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

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Introducing Kids’ Snakes of Southern Africa, and an Author Interview…

September 17th, 2018 · 2 Comments

A couple of weeks back I started writing a post a week about books that would have a special interest to South African children. This was in response to a couple of homeschool moms who were looking for great books to read to their kids in the South African context. I always encourage folk to begin by looking at nature inspired books, because kids love nature and their fascinating facts are written in bite sizes, making them easily accessible for young folk to glean. This week we are bringing you the newly released book: Kids’ Snakes of South Africa, by Johan Marais.

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Let’s Meet the Book: Kids’ Snakes of Southern Africa

A couple of my kids are crazy about snakes and when they met Johan Marais at a Struik Nature event a while back, it just fed their enthusiasm to learn more. But there has not been a lot of information, specifically geared towards children, up until now. The new Kids’ Snakes of Southern Africa is a fantastic resource that we highly recommend for nature loving kids and their parents. I was just intrigued in this book as the kids were, and we spent hours saying, “Did you know…?” As we paged our way through it.

The most striking feature of this book is that it is absolutely packed with fantastic photographs. On every page there is lots of information, presented in a way that even though most reluctant reader would find easy to glean.
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The book begins with an introduction to snakes… their senses, the way they move, what they eat and all sorts of special features. The book then goes on to describe close to forty snakes that we find locally, in double page spreads. The name of the snake is in English, Afrikaans, Xhosa and Zulu. There is a “dangerous scale” for each snake, varying from harmless to extremely dangerous, there is a location map and a height chart, and don’t forget all the facts, special features and plenty of full colour photographs.

Let’s Meet the Author, Johan Marais

Johan Marais is the leading training provider of snake awareness and venomous snake handling courses in Africa and the largest supplier of quality snake handling equipment on the continent.

Se7en Questions We Asked Johan Marais

  1. Did you always know you would want to work with snakes?
  2. Sort of – caught my first snake at the age of twelve but got little encouragement from my family. Had a to witness a lot of snakes being killed as a kid.

  3. Can you tell us about your favourite snake encounter?
  4. I have been fortunate in that I have travelled to many countries and have had a lot of snake encounters. Catching my first big Black Mamba at a very young age was memorable – a beautiful snake but extremely venomous. It was removed from people’s property in Durban and I had to contend with two guys with loaded shotguns behind me – just in case it escaped.


  5. What does your perfect work day look like?
  6. Most days are really busy, working on more books, doing some snake photography or working on some of the research projects that I am busy with. The perfect day – walking in the field in Namaqualand near Sringbok observing reptiles and photographing them.

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  7. Do you have pet snakes or do you think snakes should be free?
  8. I do not have pet snakes and do not have a problem with people keeping them – as long as they are well cared for.

  9. How would you encourage a young person, who wanted to work with snakes one day?
  10. Buy books, read about them and learn as much as possible. And work hard at school – you need good math marks to get into a decent university program.

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  11. Often people are very frightened of snakes, what can you say to help them overcome their fear?
  12. Most fears are because of misinformation or a lack of knowledge. Read as much as possible about snakes, their behaviour and biology and once you understand them better the irrational part of your fear is something of the past.

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  13. As a snake ambassador, who speaks on behalf of snakes, what is one thing you would like to tell people that would make the world a better place for snakes.
  14. Please do not kill snakes. We have a free App that lists snake removers country wide – go to your cell phone store and download ASI Snakes.

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    As well as the free app, The African Snake Bite Institute is a fabulous resource, with masses of information and plenty of informative snake posters that you can download for free, as well as lists of contact numbers for snake emergencies.
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    This book is available in English and Afrikaans, and for our overseas readers I have added an (affiliate) Amazon link in the image below:

    Many thanks to Johan Marais for the interview and Penguin Random House South Africa, Struik Nature. This is not a sponsored post and opinions expressed are entirely our own.

→ 2 CommentsTags: Brilliant Books

Se7en Conversations With Green Living Ambassadors for Coastal Cleanup Day…

September 16th, 2018 · No Comments

Today was International Coastal Clean-up Day and I can’t let it pass without a blog post. After years of beach cleanups as a family, we have come to realise that there is much more to beach cleanups than gathering bags of rubbish along our coastline. What began as an idle gathering of garbage along the beaches that we hiked along, have become part of every visit to the beach… we have to believe that every little bit counts, and so we continue to make the effort. The plastic pollution problem needs to be tackled urgently, and we cannot just be doing beach cleanups, we need to approach this problem at the source as well. We all need to be tending to a plastic free lifestyle. It isn’t impossible, we can do without plastic… and certainly our ocean will thank us when we wake up and start taking this problem seriously.


