Thoughtful Thursday Week 41 – Chattanooga

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Since we have a membership at The Muse in Knoxville and we heard so many good things about the children’s museum in Chattanooga, we decided we should put our membership to work for us. The Muse and Chattanooga’s Creative Discovery Museum are part of the ASTC network – American Science and Technology Centers. If you get a membership with one, you get free admission elsewhere.

Creative Discovery Museum Chattanooga

The four of us in front of the Chattanooga CDM

We have already been to the Discovery Place in Charlotte, NC. I decided that October would be the month to visit the Creative Discovery Museum in Chattanooga.


For your information, there are two different networks of museums for children (besides zoos and aquariums): ASTC and ACM. The ASTC network is different from the ACM network. ACM is the Association of Children’s Museums. ASTC is the Association of Science and Technology Centers.

Your membership card should have the logo of the network of which you are a member. Chattanooga’s Discovery Continue reading »

Afternoon Tea at Buckhorn Inn

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Bukhorn Inn, a bed and breakfast in Gatlinburg which provides fine accommodations and dinner by reservation only, hosted an afternoon tea today, featuring a speech by Dr. David Woodfine, the retired High Steward to Harris Manchester College, University of Oxford, and former butler and host to royals and celebrities.

With Dr. David Woodfine, at the Buckhorn Inn, for an afternoon tea

With Dr. David Woodfine, at the Buckhorn Inn, for an afternoon tea

Dr. Woodfine told us stories of attending to Princess Margaret, Lady Diana, Prince Charles and others. He was funny, warm, and very gracious. He is on a US tour with Dr. Mark Hilliard of Hilliard Institute. One of the divisions of Hilliard Institute is their press, the organization that publishes Dr. Woodfine’s books. All proceeds from his books go to Ethiopian well construction, by the way.

Boy and girl with John Mellor at Buckhorn Inn

With John Mellor, the innkeeper, also from England

We had tea, of course, and the kids managed to sit more or less still and quiet for 95% of his talk. Buckhorn Inn served cucumber sandwiches, lemon bars, and scones with jam and clotted cream. It was a lovely afternoon in a peaceful, elegant setting, listening to stories about English royalty and their high manners.

Boy and girl reading on a couch in a private library

Enjoying the Buckhorn Inn Library

Dr. Woodfine even had a story that related to Downton Abbey. Charles Blake, of course, is the dashing character who threw mud at Lady Mary in the pigsty. He is played by Julian Ovenden. Julian’s father is a personal chaplain to the Queen. His name is John Ovenden. And he had lunch at Dr. Woodfine’s house six weeks ago.  Continue reading »

Washington D.C. Field Trip

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Unfortunately, my father passed away a couple of months ago. As a result, I had to do some paperwork at the Romanian Embassy in Washington DC. My husband and I decided to add a few days to the trip and turn it into a family vacation or an educational field trip. Homeschoolers never leave learning mode.

Our children went through Virginia and the District of Columbia for the first time. They rode the metro for the first time. They went to the Smithsonian for the first time.

We only had time for the Museum of Natural History and the Air and Space Museum. They saw the Capitol building and the Washington monument. They experienced a big city atmosphere: the old, tall brick buildings, the impressive monuments and statues, the homeless begging in the streets. Daddy and I spent most of the time explaining to them what they were seeing.

I used to like living in a big city, but I was single then. Now, you could not pay me enough to make me move into a big city. This trip reminded me of that lifestyle and how much I do not want it anymore.

We also took them to the Romanian Embassy where it was nice to meet other Romanians. It was a good experience for my children to hear others address them in Romanian. We don’t have any Romanian friends nearby.

Of course, I am recording these three days we spent in DC as school days, for great learning was had by all.

And the Winner Is…

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… Mitzi Hendrich of Maryville. Congratulations, Mitzi! The Dollywood tickets are coming your way. Dollywood is a great homeschooling field trip – not just an amusement park. In some areas, it’s like stepping back in time 100 years. What a great way to learn American history.

Announcing the winner of a Dollywood ticket giveaway

In case you don’t know what I am talking about, I am giving away two Dollywood tickets to a blog subscriber. More information here.

Happy homeschooling!

26 Tips for an Easier Homeschooling Field Trip

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Two weeks ago we took three homeschooling field trips in one week. I have been shuttling small children to appointments for six years now. I have always used a mental checklist of things to look into before leaving the house. It seems I keep adding to it every time we go somewhere.

