Sunday, November 25, 2012

Are you doing too much for your child?

I like things to happen smoothly, quickly and according to my standards or ways and yet so often that leads me into a space where I take things away from my children.  I stop them doing things that they are quite capable of doing or learning.  For example: it's easier for me to cook, rather than let them do it - because I am tidy and I know just how I like it done.  But it's not always the best way for my children.
"Are you doing too much for your child" by Debbie Pincus talks about how to change this behaviour and why we should.  What I find especially interesting is that she especially mentions parents with special needs children and their desire to help so much that they are no longer helping their child's development and growth.  She gives all parents some useful perspective on how to break this cycle.

Read more about this insightful article here.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Guest Post: Cleaning in style

lazy housekeeping

This is not how I clean house!

ladies of leisure

This is more my style!

Bonnie's Household Organizer: The Essential Guide for Getting Control of Your HomeMany years ago, when I was a young bride-- back in the 1900's, as one of my students used to say-- I read a book called Bonnie's Household Organizer. It changed my life! It taught me some very smart principles of keeping house that can be adapted to any size house, or any schedule. Then I read several of Don Aslett's funny but smart housekeeping books (Do I Dust or Vacuum First?) and adopted some of his ideas. Add Flylady, and you have a perfect combination of housekeeping brilliance! And notice I'm saying house keeping, not just cleaning. Here's the lazy way:

Prevent dirt and grime.

  • Place mats or rugs inside and outside doors, and from hard floor to carpets. These will catch lots of dirt before it gets where you don't want it.Do I Dust Or Vacuum First?: Answers to the 100 Toughest, Most Frequently Asked Questions about Housecleaning
  • Wipe sinks and faucets after you use them to keep them shiny and prevent spots and buildup. Standing water will cause all kinds of ugly!
  • Wipe up spills while they are new-- you can get them up much faster than if you wait.
  • Let water and chemicals do most of the work. Spray the cleaner on the spot and let it sit a minute; don't just start scrubbing. Chances are you will be able to wipe it up easily. Water works just as well for dried up food spills.

Set up systems to make things easy and automatic.

  • I keep a "Goodwill box" in my closet-- a kitchen trash can, with liner. As soon as I realize that something doesn't fit, or gets replaced, (or my hip daughters veto something that's older than they are) I toss it in the can. As soon as the bag is full, I tie it up and take it to Goodwill. They get the clothes, I get the tax writeoff-- it's a win-win!
  • Keep all things that you will use for one project together. For instance, my envelopes, return address labels, and stamps are all in one place. I also keep sympathy, wedding, baby, and birthday cards there. When I'm really with it, I have baby and wedding gift cards there too!
  • All of my monthly bills are paid by auto draft. I make sure there is a "pad" of extra money in my account so it won't bounce, and every single payment, even my tithe, comes out automatically. The credit union writes and sends checks to the places that don't accept electronic drafts. Think of the time and postage this saves!
  • Keep multiples of items that you use regularly in convenient places. I finally realized that scissors are not that expensive, but walking to the kitchen drawer every time I needed them drove me nuts and gave me one more reason to procrastinate. So now I have one in that drawer, one across the kitchen where I mix things up, and another pair in the desk. All labeled to prevent theft by unscrupulous children.
  • If you can clean everything in one session, a cleaning caddy with all your tools works well. I used to do that, but now I can't clean all at once, so I keep cleaner and paper towels under all the sinks so I can give a quick wipe when I get a minute. There's a bathroom cleaner and toilet scrubber in every bathroom.
  • Don't clean it unless it's dirty. My bathroom mirror is a huge 5X7 foot one. I'm 5'3' so only a small part above the sink gets splashes. That's the part I wipe every time.
  • Keep extra trash bags in the bottom of the can. You don't have to (climb the stepstool if you're like me and) get the box out every single time. Every step you save is some time saved, and that will add up! (Then you can blog some more!)

Eliminate and declutter regularly.

The more STUFF you have, the more maintenance is required. Goodwill, the library, your friends-- somebody needs what is lying around unused in the back of your closet or bottom of your drawer! In the book Getting Things Done, David Allen said that your file drawers should be no more than 75% full, because if it's hard to file things away, you won't do it. When I read this I had a light-bulb moment! I thought-- what a great idea for any storage container! My too-stuffed closet for example: if I'm going to wear the blue jeans tomorrow or the next day, it's so much easier to lay them across the chair than to hang them and stuff them in the jam-packed closet!

How to pare down?

