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

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Se7en Lessons I Have Learned About Homeschooling…

September 6th, 2018 · 6 Comments

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

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

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

Se7en Lessons I Have Learned About Homeschooling So Far.

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


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

→ 6 CommentsTags: Homeschooling

Se7en Podcasts That We Are Listening to Right Now…

September 4th, 2018 · 2 Comments

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


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

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

Se7en Podcasts That We Use For School

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

Podcasts That I Enjoy In and Out of My Day

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

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

→ 2 CommentsTags: Brilliant Books

Se7en’s September and Your Printable Calendar…

September 1st, 2018 · 1 Comment


Welcome to September…

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Click on the calendar page, it will open in a new tab, print it out and then colour it and fill in the days that you want to celebrate… pop it on the fridge and you are good to go. You can still find all the calendar pages down the right hand side of our website and they are all gathered together in our Almanac page for easy searching… If you have holidays or ideas that you would like to add then please go ahead and comment, I would love to have our calendars packed to the brim!!!

→ 1 CommentTags: Activity Calendar

Se7en Steps To Healthy Living…

August 31st, 2018 · 2 Comments

For the past month I have been writing a series on my journey to healthy living. I promised a post each week and I have delivered. I have another series topic planned for September as well… but first let’s recap:


My Journey to Health Series So Far

  1. Se7en Learns to Eat a Rainbow…
  2. There is More to Sleep Than Getting to Bed On Time…
  3. When You Go On a Fitness Journey – You Will Have to Work Out…


