a brave family on an epic adventure. It is that, but lose the romance… life is hard at the best of times and for this small family unit and especially for Rowan, life is very hard. This book is a difficult read… the emotional ups and downs will get to you. In fact I haven’t finished it… I had to take a breather from it. The harsh realities between these pages were in places hard to stand and I may never finish it. So why would I blog about a book that I didn’t love, because I know that I have followers who would find this book intriguing… This is a true-to life, the nitty gritty look at reality, a story that should be told but be prepared for an emotional roller coaster. You can read about more about this book in the Telegraph.
A Teen Read
Eoin Colfer W.A.R.P. The Hangman’s Revolution published by Penguin Books South Africa: Well you just can’t go wrong with Eoin Colfer… and WARP is his latest offering to the pile of adventurous teen reads. W.A.R.P. stands for Witness Anonymous Relocation Programme and the second in a fast paced time traveling series. The Hangman’s Revolution sees F.B.I. Special Agent Chevie Savano return to present day London, from the Victorian Era, only to find that Europe is run by by the Boxites, a Fascist group. In some places the plot is confusing but all is revealed as Chevie’s memory returns in fits and starts. Once again, Eoin Colfer packs in gadgets, a desperate race against time, larger than life characters and a wicked sense of humour. Another great read and a series worth pursuing.
All four books reviewed in this post were given to us by Penguin Books South Africa for review purposes. We were not paid to write these reviews and as usual the opinions expressed were entirely our own.
Tags: Brilliant Books
September 4th, 2014 · 8 Comments
And just like that we made it to week eighteen and we are half way through our scheduled school year. And just like that the weather cleared overnight and we could feel the Spring in the air… and we celebrated by collapsing in heaps with coughs and splutters and fevers. So a much slower week than I thought possible, and not a whole lot of work of any kind. Tradition has it that at this stage I post about all the things that have worked for school this year, and lessons learnt so far this year…
Se7en + 1 Life Lessons Learnt in School This Year
- Life Lesson: It is Not Easy to Admit That You Have Made a Mistake. We actually have begun almost every school day with some mental math, miraculous I know. I know the initial purpose was to get mentally fit. Turns out it is not about the math at all. The biggest lesson of all has been admitting to making mistakes. I could have checked their work for them, but I chose not too. I know one or two of our students really do not like to mark their work wrong, even when it is glaringly obviously incorrect. Now my kids would be the first to say that mistakes are meant to be learnt from, but in practice it has taken a while for them to mark a problem incorrect. A hard lesson, I know… but it is so much easier to help the student who admits an error and asks for help than the student who says “everything is fine.”
- Life Lesson: Perseverance to the End, Cannot be Learnt in a Book. You would think that this lesson would be learnt by pouring over a difficult problem until it was solved. But no, it appears that some lessons really are best learnt in the great outdoors. My kids have got in to the habit of excusing themselves from work that is tricky, it is an art form. Now when you are out hiking and you know the game park gates shut at sunset and you have to be out or else… you cannot sit in a shady spot and hope that this “the immediate problem of the next hill” can wait until you are fresh in the morning. You have to keep going, you have to press on, no matter how much you want to call it a day. you have to finish and every time they do… they are so much more confident about finishing the next time they head out.
- Life Lesson: Comprehension Skills are Well Worth Fostering: While some of our students are very good readers, others are less so. Good reading skills or not, it was becoming glaringly obvious that certain lessons were flying past way too fast for them to be comprehending much at all. The question was how to get them to slow down… I needed everyone on the same level for this and so picked up some books from the library on topics that were totally not our typical topics. Our library has a heap of school text books, they full of assumptions and bias, but also large chunks of interesting facts to filter. I chose textbooks because one day, it is not unlikely that they might want to study at college, they are going to have to use textbooks and they need to get a little familiar with the format… and the fact that they need to concentrate on what they are reading in order to actually glean the information they are after. We started with tourism and then consumerism. We have been “touring” Southern Africa one country at a time form a tour guides perspective (a different perspective to a geography book by far) and we are all better equipped consumers… who knew how many rules had been written to protect consumers of clothes, food, property and even appliances. Let’s face it all good stuff to know.
- Life Lesson: Work Doesn’t Just Happen When you Get Around to it… You Actually Have to Schedule it. A number of our students beat to a very different drum and the expected school versus the passion that they are currently pursuing may be more than a few miles apart. That being said… it is quite ridiculous to nag your high school student to finish their language arts assignment of 250 words, when in actual fact they are writing an epic book and ten thousand pages later and an entire wall of their room devoted to the plot outline. I understand discipline, and students must complete what is set out for them on a particular day… but I gave the students who wanted to break free the opportunity to follow their own schedule, at their own pace. They weren’t terribly successful at sticking to their carefully devised schedules. However, they did get masses of work done and they did over achieve in the stuff that has nothing to do with school and everything to do with learning. I did not hold them back, I want them to be working on the things of their future, but I also wanted them to know that they need to spend a lot more time being intentional about those pesky schedules. There is plenty of time yet this year to gather any work that may have fallen by the way… sometimes it is good to take the time to make a few mistakes, let them happen. It is a semester of school and calendar planning, not their whole lives at stake here.
- Life Lesson: We Can Only Want to be Skilled, When we have an Idea What the Skill is. Some passions start young, and others emerge. Right now our six year old is passionate about writing books and has created a shoe box full in the last month. I am not about to stop her to check if she can parse a sentence, or bother about spelling at all. As all our students are getting better at writing… and astonishingly enough a little bit every day really does help them to improve, so their spelling has improved dramatically. Nothing surprised me more than the other day they asked if we could add spelling to our mental math time every day. I have never bothered with spelling for extended periods of time before… but now that they have discovered that it is a skill they can learn, they want to do better at it. In the pursuit of improving their writing skills, and a little sibling competition, spelling will be back on the menu.