  • To earn its keep, YOU should consider it useful or beautiful. (to paraphrase William Morris)
  • It's okay to get tired of things, or replace them, as long as you are not adding credit card debt!
  • You don't have to keep every gift ever given to you.
  • If it's a free hand-me-down and it doesn't fit right, get rid of it. Don't worry that it cost somebody else an arm and a leg.
  • If you work someplace like I do, a school district who buys a T-shirt for everything, you can end up with 15 or 20 in just a few years. You don't need that many! I know some charities make children's clothes from old T-shirts. Find something to do with them, or give them to Goodwill!
  • When you get a new pair of shoes or jeans, toss a pair of the old ones. Yes you need some yard shoes, but not 4 or 5 pair.
  • Don't buy more stuff if you have something else that works almost as well or can borrow it. I had to quit buying books because I ran out of space. I buy only occasionally, books that I want to keep. If I can't get something at the library, or through interlibrary loan, I will often buy it planning to donate it to the library after I read it. (Of course, Kindles and such eliminate that problem-- but be careful not to spend unnecessarily! Another post...)

Get the most bang for your buck.

  • Neat and tidy go a long way. Keep baskets to collect things you use regularly, and don't want to put up every time, like magazines, games, kids' toys, etc.
  • Floors, beds, and tables are your largest surfaces. Start there. Save the pantry shelves for later.
  • Cook in bulk. This saves shopping, prepping, and cleanup time, plus that critical just-home-from-work, ravenous, brain-dead crisis can be averted! Pop it in the microwave and supper is ready!
Okay! I hope I've given you some ideas. If I've sparked something new, please share it!

Guest Blogger Melinda Stanton
Hi! My name’s Melinda and I’m a teacher. Not just a school teacher- I am that too, but I love teaching anybody anything. Nothing scratches my itch like somebody saying that something I said helped them, or something I showed them made a difference. I like to cook, to read, to garden. I’ve lived over 50 years (just a little bit!); I’ve been married to the same man (He always signs himself “Mr X”) for over 30 years; and all of our children are self-sufficient, tax-paying adults who we love to visit and socialize with. I love the Lord and have served in 2 churches throughout my married life. Our house is paid for and we have no debt.

You can read my Guide to Life here, and see more about it.
I say all that to say– my life works. It might seem dull to some- no drama or fireworks. But I love it. Contentment and peace– that’s what you’ll find at Auntie Em’s house. Sit down and visit a while, and you can find it too.

If you would like to read more about Melinda, you can find her on the web in the following places:

Sunday, November 18, 2012

100 things that you do or don't know about me

You may not know me personally and some of you may know me really well but just so that you have a better idea of who Mel is, I wrote this list.  After all you read my blog, you should probably make sure that I am not dodgy.  Dodgy is a word we use a lot in our house.  It means anything or anyone suspect  

So here's my life.

1.  I have a tattoo on my right shoulder of a Pegasus.  I had it done in Israel and have never regretted it.  

2.  My left ear is smaller than my right ear - and the one is a little more floppy than the other.  I could think of all sorts of names like "Dumbo" or "Big Ears" but instead I quietly tuck my ears away under bandannas, long hair and ignoring their imperfection.

3.  I love satin pajamas.  And so does Sean:)

4.  I have big feet - a big round eight - fat feet, big feet which seems to somehow go quite well with Big Ears - starting to see a pattern here.

5.  I love coffee. Period.  I cannot be converted or weaned.  My blood type is coffee.

6.  My birthday is on the 15th October and I was born in 1972.  40 years old and counting

7. I was a high school teacher before I started homeschooling my children.  I got so fed up with teaching other people's kids that I became rather nasty.  Now I just terrorise my children at home instead.  They love it and I love them.

8.  I go to bed very late every night.  I love having time to myself at night.
9.  My favourite colour combination is red, pink, orange, lime green and yellow.  I love this colour combination so much that whenever we move, at least one room in the house is decorated in these colours - currently its my kitchen and dining room.

10.  My favourite teacher at school was my geography teacher - he dressed funny, he looked a bit funny and he had those long strands of hair combed over his bald spot - but he believed in me and always encouraged me.  

11.  When I was in Grade 8, I was a drum majorette - a troupe, the lowest of the low.  I never got to hold any interesting objects like flags or maces.  I just had to march everywhere and I wasn't particularly good at that either.

12.  I am so directionless that I think I could even lose my way in my own back garden.

13. My favourite type of fiction is mystery, thriller, espionage and legal detective novels.  I get lost in these books.  I read them all at once.  Three days of reading and then I come up to breathe.  My husband knows not to bother me and to lets me just go into hibernation.

14.  My favourite activity is watching a movie.

15.  I got engaged 6 months after meeting Sean.

16.  We got married after 11 months.

17.  It was his khaki shorts and sexy legs that first got my attention.

18.  I am very sensitive to smell.  I have to smell good and so do others. 

19.  My most expensive toiletries are smell related ones - deodorants, soaps, creams, perfumes

20.  I love meeting new people and finding out what makes them tick, who they are and where they come from.

21.  If I was a movie maker I would make a movie just on stories about how people met, fell in love and stayed married.

22.  The one item I desperately want is a proper camera, I have an eye for photography but am limited to a small cheap digital one.  
23.  I have 5 children, 4 by birth, one by adoption and one is sitting with Jesus, watching her mommy down here on earth.

