Monday, September 26, 2016

Williamsburg Summary & Review

Our family recently traveled to Williamsburg, Virginia for a week of hands-on history focused school.  Williamsburg, Jamestown and Yorktown have weeks during the fall and spring when they provide homeschool programs.  I planned our trip and made reservations six months in advance to ensure we would get into all the classes and tours we wanted to attend.  They had special rates for admission tickets and hotel making this an affordable trip for families.  The multi-day admission tickets to Williamsburg were $13.50 for youth and $19 for adults. The extra homeschool programs varied in price from $5-$15 per person per class.  The hotel was $85/night for a room that sleeps 5.

After our first day traveling, we stayed in Wytheville, Virginia and enjoyed a break from the car while we swam, ate take-out dinner and taught Abby and Enoch to play Settlers of Catan.  On our second day of traveling, we took a lunch break in the Shenandoah Mountains. We took a short detour on the Blue Ridge Parkway to the Humpback Rocks visitor center at milepost 5.8.  This prominent rock outcrop was a landmark guiding wagon trains in the 1840s. We visited their outdoor farm museum.  There was a single-room log cabin and a series of outbuildings that represented late nineteenth century living.  There were costumed interpreters making quilts, playing banjos, and cooking in the cabin.  It was especially fun to have my mom with us who grew up on a farm similar to this one.  The children were fascinated by the stories she had to tell when she was a child.    

We arrived Sunday evening at the Woodland Suites hotel, conveniently located right next to the Williamsburg visitor center.  I wasn’t sure what we would be getting for $85 per night, but I was pleasantly surprised.  This price included a continental breakfast, which I would describe as a few steps up from a Hampton Inn breakfast. They had fresh fruit, yogurt, bagels, muffins, cereal, waffles everyday and each day there was something different: bacon, sausage, eggs, biscuits and gravy or an omelette.  Included in the fee, we had access to on-site recreation and games: miniature golf, volleyball, shuffleboard, table tennis, horseshoes, and cornhole.  There was a heated saltwater pool and Splash Park.  Complimentary shuttle bus service to Williamsburg was another benefit.  We also took advantage of the 10% off discount at official Colonial Williamsburg stores.  The room we stayed in had two double beds (a little small when you’re used to a king-sized bed, but we made it alright) and a chair that pulls out into a small bed.  There was a restaurant, Huzzah, open for dinner after 5:00 on the property that we ate at twice.

Monday we spent the day at Jamestown Settlement.  The Settlement has four main areas to explore: a beautiful museum, replica’s of the three 1607 ships that sailed to Virginia to establish Jamestown, James Fort (1610-1614) and the Powhatan Indian Village.  There were several homeschool tours to choose from: A general family tour for all ages, a program for ages 7 and under that visited all four areas of the site, but had a special focus on the Indian village with age-appropriate activities, and a tour for ages 8 and up that toured three of the areas with a special focus on the fort.  We made reservations for the two themed tours that met at the same time. Elijah went with Ezra on the tour for younger children and my mom and I went on the tour with Abby and Enoch for older children.  We had a very knowledgeable guide who was excited about what he had to share.  The tickets we bought were good for the whole week, so we got detailed information about parts of the site, but were glad to know we could come back anytime during the week to explore the parts we didn’t get to spend as much time on.  I enjoyed the small size of the group and that the information was geared for older children and they were not distracted by younger siblings who had tuned out because it was over their head. Ezra loved his tour and was able to share a lot more about what he learned with us.  After the two hour tour, we ate lunch in the café. We were planning to go explore the parts we wanted to see, but it began to pour outside.  Instead, we visited the museum inside which was beautiful, had several hands on experiences and several well done movies to watch.  We came back Thursday afternoon to see the parts we wanted to explore in more detail.

Tuesday and Wednesday we rode the shuttle bus to Williamsburg.  Two days were just the right amount for us here.  I wish I would have had an opportunity to look at a map of colonial Williamsburg before the trip to get the lay of the land. It took me a little while to realize that all the buildings in red on the map could be entered with our admission ticket.  There was so much to see. We signed up for 6 homeschool classes over the 2 days.  Some, Ezra was not old enough to go to, so he had special time with Nana during those times.

The first class, Exceedingly Good Cook, was our favorite.  This was a hands on class where the students learned about how slaves cooked for their masters and for themselves.  Abby scooped oyster out of it’s shell and fried it in a spider pan on the hearth, Enoch used a mortar and pestle to grind herbs and they both helped make hoe cakes and beans.  They didn’t get to taste any of the food they made, but it smelled good.

