Saturday, October 30, 2010

Weekly Wrap-Up: A Peek at Our Uneventful Week


I can’t believe another week has flown by and it’s time for another Weekly Wrap-Up!  To be honest, the past two weeks have been somewhat of a blur. We’ve been on 3 field trips, a couple hikes and took a road trip to Ohio! Wow! Talk about busy. Not to mention I’m having one of those “…our homeschooling would be more productive if..” moments, which seem to be a resounding theme echoing through my days.

This week began a bit rough since I came home sick after our trip. I’m still not sure if it was a cold due to the weather change (it was sooo cold in Ohio!) or if it was allergies but my husband actually drove all the way home to Alabama while I slept comfortably in the passenger seat. That should have been a major tip off  that something wasn’t quite right because 1) I normally do ALL the driving because I’m a control freak like that and 2) I can NEVER sleep in the car…especially when my husband is driving, but that’s a story I’ll save for another day, or not.

My kids did all their independent school work and spent much of their free time reading.  We didn’t do any of our group studies and I bounced back and forth from whining because I couldn’t wipe my nose fast enough and attempting to return our home to order since we’d managed to bring some of our items out of storage.

I spent most of the week staring at the piles because I had no idea where to put everything. In a brilliant move the kids and I transported everything to the garage until I can find a place in our new home for all our old possessions. Aaahhh…much better.

By Thursday, I was once again beginning to feel like my old self. Just in time as I’d organized a field trip for our homeschool group. I joined 30 friends for two hours of laughter at the 4th Annual Athens Storytelling Festival, but I’ll share more on that later with a few pictures. Afterwards we visited with friends for a bit before heading home.

On Friday, I left the kids at home unsupervised (one of the many blessings of having older kids) while I met my husband for lunch where he dropped a bombshell on me. How would I like to move…again? Hmmm…more on those thoughts later. 

Thankfully, we were all able to relax as we enjoyed a 3.5 mile hike with friends in the afternoon and I’ll share more on that later as well because my daughter is holding all of our pictures hostage on her camera.

I guess all in all we had a good week. Nothing spectacular, but we’re still plugging along slow and steady.

If you’re nosy like me, you may enjoy reading more Weekly Wrap-ups which are hosted at Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers.

Until next time…have a great week!      

National Corvette Museum offers Upcoming FREE Days for Military and Kentucky Residents

My family just returned home from a quick trip to Ohio. Our route takes us directly past The National Corvette Museum in Bowling Green, Kentucky that can be seen from I-65.  We’ve not taken the time to stop up to this point, but each time we pass by we think “next time we’ll stop”.  

Since I love to search out great deals for my family, I decided to browse around their website to see if I could find evidence of a homeschool day at this attraction. Though I didn’t find anything that would work for my family, I did discover a couple upcoming deals that I wanted to pass on.

 November is Military Appreciation Month. All military (active and veterans), including Police, Firemen and their immediate family will receive FREE admission.   You can view the details of this month long event here.

If you live in Kentucky the month of December will be a great time to tour this venue while saving money. The National Corvette Museum is offering residents of the state FREE admission during the Dollar Days that run the entire month.

Do you plan to take advantage of either of these offers? If so, I’d love for you to stop back and give me some pointers for the time my family finally does stop for a tour.  

Friday, October 29, 2010

Russell Cave National Monument: One of the Best Hikes in Northern Alabama

Last week, the kids and I accompanied one of the homeschool groups that we belong to on a naturalist led hike at Russell Cave National Monument. You’ve heard me mention this amazing attraction several times before because not only is it one of my favorite places to visit in Northern Alabama, it is now on my list of favorite fall hikes.

We arrived at Russell Cave National Monument, viewed the small museum display and began our tour by watching a short 7 minute movie. The video gave a brief history of the cave while focusing on the  story of its joint excavation by the National Geographic Society and Smithsonian Institution.  

Next we took a quick walk along the broadwalk to the cave entrance. Once inside, one of the Park Ranger’s, who is also the Park Historian shared more of the history of the cave with us.  We heard about the nomadic people that once frequented the Russell Cave following food and seeking shelter during the cold winter months; a great lesson in the early people of Alabama. ranger We learned about the hunting practices of the Indians at Russell Cave, how they would hunt deer by camouflaging themselves with deer skins and antlers. Apparently, they were pretty believable because they have found at least one hunter killed by an arrow while dressed for the hunt and believe he died as a result of an accidental shooting.

It was also interesting to learn that they would fish by throwing the powder from crushed Buckeyes into the stream leading to the cave. The powder, which is poisonous to humans would paralyze the fish and they would float to the top of the water allowing the Indians to scoop them out one by one.  