Every year we try to get rid of one more area of plastic in our home, particularly single use plastic. Plastic shopping bags have gone, plastic containers are not replaced, plastic wrap has been gone for about a year now. Our next big step is to just not buy products that are served in plastic. And that is a hard one… we have stopped buying bread that comes in plastic, vegetables can be bought plastic free if you look around, but a lot of our everyday products are sold wrapped in plastic and it is time to make some significant decisions. I was inspired by a recent event at the Two Oceans Aquarium… as consumers we can and should make “plastic free” choices. #PlasticFreeJuly is all about establishing new habits that we can maintain. The Two Oceans Aquarium have been blogging their #PlasticFreeJuly for years now and they just up their game and up their game some more each year. This year they had a function to close out the month and they invited se7en inspirational speakers… to talk about their plastic free journey. I thought I would write about them and give you links to follow them as well…


Se7en Green Living Inspirational Talks

The reason for this function was really quite simple, as a nation, we are quite literally addicted to plastic… gulp. I know that is a huge generalisation, but the numbers are telling. 70% of our landfill waste is #singleuseplastic, and South Africa is one of the highest ranked users of #singleuseplastic in the world. In fact, we are ranked as the 11th highest country in the world when ranked by mass of mismanaged plastic waste. We consume 2kg of single use plastic per person per day… How even? I can’t imagine using this much plastic… but I am guessing that there are some heavy heavy users of plastic that are averaging out the balance for those of us who are really trying to live plastic free.


1. Lisa from @theBeachCo_Op:

We clean beaches with the Beach Co-Op every month, we love them because of their ethos, first you learn to love the ocean and then you learn to look after it. Our favourite way to start a day is to head down to Surfer’s Corner and look at all the magical sea-life, and then clean up the area around all the sea creatures. Lisa, representing our friends from the Beach Co-Op, is an inspiration to all for cleaning up our beach environment and has been instrumental in sharing life in Tidal Pools with us.

Three Things She Said:

  1. The Beach Co-Op is instrumental in a number of beach cleanups every month using the Dirty Dozen methodology. The top 12 types of garbage that we find on our beaches are counted and documented as they are collected. The state of our environment reflects damage to our bodies as well.
  2. We need to change the way we consume our single use plastics, there needs to be better communication and awareness at a design level of our products. The tourism and hospitality industry needs to rethink their approach to representing greener choices.
  3. We can empower coastal communities to look after their own tidal pools and marine animals. The greatest danger to our planet is thinking that someone else will fix it.


2. Kim, founder of #icarrymyown @Ultramamact

We live in a wasteful culture, where we choose our own goals over the environment. Almost every single road race uses plastic sachets, to provide water to their runners. In an ultra-marathon they may schedule 100 water sachets for each runner… if 25 thousand runners run one of our big local races… that is a lot of plastic sachets to collect up. I have to say, I have never thought about it until I entered my first road race recently an I was appalled to see how many runners think they are helping the clean up crew by throwing their sachets into the drains at the side of the road… folks, all those plastic sachets don’t secretly get collected by a the city council’s special plastic crew, they just get washed straight into the ocean, along with all the other litter that Cape Town collects.

Three Things She Said:

  1. Some races are plastic free, but runners are resistant to change. Studies have shown that 40% of runners would make the change if rehydration tables were available.
  2. Fewer water tables, every 5km instead of 3km, already makes a difference. Smaller races need to apply the rules… if you litter you should be disqualified.
  3. Hydration tables are an option, where you can refill your 500ml water bottle in 3 seconds; or use a bank bag.


3. Mandy, an environmental activist and industrial CEO, from @polyco_sa

From a plastic packaging company, this was a really interesting talk… their industry needs to come up with real purpose driven solutions, as consumers make more informed greener living solutions.

