Hazy Days

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Of Outings and Field Trips

With the Hip Homeschool Moms doing a spotlight on field trips (or ‘outings’ as we call them here in South Africa) I thought it was a good opportunity to spotlight my beautiful city, Cape Town as discovered by the Cape Explorers.

cape explorers elsies peak

Started by my wonderful friend, Karen Dawes, Cape Explorers is an outing club for homeschoolers in Cape Town, South Africa.  Twice a month each CE group meets together to explore another part of our wonderful city.  Karen writes a Living Letter to each family, organises Activity Packs and then takes us on incredible journeys where we all have fun and learn lots.  I think her ideas are brilliant and worth trying out in your own home town.

In Cape Town alone, we’ve explored some amazing places.  We’ve heard and seen cannons fired; climbed down into the bowels of wartime ammunition bunkers; tasted “wine” (grape-juice for the kiddies) at South Africa’s oldest wine farm; explored castles, held tarantulas, climbed lighthouses,

Don’t believe me?  Well, follow these links and see for yourself!

The Cape Town Castle: We saw dungeons and jails, a key ceremony re-enactment, plenty of cannons and learned a whole lot about our over 400-year-old castle.


IMG_6876Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens: World-renowned, these beautiful gardens lie at the foot of our beautiful Table Mountain.  They contain an amazing array of flora (and some fauna).  We learned so much about the gardens, the plants, the medicinal purposes, the history and much more.  Well worth the visit!


Peers’ Cave:

Decades ago, a man and his son discovered a cave overlooking Fishoek bay.  There lay incredible archeological finds, some scary precipices and a whole lot of adventure!  We got to enjoy all three. 


Greenpoint Park Biodiversity Garden:

With the Soccer World Cup 2010 being hosted by our city, Cape Town, we saw some major developments happening in and around town.  One amazing accomplishment was the creation of the Greenpoint Urban Park.  Aside from the recreational advantages, it is a hive of biodiversity with so many learning opportunities.  Karen sent us on a scavenger hunt of note and what fun it was!


The Company Gardens:

Speaking of scavenger hunts, this time Karen did The Amazing Race Cape Town-style!  The kids dashed around the 450-year-old gardens – planted when the first Dutch people arrived at the Cape in 1652 – and, in finding dozens of clues, also learned a whole lot about the gardens and their history.   


Cape Union Mart Adventure Centre:

A local clothing and camping brand, Cape Union Mart, has an awesome store in Cape Town that allows kids to learn about extreme weather and extreme creatures!  This is where kids got to climb walls, experience sub-zero temperatures, put up tents, and play with tarantulas.  I kid you not.  The proof is in the photo of my eldest (then 10) happily letting one very hairy guy park off on her hand!  Ugh!

The list of amazing adventures to be had in and around Cape Town goes on and on.  You can check some more of our adventures out here:

Hazy Days Outings

or head on over to the Cape Explorers website to have a taste of the many other awesome adventures we’ve had under the Cape Explorers umbrella.


Cape Explorers: The Castle

Here’s a whirlwind tour through our latest Cape Explorers outing.  This time to the Castle of the Cape of Good Hope.  We’ve learnt quite a bit about the castle thanks to reading Boy of Two Worlds and from a previous visit.  So visiting again was lots of fun and help more meaning for us this time around. 

Our visit was on September 6th, Micah’s birthday.  It’s a beautiful Spring day – sun shining, flowers blooming, spirits souring – really great weather and mood for everyone!


Ms V points to the rather ginormous keyhole! at the gate door.


Mr Micah and Jem-Jem stuck together like glue.  It seems the allegiance has switched from one Hayes boy to another…


waiting for the tour to begin…



Here is evidence that homeschoolers can walk in a line. Well, sort of.  It was quite funny actually… at each stop, the kids were required to make two lines and follow the tour guide like ducklings.  They did a great job of starting out in a line, but soon enough the line disintegrated and before we knew it they were a orderly non-lined up bunch. 



But they were well-behaved, none the less.  Good going, guys!


An Egyptian Goose and her goslings…


More of that non-line stuff…


Terrible focus and all that, but I love this photo – more evidence of the “replacement”.  I have a photo of Sam and Jemma like this about 2 years ago!


I have no idea why this random kiosk was set up in the middle of the parade ground.  Still don’t know!


Torture chamber anyone?




This one one VERY dark room when the lights go out ….


