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Surpriso Box : Arts and crafts made easy

I like the idea of doing arts and crafts with my kids, but when it comes down to the nitty gritty of actually doing it this is where I trip up. Either we doing have all the supplies and I don’t want to buy 100 brown bags to use 3 or I don’t want 5 different colour rolls of celephane to cut out a small piece of each. Arts and crafts take effort and planning and I worry about the mess and cleaning up.

If you are like me and think you should do more crafts with your kids but always put it off with a lot of excuses then Surpriso is for you. Well it is for you if you are Super Mom, all organised and don’t mind mess too, it will just make it a little easier. But for moms who are a little frayed around the edges and the house is already a tip and the thought of adding paint and glitter makes you want to cry it is perfect.


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Only old ladies knit!

Why do I knit? I was once told I look like I should be dancing in a night club and not knitting. Was this because I have pink hair and am not an old lady? So why do I knit?

Knitting on Table Mountain

Knitting on Table Mountain

K – Knowledge: because I can. My mother taught me how to knit as a young child. I grew up surrounded by crafts and saw their value as I watched them being created. It all starts with being taught. Sadly so many have a bad start at school and are put off for life. Find the right person to teach you. Once you have the basics, the options are limitless you can just keep adding new skills. The list of things you can make is endless. Learning and challenging our mind is said to keep Alzheimer’s and Dementia at bay – bonus.

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And the winner is…


I entered all your names into this random picker http://andrew.hedges.name/experiments/random/pickone.html and it picked Julia so well done!!

Email me your address or I can bring your Shewee at our next knit and chat. I hope you avoid many nasty public toilet seats!

Thank you once again to SheWee for this great prize and to those who did not win, go buy one or put it on your birthday list.

Some other random news

1) Our one chicken has a hole in her back, we are not sure what happened. Rachel saw the dog sniffing around her but we are not sure if the dog did bite her. I don’t think he did, as they free range around him all the time and if he really wanted to eat one he would have by now. The only time he might have, is when he was eating. She is the greediest chicken in the world and she tries to eat the food out of his bowl while he is eating and I have seen him snap at her. In any case we spotted it last Friday and cleaned it everyday and put ointment on it but by Tuesday it was looking horrible and The Geek decided to take her to the vet and see if they could close the hole and if we could get something to put on it. Rachel went with him and they returned with doom and gloom news, the vet said it was necrotic and that it could not get better and that it was better to cull the chicken. We could not even eat her as the meat would be affected if the infection had spread around her body.

The Geek did come home from the vet with the purple livestock spray that helps wounds heal. Necrospray or something like that. But he said it was good to have on hand for next time. Rachel was in tears and both her and Caleb said they would be cross with the Geek if he killed Potter. I got stern with them then explaining that it was not a job that anyone wanted to do and that at least Papa was being kind enough to do the horrible job for all of us and it would not be kind of Potter was suffering.

In the mean time I thought to put a post of the back yard chicken forum that I belong to. I took pictures which I will not put here as they are gross and I asked if she was worth saving. I said the vet was not hopeful and had said to cull. The forum is usually very quick to say cull if they think it is necessary. But the overwhelming answers were advice as to what to do and stories of chicken surviving horific wounds. Potter had up to this point being wandering around the garden eating as usual and did nto look stressed or in anyway distressed so I convinced The Geek to help to make a separate place for her in the garage and that we needed to clean the wound and see if we could get her better.

3 days later and Potter is going strong and is in fact very cross at being locked up in a small space but I need to keep the wound clean ( chickens like to sand bath) and keep her from moving around too much. I can also watch what she eats if she is on her own. The wound is not too much smaller but it looks less necrotic and I hope it might start to heal. I think it will take awhile. The hole is about 2cm across and goes into her internal cavity.

If she gets worse or looks distressed at anytime then we will be kind and cull her but I am going to try my best to save this chicken.

2) I have new seedlings sprouting and am getting ready to plant our late summer/autumn crops. The companion planting and winter rainfall charts from Afristar that I blogged about here have been so helpful. I can at a glance see what to plant this month. The planning beds and companion planting is more difficult and I do wish that I had time and money to go on a permaculture course but I will just have to learn through trial and error.

