Expedition Earth – United States of America

Our passports were “stamped” and we entered America (The United States of America) on Monday 13 June 2016. The excitement was almost tangible as the boys have fallen under the “romantic vision” of America.

This country is huge, South Africa fits into the state of Texas, to give you a comparison. I decided from the outset to touch only on a couple of places, influenced by their curiosity on certain topics, but even this was too much for the short little week we had. We will revisit the remaining states soon.

  • The Flag: The flag of the United States is commonly referred to as “Stars and Stripes” and “Old Glory”. Each of the 50 states is represented by a star on the field of blue. The 13 red and white stripes symbolise the original 13 colonies.
  • The Navajo (pronounced Navaho): The Navajo are also known as The People or Diné. I read to the boys about their culture and arts and crafts, where it came from, a little bit of history, and of course their food. We spent one morning on The People, made some sand paintings and had fry bread, mutton chops, corn, goats milk cheese and various berries (South African, not Navajo’s) for dinner. There is also an interesting video that you can watch, to learn more about the Hardy People of Mother Earth.
06-Three sand paintings

Sand paintings with arts and crafts sand. One template and two own designs.

08-Navajo fry bread

Fry bread: not quite as flat and round, but very tasty.

  • Texas – Cowboys of Old: Our next visit was to Texas … for cowboys of course! We first read a little about the original settlers/tribes of Texas, the Apache, Karankawa and Comanche People. It was interesting to learn that some people believe the original cowboys came from the time when Texas was part of Mexico. But if you are interested in cowboys themselves, look no further than this bit of information on their history, a round-up, cattle drives, and more. Cowboy information is never complete without a taste of traditional cowboy fair. We had some BBQ ribs, Beefy Beans, and in lieu of coffee, bought the boys coffee milkshake. Did you know that cowboys sang to their cattle to keep them calm at night? Listen to the Cowboy’s Dream.

Roping Dummy – almost lasso’ed

  • Of course Texas cowboys cannot be complete without trying out a throw or two with a lasso. Learn how to make the lasso knot – and practice, practice, practice. It isn’t as easy as it looks. I was just plain lucky to get the rope around one horn of our roping calf dummy on my first try. And lastly a look at A Day in the Life of A Modern Texas Cowboy – a video the boys enjoyed. Here is another Modern Cowboy talking about his life and family.
  • Kansas: The state that their beloved Fred (Life of Fred Math) character resides in. Unfortunately we did not get to this state, but here is some interesting facts for you.
  • New York – New York City: A visit to America has to include a visit to The Statue of Liberty, The Empire State Building, or Ellis Island. Niagara Falls are also a must, but I want to include that with our future visit to Canada. Some Fun Facts about New York City. More information and some beautiful scenes from all around New York state.


  • What was totally new for me, was learning about Ellis Island.
Ellis Island was the largest immigration station in the United States from 1892 to 1924. Over 12 million immigrants came through Ellis Island during this period. The island was nicknamed the “Island of Hope” for many immigrants coming to America to find a better life.

Read more at: http://www.ducksters.com/history/us_1800s/ellis_island.php

  • Mount Rushmore: This was again a very short visit in which we learned more by watching this video.
  • The Grand Canyon: Another one of the 7 Wonders of the World! Do you know that there is a Skywalk at a sight seeing point? Watch this video to fly over the Grand Canyon for a bird’s eye view.
  • Golden Gate Bridge – San Francisco: Why the Golden Gate Bridge? Because they have heard so much about it in so many movies! We started this Friday morning with a traditional Hangtown Fry breakfast, consisting of scrambled eggs with oysters and bacon. Take a walk on the bridge and enjoy the view.

Hangtown Fry, a Gold Rush favorite, combines scrambled eggs, oysters and bacon. The concoction originated in Placerville, known then as Hangtown. Sources credit the name to either a lucky miner’s idea of a luxurious treat or a condemned man’s request for a last meal whose ingredients were not easily procured.

13-Hangtown Fry-San Francisco

Home made Hangtown Fry.

This country, as interesting as it is, is just too big for a quick study. It deserves a lot more time to be able to take in a little bit more of the interesting history, traditions, and monuments.

Hope you enjoyed the tour with us.


