Thursday, 11 August 2016

School Readiness


It is that time of year, when parents question whether their children are ready to start grade 1.I homeschool but have foundation phase qualifications and thought this might be helpful to those who send their children to school.

In South Africa, children need to enter Grade 1 in the year they turn 7. They are allowed to start at age 5 provided they turn 6 after June. There are many influencing factors which can all be very overwhelming and confusing. We don’t want to push our kids too much but we also don’t want to hold them back if they are ready for the challenge. Children are unique and different and all develop at a pace of their own so we cannot compare them to others. You as the parent have to make the choice that is right for your child. If for some reason you have to “hold them back” it doesn’t have to be a negative. It just means that they are not yet ready but when they are ready they will be better equipped to enter into the big scary world of Grade 1 with confidence.

School readiness looks at Physical, Cognitive, Emotional and Social development. In other words, it looks at the development of the whole child.

Here is a basic checklist;


  • Can hold a pencil correctly
  • Can cut with scissors
  • Can throw and catch a ball
  • Can hop skip and jump
  • Balance on a balancing beam
  • Can dress and undress himself
  • Can tie own laces/do up buttons
  • Can go to the toilet without help
  • Can colour pictures


  • Short term memory
  • Know left from right
  • Able to draw himself
  • Can build a puzzle
  • Show discrimination between different objects
  • Able to put things in sequence
  • Understands positions in space
  • Has intellectual curiosity
  • Knows colours and shapes
  • Can count up to 20
  • Identifies numbers up to 10
  • Can concentrate/pay attention
  • Has an understanding of time. I.e. yesterday, today, tomorrow
  • Knows own age


  • Can verbally express emotions
  • Will not cry when separated from father or mother
  • Does not act in aggressive way
  • Can cope if he does not get his own way
  • Will correctly deal with criticism
  • Will respond when spoken to
  • Knows the difference between fantasy and reality


  • Can integrate into a group
  • Willing to share
  • Carry a conversation
  • Knows how to ask for things and not just take
  • Able to listen to others
  • Show good manners

Wednesday, 10 August 2016

Wordless wednesday: Chocolate Mousse cappuccino

Sent from my BlackBerry® wireless device

Because sometimes all you need is a coffee and some friends.

Monday, 8 August 2016

Selfishness vs. selflessness


I wonder what motivates people to think only of themselves? The selfish person is by definition someone who acts according to ones own interests and needs without regard for others. It must be a very sad soul to go through life only ever giving thought to one’s own little world. Sometimes we give excuses of being too busy or too tired but in fact what we are saying to the world is

“I am more important than you”.

On occasion we know of situations that need help but we are overwhelmed and either do not know what to do or we think that someone else will do it.

The selfishness must be discovered and understood before it can be removed. It is powerless to remove itself, neither will it pass away of itself. Darkness ceases only when light is introduced; so ignorance can only be dispersed by Knowledge; selfishness by Love.

James Allen

Those who do not hate their own selfishness and regard themselves as more important than the rest of the world are blind because the truth lies elsewhere

Blaise Pascal


There is a short story from 1843 called The Bosom-serpent by Nathaniel Hawthorne .


[*]The plot:

George Herkimer visits his old acquaintance, Roderick Elliston, who is rumoured to have a snake residing in his bosom. Herkimer says he brings Elliston a message from his wife Rosina, but he retreats into his house before receiving it.

Elliston and Rosina had separated four years earlier. Soon, people noticed a green tint to his skin and often heard a hissing sound coming from his bosom. Elliston sought the attention of others and pointed out the snakes they possessed within their own bosoms. His relatives placed him in an asylum, but his doctors decided his affliction did not demand confinement.

After learning this, Herkimer returns to Elliston, who says his self-contemplation has nurtured the serpent. Rosina appears and suggests that he "forget [himself] in the idea of another." They touch and Roderick is healed.

Selfishness is similar to egotism which is is the motivation to maintain and enhance favourable views of self. Egotism means placing oneself at the centre of one's world with no direct concern for others.One of the main themes in this story is egotism and reveals that we cannot live only for ourselves but need the help and interaction of others

To read the story The Bosom-serpent online go to here

So then we ask “How can we become less selfish? Less egotistical?”

How can we start to live selfless lives, start to think more of others, our friends, our family and our community?

