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Back to school tips

‘Back to school’ is normally a crazy busy time, and it’s rarely the exception for home schoolers. At times, I think, it’s even more difficult for us to make the transition! The environment is the same, the people are the same, but the calendar says things have to change. We have to transition from days just chilling in our nighties and waking up late, scoffing granola and watching documentaries, to eating a proper cooked porridge, getting dressed at a reasonable time and getting the school work done.

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The key to a smooth transition is, again, a solid routine.
Get out of bed a 6am, get dressed, brush teeth, comb hair, wash face. Make the beds. Eat breakfast. School, breaks, some more school. Then extra murals. Have these up on a wall somewhere so everyone knows what’s expected of them.

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Start slowly.
There’s no need to give everyone’s systems a shock! You don’t HAVE to start off the first day with 2 chapters of This Country of Ours! Slowly ease back into it. Give yourself (and your kids!) some grace. Divide the first week’s prescribed work between two weeks, and plan this into your initial planning (it helps that we only have 3 academic terms in a year!). Have fun along with the work. Try and start off with more physical/practical Math before diving into too much ‘book work’. Remember, learning should be fun!

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Have things to look forward to!
WE have a few ‘content heavy’ days in a week (Mondays are History, Tuesdays are Science, Thursdays are Geography) BUT we weave lots of fun into it! I make a point of always incorporating a Science experiment on Tuesdays we’re planning a play for George Washington (History), Art days are always a treat (Wednesdays), Geography sometimes feature an experiment or craft, or even a short film or YouTube clip (like Paddle to the Sea). Fridays are always great- nature walks, co-op, Poetry Tea Time! The kids simply can’t wait. And then it starts all over again.

My kids seriously LOVE school, and hate school holidays. I don’t say this lightly! So somewhere, somehow, I must be doing something right 😉

What do you do to get back ‘into the swing of things’? Let me know in the comments!

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My Top 10 ‘Homeschool Mom’ Clothing Pieces

I love comfy and funky things! So, when I find clothing pieces that fit the bill, they quickly become a part of my (little too large at the moment) capsule wardrobe. I also love layers, so that means my favourites can be worn throughout most seasons!
Here are my current favourites:

 
1. Funky leggings
I have a few leggings with nature print I absolutely love! I can wear them under skirts on super cold days, they work with a shirt and jersey for random everyday stuff and nature walks, and they look great with a flowy shirt for ‘semi fancy’ events.
2. Jeggings
I LOVE the look of jeans, but I love the fit of leggings. Enter jeggings, one of the best inventions EVER!
3. Flowy hippy skirts
I adore loose, flowy skirts for multiple reasons: they hide imperfections, they are comfortable, they give a dash of artistic flair (I think 😉 ) and they fit comfortably (I find loose skirts don’t ride down to expose a slash of butt crack like pants tend to do!)
4. Loose, flowy, printed tops (preferably with thin straps)
I like tops with thin straps, in a variety of solid colours (blue, brown, black, orange) and prints (nature prints are my favourite- leaves, trees, flowers, animals).
I like that I can layer multiple shirts in varying lengths to add warmth and interest to an outfit, and I tend to do this most often when wearing leggings or jeggings (I like my rear end covered completely)
5. Loose jerseys
I recently got two beautiful velvet jerseys with frills along the edges. They jazz up my whole cupboard, and I simply adore the feel of them! I’m a very sensory person, so contrasting textures and materials really excite me.
I like adding a loose jersey over the layered tops to add another flowy element.
Are you starting to see a pattern? I love things that are loose, airy, add interest, disguise issues and make life easier! Best part? No ironing! Wrinkles are part of the look 😉 Meaning a lot less work for me!
6. A thick jacket
We all need one of those. My mom recently blessed me with an earthy red jacket that zips up (even though I can’t zip it up at the moment because of my preggy belly!) and is lined in fake fur. It’s comfy, warm and soft. The best part is that it keeps me warm even on winter nature walks!
7. Scarves
Since we’ve become Torah observant, these serve a dual purpose. I like light, flowy scarves, not heavy, knitted, winter scarves. They keep me warm, but they now also double as a very pretty head covering. I’ve even started using a second scarf as a shaper because it’s so soft and comfy. Sometimes I might use a scarf as a shrug on chilly days if I forgot my jersey (I always carry a spare in my handbag)
8. Fluffy boots
I have a pair of beautiful camel-coloured boots with a fake fur lining I wear almost daily. The tops can be flipped down to expose the fluff, or be kept up for a solid brown colour. They are soft and conform to my feet much better than sneakers ever could. They also work very well with leggings!
9. Leather sandals
These normally get worn for quick outings to the shops, or when I have to get out and look decent at someone’s house (I’m normally barefoot when the weather allows!). I tend to keep a pair in the house and a pair in the car. They are also pretty comfy, and work well with most of my outfits (both pairs are in earthy colours)
10. Jewellery (that counts, right?)
I haven’t worn earrings in years, I dislike bracelets and I only ever wear my wedding ring, but I adore chunky necklaces! I have a whole variety of bought and handmade necklaces with natural elements like crystals and wooden beads. I like that they can add an extra element of interest to basically any outfit with minimal effort and fuss.