Three Things She Said:

  1. 80% of our marine pollution originates on land, because people litter. We need intensive education programmes that will encourage people to part with their trash in a responsible manner: solutions have to be convenient, have a workable infrastructure and insentivise the public.
  2. They came up with Packa-Ching: A community project, where locals can bring their recycling to a trailer, their trash is weighed and measured and members receive cash on a bank card that they can use immediately. A swapping trash for cash system, where 1 trailer can collect a million kg of waste in a year.
  3. Plastics have a place in our lives, but not in our environment. We need to design for recycling…


4. Hayley, The Environmental Campaigner for The @TwoOceansAquarium and founder of #Rethinkthebag

Three Things She Said:

  1. 8 Billion single use shopping bags are used in South Africa each year… we have a relationship with our single use plastic, and it is not a good one.
  2. 96% of our plastic shopping bags end up in the landfill. We could all feel slightly better about it, because we pay a levy towards potential projects when we buy our plastic bags. Only, 1 billion Rand went “missing” from the plastic bad levy fund.
  3. Choose to refuse, you can break the “You must have a plastic bag for that” rules and simply say No. We would never think to go shopping without our wallet, we need to just learn to go shopping with our shopping bags as well.


5. Blake, basically Superman, @blake_dyason #loveyourtrails

Three Things He Said:

  1. People’s behaviour is starting to change… it took a while for beach cleanups to gain traction, but he recently was part of Africa’s biggest cleanup. There is a new generation rising up, and they are demanding change.
  2. The capitalist business model doesn’t work, we need communities to get motivated, government will only react when they have to. Responsibility pyramids work, for instance with Africa’s biggest cleanup, every store manager for Shoprite was responsible for their own cleanup, resulting in a mass action.
  3. Privileged enough to make the right choice. Stop buying products with single use plastic.


6. Robin Founder and CEO of @Faithful to Nature

We shop a lot at Faithful to Nature, they are our go to, online store for green living. Part of why we choose to shop there is that products are shipped overnight, with no plastic packaging. Otherwise we have found their customer service to be exceptional, they really do go the extra mile.
Ten Things She Said:

  1. The ocean offers every second breath we take… Let’s talk trash and make reusable s.exy.
  2. Find alternative products and green shops, and here is a nifty guide to green shopping around Cape Town, right now, For example, Shop Zero and Nude Foods. And obviously, you can get all your green shopping done at Faithful to Nature and make use of their search filters: Cruelty free, vegan, plastic free and so on.
  3. Shop in bulk because more product per bag means less plastic.
  4. Make your own products…
  5. Shop at markets…
  6. Grow your own… Herbs, spinach, tomatoes, orange and lemon trees.
  7. Make eco-bricks – stops degredation of plastic
  8. Think plastic free. Use glass and reuse the plastic you have. Have daily beach cleanups.
  9. Follow plastic free heroes on Instagram.
  10. Follow your joy… Save cash, spend time, eat better, living creatively, kids are enlightened and educated.


7. Marike and Magriet @Plantasticsa

Make cord stitch plantangles, from plastic shopping bags found all over the world. Each plantangle has a story and you can read them on their website here. 920 bags from 11 countries and five continents have become 400 plantangles. Humble beginnings, I think not (!) and making a difference. 60% of their sales goes back into the Turtle Rehabilitation Programme at the Two Oceans Aquarium and so far they have raised 5-6 hatchlings.


Plastic Free July, The Panel

Solutions to Questions Folk Asked the Panel:

  1. To design for recycling, means to consider, for example the labelling on packaging. A Plastic container is 100% recyclable, until you paint a label on it.
  2. Just stop buying products with single use plastic. Consumers have the loudest voice.
  3. Plastic packaging production has exploded at a rate of 400% a year, they really have to start making sure that their products are the ones that people want to buy.
  4. Industry has to change and not be afraid that they will lose their profits if they switch to recyclable profits.
  5. If you want to see change then be the cool person to follow.
  6. Suppliers want to fall under the #plasticfreetag at Faithful to Nature, insist on full ingredient lists, so that everything is transparent… right down to the plastic in your teabag.
  7. Big Industry can take critical action… Petco aims to recycle 70-75% of its plastic bottles in the next five years. That’s local consumption and they are able to track where their bottles are going.
  8. Insist on banning box bands, and plastic wrap at other shipping companies.
  9. One particular big brand kept coming up, Woolworths claiming to be green and yet so many of their products, that are totally “over packaged” and wrapped in non-recyclable plastic… don’t fuss about it, just don’t buy it.
  10. This seems to be the sweet season, big business are getting on board and trying to change… a lot of stores have banned the plastic shopping bag completely and others are replacing them with greener options.
  11. Fourteen other countries in Africa have banned plastic shopping bags, there is no reason why we can’t do the same… that’s at a government level and it could happen.

Huge thank you to the Two Oceans Aquarium for the invitation to their fabulous #PlasticFreeJuly Event. This is not a sponsored post and all opinions expressed are entirely my own.