We also learned about the excavation of the cave. Did you know that archaeologists do when they find fossilized poo? They can warm the feces which will soften it and then they go through it to see what people at that time, thousands of years ago, ate. Sounds like a smelly job to me.  Gross tidbit of information, but memorable.

A weapons demonstration followed the cave talk and ended with the opportunity to try out an atlatl, bow & arrow and blow gun.

blow gun

The atlatl was hooked to the spear, increasing its power up to three times.


Though we enjoyed each aspect of the field trip, our favorite part was the hike along the nature trail. Not only is the naturalist that we accompanied very knowledgeable, but we were also pleased with ourselves for finishing this short hike after the ordeal we faced the first time we attempted it. (You really do need to go read that, and let me just say that 80ish degrees in the fall is much different than 80ish degrees in late spring here in Alabama! ) 

The trail is still mainly up, up and up, but the fall foliage was certainly a site to see, especially when you were at the top and able to look down over the trail to see the rock outcroppings strewn along the path below. It was quite beautiful. I will warn you that though this is a paved hike, it is steep heading up and heading down so be prepared to give yourself plenty of time to rest along the way. You’ll be happy to know that after every major incline, you’ll find benches available so you can rest and catch your breath if needed. russell cave hikeThough the park service says this is a 1.2 mile hike, I can’t count the times I heard someone gasping, this is only a mile?  I found it interesting that The Falcon Guide: Hiking Alabama  claims that the hike is a bit longer at 2 miles in length and it certainly feels longer yet. 

This was an incredible outing and though we’ve enjoyed the times we’ve been there on our own as a family, it was that much better going with friends.

The kids and I recently began reading about Alabama state history, now that we are official residents and I’ve decided that we will incorporate many field trips into our study. Russell Cave National Monument was a great place to start.  

If you stopped by for Field Trip Friday, make sure to read this post to find out about the changes taking place and don’t forget to stop back next week for the 1st monthly edition of Field Trip Friday!

Until next week~ Happy Field Trippin’!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Camping, a Family Bonding Experience

Before the birth of our children, my husband once expressed his desire to camp often as a family once we were parents. He’d listened to a radio broadcast on his daily hourly commute to work that stated that families that camped together, tended to be closer than families that did not. I don’t know how accurate that statement is or was, but with both of us growing up in households that could have been closer, we were willing to give our family any advantage in our power. 

Little did we know that years later, that wistful statement would prove prophetic, as we experienced one incredible adventure, ‘camping’ full time in our motor home!

I’ve expressed that for me, one of the most difficult aspects of leaving the prospects of our full-time traveling life behind us and settling back in to a stationary home is that I worried that some of the closeness we’d attained in our close quarters would be lost. I have now realized that what my family experienced has not been forgotten.

This was evident several weekends ago, when we took the opportunity to camp in a tent for the first time in nearly six years! We chose to camp at nearby Monte Sano State Park which happened to be our home for several weeks when we parked our motor home on the mountaintop retreat last spring.

We arrived in our spot, and my husband and I watched, amazed, as the kids jumped to work, unloading our gear and setting up camp without my husband and I even lifting a finger. setting up campWithin minutes, our tent was up, a fire was made and we were busy cooking hamburgers using our pie irons. 086 I couldn’t believe how relaxing it was to camp now that the kids are older. When they were younger, I remember thinking on several occasions that camping was just too exhausting!

My husband shared my thoughts and even suggested that we consider traveling across country with our van and tent…sounds good to me! When do we leave?           

We enjoyed our meal before heading off on a trail to show my husband the Stone Cuts that the kids and I had discovered earlier in the year.

The hike to the Stone Cuts is considered a moderate hike because it tends to be rocky and steep in some areas. It is certainly more enjoyable in the fall than it had been in the summer when it was so hot and humid.

Once we made our way to the rock formations, my daughter and I lost the guys as they ventured off to climb among the rock formations and show off a bit.   

climbing rocks

By the time we returned to our camp, it was nearly dark. We enjoyed S’mores as we talked around the bonfire.  bonfire Since much of our camping gear is still in storage, we didn’t have a lantern and it had gotten too dark to sit around the picnic table for games, so we all piled inside the van to play a couple hands of Rummy and a new favorite, called Sevensvan

In the absence of technology, no computers, Xbox or cell phones, we bonded once again on what was a wonderful family camping trip!

What has been your favorite camping experience?

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The PGKey SafeKey: A Review


As a mom with not one, but THREE teenagers under her roof that love to be online, yet are oblivious to the dangers lurking in the virtual world, I was thrilled when I was given the opportunity to review the PG Key SafeKey.