24.  Our family has always had a tag line we live by "there is always space for one more at our table".

25.  We love China.  We love the people of China.  

26.  Our dream is to move to China permanently one day.

27.  I have a tongue that is too quick to speak!

28.  I can't touch the tip of my nose with my tongue or my earlobe for that matter.

29.  I have a funny toenail on my left big toe because I dropped a shelf on it when I was pregnant with Ethan and had to have the nail cut off.  It's never recovered properly. Neither have I.

30.  My favourite colour is red.

31.  My favourite colour to wear is pink.

32.  My favourite position is first.

33.  I eat peanut butter out of a jar with a spoon after dipping it into the syrup.

34.  I never drink the last part of my coffee.  Can't and won't.

35.  Sweet or savoury - why choose?  I love all snacks.

36.  I don't like spending too much time with highly strung people, they make me nervous, and tense and edgy and highly strung.

37.  My pet hate is listening to someone chew next to me when I am not chewing.  When I chew with them it seems to drown out the sound.

38.  If I were to have a nightmare about a particular animal it would be a maggot. They're so little, they could sneak in anywhere and eat you up.  YUCK!

39.  My worst chore in the house is cleaning out the drain after doing dishes, where all the muck collects in that little muck collector and has become all squishy.

40.  I think about food a lot.  

41.  And coffee.
42.  I don't like my legs.  They're like tree trunks that need felling.

43.  I like my eyes and my smile, though I might not be able to see either of these very soon when my skin is completely saggy and covered in wrinkles but for the moment, while I can see them, I like 'em.

44.  My surname before I got married was Claassen.

45.  I am half English and half Afrikaans

46.  Before I met my husband I travelled to 3 countries and "fell in love" in each one.

47. I have one sister who lives in the UK.

48.  I love reading in the bath with candles, bubble bath and a glass of wine.

49.  I love my blender and use it as often as possible.

50.  My bread machine is one of my favourite items in my kitchen.

51.  I enjoy speaking publicly but always wonder whether what I am talking about makes sense or is even worth listening to.

52.  I have tried unsuccessfully to lose weight for many years and now am just happy to be voluptuous.  I reckon that I am a far happier person when I can do what everyone else is doing, rather than being miserable and starving myself.
53.  I love going on dates with my children, spending one on one time with them.

54.  I used to be the top shot put athlete in my school.

55.  I was a prefect in primary and high school, and now I wonder if it was not just a way of doing the things the teachers didn't want to do and a huge waste of time.

56.  I don't like stories with unhappy endings.  

57.  If there is one thing I wish I could do, it would be to fly.  

58.  I love having people in my home

59.  But I am glad when they go home eventually.  

60.  I work on my computer every night.

61.  I have tried to study my honours in Psychology twice now.  Destiny seems to be speaking louder.

62.  I am passionate about orphaned and abandoned babies.

63.  I stay away from anything that resembles a series on TV, as I get hooked very easily.  And if I watch anything while consuming coffee, I am completely and utterly ruined.

64.  Lemon meringue is seriously my all time favourite dessert.  If you make me a lemon meringue pie - I will declare my undying love to you and you will always be welcome in my house.

65.  I love falling asleep on my couch with the light on and the TV on.

66.  Wet wool and shoe laces make me get cold shivers - I avoid them as much as possible.

67.  I refuse to touch anything that develops a skin on it - cooked custard, hot milk, overheated coffee.

68. I love buying mugs.  Whenever we travel to a new place, I buy 2 matching coffee mugs.  One for Sean and one for me.  

69.  I love cappuccino with cream.  Who could possibly want frothy milk when you can have cream?

70.  My mother still fixes my clothes.

71.  I chat to my mother every day or at least every second day.  

72.  My dad gets jealous.

73.  So sometimes I phone him just so he can feel important too - and then I ask to speak to my mother.

74.  The most used word in this home is ... MOOOOOOOOMMMMM!

75.  I love butter and cream and sugar.  Preferably all at the same time.

76.  I snore.  Shame.  I know. Sad. 

77.  I have mole on my cheek that Ruthie (my 4 year old) asks in very public places and very loudly "Mom is that a pimple?  Must I squeeze it?"

78.  The shower is where I cry.  

79.  I love pretty underwear - and so does Sean:)

80.  I love my church family. I couldn't actually imagine life without them.  I have parents, sisters, grandparents and aunts and uncles.

81.   I love the Lord, he's the reason I am.  In fact he's the reason for everything.  And I owe him everything.

82.  When I go shopping, I pick up a packet of chips off the shelf, eat it while I am shopping and pay for it as I leave.  
83.  My best friend lives in Mtunzini, I see her maybe once a year but she loves me warts and all - we have been friends for 13 years and nothing ever changes when we see each other.