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Se7en Things Homeschool Moms Can Just Let Go Of…

September 13th, 2018 · 6 Comments

For the month of September we are writing a series of Homeschool Posts… the nitty gritty kind of homeschool posts for mom who feel like they have been homeschooling forever and still have a long way to go… I know “all” the homeschools in the world look so much more wonderful than your own homeschool, just a quick peek at instagram and you might have this idea that a homeschool is where small children sit around listening to classical music and producing wonderful works of art, while teenagers collapse on couches and research a cure for liver disease. A big part of the homeschool image is a collection of perfect parents providing perfect environments for their children to learn and grow in… the truth is a little closer to moms trying to just keep up with school management, home management and life management…. It isn’t as easy as it looks, but I firmly believe it needn’t be nearly as hard we make it out to be either. Start by losing a little bit of the quest for perfection and enjoying the resources you have available to you…


Se7en Ways To Stay Sane While Homeschooling…

It is very easy to wear yourself out with homeschooling… literally wear yourself out. Don’t do it… your children won’t thank you and you won’t be giving them the fantastic education that you were dreaming of, because you will simply be too tired to do your best. Instead you will be providing a shadow of yourself and no one will be winning.

  1. Stop Staying Up All Night Preparing: If school prep is keeping you up all night and you can’t stop yourself from searching the web for wonderful ideas to supplement the already fantastic curriculum, that you are using. Just give it up. There is really no need to do hours of preparation, the joy of homeschooling is that you can learn alongside your children. If you have a fairly tight curriculum, then most likely everything you need will be provided with it; and if you are more flexible… then gather your resources together. For example, head for the library, read your own book on the floor next to the shelf on dinosaurs… they will discover things quite happily without having to create plasticine dioramas or life-size cardboard cutouts. Learn alongside your kids, make the preparations part of what you are doing together… your children can most likely get the watercolours out and find their own nature notebooks and you could go to bed a little earlier.
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  3. Stop Looking for More… and More: Your child/children are most likely doing enough. Stop looking for more… stop trying to peak their interest. If you have a math program, stick with it and don’t start another one simultaneously for extra practice… one thing at a time is enough. Children need to discover their own interests and the things that intrigue them. Reading a double page spread on vikings, with your small children is quite enough to spark their interest and inspire hours and hours of play. Find a viking story to read and your job is done… leave the rest to them. Your children do not need hours and hours of supplemental worksheets, no matter how beautiful the worksheets are… they do not need to spend hours learning how to spell Scandinavia or recreate a viking dinner from vegetables grown in your back yard. Read a story and make yourself a cup of tea, provide a cardboard box to make a viking ship and leave them to it.
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  5. Stop Demanding That They Do Their School Work: Children will rise at dawn and settle down to work through their piles of work for the day… said no homeschool mom ever. That being said, their school is their school and their responsibility. Just as you expect your child to fasten their seatbelt when they get into the car, and you check that they have before you drive off… so you expect them to do the school work you have asked them to do and it is your job to check that they do that. You don’t have to do their work for them… how ridiculous is that, when you homeschool and no one is even checking to see if your child can build a trebuchet out of hand made spaghetti. It is very tempting to do their work, or drill things that they should learn… but don’t do it. It will lead you to a state of nagging collapse and your kids will have missed the point of the assignment, which is to learn how to work.
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  7. Stop Going the VERY EXTRA Mile, ALL the TIME: A lot of the magic of childhood is because it just happens, you don’t have to keep on creating it. Your children will create their own magic. A family read-a-loud can just be a great read that you enjoy at the dinner table over a period of two weeks… it doesn’t have to be a recreated feast in full dress-up, a pile of related reference books and all the associated activities. For example Little House on the Prairie is an amazing book to listen to, but you don’t have to drive on a horse drawn wagon through the woods to pick apples and spend a month making ten varieties of apple pie, so that there is always a pleasant snack available while you are reading… you can actually get the audible, (the Cherry Jones version is fantastic), and listen to it together while you are cooking supper. There is nothing wrong with doing “Extra”… but that “extra” that leaves you exhausted and hating the entire series of books because nobody actually wanted to wear a starched bonnet for the activity… is not actually “extra”… it is just too much.
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  9. Stop Doing All the Jobs So That Your Kids Can Have More Time For School: I firmly believe that children need to do jobs, not just to learn how to do jobs, but so that they know that they are an important part of your home. You don’t need chore charts, I am useless at them anyway. You do need clear expectations… if you give a child a task, make sure that they are absolutely sure that they know what they expect. If your kids are not sure what you expect when you say clean up from dinner… trust me they are not going to wipe the counters, or sweep the floor, they may just put the dishwasher on, but then you may need to tell them to put ALL the dishes into it first. The point is… clear expectations are a great way to lessen your load. And when you have left them, turn AWAY…
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  11. Stop Being Their Teacher All the Time and Just Be Yourself: your kids need to see you doing the things that you love doing in order to grow up and be the person they are meant to be… they need a good example of great adults, not someone to exhausted to read a book for pleasure, to tired to enjoy watching a movie of their choice. Go on an outing and enjoy it… if you want to spend the afternoon creating something, or decorating something… thats okay, it isn’t frivolous, just because it isn’t a school project doesn’t mean that you can’t enjoy it.
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  13. Stop Frowning: I know… it seems silly, but it isn’t… we forget to smile and smiling makes everyone feel better. We get so busy going from laundry to second grade math, to making lunch, to high school chemistry and back again… we can quite forget to smile. I want my kids to remember a happy laughing mom, not a grumpy grouchy mom.
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  15. STOP… JUST STOP: It is completely okay to say, “I just can’t go on.” It is okay to take a break… homeschool moms cannot typically get the day off… they go straight from schooling their kids to parenting and switch in and out of those roles all day long… it is exhausting. There are no sick days, no bank holidays… because those are really just days to catch up on housework that you can never get done because you are always busy with school. Take a break… the house will not fall apart and your kids will still grow up educated. The break you take today may actually be the one thing that sparks your children to explore their own resources and discover the thing that will turn them into well adjusted adults. Trust me, your kids would probably love the opportunity to make lunch while you put your feet up on the couch… turn a blind eye to the mess for just one day and get the rest you need.

