For the past 7 years, our family has gone to the LEAF festival in Black Mountain, NC. Personally, I LOVE this festival. There are no phones, no agendas, and no obligations. There is art, music, crafting, food (oh, the food), classes, people watching, fun activities, and family time. Sawyer and Parks also work on craft items to sell at the kids area each year, which is a lot of fun to watch. Even though not much changes year to year at the festival, each year is a completely new experience with so many new memories.
I am not even sure where to begin this post. It feels as if it has been a really long time since I have sat in front of my computer beyond deleting mindless emails. Our official school year started last week on August 24th. Together we discussed goals, curriculum, expectations, plans, and life over the next nine months.
The kids jumped right into having a rhythm. They thrive on it (I need it too but I am much more rebellious—summer come back!!!) We started by making our front cover for our main lesson books. As our life tends to find chaos, Wednesday found us rehabing a black racer. He got trapped in one of those sticky mouse traps (side note: those traps are awful!!! If you have them, please consider switching them out). He was severely dehydrated and hungry. We released him back out on Friday. Hopefully, he makes a full recovery! The best part of the first week was definitely our “Back to School” party that we hosted at Latta Plantation. We had a terrific turn out! The kids played in the woods. The parents started making plans for the year.
This week, we jumped into our first blocks which included Mr.Popper’s Penguins, Secret of the Andes (Ancient Incas) and The Door in the Wall (Medieval Times). We are also trying to squeeze in as much time on the lake as we can before it starts. We had friends to the lake on Monday afternoon and went out with friends on their boat Wednesday afternoon. The week ended with everyone finishing their work plans without too much moaning and groaning which meant we got to hike today. Yep, that’s right! Friday hikes are back!
Today, we adventured off trail down to Gar Creek at Latta Plantation to one of our favorite spots. Over the course of this blog, you have seen MANY pictures at Gar Creek. Today the creek looked like a jungle! The beautiful scenery of greenery surrounded us throughout the woods!
As you can tell from previous blogs, hiking ranks high on our list of activities. All three of the children love to hike and explore in the woods. Luckily, we also have many friends who enjoy the same activity and are up for a challenge.
I have to smile when I think about our journey with hiking. I hiked a little bit in college but nothing much. Once had children, I don’t think I hiked at all. We played outside ALOT but did not venture into the woods much. Enter homeschooling-we began homeschooling in about the third month of my oldest child’s third grade year. At the time, my friend also had begun homeschooling. In her homeschooling research, she learned about the importance of children doing nature study. She drug me out on a hike and had the children sit in silence for a few minutes. That hike alone changed our lives forever.
My children fell in love with what they experienced, and I fell in love with their excitement and enthusiasm. We now hike once a week. The kids do not need formal nature study. They study their natural world independently. Sawyer knows which squirrels live in the nest in the tree outside her window. Sims notices how the trails are changing with the seasons. Parks keeps an eye on various areas of the yard and updates us on changes. All three children are amazingly in tune with the natural world. They take notice of the changing winds and weather. They sit with nature because nature is where they feel the most at peace.
We are now starting on the next step to hiking. We went on our first backpacking trip this week. It was short in time and length. We learned. We experienced, and we are ready to go again. If you would have told me ten years ago that I would some day be an outdoor enthusiast, I would have laughed. My children have taught me so much and I am so glad that we now all share the passion of hiking!
All three of my children live with music in their souls. (I am not sure where they got this from because neither my husband nor I are musically inclined.) No matter, our house fills with music daily – the radio, feet stomping a beat on the floor, singing or an instrument playing. A friend of ours asked if we would be interested in learning more about African drumming-how quickly can we say, “YES!”
We began taking a class with some fellow friends/homeschoolers in March. The class was only supposed to last 4 weeks but we are still going strong! The instructor brings the drums to life! He teaches the kids about the history of drumming and the importance of drums throughout history. He teaches the kids how to feel the energy of the drums and how to use the drums to pass the energy from one person to the next.
This week, he explained how the drums are made. He even had the kids stretch a new piece of goat hide over an old box drum so that they could learn how to make their own drums. The best part of the drum circle for me is watching the kids go into a trance as they drum. It is amazing to hear them come together to produce the music. All you can do dance!
Around here it is the time to look at curriculums, schools and plans for next year. This time of year always gets me thinking. Are we in a good spot?
Are the kids learning new information? how to learn?
Are the kids happy?
Are they engaged?
