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

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Se7en + 1 Things That Have Helped Us Homeschool Through a Crisis…

September 18th, 2014 · 13 Comments

The uphill battle of life… In the last week three moms I have spoken to have said they are way beyond their tether. They have been through traumatic events and suffered extreme loss and pain and just like all moms they were crumbling under the effects this would have on their children’s hearts, let alone their schooling. Now I am not talking about disastrous days where boys are boisterous, energy is low, cars break down and it all seems a bit much… this is more in the line of marriages collapsing, bankruptcy and giving up a home, losing a child, terminal illness… shattered hearts and just how on earth do you go on.


At this time of year especially, when homeschool posts abound: Back to school, hope and dreams for another school year and folks are blogging their plotting and planning; there are great first days back at school and not so great first days back at school. These moms are nowhere near any school and feel like their world, not to mention their school is collapsing around them… easy enough to say, “Put those kids in school,” but for some folk and I speak for ourselves as well, there isn’t another option… homeschooling has to work and in times of great tragedy it is easy to lose heart and to let those little voices of self-doubt enter our heads.

Se7en + 1 Things That Have Helped Us in Times of Tragedy

  1. Lose the Guilt: You know what needs doing but you just can’t get there. Grief is a strange phenomenon you can feel fine for years and then be struck so low for something that came to pass – really years ago. Years later you will hear a phrase or a word and be thrown straight back into the midst of grief – that’s how it works. So many friends have said they wish they had stopped and taken the time to cry, I think that is great advice… don’t bottle up your pain with the idea that you are saving everyone from your emotions… you aren’t. Tears are the companion of grief and not something to be afraid of. Those tears will get out, maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow… but they are there and they won’t be squashed down forever. You cannot pretend that all is well, when clearly nothing is well… slow down and tell your kids. My kids would rather I told them that I was too devastated to get off the couch, than I pretended everything was normal and then snapped at them.
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  3. Take it Easy on Yourself: It is so easy as mom’s to fall into the trap of “burden carrier,” and we must keep going no matter what and for months we can wind in and out of this mire of beating ourselves up because we aren’t doing enough. There are times in our lives when doing nothing is more than enough. It isn’t forever, it is a season. Your children are in this life with you and while they grieve and experience painful events they appear to bounce back so much more easily than we do. Don’t believe it, they need time out too. If your family is struck by a tragedy and you are just not coping with the workload, then chances are your kids won’t be coping that well either… It takes time to recover, let them have the time too.
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  5. It is Easy to Think That You Have Nothing To Give: I firmly believe that families grieve together, it is unusual for us to face an incredibly painful event in isolation. Though we might think we are alone, we usually aren’t. When one of our children lost a friend due to illness… we all lost a friend. Nobody was up to anything for a time. And that is okay. I think one of the blessings of homeschooling for us has been we have been able to take time off school and learn a lot about life. While we haven’t tossed our children into the waves of family tragedies, we certainly don’t shelter our children from tragedies that have struck friends and relatives. In times like this, I might not be giving my children history lessons, or math instruction, but I am giving them comfort and someone to draw alongside. There are times when none of us have been up to much, and that is okay… because it is only for a season.
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  7. Get Help: So many people offer to help… “let me know if you need anything”… I know you wish they would be more specific but they aren’t. If you need help with the laundry ask for it, if you need help with dinner ask for it. I know it can be awkward to ask for help… but the more specific you are the better people will respond. If you need your kids to go and play at friends for the day then find the friend who can do that for you. I can’t think how many friends have said please can we leave our kids with you for the day, while they deal with an emergency.

    It isn’t every day and to be honest, my children welcome interruptions and a little shuffle in their routine… yes school happens a little more slowly as we adjust to new numbers, and sometimes with many many kids visiting for the day – normal school has to be thrown out of the window. That doesn’t mean you have to do nothing, it just means that the school you had planned is going to be a little different. I would so much prefer that our school day was disrupted to help a friend out than to hear months down the line that a friend really needed a day off and couldn’t ask for help. It does take courage to ask for help, but you will be surprised how many friends are willing to help.