84.  I get sulky and petulant when I don't get my own way.  I am working on sucking in my lip and biting my tongue but it's hard!

85.  I am a redhead, though slightly faded - and I hear that we are a rare breed.  There are less and less of us every year, we need to be appreciated and looked after (in my opinion) with lots of special treatment.

86.  When I can't fall asleep at night, I have a bath or a shower - it seems to tell my body that it's time to sleep.

87.  My dream is to travel the world with my family and live out of a suitcase.

88.  If I could have one wish it would be travel to every country in the world and give my children the chance to learn on location about every place.

89.  Whenever I swim in a pool at night, I get quite scared and keep imagining a shark in the pool - too many of the old James Bond movies and Jaws.

90.  I over analyze people and situations.  I always imagine that I have done something wrong and try and work it out in my mind.

91.  I used to work as a cashier at Checkers when I was 16.

92.   When I lived in Israel I looked after 7000 turkeys and they scared the living daylights out of me on a daily basis.

93.  When I lived in the UK I worked as a street sweeper, cleaning the streets of London, I even occasionally drove a garbage truck.

94.  I love gardening but I spend a fortune on plants that eventually die.  I need plants that don't need care or water - basically plastic would probably be the best option.

95.  I drive my husband crazy by opening something new before the old is finished.  If the toothpaste is on its last, I let everyone else finish the leftovers and I use the new stuff.  

96.  When I make a peanut butter and syrup sandwich, I lick the knife when no one is looking.

97.  I always eat the crust off round my sandwich before eating the rest.

98.  I love lime milkshakes.

99. I love the ocean, I feel like God paints it a different colour for me every day.  

100.  I love lists:)

Friday, November 16, 2012

And the Winner of the The Greatest Coffee Giveaway

I am a week late but I did not forget, so at least there is progress.  And so who's the lucky person to win this fabulous gift?

Well done Nikki Loans you are a winner!

Nikki Loans:  I haven't tried Mexican Fudge, so that sounds yum!

I am sure you will love this coffee as much as I do
I know you have all been waiting with baited breath, in fact you can almost smell the coffee - you might even be seeing it like a mirage of coffee in the desert, or is that water?  Well it's happening, it's big, it's the biggest...

Coffee Giveaway!

Coffee Giveaway!
Kevin our local barista, who I interviewed earlier this month, has generously given us a great giveaway - 4 flavoured coffees and delicious chocolate covered coffee beans.  Just the sort of thing you want to win just before Christmas! Or if you're like me, hide the stash in the cupboard and drink it all by yourself!

I bet you're asking yourself - What flavours?  Hazelnut, Irish Cream, Mexican Fudge and Regular.  Oh yeah baby!  And then those yummy chocolate covered coffee beans - I mean chocolate and coffee were meant for each other - like the sun and the moon, the fish and the sea., OK so I have run out of any further examples but you get my meaning?  All of this is valued at R235 and it could be yours!

How to Enter
Simply leave a comment below and tell me which flavour you most want to try.

For extra entries
*  Share this giveaway on Facebook/ Twitter and leave a comment separately for each one, to let me know you have. (1 extra entry each)
*  Blog about this giveaway - remember to come back and let me know you have done this in the comment section below.(5 extra entries)
*  Like Mel's Mouthful on Mothering Facebook Page , Follow me on Twitter - come back and let me know by leaving a comment (2 entries each)

(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.  Because of shipping fees, this competition is only open to South African readers.
The Winner will be announced on Friday 9 November 2012

Of course for those of you that can't wait to try this coffee, you can contact Kevin directly:  For only R50 you can buy a 250g bag of the most awesome coffee, and if you live in South Africa it can be posted to you.
His contact details are:  Cell 081-2706225 or email him and place your order.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Homeschoolers Don't Socialize - Or Do They?

Oh yes, the big socialisation issue.  Hope you have an answer now for every Mom, Nick and Mary - who questions the terrible isolation of your child as you exist in an island of homeschooling! Oh yes, homeschoolers are those rather sad individuals who have nothing better to do (dramatic clearing of the throat) than to sit at home (yes we sit, we don't run, walk or do anything very constructive) and teach our children , who are obviously maladjusted individuals that can't cope with "real" schools and so we keep them at home. 

Did I mention some of those rather pointed comments people make to you?  I am sure you could add a few more .  So then that rather critical statement - "but how do they cope without spending time with other children?"  Of course we all know this is not true. However we are probably more conscious than most mom's of our children's socialisation issues.  I kind of count and balance the days.  OK so 2 days of play dates, 2 non educational excursions with people around(surely that's considered socialisation?) and then of course sport.  I am sure none of you sit and calculate how many days you have spent with and around people.  But I used to do that as part of our homeschooling complex (yes I have one.. sometimes).

