Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Gold Nuggets No #5

Places I love to visit when I have a moment.  I cruise the web every day and I find gold nuggets, places I go back to frequently.  Some I visit and they are forgotten forever and some I like to go back to because they feed my soul, or my mind, or get me creating or just because.
 1.  You Version
Online or mobile bibles.  I love this because it gives you the choice of reading program you want to do.  You can read your bible in 90 days or 365.  You can be inspired by Joyce Meyers or a King James.  The added bonus is that you can go audio - which is super duper great.  I use it for bible in the morning with my children - because it does sound effects,  different voices for different characters and even background music to add to the atmosphere.  Much more pleasant than mom droning on and on.  I use my computer for the children and normally give them something creative or art related to do while they listen.  And they can easily listen for almost an hour at a time.

I use my mobile for when I do chores, I just plug in my earphones and listen, or when I am driving in the car, or waiting at the store.  No more excuses of not having time to get into the word.  Now you can use all of that "empty" time for growing in faith!  My bible time has increased by more than 200%.  What a wonderful way to saturate yourself with the word.

2.  God Tube
I used to watch You Tube and still do occasionally but I often find that you can open up a harmless video and then on the right hand side of the screen there are all sorts of dubious suggestions for you to watch.  God Tube allows me to watch lots of videos without that junk. I love all the comedy shows.  I used to watch one a day just to set the right tone!  Did wonders for my sense of humour and the kids love it too.
3. Desiring God
I find John Piper to be an anointed preacher and enjoy his outspoken approach to the gospel.  Enough said.  His website has so many resources including pod casts and PDF files that are really useful.

4. Neo K12
This is a lovely site for children, it is filled with educational videos and games.  My children have had so much fun watching things in slow motion, I enjoyed all the videos on China.  This is a great educational tool for rainy days, days where homeschooling is on a go slow - or just to change the tone and direction for children who are struggling to pay attention.

Happy Surfing!

Monday, February 27, 2012

Confessions of a Crack Pot

Oh I have lots of cracks in fact, I am a real crackpot, imperfect in every way.  I know its hard to believe:))  So to convince you, I thought I would mention some of those cracks of imperfection.  However, if I were to bump into you in a mall, or a homeschooling group or say church - I will deny all knowledge of this post and pretend that it doesn't exist - :))

 Crack #1
I'm loud, opinionated and am constantly saying the wrong thing or asking the wrong question.  I can just see it on the faces of people I talk to.  That look which says I've gone too far, offended someone or they simply do not agree with what I am saying.  Even as I say something I wish I could grab hold of it and shove it back down into my mouth.

I struggle with insecurity and being shy.  And I KNOW that none of you really believe me even as I write this.  I always get this - What you?  NEVER!
But I am!  I am very bold and totally not shy around people I know but I struggle to initiate or hold a conversation with people I don't know.  Once I get past the name, address and what you do - if nothing else crops up - I find some kind of lame excuse revolving around my children. 

Crack #3
I struggle to live without TV.  We used to have DSTV but we disconnected - I don't have to watch anything specific, I just like watching something.  I often abandon other more worthy occupations or activities just to watch TV and spend far too much time at night watching.  Now I only watch the occasional video and only watch telly at my mom's house or when I go to gym (sad I know).

Crack #4
I have a short temper and I am far too emotional.  I even get cross with myself for not being more patient.  I I often respond emotionally to a situation, rather than waiting and allowing my emotions to stabilise.  I have hurt relationships with friends in my inability to hold my tongue until my emotions have stabilised.  Damage that really could not be undone. 

Crack #5
I don't like confessing to being a crackpot, just in case it just confirms every one's worst fears. 

So there you have it, some but definitely not all of them.  I wouldn't want to frighten you off with too many confessions but just keeping it real.

I would love to hear from you.  Tell me if you dare, what cracks are in your pot. 

Friday, February 24, 2012

How to get them reading part 3

Photo Credit
So in review of my previous posts, there are literally dozens of ways to stimulate or encourage a child to read.  For a quick reference if you missed them:
Part 1
Part 2
What's the big deal with reading?
But there is still more.  The list is truly endless if you allow a little creativity and perseverance.  The idea is also not necessarily to try every method but find ones that will work with your child.