Objects and the Stories They Tell was taught by one of the curators who is responsible for doing the research that helps determine what objects go into the houses.  She had just changed out the items in the Wythe house to reflect the two week period when George Washington stayed in this home to plan the strategy for the Battle of Yorktown.  Enoch got to hold the key and open the door to the house.  The students got to handle the objects in the house and she explained why she chose those items to go in the home.  There is even a special department in Williamsburg where they make the fake food that goes in the historical homes.

The Brick Wall class took place in the brick yard behind the Randolph property. They split the class into two small groups, so we had a lot of individual attention. At the first station, they made bricks in a mold and then they took their shoes off and stepped in the clay to soften and mix it together.  I do wish I would have known they’d get dirty. They had a place to wash feet, but no towels to dry with.  Next, they learned to lay brick two different ways and how they made mortar back then.  This was another favorite class that all three of our children could participate in.

The 5 of us visited the 3 million dollar stables during the Bit and Bridles program.  We saw the horses, different types of carriages and an ox-cart team and learned more about horses and saddles.  This was probably my least favorite program, but that might have been because we were so tired.

The Juba’s, Shakers & Bells program was at the Randolph house.  The teacher explained more about slave life and some of the ways they would rest and relax together by playing music.  This was one of the times the slaves really felt free for a few minutes. All of the children had an opportunity to play different African instruments that the slaves would have used using the different rhythms he taught. Ezra attended a Mother Goose class for his age group that Elijah attended with him. He seemed to enjoy it.

Tuesday evening behind the courthouse, there was a reenactment that lasted about 30 minutes called, “On to Yorktown and Victory” with George Washington on his horse, fife-and-drum march and the militia firing their guns.  This was a big highlight not to be missed.

One night we ate in Williamsburg at Christiana Campbell’s Tavern, George Washington’s favorite place to eat.  The food was good, but it was a on the pricier side.  We got more than just food, though. It was more like a “character dinner.”  A historical interpreter was there dressed as Christina Campbell.  She explained a lot of history about the building and George Washington.  There was also a gentlemen dressed up who played guitar at each table.

Thursday we visited Yorktown Victory Center where we had reservations for a homeschool tour.  This is run by the same people who run Jamestown. There is also a Yorktown National Park where the actual location of the battle was, but we did not visit this location.  The Victory Center is a brand new facility just opened recently.  We saw a very well done up-to-date video production in the theatre that gave an introduction to the American Revolution story of liberty and freedom.  There was a nice timeline of the American Revolution on the wall in the hallway.  The boys were able to try on costumes from the Revolutionary war uniforms from the English, French and Americans.  The homeschool tour included a visit to the classroom with a power point presentation, the continental army encampment and a farm.  Our favorite part was the army encampment where there was a presentation on spies, learning about the guns as they were shot, how to march with the soldiers and how military doctors would help the soldiers.

A few tips to remember for the trip: bring rain gear and think of ways to save money on food. Thankfully, we came prepared for rainy weather with umbrellas, ponchos, and rain boots.  It rained Monday through Thursday.  I do wish we had brought extra socks, though.  I saw some families who had brought a crockpot to cook taco meat in their room during the day. They ate tacos at the tables in the lobby of the hotel for dinner.  We had a fantastic week in Virginia.  We learned so much and I would recommend this type of family field trip to others who are interested.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Polar arctic

The last 5 weeks have been a bit tough. Ezra's 18 months old now and I"m trying to figure out how to homeschool with a little guy who wants me to hold him most of the time and who likes to climb up on tables and play in the toilets. He has also started screaming at the top of his lungs to communicate. He knows what he wants and gets so frustrated that he can't tell me. He does have some words and a few signs, but the problem with the signs is that I have to be looking at him to see what he wants. Most of the time, I"m looking somewhere else, so in order to get my attention he screams. He's also adjusting his nap routine from two down to one. There have been a few days when he only slept 30 minutes the whole day. On this day, he did not nap at all. The kids were piled on the couch watching a show and Ezra went right to sleep leaning on Abby!

So, I'm thankful for a break this week and for a chance to look through my pictures and remember that we did learn and we did have fun! If I don't make an effort to remember the good times, it is too easy to only focus on the difficult ones and fall into a trap thinking I can't do this.