3) Titus turns one on Monday and it is his hungry caterpillar party on Saturday. We have been making things tonight and I am baking tomorrow but I have tried not to overdo it. I even got someone else to make the cake so I would not have too much to do.

4) I feel the the priveladge rich person, which I am not as we don’t really make ends meet, but I have decided to investigate someone coming to help me as a nanny/housekeeper full time. The biggest problem is that I am not getting around to doing all the work, writing and home schooling that I need to do with Titus around. He is a lovely sweet boy but he is busy and into everything. It is affecting my ability to earn money and my time to help Rachel with her schooling. I am worried that we are going to get behind. I am also spending a lot of my time, cleaning, doing laundry etc etc.

This sounds like I am trying to justify this, does it not? I know plenty of people that live overseas, where help is not affordable, and they manage to look after the kids, homeschool and have a clean home. I don’t know why I am failing but I am getting irritated with my kids all the time and it is not fair. The poor Geek hears me moan all the time and it is not fair on him either.

I hope that by not worrying about the house and by being able to have decicated time to work, stress levels will come down. The nanny can watch Titus while I do school work or projects with the other 2 or they can watch the 2 boys while I work with Rachel on her reading and maths. And sometimes they can watch all 3 so I can get some writing or Earth Babies work done. I hope I find the right person.

5) It is nearly weekend – yay

6) I really need to blog about our water saving and how we are moving slowly forward but that will have to come in another post dedicated to water developements

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Life as a classroom

Part of the fun of homeschooling and particularly unschooling is that you are restricted to time tables and curriculums. Today we felled the big pine tree in our garden. It was really sad to have to cut it down but the pine needles make such a mess and the get into the gutters and clog the drains. The soil also gets very acidic from the pine needles. The tree was huge and very top heavy so the branches would become a problem in a few years as some naturally died and could potentially fall on the house. Alos not being an indigenous tree it uses a lot of water.

Does it sound like I am trying justify cutting down such an old beautiful tree? Well I guess I am. Caleb was in floods of tears this morning telling me that I have broken his heart becasue we are cutting down the tree. See what happens when you have little eco warriors for kids 🙂 But I assured him that we are going to replace the tree with an indigenous tree and that we are going to use all the wood.

We used a fantastic company KDB Tree Fellers Everyone from the admin and overseers to the workers and expert chain saw operators were friendly, efficient and hard working. I can recommend this team to anyone in Cape Town and they were not even nearly as expensive as I had been warned tree felling would be.

I took some pictures of our day from start to finish between Rachel and I we took a lot of pictures (503 to be exact)

There was the big pine tree and 3 lopsided conifers to start, you can see from the road sign how big the trees are. The middle tree of the corner set we are keeping and the Norfolk Pine in the middle of the grass.

It was rather a grey day, this is the pine tree, you can see Rachel standing there to give you an idea of scale
Pine Tree

First the 3 small lopsided conifers on the corner, we kept the one straight one.

There were 2 guys with chain saws up in the tree, they were trained riggers, the other worked on the ground to cut up the branches as these 2 cut them off from up the tree

Branches that had a risk of falling on the house were tied with rope and lowered down

The foreman asking them to cut some of the branches into half meter lengths for us to use

I asked if they could keep the pine cones for the kids, thinking that there were about 10 pine cones, well there were 20 bags full. They diligently picked off all the pine cones off every branch that was cut down and collected them for the kids

I will have to think of a lot of pine cone crafts

Pinklet girl watching


we wanted to keep the wood, some for fire wood and some for projects and plans we have for the house and things to make. This is the start of the log pile

Ringing the bark off the stump

Carrying logs

Caleb did not like the noise, Titus on the other hand napped longer that day than just about any other day ever 2 hours in the morning and 1 in the afternoon. He seems to like chainsaw and woodchipper noise

Smaller branches and pine needles were sent through the wood chipper and I will use them in the garden beds and on the veggie garden as mulch

The last part of the stump about to go down, guided with ropes away from the house

Final fall

All gone

Kids playing on final wood pile

Day 17 → A book you’ve read that changed your views on something.

I have read a lot of book but most are fiction so although they have touched me deeply they don’t really change your view. Well they have enriched my life, added to my vocabulary and motivated me to read more, so I guess in a way they have changed me.