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  9. Find Someone to Talk To: Get yourself an anytime friend, someone you can call or email “anytime…” and they will stop what they are doing and be there for you. I have a couple of anytime friends, we very rarely chat about everyday life, but when disaster strikes they are the first folk that I turn too… it works both ways. While I can expect my family to understand my deep sadness, I cannot expect them to be my emotional ear, especially when they are dealing with their own aches and pains. I find I really need an impartial friend who is near and dear to me, but isn’t necessarily part of the family. Your anytime friend may not be the people that you think will be good listeners, they may be someone totally unexpected. Different folk in different seasons can be extremely helpful. I have to say, whoever they are, don’t be afraid to call them.
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  11. Do Just One Thing: I think we get so caught up in getting everything done and the level of overwhelm can just be alarming. To be sure you do not have to provide your children with an entire education this very year. We are so caught up in the “everything now culture” that we often forget that our students are with us for years. Even before disaster strikes this is something that really worries homeschool moms. Now is the time to let crazy expectations go and just try and do one thing. Just pick one thing that you think you can manage and then try it. Your kids will survive for a while without doing all the reading and all the math and all the science experiments. I know in difficult times I have chosen just one book to read to our family, one chapter a day and that is all… there have been times when even that was too much. In fact there were times when my one thing was to step outside and sit on the steps. I reckoned my kids were outdoors playing, I was alongside them and that was my one thing… you can go smaller than that too… your kids will learn despite you… if they play computer games, if they page through library books, if they chatter with friends… they will be learning, and I will say it again, it is only for a season.
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  13. Find Time for Yourself: I know this sounds impossible… my husband works all day and often nights, I am surrounded by early-rising-little-people and never-ever-going-to-bed-teens… and that is all the more reason to find space for yourself. I have learnt to find space within a crowd/our family. I can take my kids to the beach and they all are engaged and playing and I can just sit and stare into space. When my children were younger I would go to the library alone and choose their books… Even a cup of tea, just for you, can feel pretty sacred. This year we started really little ambles in the evening… to the end of the block and back. The kids were busy looking at things my mind could wander. It has grown in to something bigger but it began as a very small step of getting some fresh air for me.
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    And the Se7en + 1th…

  15. This is a Season it is not Forever: I am not for a moment saying that grief goes away, when you survive an ordeal it really aches and a part of you will always ache… but you do get better at living with that ache. You won’t forget everything that has happened and bounce back into life as it was before, we are changed by a crisis, we are different because of them and our lives and perspective will be different too. You will find months, years later, when you just can’t face the day – so be it, collapse. That’s okay. You are a human person, a frail one at that… we don’t expect perfection from those around us, let’s not expect it from ourselves either. If you find yourself sinking way too far into the pit of despair, then their is no shame in getting professional help. Sometimes problems are poured on us thick and fast and when things appear to be totally more than we can cope with, another thing lands on our plate… if you do need professional help then get it sooner rather than later, because impartial help may be just the help you need.

Your kids will learn from your family trials, maybe not your traditional school classes. When we walk through the different seasons of life with our children alongside they get to join us on the journey. We are teaching them the path to take and how to handle difficulties that are bound to strike them as adults. Oh yes, your children are learning… maybe not how to spell ten new words for the week, but life is a lesson and the more help they get along the way when they are younger, the easier it will be for them when they are adults.

→ 13 CommentsTags: Organizing School · Se7en at School

Se7en + 1 Things to do with a Bandana, And Let’s Support The Sunflower Fund Together…

September 16th, 2014 · 2 Comments

The Sunflower Fund National Bandana Day Campaign runs from 15 August to 15 October 2014. And National Bandana Day is 12 October…

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The Sunflower Fund National Bandana Day Campaign has a simple message this year:

“We all have Hopes and Dreams for the future. By purchasing a bandana for R25 you could make a difference and offer those fighting leukaemia and other life threatening blood disorders a chance of a future”.

