Growing up in South Africa

Growing up in

I hope that you’ve enjoyed giving your children the world  as we’ve read our way across Africa together. And what better way to wrap up than to interview a family living on that continent!

So today I’m thrilled to bring you this interview with the wonderful se7en Family from Fish Hoek, South Africa.

I know you’re going to love hearing from them! 

Have fun reading about this family of ten, the baboons that visit their garden, and the eleven languages spoken in their country:

Growing up around the world: A series

Tell us a little bit about your family:

We are a green-living, homeschooling family with eight kids, ranging from the oldest, who is 18, down to the youngest who is 6.

Most folks think that with eight kids we must have a huge house, but we don’t … we have a two-bedroomed house – that might be why we have a passion for getting outside and for being tourists in our own town.

Otherwise we all love reading and good books are a huge part of our life.

Hood 4 (age 13): “It’s nice to have a big family, there is always someone to play with.”


Tell us a little bit about where you live and how long you’ve lived there:

We live in Fish Hoek, which is a small beach town about half an hour drive south of the city of Cape Town, which is on a peninsula, at the southwestern tip of Africa. Our home is very close to the beach and on a mountain slope, so we have the beach to play on and the mountain to climb behind us.

South Africa is a country filled wth a rich diversity of cultures and contrasts. There are big, first-world cities that feel like any western country and then very rural and third-world areas, often right next to each other, where there are small houses made of whatever folk can find and no running water or electricity.

Hood 7 (age 8):  “I was born and I live in Fish Hoek, we live right at the beach and I love it.”


What do you think is unique and special about living where you do?

For us the proximity to nature and the great outdoors is the most special thing about where we live … we have Table Mountain and Nature Reserves and beautiful beaches on our doorstep. And if you need a fine coffee shop, or a good book store, or a fabulous market, we have cosmopolitan city life close at hand too.

Most people expect that we have elephants and rhinos, but no, those are all in game parks and quite unaffordable for most locals to visit. We do however have baboons that visit our garden; they especially love our vegetables.

Otherwise we live very close to a beach that is famous for its penguin colony, and they love swimming in the waves as much as the children do.

Hood 6 (age 9): “We have so much nature, we live on the mountain and we are close to the beach.”


What languages are spoken there? If it’s different from English, can you help us learn a few common phrases?

South Africa is a country with a rich cultural diversity … there are eleven official languages.

Almost everyone speaks English, but that is not their first language. Afrikaans, a language descended from the Dutch settlers, is taught in all schools, so everyone knows at least a little Afrikaans.

And then each region has its own traditional local language. Our local language is Xhosa.

Words we use:

– “Thank you” is Dankie (done key) in Afrikaans and Enkosi (en kos (o as in orange) i) in Xhosa.

– “Yes” is Ja (pronounced ya) in Afrikaans and Ewe (pronounced e for egg) and we (as in went) in Xhosa.

Meanwhile, our English is not quite the same as English all over the world, because we have smatterings of all our languages thrown in together:

– Howzit? (hard z as in zoo) means: How is it going?
– Lekker (lack ur): Means nice or sweet, anything sweet, not just candy, even though it is the Afrikaans word for candy. So we will say that a good book “was a lekker book” or a movie, or our day, or a friend.
– Takkies (tack keys): sneakers, or sport shoes.
– Gogga: (the g is pronounced like the ch in loch)… means small insect or bug.
– Shame: We say shame for almost everything, it’s our go to comfort word. if you lose your car keys, “shame”, if your child does something cute, “shame.”
– Eish: (I sh) exclamation, good or bad) meaning I just can’t believe it.

Hood 7 (age 8): “I speak English and I am learning Afrikaans and a friend is teaching me Xhosa.”

Time is probably the most confusing thing for foreigners trying to understand us.

We live in Africa – time is fluid and appointments can be somewhat vague. When you are ready, then it is time to go. Not necessarily a specific time.

So a meeting might be scheduled for 9 a.m. but it only begins when everyone is ready, which could be anytime before lunch.

To demonstrate this we have at least three versions of the word now:

– Now: Usually said strongly and means immediately.
– Just now: Means sometime in the future (in ten minutes, later today, tomorrow, next week… never).
– Now now: Means sometime really soon like in the next few minutes… or sometime before the end of the day.


What are some of your traditional foods?

Typical South African food would be pap (pronounced pup), a mielie (pronounced me lee)/maize meal porridge that almost everyone has eaten at one time or another. It is cheap and eaten plain or with relish or gravy.

Otherwise we are a nation of meat-eaters and really if you can cook it on an open fire then we probably do, and we call it a braai (sounds like: brrrr – eye).