I recently stopped counting and decided that I would choose key opportunities for my children to get Out and About.  My concerns are now more centred around making sure there is a balance between friends, exercise and sport, being content at just being at home and learning experiences outside of the home.

I have only lived in Kalk Bay for over a year now and yet we have already developed a substantial program for our children.  Some of you may be new to homeschooling, others new to an area, or just struggling to know how to manage the social issue.  This is how I went about it, and in fact still do.

* Phone schools - They always need able bodied individuals whether its for sport, chess or a drama club.  Not all schools are open to this but so what, just keep knocking until you find one.

* Scour the Newspapers - I look out for interesting activities that children can participate in like walks, talks, open days, theatre, art exhibitions, shows on ice. Lots of these can be free so don't feel you have to always pay a fortune for your children's activities.

Internet search - I sometimes just search on Google for "Kalk Bay" or "Fish Hoek" and see what websites are listed and what activities they mention.  Sometimes you will find something unexpected.

*   Social Networks - A invaluable resource. I belong to a few homeschooling groups which announce various activities that anyone can participate in.  If there isn't one, why not start one.  Even if its a small group, at least there is a community.  Also don't just look at Facebook, there are groups in Linked In, Twitter and so many more.

*  Don't Isolate Yourself from School Going Children -They know lots! Sometimes school going children hear about activities that are being advertised in the area.  Extra classes, a special event - maybe even an excursion that you could ask about joining.

Travel a Bit if it's That Important to You - Trying to stay in a 10 km radius could be challenging, especially if you live in a small town.  Don't have transport? Take a train.  Ask friends whether you can contribute to petrol. Ask if can borrow their second car if they have one.  Drop and pick up your husband from work so you can use the car.

*Sports Clubs - Cost more but allow children to participate not only in practises but allows them to compete.  If there are none of the more main stream clubs, try the unusual - like lifesaving, horse riding, table tennis.  Sometimes the smaller clubs have more opportunities because they are not as sought after and have more space for your child to join the team.

*  Go to the Library - Again the community boards there offer lots of activities and groups that meet there regularly - stamp collecting, quilting, the history society etc.  And don't let your own interests govern this, your child may well be interested in quilting even if you never learnt how to thread a needle.

*  Start Your Own Co-op Don't Feel Left Out - You might hear others talking about co-ops and wonder why you haven't been invited to join.  Well don't fret, start your own.  It doesn't have to be complicated.  Its simply a group learning opportunity which could be drama, art, cooking, science.  You don't need to be incredibly gifted to run something like this and if you have older children, let them teach the little ones.

*  Go to Gym - Who says it needs to be a team sport. There are lots of opportunities to meet others at the gym!

Nature Clubs - Most nature reserves or parks will have some kind of group that gets together regularly, find out when or suggest they start a children's group.

*  Forget About Age Gaps - See it as an opportunity for your children to learn and serve.  So often I hear parents complain that the children are too young or too old for their children to join.  My children have learnt to interact with older and younger children comfortably because of the cross age combination.

*  Encourage Hobbies - Hobbies allow your child to really develop their creative talents and open up a whole different field of experience to them - scrap booking, model building, woodwork, stamp collecting.

*  Exercise With your Children  - Don't always expect others to do it for you - get going with them.  If there isn't a coach or a team, then just get going.  Run on the beach in the mornings, hike up the mountains, go bike riding. You'll meet like-minded people as you do that and before you know it you'll have an exercise group meeting regularly.

*  Invite Others Over First - Don't always wait for an invitation  If your children meet someone at the park and they get on really well, meet the parents, swap telephone numbers and make a play date.  I don't leave my children with anyone unless I know them very well.  I simply visit with the mom while the children are playing.  They get a new friend and so do you.

Most importantly, remember not to compare yourself to others.  Every family is different.  Running around all over the place for the sake of socialisation could lead to a very harassed and stressed day.  Don't try to do everything but maintain balance and ensure quality rather than quantity.  I have made many mistakes running after activities only to find them an absolute waste of time and money.  I am exhausted by the end of the week, the house is untidy and my husband is wondering when we'll have a decent meal.

So what about you?  I would love to hear from you.  What have you found really worked for your family?

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Book Review: A Child's Geography: Explore His Earth by Ann Voskamp

Perhaps, if you're like me, you spend hours reading about curricula and books that others are using or recommending along their homeschool journey, wondering what would be the best possible fit for your child's education. A Child's Geography, by Ann Voskamp, is one of those books I've seen on countless blogs and recommended reading lists. Ever since I stumbled upon her personal blog ( a few years ago, and read her book “A Thousand Gifts”, I have been dying to order this Geography Book, so imagine how delighted I was when Mel asked me to review it for her!
The Voskamps are Canadian farmers who homeschools their 6 children. Ann Voskamp has a clear passion for teaching, and a heart after God and His world, and His people in it. Her book, A Child's Geogrpahy: Explore His Earth, invites a child to do just that – to join her on a journey in “getting to know what is under our feet, over our heads and in the world around us — the atmosphere, the hydrosphere, the lithosphere — and then how to get around this world — maps, latitude and longitude. All the while, seeing Him everywhere” as she explains in the introduction.