Se7en Things You Need To Know About A Journey to Health

  1. You are Going to have to Sleep Well: My first shocking discovery on my very first day at the gym was that “You will never lose weight if you do not sleep.” Just compare the number of people who are overweight vs the number of people who are sleep deprived in your country and you will discover that those numbers are remarkably similar. There is a reason for that. We live in a world of under-slept people, if you don’t think you have a sleep problem… then you need to learn more about sleep and why sleep is so important to your mental and physical health, because chances are that if you think you are getting enough sleep then you are one of the very high statistic of people who think they are getting enough sleep, but actually are not. If you are worried that you don’t sleep enough, or worse… you know you don’t sleep enough then you need to do something about it. The most practical and useful way that you can get the help you need is to take the Sport Science online Sleep Course… it is excellent, practical and gives you the skills you need to tackle your sleep situation head on. They don’t pay me to say this, but their sleep course is truly one of the very best sleep products I have ever come across.
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  3. You are Going to Have to Make Some Good Food Choices: Not all the food choices have to be the very best choices, but most of the food choices you make have to be good choices. We have upped our food game dramatically in our home… eating rainbows is not nearly as hard as I thought it would be, and my kids haven’t mentioned the change. I am getting to the place where I don’t want to eat food that isn’t good for me… a year ago I was nowhere near there. A year ago I was able to give up food that I didn’t actually like eating, but I was eating because it was dinner time, or someone else had made it for me, or insert any lame excuse. Now I look twice or refuse, food that isn’t going to make me feel good or fuel my next workout… yup I am always thinking about my next workout.
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  5. You Are Going To Have to Move: Talking about working out, it is quite simple moving is your goal. You have to move everyday… it makes you feel terrible at first, like bust a gut you are dying and so jolly tired all the time… but after a few weeks you will start to feel better. I started to feel better long before I looked better. You cannot judge how you feel by how you look or by what the scale says… I come out of every workout feeling like I conquered the world, but a glance in the mirror in the locker room tells me I am not quite the champion that I feel like. Change is not instantaneous… you will begin to move better before you begin to feel better, but once you start to feel better you will never look back. I am never going back to the sedentary life I lived and the only way I can stay moving is to keep moving.
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  7. You Are Going to Have to Dream Big and Start Small: Big dreams definitely get me up and moving. My husband just has to whisper #OMTOM to me on a dark wintry Saturday morning and I will get up and run a Parkrun, just in case this all adds up to one day running my dream race. In fact, I know I have ridiculously big dreams, for instance, I don’t think I can let that triathlon go. Who is this speaking, even?!!! This is the same person that sat on a couch for twenty years, reading stories to her kids… and a year ago could not walk a lap around the track… you have to start really small. There is no too small… Honestly, a month or two back I decided… after swearing I would NEVER (I should never say never) ride a bike again, that I would start on the Watt bikes at gym… I began with 30 seconds a day… 30 seconds. Yup it took longer to get on the bike than ride it. Now I can get on and ride and ride and ride… well actually my maximum so far has been 15 minutes… but it is a start. And I don’t have a real bike… so I haven’t actually pedalled anywhere yet, but I am not giving up, I am learning to sit on a bike, pedal a bike, get the feel of a bike. Small steps will eventually get you to big dreams.
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  9. Your Are Going to Have to Gear Up: I don’t mean all the gear, I am the original under buyer. I don’t have a fancy gym bag… all I need is well any bag really… it has my towel and goggles in it. So nothing fancy… but I just recently bought my first actual running shoes… and oh my word!!! When I started at gym I had a pair of ancient crocs, and then I upped my game to trail shoes because we hike quite a lot… but actually I run. I am a runner and runners need running shoes. I haven’t been to a fancy running shop that analyses your feet and all that… just shoes designed for running and my word they are like running in a dream. Making all the difference in the world… so some gear has to be good gear and other gear really doesn’t matter.
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  11. You are Going to Battle With Apparel: This has definitely been one of the hardest challenges for me, and as a plus size gal… a major, major challenge. The people that are told they need to work out or they are going to have serious health issues are the people that find it impossible to find workout clothes that actually fit. I am not even kidding you… this is the biggest challenge. From the start, when all you can do is amble around the track and do half a push up, until you can run 10km or swim a km before breakfast, and every kind of athlete in-between, you are going to battle to find gym gear that actually fits. I am convinced that gym apparel is not made for real people. The fact is shop assistants look at you like, well you are the one with the problem, you are overweight and, this is your punishment, we have nothing you can wear for gym here. This is just crazy thinking… if you have just glanced at the folk who are actually working out and not the glamorous folk in the ads either, I mean real folk on the gym floor. Also, you cannot go by size, because every brand has different sizing… so what might be XXL in one store, is only L in another. All I can say is persist until you find something that works, because even the slightest discomfort: the two tight sock, the zip that slightly scratches, the sleeve that is just too long… all these things will become an excuse to give up on a day when the going gets tough. Accept the battle, and just keep looking… if you see someone at gym that looks great, ask them where they got their gear.
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  13. You Are Going To Have to Deal With Your Excuses: You know you want to be healthier, you know you want to get moving… but when the time comes to actually get up and move you will find a number of reasons why it is impossible. On any given day you are going to be too tired, too hot, too cold, too hungry, too cranky, too “ANYTHING.” You have to know that your head is going to tell you any excuse not to work out, and that you are going to have to have a plan in place to work around those excuses. Removing the choices helps, declaring non-negotiable helps and hooks help. I have to get to gym in the morning, but I can decided if I want to run in the evening or not. So morning workouts are non-negotiable for me. I put my gym clothes out the night before, there is no decision to make in the morning, just up and out the door. I hook my workouts on things that happen in my day, if I walk up the front steps… I jump up the front steps, at first I literally could not jump one step… and now I can jump them all. I reward myself with workouts… if the kids make supper, then I have to go for a run while they cook… Work your way through all those excuses beforehand… trust me, when those workouts eventually start adding up and you start seeing the differences you will be so glad you didn’t fall for your own silly excuses.

The journey from completely underslept and sedentary… back to a healthy living isn’t overnight, changes are slow and build upon each other. My journey isn’t nearly over, my goals remain: Move, move, move. I have other goals too: Get to that seven hours of sleep a night, every night; Make the right food choices for the right reasons all the time. Who knows those wild and crazy dreams could still happen. It is a journey, there will be times when you just don’t feel like it, there will be times when you want to give up and there will be times when you make mistakes… but overall if you just keep on plodding, you will notice a huge difference, you will feel better… so much better. And as you become more and more able to do things that you thought you couldn’t do, your confidence that you didn’t realise had taken a plummet, will return. Every little step really does make a difference… you just have to take the first step and keep on rolling.

As the Brand Ambassador for the Healthy Weight Programme at the Sport Science Institute of South Africa I receive free access to the gym and their programme, however this is not a sponsored post and all opinions are truly my own.

