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

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Earth Day, and Life a Year After a Trip to Zambia…

April 23rd, 2016 · 3 Comments

It’s Earth Day and always a reason for us to celebrate. We have always been somewhat environmentally friendly. A couple of years ago I wrote a post, I never intended to be a Green Mother… but somewhat green we have been. Last year I went on an epic and very green adventure, I traveled to Zambia to plant trees with GreenPop. Like most people who head for a week of planting trees in Zambia I was super excited, it was all about the trees. Honestly I thought about nothing else for months, I worried that I wouldn’t be able to plant enough trees, I worried I wouldn’t be able to plant any trees… turns out I could plant trees, it was a heap of fun planting trees and anybody who has ben tought how can actually plant trees. Then again it turns out it wasn’t entirely about planting trees.

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The truth is, it was a fairly epic step out of my comfort zone… to leave my kids for the first time ever, hop on a bus and travel across a couple of countries, the first time I had actually crossed a border on my own and first time I had traveled into the heart of Africa before. I know I am a grown up and I have traveled heaps before, but there were a lot of firsts in there. Not only that… the first night there… I slept all along in an empty campsite and I had had all my luggage stolen on the bus as well. I had to take a breathe and say this is cool… who gets to sleep all on their own on the African plains. Regarding the luggage, well for the person that is quite comfortable behind a screen, I had to step even further out of my comfort zone again and ask for help with absolutely everything, from poor sweet folk that I hardly knew. Somethings I was just never brave enough to ask for… sunscreen I never got round to… but I did get some Tabard!!!

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Turns out if you are ever packing for a trip to Zambia, you will need to: Travel in clothes you intend to plant trees in, jeans and a t-shirt are perfect, and some warm layers for the night time… it does get colder than cold. I made it without a sunhat, but I was very grateful that I had a beanie in my jacket pocket. The days are warm, if you take a shower when you get back from planting trees, and quickly wash the clothes you were in, they will literally dry while you are in the shower. The campsite food is superb, have no fear of a vegan diet – you will eat a beautiful feast at every single meal and there is absolutely no need to pack snacks of any kind. There is ice cold water and tea and coffee table available all day/night long… though I should have been tempted to take some cocoa with me, nothing really beats the comfort of a warm drink before bed after a long days’ work.

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Anyway, this isn’t about luggage… what I wanted to say was that I did something really hard for me, in the name of a very green cause… and I loved it. This went way beyond choosing to use our own shopping bags, or recycling, it was saying to the small world of mothering and homeschooling and blogging that I live in and saying, this is important enough to step out for a time and go completely green. And I loved it. I really loved it. The lesson I learnt was huge… small changes are great, and if you want make a real difference you can, no matter how tiny your contribution is to the bigger picture… honestly I wasn’t the fastest tree plant their!!! But I have to say that when I took the leap and leapt higher than I thought I actually could, I realised that it wasn’t about the trees, even though it was, it was all about the beautiful big hearted people I met, from Zambia and on the GreenPop team… but it was more about completely changing the way we lived, every single day. That one week changed my look at the world…not just for one week of the year… but for life…

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Se7en+1 Ways to Take a Leap and Go Green.