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As a family we really wanted to support the Sunflower Fund and we headed for the supermarket and collected se7en + 1 Bandanas… and then we brainstormed se7en + 1 Things to do with a bandana… and like all good brainstorming sessions we began by baking a batch of cookies, as one does…

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Se7en + 1 Things to do with a Bandana…

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  1. Endless Quilting: Sew them together for a picnic blanket or an almost instant bedspread.
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  3. Endless Cushions: All my kids think a pile of bandana cushions will rather up the decor around here.
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  5. Endless Head Gear: There are only about a million bazillion ways to wear a bandana.
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  7. Endless Bandana Bunting: Cut your bandana into four triangles. Fold the base of each triangle over and stitch them to form a casing. Thread some ribbon or string through the casing and hang your bunting up… done!!!
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  9. Endless Clothing and Accessory Upgrades: Sometimes a pair of jeans just needs a bandana stripe.
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  11. Endless Dress Up: And I mean endless… pirates, cowboys, super heroes, doctoring, endless…
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  13. Endless Aprons: Just snip and add ribbon and all that felt baking will be taken to a new level.
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    And the se7en + 1 th

  15. Bandanas make the Best Gifts and the Best Baby Present Ever: All our babies had a special bandana, firstly they are bright and fun and each can have their own colour. Buy a couple and then you have a special supply. They are great for about a million baby things:
    • A trendy spit up cloth,
    • An instant bib,
    • A sunshade,
    • Something to lay them on when you really need to put them down on a clean surface,
    • Something to swing above them for batting practice with those little feet,
    • Something light enough for them to hold on too,
    • And something for them to cuddle when they fall asleep,
    • Could go on and on…

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While bandanas are fun and projects with bandanas are more fun… these bandanas serve a serious purpose. The Sunflower Fund desperately needs our support. The Sunflower Fund is a non-profit organisation in Cape Town, South Africa. They are trying to educate South Africans, create awareness and raise funds to build the South African Bone Marrow Registry with healthy bone marrow stem cell donors…to improve the chances for all South Africans, diagnosed with life threatening blood disorders, of having a bone marrow stem cell transplant and being given the opportunity of a longer life!

What can you do for the Sunflower Fund

  • Visit their website to learn more.
  • See if you qualify to be in the bone marrow registry.
  • The funds from bandana sales goes towards funding the project… buy a bandana.
  • Wear your bandana on Bandana Day – to raise awareness of this very important project.

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→ 2 CommentsTags: Caring and Sharing

Sunday Snippet: Construction Site – Expect Delays…

September 15th, 2014 · 6 Comments

Roadworks seem to be the fashion of the day and we are never very far from them. I have a child who loves and adores a good construction site and fortunately for her, there is often one within walking distance of home. Much as she loves construction sites I have a feeling that the amount of delay and traffic congestion surrounding the roadworks, and the fact that they are taking forever, may be leaving a lot of neighbourhood motorists more than a little put out.

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It isn’t just roadworks, construction seems to be a way of life and it appears that often those around the construction find themselves a little put out – I didn’t even attempt to hang laundry this past week. Our laundry rack was going to be busy just for an afternoon of moving house… it turned out to be the whole week. I said nothing, I prefer to pick my battles.

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However, when it comes to our hearts we expect the construction that is going on in there to happen overnight… and it won’t of course bother anyone around us. Needless to say as we sit in church on a Sunday morning and we all have on our Sunday smiles it might appear to the world that the roadworks going on in our hearts are all up to date and complete too. Smooth traffic flowing all round. I know there are moms sitting a couple of rows back thinking, wow she must be so organised and together, all her kids are in a row. Little do they know one child left home without shoes, another only had one shoe… three children flatly refused breakfast and claim they will never ever eat oats again and I don’t want to mention the dishes “soaking” in the sink. And as for the “he touched me, her knee was in my space, humming during prayers…” that goes on. I have to say that those in the row directly behind us are often very polite, and I am sure more than a little put out by the “roadworks” going on in our row. And that’s before we even get to the hearts.

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Unfortunately, the roadworks in my heart are a bit more of a stop-and-go situation, sometimes I stop and take a breath, but mostly it is just go, go, go without pause. Two people asked me this week if I worked… um I have eight kids, I think I do. I have a feeling that they were actually asking if I earned a salary, I don’t. But what sprung to mind immediately, was the work I haven’t been getting around too… it is September and my plans to read the Bible through in a year… have drifted into a two year plan, and my intentions to learn a Bible verse each week are stuck way back in February. And the only good thing about that is that those were my plans and my works. And I am more than grateful that it is God who is working on my heart and constructing and transforming my mind, because if it were up to me… then we could expect quite a few delays. But since it is up to God, it will happen, despite my flimsy efforts, according to His perfect timing and eventually He will reach completion, even with me.

