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

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It’s Been a Wonderful Week of GreenPop Events…

June 12th, 2017 · No Comments

Last week was a week spent with GreenPop, one of our favourite kinds of weeks. As the Greenpop team gear up for their annual trip to Zambia so there commitment to planting and greening Cape Town has been going on, business as usual.

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Urban Greening at the GeenPop Nursery


We started on Saturday with some urban greening… which is our favourite kind of time spent with the Greenpop team, it was especially fun because it was a garden that we have been part of since the beginning.
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And I can’t believe how these Eco-Warriors have grown in two years!!!
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The Canopy Club


The day of gardening was to celebrate the opening of The Canopy Club, a new Greenpop initiative, to bring environmental education and urban greening to the citizens of Cape Town. Three speakers were invited to share at the event…
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Paddy Chapple – Why Small Things Matter: For the past twenty years they have carried out a butterfly count in their area and twenty years ago there were fifty-seven species in their count, and now they are down to only six species. Take for example the Table Mountain Copper, which lays its eggs in seeds that the local Pugnacious ants take into their nests. The butterfly seeds were protected in the nest and they hatched along with the ants. Later Argentinian ants were introduced to the Cape, these ants eat the seeds above the ground and the butterfly sides are not protected. Small seeds do matter and you can make a difference.

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Dr. Pippin Anderson – You have to have Nature in Cities to Raise Eco-Warriors : We live in the age of rapid urbanisation. In 2013, 50% of the world’s population live in cities. By 2050, 70% of the world’s population will live in cities. Africa is the continent with the fastest urbanisation and Lilongwe in Malawi is the city with the fastest growing urbanisation. In Cape Town we have a love hate relationship with nature. We love the mountain, we have had to reclaim the sea to fit the city, we loved the wooded slopes until we ran out of wood. We have a cycle, when the environment supports the city, until there is a crisis and then we rethink and begin again. Right now we are at a crisis, when we don’t have enough water to supply our city, it is time to write a new story. Nature feeds our souls, we need to experience it in our urban context. We need to design green into our infrastructure. Even within our own city, we all have different access to green spaces and we need to be aware of diversity within our own city. Some folk will be heading for a green space to relax and others will be seeking relief from home. It is time to accept the different experiences of the same nature and incorporate green living into our basic design.

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Lauren O’ Donnel, GreenPop founder and MD: Lauren spoke about the history of GreenPop and their initial plan to plant 1000 trees. The kept trees in a garage and would make sandwiches for volunteers and off they would go. They later moved their trees to another spot, where a leaking pipe alerted them to the fact that they were keeping their trees on land that wasn’t actually available to them. They started to look for a new place to keep their trees, an empty space, beside the highway seemed like the perfect spot. And then they found their current position in the heart of Woodstock. They wanted to create an inspirational space, where learning is tangible. A biodiversity showcase, creating a corridor of green in the urban environment. Community projects and support are the vision and the dynamic to moving forward.

Adventure Talks With Cape Union Mart

And then during the week we went to Cape Union Mart, Canal Walk, for an evening of adventure talks. Yes, there is everything to love about Cape Union Mart… it is a camping, adventurers dream store and the perfect platform to talk about green adventures. And adventuring with a purpose. First we listened to Bailey talk about essential kit for traveling cross-country and joining the GreenPop team in Zambia.

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And one of the hoods was very excited to win a water bottle…
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And they had fun immersing themselves in the world of Google Cardboard…
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And an evening of talks with our friends form GreenPop…

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Sam Chevalier and What Role Might Technology Play in Social Media?

Sam will be traveling with the GreenPop team to Zambia in a couple of weeks… in order to bring the three dimensional experience to those of us who can’t be there… from my personal experience in Zambia, it is a magical and life changing experience… one not to be missed. He is all about the environment, technology and education. If you can’t take the schools to Antarctica, can you bring Antartica to the schools? It is an interesting question. He has worked around the world on environmental projects but the urgency of our need to protect the earth’s biodiversity hit him when he was working as a journalist in the Amazon river and personally experienced the biodiversity loss brought on by the logging industry. He firmly believes that we need a deep and direct experience in order raise our awareness and our need to protect our biodiversity. A child cannot experience an elephant, in the sense that they cannot hear, smell, feel or see an elephant in the classroom, for instance… Can elephants be bought into the classroom, using technology, for children to gain that deep experience.

He recently completed a project: Trekking the seven Biomes of South Africa, and plans to use his experience to bring these biomes to kids. You have to take a look at the Youtube channel for #TrekSouthAfrica just incredible.

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Misha Teasdale, GreenPop Founder and Tree EO.

Misha’s life of Active Citizenship has taken him on a journey around the world, through Africa and globally, creating value and business around projects can make things happen, but the significance lies in the personal relationships that arise. As a young graduate his job took him across 36 000km of flight and he decided that he wanted to pay back the earth. He love a challenge and decided to plant 1000 trees. He had never planted a tree before and didn’t own a spade. He realised that he would need help with this project and immediately started looking for creative ways to get the challenge rolling. Together with less than a handful of friends, GreenPop was begun. Engaging with volunteers forced him to step our of his comfort zone.