 

What are your favourite go-to elements in your cupboard? What can you not live without? What has been an absolute lifesaver to your momming journey? Let me know in the comments!

Preparing for tests

Test or exams are nerve wracking! I believe they tend to be less so with home schoolers, but they still stress the best of us, kids and parents, out!

 

We obviously want our kids to be well-prepared and ready for their tests and assignments. After all, it reflects on us, either positively or negatively… We need to ‘prove’ to our loved ones that we are doing the ‘right thing’, and unfortunately, a set of marks is the most socially acceptable ‘proof’. So the pressure, and stress, builds. We become snarky, bitchy and lash out at everyone. The kids feel this tension, and reflect it back at us in the form of tantrums and overall bad behaviour.

 
But, what if we could avoid all of this?

 
What if we could go into a test series actually feeling fully prepared for it? Calm, rested, nourished and ready? A dream, you say? Nay, my dear friend! A real possibility! How, you ask? Well, let me tell you:

 

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Your first stop is nutrition.
Yep, sorry, no short-cuts here!
You need to make sure your kids eat a healthy, filling, low-GI breakfast. Preferably something containing lots of protein, and healthy fats. These are powerhouses of concentration and focus! A good example is some non-GMO ‘witpap’ (mealie meal porridge) with a bit of coconut oil/butter and an egg.
Have lots of healthy snacks on hand, like fresh fruit, nuts, raisins, whole-wheat crackers or veggie fingers with dip. Make sure your kids are eating enough, and drinking LOTS of water while studying.
Avoid caffeine, sugar and additives (so no brightly coloured sweets as bribes then 😉 ) like the plague!

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Next, figure out your kid’s learning style (you could use my handy guideline for free) and find a study technique that works for them.
For a visual child, mind maps, a documentary and colour-coded sticky notes might work great. For your kinaesthetic kiddo, a physical ‘memory room’ technique could work well, maybe with a different smell linked to each subject (bubble gum or essential oils on a diffuser work well). For an auditory learner, maybe try rapping all of Washington’s famous battles and making up silly rhymes for Geography concepts. Audio books are also great for long car rides (Librivox is a lifesaver!)

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Schedule the tests to help your child.
I’m not saying cheat! Don’t get me wrong. I simply mean that you shouldn’t overwhelm your child. This is what I normally do:
I normally book out 2 weeks (at least) for exams. I then try to schedule them so there is a gap between hard subjects, and I start them off easy. For example: Monday would be stuff they know, like English 1 (memory work and songs) and French. Once this is done, we will recap for the next day. Tuesday- English 2 (grammar and the ‘learning work’), Wednesday Art and Geography. See where I’m going? Every day I try and do a hard and easy subject, or day one easy, then day two hard, day three easy again. Space it out. Give them a chance to breathe. And I always go through the next day’s work the day before, so the kiddos feel confident when they sit down to write their exams.