1.  In the car
This may really only appeal to younger children, but I found that with my 8 year old, he loves reading signs.  So I ask him to help me find signs as we are driving, or I ask him what a signboard says.  He loves it and he never forgets what they say.  He has such a expression of satisfaction when he can read information along the road.  The only problem is that you have to remind your children that some of the names of companies on trucks and vehicles are actually misspellings but it gives you the opportunity to get them to tell you how it should be written.

Another variation(older children up to teens) is to buy 2nd hand travel books/ things to do in the area catalogues and as you drive through an area, get one of the children to read it to the rest of their siblings as they drive.  And if you can't find these, use your browser on your smart phone and Google it.  They love the technology and feel very authoritative when they read aloud and of course, it makes for a very interesting Geography lesson.

2.  Cooking
My children love to eat.  If they know there'll be something yummy to eat they are VERY motivated to read!  Yep, I TOTALLY believe in bribery and yummy motivations.  You can start with simple cooking and move on to cook books that run according to themes which normally provides you with lots of reading material.  Get them to research a recipe online.  (remember its not that they have to read huge quantities of materials but making reading a way of achieving a goal, having fun - or in this case - getting to eat!)

3. Magazines 

Choose good magazines that will interest them.  My children are Kid's National Geographic fans as well as Popular Mechanics.  But with their other interests like lifesaving, surfing, skateboarding, fishing, flying - I could buy a magazine on any one of these topics and guaranteed I would not see them for a couple of hours.  Don't worry if initially it looks like they are just paging through the magazine, when they find something of interest, they will want to read.  

And if you can't afford the magazines they like (because some of them can be incredibly expensive) there are other options:
*  Take them out at the library  and if they are the most current ones, they will not be available for loan so then let them sit and read, let it be a special privilege for them.
*  Keep looking on places like Gumtree, Craiglist, Freecycle - people are always giving away boxes of magazines for those interested or ask for them with an ad.
*  Browse through second hand stores

4.  Turn off the telly!!!!!
Research has shown that especially boys will choose telly if given a choice between telly and reading.  So don't give them the choice.  Just turn it off!  Our TV is in our lounge and even when its off, we can still see it luring and tempting us to put it on.  I truly think a TV cupboard with doors that you can close is really the best solution.  Our children have screen time on Fridays, but really they have no need to watch TV.  Don't let them convince you that they do.  In fact why not read them the book "The day my mom through out the telly" which is perfect for teaching them about wasted TV time.  Its a really funny story and really is worth the read.

5.  Reading apps for phones

I am a reluctant let-a-child-play-with-my-phone-sort-of-person.  Children do funny things with expensive equipment - I speak with experience and without going into too much detail - one of those included flushing a certain telephonic piece of equipment down the loo!  

However desperate times demand desperate measures.  You might not find the right type of reading app for your phone and again it could just be too jolly expensive.  But you can also download the software so that your phone runs like a Kindle and so you can read entire books on your phone.  Now what child doesn't just love that combination.

6.  Keep it brief
Don't push too hard, and keep reading times brief initially - they will eventually ask for more.
Photos Credit

7.  Audio Books
I know this does not mean that they are literally reading the written word, but through positive experiences reading starts to have a positive slant.  This is especially a good practise for older children who you feel may have had very negative experiences so far.  If you can just find the right audio book you might change their attitude to reading.  Imagine he likes Story 1 by Author 1.  You listen to it and then conveniently leave Story 2 by Author 1 lying around which has been taken out the library. 
Also Read Along Audio books are great for children to listen to and follow in their books because it gives them a sense of rhythm, timing, pronunciation and confidence to read aloud with the CD.
You can buy Audio books but there are a lot of free audio book sites too, so all you need to do is download it!  My children listen to these as they go to bed at night.  I copy it on a disk, put off the light and let them listen until they fall asleep. They will often rush off to bed so they can listen to the next installment, making bed times a breeze! We also listen to the audio books when we drive in the car which makes travelling so much more pleasant.

8.  Just serve up hors d'oeuvres not the main course
Read just enough to pique their interest in a book, to that moment where you have everyone sitting at the edge of their seats in anticipation .......... and then stop.  I can guarantee you that even the most reluctant reader will pick up the book after you and want to read further.