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Their first idea to raise funds for trees was to open a miniature park at the top of Long Street in the city centre. They had musicians, and a festive atmosphere and somehow they managed to sell seventy-nine trees. People had connected, they were off to a small start and the treevolution had begun. There next idea, to raise awareness for their project was to don Super Hero cloaks and on any form of transport they could find: skateboards, bmx’s, rollerblades… they dashed through rush hour traffic encouraging folk to help them plant trees. This got everyone’s attention… talk about uplifting a dreary rush hour!!!

Their first tree plant, they planted five trees… and then they got better at it, much better at it. They involved corporates, they had sustainability talks, green days, and plants days. They quickly realised that they were social responsibility to planting the trees that they had folk had paid for… and trees were planted. In fact, 1000 trees were planted. But GreenPop was here to stay and with their online campaign they had raised an extra 800 trees. A chance mount top meeting with Richard from Bos iced tea, created their first tree pledge and once they knew how many trees were coming in it was so much easier to organise planting.

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It isn’t about the trees… the trees get planted, but it is about all the uplifting that goes on around the tree planting. It is the broken window effect, where you plant trees and create a beautiful environment people want to be. In Bogota, Columbia, they managed to reduce the crime rate significantly by creating celebrated spaces… green places that people can be proud of. South Africa has 27 000 schools and of those, 25 000 look like penitentiaries it is time to start conversations about change.

Currently GreenPop has tree planting days through out the year, but there is something quite magical their annual festivals to Platbos, where they are with the help of eager volunteers, they are reforesting the are with indigenous trees. When a chicken farmer from Zambia got hold of them to say they they had a lot of trees and needed help to plant them, the GreenPop team jumped at the challenge. Tree planting has become a much bigger challenge. They now have the Zambia Festival of Action, which brings people together from all over the world… this year there will be 170 people from 18 countries. These are all people with a heart for environmental change… it is a pot of ideas gathered in one space… yes, trees are planted, but more important relationships are forged and ideas are exchanged and built upon.

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To date GreenPop has planted about 80 000 trees. What is more important than the trees are the hands that plant them, it is the sense of adventure… adventure with a purpose. This is a project that our family have loved being part of, my kids have planted trees locally, I have been to the Fabulous Family Festival Weekend. I have been lucky enough to go to the Zambia Festival of Action… and I would go again in a flash. It is honestly just the price of a plane ticket that is holding me back. Though I must say, folk travel by plane, by us, by truck, by motorbike, by bike… it’s one of those get there if you can events.

The first question folk ask… when you return form a week or a weekend with GreenPop is “How many trees did you plant?” and the answer is really… A forest might be planted, whole hillsides if trees in a morning… and that’s all good. But it is not about the trees it is all about what you learn while you are there and the global friendships that you make. And it wouldn’t be a GreenPop event without a group hug…

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And the number one question, every time I blog tweet or instagram about GreenPop, is folk ask me how they can get involved. The easiest way to hear about GreenPop and all their amazing projects is to sign up to their newsletter. That way you will hear about nursery days, local tree planting days, sustainability talks and Family Festivals and of course the Zambia Festival of Action. If you want to know more then head for the GreenPop website and contact them.

→ No CommentsTags: Caring and Sharing · Green Living · Outings

Se7en’s Fabulous Fun Post #354…

June 8th, 2017 · No Comments

Firstly, Happy World Ocean’s Day, and boy did our ocean let its voice be heard bringing us a crazy storm… after months with no rain we were treated to a deluge. When an entire city shuts down for the day: schools closed, business closed, even the gym closed early… hectic. We stayed warm and safe, though by the end of the day I was ready to toss everyone outdoors for some fresh air… no matter what the weather. We seriously need to look into getting a water tank to catch our rain… but right now my kids have all their pots and pans out collecting every drop.

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Se7en Builds a Library Book by Book

Our garage is starting to explode with books and we are going to be delivering our library short. Just can’t wait to report back to you all…

Lovely Links from This Week

  1. An Excellent Post: World Oceans Day: Everything you need to know plastic in the Ocean from the Two Oceans Aquarium.
  2. Firstly, this is the month to sign up and follow along with 30 Days Wild, never mind that we live on the far side of the world. We commit to heading into the great outdoors everyday and posting a pic on instagram, with the hashtag #30dayswild
  3. Secondly, since we are signing up for things… It is the season for Read the World Summer Book Club. Well it is Winter over here, but a couple of weeks of fun reading is always totally welcome in our house!!!
  4. The Planetarium in Cape Town has re-opened and for some reason I have never taken my kids there… but this post packed with all sorts of Star Gazing and Astronomy on Walking in High Cotton, has me a little inspired.
  5. If you like hiking and green hills then look no further: In King Arthur’s Footsteps: Discover 9 Legendary Places in Wales…
  6. How to Personalise Your Blog Like These 10 Top Bloggers.
  7. It’s been so good to have Chris Riddell as the Children’s Laureate… and I have to say I am excited to see the tenth Laureate!!!
  8. 40+ Drawing Ideas and Activities… from Picklebums… perfect for our wintry weather.

