Our Holiday Break

Happy New Year Everyone!  I do not have a New Year’s post ready yet.  I am still working on my goals and our plans for 2015.  In the meantime, I figure that I can still write an update on our world.  Many people ask if homeschoolers take a break from schooling and for us the answer is a loud, “YES!”  We look forward to breaks as much as most people.

We lucked out and also got to have Nick home with us for the two week break.  We love having Dad around!  We started our break with a party at Sims’ gymnastics team, and we have been going strong since then!  We ice skated, skied, learned how to throw knives (yes, normal families throw a football on Christmas Day.  Odd ones, throw knives), hiked on the Blue Ridge Parkway, swam, and celebrated the new year.

We are wiped and need a break.  Smile..just kidding.  It is about time to get back into our normal schedule.  I hope you had a terrific holiday as well!

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*On a side note-today we hiked at Latta Plantation with a group.  We went through the Treasure Tree Trail which has a paper guide with information to be read at each marked spot.  Sims volunteered to read at 4 spots.  This may not seem like a big deal for most kids, but for Sims-this was a big accomplishment.  In the past, he has not jumped up to read aloud-EVER!  He still is not a fluent reader, but he did well.  Sawyer also read aloud with some coaxing.  We couldn’t get Parks to step up for a turn, but I am not pushing it.  I know he will surprise me one day by jumping up to read aloud for a group some day as well.

Outdoor Education in Our Homeschool

One activity we added this year is a weekly hike.  Mainly we have hiked at Latta Plantation because the kids truly LOVE hiking there.  The staff is incredible and very knowledgeable.  The nature center offers numerous classes for homeschoolers and the general public.  I highly recommend them for anyone in the area (however, realize that you are going to a nature center where you will be outside…in the weather…and most likely hiking).  We have taken classes at Latta Plantation Nature Center ever since we began homeschooling.

We all enjoy hiking and the outdoors, but Sims has fallen in love with it.  I really get to see him flourish when we are out hiking.  Last week, we hiked the prairie portion of Latta Plantation.  He and Sawyer taught me about passion fruit and what the flowers look like (evidently, I have been taking pictures of passion fruit flowers for years and never knew it).  They taught me the history of a well that passed along the way (The land that the nature center is on used to belong to one of the plantations in Mecklenburg County.  There is ALOT of history here.)

Today, they amazed me again.  Sims went on a hike yesterday with his hiking group.  They went off of the trail exploring Gar Creek.  Of course, he dropped a pants’ leg-you know the awesome pants that allow you go from pants to shorts while hiking.  Terrific invention unless you are an 11 year old kid who is more interested in creek stomping than keeping up with your stuff.  He realized this morning that one leg was missing; however, he had a pretty good idea of where it was.  Luckily, it was another hiking day at Latta and we were the only takers.  This gave us the opportunity to go back to look for his pant leg.  He was the only one of us to go to Gar Creek yesterday so we were dependent on him to get us there, and he was successful.  Not only did he get us to the creek, but he found his pant leg!  A successful trip.

I know many people don’t understand how we use hiking for school but the past two weeks have reassured my choice to have this in our educational plan.  The staff at Latta Plantation Nature Preserve teaches my kids history, science, cartography, orienteering, ecology and so much more.  All of this without books and without complaints.  Not only do they learn the information but they can apply it and teach it.

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The Checklist

We are 61 days into the year.  Only 119 days to go (give or take a few).  I aim for 180 days of documented school days.  I recently printed out my blog up through the beginning of October.  One comment I received from Nick was on the update list.  He likes seeing the items that each child has completed in a bullet point form.  So for those business-like readers, below is for you (ok-mainly, this post is for my hubby so that he can have an update, neat and tidy).

Parks (Grade 1):

1.  Grammar work and language: Fairytales and folktales including: Goldilocks and the Three Bears, The Ant and the Chrysalis, The Ant and the Grasshopper,Belling the Cat, The Milk Woman and her Pail, The Tale of Peter Rabbit, The Donkey and the Travelor, Once There was a Treee, The Rich Man and the Parrot, The Story of the Jumping Mouse, Zoomer’s Summer Snowsstorm, Hansel and Gretel and the Golden Goose.

2. Reading Program: Dancing Bears A: Section 1.

3. Writing: Spelling sight words, sentence structure, CVC words

4. Math: Number sense, writing numbers, greater than, less than, adding, subtracting, shapes, intro to adding double digits and carrying.

5. Extra research: Whales , birds, air, weather, clouds

6. Art

Sawyer (Grade 3):

1. Waldorf/history/social studies: Intro to Judaism, The calendar, the Jewish Calendar, Days of Creation, Adam and Eve, Cain and Able, Israel, the Middle East, Sukkah, Shelters, Continents, Oceans,

2. Reading: Rebecca, An American Girl (Books 1-3 of 6)

3: Writing: The Write Foundations: Creating Sentences- Including alphabetical order, nouns, verbs, contractions, homonyms, proper nouns, compound subjects and verbs, and compound sentences.  Poetry writing: alphabet poetry, concrete noun poetry, concrete verb poetry, animal motion poetry, personal favorites poetry.

4. Teaching Textbooks: Chapters 1-6 (Grade 3)

5.  Extra: Bird research, Geocaching

6. Spelling: Apples and Pears Level B lessons 1-27

7. Art

Sims (Grade 5):

1. Waldorf/history/social studies: US geography, African geography and general history and folklore, Atlantis, Australian geography and folklore, Aborigines, India, Hinduism, Buddhism, The Deer, the Turtle and the Magpie, Persia (Good versus Evil)

2. Reading: Tales from the Odyssey by Mary Pope Osborne (Books 1-3 of 6), and Dancing Bears Fast track

3.Writing: The Write Foundations: Creating Sentences- Including alphabetical order, nouns, verbs, contractions, homonyms, proper nouns, compound subjects and verbs, and compound sentences.  Poetry writing: alphabet poetry, concrete noun poetry, concrete verb poetry, animal motion poetry, personal favorites poetry.

