Homeschooling Along the Gulf Coast

So far, we’ve homeschooled our children in Texas, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida.  I hope we don’t have to move again…sorry Louisiana.

My boys have had some incredible experiences.

We started homeschooling when we moved to Mississippi.  We hooked up with two fantastic support groups: Olive Branch Christian Homeschool Educators and the Hernando-Nesbit Homeschool group.  Outside of group activities I took the boys on lots of field trips in Memphis TN.   We learned how to be birders and kept journals and a lift list.  We loved going to the Lichterman Nature Center.   I bought us each a copy of a nature journal in their gift shop.  The idea of the book is to return to the trails during each season of the year and answer questions about particular stops along the trails.  By the end of the year you have a completed book with nature notes, observations and drawings.  I remember on one day we had a lot of fun because we picked off the ground (in Autumn) as many different kinds of leaves we could find.  We stopped at the pole barn with the picnic tables and did rubbings or drawings of the leaves in another book we kept, searched through a field guide to identify them and label them in the book.  The boys loved it.  Other things we enjoyed were: the Memphis Zoo (we’d concentrate on a different section each visit), the Pink Palace Science Museum and IMAX theatre, the ducks at the Peabody Hotel, trips to Little Rock and their museums, and Shiloh battle field.

We moved to TX in June of one year and left that October.  During that time, the boys learned to identify more birds, since we were in a different fly way.  We went to NASA and the science museum in Houston; took trips to Austin and saw the bats, the black swan and swam in Barton Springs; went to San Antonio to visit and learn about Missions including the Alamo.  We traveled down the coast to Corpus Christi and Aransas National Wildlife Refuge to see the Whooping Cranes (we saw one on the way but none along the coast).  Did you know the artist that made the Presidents Park in Williamsburg (www.presidentspark.org) has his studio in Houston?  We visited the studio/warehouse and saw some of the president busts.  It was so cool.  Also on the grounds were sculptures of the Beatles http://farm2.static.flickr.com/1407/549618589_7fa0b47543.jpg  and some other famous people. We lived only an hour from the Blue Bell ice cream factory so we made an effort to get there for a tour and a free taste.  Yum.  When we started school that August we joined the West Houston Homeschool Educators.  The group offered a lot to its members in terms of support, activities and enrichment/co-op classes.  Too bad we had to leave them.  The moms I had met were super.

In Florida we spent our time either with our noses in our books or on the beach learning about beach and marine life.  I do think we spent more time outdoors.  We joined Learning and Families homeschool group.  I’m still a member, only with website access.  What a fantastic group of families and the support they provide was outstanding: co-ops (which we didn’t do), field trips (which we did a lot of) and support meetings and gatherings for the kids.  The boys also joined a 4-H club and entered projects in the county fair.  In Florida we studied more birds, learned to fish, kayak, siened in the bay, kept a marine fish tank (which we still have).  We attended wonderful exhibits at GWIZ (the science museum), Ringling Museum, and Selby Gardens.  We were chased by flamingoes, collected shark teeth and sand dollars (I have over 300).  We experienced tropical storms and hurricanes off the coast (most notable Gustav and Ivan);  found octopus and man-0′- wars on the beach; kept watch over the nesting snowy plovers.  We made it to Sanibel, Captiva, San Marcos Islands; traveled through sugar cane farms to West Palm Beach.  And, attended spring training baseball games. 

We’re members of the Lake Forest Homeschool Club in Alabama: a great group of families.  I suggest anyone homeschooling in Baldwin County join this club.  They have a ton of activities so you’re sure to find something for your children to do with the club.  School just started so we haven’t done any field trips yet…oh there was a get together at the lagoon in Gulf Shores and Fresh Air Family hosted a group outing to learn about turtles.  We’ve done a lot on our own since moving here including visiting New Orleans (there’s our homeschooling connection to Louisiana). The way we live (moving here and there often) we never know how long we’re staying so we have to look at each opportunity and take it.  Just read past blog posts and you’ll see what kind of educational stuff there is to do here in Alabama and Baldwin County specifically…we haven’t even scratched the surface.  Hope we’re here long enough to. 