  1. Start the Day with a Stretch: Every morning the campsite began with a stretch in the great outdoors… it has made me take a moment in the morning before I start the day… 2 seconds or 2 minutes, depending on the day. Just step out the door, reach for the sky and take a moment to breathe in the day. Just do it. You will have a better day for it, every single time you take that moment.
  2. Shop, Create and Eat Beautiful Food: Feeding the people on the earth, in a sustainable way, is one of the leading green topics of the day… it takes a little longer to make your food beautiful than just to toss it on a plate… just another sandwich can become something really delicious without too much effort and it is so much nicer to eat. And why oh why do we accept fresh produce in our stores, that has flown across the country, or worse the world. The green “foot-stamp” of an imported tomato just can’t compete with the fine flavour and yumminess of one that is freshly grown.
  3. Lose the Plastic… Just stop it: We know the oceans are full of it, and yet we buy it. There are alternatives… just say no and never buy a plastic water bottle again, lose the plastic food containers, just boycott plastic packaging… that can be your personal campaign. In an ocean full of plastic, one more plastic shopping bag might not look too bad… but in an ocean full of plastic, one more shopping bag may just shut the ocean down. The campsite was bag free, and something I thought we could never achieve turned out to be a really easy option. Now I just said no to plastic bags. If I forget our plastic bags at home then we have to figure out a way to get our shopping home. Do that once or twice and you will never forget your shopping bags again. Plastic bags are just a no. In fact plastic – just no.
  4. Compost Heaps: The guys in the Greenpop campsite were always talking about composting and I had always thought how we don’t have a very big garden and where in the world would we put a compost heap, let alone find stuff to put on it. This is the same garden, where we do a clean-up every couple of months and have a real problem trying to get rid of the garden garbage. Out garbage trucks don’t collect any garden garbage (actually ours hardly collect any garbage ever at all, but that is a whole ‘nother story)… and I know because our neighbour tosses hers into our garden – we won’t mind an extra bit of garden garbage – because we have kids. (There is a logical disconnect in that previous sentence, but it isn’t mine, so I will let it stand. Honestly, I have no words, but will always choose to avoid a confrontation). So when I returned home from Zambia and saw all the kitchen goodies that we were tossing out and the garden garbage that was going nowhere fast, it made perfect sense to “grow our own” compost pile… After a year of composting we have a rocking compost pile.
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  6. Reduced our Garbage Significantly: We have always recycled, its an easy and reliable green choice for any family… but we now recycle everything…. in a big way. Where packaging used to really annoy me, I now choose to not bother with packaging at all. If we have packaging it is cleaned and recycled. If a store insists on wrapping their fruit and veg in packaging then I can refuse to buy it. If you miss out on apples one week or you can’t get a favourite vegetable this week, take a stand against packaging. Recycling obsessively, making eco-bricks with the leftovers, not to mention composting has reduced our weekly contribution to the landfill from almost three bags (I shudder) to less than half a bag a week.
  7. Learn More About It: I learnt so much just sitting around the Greenpop campsite, chatting and meeting people and well learning… it was energising, it was inspiring… and I have been reading away and learning away all year ever since.
  8. Clean-up Everywhere: I can write letters to the newspaper and I can blog about picking up litter, but nothing beats making a real difference than by just stopping and picking up the litter. Beach cleanups, mountain cleanups, it is amazing how much litter washes up… there are some hikes that we have been on, even in places that are intended to be pristine… that have been spoilt by the amount of trash tossed on the path. Now we just carry a garbage bag in our backpack. Don’t just talk about it, do something.
  9. Get Outdoors and Enjoy It: There is no point in saving the planet if you don’t live in your world and enjoy it. Living green isn’t meant to be an academic exercise the you figure out at a desk… you have to get outdoors and do something. We spent a lot of time outdoors before I went to Zambia. After a week of not stepping into a building at all, except to go to the bathroom, I realised that it is quite possible to shift your life outdoors and be better for it. Take your book and read out doors, take your table and do school outdoors. Honestly, lose the gym, why on earth would you walk on a treadmill when you can walk on the beach. I know not everyone has a beach… but outdoors… take your life outdoors, if you plant a few trees while you are there that’s all well and good too.

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So yes, I did step out of my comfort zone and I did learn how to plant trees and I did meet some of the most incredibly caring busy people ever… but a whole lot more than that, a week in Zambia changed so much of how we as a family, live our day to day lives. Turns out that sometimes you do have to take a giant step to make a few significant changes. Green changes that I thought were too hard for us turned out to be a lot easier than I had expected. All the “I can’t’s” where rearranged into a pile of “I can’s” on a bus trip to Zambia.

→ 3 CommentsTags: Caring and Sharing · Green Living · Zambia

Se7en At School and the One-on-One Meeting…

April 22nd, 2016 · 12 Comments

A couple of weeks back I wrote a post about “A day in the life of our school,”… I blogged a little bit about our start to the day with family school and the question that came up was, “When do we do all the real school?” I smiled at that… I am guessing that when most folk think about school they think mostly about the reading, writing and arithmetic aspect of school. I also think when most folk begin homeschooling they are very concerned about their kids keeping up with the basics and not falling behind… but years down the line, we are not that concerned about our kids keeping up with the Homeschooling Jones’s, it is just as important that our kids spend hours of their day in free play, in the great outdoors and immersed in heaps of books. Real school work progresses at whatever speed our kids’ work best at, but really lessons seem to come naturally through playing… numerical skills from games, reading from being read to. Living life seems to be the best place to linger a little and get a whole lot of learning done.

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The question still remains, when do we do “real school?”

So a typical school day begins with our family school time together, and that takes us from about nine to ten thirty… then we have a little break, maybe hang the laundry, do a few chores and run and jump and leap about… because sitting all day is for the birds… then the kids spread out to their favourite spots around the kitchen and get on with their “real school” until lunchtime, so that’s from about eleven till one pm.. During this time I have a one on one meeting with two or three kids, one after the other until lunchtime. I very often play gentle music here, often just the greatest hits from our musician of the week, this week was Beethoven… because let’s face it, open plan offices and every individual humming to their own drum can drive everyone a little mad.