All our Sunday Snippets have been updated and gathered into one place again.

→ 6 CommentsTags: Sunday Snippet

Se7en’s Fabulous Friday Fun #239…

September 13th, 2014 · 6 Comments

It has been such a busy week… and the posts I had planned never came to fruition, which is a good thing because I have a pile of blogposts in the pipeline all close to “good to go.” This week, someone we know discovered flying is for the birds – literally. He has needed lots of extra care and attention and multiple friends over continuously as distraction…

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We actually have a fairly quiet weekend planned, which is great because I have some great posts looming, they just require a little crafty time and good light for photographing. Honestly, I am quite keen to dive right into the weekend!!!


Here are some lovely links from this week:

  1. It is birthday season again over here and this weeks Favourite Party Ideas on Oh Happy Day – sweet fun inspiration!!!
  2. And Handmade Charlotte could well be upping our breakfast game with “the art of the breakfast sandwich,” not to mention would you look at these darling animal spools.
  3. How adorable are these mini-pinatas… on Bellissina Kids!!!
  4. Hmmm… this post on Playing by the Book got me thinking: Do you have desert island books… I have a mental timeline of books for ages and stages that I have passed through… but I think I might need to create a desert island list – Just in case!!!
  5. Katherine Marie… she’s back and I’m loving it!!!
  6. Ever since we explored the River Cottage CookBook for school one here we have wanted to visit there… take a peak at a visit: River Cottage…
  7. Humour me and my IKEA campaign – hello would someone like to say why there is no IKEA in Cape Town because would you look at all this IKEA paper love on Poppytalk… go on … look – stationary heaven!!!
  8. And I absolutely cannot let this week pass by without pointing you to Alisa Burke’s Family beads… they are too delightful!!!
  9. And the se7en + 1th link:

  10. A Blast From the Past: And here are a couple of links to posts, this week, from previous years:

That’s us… Hope your weekend is a fabulous one and we are so looking forward to another week of blogging with you all…

→ 6 CommentsTags: Fabulous Friday Fun

What We Are Reading Right Now #30 – The PanMacmillan Edition…

September 12th, 2014 · 4 Comments

Once again we bring you a pile of the latest and greatest new kids books, hot of the press…


A Family Read A Loud: We have absolutely loved Sam Angus’ previous books: Soldier Dog and Hero… so much so that I read this as soon as it landed in our review pile and I am saving it until we are finished our current read aloud… to share with the gang. Sam Angus writes war stories… stories about children and animals caught in the throws of the Great Wars. They are incredible reads, she has the knack of carrying your emotions to the edge and back – there will be tears of anguish, there will be tears of joy… there will be tears. In her latest book Captain, you are taken with young Billy Bayliss, who at fifteen faked his way into the war effort, into the heart of Galipolli. Captain is not a donkey, as you might have guessed by the cover, but a quick witted refugee and someone who is of the same age as Billy… together they find themselves in a man’s world. How often we have a romantic ideal of a a distant war, in a distant time, in a distant city. This beautifully written book brings Galipolli home, you will never forget the men and boys that fought for their lives and essentially our freedom. If loyalty and bravery could be learnt within the covers of a book then you would definitely learn those qualities in this book.

The Hoods Are Reading…


Hood #3:

Deep Blue, the first in the WaterFire Saga by Jennifer Donnelly: Hood #3 vanished into this book, and Hood #2 was intrigued after her rave reviews. They both took a day off from the world to read it from cover to cover. I don’t know if I am dying to read a book about mermaids, per se… but I had to take a peak after they both enjoyed this book so much. This book is a mystery… and a saga, it is the first in a series of four. Serafina is a Mediterranean mermaid about to get betrothed to Prince Mahdi, of the Indian Ocean. Serafina is part of the Mer-world, a whole world invented and created just for the saga… Serafina has been having troubling dreams and as you wander into the book you discover that these dreams are more than dreams. You are in the world of mermaids, there will be magic and myth intertwined, and lots of it. This book is not nearly as grown up as it looks, so a good read for the younger teen set. A little love, but nothing untoward or intense, and lots of very capable girls or should I say mermaids directing the story. The book is also full of puns and while the story is a serious one, the puns and humorous style, keep it light. I liked the little details in the book, all the text is blue – adding to the whole “undersea effect.” If you love all things ocean, and pretty and dramatic, then this is a fabulous read… The book ends with a bit of a cliff hanger and you will want the next book in the series to be out already – it isn’t of course.