If I had to give you one tip as to how to be everything to your kids as their homeschooling mom, then I would have to say… just be you. Your kids want to hang out with you, they want to know their mom and spend time with her. They don’t want the perfect educator, who knows latin declensions or double integration… all that they can look up in a book when they need it… but they will never get this time with you back again. Homeschooling is a massive gift of time to your children… they will most likely never appreciate it when they are kids. That’s fine. Give it willingly and enthusiastically, but don’t give it until you have absolutely nothing left to give. Trust me, they don’t want to spend time with their mother, the wreck. Invest time in your health: get the sleep you need, go to bed early with your kids if need be. There are definitely seasons when the absolute minimum time spent devoted to school is essential to a mother’s health and the season will change, there will be other seasons. Stop worrying about what the world thinks homeschool moms should be, or what your homeschool should look like on instagram. Just be yourself, do the school you need to do with your kids… that might mean putting on a parade for all the world to see… or it might mean reading through a series on the couch for days… whatever it means… just be your authentic self.


→ 6 CommentsTags: Homeschooling

A Jacana Book Review: The Rhino Revolution…

September 11th, 2018 · No Comments

I have been reviewing a South African book each week for the last couple of weeks, as we head towards Heritage Day at the end of September, it makes sense to take a look at the fabulous work our local publishers have to offer. September 22 is World Rhino Day… a day that all over the world we collectively put our nature loving hearts on the line and gasp at the plight of rhinos. Like environmentalists everywhere we feel for the rhino, they are a symbol of a situation that feels way out of control. The rhino is an icon of African wildlife and what happens to the rhino is a reflection of what happens to wildlife in general. We want to save rhinos, we desperately want them to survive and we want our children’s children to see them. Hay, I would love my own children to see a rhino… but there are times when I could lose hope.


Environmentally speaking it is definitely the season of optimistic change. Plastic Free July and every little bit of habit changing helps. Arbour day last week and trees have been planted. A critical water crisis and folk all over our city were able to pull together and save water. And then there is Rhino Day. For all the awareness campaigns, and there have been tons of them. I can’t think of any folk that haven’t heard of “Save the Rhinos” and yet… the rhino continues to be in trouble.

To this end I have been reading the book, Rhino Revolution by the Clive and Anton Walker, it is the story of the Rhino crisis. I have been reading this book for months, it wasn’t an easy read… a bit of a one step forward, two steps back… as progress is made, so ground is lost. The war between ill-equipped rangers and overzealous poachers, that is fought in board rooms around the world… seems destined to end in disaster. In fact, the one positive takeaway from the book is this: As soon as the rhino is valued more while it is alive, than when it is dead, the war will be over. Rhino Revolution takes a critical look at rhino management so far and tries to find solutions in the maze of infrastructure that appears to control things, where control is not necessarily in the hands of those who should have it.