→ 2 CommentsTags: Healthy Living

What We Have Been Reading from Penguin Random House Lately… and there is a GiveAway…

August 29th, 2018 · 8 Comments

We have had a rainy week and for that we are so grateful. Have to say that with the cold, wet weather plenty of hibernation and piles of books are being read. I promised two GiveAways during the month of August… scroll down to find them.

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And here is a collection of our latest and greatest reads from Penguin Random House, South Africa. There really is something here for everyone. I have to say that we are thrilled to see that Usborne Books have joined the Penguin Random House family over here… you have no idea how thrilled. Anyway… enjoy, there is something here for everyone!!!

A Weekend Read Written Through Letters…

Meet Me At the Museum by Anne Youngson: I absolutely loved this book. It is exactly my kind of book. A gentle, lilting read… and a clear reminder that there is no such thing as an ordinary life. So this is a book written in correspondence between Tina Hopgood, who is an English farmer’s wife with grown-up children, and Anders Larsen, the curator of a Danish Museum… and home to the Tollund Man. The letters begin when her best friend dies, and through her grief she decides it is time to revisit the her childhood dream to visit the Tollund Man… so she writes to the museum, never expecting a letter in return. Of course Anders replies, and the two of them start communicating to and fro, and writing about the ups and downs that they are encountering… He supports her through her day to day crisis… and she supports him as he comes to terms with his grief, and the loss of his wife. Life with grown up kids isn’t always a walk in the park… and that’s the truth of it… right here in a book. I really enjoyed their friendship and waiting for the next letter to arrive. Does she ever get to the museum, through all the ups and downs of everyday life? That is the question.

Tween Questions About True Friendship, Asked and Answered in this Wonderful Book…

The House With Chicken Legs by Sophie Anderson and illustrated by Elisa Paganelli and cover illustration Melissa Castrillón: All my children wanted to read this book… just the title!!! I loved it and read it overnight, a fairy tale that goes a lot deeper than you might expect. It is a story, which might sound a bit weird and creepy… but is in essence about a feisty young girl, who wants to know the truth about who she is, and she is desperately, desperately lonely. I can’t say I have ever read anything like this, but problems all children face as they grow up are tackled in a very manageable way. Our protagonist, Marinka, wonders if she really belongs, hurts the people she loves the most as she tries to grow up and pull away, and her heart sends her crashing back. Growing up isn’t easy and it certainly isn’t for the faint hearted.
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If you love fairy tales then you will definitely love this one… it is based on the Russian Fairytale of Baba Yaga… Marinka’s grandmother and Marinka live in a house with chicken legs and the house moves from the Steppes to the Ocean, to the forest… they never know where they will be next. But it is her grandmothers job to help people transition through her gates on their journey from living to death. This is Marinka’s inheritance and a job, which for so many reasons, she just doesn’t want to be a part of. She wants a normal life, in one place, she wants to make friends and not have people think that she is weird. She does find friendship, but not in the market place, where the mean spirited girls turned out to be nothing like the friends she was looking for. This book is fabulous for so many reasons… it deals with the complications that all kids coming of age are going through in a lilting and totally non-confrontational or preachy way. True friendship it turns out might be a lot closer to home than Marinka ever expected. You can meet the author, Sophie Anderson at her website over here, and the resources for this book are fantastic as well… including a recipe for Baba’s Vegetable Borsch, and Marinka’s spiced honey bread. James Mayhew chats about the book and has a lovely video to watch of his Baba Yaga performance… it is really great, follow the link and take a look at it.

Meet Ermine, a Traveling Adventure Series for Emerging Readers…

The Travels of Ermine, Trouble in New York: by Jennifer Gray and illustrated by Elisa Paganelli: You need to look out for Ermine, she is just fantastic. Perfect picture rich reading for new readers that are ready to launch into chapter books. This book is lovely and entertaining, a mild adventure and the most fantastic illustrations. Ermine is a very determined stoat who is traveling the world, and her first stop is New York City and there is so much to do and see in New York City, I know I would be excited to land there.