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Let’s Talk About What Folk call Real School

So the real school being the reading, writing and arithmetic part of our day… If I were to look at all the school that our kids have to get through in a year, or in a week or even in a day… I might be somewhat overwhelmed, so I chunk it into small manageable time slots. To explain how we do our school you need to take a peak at what we actually do. It is no secret that we are huge Sonlight fans and for thirty-six weeks of the year they each power their way through their grade of carefully selected Sonlight readers. Normally our kids begin their school day with their bible, history and science reading and then they dive into their files and tackle a handful of workbooks. For math we use Singapore math and for the younger set Miquon as well. For language arts they use Explode the Code and Wordly Wise. Everyone over here has a notebook, just an ordinary old notebook, wherein I keep a running list of the school they are doing, and the school I expect from them before their next meeting with me. I start by looking at their work where we left off before and then we look at the work ahead and we learn together and prepare everything we need for the week ahead.

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The One on One Meeting

I begin working with our littlest guy, this is his year to get a handle on reading… so we are winding our way through The 100 Lessons together. He has about three workbooks, he calls them activity books and likes to be read to, while he does a page or two from each… so this is when I read him his history and science pages for the day… it literally takes ten minutes. Most days we spend a little time in his school journal, which is a big fat book where we stick and glue all the little bits of paper that seem to accumulate, we either write a couple of sentences about what we have read, or an outing we have been on… And then we are done, and he is off to play, twenty minutes max. He very often chooses to stay at the table so that he can listen alongside to the school I do with his older siblings. Oh, the heady thrill of conquering an older sibling’s math problems!!!

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Primary School

So a typical meeting with my primary school girls… begins with me looking in their notebook and then reading their history and science together from where we left off the previous time. At this stage their reading isn’t proficient enough to do their own school reading. But they are beginning to read their science books to me, honestly their science books are mostly usborne books and so fun and easy to read, a good way for them to suddenly realise that they will soon be able to do all their own reading. Then we open up their school journal and I admire any new work that needs admiring… usually there is a new story for me to look at, or some sort of book review. Then we take a look at the language arts and see what story they will be writing next… and we prepare and plan it and create a little word bank for them to use. We learn the next step in math together and then I make a list of problems they should be able to do after the lesson and they are free to go on their merry way, this doesn’t take more than about 45 min for each of them… and that’s about the maximum stretch of school work I would expect from a primary school child anyway.

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Middle School

On to the late primary/middle school boys… I try and see them on alternate days to their younger sisters… so we meet together at least two, if not three times a week. Both boys are fairly competent at getting their history and science reading done at this stage, but I do have to ask them to tell me about what they have read and to show many any notes they have made in their journals… because, well boys!!! They have exactly the same subject list to work through as their younger sisters, but getting this sort of thing done is not their top priority in life… in that regard, I accept any progress as good progress. Sometimes they are caught up in the moment and they read ahead and sometimes they don’t… I’lll take what I get and move on. So I look in their journals and see what they have been up to since we last met and then we take a look at their workbooks. At this stage we don’t just use vocabulary books, they begin Winston Grammar alongside me. And they do this over a period of years… there is no rush to get the book done this year or any year… by the time they are finished high school we will have grammar basics under our belt. Then I take a look at their math… look at what was difficult and help with any problems and then move on and teach the next steps. The thing with this way of learning is that it is incremental, sometimes they don’t realise how much they are learning and they shoot ahead… then we have to wander back and review a little. But mostly they just plod along. Lastly I help them with whatever writing project that they will be doing before I see them next and we get a slight outline going before I send them off to work on their own.


High School

Now high schoolers are very different students and the last thing you want from a late sleeping teen is a morning meeting with them to see how their work is going. Trust me, that is a recipe for frustration on every side. By definition, nothing is going well first thing in the morning with teens and the fact that they join us all at the table for family school is our privilege. I don’t take it for granted and I do appreciate their efforts, because at this stage they have heaps to contribute to what we are learning, and they can add a lot of fun to our school. One of our high-schoolers love lists and ticking the boxes that’s pretty straightforward to keep tabs on, the other is all about progress. If there is progress it’s good. At this stage I feel that their school is there responsibility, and I don’t oversee every step of their journey, I do however ask them about their work and ask them to show me what they are working on. Immediately after lunch we always have a school break, a “read your own books, and have a rest from the crowd” kind of a break, and after that I will usually grab a teen and ask them how their work is going. I try and have an actual sit down meeting with them once a week or so, basically a progress meeting and a “teach you whatever you need to know to move forward” meeting, but honestly chatting with them while we get ready for dinner and so on, is usually enough for me to see that they are wandering forward on their educational journey.