- Life Lesson: It is Not About being Fluent, it is about Communicating. Here is one for the books, I grew up speaking two languages, like most South Africans and crawled through a third at school, I remember not a lot of it, and loved learning a fourth at university… but for some reason we just never got round to learning another language in our homeschool. When my kids get to high school, they start learning French from a teacher up the road and they love it. But this year we kept bumping into folk who were fluent in another language and my kids found they were always on the back foot… and so we starting learning away, it has been ridiculously easy. Just getting “first 1000 word” type books from the library and listening to stories and singing songs, they have learnt a remarkable amount in this short time. It is encouraging, everyone is keen to learn a smattering of another language next year… yup they are thinking that far ahead already. A language a year… I’m in for a very linguistic ride… I can tell.
- Life Lesson: It is All About Taking Part: One thing about most kids is that they are opinionated… this year I have let my kids voice their opinions more than ever. If they feel strongly about something, say dirty beaches, or Lego drilling in the Arctic… or even that all children should have a book to read at bedtime. Then I am all for them not just writing letters, but doing something. Yes it does mean some very early Saturday morning beach clean ups, and asking all your friends to gather books for a library, and yes it does mean sometimes having to put your neck out and say something. But if they feel strongly enough about a cause, and often kids do, then I want them to know that they don’t have to wait until they are adults to do something. Now is the time to do what needs to be done. As a family we will back each other and help each other to pursue each other’s causes.
And the se7en + 1th…
- Life Lesson: To Work as a Team, to Make Shared Memories, Requires Endless Hours, Busy Hours and Lazy Hours… Together. I firmly believe that shared experience and memories made together will tie our kids tighter together than anything else, and stand them in good stead for any life experience that that is thrown at them once they finish school. In the last eighteen weeks our kids have spent a number of hours together. Family school all together in the morning and reading aloud is taking precedence over most other ways of learning over here… and for light relief our most popular extra-mural by far has been hiking. They are learning to depend on each other and work as a team, through thick and thin… trust me, figuring out how to cross a knee deep swamp on a cold rainy afternoon, or get your mother person over a five-story high sand dune is enough to teach the most individualistic members of our gang, how to work in a team.
That’s us… I can’t believe half a school year has passed so fast… astonishingly nor can our kids. In a crazy moment I asked them if they wanted to take a break and catch their breath, there was a resounding, “no…” They are enjoying it too much. That in itself is a big relief when you are their teacher.
Tags: Se7en at School
Welcome to September…
Click on the calendar page, it will open in a new tab, print it out and then colour it and fill in the days that you want to celebrate… pop it on the fridge and you are good to go. You can still find all the calendar pages down the right hand side of our website and they are all gathered together in our Almanac page for easy searching… If you have holidays or ideas that you would like to add then please go ahead and comment, I would love to have our calendars packed to the brim!!!
- 1 September:
- 1 September: Labor Day (U.S.A.)
- 2 September: Great Fire of London (1666)
- 3 September: Sky Scraper Day.
- 4 September 2013: Rosh Hashanah Begins at Sundown.
- 5 September: National Cheese Pizza Day.
- 6 September: Read a Book Day.
- 7 September 1533: Queen Elizabeth 1 (1533 – 1603)
- 8 September: International Literacy Day
- 8 September: Magellan Set Sail For First Voyage Round the World (1519).
- 9 September: Chrysanthemum Day (Japan).
- 9 September: Teddy Bear Day.
- 10 September: Elias Howe Patented the Sewing Machine (1846).
- 11 September: Patriot Day (U.S.A.)
- 12 September: Chocolate Milkshake Day.
- 12 September 1940: Lascaux Cave Paintings Discovered.
- 13 September: National GrandParents Day (U.S.A.).
- 13 September: International Chocolate Day.
- 13 September: Roald Dahl’s Birthday (1916-1990).
- 14 September: Star Spangled Banner Composed (1814).
- 15 September: Alexander Fleming Discovered Penicillin (1928).
- 15 September: Agatha Christies Birthday (1890).
- 15 September: Make a Hat Day.
- 15 September: Choose Your Favorite Color Day.
- 16 September: National Play Do Day (U.S.A.).
- 16 September: Collect Rocks Day.
- 16 September: International Day of the Preservation of The Ozone Layer.
- 18 September: First Edition of the NY Times Published (1851).
- 18 September: Lance Armstrong’s Birthday (1971).
- 19 September: Talk Like a Pirate Day.
- 21 September: International Day of Peace.
- 22 September: Elephant Appreciation Day.
- 22 September 2010: World Car Free Day.
- 22 September: Band Aid Invented (1920).
- 23 September: Hokusai, Japanese Artist (1760 – 1849.)
- 24 September: Jim Henson’s Birthday (1936 – 1990).
- 24 September: National Punctuation Day (U.S.A.).
- 24 September: Heritage Day South Africa/National Braai Day.
- 24 September: Christopher Reeves Birthday (1952 – 2004).
- 25 September: Native American Day.
- 25 September: Shel Silverstein born (1930).
- 26 September: Johnny Appleseed’s Birthday (1774 – 1845).
- 27 September: Crush a Can Day.
- 27 September 1822: Rosetta Stone Deciphered.
- 28 September 2009: Tomato Proven Safe 1820.
- 28 September 2009: Caravaggio born (1573 – 1610)
- 29 September 2009: William the Conqueror invaded England in 1066.
- 29 September 2009: Scotland Yard formed (1829).
- 30 September 2009: International Translation Day.
Tags: Celebrity Calendar