Hood #4:

Really, Really Big Questions about Science by Holly Cave and illustrated by Marc Aspinall. I totally and absolutely love and adore this book. Everything about it screams vintage. It feels like the kind of fact book I grew up on, only the facts are current. Five Chapters: Life and Living Things; Amazing Me!; The Weird and the Wonderful; Bright Ideas; and the Big Wide World. The whole book reads like the author is chatting to you… the pages are big and clear, with one fabulous question per page and a fabulous retro illustration to go with it. The questions alone are intriguing and enough to get even the most sluggish brain thinking or rather reading: “Why am I always late for school? Why don’t I look like a banana?… Why can’t I jump like a superhero?” and so on. Also, on almost every page there is a little “Brain Burn Box” filled with the most mind blowing fact. The illustrations are glorious and you really do feel like you may have stepped back in time!!!


Hood #5:

Foxy Tales by the Caryl Hart and Alex T. Smith… Oh you are in for some fun… anything with Alex T. Smith on the cover is going to be great fun… Foxy Dubois is a very fancy fox, filled with airs and graces and she is off to Jollywood to find her fame and fortune. Only one thing stands in her way and that is Alphonso Alligator, a delightfully impolite alligator with an insatiable appetite… anything and everything is at risk of being eaten, and a series of burps and other bodily smells and noises are emitted… Much as Foxy tries to get rid of him, she can’t, one of those “friends” that sticks like glue. The illustrations are as much, if not more part of the tale… lots of slapstick funniness. After hood #5 read this one to himself and laughed hysterically out loud to it all… I was forced to read it to the younger group too… they loved it. This book is a bit more work than an easy reader, and a lot less work than your typical chapter book… perfect for the just reading reader. Perfectly silly through and through, the sort of book reviewers would call a delightful romp… and for once they would be right.


Hood #6:

Donna Wilson’s Creative Creatures: We have reviewed this lovely book before, but it is out in soft cover now and worth a second shout out. This is a book for the “makers” of this world… packed. packed with lovely ideas of things to make and do… quick and easy crafts and other’s that will require time and effort. Paper crafts, fabric crafts… owls and kittens, monkeys and foxes… sock puppets, paper dolls, soft houses and pop up cards… there is really a craft for everyone in this book… EVERYONE!!! Now that our child, that just can’t stop making things is old enough to dive in and conquer any craft completely unattended, this book is the book for her!!! Don’t for a moment think this is just another children’s craft book… it is packed with loveliness for all ages and stages. We totally love this book, it is a keeper and will be lying on the coffee table inspiring someone for weeks to come.


Hood #7:

Handa’s Surprising Day by Eileen Browne is just delightful… an easy reader of the sweetest variety, with a story that is interesting and fun to read… Handa is a young gal growing up in a village in Kenya. My children delight in reading stories about children in Africa and really we wish there were more around. Anyway, Handa is your typical young gal who has a tendency to misplace things. One day she leaves home with a large basket of fruit on her head, all the animals she passes on her journey are very happy to help themselves and when she reaches her destination she has a large collection of tangerines instead… life sure is full of lovely surprises. Three really lovely stories in one… and just at the right level for a beginner reader to tackle with a little help.

The Flying Bath by Julia Donaldson: Honestly, who knew that all the bath toys have a wild and energetic play after everyone leaves the house in the morning. The bath goes on a bit of a rescue mission – all over the world. It is Julia Donaldson, so there is clever rhythm and rhyme, lots of it and of course a repeatable chorus that gets louder and rompier towards the end. This is a picture book and it was appreciated as that… but there is a little more, almost all the writing is in speech bubbles, the words are very simple and my beginner readers really enjoyed reading the predictable text and really got that the story was a conversation between the main players. A fun read but not an awesome read… nowhere near as easy reading and poetical as the Gruffalo or A Squash and a Squueze, say.

And the se7en + 1th Books:


Hood #8:

Hugless Douglas by David Melling: I know we have blogged about Hugless Douglas before, but honestly he is so darling and his funny bunnies and cuddly sheep… just the perfect guy to cuddle up with for a story… Everything to love!!! And Hugless has activity books too… filled with adorable pages of “how to draw” and spot the difference, and puzzles and fun for the junior set… but I have to say it is the dozens and dozens of the cutest stickers that get me… I just love them!!!