I have read a lot of books about parenting and I guess the stuff on Attachment Parenting and Natural birth have resonated with me the strongest and have changed the way I did things, well maybe not changed but made me feel less mad when I wanted to follow my instincts about how to parent but everything in our modern society pointed another way. Books like those by Dr Sear, Unconditional Parenting By Alfie Kohn ( which I wish Yme would read) How to talk so kids will listen and listen so kids will talk, Elimination Communication, Hypnobirthing, Stand and deliver etc the list could go on and on. I am grateful that there are books that go against the flow and reassure those that want to do things a different way. I know it is not for all and would not try to convince people to want to do things this way if they did not feel it was for them. But it is nice not to feel alone.

I think with regards to home schooling Dumbing us Down and Teach your own had a huge impact on me.

Day 16 → Someone or something you definitely could live without.

I hate housework, I already blogged about not ironing but I hate the rest too. Dishes especially. It actually hurts, being freakishly tall, as Yme calls me, means that basins made for standard height people are actually painful to use when you are tall, so not only does the act of washing the dishes suck you land up with a spasm in your back too.

My mom has a little tile thing on the wall that says “dull women have immaculate homes” well lets just say that I could not be called dull if that was the measure. My business partner and good friend Barbara whom I miss terribly surpised me with a visit on Monday morning. I was in my PJs and the dishes were not done. It was far far from immaculate! But I know she loves me despite my lack of a spotless home. It did however make me wake up at 1:30am this morning to do the dishes. I had fallen asleep early and had not gotten around to doing them before. I hate waking up to dirty dishes it just starts the whole day off badly.

So call me spoilt or lazy or untidy or just too damn busy with a business, home school and other stuff to see housework as anything but a monumental pain in the butt, well the back actually.

Pinklets get a place in the cyber world

So I am a blogger and a home schooling mom. I do post stuff about my kids on my blog from time to time, but I thought maybe they needed their own space. The idea actually came when I wanted to print a Platypus project that we had been working on and I was struggling to  get the printers working, without having to sell organs to afford the ink. I was thinking maybe we do not need to print the projects, but we can do them on the computer, and naturally that lead to thinking that if they had a blog then other people could see what they are doing too. This also appeals to the green mom in me as we can save paper. Sure there are still going to be a lot of things that we do on paper but now we do not have to print everything.

It will also give their dad who lives in the UK a chance to see that I am actually teaching them something from time to time.

So meet Rachel who is 5y 8m

and Caleb who is 3 in 11 days time and welcome to their world.


photos by my wonderful friend Sharon

The great school dilemma

I have never been one to follow the norm unquestioningly. I think that most things need to be vigorously dissected and pulled apart and shaken around before you accept them. So when it comes to my kid’s education it is no different.

My passion for life extends to a passion and a love of learning; this is where I part ways with the current education system. Nothing kills natural curiosity and desire to learn quicker than being told what, when and how to learn by someone else. They decide when you have had enough, even though you might just be getting into what you were doing and they say it is now time to move onto the next prescribed subject limited by some nebulous authority that has randomly picked some content as more valuable than another and assigned some higher value to it by saying the all import words – ‘this is for marks’. With these 4 little words you change this topic into something now ‘more’ worthwhile of knowing and deem other information less valuable. When in fact the anatomy of the butterfly might be more exciting to some than the chosen locust.

We are taught not to question but rather to blindly do what we are told, learn what we need to so as to get the grades we need for move to the next level of random information. You learn how to answer question to work with the system rather than how to engage with content in a meaningful challenging way.

It is ridiculous to think that everyone of the same age is going to be on the same level or interested in the same things, or that kids of the same age miraculously have great knowledge and skills to pass on to one another. In traditional cultures and in deed in much of life we learn by watching those older or more experience than ourselves and we hone our skills but teaching others.

I read Dumbing us Down: the Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling by John Taylor Gatto teacher of 26 years who eventually quit because he could no longer take part in a system that destroys lives by destroying minds. It is a book well worth reading and contains one of his speeches titled, “The Seven-Lesson Schoolteacher,” Gatto describes the seven lessons that are taught by school teachers, whether they know it or not. He writes:

The first lesson I teach is confusion. Everything I teach is out of context. I teach the un-relating of everything. I teach dis-connections….Even in the best of schools a close examination of curriculum and its sequences turns up a lack of coherence, full of internal contradictions….Confusion is thrust upon kids by too many strange adults, each working along with only the thinnest relationship with each other, pretending, for the most part, to an expertise they do not possess….In a world where home is only a ghost, because both parents work…or because something else has left everybody too confused to maintain a family relation, I teach you how to accept confusion as your destiny.