A Blast From the Past:

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This Week’s Highlights


Listening: My Audio skills are on the up and up and I have been listening away… I try to make use of my driving time by listening to audible books and not just listen to fiction but listen to all those books that I mean to read but never get around to. First stop and a great over view of the history of science was the Story of Western Science by Susan Wise Bauer… this I had to read a chapter at a time and then give myself a break. It is fairly dry and includes, as one would expect, and then… and then… and then. It isn’t long, it is an overview and at the end of it you will have a good idea about how all the pieces of science fit together: the how and the why and the when. It is great for sparking ideas of conversation topics with your kids about science and if you are looking for an overview… then grab this one. It includes lists of books with what to read further and it will inspire the curious scientist to dig deeper.

I am winding my way through quite a few Sonlight high school books this year… because at this stage nearly half of our kids are in high school and soon they will all be better read than I am. Total Truth by Nancy Pearcy is one of those books, that I have been meaning to read for ages, but kept putting off because this is definitely not easy reading. The trick I have discovered is to put the book on in the car and drive… I am a hostage and I have to listen. I found this book surprising in many ways… firstly it was not nearly as dry as I had at first perceived and secondly there is a lot of food for thought between the covers. This book is about different World Views and how they affect our Christian thinking, fascinating. As the author marches through time and all the -isms, and how ideas have crossed over into our thinking, not because they are the right ideas but for cultural reasons and because they seem like good ideas. Because our culture so carefully splits our lives into compartments of our public and private lives, our cultural and spiritual lives… we find ourselves dividing the truth depending on which lens we are looking through. Honestly I thought this book would just be pure dry exposition, of different philosophies of life… but actually she winds her own journey of growing up in a Christian home and her doubts of faith and turning away, throughout the book. She demonstrates how she found the truth and how she sought answers and didn’t give up until she had found them. This is a great book for folk, including your teens, who don’t want to believe something “just because someone told them to.” This book is really worth persisting through… it is a valuable resource for tackling big questions.


Reading with the Kids: We are in the heart of our school year, which means reading our way through our Sonlight school shelves and remembering just how stunning these book are to read. The cricket in Times square has to be one of our all time favourites… a boy, a cat, a mouse and a cricket… an unlikely collection of friends. They turn out to be quite a winning team!!!

Watching with the Kids: My kids are watching Red Ted Art’s Wreck this Journal Videos on youtube right now… she is fab, perfect inspiration for all the busy little people that live over here!!!

And news just come in… as we were snug and safe during the storm, friends of ours were braving the fires in Knysna. Please pray for these sweet friends of ours that have lost their home in the terrible fires that are sweeping through the Knysna region.

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→ No CommentsTags: Fabulous Friday Fun

World Environment Day and Se7en Ways to Make a Difference…

June 6th, 2017 · 6 Comments

Living a greener lifestyle can seem somewhat overwhelming, because there are so many ways to live greener. The first place to start is actually to head into the great outdoors, wherever you are and start enjoying it. If you live in the inner city, then find a park or take a day trip to your local gardens. If you work at a desk all day, then head outdoors. Learning about nature first hand helps you to understand it better and gives you reason to rescue it.

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When you are raising eco-warriors volunteering becomes a way of life. I know when folk think about volunteering most folk immediately think about a soup kitchen, but to be honest there are many many ways to volunteer and make a difference. It is up to us to find activities that our kids will be able to join in and engage in… the more that they do this while they are young the more they will think that this is a way of life and it will be something that they continue with when they are older.

Se7en Ways To Live A Little Greener

  1. Make a stand: As a family, choose one or two days day a month to head into the great outdoors instead of doing your weekly shop. Just try it once or twice, you might well discover a way to spend fun time together and it needn’t cost the earth either. In Cape Town in it is fairly easy to get outdoors, there are plenty of parks, the beach or Table Mountain… these options are free… head out and enjoy the environment. It is a lot easier to protect and care for the environment when you enjoy it. One way to make a stand for us has been to join the Penguin Waddle every year… it is a safe place for our kids to make a stand.
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  3. Look out for Activities: The Two Oceans Aquarium has a plethora of events on all the time, evening of environmental talks, beach clean ups, courses and so on… follow their blog for the latest and greatest information. If you can’t find a beach clean up, then create your own… gather up some friends and just go for it.
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  5. Get Involved in some Urban Greening: Greenpop is a great organisation for planting trees and greening up spots around the city that were previously very un-green. Pop over to their website and sign up to their newsletter where you will get heaps of information about their many, many happenings… there is something for everyone there.
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  7. Do a Home Study: Check out your families Eco-foot FootPrint and start making small habits today. One step at a time… it is very hard to get rid of all the plastic in our modern lives, but we can start by refusing to use plastic shopping bags, we can say no to plastic water bottles, we can avoid stalls with excessive packaging. We can create eco-bricks with our non-recyclables. If you are in Cape Town you can give your eco-bricks to Waste-ED. I think this past summer with the incredible drought we have realised just how much water we were throwing away as grey water… Now that we collect our shower water, in fact every drop of water we can catch… we will never go back to just watering the garden from a hose pipe again or flushing a toilet for that matter. Yes it is that desperate in Cape Town, I don’t know anyone who doesn’t collect their shower water to flush the toilet anymore.
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  9. Shop Local, or even better Grow Your Own: You don’t have to grow an entire food forest, just growing your lettuce and tomatoes for your own salad is a great way to green up our garden and feast off it. Soil for Life have plenty of workshops and open days, and opportunities to volunteer. It is great to visit them, just for all the lovely inspiration.
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  11. Use Your Recycling: Create Handmade Charlotte’s Off-the-Grid Dollhouse: Use up your recycling and learn about sustainable living all at the same time, I just love this….
    1. Off the Grid Dollhouse Part 1: The Structure.
    2. Off the Grid Dollhouse Part 2: The Solar Panel, Wind Power and Green Roof.
    3. Off the Grid Dollhouse Part 3: Rainwater Recycling and Natural Heating.
    4. Off the Grid Dollhouse Part 4: Plumbing, Electrical Wiring and Bathroom.
    5. Off the Grid Dollhouse Part 5: Kitchen/Grey Water/Composting/Water Pond.
    6. Off the Grid Dollhouse Part 6: Home Finishes and Wood Stove.
    7. Off the Grid Dollhouse Part 7: Panes/Planters/Electrical Finishes.
    8. Off the Grid Dollhouse Part 8: The Furniture.
    9. Off the Grid Dollhouse Part 9: The Kitchen and Hanging Vegetable Garden.
    10. Off the Grid Dollhouse Part 10: Farm Animals and Chicken Coop.
    11. Off the Grid Dollhouse Part 11: Farmhouse Dolls.