The book begins with the story of the Rhino wars, battle after battle and failure after failure, at a government level. Poorly managed parks, poorly managed conservation efforts and under resourced teams gave poachers the upper hand at th get go. No amount of public awareness can conquer the level of greed and the fight for power at this level… but as one perseveres through the book so one learns more and more about the people that are committed, laying their lives on the line to provide the rhinos with a viable future. Studying them, living alongside them and recognising the needs of the rhino.

Chapter Five: Monitoring the Black Rhino, was my favourite… as a life long learner I really enjoyed getting to know aspects of the rhino, viewed through the lens of folk with hands on experience.

Our relationships with rhinos is more complicated than one might have imagined, and the demise of rhinos would not only leave a gap in our hearts, but millions of people across the African continent would lose their livelihood in the tourism industry as well. This book will leave you thinking about solutions long after you have finished reading it. The book is absolutely packed with incredible photography and wildlife wisdom. If you have a passion for wildlife and the environment at large then you would love this wonderfully giftable book. While it doesn’t end on a truly optimistic note, as we would all like it to end, it also doesn’t end in complete despair either.
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Many thanks to Jacana Media for a copy of this book, for review purposes. This is not a sponsored post and this opinions expressed are entirely my own.

→ No CommentsTags: Brilliant Books

Se7en Lessons I Have Learned About Homeschooling…

September 6th, 2018 · 6 Comments

September is Back to School Month all over the world… except in South African schools where most students are three quarters of the way through their school year and most parents are in the gasp, “Can you just get me to the end of this year stage.” I thought I would write a pick me up school series for the month of September.

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It feels like we have been homeschooling forever, because in fact we have. And yet, because I am a firm believer in trying new things, it never gets lame. I do see the end in sight as our younger kids race through our Sonlight bookshelves, but we still have a fair number of years to go and lots to learn. I feel like we are in the sweet spot of homeschooling, I am more than half way through our homeschooling journey with less than nine years to go. Two of our kids have graduated from school and we have six more kids to go.

The greatest thing about homeschooling over many years is that experience is a great teacher. I no longer panic about extra-murals, or if my children are learning enough. I no longer worry that if they don’t do maths for a week or a month or even six months, will they be able to get a job when they finish school, or not? There is plenty of living maths and they will get round to it when they need it. The things I do worry about are if they are getting enough sleep and if they are driving carefully, especially with other drivers on the road. I worry that they are spending enough time hanging out with their friends… because friends are important for your soul, and I worry that they will eventually launch out of their teenage fog into great and hard working adults, whatever work they end up doing.

Se7en Lessons I Have Learned About Homeschooling So Far.