The PG Key is a plug in device that has been created to monitor your child’s online activity and designed by a team of experts to assist parents in creating a “kid safe” online environment. 

This tool is not designed to take the place of the parent but to allow parent’s a way to monitor their child’s online behavior, whether that would be making sure that they stay on track with their assigned tasks for school or maintain appropriate conduct when chatting with their friends on Facebook.     

The Benefits of the PG Key:

  • At $49.99 and no annual fee, the PG Key is an affordable product for many families.
  • The PG Key is easy to install;  just plug the key in the USB port and begin using. Most consumers will be able to effortlessly load their product within minutes and begin gleaning the benefits of an Internet safety device.
  • The PG Key was created by a team of experts that include an impressive list of law enforcement educators, Internet security experts, child and family psychologists and parents just like you and me.
  • The PG Key boasts incredible features that I’ve not discovered elsewhere, like the ability to record 60 hours of online activity and ‘watch’ it later which includes social networking sites, emails and both sides of a chat which my kids call the ‘spy feature’.  
  • A recurring problem in our house is the excessive use of the computer. With the PG Key, I am able to set time limits monitoring when the computer is able to be used and for how long.   
  • The PG Key is not simply disabled by ‘unplugging’ the key. If the key is removed, the computer will be inaccessible and will require a password to continue.

You can learn more about the benefits of the PG Key by watching this short video clip. 

A couple things you should know:

  • Though the PG Key is great at monitoring activity,and you are able to list words and phrases that you deem inappropriate, this product DOES NOT block access to those sites. I have mixed feelings about this. For my family, I believe the fact that my husband and I are able to closely monitor all online activity will deter most inappropriate conduct. However, as an adult that has once or twice stumbled upon pornographic material (searching Girl Scouts, of all things) it would be nice to know that some junk just wouldn’t be a temptation.
  • I was unable to set control parameters for individual users, meaning the settings were the same for every user on the computer.
  • My children complained that their computer operated slower than it  had prior to installation of the PG Key.
  • The product I received to review broke rather quickly which concerns me as to its durability. It would probably be best to use the PG Key on a desktop computer or a laptop that is primarily stationed in one particular location. Carrying a laptop from place to place and bumping the PG Key around doesn’t seem to be a good combination.  However, I was able to call customer service and was extremely pleased with the service department and received a replacement within days.

The benefits of this program clearly outweigh the concerns that I have and my family will gladly continue to use and evaluate this product. I’m excited to share with you that for a limited time, the manufacturer is allowing you to try the PG Key at no charge with a free trial to determine if this gadget will be a good fit for your family.

If you want to skip the trial and get started right away, The PG Key can be purchased through their website for $49.99 plus shipping or at

As part of The Old Schoolhouse Homeschool Crew, I received this product to review free of charge in exchange for my honest opinion. You can stop by the Crew blog to read what other Crew Members had to say about this same product.  

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Field Trip Friday: Changes Ahead

TONYA FTF BUTTON 2 If you’ve stopped by Live the Adventure anytime during the past two weeks, you probably noticed the polls that I had in my side bar regarding Field Trip Friday. Based on your responses, emails and comments I’ve decided it’s time for some changes.

Personally,  I love sharing field trips that my own family has taken and hopefully you’ll get some ideas of similar places in your area to visit, but honestly, I’ve had a hard time keeping up with the weekly postings lately.

Since some of you indicated that you are interested in participating in Field Trip Friday, but are finding it difficult squeezing in field trips to your regular schedule or may forget to link up entirely, I’ve decided to try something new.

Beginning next week, Field Trip Friday will no longer be a weekly meme, but instead will be offered once a month. To keep it simple, I’ve decided to hold it on the first Friday of the month so you can mark your blogging calendars. I’ll also be sure to offer reminders throughout the month.

So, I hope that you’ll continue to join me or if you’re new to Field Trip Friday that you will consider participating in this fun Field Trip Showcase! You’ll find the guidelines for Field Trip Friday here.

Until next week …

Happy Field Trippin’!

Monday, October 25, 2010

I’m Still Here!

In case you wondered, I’ve not forgotten about my blog. It may seem that way with all my sporadic comings and goings but I’m back. Last week was just incredibly crazy for the Prater Household. In the midst of a week filled with field trips – no surprise there, huh?- my husband decided that we needed to run to our happy place which happens to be Ohio, if you haven’t picked up on that yet, for a visit.

I had to cancel two outings and load up our van in record time but when the leader of our pack said “Let’s Go!” we were ready and out the door we ran…literally, before he changed his mind…at ten o’clock at night! We had talked about leaving Thursday, but the thought of arriving in Ohio before dark with more time to spend with loved ones was incredibly appealing.