  12. Join the War Against Single Use Plastic: Trust your kids to start a project and roll with it, the Meek Family have decided to make a stand against single use plastic bottles, their goal… Clear 100,000 single use plastic bottles. Watch their video, it is fantastic. And if you are really brave there is always: Plastic Free July. I know we would find that really difficult… so much food comes in plastic. The website is full of tips and fantastic ideas, to try and reduce the menace of plastic in our lives.

Just somewhere to start on the journey to greener living… we are always making little changes and tweaking how we do this… Green living is a journey that you can really only travel one step at a time. Creating new habits takes time and effort, and it is so worth it if together with our kids we can make a difference.

→ 6 CommentsTags: Green Living · Thoughtful Thursdays

Se7en’s June and Your Free Printable Calendar…

June 2nd, 2017 · No Comments

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A Couple of our readers have asked us how we use our calendar posts for school. These posts began, and have grown, simply because it was interesting to see what events were occurring on a particular day. We don’t celebrate everyday – but we could!!! At the beginning of each month we print out a new calendar. Then we read through the blog post and pick the days that we would like to celebrate. We write those days out onto our calendar and pop the calendar onto the fridge.

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Click on the image, it will open in a fresh tag… print it using landscape mode and colour away!!!

  • 1 June: Donut Day.
  • 2 June 1896: Radio Patented.
  • 3 June 1965: First U.S. Space Walk.
  • 4 June: Aesop’s Birthday
  • 4 June 1896: First Ford built.
  • 5 June 1783: First Hot Air Balloon Flight.
  • 5 June: Gingerbread Day.
  • 5 June: Richard Scarry’s Birthday.
  • 5 June: World Environment Day.
  • 6 June 1944: D-Day.
  • 8 June 1867: Frank Lloyd Wright.
  • 8 June: World Ocean’s Day.
  • 9 June 1934: Donald Duck’s Debut.
  • 9 June 1672: Peter the Great Born.
  • 10 June: Ball Point Pen Patented.
  • 10 June: National Iced Tea Day (U.S.A.).
  • 11 June 1770: Great Barrier Reef Discovered
  • 11 June 2016: The Queen’s 90th Birthday.
  • 11 June 1910: Jacque Cousteau’s Birthday
  • 11 June: E.T. Movie premiered.
  • 12 June 1929: Anne Frank’s Birthday
  • 13 June 1865: William Butler Yeats Birthday (1865 – 1939).
  • 14 June: Flag Day
  • 14 June: World Juggling Day
  • 15 June 1215: Magna Carta Signed.
  • 15 June 1752: Benjamin Franklin’s Kite Experiment 1752.
  • 16 June 1976: Youth Day 1976 – South Africa.
  • 16 June: Father’s Day.
  • 16 June: National Fudge Day
  • 17 June 1898: M.C.Escher’s Birthday.
  • 18 June 1815: Napoleon defeated at Waterloo.
  • 19 June 1846: First Organized Baseball Game in New Jersey.
  • 19 June 1978: Garfield’s Birthday.
  • 20 June: Bald Eagle Day.
  • 20 June: International Picnic Day.
  • 22 June: National Eclair Day.
  • 24 June: U.F.O. Day

  • 29 June: Camera Day
  • 30 June: Meteor Day
  • se7en's May

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

    → No CommentsTags: Celebrity Calendar

    Se7en Discovers Realistic Sleep, Screen Time and Exercise Expectations for Kids…

    May 31st, 2017 · 4 Comments

    A couple of weeks back I wrote a post on How to Get Your Kids Moving, and while I wanted to get everyone’s tips on how they get their kids moving I first wanted to assess our own situation. We set out to monitor everyone’s sleep time, screen time and exercise time for each day, for a week. Before I could be too sure about our results I decided to check with someone who actually knows, Dr. Catherine Draper a kids physical activity expert, from the Sport Science Institute of South Africa. She sent me all the latest healthy recommendations for healthy active kids. Here is what she had to say:

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    Most would agree that investing in the youth means investing in the future. Part of this investment involves their health and well-being, which if maximised, can help kids reach their full potential. Healthy nutrition is a key component of health and well-being for children and adolescents, but it goes hand in hand with some other health behaviours, including physical activity, screen time and sleep.