I love how as Ermine is taken on a tour of New York, so the illustrator has created a “photo tour” for the reader. Ermine’s baggage gets mixed up in transit and her holiday, unbeknownst to her, quickly becomes a chase against time, as a couple of thieves try to retrieve their stolen goods… Only they have no idea what they are up against (!) and if your kids have never tried dropping mints in soda before, then when you get to page 85, you might want to press pause and try it. Anyway, Ermine, quite unintentionally, saves the day… and we can’t wait for her next adventure. At the back of the book you can find Ermine’s Map of the World, as well as her tips on how to make your own travel diary. You can meet Ermine, the very determined stoat with her own website over here. And you can meet the author, Jennifer Grey over here.

In Case You Ever Wanted to Read Your Dog’s Diary…

Dog Diaries by Steven Butler and James Patterson: Hood 8 read this book and declared it a very good read. The narrator in this book is a dog called Junior, and you are reading his diary of his life and times, with his owner Rafe Khatchadorian.
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This is a great story written from the doggy dimension, who describes their home in terms of the box room (lounge/tv room); the food room (kitchen) and so on… All is wonderful in the whole wide world… except the absolutely terrifying vacuum cleaner in the hall way cupboard. This story is a young dog lovers dream… they really get into the dog’s perspective, it is picture rich and funny all the way through.

And Something Local for the Little Ones…

Hungry Birds of Africa by Haden Clendinning: This book is lovely, especially for the little people that it is aimed at.
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It is a book of local birds and what they like to eat… it is all written as a poem and the illustrations are bright and beautiful… if you are curious about what a Hoopoe eats, or a Loerie, a Guineafowl or a Kingfisher, then this book is for you. It is a fun and bouncy read… bright and beautiful. Perfect for introducing local love to little readers.

And What About a GiveAway for You…

In our previous post of Latest and Greatest Reads from Penguin Random House South Africa, I mentioned this book: The Girl Who Smiled Beads by Clementine Wamariya. This is definitely one of my books of the year… a refugee story full of heart. It is Clementine’s journey from a loving home, through war torn Africa and years of fleeing and torment. A harrowing tale and an epic read about a girl who rises above the conditions she finds herself in, she never gives up… a true story that will stay with you, long after you have finished reading it. If you would like to win a copy of this book then leave a comment…
Our GiveAways are open to everyone: Just leave a comment below… before 7 September 2018. 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!!!

And our Crafty Giveaway comes to an end this weekend: Just leave a comment on the Crafty Giveaway Post before the 31 August 2018.

All these books were given to us for review purposes by Penguin Random House South Africa and Struik Nature. This is not a sponsored post and opinions expressed are entirely our own.

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Se7en Discovers The Irma Stern Museum…

August 28th, 2018 · 6 Comments

I have been sharing some of Cape Town’s best kept secrets for a while now, especially when there is a bookish connection that folks can enjoy with it. Recently we shared a book about Able Seaman Just Nuisance, from Simonstown and do we have a gem for you today. The Story of Irma Stern, A Passionate Vision by Katherine Graham and illustrated by Suné Raubenheimer. Irma Stern was one of South Africa’s leading Expressionist artists from the last century and the Irma Stern Museum is one of Cape Town’s best kept secrets… that we have just discovered and we are going to tell you about it.


Introducing Irma Stern

Irma Stern was born in a small South African town, called Schweizer-Reneke in 1894. Her father was the town shopkeeper and her parents were of Jewish-German descent. Throughout her childhood she and her family lived a life of travel… never lingering in South Africa or in Germany for too long. When she grew up, traveling became part of who she was and she loved nothing better than going for long trips and finding inspiration en route.

In Germany she attended school and in South Africa she had a tutor, affectionately referred to as Dok. (Short for doctor). Irma was to grow up and become one of the most prolific and popular of South African artists of all time. During World War I, while her family were staying in Germany, she was able to train at an art school and get equipped as an artist… the career she had chosen for herself, in era before women actually chose careers.

Not only did she survive the First World War, but the Second World War as well… her passion for travel kept her enthusiastic and inspired her to create more and more colourful art. She traveled throughout Southern Africa and between the Wars she returned to Cape Town from Germany… where she and her family rented a house in Breda Street.