And aiming for that line again …


We got to watch the key ceremony.  It’s supposed to include a firing of a small cannon, but funding issues meant no gunpowder.  However, apparently there has been so many complaints that they’re reintroducing it next week. 


It is still fun to watch the re-enactment, however.


Photos and keen eyes!



Our tour continued after that with a visit to the bastians (the five points of the star-shaped castle). 




Here is where prisoners were kept…


I didn’t take as many photos of the inscriptions on the woodwork this time – but a couple reminds me of the amazing script and patience and, of course, ironic humour…



On to the museum – the castle used to have sea water right up to its walls…  This is a picture of what it once was – it’s beautifully done!  The light!


A closer look – can you believe that the floor stones and the doors are painted?  Can you see where the stones and the floor tiles meet?


With our age-range of kids, it’s easy for some of them to get bored, but these guys were interested!  I loved how they absorbed the museum.  It got a little noisy, but it was interest-driven delight powered.  I wouldn’t swap that for the world!


Can you see!?!  This is my favourite photo – such fascination and awe!


And more!  Mom!  Look at this! 


Before long, it was all over and so we enjoyed a picnic between the outer wall and the moat.  Micah, here below, enjoyed a conversation with his granny and grandpa in Hermanus who called him then.  He couldn’t stop smiling with self-importance and delight!


Some kids are just rude! Winking smile 


While others were just in the business of eating!  Good thinking!


Our wonderful guide and her sweet son!


Another wonderful Cape Explorers outing!

Cape Explorers: Groot Constantia

At the beginning of May, Karen took us Cape Explorers to Groot Constantia.  Since we’ve been reading a lot about Simon van der Stel and Adriaan van der Stel, it was really interesting for us to head that way.

But the “interesting” started before we even got going on the outing.  When we arrived, the kids discovered this tree – roots growing inside the trunk of another tree…




For some reason, still unbeknownst to us, the kids were all a little ramped up.  It was like they had all taken a huge deep whiff of silly-powder!  Here is case in point.  Unfortunately, the kids’ crazy behaviour didn’t go down too well with the establishment, understandably.  But, after a good chat, I doubt it will happen again.  In our dozen or more outings together, this was a first.  I take heart that they were particularly amped that day, so it really wasn’t par for the course for these kids. 



Despite their ampedness, they listened politely to Karen and our guide for the day.


And Brent took loads of fantastic photos…


Mine don’t quite compare! But here is a shot of the beautiful avenue that leads up to the main house.



And the vineyards – beautiful…




We toured the museums, but no photos allowed inside.  One room had a beautiful and enormous wardrobe that had the kids and I transported to Narnia in our imaginings.  Beautiful.

After the museums, we toured the slave lodging – which was really cell-like storage rooms.  Declan over here found some creepy webs down below!





Then we did a tour of the winery itself and learnt a whole lot about soil, growing vines and making wines…








These vats are oak and are only used once, if I recall correctly, before they are sold to other wineries and establishments that use them either for more wine-making or other functions like planters and such.


Finally!  Wine-tasting!  Since these kids are too young for the real deal, they got to taste grape juice.  But, they did get the instructions for how to experience wine the connoisseur way – smelling, seeing, tasting.  Yum yum.





A brief lunch in the gardens and then it was home time.  For me, that meant home with just one child.  The rest went to play at Karen’s.  What a pleasure! 



Serving One Another

This article first appeared in the Cape Home Educators’ quarterly magazine,
April 2013

Serving One Another

The Organic Community of Homeschooling Families

by Taryn Hayes

One thing that I deeply love about the homeschooling community is that it is a community. Since I embarked on this journey into homeschooling ten years ago, I’ve met people from vastly different walks of life. In any other circumstance, I probably wouldn’t have met them. Yet with our common goal of homeschooling, it seems it is enough to break down cultural barriers, language difficulties and socio-economic differences. Where barriers could have existed, there is, instead, helping hands. Where needs are mentioned, they are, more often than not, met. When struggles are shared, sympathy and help is extended.

I have the privilege of administrating the Homeschool Western Cape group on Facebook. It’s a privilege, because I get to witness the homeschooling community at work, every day, first hand. It makes my heart sing when I open up the Facebook group page and read a request for some curriculum help – and then have to scroll through dozens of helpful answers. When I meet a fellow homeschool mom in the bookstore for the first time (yes, this has happened more than once!) the instant rapport that follows is exhilarating. The intricate workings of the homeschooling community is organic – natural, flowing and inclusive.