We checked out a few fun books about the Arctic from the library.

Elijah helped Abby to make an igloo out of marshmallows. It turned out so nicely! The glue helped it harden, so I guess it will be around awhile. We set up a little play scene with Artic animals, the igloo and an iceberg from a game we have.

I froze different size containers of ice. I put them on trays to serve as icebergs. It made another great playscape for the artic animals.

We watched "The March of the Penguins" for a family movie night. We took turns being the Mommy and Daddy penguin passing the egg to each other. We used a small ball for the egg.

We made a few artic and winter crafts. I can take or leave the crafts, but I absolutley love painting with Abby. I gathered the supplies for a few nice art lessons to do with her so I could just grab them when we had some time for just the two of us. There is something about art that makes my heart sing!

We used water colors and masking tape to create winter birch trees. Elijah and I used to take watercolor lessons together before we had children. I got out our good watercolor paints and brushes for this lesson.

Abby does lots of drawings on her own. I thought this one was particularly good. She got a unicorn for christmas and wanted to draw that.

Sometimes I feel like Enoch gets lost in the middle of everything. He asks quiet a bit if he can "do school with me." If I can get Abby to play with Ezra in another room for a bit, then I can have some time to sit down at the table with him for focused time together. I've started doing a few of the lessons at the very beginning of the Right Start Math program I am using with Abby.

We recently got an ipad which I am really enjoying. It's a great tool for school. There are so many educational apps to add. It's nice to let one child play w/ it while I work with another.

Enoch doesn't have much time for hugging, but Elijah happened to be at the right place at the right time to snap this picture. I will cherish it!

Abby also got in on the action of teaching Enoch. She made little connect the dot letters for Enoch on the white board for him to practice writing his letters. He loved it!

Abby has really wanted to play a lot lately. I'm so thankful she has two brothers to play with, they have such a great time being creative together.

We took a few field trips. The Adventure Science Center currently has a nice exhibit about animals. There are lots of ways to pretend there, it was perfect for the little ones.

Doctor Abby and Doctor Ella are ready for surgery

They even had someone demonstrating really neat science experiments.

Abby and I joined a school day at the Schermerhorn Symphony Center about Aaron Copeland's music.

Our family went to Centennial park to feed the ducks and geese on a warm Saturday morning, Ezra was super excited about seeing real animals.

We're a part of a group that meets twice a month. It was my month to plan the activities for our group. We had a Valentine party at the Downtown library. The other moms were able to take their little ones to the story time while a few helpers and We did some really fun Valentine themed educational activities. Of course they also exchanged valentines at the end.

Okay, this was a good reminder, we did have lots of fun the past five weeks. I am looking forward to a break this week, and then we move on to the African Savannah!

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Homeschooling is Hard

After a long Christmas break from school, which we all enjoyed so much, Abby has started to show a little resistance to our "sit down and learn" time. As I've sat with her and asked her about what's going on in her heart when I see resistance creeping in, she has simply stated, "I'd just rather play." I believe she does enjoy learning, but there are times when she'd just rather play, which seems perfectly normal for a six year old! I want to just accept this for what it is, a normal 6 year old who loves playing, and not take it personally, but it's really hard somedays. I think there is a balance of accepting where she's at and relaxing my expectations and also helping her understand the beauty and freedom of homeschooling and how blessed she is to be able to stay home and learn with me. I don't want to guilt her into learning. One of my main goals for her this year was to continue to love to learn. I don't want to squelch the joy of learning by holding my expectations too high and putting too much pressure on her just because I like the satisfaction of checking off another one of my boxes on my planned list.

I think I'm going through a little homeschool "burnout" which I think is pretty normal this time of year. We're about 100 days into school, so we're more than half way to our required 180 days. I had laid out a plan of 4 school days per week so we could have one day off. I struggle with perfectionism and it seem that I can't help but "sneak in" an extra day of school on our planned day off so I can be ahead of my planned out schedule. I was such a weirdo in college that actually finished my papers early because I wanted to avoid the stress of last minute deadlines. I'm realizing I need to scale back, lower my expectation and take my planned break. This is a great chance to recall why we are doing this. My main focus is developing a strong positive relationship with my children, loving them well, teaching them how to rely on the Lord for everything. All the "school stuff" is actually secondary on my list of priorities.

It's also a little difficult to balance my two roles of teacher and mother. I'm finding it difficult to just play with my children for the sake of playing. I always have this pressure I put on myself to make everything educational. I do want our lives to be learning in everything we are doing, but I want it to be JOYFUL!

