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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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.

“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.