Otherwise, because there are so many diverse cultures here – you get a lovely array of flavours. Typical Cape foods are rich spicy foods like curry and bobotie. Milk tart, which is a baked custard pie and koeksisters (cooked similarly to donuts but they are dipped in a spicy sugar syrup when they are done).

Otherwise South Africa does have some pretty weird food choices:

– Mopane worms are fried caterpillars
– Tripe is a collection of all the bits and pieces of meat like brains and intestines, cooked together to make a stew
– and I have to mention smileys (not for the faint-hearted) These are sheeps’ heads cooked on an open fire.

Hood 5 (age 10): “I love to braai (a very outdoors rustic barbecue), it is always in the wild outdoors, there is lots to eat and all our friends.”


Tell us about the climate.

We have a Mediterranean climate which means rain in winter and hot dry summers.

Because we live in the Southern Hemisphere our winter is during your summer, and our summer is during your winter.

Our winters are mild compared to most of you and we never have snow on the ground. There is no such thing as central heating, most people don’t even have free-standing heaters as electricity is expensive.

Hood 3 (age 15): “Lovely hot summers. My favourite weather is a berg (mountain) wind, that blows off the country towards the sea. It is hot and dry and warms everything up.”


What does school look like for the majority of kids where you live?

Most kids here go to school from 8 in the morning till about 3 in the afternoon. After school they do sport – this is a truly sport-mad country. All school children wear uniforms.

A funny thing about school here is that even though schools have a uniform quite a few schools don’t insist on shoes. Many children don’t have shoes! It isn’t necessarily a financial thing – it’s just that children here are expected to not have to worry with shoes, so they don’t!

Our schooling begins around about age 5 or 6 with a preschool year, called grade R, then there is primary school from grade 1 to grade 7 and finally, secondary or high school from grade 8 to grade 12.

Hood 3 (age 15): “My friends have to get up really early for school and get home late after sport. And then they have tons of homework to do before the next day.”


What does school look like for your family?

We are a homeschooling family, which is not the norm here at all. When we began homeschooling 15 years ago, it was hard to find other homeschoolers … but they are becoming more of a trend.

The great outdoors, the local library, and opportunities to volunteer: Those are really the three pillars of our school. Our children also do masses of making and creating everyday, but they don’t call that school … that is just playing.

Hood 8 (age 6): “I get up, have breakfast … do school … I do two pages of math, and my mom reads to me … lots of books.”


Are there any special festivals or traditions you’d like to tell us about related to where you live?

We do have national holidays, but they are mostly seen as a day off work to relax rather than the big holidays we see celebrated with parades and festivals overseas.

South Africa is such a wildly diverse country. We are not called the Rainbow Nation for nothing! So it is quite hard to unify the whole country to celebrate a particular holiday in a particular way – other than to relax or head to the beach. All South Africans are good at that!

The one thing that all South Africans are unified on is National Braai Day. A braai is similar to what you would call a barbecue, but a lot more rugged. On National Braai Day, in the spring, the whole country will pretty much have a braai and celebrate with friends and then continue with braais throughout the summer.

Hood 2 (age 17): “Once a year we have a kite festival, where kites are flown all weekend and you find all sorts of weird and wonderful kites.”


If you ever had to move away from where you live, what do you think you’d miss most?

We have traveled quite a bit as a family and the first thing we miss when we are away from home is the diversity, the many languages and cultures. We love our colourful country and the wonderful mixture of people we find here.

While we love traveling and seeing the world, Cape Town will always be home.

Hood 4 (age 13): “I love knowing all about the wildlife in my surroundings, I would miss our nature the most.”


Do you have a favourite book that takes place in your region/country?

Train to Kalk Bay by Graham Isaacs and illustrated by Katrin Coetzer is our hands-down favourite local book. It exactly encompasses the cultural feel of our city.

We are lucky to live beside the beach, but most people in Cape Town do not. It is tradition for many families to head for the beach the day after Christmas every year.

Another favorite is Goal by Mina Javaherbin. Set in a dusty township alley, it depicts an aspect of life under an African sky, that can be understood universally – soccer, big dreams, bullies and overcoming … you will need tissues every time.

Hood 1 (age 18): “Tolkien was a South African author who wrote the Lord of the Rings, one of the most famous and influential authors of all times.”

Find out more about the Se7en Family on their blog–thank you all for sharing your life with us!

Fast Facts About South Africa


  • The flag is made up of red, white, yellow, green, black and blue.
  • South Africa has THREE capital cities – Pretoria (executive), Bloemfontein (judicial) and Cape Town (legislative)
  • Want to learn more? Check out this South African family adventure tour:

About se7en

The Se7en Family includes Se7en + 1 kids and lives in Fish Hoek, a seaside town south of Cape Town, South Africa. There are five boys and three girls, ages 18, 17, 15, 13, 11, 9, 8 and 6. They blog about getting outdoors and reading, homeschooling, green living and being tourists in our their own town.