I drove as long as I safely could and then pulled over at a rest stop and fell fast asleep. Have I ever mentioned how much I LOVE our van?

We had a great time in Ohio. While my children were visiting friends, my husband and I snuck away to watch a movie, too bad it sucked and the theater was freezing! I didn’t mind the freezing part too badly because I was able to snuggle up to my husband but I’m pretty sure he didn’t care for my shivering.

Friday we all enjoyed a bonfire with friends- even though it was really cold in Ohio- I haven’t mentioned that have I? Apparently we are all accustomed to Alabama’s warmer climate. 

The best news was that we were able to celebrate the fact that my brother and his wife are expecting a baby AND my dad received results from a recent biopsy which came back normal; an answer to prayer.

Before we headed back home we were able to retrieve some of our belongings that we have had stored for nearly two years. The kids and I have spent the entire day reminiscing as we’ve attempted to find homes for our most prized possessions in our new house, which my husband commented is feeling more and more like home everyday.  Finally.

Have you Stopped by The Homeschool Classroom Lately

Do you homeschool? Are you interested in finding ways to save money on homeschool expenses? If you answered yes then you should visit The Homeschool Classroom and read my October article. Here’s a teaser… 

I just love that title, What’s in Your Wallet? Sounds like the opening to a credit card commercial, doesn’t it? Well today I’d like to focus not on credit cards but reward and discount cards that you, as a homeschooling parent may be eligible for.

Lately, I’ve found it more difficult to stay home and remain within our budget while I continue to purchase those little extras that can pop up from time to time as a result of choosing to homeschool. As challenging as it can be to live on one income while staying home with my children, I certainly wouldn’t want things any other way. Which is why I hunt out all the deals I can that will enable me to stay home while ensuring that I have the tools available to homeschool successfully.

You can read the rest of this article What’s in Your Wallet? at  The Homeschool Classroom and while you’re there, why not leave a comment sharing ways that you save money on your homeschool expenses?

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Field Trip Friday Guidelines


As a student, there wasn’t anything I looked forward to more than a field trip. I still remember trips to the zoo, a cookie factory and the State Capital. 

When I began homeschooling,  I couldn’t think of a better way to solidify what we were learning in our studies than to take an occasional outing.

When we began traveling with my husband’s job, it seemed as though our life became one big field trip.

Though my educational philosophy has undergone changes many times over the years, one thing has remained…you guessed it, my families love of field trips which I LOVE to share with you through Field Trip Friday.  

Would you like to participate, but aren’t sure where to start? I’ve come up with a few guidelines when it comes to linking up to Field Trip Friday.

  • Field Trip Friday is held the 1st Friday of each month and will be up for link ups through Linky Tools by 12am on Friday and will remain open for links for 7 days.  
  • When you link up, link directly to your Field Trip Friday post so we don’t have to search through your entire blog.
  • Don’t forget to link back to Live the Adventure so other’s can learn about Field Trip Friday and hopefully join in as well.
  • If you aren’t sure what to mention in your post, consider mentioning the 5 W’s- Who, What, Where, When, Why and How , but not necessarily in that order.
    • Who did you go with? Was this trip a field trip or scheduled outing with a group or a family activity?
    • What did you learn about or hope to gain from the outing? What resources did you find helpful?
    • Where did you go? 
    • When did you go?
    • Why did you go? Were you learning about this topic? Were you looking to expand your child’s comprehension of a topic? Was this a spur of the moment, impromptu trip?
    • How did you prepare for or follow-up for this outing?   
  • A picture is worth a thousand words, I hope you’ll consider adding some to your post!
  • Feel free to use either of the Field Trip Friday graphics within your post.
  • Though most of my readers are homeschooler’s or roadschooler’s, Field Trip Friday is open to anyone that accompanies their child on a Field Trip- as long as the blog you are linking to is family friendly.

participated in FTF

I think that’s about it. If I’ve missed something, please leave a comment or drop me an email at the traveling praters at gmail dot com.

Happy Field Trippin’!

Monday, October 18, 2010

The A to Z Guide to Home School Field Trips: A Review

The A to Z Guide to Home School Field Trips is a book that has been a staple on our shelf off and on since we started homeschooling 12 years ago. There were times that I’d trade it off or pass it on thinking we’d finally finished with it, only to regret my decision and purchase a copy once again. Since one of my favorite subjects is field trips, I decided to share some of the resources that I use that I really love and this book is high on that list.

Edited by Gregg Harris, pioneer in the homeschooling movement, The A to Z Guide to Home School Field Trips is a comprehensive resource with 70+ field trip ideas ranging from common post office, police department or grocery store outings to less common visits with plumbers, butchers or even to a funeral. This book is designed to literally turn any outing into an educational adventure.