The second lesson I teach is class position….The children are numbered so that if any get away they can be returned to the right class….My job is to make them like being locked together with children who bear numbers like their own.…If I do my job well, the kids can’t even imagine themselves somewhere else, because I’ve shown them how to envy and fear the better classes and how to have contempt for the dumb classes….That’s the real lesson of any rigged competition like school. You come to know your place.

The third lesson I teach is indifference….When the bell rings I insist they drop whatever it is we have been doing and proceed quickly to the next work station. They must turn on and off like a light switch….Bells inoculate each undertaking with indifference.

The fourth lesson I teach is emotional dependency. By stars and red checks, smiles and frowns, prizes, honors, and disgraces, I teach kids to surrender their will to the predestinated chain of command.

The fifth lesson I teach is intellectual dependency….It is the most important lesson, that we must wait for other people better trained than ourselves, to make the meanings of our lives….[Only], the teacher can determine what my kids must study, or rather, only the people who pay me can make those decisions, which I then enforce. If I’m told that evolution is a fact instead of a theory, I transmit that as ordered, punishing deviants who resist what I have been told to tell them to think….Successful children do the thinking I assign them with a minimum of resistance and a decent show of enthusiasm….Bad kids fight this, of course, even though they lack the concepts to know what they are fighting, struggling to make decisions for themselves about what they will learn and when they will learn it…Fortunately there are tested procedures to break the will of those who resist; it is more difficult, naturally, if the kids have respectable parents who come to their aid, but that happens less and less in spite of the bad reputation of schools. No middle-class parents I have ever met actually believe that their kid’s school is one of the bad ones. No one single parent in twenty-six years of teaching.

The sixth lesson I teach is provisional self-esteem….The lesson of report cards, and tests is that children should not trust themselves or their parents but should instead rely on the evaluation of certified officials. People need to be told what they are worth.

The seventh lesson I teach is that one can’t hide. I teach students they are always watched, that each is under constant surveillance by myself and my colleagues….The meaning of constant surveillance and denial of privacy is that no one can be trusted, that privacy is not legitimate.

These are not lessons I want my kids to learn, I want their natural curiosity and love for learning to dictate what, when and how the learn. People always raise the same objections to Home schooling, the say that the kids will lack in socializing, that I am not a trained teacher and that it is the norm and so needs to be followed or they won’t be able to go to university.

Socializing: as I said earlier, to imagine that kids of the same age all thrown together have any great social skill so teach each other is crazy. True socialization is about learning how our society works and being able to function in it, no where else in society again will kids lumped with only people of the same ages and experience, outside the walls of school in the real world people of different ages and varying levels of life experience and knowledge interact and it is often only out side of school that we finally learn to function as part of this society. Teaching children to interact with a wide variety of ages and to learn from all sort of people is not something I see as being limited to a school environment. Most of us did not get on with or were friendly with all the kids in out class or year group anyway, children really only need a few close friend with which to grow, disagree, learn and play.

As for not being a trained teacher, I love my kids more than any teacher and have their best interest at heart. Any literate parent can facilitate what a child needs to know, besides basic numeracy and literacy the content is of little importance, knowledge is forever changing and so what children need to know is how to access this ever changing information and how to engage with it is a way that promote critical thinking and is meaning to them. What I don’t know, I will learn with them and what is beyond my realm I will outsource. I guess being a nurse educator and have lectured for a number of years gives me some educational background but it is not that I am more or less qualified than any teacher, it is that I am more interested in my kids.

Getting into university: by the time a child that has been given the responsibility for their own learning gets to the age that they want to go on and study further, they will know that there are entrance requirement and exams that need to be passed. At this stage the desire to obtain a qualification from a university in order to pursue a career that interest them is the motivating force and we will then get the curriculum and information that they need to pass the exam to get into university. It is worth noting that in a lot of countries where home schooling takes place, the top results for university entrance are often home schooled children.

So now to my dilemma, as a single mom needing to work to make a living for us, how to I make the above a reality? Watch this space…