  1. Wow. That sounds like an absolutely wonderful place to live! I love your concept of time- I could sure do without the rushing we all do in our culture here. And I knw how you feel living in such tight quarters- We have my husband, me, and 10 of our kids living in a 3 bedroom house!
    Shelly’s latest post: A Tale of Ten Homeschoolers- We Start Monday!

  2. Hay Shelly, Lovely to meet you… It sounds like we are living a squash and a squeeze on both sides of the ocean. Wouldn’t have it any other way!!!
    se7en’s latest post: Se7en Welcome Read the World Book Club to Sunny South Africa…

  3. This is so wonderful!!! I loved finding out about another home school family all the way around the world. Fascinating! thank you!!

    • Hi Erika, Nice to meet you too… I think this is one book club and series that is going to open up the whole world for so many of us. It is just lovely to meet folk from all over the world with a passion for books and learning alongside our kids.
      se7en’s latest post: Se7en Welcome Read the World Book Club to Sunny South Africa…

      • I’m so glad you commented on my post – I just checked out your blog and love your read the world ideas – I’m looking forward to exploring more of your blog! When I was younger I worked for a time in Nelspruit and studied for a bit in Pretoria. Sadly, I never made it to Cape Town. I would have LOVED to see the penguins on the beach 🙂 We are also a family of avid readers and nature lovers. My littles are 3, 2, and 6 months – so I’ll be checking out some of your older posts for ideas….(love the secret sibling gift idea). I also adore your about page where you can see all the kids as they grown up – very cool idea – I have added it to my to do list for my family’s blog! Cheers!

  4. Love this. I might be saving this information in a word document to share stories of around the world with my daughter when she gets older

  5. Jamie you have put a lot of work into this!

  6. What a fascinating read!! Thanks so much for sharing about your life! My son and I would like to know if you have any pets. He also asks what time your kids have to go to bed and do you have a big yard. 🙂

    • Hi Beth, I love your questions. Hopefully I have covered them all…
      We don’t have pets but lots of our friends do… regular pets like cats and dogs and such. However, because we live so close to the mountain we do get a lot if unexpected guests like baboons and porcupines, sometimes toads. lots of snakes, lizards and scorpions and tons of bird life. From our deck we can see the sea and quite often see dolphins and because it is winter now, we will start to see whales for the a couple of months too.
      Otherwise we don’t have a big garden, but it is a wild garden, wild is easier to maintain. We grow local drought resistant plants called fynbos, because we don’t get a lot of rain here. We do have lots of good places to hide and build houses in our garden and our kids do that a lot… all the time!!! And there is still a little space to plant a few vegetables. If we need a big space to play, to throw a ball or such like then we head down to the beach, it is very close… and if we need to hike or go for walks then we go up the mountain right behind our house.
      Hmmm bedtime!!! Remember we homeschool so nobody has to get up early in the morning. We tend to sleep according to the sun, so we go to bed earlier in winter and later in summer… my little guys are usually in bed by 7:30/8:00 and we read until about 9:00. My middle schoolers go to bed about 9:30 and can read as late as they like… I am all for letting our kids read, and our teens all go to bed whenever they want to usually by 11. And then nobody stirs before 8:00 in the morning… nobody!!!
      se7en’s latest post: Se7en’s Fabulous Fun Post #323

  7. Christi {Jealous Hands} says:

    How very interesting! I loved reading about growing up with you in South Africa! Living at the beach AND the mountain would be a dream come true for me! 😊 I confess, dealing with the time thing would drive me batty! 🙈

    I especially loved the quotes from the kids. Thanks for sharing, gang!

    • Hay Christi, so glad that you enjoyed our interview… we had a lot of fun putting this together and figuring out what would be interesting to readers on the far side of the world. The time thing, there is that… It’s a way of life and it does confuse folks that are visiting, but for us… it is what it is. Hope you have a great week!!!

  8. Hay Christi, so glad that you enjoyed our interview… we had a lot of fun putting this together and figuring out what would be interesting to readers on the far side of the world. The time thing, there is that… It’s a way of life and it does confuse folks that are visiting, but for us… it is what it is. Hope you have a great week!!!
    se7en’s latest post: Se7en’s Fabulous Fun Post #323

  9. I love your beautiful country! My husband is from Durban and my in-laws from Zambia and Zimbabwe. I had the privilege to visit SA for 3 weeks when our oldest was only 2 months old. We had a great time visiting family around, going to a game park, having brais with the family and friends. We love traveling! At that time we were living in Israel and had the chance to stop by in Ethiopia and also to visit some friends and minister in an orphanage in Swaziland. My other two have never been to SA but I really hope we will be able to take them one day. After all, they are South Africans too! 🙂

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