Each topic or field trip idea is broken down in five categories.

  • Background Information
  • Questions that you might ask
  • Activities for follow-up
  • Vocabulary Words that are helpful to know
  • Tips from Barnabas, or Biblical application

There is also a small box at the top of each topic page that allows you to record contact information, hours of operation, the address and best time to visit for each possible field trip which you may choose to use. In addition to this small box, there is also a Field Trip Planner page in the back of the book that can be reproduced for your own families use that is more detailed.

At times I’ve thought my children may have outgrown this valuable resource and yet each time I pick it up I continue to learn something new which leads me to believe that though it would be better geared towards families with children in Jr. High down, it is appropriate for all ages.

What resource have you found valuable when it comes to planning your own homeschool field trips?

Friday, October 15, 2010

Weekly Wrap-Up: What a Disappointment!

weekly wrap-up

This was supposed to be the week that we would get a lot of work completed because next week is going to be a really busy week with outings and appointments scheduled all but one day.

It didn’t take long to figure out that things weren’t going to run as smoothly as I had in mind. My husband is a contractor and since the boys were really young, he would encourage them to help out on home improvement projects around the house. As they grew, he began to take them to help out on his jobs once in a while. Now they are at the age that they want to work and begin earning money. My husband worked out a deal with them that they could take turns helping him on some of his jobs. He pays them and they make more than they’d likely make at McDonald’s and are learning skills that will serve them well when they have homes of their own.

The problem is that we’ve always been able to do the majority of our work together and now we can’t. I’ve had a hard time adjusting and to be honest, our school days have pretty much been a wreck all week. I could really use some advice on this from mom’s that have already begun to experience this in their own homes.

That’s not all that threw our week off though. My husband had a surprise day off on Monday. Things just don’t get done around here when he’s home but we’d much rather spend it with him anyway.  I tried really hard to talk him into taking off the rest of the week and hightailing it to Ohio since I’ve been so homesick but one thing held us back…lack of money. We are in the process of paying off yet one more bill so right now our money is focused for that purpose, but next month we can celebrate because now we have only ONE more payment left!

Tuesday I met with friends to say good-bye to one that has grown very dear to all of us. Since we first arrived in Alabama, there have been four of us that have enjoyed getting together on a regular basis and now one is being called away. We met at Atlanta Bread for snacks and talked, laughed and refused to cry as the time slipped away. We are all going to miss her and her two precious children that we call ‘the little's’ because at 6 and 8 years old they are so much younger than our children.  I refused to say goodbye because I just know that we’ll be able to visit her and keep in touch, at least I hope so. 

Wednesday we actually had a good school day and I got caught up on laundry with my new-to-me Freecycle washer. Of course we haven’t found a dryer yet but the great outdoors have an amazing way of remedying that problem while leaving our garments smelling amazing!

Thursday we finished a bit of schooling before meeting with a few other homeschooling families for lunch. I only knew two of the moms and enjoyed meeting some new people. While the moms talked math, sports and curriculum, the kids busied themselves with a game of football that seemed to last for hours. 

Friday was another off day since my husband had yet another day off work. See, we really should have just taken the week off and sped away to Ohio. 

So, exactly what did we accomplish this week? A little bit of this and a little bit of that and other than reading, not much. The kids did read a lot though! My oldest is reading Addicted to God, a small devotional that he’s really learning a lot from, World Changers about William Wilberforce and The Case for Faith and the Bible where he is exploring the New Testament. I’ve really been seeing some positive changes in him as he learns and grows in his faith.

My middle child is reading everything history which at the moment are old Landmark books that we found in a second hand store. This week he finished a book about King Arthur, which he felt was boring and now he’s moving on to Paul Revere and the Minutemen.

My daughter, who I can’t keep up with is upset with me because she wants to read Mean Girls Gone: A Spiritual Guide to Getting Rid of Mean by Hayley DiMarco, but I haven’t previewed it yet. It seems that she’s read about every other book in the house so in desperation she began reading Fast Food Nation. I won’t tell her that was on my list for her to read this year. For two days she’s been telling me really nasty facts that she’s learned about the fast food industry. I think our days of eating out are over!  

Well, that’s the lowdown of our week, not a lot to tell but next week will be incredibly busy. I hope I can find the time to blog!