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    Moving More


    Physical activity plays a vital role in children’s health and well-being, and has a wide range of benefits for not only their physical health – helping to maintain a healthy weight and reduce risk for diseases such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease – but for their mental health as well. Kids who are more physically active have been shown to have better self-esteem; less stress, anxiety and depression; and improved cognitive and academic outcomes.

    Physical activity is not just sport and physical education at school, but includes other activities like walking (for example, to school, or on a family outing) and active play. Research consistently shows that children who spend more time outdoors are more physically active, so whenever possible, encourage kids to be out rather than in. The evidence also shows that children who are more active when they are young stay active through childhood and into adolescence, and often into adulthood as well. So it is important to get kids active early, so they can enjoy the benefits later in life as well.

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    The Lure of the Screen


    In contrast to the benefits of physical activity, lots of time in front of screens has been shown to have a number of negative consequences for kids, which is a sobering thought in this era of ubiquitous screen-based technology. Research shows that kids who spend more time on screens will be more likely to be overweight, and have unhealthy eating behaviours, such as eating less fruit and vegetables, consuming more fast food and fizzy drinks, and skipping breakfast.

    Kids with higher levels of screen time are also more likely to score more poorly in things related to their cognitive development and academic performance, including attention, maths scores, reading and language comprehension. High screen time is also associated with a wide range of unpleasant mental health outcomes amongst children and adolescents: increased anxiety, social dysfunction and depression; low self-esteem; school disconnectedness; unfavourable behavioural conduct; and difficulties connecting with parents and peers. One study even showed that kids who, after spending only 5 days away from all forms of screens, were better able to read facial expressions than kids who had 5 days of their usual exposure to screens at school and at home.

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    Getting Enough Z’s


    The importance of sleep for the health and well-being of kids is becoming an increasingly hot topic in research, and has been shown to be associated with healthier weight, better emotional regulation, academic achievement, and improved quality of life for youth. Lack of sleep is particularly detrimental to adolescents, and inadequate sleep in this age group has been linked to higher levels of depression, anxiety and pain; low self-esteem, social support and life satisfaction; decreased academic achievement; a greater chance of engaging in future risky behaviour; as well as attention difficulties, withdrawal, tiredness, and aggression. Screen time is a sleep thief – it not only takes up sleep time, but it also displaces behaviours that help with sleep, such as physical activity, and it exposes kids to artificial light that negatively affects their body’s sleep system.

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    What is Recommended for Healthy Kids?

    • Exercise: Children who are of school-going age (6-18 years) should be getting at least 1 hour of physical activity every day in order to realise these benefits. This should include activity that is intense enough to get them to sweat and breathe hard, although activity of a lighter intensity is also good for them if it means less time sitting. Younger children (3-6 years) should be active for at least 3 hours per day, and this can be activity of any intensity.
    • Sreen Time: The general limit for daily screen time is not more than 2 hours per day for school-going children, while some recommend not more than 1 hour for preschool children. For children under 2 years, the advice is NO screen time at all. Similar to physical activity, screen time behaviours tend to stick from childhood into adolescence and adults, so limiting these behaviours from an early age is essential.
    • Sleep: While there are a number of different recommendations for kids’ sleep, the guidelines are generally around 10-13 hours of sleep per night for 3-6 year olds, 9-11 hours for 6-13 year olds, and 8-10 hours for 14-17 year olds.

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    I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised about a couple of things on our chart on the fridge, firstly my kids get enough sleep. Now you know I am all about sleep this year. I don’t really believe any of the adults I know get nearly enough sleep and if they did life would be a whole lot easier for them. I assumed that because my kids do go to bed later than their contemporaries that they were not getting nearly enough sleep either, and it didn’t take more than a handful of nights for me to realise that they might go to bed later but they certainly sleep a lot later than their friends do. I can definitely back off from saying: “It’s bedtime,” just because I am fretting that their little friends are all in bed and fast asleep already. Interestingly enough you won’t find an alarm clock floating around our house and it turns out that an unbelievably huge advantage of homeschooling for us, is that my kids sleep as late as they need to… and it doesn’t matter how old they are, I firmly believe in the adage “never waking a sleeping chid.” So eleven hours sleep is actually the norm for my youngest three kids. My middle schoolers, get about ten hours, our high schoolers get 9 to 10 hours… and the person getting possibly the least sleep is our college student who has to be in class by eight in the morning and is just scraping the 7 hours minimum sleep for adults.

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    As for screen time, well my younger kids spend way less than an hour a day on screens, because I grew up without them I expect them to do the same. Screen time is not even an option because I never ever think of it. They do watch TV with their dad, he grew up with a screen and it is his norm, and they do watch the occasional movie, but it is a treat and certainly not a daily event. So my youngest three get a lot less than an hour or a day on the days they actually go on a screen. I think we have been hoodwinked by marketers into believing that our children need to be on screens or they will be left behind… modern technology and the competitive development of appealing games and apps designed for children means that they become more and more intuitive to use. A couple of fun games a week on a screen is enough and will see them doing fine when they have to get into the rigours of online learning when they are older.