 

 

I truly hope that helped and blessed you!
How do you prepare for exams?

Importance of social clubs

Every child, no matter how shy or introverted, needs friends. They all need some form of social interaction. And am I the only home schooling parent that’s tired of hearing ‘but home schoolers never have friends’…? Oh boy… My kids have way more (and better quality!) friends that when they were still in mainstream school. They’ve been exposed to a much wider variety of cultures, ages and experiences that I could’ve hoped for. They have found friends in the most unlikely of places because they keep an open mind. In public places, they show no bias or prejudice when it comes to who they will play with. I see this as one of the biggest blessings home schooling has brought us!
Social clubs are super important, and I can’t imagine life without them.
I don’t mean you should sign your kid up for friend speed-dating (is there even such a thing?)! I’m just saying, keep an eye out for opportunities. For example:

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Extra murals/sports:
We’ve found a surprising community of fellow home schoolers between the MMA gym and Gymnastics clubs on Tuesdays and Thursdays! My daughter has made awesome friends, she gets in a very healthy dose of exercise weekly, and I’ve been able to refer a large number of home schoolers to the MMA gym, in turn helping to grow a fellow entrepreneur’s business and passion. A total win-win!

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Religious groups
We have found a surprising amount of fellow home schoolers in our local Hebrew Roots group! Reach out to people with a similar belief system. Be that in the form of small groups, a church, and weekly Bible study groups. If there is no such thing in your local area, why not start one? That way you know your child makes friends with a similar belief system, where they can be totally open without fear of being labelled ‘weird’. We need such ‘safe spaces’, and they are also fundamentally important to our kids and their growth as individuals.

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A local co-op that meets frequently
I run a local co-op in Centurion (if you’d like to be added to the group, leave me a comment with your details and I’ll get back to you!) We try and meet every week, but that doesn’t always happen, because, well, life happens. But we do all kinds of cool stuff! Art days, Science experiment days, mommy ‘play dates’, sport events, History re-enactments, nature walks and all kind of informative talks by epic people. The kiddos have made so many unexpected friends from various places and walks of life. The thing I probably appreciate most of co-op is how it’s taught my kiddos not to notice differences in skin colour, religion and ability/disability. Even age is not an issue… Al the kiddos have fun together, and get to play to each of their own strengths. It’s empowering to see!

 

My take-away is this: look for opportunities. You never know when or where your child will meet their lifelong best friend. Look for the rough diamonds. Open your mind and prepare to be pleasantly surprised!
Where have you found unexpected friends? Do you also believe that socialization is important for home schoolers? Let me know in the comments!

Homeschooling ‘on the go’

Sometimes life throws you unexpected curve balls… Things go wrong- a sick relative, a death in the family, unforeseen work commitments. Sometimes a very pleasant surprise, like an unexpected opportunity for a holiday, comes across your path.

The biggest concern for us is normally ‘not doing school’ for extended periods of time. Not really because we don’t want to ‘fall behind’, but more because the kids would drive me nuts out of boredom! They love school, and become a terrible pain in my neck when they’re not learning! So, I’ve got to keep those little brains fully occupied and engaged. Even if it is just for my own sanity!

There are a few ways ‘school’ can travel with you.

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Books on your phone
Thankfully, most of the Ambleside Online books are available as free PDFs through archive.org, so it’s super easy to keep all of our school books on my tablet or phone. This means we can read, and learn, wherever we are. Ambleside Online also has an amazing ‘emergency home schooling schedule’ specially designed for times of crisis. I love how they’ve thought of everything! Audio books are also a lifesaver (thanks to Librivox, it’s also free!). These are great for kiddos that get carsick if they read while travelling. Now the whole family can listen to some awesome stories while on the go.