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How Do You Measure Progress

I think a very real part of most “real schooling” is that children are tested continuously, to ensure that they are learning, and if I had a class of thirty kids then I would rely on tests to see if my kids were doing their work as well. We find that our kids don’t need tests, they know what they are learning and they retain it. They talk about what they are reading and learning so much that you can’t help knowing that they are learning. The very nature of a one-on-one meeting with each of the kids, makes it quite apparent to see if they are progressing forwards or not. For the little ones skills improve all the time… and that is easy to see in jumps and spurts, things that were difficult do get easier. My principal measure of progress is really in the lunchtime conversation – the student that has nothing to say about what they are learning is the student who was probably reading through their pile of library books, rather than schoolwork. Well reading is reading, and eventually school work gets done.


Hopefully that answers your questions about when my kids do their “real school,” we do only spend an hour or two on it every day, but that is plenty of time to get a heap of work done. For those folk that are worried about whether our kids are learning their a.b.c’s or their 1,2, 3’s… because it appears as if they never stop playing… they seem to be getting the basics covered and that’s enough for me right now.

Follow se7en_hoods’s board Se7en At School on Pinterest.

→ 12 CommentsTags: Organizing School · Se7en at School

Se7en’s Diary and Our Annual Sketchbook Tour…

April 20th, 2016 · 13 Comments

So a couple of weeks back, we took a week off blogging, the father person was on leave and we were all overdue for a break, shew… a week of afternoon naps and absolutely no household projects… a reading and resting holiday. The kind of holiday essential to recovering the soul.


I did have a hidden agenda, and I could never ever survive an entire week of doing nearly nothing, the week also coincided with having to hand in our Sketchbook for The Annual Sketchbook Project. For a week or so of the year, I actually need to be offline, because my keyboard is literally submerged under collagey goodness…

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The Sketchbook Project is based in Brooklyn Museum of Art… folk from all over the world sign in and are sent a sketchbook. Artists, writers, crafters and just ordinary old mother persons’ all fill up their sketchbooks and then mail them back to the Brooklyn Museum of Art to stay there as a permanent part of the collection. Such a cool project and we have been part of it, every year for a number of years.

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Of course, after having had the sketchbook, that arrives in a swish little brown envelope, sitting on my desk for months… we just hadn’t begun it. The trouble with getting started is never about getting the sketchbook done, it is always about selecting a topic from the many topics to choose from. Once we have the topic we are good to go and ideas leap out, and I get the kids to help along and create little things we can stick in and use. Anyway this year we finally chose the topic: “Diary.” Instead of producing a diary, we created a sketchbook filled with all different sorts of diaries. Here it is… hope you enjoy it… and if you are ever in Brooklyn you can visit our sketchbook, in fact all the sketchbooks we have done before should be on the shelves somewhere.

Se7en’s Diary

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Just A Diary.

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Everything you need for today: a weather tree, a perpetual calendar… and of course today’s weather chart.

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And a three month calendar, we live in the Southern Hemisphere, so our summer is at the heart of the New Year.

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A Book Diary… a list of all the books you have read for this year, for ever.

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And then there is the capsule closet diary… a collection of clothes that can be swapped and rearranged to create a different outfit everyday for a month.

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The dream diary… One of the gang loves to explain her weird and wonderful dreams first thing every morning.

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And time for another seasonal calendar, and this time it is Autumn.

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Hmmm… a Food diary: Meal planning versus what you really eat… interesting indeed.

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And we tucked our basic bread recipe into that page…

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And a garden calendar, with what to plant when (grant us a little artistic license) and we tried our hand at an ancient calendar, a quipu… with beads and knots.

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And a month of moons, connecting to the tides…

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Already so soon, winter arrives.

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And a nature diary, because wherever you are there is always a spot of nature.

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And a travel diary… because every wants to remember their travels, years from now.

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And what about a year at the nature table… full of all your collectables for a month.

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And then we opened all the drawers so that you call peek inside.

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Winter’s over, it is time for spring.

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A year in jars: Filled with special moments from each month…

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Time Capsules: And what to keep in them… memories are made of these!!!

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Things to write in a letter to yourself… to read sometime far into the future.

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And that’s the end of it, for another year….

Previous Sketchbooks

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2015: The Before and After Book…

2014: The King’s Finder…

2013: Se7en+1’s Travelogue…

2012: Se7en+1’s Companion Book…

2011: A Day in the Life…

And that’s us, until next year…

→ 13 CommentsTags: Our Events · Tuesday Art Task

Se7en’s Fabulous Fun Post #312

April 18th, 2016 · 4 Comments

We had a much busier weekend than we expected… all in a good way, and I am quite relieved that we have the week to recover before tackling the next weekend. It is that glorious time of year when the weather is absolutely perfect and we are making the very best of the glorious days and enjoying every moment of the endless summer… (before, dare I say, it ends!!!).