As you read through this posts, some of these methods may sound too easy but a lot of children struggle with confidence and so the more confident they are and the more you affirm them, the more they will want to read.  Don't assume that something won't work with your child "oh this won't work on him, he is so stubborn" or "he'll never listen".  I have often found that we often don't know what can trigger a change.  That our children will surprise us - that sometimes we need to have more hope and less cynicism.  Don't give up, they may not do things in the way we would - they might read in a different way, they might read different books to what we would - But isn't that exciting? - To find out more and more about these precious children!

If you have any further ideas or thoughts on how to stimulate reading in children - I would love to hear about it.  Why not leave a comment so that we can all learn from your experiences.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Out and About: Cape Town: Rococoa the Ultimate Chocolate Experience

Hot and sticky, sweet and spicy, salty or zesty. Chocolate has driven people throughout the world over the edge - brought comfort - been a symbol of love - cause for deceit - and relentless pursuit. 

We went to discover the secrets behind this obsession, to taste the rich flavours from all around the world.  And it all started here....

 Who thought you could use chocolate for face paint?  Just another reason to love chocolate ! 
 And then a passionate chocalatier took us on a journey.

We visited Venezuela and the families who help produce this awesome product!
 Took a trip into a virtual Cacao plantation where cacao grows under the shelter of banana trees
 We got some sound practical advice

Tasted hot melted chocolate and experimented with our own delicious designs

 And there was enough time just to enjoy our surroundings.

Wonderful displays of Chocolate Art - who needs oil pastels and water colours when you can have cacao?  
Chess anyone? Winner eats all!

This was such an educational, sensational experience.  My taste buds are still tingling.

Further details:
Cost:  R30 per child
Length: 2 to 3 hours (depending on how many questions you asked)
Content:  DVD, melted chocolate tasting, walk in virtual cacao forest, tasting roasted beans, time lines in production history, historical industrial methods, tasting chocolates from around the world, individual chocolate molding.
Group Size:  Aim at a group of about 15 (including parents).  The space where the children make their chocolates is quite compact and any bigger and it becomes uncomfortable.
Restaurant and Coffee shop because after all the sweetness you really want a good coffee. 
Parking involves getting a ticket, but when you go to Rococoa, get them to stamp it and then you don't pay.  So don't be afraid to park in their undercover parking.
They will be eating a fair amount of chocolate.  Prepare yourself for some busy children.
How to find them:
The Palms
The Map

How to make it part of further homeschooling activities
These can be done before or after your excursion:
*  Watch a short video on how milk chocolate is made
*  Read Curious George Goes to a Chocolate Factory with your younger children/ Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and all the follow up books from there - of course you could also just get the DVD.  (so not Charlotte Mason!)
*  Make some of your own chocolate shapes at home
*  Let your children do some investigating

Happy Tasting!

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Up and Coming: What's happening this week?

I don't normally do this type of post but I thought I would give you all a heads up - otherwise you might miss out!

So this week is full of surprises:

A Giveaway for the 2 Oceans Aquarium - a definite "Things to do in Cape Town with your children"

A book giveaway - won't spoil the fun, wait to see

Journalling (next installment) - resources for you to use to encourage your child to journal no matter what the age, and who knows - you too!  We have done the preparation and they've written more about who they are.

Part 3 of Encouraging your children to read, why not read Part 1 and Part 2 if you missed out.

 *  And chips, chips, chips - who loves chips? (  By the way did you ever say "Chips!" at school when you were letting the class know the teacher was coming? - or was that just us)  Now this is one of my latest discoveries.

 * And some other stuff, can't give it all away now can I?

So don't miss out, be there or be square! Definitely the 80's creeping up on me !  If you don't want to miss out on all of the action then make sure that you sign up for our email notifications where you can get all of this in your inbox every day.  Sounds like a good idea doesn't it? Just pop in your email address and click submit. 

Saturday, February 18, 2012

So what's the big deal with reading?

I was busy writing the third installment of how to get your children reading, as I have had such an amazingly positive response to part 1 and part 2 today - but I know that there are some of you who read this blog who probably are not big readers and in fact don't "get" the importance of reading.  So I thought I would post a couple of thoughts by fairly well known and unknown individuals who have left a mark - of what they thought/ think about reading.