  1. Experience Tells Me That our Kids Don’t Think of School Time as Quality Time: You may think you are spending one on one time with your kids, and the entire morning at the kitchen table with them every single day, but something I recently discovered is that my kids don’t consider school time as time with me. So at the end of our school day when I am thinking, shew… time to do my own thing, they are thinking… time to spend some time with their mother person. I do get round this by being very careful about what I call school… for example we think of hiking as time spent exploring and beach cleanups and part of a life lived on the beach, whereas I could put those on the curriculum as a school activity, like P.E. or Nature Study. Similarly, when everyone reads after lunch, I make sure to call it free reading and I make sure that I am reading my own book myself then. If this were called school reading, while everyone was tumbled on the couch… then it would only count as school time. Instead it counts as hanging out together time.
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  3. Experience Tells Me That You Probably Already Have All the Materials You Actually Need: Really you can stop looking around for exciting new curricula, and new things to try… if you have homeschooled for even the shortest time then you already know some things work and somethings don’t… Embrace the things that work and let the rest go. Just let it go. If you have a resource that you plan to use for school, but you didn’t use it last year, or even the year before that… chances are that you aren’t going to suddenly use it now… or even ever. Yes, we occasionally buy a couple of new things to inspire us and motivate us to try new things… but I am not on a constant and stressful hunt to find a better language arts program, or a superior maths program. The program you have is most likely quite sufficient, remember the reason you bought it and then enjoy it.
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  5. Experience Tells Me That Not Everything has to be Written in A Journal for it to Count: A whole lot of school can happen around the table and chatting. It doesn’t have to be “officially memorised” or ticked off on a chart or even turned into a presentation. Learning is learning, however it happens: A day spent playing games, or listening to a fantastic audible book, playing on the beach whatever the weather and sorting the recycling are ALL valid learning and our kids are totally getting it. We really can just go for a hike, we don’t need to create the most magnificent nature notebooks, though that is fun, but hiking and exploring in the great outdoors is enough. We might not call it school, but we certainly are learning.
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  7. Experience Tells Me That Free Time is Prime Time: We want our kids to follow their passions, to chase their dreams and then we schedule every moment of everyday and they literally don’t have time to dream. Our kids need time to dream, time to do all sorts of crazy stuff, time to make mistakes and learn from their mistakes. Time to play and think through things… time to read their library books and time to just be. If you are the classic fill every moment parent, then make sure you block off hours and hours of free time into your kids schedules. They need it, you need it… make it happen.
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  9. Experience Tells Me Not to Worry About Comparing My Kids to Their School Going Contemporaries: Kids at school are taught differently to kids at home. I cannot look at an eight old school going child and think argh… my eight year old homeschool child has not got pages of filled-in workbooks and numerous poster projects or prepared endless oral presentations. Homeschool children learn differently, and have other very different skills. The fact is your homeschooled child is out of “the system” and they are learning intentionally or unintentionally to have very different thinking strategies. Experience tells me that the child who refuses to write a sentence at age eight will happily write a novel in their free time at age twelve. The child that refuses to read every single school reader, and has them all read to them instead… eventually will sit down and read the Hobbit, and never stop reading again. Experience tells me that essential skills will get learned and when, for instance, your child discovers that they need to write a letter of motivation to take part in a course they are dying to do, they will almost certainly rise to the occasion and do better than you ever thought they would.
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  11. Experience Tells Me Not to Worry About Perfect Homeschools on Instagram: Comparison is indeed the thief of joy. And other folks’ toys are always prettier than your own. Their classrooms look magical… and you don’t even have a dedicated classroom. Trust me your school on the couch is perfect, the art materials that your children got from their last last last birthday are still working perfectly, and the artworks your kids made themselves are just as magnificent as any number of magical posters that you could have ordered off the web. Really your school is just fine, other schools might look fantastic and they may inspire you, but that doesn’t mean that your school isn’t perfect for you. You have to do what is right for your family, and your kids will turn out fine… really. If you can only manage one extra mural, or one activity then that’s all you can manage then that is fine, let the rest go. This is your school, with your kids and your resources… do the best you can and keep in mind the reason you chose to homeschool in the first place.
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  13. Experience Tells Me That You Don’t Have to Worry About How Your Kids Finish School: The joy of homeschooling is that it caters for each and every child in their own unique way. You cannot necessarily know, when your child is in grade 1, or grade 10 for that matter, what their particular passion is; or what sort of career they are going to pursue. The child that has known all their life may also change their mind at the last minute. It is our job to keep opportunities open to them and give them the necessary time, space and skills to follow their dreams… let them job shadow, let them read, let them meet people, give them opportunities to work in the field they are interested in, and they will decide if they need to go to university or college, or if they can study online, or dive straight into working, or even a combination of those. Our job is really to inspire them to learn, to get excited about things that they are excited about. Entrance requirements for the future they want to pursue are more important than getting a “one-size-fits-all” school leaver’s certificate. There are many ways to finish school and many different ways to achieve the entrance requirements for whatever steps they plan to take next. As long as we are supportive and encouraging they will eventually get there.


Look out for plenty of Homeschooling posts during September they are coming your way, week by week…

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Se7en Podcasts That We Are Listening to Right Now…

September 4th, 2018 · 2 Comments

Each week we post a collection of Books We Have Been Reading Lately on our blog, but I thought you might something a little different this week. One of the most frequently asked questions that we get is: What podcasts do we listen to and where do we find them? We listen to tons of podcasts and the more you listen to the more you will find. They are free, they are fun and they are a great way to add “audible content” to your days.


We are members of audible books and we eagerly await our audible credits on the first of the month… but when our audible books are finished then we rely on podcasts to get our audible time in. Otherwise we use podcasts during school time, we use podcasts to listen to stories, we use podcasts in the car. Our podcast diet is very varied and from week to week it can change, as we discover new podcasts and make tweaks here and there to what is relevant for us.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with podcasts, hi mom (!), they are really just modern day radio, you down load the episodes and listen whenever you want to. You can head to the link that I have highlighted in the title of each podcast… listening on the website, or you can listen in itunes. We use an app called downcast to listen to our podcasts… it is free and within that we can subscribe to any number of podcasts. The thing I like about Downcast is that each episode downloads with it’s show notes… and that makes it easy to follow links and resources associated with a particular podcast.