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Lovely Links from This Week

  1. Just in case you are feeling a little bleh and you desperately need some colour in your life: Camp Create Spring on Whatever will literally make your heart sing!!!
  2. If you have never baked a cake planet – and I have not… then you have to look at this… Scientifically accurate Cake Planets – have you ever!!!
  3. On How We Learn: Incredible Woodworking Projects for Handy Kids… Packed with about a bazillion resources!!!
  4. Zen Habits and Make one small healthy change… always makes so much sense.
  5. This post was such an enjoyable read for me… you know life with eight kids… on Planning with Kids I can say there was a stage in my life when we had eight kids under 12… and it was kind of crazy. The craziness changes, but other folk stop noticing the big family-ness of it all when your kids look all grown up and your youngest is six.
  6. I’m all for sleep – proof that I no longer have infants in arms… but after years of sleep deprivation it has proved quite a challenge to retrain myself. Here are Real Simple’s 7 Surprising Things you Probably Don’t Know About Sleep.
  7. And the se7en + 1th link:

  8. A Blast From the Past:

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Book of the Week

The High Mountains of Portugal by Yann Martel: This book is actually a collection of three shorter stories that are linked, but not as you might think they are. Actually it is a Yann Martel book and nothing is ever as you think, his writing is full of delightful surprises and his stories are packed with intricate descriptions… the words lyrical and the feel somewhere between a myth and a fable. His stories are somewhat unbelievable, but as you read them you are totally absorbed… it is only when you try to explain to person alongside you that the man in the first story is so overcome with a desperate grief, that he walks everywhere backwards as part of his recovery, that you realise that it every thing in these stories is somewhat “out of the normal.”

The book begins in 1904, with the grieving Tomas, who discovers an ancient journal and persuades his wealthy uncle to fund his trip to seek out a lost artifact… His uncle provides him with one of the first motor vehicles ever and he goes driving into the depths of rural Portugal. Continuously surprising and amazing the locals with his “beast of a vehicle.” Interesting times and much more of an adventure than Tomás was expecting. Thirty five years later and a pathologist, who is consumed by Agatha Christie Novels, finds himself unable to escape from his very own, very bizarre and somewhat disturbing mystery… and finally, another fifty years later and the story appears to turn full circle, when a Canadian senator returns to the village of his parents, in rural Portugal… with a chimpanzee. I wasn’t expecting it to be three shorter stories, and found it somewhat unnerving – thinking I wouldn’t get into short stories at all… I did though, Yann Martel writes a compelling story.

Of course the book is delightful and tragic, more than that it is not the sort of read that is going to leave you feeling all comfortable inside… in fact the opposite… you will find yourself thinking about it long after you have finished reading it. This is a great read… and a fairly quick read, there are no chapter breaks and one feels compelled to read it through. I am guessing that folk, that are looking for a quick weekend story to get lost in, won’t enjoy it quite as much as folk who love words and are perpetually looking for deeper meaning in everyday life.
This book was given to us for review purposes, by Penguin Random House South Africa, it is not a sponsored post and opinions expressed are as usual entirely our own.

International Book Giving Day

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We really need to fill up these shelves for Book Giving Day Project. We have shelves to fill with books and we are looking for your help!!! We are beyond thrilled that books are flowing in to our library project, right now. We will be collecting books until the end of the month, so if you still want to join in and send us a couple of books, please leave a comment or follow the link to find out how.

That’s us… Hope you all have a fabulous week!!!

→ 4 CommentsTags: Fabulous Friday Fun

Se7en + 1 Fun Ways to Get to Know the Periodic Table, and it’s a GiveAway…

April 15th, 2016 · 14 Comments

I cannot believe that it is possible to go through your entire education without at some stage meeting up with the elements on the Periodic Table. For some it might seem like a completely pointless exercise, but apart from the obvious reason that some sort of “element question” appears in every kind of quiz game… ever. It is actually incredibly useful to have this foundation well in place and understood long before you have to actually conquer chemistry. For most of us a grasp of the basics before we dive in is foundational to our long term success in a topic. So in our last few weeks of school for the year we are planning to conquer the Periodic table. I am all for little by little and day by day.