Voskamp has created a book that is easy to use even if you yourself hated geography! She gives advice as to how to use the book, how to schedule readings, ask your children for narrations – I love that she knows exactly what it is like to have young children, and how much time they are likely to be engaged for! She has 'been there, done that' as a homeschooling mother!

Each chapter is broken up into
one or two main adventures, which are meant to be read aloud to your children (and she encourages just one main adventure at a time, and usually one a week).
• A notebooking segment (creatively using postcards to 'write home' about what has been learnt. These are provided in the e-book).
Narration prompts – with wonderful “memory joggers” for children who struggle to remember all the finer details.
“Reaching Out to His World” is the segment where Voskamp draws a connection between the theory of what has been learnt and how it connects to someone or some people group on the earth. Geographers care about the planet they live on, and she takes it a step further reminding the children that everything and everyone on earth is the Lord's.
• “Too-Fun-to-Resist-Excursions” are the hands on activities in each chapter.
Reading Lists – ooh, this is just write up my alley! Wonderful to have some extra suggested texts to dabble in if your children's interest is piqued.
And finally, the Appendix holds copywork passages organised by chapter, as well as maps provided by Terri Johnson of Knowledge Quest.

So, what do I really like about this text?
I like that it is a living book, written to me and my children, by a mother on another continent with the same passion as me. I like that she tries to engage with children listening to each chapter in so many ways (endless examples and day-to-day relevant references). I like that Voskamp herself lives by example, truly loving God's people all around the world (her work with Compassion International is inspirational). I appreciate what this books covers – all the basics of geography – it's a great foundational text.

What I don't like? Hmm, well, if I had to be critical, I'd have to say that I don't think this is a book well suited to a visual learner: it is quite dense with text (but then again, the lessons are meant to be read aloud), and the diagrams are small and I did not find them particularly clear.

So there you have it! This is a text I would willingly use with my children in their early to middle primary years, and I think they would have a lot of fun using it and being inspired by it. It will give them a firm geographical foundation that we can use as a spring board to more detailed studies.


A friend and fellow blogger who blogs at Karen's Clan.  
Homeschooling mother of 3, wife to a husband who makes the most amazing animated movies, heads Cape Explorers and is an inspiration to many.  

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Review: Songs of Migration

I had another date night with one of my sons, Chad, and we headed off to the Artscape Theatre to watch Songs of Migration which have just returned to South Africa after performing in Washington DC, London and Amsterdam. A show about migration - the songs of migration of those who would move across the African continent in search of a new future.

Two internationally acclaimed South African artists Hugh Masekela and Sibongile Khumalo, masterful storytellers - led us on a journey of joy and excitement, sorrow, victory and freedom.  This production was not only about a journey of migrants but the political journey in South Africa.  Issues of prejudice, expectations and township life were laid bare before us as.  Incredible as this may sound, I was faced with emotions and situations that I, as a white South African have never had to experience and had in fact never thought through or faced.

Though many of the songs were in traditional South African languages, so much of what was being expressed was portrayed in drama, song and music. Beautiful music and wonderful songs sung by performers whose showmanship had us laughing, singing and clapping along.  Hugh Masekela's flamboyant dance antics with a wicked sense of humour and a bit of swagger has the audience in stitches.  Sibongile Khumalo sang on par with any international singer I have ever heard.  I felt privileged to hear her sing and perform alongside Hugh.

There were some special moments in the performance that really made an impact on me: at one point the old South African flag was replaced with the current flag and I felt the elation of the moment and the victory.  It brought back so many memories of that eventful day when I voted and knew that there was a new day dawning.  I also loved the haunting melodies played by internationally acclaimed trumpeter Hugh Masekela.  What a talented man and what an asset he is to our theatres! The five piece band were brilliant.  I heard them use their voices as instruments, saw traditional African instruments and was enthralled by the violinist.

I would have liked to have had a translator sitting next to me as I felt at a distinct disadvantage not knowing what they were singing about and some of the dances were clearly significant in their movements and style. Chad struggled with this production because of not understanding a lot of what was happening due to his age. I know Declan who is 12 would have enjoyed this more.  With the added element of no intermission which surprised me,  it was just far too much to expect from him.  Too much for an 8 year old - especially a boy with so much energy!  I was taken by surprise as at one point Hugh swore very crudely which took me by surprise but thank goodness my son didn't seem to notice it too much.  There were also a few sexual movements and connotations which I didn't think were appropriate for a child to see.