Now that I have a blog, I decided to write it all down. Here are my 26 tips for an easier homeschooling field trip:

1. Check the weather prognosis the night before. We have had cooler weather recently (63F) and so I figured I should wear long sleeves and long pants for the TVA Fair field trip. If I had known it was going to be 80F, I would have worn shorts and short sleeves.

2. Dress for the occasion. An event called “Down on the Farm” calls for sports shoes or boots. A science class at Ripley’s Aquarium, in air conditioning, might call for an extra layer, at least for me.

3. Download and print a venue map from their website. Familiarize yourself with the entrance(s), exit(s) and bathroom locations. These days, terrible things happen in malls, museums and other benign public places. Have the map handy while you walk around.

4. Check the schedule of the venue, especially if you are there for a shorter program. Do they close for lunch? Do they close for cleaning? The TVA Fair closed down the rides between 3-4pm. If I had known about it, we would have ridden a few rides first and then picnic.

5. Find out how to get ride tokens ahead of time. Knowledge is power. When you have to stand in line in the hot sun, it is good to know where the next token-selling booth is.

6. Check your gas tank the night before.

7. Pack changes of clothes and shoes for the children and for yourself. Children spill drinks all the time, sometimes on mommy.

8. Bring some reading materials as well as crayons and drawing pads. If you get stuck in traffic or if your destination is more than twenty minutes away, your children need to be occupied in the car. Mine like to thumb through pictures books and doodle.

9. Play classical music CDs in the car. It trains their ears to appreciate good quality music.

10. Think about investing in traveling pillows or use the ones from home. My children do not take a nap anymore at the house, but, occasionally, they fall asleep in the car.

11. Play CDs with stories or foreign language CDs. Do not underestimate car schooling.

12. Use sunscreen. If your field trip is mainly outdoors, have it handy so you can apply every two hours.

13. Wear hats with wide brims, if it’s sunny.


My Children at the TVA Fair

14. Get rain gear – think small umbrellas or ponchos – if it’s overcast.

15. Take along their favorite stuffed animal, for the car.

16. Explain to the children ahead of time what the schedule will look like. If there is a gift shop and you do not want to buy anything, tell them so before you get there. Some places make you exit through the gift shop. When your children start asking for a cute stuffed pink octopus, you can remind them (and yourself) of your discussion.

17. Don’t forget your camera.

18. Ditch the purse. Carry a backpack instead.

19. Bring a stroller if you have a child under five.

20. Have cash on hand. You never know.

21. Bring business/calling cards. Sometimes you will meet new homeschooling moms on a field trip. It is hard to write down a phone number while supervising children running around. Producing a business/calling card out of your pocket is quick, easy and professional. is a great source for any type of cards.

22. Save the coordinator’s number in your phone so you can call her if anything comes up.

23. Pray before, during and after the trip, especially if you see everybody getting tired and cranky.

24. Watch your attitude. Your children will imitate you. If you are enthusiastic, they will be, too.

25. Give yourself fifteen extra minutes to get to your destination.

26. Don’t forget to have fun.

Homeschooling is such an adventure. I am stretching myself out of my comfort zone and embracing the challenge of field trips. Veteran homeschooling moms swear by them as educational opportunities, so I’d better learn to enjoy field trips quickly. What is your experience with field trips? Please leave me a comment below. This post is linked up to

Moms Mustard Seeds

Political Homeschool Field Trip

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When homeschooling small children, one must ponder before planning a field trip, “Is this really going to teach them anything? Or are we going to have to leave in the middle of the program?”

The Kids and I

The kids and I

Along those lines, you may think children under six do not get much out of a political field trip and you may be right. But we know children are constantly learning and internalizing their environment. So they must get something

They hear the band before the speech, they see the flags, they listen to the national anthem. They hear a man speak and people clapping at certain points. They play with children they had never met before – socialization is no problem, of course. They enjoy the fresh air and the sunshine. Even if they do not pay attention, they get the idea that this event is special enough for mom and dad to attend it. It must be important.

The Band

The band

That is exactly what happened last week when we attended a political rally during which a Sevier County resident announced he was running for Congress. I could tell my children did not understand what happened exactly, but they knew it was important enough for us to be there.

Three-year-old Attends A Political Rally

Three-year-old attends political rally

To be fair, we do not know exactly what this candidate stands for, because we had to focus more on our children’s playing with other children to make sure nobody ran into the streets. The event was in downtown Sevierville, in front of the courthouse, and cars were everywhere. It actually felt like going to church, where we cannot get but bits and pieces of the sermon in between shushing our children.

I wanted to take my family to this event because I had never attended anything like this in person. I wanted to see how the kids would react to it, too.