The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you'll go -Dr Seuss

 Today a reader, tomorrow a leader - Margaret Fuller

A home without books is a body without soul - Marcus Tullius Cicero

Every man who knows how to read has it in his power to magnify himself, to multiply the ways in which he exists, to make his life full, significant and interesting - Aldous Huxley

To learn to read is to light a fire; every syllable that is spelled out is a spark - Victor Hugo

 The greatest gift is a passion for reading. It is cheap, it consoles, it distracts, it excites, it gives you knowledge of the world and experience of a wide kind. It is a moral illumination - Elizabeth Hardwick

No two persons ever read the same book - Edmund Wilson

Reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body - Joseph Addison

Any book that helps a child to form a habit of reading, to make reading one of his deep and continuing needs, is good for him - Maya Angelou

The reading of all good books is like a conversation with the finest minds of past centuries - Rene Descartes

Education begins the gentleman, but reading, good company and reflection must finish him - John Locke

Reading is an art form, and every man can be an artist - Edwin Louis Cole

To read is to fly: it is to soar to a point of vantage which gives a view over wide terrains of history, human variety, ideas, shared experience and the fruits of many inquiries - A C Grayling

A capacity and taste for reading gives access to whatever has already been discovered by others - Abraham Lincoln

He that loves a book will never want a faithful friend, a wholesome counselor, a cheerful companion, an effectual comforter. By study, by reading, by thinking, one may innocently divert and pleasantly entertain himself, as in all weathers, as in all fortunes - Barrow

We read to know we are not alone - C.S. Lewis

You're the same today as you'll be in five years except for the people you meet and the books you read - Charlie "Tremendous" Jones

When you sell a man a book you don't sell him just 12 ounces of paper and ink and glue - you sell him a whole new life - Christopher Morley
 No matter how busy you may think you are, you must find time for reading, or surrender yourself to self-chosen ignorance - Confucius

A book is the only place in which you can examine a fragile thought without breaking it, or explore an explosive idea without fear it will go off in your face. It is one of the few havens remaining where a man's mind can get both provocation and privacy - Edward P. Morgan

The greatest gift is a passion for reading - Elizabeth Hardwick

Children are made readers on the laps of their parents - Emilie Buchwald

Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few are to be chewed and digested - Francis Bacon

Once you learn to read, you will be forever free - Frederick Douglas

Thursday, February 16, 2012

20 Ways to have less stressful school days

Now this sounds like a contradiction in itself.  We all know how hard it is, how much effort it takes to home school every day.   It's only those who look from the outside, who would dare say it's easy.  Do I love it? Of course! (though sometimes not!)  There are lots of reasons that I home school and though the reasons are good, it doesn't mean that my life is a breeze.

However there are a few things that make life easier, bearable, manageable, and sometimes just really good, great, super and truly a memory moment.  They are small things, Mel things, my things - not your things.  But they might work.  They are tried and tested solutions in our household to making my day little easier.

1.  Food and More Food
This is an under-emphasised aspect of school.  Feed them cocoa pops and sugar pops and empty pops and crazy pops and you will have them popping all over the place.  And don't try and convince yourself that you're feeding them the good stuff just because it says whole grain or vitamin enriched.  That's only to cover a multitude of sins.  They all have sugar or additives or chemicals or words-that-you-cannot-pronounce-and-think-because-they-are-so-difficult-to-pronounce-it-must-be-good-words on the side of the box.

Now I would love to tell you that I am a fully fledged health conscientious buff but I would be lying and lying is not good and it doesn't reflect well on my image. And I wouldn't want to do that because maybe my pastor might find out and then... who knows, I might need to look for a different church.  So I'll confess, we do occasionally lower our health expectations and break out a box of instant cereal. (funny the children do not seem to suffer from the same internal struggles about whether or not they eat cereal - its devoured in minutes).  However I try as best as I can to keep the sugar intake to a minimum and ensure that breakfast is substantial and nutritious.

Breakfast, snacks, lunch and snacks again ensure that my children can concentrate combined with enough liquids too.  I have found that this can make an enormous difference in their day.  When they aren't getting enough to eat and drink I find that their concentration levels drop dramatically!  I am not suggesting huge meals the whole day, but frequent healthy snacks.

