Hiking Our Hearts Out

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Once a week, we go hiking with a group of local homeschoolers. It helps that we live five minutes from the Great Smoky Mountain National Park, but we go other places, too. Last week, it was Panther Creek State Park. Next week, it will be Seven Islands Birding State Park.

Fern Branch Falls

Fern Branch Falls

The thing is, the National Park is so immense, some of the trails are still an hour from my house. So even if the destination is in the Smokies, we still have to drive for 30 minutes or longer. What can I say? America is big. That’s what this Israeli family told us last week, when we were at Grotto Falls and started chatting with them. “America is big.” They could not believe how long it would take them to get from point A to point B. Continue reading »

Wild and Free – Facebook Live

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This week I spoke about the Wild and Free Community. It is a co-op of sorts, but without books. We just go hiking. We keep the group small, no more than 15-20 families, depending on the number of children in each family. That is already too large to manage. Imagine a group of 30-50 people walking around through a city park or a trail in a state park.

Andrews Bald

My children on the Andrews Bald hike last week

Realistically speaking, not everybody can make it every week. Therefore, we have never had all 15 families show up. The biggest I have seen it in my 14 months of Wild and Free was maybe 7 or 8 mamas with their children. Continue reading »

Hiking in the Smokies

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We joined Wild + Free Great Smoky Mountains last August and it has been a great experience. These other homeschooling families may have different approaches and convictions, but we all respect each other and find common ground.

Mom and Daughter

Mom and Daughter at The Sinks

If nothing else, nature unites us. We can all find many things to discuss about the natural things we run into. Then, we talk about food. Some of them have older children, who have gone to college, so we talk about that. I always have lots of questions about scholarships, test prep, and the college atmosphere. Religion is another thing we can discuss, as long as we deal in generalities. We stay away from politics – it seems like this topic has gotten more volatile than ever in our country. Continue reading »

Lessons from the Eighth Week

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In no particular order, last week we learned the following:

  • We still have days when we do not get the basics done. While I accept it on an extraordinary day, I fear this has happened a bit too much lately. We will reduce the screen time to 30 minutes per day, Monday-Friday, in an effort to increase their focus and attention span. On the weekends, they can still have one hour per day. We announced this during a family meeting and the kids took it well. No rebellion. I think they were scared they were going to get 0 screen time M-F, because I mentioned we knew families who did this. But then, when they heard they still got 30 minutes, they breathed a sigh of relief.
The Nina and the Pinta field trip

The Nina and the Pinta field trip

  • No fall break because we already take a break from instruction once a week, for Wild + Free. My daughter heard Knox County has a fall break next week, so no orchestra practice. She perked up, asking when we take our fall break. Sorry, there will be none. We already take only four days a week for book learning. We spend the fifth day with our local Wild+Free group, hiking or experiencing a nature destination. I never thought about explaining why we do not have a fall break. It goes to show how important communication is in any system, including a homeschool.
My kids next to the Pinta

My kids next to the Pinta

  • We learn life skills, a.k.a. adulting, as we travel to Wild + Free destinations. My son and I learned the hard way how to communicate as he gave me directions from the GPS on my phone last week. The lady said, “Turn left, then right.” I said, “Look at the map. What does she mean? I have several left turns available.” My son said, “She means to turn left, then left again.” I made a U-turn. He said, “No, not there. The next left.” We spent the next ten minutes explaining to each other what we meant and how we should communicate in the future. If you think this is not an important life skill, think again. When was the last time you had a “conversation” with your spouse about how she gave directions?
Playing with sticks and leaves

After a picnic, they played with sticks and leaves.

  • The Nina and the Pinta field trip taught us lots of things about Columbus. I wrote down two books from the tour guide and plan to get them soon: Columbus: The Four Voyages, by Laurence Bergren, and Admiral of the Ocean Sea: A Life of Christopher Columbus, by Samuel Eliot Morison.

Lessons from the Seventh Week

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This seventh week taught us several things. First, children will eat vegetables they pick out at the grocery store. One day, after a routine doctor’s appointment, I took the kids to Kroger and showed them all the fruits and vegetables available. They knew most of them, but things like bok choy, artichoke hearts, and turnips looked unfamiliar to them.

Fort Loudon

My children at Fort Loudon Historic State Area

We do not use those veggies in our dishes, but I wanted them to know they exist. I have cooked turnips before, but I did not like them, so I stopped buying them. Plus, they remind me of rutabaga, and I have some bad memories about rutabaga. The less said about it, the better. Continue reading »