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    I cannot say the same for my teens, the older they get the more time they spend on screens. The battle begins during middle school and as soon as they start doing a larger portion of school work on online, so their apparent need to be online escalates. For older kids screen time becomes an issue because it is a blanket term for a lot of their lifestyle: they use screens for a lot of their schooling; they use screens to relax… it is their playground; and they use screens to socialise which in itself is a huge part of any teens day. I think it is up to us to offer fun alternatives for them to draw them off their screens, set boundaries and stick to them. There are certain times each week when they are just off the grid, just so that they know that they can still have a great time and do fun things and even read a book, or make dinner without necessarily having a screen in front of them. And of course, if that means I have to hike them to an internet free zone I am happy to do that, as well.

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    However to balance out their screen time, it turns out my teens get plenty of exercise and without even noticing it they are actually getting a fair amount of it. By having to walk everywhere, to their friends and to their extra murals, they sure do cover a lot of ground over the period of a week. They might not do school sports practice two or three afternoons, but they certainly do walk a lot and they have to walk fast to get where they are going timeously. I’ll take that. My little guys play outdoors for a number of hours everyday and so they are moving, not to mention walking to the library, to the store or down to the beach for a play. But I realised from keeping a chart, that they don’t move very much in the mornings… during our school time.

    On the days we hike, they are obviously moving, but there are three or four mornings a week when they move from the table to the couch and back again. One or two runs around the garden and back to sitting. So we have upped our game and every time we change location from the table to the couch and back again, we now have skipping sessions, or star jumps, or dance parties… actually anything I can think of that is moving. Things that work really well… are challenges: Who can do the longest crunch, who can do 100 star jumps first? Also, it really helps to plot their achievements on the fridge, somehow it makes my kids just want to do more. Of course it helps if I join them, they love it when I do. They have discovered that when their mother person joins the gym, she will be joining them for heaps of push ups and sit ups… (though I will not be joining them for pull ups… impossible!!!). Somehow the friendly competition really helps to get everyone moving and most important having fun.

    Huge thanks to Dr. Catherine Draper from the Sport Science Institute of South Africa for her contribution to this post.

    → 4 CommentsTags: Se7en at School · Thoughtful Thursdays

    What We Have Been Reading Lately, The PanMacmillan Edition…

    May 30th, 2017 · 2 Comments

    I realise that we haven’t posted any lovely “What we are Reading Right Now…” posts for a while, so as we are heading into some wintery months and hopefully some good snuggle time… these books have been lurking on our coffee table and been read and reread…

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    And when your child finally finds THEIR book, you know the one… that takes from just reading to loving reading… and that book is part of a great big series to get lost in!!!

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    The Land of Stories

    The Land of Stories Series by Chris Colfer: This series is totally new to us, and so an exciting discovery… they are genuine chapter books and hood 6 has powered her way through them slowly but very surely and absolutely loved them. Basically, if you love fairy tales then you are going to love these. The books are jammed packed with characters from all sorts of children’s books and classic literature, particularly fairy tales.

    The Wishing Spell (book 1): Alex and Conner are twins whose grandmother gives them a magical fairytale book… and they find themselves on a magical quest in the Land of Stories. They need to find the wishing spell to get back to their world. The spell only works three times and other folk are looking for it too. They only have one more chance to get home and a whole lot of adventures and tasks they have work through to race through to the end.

    The Enchantress Returns (book 2): In book 2 the twins have to overcome the evil Enchantress who cursed Sleeping Beauty, and has kidnapped their mother. Back into the Land of Stories they must go. They can only defeat the Enchantress with a magical wand and they have to search for the pieces of the wand throughout the countryside: Through dangerous forests with lurking wolves, up snowy mountains alongside polar bears, and down beneath the sea, where the mermaids live.

    A Grimm Warning (book 3): The saga continues. Long ago, the Grimm Brothers left a clue in one of their story books and Conner has to find the clue, and together he and Alex have to solve it. But there is a mysterious masked man, that is working for the enemy. Book 3 has a shocking ending, when Alex is left behind in the Land of Stories to become a fairy… and you have to have Book 4 ready to read, to see what happens next.

    Beyond the Kingdoms (book 4): Towards the end of book 3 the mysterious masked man stole a potion from the children. Only now do they realise how important the potion is, because with it they can enter into other Story Books. There is betrayal and intrigue and as usual the quest is on. Disaster strikes, Conner and Alex are separated and stuck in two different books… and they have to find each other again.

    There is a book 5 and book 6 in the series… but we have only read so far in the series. Look out for them, they are great reads for children that have worked their way through easy readers and beginner chapter books and are ready to be enthralled by a great and adventurous story.

    Spirit of the Jungle Bear Grylls and illustrated by Javier Joaquin: I can’t imagine that there is anyone anywhere that hasn’t heard of the great adventurer, Bear Grylls. What you may not know is that he is a really great writer in fact his Mission Survival Series was the series of books that got Hood #4 totally switched on to reading. The book is about a regular middle school chap, called Mak, and who reluctantly travels to India on a family trip. When he gets there a flood separates him from his family and he finds himself alone in a wild and dangerous jungle. He has to use all his wits to survive, dangerous snakes, poachers and suchlike. In true Bear Grylls style it is gripping adventure, packed with excitement and extremely readable.