2.  Print the Night Before
Yes I know its a pain but its even more of a pain when you have children waiting for you "to quickly print off something".  This is when everything derails - the computer freezes, the printer runs out of ink or you forget where you saved the document - by this stage the children are climbing the walls.

3.  Time yourself
I love break time as much as the children - I need the breather, the time to get coffee or put a load of washing in.  The problem is that I enjoy it so much I forget how quickly the time passes and then before I know it the children have been on a break for more than an hour and now suddenly its lunch time! Oops.

4.  Don't let housework be the focus
Our children do chores every day - even Sundays (we all work hard).  We don't have a nanny, so we do everything and so its easy to start the day with chores and as you get busy - you "just want to do one more thing".  Which eventually takes time out of your learning time.

I do believe that chores is a learning opportunity but be careful of how much time you "justify" as learning time - unless you are being intentional and using specific housework activities to learn - for example gardening is a big one for us and we use it to illustrate biblical concepts, to study growth, insects, seedlings etc.  We draw in our nature study books and look up birds in our bird books. 

We have starting time and whether or not chores are finished, we start.  However tardiness or laziness is not allowed and so if one of my children is purposefully not doing their chores they will do it in their break time.

5.  Focused Attention 
All of my children need individual attention, not just the struggling ones or the little ones.  I ensure that I give individual attention to a specific child a day. (Eg Monday would be Declan, Tuesday - Ethan etc) The others may need my help but my attention is focused on one child (otherwise the eldest or most independent miss out on that one on one time which is just as important for them - even if just to connect with them and find out where they need help)

During this time, which by the way is not the whole day but more for their grade specific subjects, I will as best as I can ensure uninterrupted time - either by using something like Reading Eggs for their English, Rosetta Stone for their Mandarin or watching online educational videos for the other children if they cannot work independently from me.I also find putting my youngest right next to me also helps with behaviour and closer supervision.

6.  Go to bed early - TV is not worth it!
I love telly - there I said it.  I like to watch, I love thrillers and mysteries.  I like intrigue and espionage.  The problem is that a lot of telly happens too late, and then everything is too much of an effort the next day.  Tiredness and irritability do not bode well for any school day.

7.  Get up before they do
Whether its for a quiet time, your time, read time, coffee time or husband time - just do it.  You need the time to wake up in peace without having to meet anyone's demands but just prepare yourself for your day.  I often wake up, check my emails, have a quiet time and wait for the children to drift in as they wake up.  I know you are probably thinking how can she read emails before she reads the word of God?  I know my halo is slipping.

However I quickly discovered that praying and reading the word before I was fully awake often had me dose off on the couch because I was just  a little too comfortable. But by the time I have spent half and hour sorting through my mail and had a cup of coffee, I am awake and ready to spend time reading my word and praying.  I also prefer to have my children find me reading the word than sitting on a computer. 

8.  Move the Classroom
You have to bake for a ladies meeting, supper is going to be one of those long ones where you need to peel endless veggies and chop them into teeny weeny pieces and you still need to clean.  How do you do this without interrupting school or ensuring that the children are being supervised so that they don't get distracted or dawdle?

Move the classroom.

If I am in the kitchen the children sit at the dining room (open plan), if I am in the garden they sit outside around the patio tab;e.  Children love change and if it enables you to answer questions or to be more flexible then do it.  I wouldn't do it everyday but remember life happens and homeschooling should be part of life.

9.  Stay away from telephones and emails
Oh yes don't let them whisper in your ear that they are so important.  They aren't.  Leave the phone to take a message and don't allow your emails or Facebook to suck you into that dark void of time wasting.  Remember you are also setting an example to your children about how you use your time.

10.  Do less well
Don't try and be anyone else, or work at anyone else's speed or do someone else's program. A lot of energy and effort can be wasted copying others.  I don't believe in wasting time but when I try and do too much in a day, I find my children don't cope with the pressure and I get frustrated because I can't tick off my list of things done. 