Seldom amongst homeschoolers do I hear the word “no”. Yes, there are times when families feel the pressures of life and expectations – then “no” is not only natural, it is necessary. But mostly, those in the homeschooling community are “yes” people. Yes, we can help each other figure out which curriculum would suit a particular child. Yes, we can organise an outing and have everyone join. Yes, we will join you. Yes, let’s have tea and share our woes and wins. A need is identified and, pretty soon, the solution is provided. No coercion. Just community at work.

Since we began homeschooling, community has been an unexpected benefit. In this past year alone, I’ve benefited directly from the natural flow of the Homeschool Western Cape community.  Last year began with taking part in the Cape Home Educators’ arranged Sports Day in Camps Bay. Need identified? Yes, athletics for kids is fun and something the homeschooling community doesn’t naturally have. What can we do? Let’s create it! And what fun the children have had. Last year my daughter did high-jump for the first time, getting coaching on the spot and ending up exceeding her (and our!) expectations.


One Zimbabwe-born mom, Karen D, recognised the need to become better acquainted with her surrounding country in order to teach her children about the Cape. She chose not only to meet her own need but also to extend an invitation to others by starting an outing club called Cape Explorers. Karen is particularly gifted in leading large groups of children. In this last year we’ve visited about a dozen places, developed some solid friendships and enjoyed Karen’s wealth of gifts – living letters, administration excellence, brilliant ideas – lavished upon us.


For some years, Wendy Y and other moms ran a wonderful homeschoolers craft market. As seasons pass on, this one came to an end. But a couple of years later, another mom, new to the Cape homeschooling community, started another entrepreneur opportunity for children. Thanks to Yolande T’s initiative, my kids got to enjoy running a Tombola store and selling juices, second hand books and sweets.


Longstanding traditions in schools mean school-going children often find themselves with wonderful opportunities to participate in Olympiads and Shakespeare festivals. These don’t naturally extend to the homeschooling community. But the homeschooling community naturally comes up with a solution. Last year Wendy M’s innovative children joined up with a bunch of other teens to take part in the Shakespeare festival. Without the benefit of a drama teacher, the teens directed themselves, rehearsed, costumed and presented their drama case for the 30-minute Shakespeare festival – and quite successfully too.

Dozens of times a week I see community at work. Kirsten R offers a mom’s chill out evening every so often – a wonderful time-out for moms to meet and chat. The “Far Southers” (that would be Fishoek and beyond) hold a weekly picnic day on the Noordhoek common. Several young homeschooling families meet up in the Northern Suburbs and the encouraging invitations to newcomers often pop up on the HWC Facebook page. Outings are arranged by various families and, more often than not, the invitation goes out to the HWC group. The more the merrier! It’s not uncommon to find a group of homeschooled families – from all different backgrounds, religions and races – visiting a museum, a farm or a factory together.

When I started homeschooling in the early 2000s, I never expected to experience community at this level. But, now, looking back, I’m not surprised. It makes sense that families who choose to swim against the mainstream schooling system would have the tenacity to make community work. And I’m glad. Because it means that my weaknesses are lifted up by the strength of others, and I can offer my strengths in service of our greater community.

Are you a part of a greater homeschooling community? If not, consider plugging into one of these online groups. Real-life contact naturally extends from these online meeting places, and before you know it, you will be warding off strangers’ “What about socialisation?” questions with “Goodness! That’s the least of our worries!”

Facebook Groups:

· Homeschool Western Cape http://www.facebook.com/groups/homeschoolwesterncape/

· Homeschooling in South Africa http://www.facebook.com/groups/100788473311514/

· Helderberg Homeschool http://www.facebook.com/groups/491935657490037/

· Homeschooling Christians in South Africa (not visible on your non-group friends’ newsfeed) http://www.facebook.com/groups/Christianhomeschoolingza/

· Christian Homeschooling in South Africa (visible on your non-group friends’ newsfeed) http://www.facebook.com/groups/christianhomeschoolingsa/

· Sonlight Curriculum: South Africa http://www.facebook.com/groups/sonlightsouthafrica/

· Footprints Curriculum support group http://www.facebook.com/groups/footprintsonourland/

· Love 2 Learn Curriculum support group http://www.facebook.com/groups/love2learncurriculum/

Yahoo Eloops (email only groups):

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