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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Speakers of Sarasota speak up

Friday, March 27, was the final class for these students as they made their presentations before a large audience at Bethel Community Church in Sarasota.

The middle to high school students presented original speeches on interesting topics like the human eye, the history of Nintendo and a new product being introduced, the life stories of Walt Disney and Beethoven, “The Power of Words” and a little-known history of Hollywood.  Others interpreted the biblical account of Jonah, poems by Jack Prelutsky and Ogden Nash and a chapter from a story by William Steig. 

The elementary speakers, eight in all, gave original speeches on their favorite scripture verse or bible story.

These children, ages 6 to 18, were all so fantastic.  Their confidence and enjoyment in their topics rang out with each speaker.  They should all be pleased with their work.

My two boys have been a part of this class all year.  They have grown a lot in their research and writing skills (in order to put together speeches) but mostly in their confidence to speak in front of others; not just talk to a bunch of friends in a group, but actually put together thoughts and present them to people who are giving them their attention for the purpose of finding out information.  Most of us are afraid to speak in public; “will I be laughed at?, will I make a mistake?” etc. go through our heads for hours before we make our presentations.  The Speakers of Sarasota students have learned to critique their classmates with positive and then negative comments.  The negative comments, they’ve learned, are to come in the form of “what can you do better next time.”  For instance, one student would give a short presentation on a pet peeve.  When he is finished, the classmates will tell him what they liked: you sounded convincing, you talked loud enough for all to hear.  Then they would tell him things he could improve on: try not to sway back and forth next time you speak, don’t rustle your paper you are reading from, or memorize the speech next time so you can have better eye contact.  Wow!  Not one classmate said the topic was stupid or they disagreed with the speaker.  That’s such a positive way for people to learn how to confidently speak in public.  The older students worked similarly but with more experience than the younger students, they were able to help out their classmates in a higher level.   Both the elementary and middle to high school students learned to be encouraging to their peers.

The elementary students learned demonstration speeches in the form of presenting a science experiment to each other and their parents.  Each child picked an experiment using dry ice, practiced their demonstration (pretending to use dry ice) and then, on presentation day, actually did the experiment with the dry ice.  It was a lot of fun.  Three of the students (one being my child) entered the Learning and Families Science Fair with each of their dry ice experiments, demonstrating them before a room of about 75 people; parents and peers.

The older group was eligible for competition through NCFCA which took place in Tampa this year.  I don’t believe anyone competed but I do know some students went to observe.

Special kudos to their teachers: Mary Nicosia, Resa Stanley and Tricia Watts and the moms that helped Tricia coach the elementary students.  A similar class will be offered to the homeschool community next year here in Sarasota.  If you are interested please contact these teachers through the Learning and Families website: www.learningandfamilies.org.