Don’t  forget to stop by Weird Unsocialized Homeschoolers to see how the week went for other homeschooling families.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

The B-17 Aluminum Overcast: Field Trip Friday

TONYA FTF BUTTON 2 Last spring, we found out that an historic WWII plane would be flying into our area and would be open for tours for two days only. Having studied that time period the  previous year  in school, and having two boys that are particularly interested in historic war planes, my husband and I knew that this opportunity was not to be missed. Thankfully my husband had a short day of work already planned so we were able to view this fascinating marvel together.

On the short drive to the airfield, my boys took turns impressing us with their knowledge of the B-17’s. Were they excited? You bet!

Their excitement waned briefly as we pulled into the parking lot and saw many people outside the plane, I wondered if I’d misunderstood and they really weren’t allowing tours inside. So I asked a gentleman that was directing traffic and he assured us that he had been through the plane and cautioned that though some of the passageways were a bit of a squeeze, it was definitely worth the trip.

Excited once again, we paid the $15 per family admission and hastily made our way to the plane. Immediately, we were surrounded by volunteers eager to share tidbits of information with us as to what it would have been like to actually serve on one of these planes. Do you realize that the boys that flew the plane were often only 17 years old? If they survived to the age of 20 they were sent stateside to train the new recruits. We also learned that it was so cold in the air that the airmen would keep their candy bars on the inside of their coat pockets because if they were on the outside, they would freeze. The candy bars were necessary to give them a boost of energy to fight the necessary battles. The missions often lasted more than eight hours at a time, by the time the fight was over and the plane was landed, the young men would literally collapse with fatigue.

The B-17 was vital to winning WWII. During the ten year span of 1935 to 1945, over 12,000 planes were built. Today, less than 12 planes remain capable of flying.

Though we began our tour of the Flying Fortress, the Aluminum Overcast, on the ground, inspecting the outside, it wasn’t long before we journeyed inside for a glimpse of the bombardier, bomb bay and other various compartments. As I watched my husband climb the ladder into the plane and literally crawl through the narrow passageway to a standing position, I knew that the gentleman I’d spoken with had not exaggerated the tightness of some passageways. I began to feel a bit panicky and claustrophobic as my turn to climb that ladder arrived, but my husband assured me that I wouldn’t get stuck. Trusting him, I continued and we were soon joined by our children, who were a bit amused by my antics. No, I did not get stuck and after passing through the bomb bay, the passageway widened considerably.

If you have plans to study WWII at some point in the future or have studied it in the past, I wouldn’t miss the opportunity to make history come alive for your children with a trip through the Aluminum Overcast. This year it is scheduled to make stops in Charlotte, NC, Talladega, AL, Bloomington, IN, Paducah, KY, Olive Branch,MS, Jackson, MS, New Orleans, LA, El Dorado, AR and Tulsa, OK. You can see the tour schedule here.If you live near New Orleans, this would make one amazing field trip when paired up with a trip to the WWII Museum.

If you don’t live in those areas, make sure that you stop by the website to see the 2011 Tour Schedule when it posts later this year. And for those of you that are really interested, you can book a flight on this amazing, historic plane!

This is a must for history and WWII enthusiasts or anyone that just happens to be in the area!  Thumbs up from us!

Time to link up and share your field trips this past week!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Zoo Atlanta Homeschool Field Trip Days

zoo atlanta 
Join other homeschoolers the first Tuesday of every month for HomeSchool Field Trip Days at Zoo Atlanta. Cost is $8 per person for everyone over the age of  three. Reservations are required up to two weeks in advance in order to receive the discounted admission. You can check out the website for more specific information and while you’re there make sure you take a look at the Homeschool Classes and the Holiday Homeschool Program that is specifically for homeschooling families.

You may also be interested in the Atlanta History Center and The High Museum of Art events for Homeschooler’s.

Homeschool Days at Tybee Island, GA

burton_main I just found out about an incredible overnight program at The Burton 4-H Center on  Tybee Island which is exclusively for homeschool families and NO, you do not need to be a 4-H member to participate!

Beginning Sunday, November 14th until Tuesday, November 16th, you will eat and sleep on site while delving into such subjects as beach formation and erosion, tide fluctuations, Invertebrates and the island ecosystem while exploring the beach, a salt marsh and nearby dock.  You’ll even dissect a squid, take an amazing walk on the beach at night and have the opportunity to go on a dolphin cruise!

Just take a look at this schedule and tell me this doesn’t sound like one very cool field trip?

Sunday, November 14

12:00 or later Arrive and move into Dorms.