The other reason we went was to support homeschooling mom Sabrina Gray, whose son got invited to sing the national anthem. He did a great job, too. He is one talented young man. Write his name down – Elijah Gray – because I think you will hear it again. He is a senior in high school and has been homeschooled all his life.

National Anthem

Elijah singing the National Anthem

This was the third of our field trips last week and I will be back to share some tips on how to make a homeschooling field trip easier on you and your students. I linked this post to


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Homeschooling Is Like Walking a Pony

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The second homeschool field trip we took last week was to the Exotic Petting Zoo in Sevierville. Of course, there’s always an incident when children visit a petting zoo. Two years ago, a camel nibbled on my son’s hand while he was feeding it. This year, my daughter got licked by a huge white horse which stretched over the fence to get to her head. It scared her and she cried, asking to leave right away.

My son started crying too, being afraid for his sister. I calmed them down by taking them to the zebra and emu area. They continued to have fun and even mustered enough courage to go inside the goat pen. I sent them in with my mom, because – how can I put it? – I am not exactly a goat pen fan. But my mom grew up on a farm and she enjoyed it.

However, when the children got pony rides, guess who had to hold the reins? My mom was afraid the ponies might kick the children off and she would not know what to do. I was “it” by default. Challenging, but I rose to the occasion.

The little tutorial they gave me in the beginning helps. They mentioned the ponies knew what to do. If they stopped, I was to pull gently on the rein.

They gave my son the biggest pony. After two rounds, when it stopped, I pulled on the rein to get it to go. It did not move. I looked at its back and realized what was happening. I explained to my son the pony was relieving itself and we waited patiently.

The smallest and oldest pony, age 22 ½, was deemed appropriate for my three-year-old daughter. It did fine for a bit, then it wanted to nibble on grass. I yanked the rein and it obeyed me. I got more confident and ended up enjoying the experience. I even wrote my next newspaper column in my head while I walked the course three times with each child.

Which made me think that walking a pony with a child on it is a lot like raising and homeschooling that child: scary, unpredictable, challenging, involving food and its elimination, and, well, sometimes you have to yank the rein gently to keep them on the right track. In the process, if you can relax, you can have fun and do some writing, too. This post is linked up to

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Down on the Farm Field Trip

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Last week, we took not one, not two, but three field trips. We are involved in three homeschool support groups. We pick and choose different activities each group does based on our interests, ages, and calendar.

It just so happened that last week all three groups organized a field trip we were interested in. I will tell you all about them in the next three blog posts, this being the first one.

We went to the TVA Fair in Knoxville for a program called “Down on the Farm” with our Blount Home Education Association (BHEA) support group. For this particular event, 234 participants signed up. Yes, that was a large group. Glad I was not the organizer.

Once I registered online for this field trip, I received the instructions:

(1) park in the field in front of the TVA Fair Grounds and

(2) say the magic words “Down on the Farm with BHEA” wherever there is a checkpoint.

It worked. We got in for free. Past the entrance, we simply looked for someone holding a “BHEA” sign and followed them.

BHEA Group

BHEA Group

After we got seated in the arena, a very funny juggler entertained us. Then, one of the cows gave us an elimination show. It was so intense, the kids in the lower levels almost got splattered. They quickly moved out of the way.

The organizers split our large crowd into ten smaller groups simply by bringing in ten fair staff holding a number sign. The closest sign to us was the number of our group. Somebody gave a signal somewhere. The people with number signs started walking.

We followed our leader. Each small group was lead to a teaching station. When the whistle blew, we moved to the next station. We felt a bit – well – herded like cows, but hey, it worked and it moved us from point A to point B.

Here were the ten stations: sheep and wool, bugs, corn-soybean-wheat theory, corn-soybean-wheat tubs to play in, bee keeping, pizza ingredients, cows, chickens, rabbits, horses. My children pet the animals and took everything in.

It was hot and dusty, tiring and, at times, boring. But, overall, they had fun and learned a few things.



The fair staff were middle school and high school students from different area public schools, private schools and homeschools. I was amused when an elderly lady asked the girl at the sheep pen, “Did you kids have to get out of school today to do this?”

The answer came respectfully, “We homeschool, so this counts as school for us.” The facial expression of the lady who asked the question spoke volumes about the clash of concepts that had just happened. She was stunned. All she could say back was, “Oh, OK.”

I get that older generations in particular have a hard time accepting homeschooling, especially if they grew up attending quality little schools. I just wish the older generations could keep an open mind about, well, anything, including educational choices. And that they could be as gracious as this lady, no matter how weird homeschooling sounds to them. Wishful thinking… I linked this post up to

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