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Real life learning opportunities
You can make up a ‘unit study’ on practically anything! Going to Durban? Work something out for each subject using that as backbone. Buy a map, go sightseeing, you can talk about the humidity and topography. There, Geography covered. Work out the route distance, or the travel time, add the stop times, let the kids work out how much the snacks will cost. Math, done! See what I mean?
The grocery store can be an excellent opportunity for all kinds of Math and reading exercises. You can let the kiddos scan the products for the specific brand you use, then spell and pronounce the name before loading it into the trolley. They can plus (eggs plus cheese, how much are we on?), minus (oh, I remember we do still have mayo. Let’s take that out), multiply (we need 3x breads and 2x egg cartons) and divide (we buy one slab of chocolate. It has x amount of rows. You are three kids. How many blocks do each get? Yay, the remainder comes to mommy 😉 )!
Learn how to look for learning opportunities in everything, and you will never run out of material!

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Apps and games
Here I’m talking about Khan Academy, educational apps, Duolingo, online grammar games, etc. There are some great educational apps available on the Play Store on a wide variety of topics, ranging from the human body, typing and drawing, to games that teach toddlers how to count and trace.
‘Technology’ can also be used in other nifty ways- the kiddos can write letters or essays on the tablet or phone to/about their favourite heroes or role models. They can make new (maybe even international) pen pals and learn more about different places. They can watch documentaries on the go. They can even learn a new language (especially handy if you’re planning a trip oversees!)
Just keep tech as the backup option (for long drives and when you need a few minutes of peace and quiet!). I wouldn’t recommend it as a regular thing.

 

In the end, I believe school can, and should, be super fun. It should also be accessible and portable. We tend to over-complicate things when they really are quite simple…

What are a few of your favourite ways to homeschool ‘on the go’?

10 Things you probably didn’t know about me…

There are a few things most people don’t know about me. Yes, I’m the homeschool lady. Yes, I have a sparkling personality. Yes, I tend to be a little bit eccentric 😉
Did you know about these?

 

1. I like to read.
A LOT! I love reading murder mysteries and biographies. I like reading my kids’ prescribed school books for fun! (Ambleside Online has all the links to a myriad of classics!). I enjoy spiritual reading, as well as things that stretch my mind a bit like psychology and alternative theories. I don’t always read as much as I’d like to, but I do try to carve out time.
2. I went through a gothic phase…
Yep, black hair, lips, eyes and clothes. Tongue ring. Music that drove my parents crazy! Thankfully I got over that phase as soon as I sorted my self-esteem issues out. Now I’m flower power alllll the way 😉 Flowy hippie skirts, bare feet, no make-up. I even took my earrings out a few years ago. No more hair dye. All natural!
3. I swear like a sailor.
I’m not proud of it, but it’s true… Never in front of the school kids, but sometimes in front of my family or alone…
4. I can’t really cook.
If my amazing hubby would die, my kids would probably die of boredom or starvation! Seriously, I’m the LEAST inventive person in the kitchen. My idea of a good time is mac and cheese… Hubby has taught me how to make a pretty decent curry, and I can bake, but it sure isn’t something I’d call myself good at!
5. I like eating peanut butter and chocolate spread of the jar with a spoon. I’m a savage like that 😉
6. My favourite colour is blue.
7. I wish I could live on a farm and raise chickens and cows and goats. I’d love to run a boarding school and teach my kids how to milk a cow, make butter, plant and harvest, keep bees, make leather goods, build fences and live off the land.
8. I LOVE coffee.
We buy the beans fresh from a local roastery, grind them ourselves and have a mini collection of tools of the trade, ranging from a mocha to a siphon. We’re coffee snobs!
9. I have tattoos.
Three of them: A cross on my neck (that I want to have changed to an anchor) that has a banner across it that reads ‘Saved by Grace’, my husband’s initial as my wedding ring and ‘We walk by faith, not by sight’ across both my feet.
10. I’m a hippy at heart-

I love standing in the rain, picking flowers, lying under trees and smelling the leaves. I believe in God and crystal healing and herbalism and essential oils. I like wearing my hair loose with ribbons and little braids. I like running on grass barefoot. I like singing and whistling and smiling and waving at everyone.

