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!

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Nature Study and Outdoor Education for Exciting Adventures

Nature-Quotes-40

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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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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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!

 

Valentine’s as a Homeschooler

Typically my kiddos do not think much about the holidays and how theses days were celebrated while attending school.  I think that is because most holidays are family celebrations.  Valentine’s Day, however, has brought about some angst for the second year in a row.  They started talking about it in January!

While in school, the PTA hosted a huge dance the night before Valentine’s Day each year.  My kids loved this party.  Who wouldn’t?  They had cookies, juice, disco lights, fun music and all of their school friends.  It was a blast.

So this year, I tried to set up a dance party for the kids but the facility fee was too high.  We opted for an afternoon at the park.  We had thirty kiddos RSVP that were coming to the dance/park.  It was a beautiful, although cold, afternoon.  Six kids came to party (all from one family).  So a total of 9 kids-who ate enough candy for 30 and who played not stop for two hours- were there to celebrate.

I wasn’t able to recreate the Valentine’s Day dances of their past, and I am not sure why I tried.  We (as in homeschooling families) read over and over not to try to recreate the classroom in your home.  Why did I try to recreate this experience for them?  I guess even though I am comfortable in our choice to homeschool, sometimes I want my kids to experience the typical school activities.

I was disappointed in the turn out but the kids didn’t think anything of it.  They had a terrific time.  They made Valentine’s throughout the week and distributed them to friends and family.  They received Valentine’s from people who they truly appreciate and one’s that they will each treasure.

On the actual Valentine’s Day, instead of spending the day in a classroom having a Valentine’s Day party; my kids were exploring on a beach, finding deer tracks and enjoying the outdoors.  I am pretty sure they didn’t miss a thing.

“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.