    Fast Facts: Ocean Wonders: This is a fabulous book for fact lovers to get cosy with and settle down and glean some interesting facts from. Plenty of fast facts in bright boxes. Each double spread is a different topic, ranging from facts about the ocean to environmental issues, to food chains and coral reefs. There are maps with keys and diagrams for topics like the ocean layer zones. My youngest fact lover really enjoyed this read and is still sprouting facts that he gleaned from this book a fair while later. This is a great reference book for your junior fact lover, especially one with a passion for the ocean.

    The Stone Age… by Marcia Williams: We are huge Marcia Williams fans over here, her fact filled cartoons are a great introduction to so many topics. The Stone Age is really the story of ancient man… cave paintings, the miracle of fire and how they went from nomads to farmers… fun learning, lots and lots to look at. If you are living with a potential cave dweller then they will be intrigued by a lot of the facts lurking between all the fun pages of their book.

    The 30th Anniversary Edition of Where’s Wally by Martin Hanford: Well here we go… a lovely large Where’s Wally to dive into… of course there are the usual characters and a postcard a page to set the scene. And the usual pages… the game park, the railway station, the track and the seaside. Pure Wally fun… and for our overseas friends… Pure Waldo fun. We have blogged lots and lots of Where’s Wally Activities… take a peek here.

    Encore Mr William Shakespeare by Marcia Williams: We have blogged about the first book in this series, Hooray for Mr William Shakespeare before. This one is more of the same loveliness. Books like these make it easy for young Shakespeare lovers to get a feel for Shakespeare stories… the gist of them and the main story all the while doing the things that kids love doing best… stickers and activity pages with codes to decipher, word searches, mazes and just pure fun. Plays covered in this activity book are: Twelfth Night, Antony and Cleopatra, Richard III, Much Ado About Nothing and The Merchant of Venice. And of course cover to cover Marcia Williams comic illustrations… so everything to love!!!

    Dinostars and the Cackling Cave Creature by Ben Mantle: Another book in the Dinostar Space Series. If you have a junior space enthusiast that happens to love dinosaurs then they will love this book… Bright, large scale picture book… that comes with removable fact cards and a pushout dinostar to play with. And a page of quick facts for junior fact lovers to enjoy. The group of Dinostars find themselves on planet Flammas, where a mysterious little alien turns out not to be so little after all… some adventuring to and fro, not to mention an escape from a raging volcano, the escapades continue and then they all live happily forever after. Good stuff for pre-schoolers.



    Thank you so much to PanMacmillan South Africa for copies of these books for review purposes. This is not a sponsored post, we were not paid to create it and the opinions expressed are as usual, our own.

    → 2 CommentsTags: Brilliant Books

    Se7en Visit the Two Ocean’s Aquarium for World Turtle Day…

    May 26th, 2017 · No Comments

    World Turtle Day was the perfect reason for the Two Oceans Aquarium to present an evening of Environmental Talks by such inspiring speakers. It was fantastic and I thought it would be a great idea to give you a summary of what we learned. Six fabulous speakers, one of them even inside a tank, spoke to us about relevant local environmental issues.

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    Lauren, Hayley, Simon, Talitha, Bongani, Tamlyn

    Talitha Noble Conservation Co-ordinator at the Two Oceans Aquarium.

    Turtles are threatened for a number of reasons, firstly they are eaten and their beautiful shells are used for commercial products. They are also bycatch, which means they get caught in large fishing nets. They are very vulnerable to plastic pollution, they think balloons and plastic bags are jellyfish and eat them. And their habitats are threatened by sea level rise and so many more coastal developments, where they are distracted by the lights. Not to mention the change in ocean temperatures means that their is a change in gender… warmer waters means more female turtles and cooler waters mean more males.

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    In South Africa Loggerhead and Leatherback turtles wash up on our Southern Coast. Talitha runs The Turtle Rehab and Release Facility. Turtle wash-ups are rescued, data is collected, they measured, weighed, cleaned, fed often tube fed or little piece by little piece with tweezers and they are each kept in their own quarantine tank until they are well enough to be released. Their rehabilitation requires a lot of feeding and a lot of cleaning, since this is a sterile hospital environment for tiny turtles. Many of the turtles have serious medical issues when they arrive, they all have fungus growing on them, but more seriously their tummies are filled with micro-plastics which can be seen on x-rays. The goal is to release the turtles after about 6-8 months. They can only be released when they are healthy and able to survive… it is illegal and unethical to release an impaired turtle back into the wild.

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    From inside the tank, Simon Leigh who is an animal behaviourist, showed us how playful and just adorably cute and personable the turtles are. Each with their own sweet personality. There is Yoshi, that arrived when she was the size of a dinner plate and is now over 150 kg. She loves having her back rubbed to get the algae off her shell, not with a brush mind you, but with your feet. Then there are two green turtles at the aquarium as well… they get their name because as they get older their diet changes from jelly fish to eating green kelp and the chlorophyll in the plants affects their colouring. Sandy was rescued after a boating accident, her shell was severely damaged and her health drastically compromised because of that, she had undergone surgery and her shell is very slowly but surely repairing. And Bob, who did not eat for the first three months of his stay, because his stomach was filled with plastic… they had to wait for it to pass before he could eat real food. He also had meningitis and as a result has only partial vision.