That’s us… hope you have a weekend full of great reads…

We would really like to thank Pan MacMillan South Africa for providing us with all the books to review for this post. We would like to declare that we were not paid to do these reviews, just provided with books. All the opinions are as usual, entirely our own!!!

→ 4 CommentsTags: Brilliant Books

Se7en + 1 Reasons to Keep on Reading Aloud to your Kids…

September 10th, 2014 · 21 Comments

I really wanted to write a post for World Literacy Day and then we ended up spending the afternoon reading through a huge pile of books and it occurred to me that that was a far more appropriate way to spend any day, especially World Literacy Day. I am all for literacy… and placing a real live book in the hands of every child. But I think the world has become a little obsessed with reading. Gasp… I hear a gasp. Now I am no educational expert, and I have a relatively small number of students in my school, but hear me out:


  1. The Myth of a Literate Society:
  2. We claim to live in a world of such advanced education and everyone is dashing to get ahead. Little children have less and less play time all in the name of learning how to read. How many times do I hear the lament: “If only my child would read…” When I went to school, it was to learn to read, now if your child hasn’t done two years of preschool and sitting at a desk, they are on the back foot, behind before they begin, in fact.

    But for all the advancement if you look at many modern picture books written for a preschooler and compare it to say, anything by Beatrix Potter, our children will understand and get both – but there is no literary comparison. It turns out in the era when people were not so busy with flash cards, or “how to read apps,” children and the ordinary adults that read aloud to those children had a far greater vocabulary and dare I say a closer affinity to the true meaning of literacy.


  3. Reading and Literacy Are Just Not the Same Thing:
  4. Not all my children are good readers, but they are all literate, in the sense that they have heard and internalised hundreds of great books. I am really not afraid to say it out-loud, horrors of horrors, we homeschool and not all my children are good readers. We haven’t struggled over reading, we haven’t ever said – this child is a good reader or that one is an appalling reader, but for some readers it takes a while for their decoding skills to catch up to their listening skills.

    There are many situations where my slower readers would have been labeled and they would definitely have been placed in a remedial class in a school, but in the learning environment they are in, they are oblivious to labels, blissfully unaware that there is an age by which reading “has to be mastered.” The point is there is no reason, in this day and age, for the child that takes longer to learn to read to be necessarily illiterate. And there is no reason for the child, who takes longer to actually read, not to love books.


  5. Reading is a Skill:
  6. I cannot tell you how often I receive requests from parents asking me how to speed up their children on their educational journey. Their child is way to advanced for their age, everything “age appropriate is totally dull” and what activities can they give their children to get ahead. My answer is always the same: let them make mud-pies. I firmly believe that children should be playing, and that the “academically advanced child” probably needs to get outdoors and needs to play even more than most.

    Children that are truly advanced in their thinking should be spread wider and opportunities for them to explore the world should abound. Honestly, reading is a skill and is all about being able to decode what is written on the page. The child that teaches itself to read at age three is no more brilliant than the twelve year old, who quietly progresses from sounding out words to fluency without anybody noticing. These children might have different reading skills, but that doesn’t make one brighter than the other. And certainly, there is no reason on earth why one of these children should end up more literate than the other, or why one of them should be read to more or less than others.


  7. Children Should be Playing:
  8. All sorts of developmental things have to happen in a child’s life before a child can read. If a student is three or thirteen reading is still a skill. I am sure that somewhere there is good research that says it is more important for the young child to play outdoors, to run and jump and leap than it is to spend hours sounding out words in easy readers. When a friend of mine told me that her child was repeating grade 1 and wasn’t allowed to do any extra-murals because her reading was behind, and she had to stay in for extra seat work. I could have wept on the spot. That child is unlikely to grow up with a passion for books. When reading sounds much more like a punishment than a privilege you cannot possibly expect to be encouraging a love of reading. And you have to notice that passing tests, getting a certain grade and ticking boxes on a developmental chart have become far more important than actual literacy and a love of reading.