As I've processed through these feelings for a few days, the Lord has brought to my mind how He has cared and provided for me through this rough patch where I've honestly just wanted to run away from my house, far away! I'm tired! This feels hard! He's gently reminding me not to be afraid of things that are hard. He will give me what I need. I've wanted to just escape, but He will restore my soul when I come. Two specific ways He's provided have been through a sweet neighbor who loves to invite Abby and Enoch over to play frequently. This has given them great social interaction and a much needed break for me. Also a 12 year old homeschool girl has expressed interest in getting some practice caring for young children. She and her mother have asked if they can come and play with all three children while I take a break.

One more week of learning about Polar animals and then a week break...which I plan to take!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Homeschool Woods

We finished up 5 weeks of preschool on the woods before Thanksgiving. I waited too late to write this so I don’t really remember many thoughts or feelings about those 5 weeks. I do want to write about a conversation I had with a friend today who expressed interest in homeschooling her child but said she just wasn’t sure if she had the right personality for it. I’ll preface the rest of this paragraph by saying I think school choices for families are very personal and I am so thankful each of us in America has the opportunity to choose what we think is best for our own children. My husband and I are not in a position to decide what is right for any other family accept our own. Now that I’ve gotten that out of the way, I don’t believe that you have to have a certain personality in order to teach your child at home. In the short time we’ve been doing this, I’ve been blessed with a wonderful community of other homeschooling families, and it’s been beautiful to see how each mom has their own style in how they teach their children. Some are “fly by the seat of their pants” type who can turn anything into a learning activity anywhere anytime of day. Some prefer lots of structure and order to their day, they study certain subjects on certain days. Some of us are somewhere in between. It’s easy to look at another family and think, “I can’t do that.” And maybe you can’t do what their doing, but God made you your child’s parent and you know them better than anyone else in the world. You can figure out how to teach your child if you have the desire no matter what your personality is like. We don’t all have to be the same!

If you look at a blog like mine and see a small window into what we’re doing and you’re discouraged because you think you couldn’t do it like this, the great news is... you don’t have to! You don’t have to be like any other family that you see. You are free to create your own rhythm of what works for you and your children.

If you hear God whispering to your heart about home education, I would encourage you to continue asking Him about what that would look like for your family. I would also highly recommend the book, “Education the WholeHearted Child,” by Clay and Sally Clarkson. It’s the best book I’ve read on the subject, very comprehensive.

Okay, now back to the woods! Since I don’t remember much, it’s all kind of a blur so I’m just putting in pictures and a description of the pictures.

Homeschool Woods

Some of the library books we enjoyed.

More book about woods we read.

We love the magnetic wall Elijah painted for us. Enoch identified animals and Abby read the word and turned the card over.

Abby created her own scene for her woodland animals to live in. Lots of pretend play went on here at her desk, I love it!

Filling out her animal notebook page

“Making Words” file folder game...I love Pinterest.

This was fun! We turned leaves into animals. We turned some into ornaments to give away for Christmas.

Abby made her own “tree book” out of paper lunch bags. Too cute, again love pinterest! She wrote and drew about the different parts of a tree.

Elijah took Abby and Enoch on their first “Father Child Campout.” He’s hoping to make this an annual event. They had such a great time! They roasted hot dogs and marshmallows for dinner, drank hot chocolate, and had pancakes and bacon for breakfast. They were super cold at night, but they have wonderful memories of their time together. Elijah said was really impressed with all the leaves and trees that Abby could identify. Ezra and I stayed nice and warm at home together.

Enoch and Abby made up their own “Donut Shop” game. In this picture, Enoch was the store keeper. Abby had a dessert plate with a vowel on it, she used coins to buy a donut, then laid the donut over the vowel and read the word. A perfect math and reading game! The abacus is from the “Right Start” math program we are using. She used this to help her count the correct amount of money.

For a reading incentive this time we put up a tree with fall leaves. For each book she read she took a leaf off. There was supposed to be a reward at the end when all the leaves had fallen, but we didn’t finish it before it was time for Christmas decorations to go up. Oh, well!

This was my favorite part of the 5 weeks. We spent a lot of time outside in nature knowing that winter was coming soon and we wouldn’t be able to get out as much. Abby’s been identifiying and pressing leaves in her journal. She writes the date she found it, where she found it, the name of the leaf and sometimes something interesting that she read about the tree in her field guide.