I also stumbled on this short video on You Tube where both Hugh and Sibongile were interviewed on the Expresso Show.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Press Release: Songs of Migration at the Artscape Theatre

Two South African legends bring the Artscape Opera stage alive in a musical tribute to the great songs of migrants across the African continent. Songs of Migration, fresh off the stages of Washington DC, London and Amsterdam, is a musical adventure of Southern Africa’s cries of joy, love, conflict, resistance, sorrow, exile; oppression; patriotism; victory and freedom. Compiled by internationally acclaimed trumpeter, composer and lyricist Hugh Masekela, and starring alongside him Sibongile Khumalo, they take centre stage as lead storytellers and singers. This touching tribute, written and directed by award-winning director James Ngcobo, has been described as a production that takes one on a journey of every possible emotion.
In this celebration of song, the same dusty streets, settlement camps, and train cars that sometimes separated families, echo with the centuries of indigenous sounds that gave birth to a diverse cross section of rich cultural heritage.  They flowed from all parts of Africa, south, toward the promise of the golden city Johannesburg and a better life. Rich metals, hidden deep within the land, brought together a continent of even richer music, traditional costumes, instruments, songs, ceremonies, and dance.

Music in this production includes songs by Mackay Davashe, Joseph Shabalala, Victor Ndlazilwane, Gibson Kente, Hugh Masekela, Dorothy Masuka, and Miriam Makeba. Songs of Migration is currently produced by Sibojama Theatre, the original producer is the Market Theatre in Johannesburg, and is based on the original South African State Theatre production, The Rehearsal: 100 years of South African Music.

The production also features Kuki Mncube, Gugu Shezi, and Khanyo Maphumulo, Bonginkosi Zulu, Happy Motha, Linda Thobela, and Bubele Mgele. The band includes Fana Zulu (bass), Ntokozo Zungu (guitar), Tshepo Mngoma (violin and vocals), Ezbie Moilwa (keyboards), and Godfrey Mgcina (percussion).

Songs of Migration will take place at the Artscape theatre, Cape Town from the 7th – 11th November 2012 and tickets are available through Computicket or Artscape theatre dial-a-seat 021 421 7695.

For more information, please contact:
Danine Naidoo – Artscape Publicist
Facebook: Artscape Theatre Centre
Twitter: @ArtscapeTheatre

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

160 Things to do in Cape Town: Our Family Bucket List

There are lots of places I want to see and explore while we live in this beautiful part of South Africa and so I decided to make a list, as the teacher in me likes to pick up a pen and start ticking:)  All of these items are in and around Cape Town.  I love this part of South Africa.  So much to see and do with children, this really is a city you can enjoy as a family.  I will keep adding things to my list as and when I find new places to explore.

1. Take a cable car up to Table Mountain
2.  2 Oceans Aquarium
3.  Afternoon tea at the Mount Nelson
4.  Cape Agullas is a must as it is the Southern most tip of Africa
5.  Ratanga Junction
6.  Iziko Planetarium
7.  Seal Island
8.  Noon Day Gun
9.   Castle of Good Hope
10.  Take a trip on a train
11.  Boulders Beach
12.  Explore Smitswinkel -done
13.  Enjoy a treat at Charly's Bakery - done

14.  Visit the best theatres of Cape Town:  The Baxter Theatre (done) , The Artscape Theatre (done), Masque TheatreTheatre on the BayKalk Bay Theatre
15.  The Cape Town Science Centre - done
16.  Fish and Chips in Kalk Bay - done
17.  Kirstenbosch Gardens
18.  Rhodes Memorial
19.  Biodiversity Park in Greenpoint
20.  Take the children to watch a cricket match at Newlands
21.  Watch a rugby match at Newlands Rugby grounds
22.  Go shopping at Green Market Square
23.  The Pottery Barn
24.  Butterfly World
25.  Horse riding on Noordhoek beach
26.  Hop on and Hop Off Cape Sightseeing Bus

27.  Kite Surfing
28.  Surf lessons at Muizenberg Beach with Gary's Surf
29.  West Coast National Park
30.  Ice Skating at Grandwest Casino
31.  Visit the quaint town of Franschoek
32.  Noordhoek Farm Village
33.  Scratch Patch Simon's Town
34. The Cape Town Diamond Museum
35.  District Six Museum
36.  Ceres Zipsliding- done