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Expedition Earth – Israel

We did a quick tour of Israel via Expedition Earth a few months back. The boys felt that they learn a lot about the traditional culture, the land and sometimes animals, when we discus the Bible stories, so we only covered the basics:


  • Hello – Shalom
  • Thank you – Toba
  • The Flag and its meaning: Israel’s flag was adopted in October 1948. It has a white background with a blue hexagram known as the Star of David. There are two horizontal blue bands near the top and bottom of the flag. The blue strips symbolise the talit (traditional Jewish prayer shawl). The Star of David represents the People of Israel.
  • Petra – one of the 7 wonders of the world: We first learned about a place called Petra in the Transformers movie, when the Autobots found a secret hiding spot behind one of the walls. So great was the excitement when we again read up some about Petra. Another informative site.


Petra is the treasure of ancient world, hidden behind an almost impenetrable barrier of rugged mountains, boasting incomparable scenes that make it the most majestic and imposing ancient site still-standing nowadays

  • Dome of the Rock: Of course the one building causing a lot of controversy. An Islamic shrine in the middle of Jewish Jerusalem.


The most famous Islamic site in Jerusalem is the Dome of the Rock (Qubbat as-Sakhrah). An impressive and beautiful edifice, the Dome of the Rock can be seen from all over Jerusalem. It is the crowning glory of the Haram es-Sharif (“Noble Sanctuary”), or Temple Mount… The sacred rock over which the Dome of the Rock is built was considered holy before the arrival of Islam. Jews believed, and still believe, the rock to be the very place where Abraham prepared to sacrifice Isaac (an event which Muslims place in Mecca).

  • Food of Israel: We unfortunately did not get to eat Israeli food, except dates, but here is a quick tasty Falafel recipe for you to try.

Enjoy your own trip to Israel, there is so much more still to explore.


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On The Roll Again… Outings Gallore

May did not see us changing pace, even though that was what I drastically needed.

On the one hand the boys’ swimming season came to an end, but on the other hand I joined Mr. A. in riding lessons. So this is me, Cowgirl E, according to my family.


04-Adam on StormB

I am riding on Venus and Mr.A. changed from Aragon to Storm. Our first couple of lessons were separate, so that Mrs.P. could get me settled and confident on Venus’ back. I quickly got the hang of trotting again (it’s been 15yrs since I last sat on the back of a horse!), and this is probably like riding a bike (something I’ve never been good at). Once you learned and got the hang of it, you never forget.

From June our lessons changed to an hour lesson for the two of us together, and I’m off the lead reign. While Mrs.P. concentrates on Mr.A. telling him what to do, she calls out instructions to me, like ride a triangle from red barrel to green, to blue, or circle around the tyres. Trot from this point to that point. I love it! She is slowly introducing us to jumping as well. I have a little bit of experience in this as well, but not a lot. I don’t want to do the normal competitions (jumping and dressage), but won’t say no to some barrel racing or can on the pole, etc. Luckily Mrs.P. organises her own Competition every school term, specifically to give those people/children who don’t have horses of their own, the opportunity to participate in competitions, and do it to their ability. So if the child trots on the reign, then Mrs.P. “trots” next to the horse and rider, leading.

09-Lone Ranger en Kie

Lone Ranger & Kie

We also went on a couple of Home School Nature Club outings. Usually this monthly get together would be on a Friday, but for May, the Nature Club tackled the very dire topic of Water Scarcity. As many of you may know, South Africa are going through a very serious drought period. We learned all kinds of things at the club from responsible water usage, to cleaning water, where our water in the taps come from, and water/river pollution.

07-Compairing cleaning power

Comparing DIY Water Filters. It still needs some work!


Umgeni Water – Midmar Water Works

We had the first couple of Wednesdays off, so I sneaked in more outings: one to Butterflies for Africa, which the boys asked me for a while now to visit again…



Cotton Top Tamarins

At Butterflies we toured the Cotton Top Tamarin enclosure as well, and were lucky enough to experience these curious little guys up close. The guide was very strict on no touching of the Mandarins, just to let them run over your lap or shoulder, and the boys were in 7th heaven! These little guys are critically endangered, and B.f.A. are part of a world-wide breeding endeavour.

In between all these outings we did manage to stay up to date with normal school work as well, with both Mr.A and Mr.R improving on their reading, and “levelling up” on their math.

I think I’ve mentioned before that I belong to Nerd Fitness and I’m so proud of how much fitter, leaner and healthier I am. I have made some great friends and it is just so nice being part of a community that supports, advise, and encourages one another as the Rebels of NF do!

I’m also very blessed to have friends in real life who also support and encourage me, and I hope that I’m there for them too, when the need arises.