    It is quite common practice to read excellent books to a child until they start to learn to read and then they have to read mindless books. Beginner readers are very often, nothing short of dull. And forever after, these young readers are left to their own reading devices. May I encourage you that in order to keep them excited and interested in reading you have to continue to read to them – good books, excellent books, exciting books, books way above their reading level. Don’t be impatient with your reluctant readers, don’t rush your beginner readers. I am all for kids doing hard work and there are times when learning to read is just that. But in the name of literacy, if your children need to work give them chores to do, and then settle down and read to them.


  9. When Folk Insist That Their Children Read:
  10. How on earth do you force a child to read – I have no idea, the child that doesn’t want to read simply doesn’t look at the words. However you can not prevent a child from being hooked by a good story and listening away for hours. A good book is a good book for any age and telling a child to read a book because it is a good one is the most effective way of ensuring a child will never ever read it. However, when I have suggested sitting down and reading the same book to the same child I have rarely been turned down. And when I have been turned down, there is nothing to stop you sitting next to the “lego construction” of the day and simply beginning. I have found that even the most intense lego architect will slow their construction rate for a superb book.

    If you have never read to your children, or you fear your reading skills are not up to scratch, or you just can’t face reading a five hundred page book out loud. I could allay your fears and say: your skills are fine or just read a chapter at a time. If you still aren’t convinced welcome to the world of audible books. So many books are available online for free, borrow an audible book from the library and listen together. Buy a classic, with a great reader, from audible books every other month and listen to it together. Your life will be richer for it. And you will be doing heaps for your family’s literacy.


  11. Don’t be Misled by the Avid Reader:
  12. The child that flies through thousands of books isn’t necessarily more literate than the child who is reading one good book over the Summer. This is my problem with reading programs that reward children for reading a number of books. The child may indeed wind their way through series after series of book. But that doesn’t mean they are more literate than the child who has plodded through one great classic. One has to ask, who has used their imagination more who has spent more time in deep contemplation. Let’s face it there are plenty of series aimed at the reluctant reader, packed with every trick to entice them to read. It is the same story again and again with a different cover on it. I have found that reading a variety of good books to my kids and smothering them in rich language and ideas does more for their overall literacy than making them sit and read through a beginner reader series and ticking off the chapters on a chart.


  13. The Myth that if they Don’t Read they Won’t Read:
  14. Reading requires practice. “When you read to your child you remove their impetus to read for themselves.” This could not be further from the truth. When your children are in the habit of listening to good books being read to them, the rich sounds of good language, those are the books that they will seek out to read for themselves eventually. Do not discount the reading your children are doing, little as it may be, even my children that were slowest to pick up a book were reading heaps: they read slogans, they read labels, they read shopping lists, they read instructions, they read comics, they read and read and read, but they may not be reading the books on their school reading list. Honestly I don’t really care what they read, as long as they have opportunities to read.

    I have one child who is obsessed with reading food labels and another who can’t wait for the weekly newspaper to be dropped off because they pour over the “specials” pages from the hardware store. Whatever they are reading, they are reading and that’s fabulous, but not necessarily making them more literate. Similarly, the child who reads thirty thousand easy readers about fairies, that aren’t exactly edifying but getting gold stars because they are reading books, aren’t necessarily becoming more literate. I feel that by reading aloud to them I am covering their literary skills in a way that most children aren’t getting because they are not being read too. I have found that once our kids reading skills catch up with their listening skills they will start by reading books they have loved having read to them and they will follow up with good books because that is what they are used to.


    And the se7en + 1th thing…

  15. A Shared Experience is a Memorable Experience:
  16. Oh the theory is that it would be so much easier if our kids did all their own reading. Easier isn’t always better. I don’t want to foster a world where “they read their books and I read mine.” There is a lot to be said for the shared experience and a great way to live alongside your kids and to create memorable memories, is to share a good read with them. My kids are perfectly capable of reading many of the books we read together as a family but a lot of the joy is the collective experience of a good book. Don’t wish all the good books on your kids, share them with them, books take us out of our daily grind, out of our small world of dishes and laundry. With books we are able to connect on a multitude of levels. Our kids can spot a stack of sticks and immediately everyone of us will be snapped straight back to the very rainy night that we sat and read about Eeyore’s house together. Heaps of experiences like that create a shared memory. Heaps of good books, if your children read them or you do, create a family culture that ties you together.