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When I was in grade 7 I remember staying in after school day after day because I refused to believe it was possible to learn such an enormous list of the names and symbols of so many elements. My science teacher said, “Of course you can learn a long list.” And she left it at that. Well after over a week of missing sports practice and potentially missing a match, not to mention almost dropped from the hockey team. I discovered that I was indeed quite able and in fact very motivated to learn that long list. Priorities. It was a battle of wills more than a battle of the brain… and the science teacher was winning all the way. I may not remember every detail about the periodic table, but I did learn that I can learn lists of facts and fast, and that has stood by me all my life. Lesson learnt, kudos to my science teacher.

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Skip forward a couple of years and it is time that our little school comes to terms with the Periodic Table. and I really want my gang to have a better experience at learning this than I did. We started, where all good projects begin, with a pile of post-it-notes.

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We colour coded them to match our table. I know some and then with some swift and elaborate folding we have begun to slowly learn a few facts…

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Se7en + 1 Fun Periodic Table Resources from Around the Web

  1. Funky Products: I absolutely love these Periodic Table Blocks on Imagine Childhood, and would you look at these Chemistry Crayons.
  2. The Elements by Theodore Gray: Apart from the brilliant book, this is a fantastic website and resource for all things elemental… Not to mention his Wooden Periodic Table, click on any element and it links you to all the little details. You will want to explore here, it is incredible.
  3. Printable Periodic Tables: This is the one we use and my kids all have a copy of it in the science journals… I believe that familiarity will help them learn it. But there are any number of printable Periodic tables and this link has every printable you could ever need or want.
  4. A Bit of a Scavenger Hunt: What better way to learn about the ins and outs of the Periodic than by filling one in yourself, step by step, this is a bit of a Periodic Table Scavenger Hunt, something to with your kids and by the time you have finished working through it they will have created their own Periodic Table.
  5. Lesson Plans: If you are a lesson plan type of homeschooler, then look look no further… this is the ultimate resource. The American Chemistry Society has Middle School Chemistry on the Periodic Table, with lots of printables, activity pages and links to fun goodies.
  6. And then there is You Tube:

    • For a Ten Minute Crash Course of the Periodic Table.
    • Tom Lehrer’s “The Elements” animated.
    • They Might Be Giants: And Meet the Elements.
    • How to Memorise the Periodic Table, the easiest way possible. This is a three part video… and teaches the first 20 elements. Thereafter you have to pay for the rest of the videos… honestly, 20 elements is a great place to start.
  7. And then Games: There is The Periodic Table Battleship…
  8. And the Se7en + 1th…

  9. Cartooning: A list of all the elements as cartoon characters… memorable…I think so!!!

The Periodic Table GiveAway

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So we have this really cool Periodic Table Poster from the MapStudio to help us learn… it has everything you could possibly need to learn from a Periodic Table, colour coded into groups and each element has it’s atomic number, atomic mass and symbol. It is up on the wall and a quick reference guide as we power our way through it. One person has already claimed it for next to their bed… What can I say, some kids lean towards fabulous funky facts.

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We have not one, but two of these fabulous Periodic Table Posters to Give Away… all wrapped up in a roll and ready to mail anywhere in the world. This GiveAway works in the usual way, leave a comment before the end of play on Friday 22 April, 2016. We will draw and publish the winners in the Fabulous Fun Post after that. I won’t respond to your comments as I do on our other posts because I don’t want to be included in our own giveaway.

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Our GiveAways are open to everyone: If you have won a GiveAway before never fear – enter away. If you live on the far side of the world – enter away. Postage takes forever from here but eventually it should get to you! Good luck and happy commenting!!!

We would like to thank MapStudio who supplied us with Periodic Tables to review and GiveAway. We were not paid for the review and the opinions expressed in it are as usual, entirely our own.


→ 14 CommentsTags: GiveAways and Swaps · Science · Se7en at School

The CTmeetup: Where Local Bloggers Meet and Greet…

April 13th, 2016 · 8 Comments

This past weekend was another of Cape Town’s fantastic blogger meetups. A meetup is when a heap of bloggers get together for no other reason than to meet and greet, to connect and share. If you are looking for a Cape Town based blogger then look no further than the CTmeetup.

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The secret to fabulous blogging is that it is all about relationships, it is very hard to blog in isolation, getting together is a fabulous way to affirm your blogging relationships, to connect with folk, not to mention learn a heap about blogging.

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The great thing about going our with a bunch of bloggers is that you get to meet the folk that you live alongside online, the hard part is the person we are online, no matter how honestly we blog, is not quite the person we really are. It takes something of a leap of faith to step into a room with fifty odd folk that you do not know in real life. I can honestly say that every time I have stepped out and met fellow bloggers it has been entirely worth it. More than that I have forged invaluable friendships, enduring friendships and engaged with followers that I never knew I had.