We recently stayed close by to this house while we were visiting in the city and of course, we had to take a walk and have a look at the house as it is now… a huge Victorian house with a magnificent Oak Tree and a lush garden. Irma was living with her parents in the city, but later bought her own house in Rosebank, called the Firs, where she lived for the rest of her life. The Firs was really a base, where she could gather herself, create art in her studio, hold dinner parties and then set off on an adventure again. Her home, the Firs, has become the Irma Stern Museum, and is well worth a visit.
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A Passionate Vision, the Story of Irma Stern

The recent book published about the life of Irma Stern is a fairly easy reading book aimed at primary and middle school level readers. It is the perfect introduction to the life and times of this famous artist, written specifically for young people. It describes her life from her birth in 1894 in Schweizer-Reneke, to her passing in 1966, due to complications of diabetes.

She led an interesting and adventurous life, and she lived in difficult times. She survived two world wars. Even though she came from a wealthy family, and her work became extremely popular all over the world, (even the Queen Mother bought one of her paintings), she had few true friends and a miserable marriage that eventually ended. Short chapters and richly illustrated in black and white, and the centre of the book contains a handful of plates of her artwork… showing the vibrant colours she used as well her brush strokes.

It appears that she was a prolific journaler and we really enjoyed that the author of the book, Katherine Graham, was able to weave of excerpts from her diaries and letters to and from Irma’s friends, into the book. It is a lovely way to get a vivid picture of someone who lived in the past. This biography does bring the artist to life, we get a good picture of who she was and her work. The book makes great reading for interest sake, and would be useful as a reference work if you were looking for South African school resources as well.

Interestingly enough we have been reading the very popular book Rebel Girls as a family, for the last while and it was unanimously decided that Irma Stern would make the most perfect addition to the Rebel Girl collection. She showed determination and grit to follow her calling… her art was not welcomed into the world… it took years of hard work to be recognised as the artist that she knew she was. She was an explorer, before it was considered popular, and long before the world was ready for Africa, she was ready to showcase the Africa that she discovered and the people of Africa, with her portraits, to the world.

A Visit to the Irma Stern Museum

We really got so into the book that we decided that we would make a visit to the museum and were we in for a delightful surprise. The Irma Stern Museum is definitely one of Cape Town’s hidden treasures and should be on every one who wants to visit an Art Gallery in Cape Town’s Must Visit List…
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First impressions count and the magical gardens literally blew us away. You can just see the artist’s vibrant life exploding in the lush garden that is genuinely a hidden secret and cannot even be imagined from the road at all.
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I have been along this road so many times in my life, to and from UCT Campus, so many times and had no idea that this beautiful spot was just there waiting to be discovered.
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The winding driveway lead to the most incredible hidden gem…

Really just the most wonderful place to visit, for the garden alone…
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The garden is full of interesting little corners, places to play and stretch your legs…

Hide-and-seek opportunities abound, there are corners to draw in and be inspired.
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Not to mention sunny stoeps that look so good for tea parties or reading on. This garden is entirely magical…

Stepping into a Magical World

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Not only was Irma Stern a prolific artist, but throughout her travels she collected interesting artefacts…

She travelled extensively throughout Africa and Europe, and her home reflects this… with interesting bits of artwork, statues and ceramics. All sorts of intriguing things to look at…

Statues and sculptures abound…

Even the doors…
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The lounge area is a burst of joyful colour and we sat in front of the wonderful wall of portraits, while our guide chatted to us about who was who and what was what.

Obviously the colours are out of this world…

And we were inspired to draw:
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From the lounge we went to take a closer look at her studio…

And her desk…
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And pallette…

And a quick stop at her dining room table…

While the downstairs section of the museum is kept as a walk through to look at Irma Stern’s life and art…

The upstairs section is quite different…
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It is used as gallery to showcase different visiting artists…


Quick Facts

To visit the museum, you can head over to the Irma Stern Museum, here… for details. Make sure to ask when you book about the off street parking, which makes it a totally easy and do-able outing. Really this is an outing that we thought would take an hour or two and we could have spent an entire day there. Truly a haven in the heart of a city and a lovely place to visit that for some reason is off the mad and frenzied tourist route. This museum is the perfect place to introduce your children to an art gallery… without having to worry about crowds, and overbearing security. Our guide, Mary was lovely… she chatted with us and gave us a few pointers to think about before leaving us to our own devices and encouraging us to explore on our own.
This is image is an affiliate link to the book, where it is available on Amazon.

And the book, has its own website here. You can buy copies online from Amazon, or at the Art Gallery.