The answer is simple…JUST START.

  • Do not wait for leaders; do it alone, person to person.
  • Everytime you smile at someone, it is an action of love, a gift to that person, a beautiful thing.
  • I want you to be concerned about your next door neighbour. Do you know your next door neighbour?
  • In this life we cannot do great things. We can only do small things with great love.
  • Be faithful in small things because it is in them that your strength lays.
    Mother Teresa

Take it one step at a time. Making a meal for a friend who is sick. Remembering a birthday or just sending an sms to show you care.

You can become more involved in your church or community. If you look around in your area you can find an orphanage, foundation or cause to support. It may not always be giving money; it could be giving of your time. What about visiting the lonely in an old age home?

Whatever you do ,make a decision to live selflessly rather than selfishly! One day at a time.

[*] Wikipedia;_or,_The_Bosom-Serpent]

Saturday, 6 August 2016

My first piece of writing

When I was in high school I remember having to do a writing assignment and I chose to do mine on "Jim Morrison and The Doors" It was here where I discovered my love for writing as I penned the psychological profile of this man who lived out William Blake's quote "If the doors of perception were cleansed then everything would appear to man as it truly is, infinite" I wrote about how through drugs ,music and witchcraft, Jim Morrison thought he was cleansing his soul but instead he destroyed it.

I didn't give any thought or time to writing until I was working in a preschool and I decided to write a children's book. It was called "The Zebra Shell" and was a silly story but I was proud of it. I did my own illustrations and created a PDF version of it but nothing ever came of it. I just read it to my children when they were little. I am such a disorganised writer that I subsequently lost the PDF version but still have all my original hand painted illustrations and original hand writing. I had also created a you tube clip of the story but lost that as well. Bear in mind this was all 18 years ago.

I eventually found it as a word document somewhere in my shambolic filing system. Here it is:

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Friday, 29 July 2016

Motherhood without guilt

If we have feelings of guilt, there is probably an area in our life that needs attention. Then we need to focus on those areas and make the necessary changes. But sometimes as mothers we often carry around guilt over things that we don’t have control over. We need to learn the difference between these two types of guilt. We need to eliminate unnecessary guilt.

In the book” 52 Timesavers for on the go Moms”* Kate Redd dedicates a chapter to facing guilt. She identifies 3 main areas that moms feel guilty about. I just added my own thoughts under each heading.
1.They feel guilty about not spending enough time with their children.
Working moms feel guilty that they are working; Moms at home feel guilty that they are at home and yet don’t spend enough quality time with their kids. So what good is it to feel guilty? Those are the paths we chose, we just have to learn to make the most of it.
Learn to maximise the 5 minutes before bedtime. Let our time together be quality not quantity.
Ask yourselves the questions:

How can I be more flexible with my time?
Where can I make the changes?

2. They feel guilty about not making more things for their children.
With regards to meal times, Moms often feel guilty about taking short cuts or having fast food. While nutrition is important, you also don’t want to be using up special time making gourmet meals that could be used to spend time together. You could include your children in the cooking process and work together.
When it comes to sewing, baking, making birthday invites; some moms just aren’t creative! So what? Ask yourself: What can I do? And then do that thing that you are good at.

3.They feel guilty about not having enough energy and being impatient with their children.
We can all make the choice not to shout or be impatient with our kids. It is just a decision away. Sometimes stress can play a big part in our moods but then we need to find ways to alleviate the stress. Manage our time better so that we do have the energy required. Ask yourself: What changes can I make to my schedule?

Another big area I wanted to add that Mothers feel guilty in is…
4. They feel guilty if they think of themselves
This is different from being selfish and is often confused. Being selfish is when you have absolutely no regard for others. Mothers need to think of themselves, this doesn’t mean they have no regard for their children. They need to take care of themselves, and have their own identity outside of being a mother. They need to take a break now and then, go have their nails done or a cup of tea with a friend. This doesn’t make them a bad mother on the contrary if she is looking after herself then how much more will she be able to look after the precious gifts entrusted to her, her children.

“Guilt is a normal human emotion, but it is only constructive if you evaluate whether it is founded. If it is, you can do something about it. If it isn't, it's a useless waste of emotional energy that can be better spent otherwise.”

“Guilt is most often more about our own unrealistic expectations of ourselves than about us falling short in our role as mothers.”