We were collecting some leaves in the parking lot of Publix one day (we needed some for our animal/leaf craft last minute, Publix was handy)! A man in a service van stopped us and asked if we were working on a school project. I said yes we were. He said, “I want to know what school she goes to because my daughter doesn’t learn anything like that in school, nothing practical, their just teaching her to take a test.” I told him we were teaching her at home. We proceeded to have an interesting conversation. He asked a few questions about it and had thought that you had to have a college degree to homeschool.

Beautiful mushroom she found, look at those sweet little hands holding it! We brought it inside, cut off the stem, put it upside down on a piece of paper, covered it with a bowl and waited a few days. Then we lifted it off the paper and saw the pattern that the spores had left.

Throwing rocks in the river on the trail in our neighborhood.

Using a bird call she earned at the Nature Center Trade Station. The Warner Parks Nature Center has a program where you can bring in an item from nature, tell about it and receive points. The more you know about the object, the more points you get. Then you can save your points and trade them in for prizes. She’s gotten several field guides, stamps, and now a bird call, how cool! It really works, they answered her back.

My favorite memory during this time. As the wind blew, we’d all run trying to catch the leaves in the air that fell. We also played a fun game we made up: tree tag. We’d play chase, then I’d call out a word (deciduous, coniferous, broadleaf, evergreen) and that would be base. So they’d have to find the correct kind of tree and get there in order to be safe.

LOVE the nature center. Here’s Abby and Enoch setting out birdseed for the birds and squirrels.

Here we are behind the bird blind quietly watching the birds to eat the food they’d set out (accept for the times Ezra was making a few screams!)

There have been a few times when Elijah has taken all three kids hiking on the weekend so I could have time to work on something or to take a break. Sweet, special memories with their Daddy.

Nature walk activity

Ezra loves to put anything in and out of containers.

Enoch’s still not napping, so at times he falls asleep on the couch. Ezra wasn’t even able to wake him up.

I made a busy box of acitivites to occupy Ezra. Have I mentioned I love pinterest! This is just a bunch of sponge rollers he takes the plastic part off, when he gets older he can thread it back on, a precursor to threading beads on a string.

Enoch doing one of his busy bags: making polygons

We had hibernation day when we learned about bears. We set up a tent inside and read books about bears in the tent. They pretended to hibernate during the winter, then woke up super duper hungry bears in the spring time.

They had an indoor smores snack.

Owl craft

When learning about bees, I hid a cup of nectar (juice) inside of the flower pot. They used straws to suck the nectar out of the flowers and transferred it to their hive upstairs. This proved to be a little messy, but that’s okay, it was fun!

Sucking “nectar” from flowers.

My favorite field trip was visiting Beaverdam Creek Farms, who deliver our CSA basket each week. It was so neat to see where the vegetables we eat come from. We especially enjoyed visiting the farm with two other families from our neighborhood. The children planted lettuce seeds in the greenhouse. Our kids play regularly with these children. Yes our children are social and have regular interaction with others! (that’s always a question asked of homeschoolers).

Picking and smelling herbs.

Trish shows how they weed the rows in the garden.

Hayride down to see the cows and more of their property.

Abby attended a Warner Park Nature Center class, “Budding Botanist.” We are so thankful for the many wonderful and FREE programs the Nature Center offers.

We visited the local fire department to learn about fire prevention. After we toured the station, met the firemen and got an explanation about their equipment, one of the moms led us in some fun games and crafts reinforcing what we learned. My favorite activity was when they crawled low under the smoke (a sheet that moms held), used a phone to call 911, used a “fire extinguisher” (silly string) to put out a fire, then ran to a mailbox to wait for an adult.

A group we are a part of visited a nursing home to encourage the residents. The children recited two poems and sang some songs, then passed out cards and visited with the residents.

My grandmother, “Moni” and Abby looking through old family photos.

We enjoy having friends over to “do school” with us, too. Micah, Owen and Abby played a math game together and read about the concept of a Googol. Micah LOVES numbers!

We had friends over for school one day. They did christmas crafts, math games, reading activities, recited poems and scriptures, decorated Christmas cookies, played and stayed for lunch. So fun!

Math games

Decorating Christmas cookies.

These homeschoolers get plenty of social interaction! They make up all kinds of elaborate stories to act out using costumes and all!

Neighbors here for math games.