And talking of blessings… this little fellow decided to make us his family. His new name is Stampy Cat (yes from the Minecraft character Stampy).


We assumed he was a stray as he was thin, hungry and very cold when he jumped through a window and tried to hide in the boys’ bedroom. We kept him in the bathroom for his own safety that first night – remember 3x dogs! I sent out messages on w.app, Fb. etc. and another lady in our neighbourhood also advertised that he was with us, but alas, no one claimed him.

It is now almost two months later, we are slowly adjusting the dogs to a cat in the house, as he is “living” safely in our book room, which we have changed to include a couple of climbing poles, three different beds depending on his mood or whether he wants to enjoy the view outside the window, various toys and the obligatory scratching post. He has his times out in the garden, when the dogs are closed inside the house, and vice versa, and at night from 6-8pm he is in a cat container in the front room with us, again so the dogs can get used to seeing him around the house. Our two big dogs do not seem to mind him, but the Jack Russell is another story! And if one reacts, all reacts.


A month later, dogs safely outside

It is now almost two months later and he is decidedly bigger than in this last photo! He has also shown a lot of attitude and typically tries to rule the roost. He has had his 1st set of vaccinations, and a microchip inserted under the skin. This week I’m taking him for his 2nd set of vaccinations (+-6mnths old), and to be neutered. I do not want any more homeless animals on the street if I can help it. The vet assured me the snip would also help with wandering and spraying “problems” typically associated with males. This little Mister has already told the neighbour’s black cat to stay off our property! Attitude in spades!

Mr. B and I have drawn the line now on pets, as 3x dogs, 1x bearded dragon, 1x miniature hamster, and now 1x cat is enough for this household. Just call us the Van Zoo.

Blessings to you all,


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Running to Catch Up

I started very hopefully. This year I will keep this blog to friends up to date! This year I will write at least one blog a month sharing a little bit of what we have been up to. Alas… I feel as if I am only now starting to catch up on this year that has been running away with me.

School work is going nicely – some times on – some times off – more times unschooling than formal schooling at home. Just the way we like it.

Mr. R centre-back, watching his dancing teacher closely.07-R danslesse

We changed some of the work (that is probably a given in a hs household when you try new work) but only for the better. We are reading Bible stories from our big Children’s Bible. I found that the boys knew a lot about the Old Testament, and have heard some of the things from the New Testament, but other than Jesus’ birth and death, the in between stories got lost along the way. So for this first half (or 3/4 depending on how long it takes), we’ll be reading from mainly one Children’s Bible, but I have to incorporate their favourite Bible storybooks (like the Minecraft Bible book) so, it’s more like 3-4 versions of the same (similar) stories.

For math we are back at reading LOF stories and we are now in Cats. Well almost done with Cats actually, but we have also worked our way through some workbooks the first term. The boys find that they enjoy the stories, understand the concepts, but especially Mr.A likes “solving problems”, and loves doing a couple pages in the workbook, as long as it isn’t every day. Mr. R just completed his first book which covered the numbers 1-30, which he knows in Afrikaans and English, and can write out too! He was very proud when Daddy signed the certificate in the back of the book, and I told him it will go in his file.

Mr.A at swimming lessons, which have now (end April) come to an end.WP_20160201_004

Afrikaans is also a mix between Clever worksheets and reading out loud to them. Mr. A found that he could read the Afrikaans instructions in one of our boardgames, and that inspired him to try the longer words, as well as sentences, which he hasn’t been up to till now. I shuffled things around and hopefully we’ll be playing a board game every Friday afternoon. Well, ok… I’m going to try for once a month! Because you know… LIFE! happens in spades at times, or mundane things like mowing the lawn has to happen before you can pull that game closer.

The boys have almost completed their 2nd English alphabet workbook, and then I’ll only concentrate on reading out loud. Luckily Fred have those Beginning Readers, of which we have the first two sets. They love it. Easily understandable and a nice start on reading by sight, which teaches them the different sounds that a letter can make. I do see that they have picked up a couple of sight words in their games and the Fred books already, and both learned the STOP sign/word from Fred. So yes, every time we drive up to a stop street, they tend to call out “STOP sign! You have to stop!”

At a friend’s farm – in their river. Some swimming “au naturelle.”07-plaas rivier

Mr.A spent nearly the whole of March and April afternoons and evenings to look up YouTube videos on oceans and ocean creatures. He especially found those of Jonathan Bird fascinating! Every opportunity he got, he would tell us, friends, his riding teacher, his swimming teacher (any one!) something new he has learned about sea creatures. One afternoon we made an ocean backdrop with a cardboard pack I bought at the local Spar, and the two of them took out all their plastic animals and spent another week or so on this set.