11. Take a break when they do
I used to try and do my chores that I hadn't finished in the morning, when the children took their break - but I need a break too.  I have now stopped doing chores during that time and instead I take out a book, go online or just lie down for a bit.  I find that I feel far more refreshed and am able to face the next part of the day with enthusiasm (that's if I haven't fallen asleep:)
 12.  Get help if you can
We have gone through stages of having help in our house, and times when we couldn't afford to.  I won't lie to you - I love having help in my house.  School is easier, life is easier - it brings such freedom.  But I have also been content during the times where, as a family, we have been responsible for everything!  Don't live beyond your means but if you can afford to, get help.  Even if only once a week.  Its good for you, good for your husband, good for your house and good for your children. But make sure your children help you, no matter how small - every little bit helps!

13. Join a co-op or start one
Besides the opportunity to get together and meet new families and build new friendships, it gives you a break.  If the lesson is rotated amongst your group it means that though you might have to prepare a lesson and present it, you will still have the opportunity to have a bit of a break while your children are still learning.  You may not be able to leave, as most co-ops require moms to still be hands-on, however it takes the pressure off you to do all the preparation and your children will learn lots, because its been presented by someone else.

14.  Get rid of the mess
Displays of beach finds, art projects and other topics of interest are great, but make sure that your learning area and house is tidy. Nothing is more exhausting than a mess.  We do a a full learning area cleanup once a week and make sure that the children pack everything away before the end of each day.  Mess is exhausting.  Your house doesn't need to be spotless but try and keep things under control.
 15.  Cook BIG
Prepare double or triple if you can.  If I make mince, I might prepare some for cottage pie and some for spaghetti.  One in the deep freeze and one for supper.  I have found this one of the most effective time saving activities.  It means that I get one night free every couple of days because the meal is already made which helps on days when we have sports or excursions.

16.  Keep it handy
I try and keep water close at hand and small, non messy snacks (like sliced carrots, raisins, dried fruit), a small rubbish bin, toilet paper or tissues - all the little things the children seem to need all day.  I think its a good idea for children to move so that they can stretch but I find that these little things are often excuses to disappear down the corridor and get distracted with things they find along the way.  Keeping these sorts of things close at hand helps lots!

17.  What else is happening below the surface?
My youngest children often malfunction when they need some time and attention - normally it's a sign of a deeper need.  Stop and pay attention, hold and cuddle, sit on the couch and read together.  If you don't the attention seeking behaviour can get worse.  If you can't do it during learning time, go on a "date" with that child - one on one time.  This is especially a need in big families when they are always sharing your attention.

18.  Computer Compromises
After I published this article I realised that I only had 15 points and so as someone who is never at a lack of something to say, I started writing some more points.  A friend of mine who shall remain nameless as I wouldn't want to embarrass her, mentioned that Computer work late at night is as bad for you if not worse than TV because we tell ourselves that the reason we are doing it is for a good cause.  Try these and see which one applies to you:
* I just need to check facebook to see how my friends and family are doing?
*  If I don't facebook people might think that there is something wrong
* What will happen to my blog is I don't write a post tonight - they'll all bail on me and find a better and bigger blog to read and forget all about me
*  I want to research this topic properly - I know that tomorrow I will be so exhausted I won't even use it but just in case... you never know when you will need it
*  I have to check my emails, there might be something important that cannot wait until tomorrow

I might not have mentioned your specific excuse but we all have one don't we?  And then tomorrow comes and our children feel the consequences of this behaviour.

19.Get that loving feeling
I am the most joyful, inspired person when I spend time with my husband and feel loved.  Maybe some of the dryness and stress of your day is  because adjustments need to be made in your marriage - are you making time to love and be loved - or is it all work, school, chores and running around?  Take time to have a coffee together - even for 30 minutes, hold hands, turn the telly off and talk.  Go to bed early.  Maybe I am the only one like this but my love tank needs to be filled by God and by my husband.  If either of these are not happening - you might as well prepare my broomstick!

 20. Pray with your man
I don't share space easily in prayer with others, I like the solitude - being able to be honest before God without worrying about what others are thinking - baring my soul.  But recently Sean and I have started spending just 10 minutes praying together.  We sit down and pray for our day.  What we are doing is a ministry. Yes it is!  Anything that God has tasked you to do to fulfill His will is a ministry and it is as important as any other ministry.  It requires prayer, preparation, dedication and sacrifice.  We would never expect our pastor to come to church unprepared or having not prayed.  Yet we will approach our day like this. We have an amazing opportunity to mentor, guide and lead our children - to reach others as a family - to change the world. Pray with your husband, pray with your friend - but pray - and watch what God can do! 