Se7en Podcasts That We Use For School

  1. 5 minutes in Church History with Stephen Nichols: Short… literally five minutes, and an interesting snippet from Church history.
  2. Tumble Science Podcast for Kids: Interviews with real scientists about their work, and covering a wide array of interesting topics. Many topics that you might have thought difficult and they make them easy to understand and more than that, they make science sound totally cool and fun. Each podcast is about fifteen minutes long and your kids will ask for “just one more.”
  3. The Earth Rangers Podcast: If you live with any young animal lovers then they will love this podcast… they are only a few episodes, but we have subscribed in the hopes that there will be many more. They are totally worth listening to. Emma, the Earth Ranger, tells us all about special animals and interviews actual scientists that work with them. Amazing and wonderful facts for animals from all over the world.
  4. Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls: Not a lot of episodes yet, but they are slowly loading… we listen immediately and then wait impatiently for the next one. There is more information/story in the podcasts than in the books and we have really enjoyed them… all my kids love these and are inspired by them.
  5. Young Ben Franklin: we are loving this one right now, for young American History buffs, this is the story of a young Benjamin Franklin, as he leads his friends in and out of Colonial Boston, in a wild treasure hunt, solving mini-mysteries, figuring out puzzles and creating inventions all the way. This is a great show packed with history learning. The longest episode is about twenty minutes, but most are about fifteen… which means a quick listen when you need fifteen minutes of down time.
  6. WOW in the World: This is touted as the podcast for curious kids and their grownups, and it is filled with amazing facts and understandable scientific stuff. Our latest listen was on how to Sleep Your Way to Victory… yes, I am the mother that played that particular podcast about five times (I am not kidding) for everyone to listen too.
  7. The Mayan Crystal: This is the story of Aurelia and her sister, two girls living in a Mayan village… and their village, their customs and their culture are under the threat of deforestation. There is a race against time as the two sisters try to save their village from the destructive contractors and they find themselves in the spiritual world of the ancient mayans and a far bigger challenge in front of them than a couple of building contractors. Nine episodes have the girls racing through the jungles of Belize, with the help of a number of spirit animals. Mayan mythology and and ancient legends wind their way through the story.

Podcasts That I Enjoy In and Out of My Day

  1. The Read Aloud Revival: Love, love, love the Read A Loud Revival. I have podcasts that I dip into, selecting which episodes I want to listen to and those that I can pass on… but the read aloud revival I listen to every single episode and lots of them I listen to multiple times. This is not just a podcast for homeschooling parents… it is for all parents, who want to gift their children with a love of books. Inspiration, author interviews… the what, where, why and how of family reading. LOVE IT!!!
  2. A Brave Writer’s Life in Brief: Julie Bogart is a veteran homeschool mom, who is passionate about teaching kids to write, she has a website full of great resources and on her podcast she interviews folk who are equally passionate about kids and writing… it is great inspiration and I always come away from her podcasts inspired and encouraged.
  3. Happier with Gretchen Rubin: I absolutely loved her books… “Happier at Home” has to be one of my all time favourite books. And I dip into her podcasts, she always inspires me to live life better… try new things, figure out how to get all those habits rolling as they ought to be… in her podcasts she chats with her sister about what’s working, what isn’t and why.
  4. The Story: This is a collection of biographies about famous and heroic people… and you listen away, but they only tell you who the actual person is right at the end of the podcast… so it is a bit of a listening mystery and a built in guessing game. Some of my kids like and others find it a little grownup, so that’s why I put it in the “for parents: category.
  5. The Beautiful Writers Podcast: About 40 minutes of great conversations with your favourite authors, from all over the internet. Just great to pop on
  6. The Bible Project: We use the Bible Project a lot in our homeschool, we use the videos on Youtube… every time we start reading a new book of the Bible, and print out the posters for each book for our family school journals. But I really enjoy their podcasts too, they have a couple of series that are really good. Right now I am listening through the How to Read the Bible Series, it is fantastic.
  7. Modern Mrs Darcy, and What Should I Read Next? Well… this is book heaven. Anne Bogel interviews book lovers from all walks of life, asks them what books they have read and enjoyed and then she recommends a bunch more… the things is a podcast all about books. What could be better? Not to mention her brand new book launched today… check it out.

There are many more podcasts that we listen to regularly, but this is a start, to inspire you to get listening already.

→ 2 CommentsTags: Brilliant Books

Se7en’s September and Your Printable Calendar…

September 1st, 2018 · 1 Comment


Welcome to September…

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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!!!

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