Homeschooling has given us the lifestyle to search out adventures and learn about things outside 4 cinderblock walls.  It’s a lot of fun to homeschool along the Gulf Coast.   So far we’ve enjoyed our adventure.  I do hope God protects our freedom to homeschool in America.  We pray every day about it.  Hope you do to.

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Inventions of Da Vinci at GWIZ

The Inventions of Da Vinci exhibit runs from April 13- September 7, 2009.

What it’s about: “Leonardo’s scientific and technical drawings have captured the imagination for centuries. This exhibition focuses on 16 drawings, through reproducing Leonardo’s drawings on graphic panels and also realizing the idea in model form. Originally developed by the IBM Corporation, this interpretive exhibition encourages visitors to explore these concepts, in many cases through hands-on experiences with working models.”

I took the boys to see this exhibit with another homeschool family.  It was well recieved by all 4 middle-schoolers.  Most of the exhibit is hands-on; you can touch the inventions and make them move.  Some, though, are not because they are more intricate and thus fragile.  Some were hanging. 

Each part of the exhibit there was a written explanation.  The boys took turns reading descriptions of the drawings before touching and moving the models of each invention.  There were flying machines, water pump machines, wheeled inventions, a printing press, a military tank.

There were two conclusions we all agreed on, other than it was a great exhibit.  The first was that  Leonardo was not just an inventor but an improver of things in his world, as well.  Some things may have already existed.  He was the one to put these inventions on paper for us all to see.   Secondly, as Ben Franklin was a great inventor of his time, Leonardo DaVinci was a great inventor of his.  You could pick out different periods of history where one great person did a lot to improve their world but we chose to compare DaVinci to Franklin.   As a result, the boys will be doing a side-by-side comparison/listing of each man’s great accomplishments; what they invented and what they improved on.  Half the job is done for my boys because one had used Leonardo for his Science and History Fair project this year.

Please support GWIZ and this terrific exhibit.  Be sure to pick up the Gallery Guide.  www.gwiz.org

Titanic Exhibit at GWIZ

We went to GWIZ last week to see the Titanic exhibit.  It was better than I had expected.  As you enter you recieve a boarding pass.  On the back of the pass is the name of a passenger and some information about that person.  I had Miss Dagmar Jenny Ingeborg Brylh, age 20 from Skara Sweden.  She was accompanied on the Titanic by her brother, Kurt, and her fiance, Ingvar Enander.   They were going to Rockford, Illinois to visit family.  Kurt was immigrating to America while Dagmar and Ingvar were only planning a visit.  They travelled 2nd class.

ttrials11The exhibits featured a chronology of time; when the passengers left port, when the iceberg was spotted, who spoke to whom, how long it took the vessel to sink, and who survived.  It also had a reproduction of the cabins for 1st and 2nd class. 

 The next large exhibit contained a wall listing who survived and who perished and in which class they travelled.  Dagmar survived.   Both Kurt and Ingvar died.

The exhibit continued with recovered artifacts from a woman’s glove, perfume bottles, a chandelier, dishes, and several other items.  They were all under glass with humidifier control.

The last room explained the expeditions for both research and artifact recovery. 

The exhibition was first class.  I met the lady who had put together the “Expedition Logbook”, an informative booklet with a scavenger hunt, trivia, word search and more.  If you have the opportunity to track her down, she just adds so much more the experience that looking and reading. 

Oh, and there is one really cool part which I’ll keep a secret.  My kids loved it.

The exhibit is at GWIZ until February 8, 2009.   There is an extra charge above the GWIZ entry fee to see the Titantic but it is so worth it. 

There are some cool websites recommended in the Logbook which would be fun to see ahead of time.  They are: www.webtitanic.net, www2.sptimes.com/titanic (sinking animation).  The exhibit’s website is www.titanic-online.com.

GWIZ is located in Sarasota at 1001 Blvd of the Arts.  www.gwiz.org