For the first time ever since I became the parent of school aged kids, I am content. Yes, we are in a terrific spot. We are not stuck on curriculum. Life is learning. When the kids are interested in something, they go with it. They delve into the subject finding out all that they need. They laugh daily. They argue daily. They are learning so much more than information in books. They are learning about being a good neighbor and citizen, nature, being a good friend, being a loving sibling, emotions, cooking, health, money, reading, math, and being a teacher. They are engaged in life. They plan. They make goals. All of the important information that they are learning comes from life. No curriculum can teach all of this.
The weather in NC continues to be cold and wet like most places this time of year. Of course, we are not letting that slow us down. This week the kids had an Adventure Journaling class at Latta Plantation where they went to journal in the snow on Tuesday. Wednesday most of the slush melted only to be replaced with fresh new snow.
The kids were up bright and early Thursday morning to get in some sledding and playtime. One of the nice parts of NC snow is the quick disappearance. It snows and it melts. Thus by the afternoon, we were able to visit with friends. The kids had wars, built forts and went exploring through the woods for wild animals. They had a blast telling us about their adventures that afternoon (and I had a blast hanging with my friend’s, laughing with my friends and learning from my friends).
Then today, Sims and I went on our Friday hike (the other two kiddos chose not to go today). I had no idea how much fun it would be to head out on the trails after snow fall. We decided to look for tracks. Within the first half mile, we identified skunk, raccoon, deer (buck) and rabbit tracks. We then headed down to Gar Creek to check out some of Sims’ favorite spots at Latta. When we returned home, we were welcomed by trail markers leading us to a snow owl family in the back yard and lunch in the dining room.
Next week starts our last quarter of our “school year.” I amazed at how quickly this school year has passed. I hope everyone ha a terrific week!
We took the entire week to get back into the school spirit. Another plus of homeschooling, no one has to jump up and be ready at 6 am after two weeks off. We used Monday as a planning day. Sims is starting his block on Rome. Sawyer is beginning NC history (her last block was more on NC geography) and Parks is finishing up Life of Fred Cats and starting a unit on woodworking. So of course, we hit the library and sat on youtube looking at videos on Rome, NC and woodworking ideas for kids.
Tuesday, we woke up and hit the books. Luckily, the ball kept rolling throughout the week. It was nice to be back on a schedule, even if ours is a very loose schedule. Everyone jumped into reading, maths, grammar and main lessons with copy work daily. Next week, we will add in spelling, extra projects and their classes at Latta (although they did one class this week).
For those of you up north and out west, you will get a giggle out of our adventures this week. For the south, this week was COLD! By cold of course, I mean below 32 degrees. We were freezing, but I am determined that the cold will not stop us. Monday we went for our walk and saw a hawk in a tree. From that day on, we have seen the hawk everyday in the same area. After speaking with a neighbor, the hawk is there all the time. Evidently, we had a new neighbor move in, and we never knew it. We look forward to watching him through the seasons! Wednesday, the weather began to drop. Parks had his first horseback riding class in two years. He was VERY excited. The cold was not about to stop him. He bundled up in his ski gear and running socks (yep, I didn’t notice that one until he was on the horse and half of his leg was showing) and went to his lesson. He loved it even though by the end he couldn’t feel his feet or his hands. Thursday the temperature dropped to single digits (note that in the south, we have heat pumps which cannot keep up with the cold. Thus, you could not warm up inside either). Sims and Sawyer had a three hour class outside. I spoke with the instructor, and we decided to cancel the class.. Why, I am not sure. The kids built a fire and played outside all afternoon. Personally, I bundled up by the fire inside and read my book.
Friday, Sims and Sawyer had Adventure Journaling (a class is based on the adventures of Lewis and Clark) at Latta Plantation. Before the class, the kids played on the frozen pond. Yep, another problem in the south. Kids have no idea what happens when you stand on ice in a pond, but they do find out real fast. Sims and Parks fell into some COLD water up to their knees (luckily, this is a tiny pond). So, Sawyer went to class, and we went to get dry socks for the two boys who wouldn’t listen to the adults but learned the lesson anyway (I wish that I would have gotten a picture but I thought it might be looked at as one of those “bad parenting” moments if I was taking pictures instead of helping them. It was pretty funny). We were gone about 45 minutes and headed back to the nature center where another instructor took us bush wacking through the woods to find the group. Parks and I got to join in the class which was fun. We hike this park ALOT, and we had never seen the spot we were at. Evidently there are 14 homesites in the park but only 9 have been found. The instructors have found one of the homesites, and this is where the class was. The kids had to make a map of how they got to the abandoned house and what they thought happened to the house or who they thought lived in the house. Then we packed up, headed to the nature center and listened to the stories. It was a terrific way to end the first week back to school.