 

So, that’s a little bit about me! What do most people not know about you? Let me know in the comments!

How to turn Public Holidays into super fun family affairs!

A lot of people DREAD spending the whole day with their significant other and the kids in the same house. Others love it and can’t wait for those rare days off! Which camp do you fall into? Or are you somewhere in between?

Love it or not, public holidays are basically days when you are forced to spend time with those nearest and dearest to you. Only YOU can choose whether that is a blessing or a curse! No matter what the kids normally do, what your better half does or what you try do, things will go wrong, figts will possibly break out and the kids might or might not try and cook their own breakfast and ruin the kitchen! In the end, the decision on wheter or not it will be a good day lies with YOU. You can’t control what anyone else does, but you CAN control how you react to it. Will you see only the bad (ruined kitchen) or the silver lining(wow, they cooked their own breakfast!)?

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Here’s a few ideas on making the most of these golden opportunities:

You could choose to spend quality time at home.
You could pop some popcorn, whip out the fluffly blankets and oversized pillows and watch the latest movies with the kiddos.
You could dust off the old board games (Monopoly or Scrabble, anyone?) and have a good laug while daddy kicks everyone’s (including your!) butts!
You could also be ambitious and tackle a project you’ve always wanted to to. You know, those Pinterest boards full of DIY coffee tables and kitchen table overhauls? How about the bathroom mosaic or the garden steps? Get daddy and the kiddos involved, tackle one project as a family and walk away with a satisfied grin and sore muscles (you know, now you don’t need to go to the gym tomorrow 😉 ) Oh, and be clever about it. Sneak in some Math while you’re buying supplies!

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You could be a little more ambitious and decide to go for an outing instead.
What are your hubby’s interests? And the kiddos? Go on a day trip to the lion sanctuary or the gem shop or the Lego megastore! You’ll be the coolest paren, for a week or 2 at least!
Feeling a little more academically inclined? Visit a local museum and learn about your history!
You could go to a few local attractions like a lake or the botanical garden.
If your kids are mad about animals, you could go to a petting zoo.
If you’re feeling really adventurous, you could go and do something physically challenging like an obstacle course, bike ride, horse riding, tenpin bowling or even ice skating!

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Tell me- how do you like spending your public holidays?

All-natural Dry Shampoo

I have been ‘no poo’ for almost 3 years now.
And, no, that doesn’t mean that I’m constipated! 😉
It simply means I don’t use store-bought haircare products. So no shampoo, conditioner, styling gel, etc. I simply ‘wash’ my hair with water, and I like doing a kombucha wash every few months just to put some shine back.

 
This may sound really weird, I know! We’re used to washing our hair with shampoo and conditioner every second day, or we end up as either a grease- or frizzball! Thing is, shampoos and other haircare products strip our hair of its natural oils, so our scalps have to work overtime to produce enough! Hence your hair becoming oily and uncontrollable so quickly!

 
So, on to the topic at hand: Natural Dry Shampoo.
I do get times in-between washes where I get irritated with my hair. I need a tad more body. A little more oomph! And obviously it also gets a little oilier between washes, so I also needed a little something to combat that. Enter all-natural dry shampoo (since I simply despise chemical nasties).
This is the recipe I used (and absolutely love, because it smells like oranges and chocolate!).

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All-natural Dry Shampoo

4 Tablespoons cornstarch
1 teaspoon bicarb
1 Tablespoon carob or cacao powder (leave this out if you have light hair)
10 drops Orange essential oil

Blend it all together using a fork. Sieve it if you can. Pack in a jar and keep by your beauty supplies, away from dampness.

