Finding Passion- Hiking

Finding Passion-hiking

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!

Friday Morning Hikes

Friday Morning Hikes

I haven’t posted about our Friday morning hikes in a while.  We still hike most Friday mornings.  My kids look forward to these mornings as much as I do.  They are awesome, and this year we committed to them-rain, sleet, snow, sun, cold or hot.  My husband asked me this week if we actually learn anything on our Friday morning hike or if they are just for fun.  Well, both answers are correct!

For the kids, Friday morning hikes allow for exploration in the areas that they hike with their classes.  On Fridays, they explore freely.  For me, Friday morning hikes fill my cup!  I converse with my friends about history, herbs, life and so many topics.  Overall, we all learn something new EVERY single week!

This week, we hiked with our area nature preserve manager.  He is a walking nature encyclopedia.  I really enjoy hiking with him.  Today, we reviewed what poison ivy, plantain, and beech wood trees look like.  We also found a Fowler toad, a slippery salamander, a five striped salamander,  millipede, a cherry bug and hawk pellet (one of the amazing lessons learned today-how did we learn that we found a hawk pellet versus an owl pellet?  An owl pellet has a lot of bones in it, but the hawk pellet did not have any bones in it).

We also discovered a spider nest in a fern.  I love looking at ferns as I hike.  Today, I noticed that several of the ferns had been rolled up with web around them.  We plucked off one and investigated.  Inside of the “fern ball” we found a spider!  Fascinating hike today!  We learned so many new things that I am still trying wrap my head around them such as when the Fowler toad grabs an insect with its tongue it uses its eyes to bring the insect from its mouth down into its stomach!

I am so glad that we have continued with the hikes.  I was worried that the kids would get bored with them, but every week is a new adventure!

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Ribbonwalk Nature Preserve

Ribbonwalk Nature Preserve

We changed up our usual hiking spot this past Friday.  Instead of visiting Latta Plantation Nature Preserve, we headed southeast to Ribbonwalk Nature Preserve.  I have known about this park for a while and wanted to check it out.  We were lucky enough to have some friends join us, one of whom is a master naturalist.  Thus, we had a walking/talking historian and naturalist to educate us throughout our hike!

We knew as soon as we entered the park that our hike would be fun.  In the parking lot, we found coyote scat (I know that I normally take pictures of EVERYTHING, but I spared you this one).  The preserve hosts a bog and a wonderful pond which is where we ventured to first.  The bog was almost dry which allowed the kids to explore throughout the bog looking at animal prints and trying to find frog eggs.  Around the edge of the bog and at one end, we found evidence of beaver activity-LOTS of beaver activity!

Overall the paths were frozen.  The frozen ground preserved the amazing and abundant coyote prints!  The key feature of the Ribbon Walk Nature preserve is the beech tree.  The preserve serves as the home to hundreds of American Beech trees.  They are old and beautiful!  We learned that beech tree only grow in undisturbed land; thus, you know that the area is “old.”  We also learned about vinca major and vinca minor and how the slaves in the US used vinca to mark the graves of their family members.  Vinca is not native to the US but is an invasive species from the Mediterranean and northern Africa.

We only had a couple of hours to explore on this particular day.  However, we do plan to return with a picnic and some water shoes!

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Week in Review

Week in Review

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.

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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!

“Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time.” Thomas Merton



I am a bit “behind” on my blog due to our annual LEAF festival trip.  We arrived home late sunday evening after another amazing festival.

The LEAF festival is, on the exterior, simply a music and arts festival.  However, you experience so much more.  We arrive the night before the festival begins each year in order to have one day of escape.  The camp appears fairly empty, although all around you people are setting up booths and stages.  The stillness of the evening allows you to listen to nature, see the stars and explore the camp before it comes to life on Friday evening.

Every year, the festival amazes me even more and in a different way.  Last year, the kids made bows and sold them.  They met lots of other children and played with them throughout the weekend.  This year, the kids sold bows again.  Instead of getting excited about the financial gain of selling bows, they got excited seeing their bows throughout the camp and hearing from children who purchased their bows last year.  Evidently, their bows hold up well over time-which they enjoyed hearing.  The kids did not meet a whole lot of new children but they did see lots of familiar faces.  We even connected with several families who live in our area.

We experienced art in many ways.  We listened to and felt the music.  We awed over phenomenal handiwork from metal works and hand-made instruments to beautiful scarves and tapestries.  We witnessed mother nature’s canvas as the leaves change colors.  All around us, we had a world of color.

If you ever get the chance to go to your local art and music festival, jump on it!  You may feel slightly out of place if you are not artistic but that is the beauty of them.  Everyone there is unique.  My youngest kept asking for the meaning of things.  You may look for this too.  However, I have found that sometimes it is best to experience art, see how it makes you feel, accept it and move on.  You may find things you love, and you may find that you do not connect with it.  Your children may find something that they connect with which is such a lovely gift.

And before I forget…Happy Diwali everyone!


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First Quarter Update

8 weeks down!  Can you believe that we are done with our first quarter of school?  So what is going well and what had to change, because you know things never go as planned?