Flickr Gallery

Click on the image below to see more photographs from our visit.
The Irma Stern Museum

We would like to thank the author, Katherine Graham, for giving us a copy of her book and inspiring us to visit the Irma Stern Museum. This is not a sponsored post and all opinions are as usual entirely our own.

→ 6 CommentsTags: Brilliant Books · Visit Cape Town

Se7en Introduces I’d Rather Be Reading By Anne Bogel…

August 24th, 2018 · No Comments

We are a family of readers, in fact I learned a word this week: Tsundoku, which is the act of buying books and piling up more than you will ever read in a lifetime. We are those people: books, books and more books. And the trouble is that we do read them, piles and piles of them are actually read. I try to pass books on, I try not to have more books than book cases… try, but don’t always succeed. If you relate to this then you will understand why I am so excited to be part of Anne Bogel’s launch team for her new book, I’d Rather be Reading…

I’d Rather Be Reading


Can we talk about the book first… because a book called “I’d Rather Be Reading” literally sparked joy for me before I even knew what it was about. I knew I had to read it. I only got it the day before yesterday, in possibly the busiest week of the year, and what can I say, all my good sleep training was tossed out the window for “just one more chapter,” all in the good cause of reading. Each chapter is an essay on something terribly bookish… and throughout it I had to have a little smile to myself and say… “that’s me!!!” This book just inspired me to read a whole lot more… reading is indeed a lifestyle rather than a habit.

First things first, I have to say that I loved that she lived right next door to a library for years and the fact that my kids have grown up two blocks from the library and we gather up seventy books each week, like the book starved family we actually aren’t, just made me think how lucky we are. (Won’t mention that our library just closed until next year… for renovations… gasp). I related to this book all the way through… the connection to other book lovers just got better and better.

The book is a collection of twenty one essays that each stand alone and all sorts of book loving topics are covered. Books that Found you, Bookworm Problems, How to Organise your Bookshelves and so many more. I laughed out loud through the chapter called Bossy Books… we have all been there… books we think our kids should read (that they never will because we said so), books that our friends say we should read… Of all the chapters, the chapter on organising books is the one that is launching me into a great book clean out… it is time to unjam some of the books on our shelves and a good re-ordering around the house might get the piles of books, that we love, off the floor and onto the shelves… and the books on the shelves, that we don’t actually love, out of the door. But my favourite, favourite essay has to be the one called Bookworm Problems, I laughed till my family asked what was wrong with me. I tried to keep it to just a genteel smile, as I read my way through the book, since it is a very genteel book, but the chapter on Bookworm Problems cracked my façade, it is a laugh out loud one – because Bookworm Problems are real folks and you are not alone in them.

I love this book, it was easy reading all the way, and such a fun way to engage with readers… this book is wonderfully giftable and is the perfect addition to any book lover’s collection.

Let’s Meet Anne Bogel


So I follow the lovely author, Anne Bogel on her website the Modern Mrs Darcy… just the title should tell you that it is all about books and reading, and book lists and book ideas and well books. I avidly watch her e-book deals, because she magically finds books that I really want to read. Otherwise, I don’t listen to tons of podcasts, I have my few favourites and those I listen to without missing a beat… if you are a book lover you will love her chatty podcast: What Should I Read Next? Where she talks with folks about books, books they are reading right now, books they have loved and books they haven’t loved … and all the while tons of book ideas… and your “I must read that list” will grow and grow. And if you go and listen to this bonus episode, you will hear chapter 1, which is an essay entitled “Confess your Literary Sins…” And we all have those. The book we know we should have read, but haven’t or the book we should have loved, but we just didn’t. And so many more…

Book Launch News


The book launches on the 4 September 2018… and if you dash over to the book’s very own website and preorder then you get a whole ton of real live loveliness to go with your book: Including a FREE digital download of the audio version read by Anne, as well as access to Anne’s new class “7 Ways to Get More Out of Your Reading Life”, live on August 2 as well as beautiful digital artwork from the book. It is all lovely, you really want to stop by and take a peek, over here.

The Book Tour…

Follow the hashtag #Idratherbereading on instagram and twitter to find out more about the book… follow the blog tour… this book is a hit and it is going to be just lovely to meet all the readers of this world, who have signed up to blog about this bookish bestseller… fun reading ahead… trust me, you are going to love it!!!

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