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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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.

“Let Nature be Your Teacher” William Wordsworth

Do you ever go a few days and realize that you have not noticed the world around you?  Not the cars, red lights and people..but the birds, the squirrels, the breeze, the leaves, the clouds and everything natural?  I did not realize how much I missed in the world prior to homeschooling.  I drove the kids to school, headed to work or to run, picked the kids up, cooked dinner and headed to the kids’ activities.  I knew that the trees were changing colors and that the flowers were coming out but I didn’t take the time to stop and appreciate the changes taking place.

My kids have always had a keen sense of nature and been very observant of the natural world.  While eating breakfast, I always thought my daughter was day dreaming-well, it turns out she is looking around the backyard looking for anything new.  (That is why she saw the bard owl sleeping in the oak tree but I-sitting next to her the whole time-never saw it until she pointed it out.)  In reading Richard Louv’s book Last Child in the Woods, I learned about Howard Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences-including naturalist intelligence.  Maybe my kids haven’t been tainted by the world of technology yet, but I think they all fit well into this category.  They all have an amazing sense of the world around them and changes.  My son says he can smell rain coming-and he is usually correct.

We were lucky enough to have friends taking classes at latta plantation last year when we began homeschooling.  The first class my children took started an amazing journey for them to learn and explore their environment.  Without my intervention, they have taken the quote in my title and run with it.  As I look at the subjects they have chosen to research over the past year, the majority of the ideas are dealing with the earth, the animals, and natural resources.  They observe, collect, research, create and live in their environment in a way that has taught me a ton.

“Happiness is not a matter of intensity but of balance, order, rhythm and harmony.” Thomas Merton

The time has flown since I last sat down to write.  Two weeks ago, our life was chaotic and out of balance.  We have since slowed down and found our rhythm again.  Last week was finally back to “normal.”  Everyone awoke, ate, played and headed to the school room each day.  We had our morning meetings and everyone got to work.

Parks hard at work They are working! Sawyer in deep thought.

A few things helped.  Taking the time to review what has changed is so helpful when trying to uncover chaos.  In my last post, I took the time to look at what we were missing.  I realized we had lost our rhythm and not been going outside as much.  Last week we focused on these areas as well as finding some fun research.

Parks is taking a class called Animal Discoveries at Latta Plantation Nature Center.  His first class was on reptiles, and the second was on amphibians.  We are using this class to guide some of the children’s research, and to give Parks an opportunity to be the teacher (being the youngest, he doesn’t get the opportunity to teach as much as to be taught to).  For the past few weeks, the kids were supposed to be researching a reptile or amphibian of their choice.  Of course, nothing happened with the research other than hitting the library two weeks ago when I was hitting my head against a wall.  🙂  Last week, however, the kids got to work.  They all researched and learned and shared.

On Thursday, the kids went to Latta and took a look at the reptiles and amphibians.

On Thursday, the kids went to Latta and took a look at the reptiles and amphibians.

We ended the week by celebrating the winter solstice with a hike and some hot chocolate.  It was a cold hike but so worth the ending.  We watched the sunset over the lake with its beautiful shades of yellow, orange, pink and purple.  We are looking forward to the longer days to follow!

Using his binoculars, Parks is on a misson to find some birds.

Using his binoculars, Parks is on a mission to find some birds.

Waiting for the sun to set.

Waiting for the sun to set.

It's beautiful!

It’s beautiful!

Sunset on the night of the Winter Solstice.

Sunset on the night of the Winter Solstice.

The Magic of Nature

After many weeks of celebrating and reflecting, I imagined this week would be a week getting back to “normal.”  Of course, we all know what happens when one assumes.  The week started with another life celebration as Sawyer turned 8!  She was quite disappointed when she found out that her birthday was not considered a holiday, and we needed to still do some work-although, Monday’s are PE days so a good portion of her “work” was a lot of fun.

By Tuesday, I could feel the house enclosing on me and I needed to change school up a bit.  Thankfully, before I made any drastic changes, we all got out for a hike in the cool fall air at Latta.  It is amazing how much a hike can calm the nerves.  However-I still had to head back home!  We worked this week mainly out of our kitchen instead of the school room so that I could get some stuff done around the house while they worked.

It turned out to be a lot of fun and everyone enjoyed it.  As far as true school lessons, there were not as many as usual this week-but, we all experienced many life lessons this week.  We had discussions about the world as we finished reading Three Cups of Tea.  A book that has so much more to teach us than any text-book could.  We volunteered at Christmas in Davidson at the Ada Jenkins  (a center that I am a true believer in)Booth, which made them feel that they too could help others as “Dr.Greg” did in the book.  They had book club at the library.  We hiked and hiked and hiked finding our way back to our “normal” spot.

Maybe.

A discovery found on our hike

A discovery found on our hike

Stump-Sawyer saw this as beautiful

I love that Parks is peeking in!

I love that Parks is peeking in!

A Waldorf math on fractions that we started this week.

A Waldorf math on fractions that we started this week.

Serving Cider

Serving Cider

In front of the booth

In front of the booth