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    These turtles love attention and need tons of affection, one of the challenges of keeping them in the tank is to keep these friendly turtles stimulated. They try and give them interesting food… Bob’s favourite food is lettuce. Otherwise lettuce frozen in ice blocks presents a challenge. There is a lot you can do to support our turtles… raise awareness, if you are not afraid of a lot of poop, you can volunteer and you can become a turtle ambassador.

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    Bongani Mnisi Head of Nature Conservation and Biodiversity Management the City of Cape Town.

    Bongani told us about his Stepping Stone Project that connects birds of the South Peninsula Mountains to the Wetlands on the Cape Flats. His idea was to create a corridor of biodiversity gardens, particularly bird friendly gardens in local schools, linking the Muizenberg Mountains to Rondevlei. They planted small gardens in local high schools, rich with plants that would encourage our local sunbirds and sugar birds to visit. The birds pollinate our local fynbos plants, particularly proteas and critical to continuing our rich and unique biodiversity. As the bird dips its long beak into the flower for nectar so it collects and deposits pollen as it moves from flower.

    The problem is that in the South Western Cape we have a small and unique biome with a very rich biodiversity in this area is the City of Cape Town, a highly urban area. The urbanisation breaks up the natural areas and makes it hard for the birds to perform their unique task of pollination. What they needed to do was to plant nectar rich areas and create a memory for the birds that nectar is there. They chose a number of schools and created gardens… greening the schools, teaching the learners about our local biodiversity and our natural heritage. The idea is that we create more and more biodiversity gardens so that the birds can get right across the Cape Flats, the more the birds move around and pollinate plats in our region the better the chances for sustaining our natural heritage. I love this project, it is something we can all be a part of, creating gardens with indigenous plants, where our local birds would love to visit.

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    Tamlyn Engelbrecht from the Shark Spotter’s Research Unit.

    Similar to the Great White Sharks in False Bay are the lesser known Broadness Sevengill Sharks. While False Bay is famous for its large aggregation of Great White Sharks at Seal Island, across the bay at Miller’s Point it is possible to have personal diving encounters with up to seventy sevengill sharks. Sevengill sharks are apex predators, that is they are at the top of the food chain. Apex predators are critical to the food chain and without them our rich biodiversity would collapse. These sharks, which have similar diets to the Great White Shark, do not have the protection that Great White Sharks have… because they are data deficient. Not a lot is known about their behaviour at all. They have been using acoustic telemetry to track the sharks. The sharks are caught with landlines and placed in a cradle alongside the vessel. Data is collected and a transmitter attached before they are released back into the ocean. Each shark transmits a unique ping, when it swims within range of an acoustic array of receivers. Once a year the data is collected from the receivers and analysed and from this data they are hoping to determine critical habitats, and how this species interacts with other species. You can read more about this project here.

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    Hayley McLellan and her Rethink the Bag Campaign.

    In a world that is passionate about respecting our bodies, we need to get respectful of our world and environment too, because that is our life support system. In the ocean huge accumulated currents called gyres are essential transport systems around the globe, they are vital to our ocean’s health. They transport heat and food and horror of horrors, plastic. Her comment for sushi lovers was that they are at the top of the ocean food chain and they need to be aware of what they are eating. We are horrified when Bob the turtle eats a plastic bag and we definitely wouldn’t want to eat one ourselves. It is time to ban them and stop single use plastic.

    A short sharp message: Rethink the bag. 8 Billion Shopping Bags are used a year. Ban them. Other items we find loads of on beach clean ups like cigarette butts, the filters are filled with toxins that are then eaten by sea life. Once you have seen a video of them taking twelve minutes to remove a straw from a turtle’s nostril you will never want to see an animal in pain like that again and you will never want to use a straw again. Cut the loops on your packaging to prevent animals getting entangled. Use a reusable water bottle, a glass or a metal one, where ever you go. So much is wasted for five minutes of convenience. Finally join the International Coastal Clean up on September the 16. Start with one thing and make the change.

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    Lauren de Vos Mapping the Biodiversity of False Bay.

    Lauren de Vos works with the Save our Seas Foundation in False Bay, she catches footage on video on the biodiversity of sea life in False Bay. With the use of BRUVS, Baited Remote Underwater Video Surveys, with gopro cameras that have bait attached to them, in order to document the fish that you find in the region. She is a fish detective, trying to determine wish fish live where and how their numbers change over time, there are a lot of pieces to the puzzle that need to be put together.

    False Bay is an interesting place for ecologists… where you find fish of the cold Agulhas current and fish from the Warm Benguela current… you also find fishermen, and recreational users and a large urban fringe surrounding it. She has found that there are so many uses for the ocean… for wondering, for adventuring, exploring, worshipping, well being, shear joy. The wonder and discovery of exploring under the ocean just shows that you don’t have to be a scientist to change the world.

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    If you have a couple of eco-warriors in training then look out for fabulous environmental nights at the aquarium on their website.

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    → No CommentsTags: Cape Town · Caring and Sharing · Green Living · Outings