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The thing is if bloggers knew how good getting together was for their blogs then there wouldn’t be enough coffee shops in the world…

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Turns out that Cindy Alfino of 3 Kids, 2 Dogs and 1 Old House, understands how important it is to connect and she organises these meet-ups on a grand scale, for Cape Town bloggers, every couple of months. At these meetups there is always heaps of time for mingling and meeting new faces, tons of great sponsors and fabulous speakers to teach us more about blogging.

Eat on Main

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One thing that is vital to a marvellous meetup is fabulous food… and Eat on Main sure did provide that, and plenty of it… friendly, helpful staff catering to every need… coping with difficulties as they arose and also providing a great atmosphere… who wouldn’t want to spend a sunny afternoon in Obs, with fab food and friends.

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Let’s Meet the Speakers

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Speaker #1: Sam from Tech Girl

Sam’s talk was entitled: “Know your Worth…” She had a conversation about the ins and outs of what PR folk are looking for, and more importantly what we as bloggers should be giving back. In the past PR work amounted to a massive mail drop and hoping that someone would use the information… that has all changed with the arrival of bloggers and “influencers” into the mix. Bloggers provide a unique portal into a PR’s market, with their niche audience and focused readership. The challenge for a PR person has become getting as much engaged exposure for their campaign without breaking the bank… enter the niche blogger, or social influencer into the mix and you could end up with a winning campaign.

When you are approached by a PR company your first concern should always be: “Is this something that my audience would care about?” It doesn’t matter how cool the media drop is, if it isn’t something that will resonate with your readers then to stay authentic, you will have to let it go. The point is, that if a company sends you an interesting media drop, even if they don’t ask for coverage, there is the unwritten expectation to give something back. If your audience is not interested in the show piece then rather say, “No thank you.” The thing is that brands want direct access to your audience, but if it something that your audience connects with then good and well, but never ever work with a brand or product you don’t like because your audience will see right through that campaign in an instant. Bottom line: If you wouldn’t personally spend money on a particular brand then don’t expect your readers to spend their cash on it either.

And here comes the worthiness of it all, the PR company will be getting paid for that campaign and as part of the campaign the blogger should be paid too… I heartily agree with that and have turned down many an “opportunity” to show case a product that didn’t quite resonate with us or one where the PR person claims they have a zero budget… ummm no. She was adamant that you should never work for nothing, figure out your worth… do you have an hourly rate, a campaign rate and so on.

And this is the part I enjoyed, if you agree to work with a company, then create great content for them… You don’t have to gush and say they are wonderful, you can’t in fact love every brand, but you can create good content. Intermingled in her talk were examples of her clever ability to take a product and create interesting and exciting content around it… this is a life-skill folks. Remember it is always, always about your audience and if they care about what you are writing about or not. Know your audience, and know your worth.

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Speaker #2: Ruan from (a site full of adult-only content), clearly knows his market and about all that is branding and blogging. His talk packed a punch and was entitled “What A Blogger Should Not Do.”

  1. Don’t work for free. If you want to make money from your blog then you can not work for free. With every campaign you should receive a cut of the budget. Your blog is your art and you shouldn’t give it away. The only way to start earning from blogging is to charge for your content.
  2. Don’t dilute your own influence by following folk just because they follow you. Brands are looking for engagement, they don’t care about the number of followers you have nearly as much as they care about your engagement with your followers. If folk don’t interact then they will never be back and you can safely drop them.
  3. Don’t only have one have one source of income, a blog should have many streams. You can’t be everywhere, so choose what works best for you.
  4. Don’t try and please everybody… you can’t be everything to everyone. Your core audience has to love your work… focus on them.
  5. Don’t suck up to brands, it won’t make jobs come to you, you still have to go out and find the work. I fail here… there are a couple of brands that I love, my readers know it, the brand knows it. It has certainly worked for me to be a superfan for certain brands.
  6. Don’t be afraid to invest in your blog, if you don’t want to pay money towards marketing yourself, then pay money towards your content creation.
  7. Don’t make promises you can’t keep… obviously.
  8. And a do:

  9. Do start an email list already… get yourself a newsletter and be consistent… show up whenever you promise to show up. And make it easy for folk to subscribe and even easier for them to unsubscribe. Oh dear I have yet to create a newsletter and can’t imagine why anyone would want to read one, not to mention as soon as I find myself on one I unsubscribe to it immediately… this is one blog tip I know I should do, and just can’t bring myself to do.