Tammy Styles, Psychologist

Ask yourselves the right questions.
Make the changes.
Learn to say sorry to your kids.
Focus on what you can do.
Avoid comparison with others.

*Redd, K (1993) 52 Timesavers for on the go Moms. Oliver-nelson books, Nashville, Tennessee, USA.

Monday, 18 July 2016

The importance of play

When children are playing, so much is actually going on. They are learning about themselves and their environment. It allows them to: 

Express ideas
Develop speech
Develop muscles
Learn new skills
Use their imagination

It builds a foundation for later learning. Play is essential for the development of the whole child i.e. Social, Emotional, Intellectual, Physical and Aesthetic development.
Social Development:
Through role-play they learn how to relate to those around them. By playing ‘shop’ they learn that things happen in sequence, as they first have to pay the money to get their item in return. Sequencing is an early stage of learning maths. They also begin to understand social roles. They learn to understand the expectations of adults and the influence they have on others.
Emotional Development:
Through play children learn to express their feelings. It gives them the opportunity to master skills by trying and trying again. Thus gaining confidence in their own environment and a sense of self-worth because they can achieve their goals.
Intellectual Development:

There are actually 4 stages to this

1.Learning through the body. E.g. discovers big and small as he
realises he is too big to really drive his toy car.
2.Exploring their world with real objects. How they work and the  
Different ways in which to use them. He forms concepts in his mind from the real object to a mental picture.                                                                                           
3.  Interpreting symbolically. In the form of educational games
4.  Represent ideas through graphical artwork.  Now he is able to express what he sees in his mind through drawing, clay modelling or construction.
Where some pre-school teachers get this wrong is they try to fit all 4 stages in to one half an hour lesson, instead of allowing mastery at each stage. They want to hand out worksheets to have a record of what the child has learnt when in reality no real learning in being done.

Physical Development:
Play develops the senses, body control, fine and large muscle development and co-ordination. The cross-lateral movement involved is critical to a child’s later success in reading and writing.

Aesthetic Development:
There are two types of creativity
1.Artwork and aesthetic appreciation
2.Creative thinking and problem solving
Play encourages creativity. He makes up his own games, decides what materials to use and how long to play for. Painting and drawing and constructing pictures help them to express their unique creativity.

So lets break it down to each activity and see what they are actually learning;

Building with blocks
A child learns about gravity, stability, weight and balance. Early maths concepts. Depth, width, height, length, measurement, volume, area, classification, shape, symmetry, mapping, equality and inequality.

Language development, increasing vocabulary knowledge, as you read to them. Creativity as they make up stories to the pictures. Sequencing, as they see they have to read the book in a certain order.

Discovering and exploring as they use different materials to make something, creativity, fine muscle co-ordination as they use scissors, or fine paint brushes, self–esteem when they see their completed work.

 Measurements, fine motor skills when using measuring spoons and stirring, science experiments as they see that yeast helps the dough to rise or jelly wont set if not kept in the fridge. Reasoning learns about nutrition.

Tidy up time
Social skills and orderliness, discipline, responsibility. Sorting, matching and classifying, as they have to put things away in their right places.

Outside and Nature
There is so much to be learnt by allowing our kids to play outside. Running or riding a bike develops large muscles. Seeing how an earthworm crawls in the soil or catching butterflies, they learn science skills. Or just playing in the sand, measuring sand from one cup to another.

Encourage free play in your children; it will be the most important contribution you as a parent can make to their learning, especially in these early foundational years.

Sunday, 17 July 2016

Children's book review : A Hat for Ivan

A Hat for Ivan

Author: Max Lucado
Illustrations by: David Wenzel

Everyone in the village wears a hat that best describes what they love to do, and who they are. Ivan is very excited because he is about to receive his special hat but things don’t go exactly the way he had planned. The grown-ups all have their own opinion as to what hat he should wear. Ivan doesn’t stay confused for too long because his father, the hat maker, teaches him that there is only one hat made just for him.
This is a lovely, warm-hearted, children’s book. They learn the importance of being themselves and not trying to please everyone around them.
Max Lucado is a best selling and award winning author as well as a devoted father to 3 daughters. David Wenzel is recognised for illustrating many children’s books as well as J.R.R Tolkiens The hobbit.