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To use, simply sprinkle about half a tablespoon onto various areas of your scalp (top, behind ears, neck, etc.) and massage into hair. Brush through hair and style as usual.

The tween was kind enough to be the Guinea pig! Left- before and right-after.

Let me know if this works for you! Experiment with different essential oils, and let me know which blend you love most! Happy hair days 😉

 

Back to School Survival

The new term has just started! Are you ready? Or did it catch you completely off guard? Well, at least you have the weekend to get your ducks in a row 😉

The backbone of any successful day (and term!) is a solid routine. Do you have one in place? I don’t mean blocking out every 15minutes of your kid’s day! I mean stuff like:
05:00 Wake up, brush teeth, comb hair, apply deodorant, get dressed, make bed.
06:00 Breakfast
08:00 – 13:00 School
13:00 Lunch
14:00 – 15:00 Extra murals
15:00 – 18:00 Free play
18:00 Supper time
19:00 Bath time
20:00 Bedtime

A routine gives kids a sense of safety. Security. They always know what comes next, what to expect.
Have the routine up somewhere visible, where all family members have access to it (a kitcen wall is a good spot)
When do they get up and go to bed?
When do they eat (brekfast, lunch, supper, snacks)?
When is bathtime?
Extra murals?
Write it all down (use hiloghters and funky pens if you have to!) and make sure everyone is on the same page (see what I did there? 😉 )

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Meals are another thing that has the potential to become a deep, dark abyss of dispair! What to feed them AGAINNNN?

If you’re a planner, do a meal plan (somewhere visible on the fridge or wall, or in your diary or bullet journal)
Buy all the supplies beforehand.
If you’re everything BUT a planner (like me) just make sure that there is always stuff on hand to make something with (cheese, milk, eggs, bread, pasta, yoghurt, fruit) and make a little mental list every morning of what you could feed the kiddos throughout the day.

The secret to kids that can actually function (you know, not sugared up on Fruit Loops) is to simply NOT have junk in the house. I mean sugary cereals, chips, sweets, etc. I know white bread is evil, but hey, my family eats it and nobody is perfect ❤
Another thing I would highly recommend is making a point of feeding them a healthy breakfast every morning. In our house that means homemade granola and yoghurt or cooked porridge (non GMO mieliepap or steel cut/ rolled oats).This helps their brains function better, and gives them a nice low-GI start to the day, keeping them fuller (and able to concentrate) for longer.

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I think proper organization is a total lifesaver at the start of a new term. Actually knowing where everything is gives me such a sense of calm amidst all the surrounding caos! Need to find the stapler or paint brushes? No problem. They’re rigt here! (said with a flourish of the hand a nd a very smug smile!)
This is also a good time to check what needs to get replenished or replaced, and to do so before you need it! Come on, it’s weekend. Go buy a few erasers and a new set of kokies. You know you need them! While you’re at it, get each kid their own ruler so they don’t have to fight over the faded and cracked one in the morning basket.
You can also donate all the stuff you don’t love or need anymore, and bless someone else in return. Give them to a crèche in the community, a family member or even the local charity shop. Sharing is caring!

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How are you getting ready for the new term? Let me know in the comments!

A quick update on what’s been happening in my life!

So, almost the end of school holidays! Wow, that flew by… The house purge is underway, the kiddos are good (gog is now on almost a full week of no more booby at night- yay! And Snippie is working hard on her project, helping me clean and she even helped me turn the clutter closet into a prayer closet instead!)

I also have HUGE news to share! I’m pregnant! Yep, after 2.5 years of praying, God has decided it’s time! So things are a litttttle crazy between sonars, booking the midwives, cleaning (nesting?) like a crazy woman and trying to get through the day while exercising a bit and eating healthy, balanced meals!

All in all, life is good!

Oh, and guess what? My blog is now Recommended by CapeTownInsider

How cool is that?

Anyhooooo, how are things going with you? Still enjoying the holidays, or wishing they would just end? Everything in place for the new term? Let me know in the comments!