Parks is doing well.  He is enjoying his science program, Exploration Education, a ton!  In fact, I am pretty sure that he will be finished with it before the holidays.  He also enjoys grammar (I know odd, right?).  Reading is starting to come a little easier.  He is open to reading books a lot more this year.  Dancing Bears (our reading curriculum) is also doing a terrific job of teaching him how to break down words.  I started him with the Apples and Pears Spelling program (which works in conjunction with Dancing Bears nicely) at the end of last year.  He is continuing with this program.  He does very well spelling aloud but has a difficult time putting the words down on paper, so that is something that he is working hard on.  Parks is also thoroughly enjoying his heroes and saints block!

Sawyer is working hard on her time management this year.  She is very aware of what she needs to get done each day which was a difficult task for her last year.  She is able to do her grammar (Growing with Grammar) with minimal assistance.  She did not enjoy doing Exploration Education for science, so we made a switch.  I recently read a review of The Gumshoe Archives on Only Passionate Curiosity’s Blog, and I decided to give it a try.  So far (she is only on the first book), she is really enjoying the book.  She is still doing vocabulary with the program and some simple projects.  She is getting the information through reading and not so much hands on which is what works for her.  We are also focusing on poetry with her Man/Animal block which she really enjoys.   Sawyer is continuing to use Apples and Pears for her spelling, and Teaching Textbooks for her math.

Sims had a rough time getting into a groove, but he has found it now and is thriving.  Sixth grade is a jump in the amount of work in most subjects.  He is doing very well with increasing his independence with his work.  He started the year with Apples and Pears spelling, but he quickly got frustrated with it this year (which disappointed me greatly because he does very well with it).  Thus, we switched over to IEW’s Phonetic Zoo.  So far, he LOVES it!  He gets to do it on his own which is important to him.  He also enjoys that he has to master the list before moving on.  He is still using Dancing Bears for reading fluency, and I hope he will pick Apples and Pears up again-but I am not going to push my luck.  He is also loving Exploration Education for science.  The projects are fun and do a terrific job teaching the concepts.  He is doing very well with the vocabulary portion of the science as well using the T method.  Math is taking more time, but he is mastering it well.  He gets frustrated when he doesn’t get a 100%-he has high expectations.  LOL.  Originally, the plan was for him to do a block on Rome, but he asked to start with business math/economics.  Thus, he is reading through Striker Jones and going over it with me.

Overall, I think we have had a terrific start to the year.  We are getting outside which keeps everyone happy.  Everyone is getting into the groove of doing daily work and an individual unit study.  Let’s hope the momentum continues through the next quarter!

Nature Study and Outdoor Education for Exciting Adventures


I love it when others give me an idea for a post.  Today’s post is courtesy of Terri over at the Homeschooling Doctor.  If you have some time, go check out her blog!  She has fantastic information on nutrition and healthy eating, in addition to homeschooling.  In my previous post, I wrote about the importance of the outdoors for our family.  My kids love to go for a hike in the woods (which is funny because if you ask them to walk a mile down to the store, they moan and groan like you are torturing them immensely).  So how do we make hiking in the woods educational?  I have a couple of things that I typically do.

1.  I try to have another person with us.  I know, I know.  We should be happy going on our own, but bringing someone along or hiking with someone else adds a new element.  The extra person always has information that we can learn from-ALWAYS.  Also, an extra person gets my children talking and teaching.

2.  This is a sneaky one.  I don’t tell my kids that I do this but it works every time.  I pick something to find and I take pictures of it throughout the hike.  After a couple of pictures, they stop and start studying it as well.  Then they start looking for what ever it is that I am hunting for too.  Some ideas include-trees, leaf shapes, leaf colors, different types of pine needles, seeds, wild flowers, animal tracks, animal homes, tree bark, letters in nature, mushrooms, flowers, flower petals, snails, birds, bird calls, bird feathers, rocks, ground covers, berries….the list goes on and on.  Try to find something easy that uses one of your senses.

3.  Nature study.  We typically stop and do a nature study where ever we stop.  Everyone separates and finds a “home.”  This is the best part for the kids.  They like climbing a tree or a rock or burrowing into a hole somewhere.  A predetermined amount of time is set to sit quiet-no noise!  This is tough.  I highly recommend starting with only 30 seconds for kids under 8.  If they don’t know what to do, give them an idea such as close your eyes and listen for the next 30 seconds, watch the clouds,  observe the tree for insects, etc.  I bring paper, watercolors, and colored pencils usually for our nature studies.  They write words sometimes, paint sometimes and occasionally, nothing but listen and observe.  We come back together and talk about what each person observed.

4.  Snacks and water are essential.  They are kids and they are totally motivated by food, even fruit leather.  Knowing that they can stop and have a snack keeps then interested in hiking as well.

Don’t think that this has to be an all day adventure.  It can be short like 15 minutes or as long as a day.  Getting outdoors is amazing for our senses.  It is amazing for our well being.  It is amazing for our health.  And for our family, it is ESSENTIAL for our homeschool!

(Below is a slide show of our latest hike finds.  We were looking for different mushrooms and fungi.  If you happen to know what any of them are, please speak up!  We have been looking through tons of nature books and online resources, but we have a lot we have not named yet.)

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