So yes, in between school work there has been a lot of book orders. I started importing IEW Fix-It Grammar as well, and am looking at their Primary Arts Language: Reading for the boys for later as well.

What else? A lot of exercising for myself – I joined Nerd Fitness last year, and have lost a lot weight, but also gotten stronger and made some wonderful friends all over the world. More on that, I have been using some of hubby’s weights at home, walking, body weight exercises, keeping on Banting as a eating way of life, but now in May I will be joining Mr.A with riding lessons. Yes, after 15 years I will try to ride a horse again. Luckily his teacher is very patient. I apologise if I am repeating myself.

Life is happening all around the whole time, as usual, and we are privileged to be able to take it one day at a time.

Mr.R clowning around for/with a friend.14-Rocco-clown

There are so much more news, but it will have to wait for the next update. I don’t promise, but will try for before end of May 2016.

God bless


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Curricula for 2016

There are some changes to next year’s books, just to liven things up, make it a bit more interesting. Mr. A specifically asked for books that have activities or problems to solve. Luckily I can oblige him. We’ll also be sticking to no more than 2hrs work at the most in a morning.

Bible Study

We have two or three stories left in the Bible Activities book. Both boys enjoyed the stories and activities tremendously, with the difficulty-level being on par to easy, for Mr.R and much too easy for Mr.A, but it was fun. And they definitely remember the stories, which is the point!

Next year we’ll start with Smart Draw for K-3 focussing on the New Testament and (copy-)drawing a picture for each Bible book.


If we finish Smart Draw before the end of the year, we’ll continue with Uncovering Bible Treasure which you can download for free. It is aimed at children 8-12yrs, and is: “A Bible activity book to help children grasp the basic truths of Scripture and give them a desire to study and understand the whole Bible.”


To oblige Mr.A’s request for “activity books” I’m replacing the last “letter groups” that he has to learn in Omvattend Afrikaans, with Smile books that focus on these making use of short stories and activities.

Mr. R will work in books 1 and 2, while Mr. A will work through books 3 and 4. Then on to some Clever worksheets that I’ve had bound in a book for each. We will pick up in Omvattend Afrikaans again in the Poetry section, from where we’ll focus on plurals, diminutive forms, grammar, etc. There are still some readers left to get through as well.


They absolutely loved Easy Peasy Getting Ready 1 this year. We have a wall full of pictures they decorated representing each letter in the alphabet. Next year we’ll revise the sounds for each letter making use of The Magic Key Alphabet Book. We’ll continue with South African CAPS English language book 1 and 2 to learn sight words, and of course the other new favourite: Life of Fred Beginning Readers. These are the books that I import to South Africa and kids are really crazy about them. We had to take the readers with us to Sabie, when we visited granny C, so that I could read it to them there as well.

LOF books


Again sticking with what they love and also works! Life of Fred math books and Edupeg. We are learning so much more in the Fred books than just math, and this often leads to questions and topic searches after finishing our “morning work”. In the evening, Daddy B has had to look up many topics on YouTube for them, that originated from Fred.

Life Skills

I was gifted a South African Gr.2 CAPS book which we’ll work through. To be honest, we have covered most of these topics, but I think they’ll enjoy a little sticker fun and “oh, we know this” moments. And of course then we can officially “tick it off” *roll-eyes here*.

Interest Based: Mystery of History

We’ll continue where we’ve left off with MOH1. They enjoyed the hands-on and experiments, which again lead to a lot of questions and Daddy B having to do his share with YouTube videos in the evenings.

Sport / Extra-Murrals

I hope to get them places in swimming lessons in the first term, just to catch up on style and swimming properly again. Playball is also compulsory in our eyes, as that teaches them basics about sport, hand-eye, foot-eye, balance skills which they need. Otherwise Mr. A is set on continuing his riding lessons, wanting to jump, trot, and canter by himself. Mr. R has his heart set on dance lessons. Luckily there is a lady close to us offering modern dancing, but it is a basic introduction to dancing: ballet, skills, fitness, etc. if I understand things correctly. I think big charmer Mr. R will enjoy being the only boy amongst a couple of girls.

And that is all she wrote, folks. Hope you’ll stay tuned next year.


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