So that's probably a good start with a few things that might simplify or help you during your school day.  I would love to hear from you and what techniques you use to take the stress out of your homeschooling day.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Who will be my Valentine?

So Valentine's day lurks round the corner, like an unsuspecting visitor waiting to pounce and expose our lack of preparation or readiness for this day marked in our calendars .
Love.... can it really be expressed fully in a day - a day filled with candy, balloons, cards, romantic dinners.... or could there be more?

Should I entertain the notion that my expression of love is determined by my performance on this day?

As the day approaches remember when I was in Grade 4.  Waiting for that letter from the boy that I "loved with all my heart" - hoping that he would send me something special.  The sweaty palms, the nerves and mostly the fear that I would suffer the humiliation of rejection.  That I would be the only one who was unloved or unnoticed.  But then there was a card, an immature expression of love, followed by unexplainable relief and joy that I had been "loved".
But someone else, a young boy - sat empty handed. He tried to pretend like it didn't matter - but it did - to him. 
What have we done with love, true love, everlasting love when we reduce it to this?
To a day
to a moment
to a piece of candy
to a note

The love I know is patient and kind. 
 not jealous or boastful or proud or rude
  not demanding 
 keeps no record of being wronged
  doesn't rejoice about injustice
  rejoices whenever the truth wins out
never gives up
never loses faith
is always hopeful
and endures through every circumstance 

This is the love I want to teach my children, not losing sight of the lover of my soul, the one who loved so much that he sacrificed everything for me.  The love that knows no limits and remains as true today as it did years ago.  This is the love that I want them to long for - for all else is temporary. 

But when Tuesday dawns - there will be gifts, gestures of romance - a loving wife and companion and yet still  I will wait for my creator to whisper in my ear, to remind me of his love - to declare my beauty. 

This is the love that I know

Friday, February 10, 2012

The Winner of the Ceres Zip Slide Adventures Giveaway

And so its Friday and we have a winner!  
Congratulations to Helen Baker for winning 2 tickets valued at R800  to enjoy the adventure of the Ceres Zip Slide Tours.  Have a blast and make sure to take some photographs.

Thanks to Angelique and Gawie Le Roux who own Ceres Zip Slide Tours , we have 2 tickets valued at R800 to give away so that you too can experience the adventure.

How to enter:  
Visit their site at and answer the following question by leaving a comment:
In what mountains in Ceres do the Zip Slide Tours take place?
(Remember that if you don't have a blog, leave your email address when you comment, so that I can contact you, otherwise you might not get your prize and you don't want to lose out on this one!)

Anyone can enter our Giveaway AND you can enter even if you have won one of the Giveaways before.  Its open to anyone whether you live across the ocean or next door.  Bearing in mind this prize is in Cape Town.
The Winner will be announced on Friday 10th February 2012.

What to do this weekend? 40 Fun things to do with your kids

Wondering what you should do this weekend?  Run out of ideas or just need some fresh ideas of fun things to do?  Of course its all about what the weather is like so I thought of giving you some options because I am kind in that way;)

Out and About Activities for Children
1.  Zip sliding - enough said, read my post about this
 2. Head to the beach/ river/ dam/ friends pool - anything with water normally appeals to children
3. Go on a picnic - try something different - try a scavenger hunt, I spy, cloud spotting
4. Go to a park/ petting zoo/ farm

5.  Plant some seeds in the garden - find vegetables in your home that can be planted out - like peppers, tomatoes, butternut, squash
6.  Put a sprinkler on outside and while watering the garden, let the children play in the water
7.  Go on a hike, remember not to be too adventurous, don't choose a 2 hour hike with a 3 year old (like we did) as you may have to carry her most of the way (which we did)
8.  Blow bubbles or make your own
9.  Bike Ride - takes a bit of effort on your part but once you get going you won't be sorry
10. Head out to the local market but make sure the children eat before you go, otherwise you will spend a fortune
11.  Ball games on school fields or courts - tennis, cricket, baseball, soccer
12.  Hide and Seek - fun at home but try a different venue or place
13.  Hopscotch - just needs some tar or cement and a bit of chalk
14.  Outdoor cooking - BBQ, Braai, Potjie, Bread on a Stick
15.  Camp out in your garden
16.  Arrange a play date with family or friends in wide open spaces where they can run around and make a noise
17.  Make some mud in the back yard - let the children play with their trucks and cars in the mud
18.  Fruit picking - you get to pick, eat and if there is any left - make some jam too
19.  Go watch a sporting event - cricket, soccer, rugby - this will truly be a memory moment
20.  Eat out in a restaurant in a sunny spot with a view - next to the harbour, overlooking a dam, outside on the pavement, down at the docks