The Goody Bag

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A great part of a meetup for brands is that it is a golden opportunity, one place where they have an opportunity to connect with bloggers and splash them with a taste of their products… with a meet up for all sorts of bloggers, from beauty bloggers to travel bloggers the goody bags are always a treat and packed with an interesting collection of products. I had to see what was inside my goody bag and instantly packed it out onto the table I was sitting at. Lots of beauty products and for a gal that never dreams of wearing make-up I have to confess that I wasn’t about to give away the stunning Almay eyeliners or the Revlon mascara to my teen daughter. Heaps of deodorant, which is a good thing in a house full of boys… they were all thrilled to get something. Oh so Heavenly bubble bath is a a winner with my little guys – a bath is a real treat in our house, they mostly have a quick shower. I love that the Botanical Society always has something in the goody bags… their Veld and Flora magazine and mints are winners every time. Tons of beauty creams, eye creams, skin creams… well creams… I’m not a beauty blogger, but my mom-in-law was thrilled to know me. Otherwise, there were a lot of “new to me” products like the Boost and Dlux vitamins, and tons of rescue remedy products… Rescue Remedy is always a good idea and I am thrilled to have a nice stock of it in our medicine drawer. My favourite goody in the goody bag was the Buchulife First Aid Gel, an antiseptic pain relieving gel, made using the oil from the buchu plant. In a house with eight kids… this gel for bumps and scrapes is an absolute winner.

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Lucky Draw

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And it wouldn’t be a CTmeetup if there weren’t tremendous prizes… I confess I won a Spa Voucher to the One and Only… I know, I know everyone would love this. Last time I one a spa voucher I eventually gave it to a friend, I just couldn’t pluck up the courage to go. But since my spa outing with Rain last year, I am thinking I may be a little braver and get myself there. And of course, now that I have told our readers about it… I know I will have to go!!!

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And finally, possibly the coolest thing there… how cute is this little gadget from Brand Rocket… post a picture on instagram, make sure you use the event hashtag… your picks will show up on the screen and print away!!! I love it… Oh I think I need one of these for an entire day just to print all my fave photos off instagram… it is the coolest thing out. Not gushing at all, I just absolutely love it.

Previous Meetups

Huge thank you to Cindy Alfino, if you would like to attend a future #CTmeetup then dash over and sign up to her mailing list.

→ 8 CommentsTags: Blog Events · Home Truths

Se7en + 1 Green Games in the Great OutDoors at the Good HouseKeeping Family Fun Day…

April 11th, 2016 · 2 Comments

Last week I blogged about the Good HouseKeeping BrightFuture Family Fun Day. An outing like this is so far removed from our kids everyday life, because we mostly tend to avoid crowds and head for the hills and because we have a gang of kids and events like this can get really pricey really quickly, with the hidden costs involved in just wandering about.

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Turns out this event offered value for money, a minimal once off entrance fee and then everything inside was free. There was nothing for sale. There were face paints and activities and games and everything was covered in the price of the ticket, or sponsored (I guess).

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What I wasn’t expecting was a lovely green theme, which takes any event for my green loving kids from good to absolutely fantastic…

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In fact, if one posted a pic tagged #sendaseed they promised to plant a tree. Hopefully a forest will be planted because of Sunday. We like anything awesome to do with planting trees. So we posted a pic!!!

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Typical Fun at the Fair

The day was sweltering, and the crowds daunting… except as we arrived the early risers were leaving, turned out to be perfect timing.

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Local musicians and folk sitting in every available shady spot…

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And overhead sprinklers for the win!!!

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There wild rumpus dancing competition, in which my kids were determined to be winners and scored about a week’s worth of breakfast cereal!!!

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Food Trucks

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The only thing we did have to pay for was food, but arriving a little later meant that the food trucks had run out of food. That could have been a galactic fail. There was plenty of icy cold water. There were sponsors walking around with yummy yogurt. But lunchtime… on a hot hot day and nothing to eat. Of course there was that supply of cereal. But for the win, the organisers called out for free pizza for the kids… none of my gang were complaining, and that really saved the day. Food trucks became food bikes.

Green Games in the Great OutDoors…

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And here is the reason for the post: Good clean fun in the great outdoors and lots of it. There was a field of games that my kids loved. Easy games to create at home, made from mostly recycled goodies. My guys rushed home, inspired to create a few garden games of their own.

  1. Tic-Tac-Toe:
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  3. Play Catch:
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  5. Bowling:
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  7. Bubbles:
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  9. Twister:
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  11. Ball Toss:
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  13. Ring Toss:
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    And Finally Face Paints

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    There are a couple of short people I know, that love face paints with all their hearts…

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    They had no problem waiting in the long long long queue…

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    And that was it… a great day out… will be looking out for this event next year.

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    This is not a sponsored post. We were provided with tickets for the event, but we were not asked to blog about it. I thought our readers would enjoy a peak at a fun day out, and the opinions expressed are entirely our own, as usual.

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→ 2 CommentsTags: Outings · Saturday Spot