Try the Tybee Scavenger Hunt

Monday, November 15

8:00  Breakfast

9:30-11:00 Beach Ecology

11:30 Lunch

12:30-2:30 Crabs & Critters

3:00-5:00 Marsh Ecology

5:30 Dinner

6:30 - 7:30  First evening class – Squid Dissection

8:00 - 9:00 Second evening class – Nightwalk on the beach


Tuesday, November 16

8:00 a.m. Breakfast

9:00 – 11:00 Invertebrates Study (older kids)/Pollution Solution (younger)

11:30 Lunch

12:30-2:30 Choosies on the beach

3:00 Clean and move out of dorms

3:00-5:00 Optional Dolphin Discovery Cruise (extra charge)

5:30 Optional Dinner (extra charge)

Optional Stay in Dorm Tuesday night (extra charge)

The classes are open to 5 –17 year olds and are designed for parents to accompany their students. Families will sleep on site in dorms or cabins, depending on the number of people in your family you may share a dorm room so you may want to share this field trip info with a family you’d be comfortable bunking with! Price is $86 per person, less for children under 5 or if you opt not to stay onsite and/or plan your own meals. Children 3-5 are half price, under 2 are free. A non-refundable deposit of $50 is required to reserve your space.    

Interested? Want more information? You can read all about the program or register here. If you have additional questions, you can contact the program coordinator,  David Weber,  at or 912-786-5534.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The Future of Field Trip Friday is in your Hands….

TONYA FTF BUTTON 2 When I took my blogging break one of the things I was considering was the future of Field Trip Friday. I love sharing places that we go because field trips are such a huge part of what we do but I wonder if you’re really that interested in reading about them or participating in the meme?

So…I wondered if I could count on you for some feedback? I’ve added a poll, or more like a series of three short polls on my sidebar, and I wondered if I could ask you to take the time to answer the questions and/or leave a comment sharing your thoughts?

Do you enjoy reading or linking to Field Trip Friday?

Do you think once a week is too frequent?

Would you be more likely to participate if it was offered once a month instead of weekly?

Would you like to see it revamped to show resources we used prior to or after our outing? Notebook pages? Reading lists?

Do you understand Field Trip Friday and how it works?

Are you familiar with the linking process?

I’d really appreciate any help that you’re willing to give as I try to figure out where to go next with Field Trip Friday…the future of this meme is in your hands!  

Free Admission to the Huntsville Botanical Garden when you Donate a Gently Used or New Coat for any Age

scarecrow trail 191 Whether we are strolling through the butterfly house, playing in the tree houses, checking out the scarecrows on Scarecrow Trail or  attending a special event, my family LOVES to visit the Huntsville Botanical Garden. I’m so glad that we have a membership because we use it all the time!

Thursday, October 21st,   the botanical garden will be waiving admission for anyone that donates a new or gently used coat for a person of ANY age for the Community Coats program that is affiliated with the local chapter of the Salvation Army! 

Find details here.

Atlanta History Center Homeschool Days

atlanta history center

I’m a bit late getting this posted, since the first event is tomorrow but the Atlanta History Center offers monthly homeschool days that all members of your family from toddler to teen will enjoy. The events are $7.50 for nonmembers with reduced prices for members or groups of 10 or more.

Admission covers an exhibition tour as well as hands-on crafts and activities and sound pretty incredible! 

Lincoln’s Legacy
Wednesday, October 13, 2010
1:00 - 4:00 PM

This month, see With Malice Toward None: The Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Exhibition before it leaves!  The second program in this two part series will examine the immense impact of Lincoln's presidency as he led our nation out of slavery and set the stage for Civil Rights in the 20th Century.

History’s Mysteries
Thursday, November 18, 2010
1:00 - 4:00 PM

Ponder some of the perplexing puzzles of the past. What happened to Amelia Earhart? Who shot JFK? Explore historical mysteries while solving a museum caper that will have you sleuthing around the History Center for clues.

Holidays in History
Friday, December 17, 2010
10:00 AM - 2:00 PM

Come enjoy our annual holiday program, and experience how Christmas was celebrated in years past, from the 1860s Tullie Smith Farm, to the 1930s Swan House, and beyond!

Monday, January 10, 2011
1:00 - 4:00 PM

Explore from the American Revolution to innovations of industry, science, and thought, come and see how history remembers these moments of change and how they’ve shaped our modern world.

Please visit the website for more information.

If you live in the Atlanta area, don’t forget about the Homeschool Days at the High Museum of Art.

Monday, October 11, 2010

How to Furnish a Home on the Cheap

I have to admit, one of the reasons I was really hesitant about moving out of our motor home was our lack of stuff. Don’t misunderstand me, we had stuff alright. Too much stuff for our 31 foot RV that had been our home for 18 months, but not nearly enough stuff to furnish a home or even cover the basic necessities. So, what is a family desperately trying to stick to a budget to do when you find yourself in need of household furnishings?