4. Teaching Textbooks: He started on TT grade 6 and did the first 2 chapters.  He decided to step back and do grade 5 first so he is trying to work through grade 5. Chapters 1-4 completed

5. Outdoor Leadership class at Latta Plantation: weather, outdoor first aid, map and compass, shelter building

6. Spelling: Apples and Pears Level A Lessons 20-58 (10 lessons until he is onto the next level!)

Together, we read My Father’s Dragon, My Side of the Mountain, The Biltmore House Mystery, White Fang and we are in the middle of The Horse’s Boy.  Overall, the year is passing quickly.  I am teaching a lot more language than I ever have before.  We are focusing a lot on reading, writing, and spelling this year.  The kids are using Teaching Textbooks for most of their math.  Sims and Sawyer are working with Parks on math as well using Waldorf and Montessori materials.  Overall, the year is going well.  We are in good rhythm with school work, playing and extra-curricular activities.

A Week in Review in Pictures

After two weeks away, I realized how much we do during a week.  After celebrating Father’s Day with my Dad and my hubby, life as usual started on Monday with swim meets and gymnastics.  We did manage to get some fun summer activities in between all of the craziness.

Hard to Say Goodbye

The school year is now officially over-no more classes at Latta Plantation, no more art classes at CAP, and no more “lessons” from mom for a whole 8 weeks.  I thought my kids would be ecstatic…well, they were actually sort of sad.  They had some of their most memorable days at Latta.  The last day of the school year at Latta proved to be a fun one!  Sims had his last water ecology class.  Sawyer, Parks and I went to do a nature study at one of their favorite spots on the water.  Then we ended the day with a Thai picnic (by picnic, I mean feast!)-thanks to a lovely family who is moving from the area and who will be dearly missed by us and all those who know them.

I hope you all have a lovely end of school year and beginning of summer holiday!  I am going to take a short break from blogging but will return in a couple of weeks!  If you are looking for a fun read about a homeschooling family on an adventure of a lifetime, check out the book A Life Without Borders.  I am only a few chapters into the book but I have loved it so far (good laughs throughout).

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Learning in the Moment

Don’t you just love when learning happens without having to work at it?  Last week, we had one of those moments. It was beautiful.  The kids had several classes at Latta Plantation last week (actually every week through May!).  Most days only one kiddo had class and the others did work and explored.

Parks enjoys sitting by the small ornamental pond in the back of the nature center.  He checks on the tadpoles, watches the water, and observes the birds.  Well…on Tuesday, he was doing his normal pond squatting and saw a turtle.  He ran inside very excited for everyone to come see the turtle.

The manager of the nature center joined us as we went to see the turtle.  When we got to the little lady, the manager checked her out and realized that she was very old and very sick.  He brought her in and started her way to recovery with a bath and sent her on the vet.  The next day, Parks asked about how she was doing.  The answer was amazing.  She is doing well.  She had an infection in her eyes and throat which was preventing her from eating and limiting her breathing.  If she had not been found, then probably would have died pretty quickly.  She should be fully recovered in 8 weeks.  Parks saved the turtle.  He is very excited.  Hopefully, he will get to release her when she comes back home to the nature center!

Can you see her swollen eyes?

Can you see her swollen eyes?

Parks with his turtle

Parks with his turtle

She is an old turtle according to her shell

She is an old turtle according to her shell

Getting a bath

Getting a bath

Another critter found!

Another critter found!

Taking time to work outside

Taking time to work outside


****A quick update:  The turtle is doing very well.  She is eating and drinking.  I just received updated photos of her today.  Check them out below!

Healthy Turtle-Check out how nice her eyes look now!

Healthy Turtle-Check out how nice her eyes look now!

Healthy Turtle!

Healthy Turtle!

This is the infection that they got out of her eyes!

This is the infection that they got out of her eyes!


Hiking the Prairie

The warm weather is finally here!  For us, that means we are back to exploring creeks and hiking.  (Yes, we did do this in the cold weather.  However, we definitely did not do as much research and exploring as we do in the spring, summer, and fall.)  This week, Sims and Sawyer headed to McDowell Nature Preserve for some geocaching, while Parks and I explored the creek and the prairie.

Latta Plantation Nature Preserve has backpacks filled with activities for the prairie, the woodlands and the lake front.  Parks and I did the prairie backpack.  He researched rocks and minerals.  He was thrilled to find out that many of the rocks that he collected on a recent hike to the Blue Ridge parkway were magnetic.  He spent quite a while watching a dragonfly eat mosquitos and chasing bugs to investigate.

Later in the week, I took Sims and Sawyer out to the prairie.  It was amazing the difference from one day to the next.  When I took Parks to the prairie, the day was bright, sunny and full of activity.  When Sims, Sawyer and I went, the prairie was overcast and calm.  We had to search for the bugs on the trees and in the tall grass.  Sawyer practiced her bird calls and Sims worked hard to catch some bugs.

Both days, the kids wanted to investigate the creek.  Parks discovered the amazing way ferns grow; while, Sims and Sawyer discovered rock erosion and animal tracks.  All the kids ended the week with the Latta plantation staff in their Muddy Boots class where they hiked yet again.