37. Cool Runnings
38.  Cape Town Ostrich Farm - done
39. Le Bonheur Croc Farm
40. The Giraffe House
41.  St James Tidal Pool
42.  Simon's Town Submarine Museum
43.  Gold of Africa Museum
44.  Iziko South African Museum
45.  Silvermine Dam
46.  Visit The Maze
47.  Jolly Roger Pirate Boat
48.  The Book Lounge
49.  Zip Zap Circus
50.  Blue Train
51.  Graceland Venues in Paarl
52.  Clay Cafe
53.  Fishing at Rooikrans
54.  Sea Point Prominade
55.  Monkey Town
56.  Picnic on Chapman's Peak
57.  Swimming at Fish Hoek Beach
58. Eat with chef Frank Dangeraux at the Food Barn
59.  Visit the Simon's Town Waterfront
60.  Ride the wheel at the V&A Waterfront
61.  Take a 7km walk on Noordhoek Beach
62.  Camel riding at Imnhoff Farm
63.  Open air concert at Kirstenbosch Gardens on a Sunday evening.
64.  Whale watching at False Bay Coast
65. Visit the toy museum in Simon's Town
66.  Walk in Bo-Kaap in the Cape

67.  A walk through Kalk Bay
68.  Walk along the Jagger walk between Fish Hoek and Sunny Cove
69.  Visit the fishing harbour in Kalk Bay
70.  Take a walk in Tokai forest
71.  Visit Masipumelele informal settlement
72.  Visit Peers Cave - a world famous site of stone age man
73.  Dinner at Mariners' Wharf in Hout Bay
74.  Visit Windmill Beach
75.  Lunch at River Cafe, Uitsig, Constantia
76.  Cycle tour of Cape Point
77.  Visit the Simon's Town Maritime Museum
78.   Thursday evening at Cafe Roux, Noordhoek
79.  Walk up Elsie's Peak, Fish Hoek
80. Snorkelling off Sunnycove, Fish Hoek
81. Shopping at Cavendish Square, Claremont
82.  Coffee and fresh baked cake at the Easy Dig Cafe
83.  Touch the cheetahs at Spier Wine Estate

84.  World of Birds, Hout Bay
85.  Visit the Reptile park at Kommetjie
86. Sea Kayak from Simon’s Town to Boulders Beach
87.  Indoor Karting at Kenilworth race track
88.  Walk up to Just Nuisance grave in Simon’s Town
89.  Take a helicopter flip around the Peninsula
90. Shopping at Greenmarket Square
91. Great White Shark safari from Simon’s Town Harbour
92. Maynardville / Spier / Oude Libertas open-air concerts at night
93. 6 course lunch at Boschendal, Franschoek
94.  Walk to the waterfall at Silvermine
95. Sundowners on Cape Town’s Lions Head
96. Take a walk up Long Street and eat at Long Street Café
97.  Visit the Bo Kaap Museum
98.  Rondevlei Nature Reserve for bird-watching
99. A Site-seeing Carriage tour through the streets of Cape Town
100. Breakfast at Cape Town International Airport while watching the planes land and take off
101. Buy a bunch of flowers from the Adderley Street Flower Sellers
102.  Pick Roses at Chart Farm in Wynberg
103.  Dragon Boat Racing
104.  Visit Nobel Square and learn more about South Africa's 4 Nobel Laureates
105.  A Cruise around Cape Town's historic harbour
106. Swim at Long Street Baths
107.  Go climbing at City Rock.
108.  Visit the Cape Town Holocaust Centre
109.  Climb to the top of Lion's Head 
119. Giovanni's Deliworld in Green Point
120.  Irma Stern Museum
121.  LaserQuest
122. Join a drumming session at The Drum Café at the Pumphouse
123. Klein River Cheese Farm
124. Night tour of the Cape Town Astronomical Observatory
125.  Visit the Cape Medical Museum
126.  Go and visit Misty Cliffs Beach.
127  Watch Penguins and Sea Birds being fed and cared for at SANCOB
128. Mostert's Mill in Rosebank
129.  Go to a market at the Old Biscuit Mill in Woodstock
149. Feed the squirrels in Government Avenue
150. Deer Park Café
151. Stellenbosch Botanical Garden
152. Franschhoek Motor Museum
153 Wijnland Auto Museum
154. spend a day at Scarborough beach
155. Putt-Putt at Muizenberg
156. Muizenberg water-slide
157. Strawberry picking
158. play park at Stodels
160 Build a bear

I have already started on my list and once I have been there, you will find a link to the article about our experience there as a family- in the meantime it's just the best links we could find for each one.  Finding things to do with children is always a challenge because not everything or everywhere is child friendly, but I know my kids are going to love this list.  I have my task cut out considering this is about half a year's worth of excursions and that's if I go to places in Cape Town every day!  If you think I have left something off, feel free to let me know but having spent hours researching online for activities to do with kids, this is the list I have so far.

I think another challenge is doing as much as you can with a limited budget and thank goodness there are lots of things on the list which you can do for free, (though I suppose it never is quite free, as you still have to pay to get there- but as free as it can get).  I am looking forward to a season of exploration and adventure - and having the privilege of travelling around my own city like a tourist.