Rainy Weather Things to do
1.  Children have screen time due to them?  Why not let them try Reading Eggs?  You can sign up for 14 days free trial and its a super duper learning tool, they think they're having fun time but they are learning at the same time

2.  Puzzle - and don't go and spend money doing it either, take one out of the library, or borrow one from a friend
3.  Bake - any recipe with anything you have.  Dad might not get involved but I bet he would love to eat anything you make -  why not make some of those yummy jam squares?  And then invite another family to enjoy them with you

4.  Family read aloud - get an old favourite off the shelf and let dad read for a change.  Throw some blankets on the floor - bring out the Lego or the toys.  Try some of the funnies like Roald Dahl, Amelia Bedelia, Michael Maphurgo
5.  Movie Day - from the library or friends OR video store or online purchase
6.  Indoor Excursions -  Aquarium, Play Centres, Planetarium, Art Galleries, Museums, Ten Pin Bowling 
7.  Board Games - Scrabble, Monopoly, 30 Seconds, Charades
8.  Box Construction - give them all your empty cereal boxes, toilet rolls, egg cartons, all that junk you collect in your cupboard or under the sink (or is that just me?) and let them build whatever they want - robots, houses, machines. You will need glue (so best to keep them in a safe space) , scissors and some paint (for the very adventurous).  My eldest is 11 but he still loves this- our children have even created marble tracks, miniature skateboarding parks and cities.
9.  Dress up - little children especially love the chance to dress up in mom and dad's clothes.
10.  Call a friend on Skype - your kids will love this especially when they see themselves on the computer screen.
11. Go to the movies
12.  Make volcanoes with vinegar, bicarb and colouring!
13.  Visit an orphanage or animal shelter and volunteer for the day - remember to phone before you get there otherwise you might be disappointed and be turned away

14.  Head to gym - our gym has child care facilities for up to 2 hours.  Go gym and then have a date with your man in their coffee shop while the children are having fun.
15.  See a show (head to the theatre, watch a matinee)
16.  Go the airport, watch the airplanes land and take off and enjoy breakfast/ snacks/ drinks with a view
17.  Play games
18.  Make paper boats and go outside in the rain (yes that's right - let them play in the rain)  and watch them float down the gutter.  This truly was one of my favourite activities to do as a child.  I even used to add cargo like little stones or small toys.  And if this is just a little adventurous for you , put water in the bath and you can do the same.
19.  Paper aeroplane racing - choose a space where they can throw paper aeroplanes to their heart's content.
20.  Visit local heroes - the police, the fire station, lifeguards, ambulance workers. 

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Tuesday, February 7, 2012

And now he's 10!

From the time he arrived in this world - one week late, he has been the source of so much laughter.  My middle son who is an amazing child of character, strength and perseverance. His name means - "the one who perseveres".  He has the courage of a lion, and a heart of a lamb.

He ALWAYS has food on his face - he LOVES food!
Food, food, glorious food!
The sweetest deep sleeper and always the last one to wake up in the morning!
Always scratches and bruises from all the monkeying around.
My precious boy
He likes to look cool and sometimes takes it a little far:)
 This was a white shirt 2 hours before this photo
Cool dude
Look at those eyelashes! Such a handsome fellow
Always one of the boys - dirty, and full of mischief
 He ADORES his dad, much to my dismay (and envy) and I have to fight for time with him.
 He loves compassionately.  My gentle giant.

Skateboarder! Or at least trying to be one.
Our Nipper's Champ!
 This child could stay in the water until it literally froze over! 

It's been 10 memorable years and such special, precious moments.  I love to watch him grow.  He truly is a blessing to me!