It turns out that while the ability to read is life-changing and there is no denying that reading can raise folks life experience enormously, there is a whole lot more to literacy than being able to read and write. Many a child is turned away from reading because they see it as yet another “test they have to pass” or “yet more homework that has to be completed.” It is up to us to turn literacy into something much richer for our children than just another box to check on the list of things to do for the day. Literacy is all about filling minds with rich words and language and giving our children a cultural and family heritage, a pride in who they are and where they come from. Yes, I am all for literacy and placing a book into every child’s hands and then reading it to them.

→ 21 CommentsTags: Language Arts · Se7en at School

Saturday Spot: A Family Friendly Hike in Cape Point Nature Reserve…

September 8th, 2014 · 4 Comments

I was planning to post our source to the sea river hike this weekend, and then I realised that this week is South African National Parks Week, so I thought I would post our favourite family friendly hike in Cape Point. We have spent the last year doing a number of hikes in the Cape Point Nature Reserve, in the Table Mountain National Park, some are really easy walks and others have been really difficult hikes… but by far our favourite has been the hike down the coast from Gifkommetjie to Platboom.

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Let’s back track a little… South African National Parks Week: “The week grants free access to most of the 21 national parks for day visitors, especially people from the local communities.” You do have to have a valid identity document, click on the link or call your local park for details and terms and conditions. There is so much to do within the nature reserve: picnicing, ambling, rock pooling. Most visitors fly down the central road and head straight for the light house at Cape Point, and then return the same way… we highly recommend getting off the beaten track a little, that is the most likely way to see the fairly shy wildlife and discover the beauty of being out in the wild outdoors, without ever being far from “civilisation.”

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Most of our hikes begin with a morning spent with our ranger, and a class in the great outdoors. This was a wintry day and we were learning about baboons…

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Let’s Get Hiking…

This hike begins above Gifkommetjie and the trickiest part of the whole hike is a right at the start, a couple of flights of fairly steep stairs taking you down to sea-level and then you walk the entire away along the coast.

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The beginning of the hike is tricky enough for your older kids to feel as if they are on an adventure and easy enough for a four year old, or any small child that can manage stairs, to handle.

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On our way down to the plain it started to rain so we stopped in a very conveniently located cave for our lunch.

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And climbing… as one does.

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After that it was down and down…

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And across a marshy swamp towards the shore… Now this was a month or two back in the middle of the harshest of the winter rains and so we were very grateful for the stepping stones.

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While I am sure this is mostly dry in the summer it was really wet when we got there, and one or two members of the gang had just received their new shoes for the year and were more than a little upset that for several meters the stepping stones were really knee deep under water… there is damp and then there is soaked…

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It was time for a life lesson, in times of trouble, you can’t just sit in a heap, give up or turn back… you have to figure out a plan. They made full use of Hood #1, and he made some fresh stepping stones, out of the swamp and onto the rocky shore… deep admiration all round and problem solved.

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Could this be a fan club!!!

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Some new stepping stones out of the mire…

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And we continued for a short distance, boulder hopping…

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Once we had completed the boulder hopping so we carried on on a sandy trail…

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And dunes…

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There were lots of birds to look at…

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And colourful rocks…

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And just over the dunes a lake…

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And flat easy walking…

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And the magic of this trail… Tracks of every kind…

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And these two were looking at something as well…

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Just over the dunes there is some coastal fynbos…

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And a group of Eland.

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All along the ocean crashing…

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The walking never got harder than this…

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A little further along… Bontebok…

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We knew there were baboons nearby, we could hear them and there were plenty of footprints, but they stayed well away from us… and we didn’t actually see them…

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We stopped for a rest and a picnic…

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And further ambling down the beach…

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To the finish… an easy and lovely afternoon’s walk, filled with animal tracking and spotting and not another person along the way… you really do feel like the only people in the world. The ocean crashes beside you the whole way and you do sense the wildness of the whole Atlantic landing smashing into the coast. This hike is a good mix of wild and yet achievable and is by far our favourite hike in Cape Point so far.

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Other SAN PARKS Hiking Posts

Hiking in the Cape Peninsula

Cape Point and Outings with SAN Parks


Related Posts with Thumbnails

→ 4 CommentsTags: Cape Town · Outings · Saturday Spot