1. Word of mouth- let people know what you need and don’t be too proud to accept what is offered to you! A dear friend offered to allow us to borrow a table and chair set until ours can be retrieved from storage. I was tempted to simply respond with thanks but no thanks, and I’m so happy that I placed my pride aside. Having a table where we can gather for family meals makes our home seem so much ‘homier’.

2. Join a Freecycle group in your area. Freecycle is an online group that basically offer items free of charge to those that can use them rather than throwing them away and filling our landfills with items that are still very usable. I’d heard about this network several years ago but never took the time to investigate it. When a friend mentioned that she was able to furnish her home with Freecycle I was really interested.

In the past week, we’ve been blessed with a complete mattress set (mattress, box springs, rails, mattress cover and sheet set), a cute futon like couch and a washer. These items were free to us- all we had to do was pick them up in a timely agreed upon manner. I’m looking forward to acquiring many more items this way and when I have items to pass on you can bet I won’t forget the generosity of this network.

3. Frequent thrift stores. I don’t make any secret of the fact that I LOVE THRIFT STORES! In fact, that’s how I’ve furnished and decorated my living room.

4. When all else fails, shop sales and use coupons. Buy the best quality that you can with the money you have allotted. Sometimes you need something right away and it’s easier to buy the cheapest item that fits your needs rather than do without. Personally, I’ve found that I’m better off waiting and purchasing higher quality items when they are on sale so they don’t need to be replaced as frequently.

5. Finally, realize that you don’t need everything. I used to think “I NEED this,  now I think WHY do I need this?”

There you have it, five of my best tips for furnishing a home on the cheap. What secrets do you have when it comes to furnishing a home on a budget?

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Do You Really Count Field Trips as School?

BlogCruiseButton I don’t often join in on the Blog Cruise but how could I resist after learning that this week’s topic was all about field trips? If you’ve stopped by my blog before, you know I love field trips! I even host a weekly meme called Field Trip Friday where I invite readers to join me by linking up and sharing the neat places they’ve been to each week.

I love to learn outside  the home and even though my kids are older, we’ve had no shortage of field trip opportunities. Recently we were able to tour the Tiffin Motor home Plant, step foot on replicas of the Nina and Pinta and visit the Tennessee Aquarium with friends on the Homeschool Day. Though I love field trips and don’t have a problem counting most of them as school, I know some of you would disagree. You can read my philosophy on field trips at Why Read About it? Let’s Do It!

I incorporate field trips for the following reasons:

1) Field trips make learning come alive for my children.

2) Field trips often enhance a subject that we are currently studying in our home.

3) I use field trips to introduce and build interest in a subject that we will be studying.

4) In the past, I have used field trips to help meet requirements set forth by our state. (Example visiting the local fire department and learning about fire safety.)

5) Field trips allow my children to interact with other students and families ensuring that they are properly socialized. (As if that were really a problem.)

6) Now that my children are older, we often go on field trips that increase their knowledge in various career options.

Field trips have allowed my children to experience firsthand what we’ve read about in books, while opening my children’s eyes to the diversity, culture and history of this great nation.

Some of my families favorite field trips have been trips that we’ve taken as a family. Those include trips to Colonial Williamsburg, Washington DC and our spring trip to The Alamo.

As a group with other homeschooling families we’ve enjoyed visiting Jerry Brown Pottery, visiting our State Capital when we lived in Ohio and meeting our Congressman Jim Jordan and touring Thomas Edison’s Birthplace and Museum in Milan, Ohio.

What field trips have you taken with your children? What is your favorite trip and why?

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Rock Food Table, Something You Won’t Sink Your Teeth Into

This may look like an ordinary table but something is missing. Can you guess what it is? Look closely…

There is actually no real, edible food on this table! This table is actually made up entirely of rocks that look like food. Hard to believe, isn’t it? 


Don’t these chocolate muffins look good enough to eat?


Popcorn, anyone?

Would you like a slice of bread?


Piece of ham?


or Glass of water with lemon?


I first heard of this unique display last year while we were parked out at the US Space and Rocket Center Campground. We met a really nice gentleman that caught our attention when he gave the kids and I a diamond…a Pecos Diamond that is. Pecos Diamonds, or Pecos Quartz are found along the Pecos River near Roswell, New Mexico.  I’d never heard of them, but I have to admit I was flattered. It’s not every day a man gives you a diamond!

It turns out that this sweet man and his wife actually travel to different gem and mineral shows displaying their unique Rock Food Table display.  They began showing their personal collection of ‘food rocks’ for their local Rock and Mineral Chapter and I guess you could say the rest was history.  This year they have plans to show off their hobby at 15 different shows and have had as many as 22 on the calendar in years past.

They’ve managed to put together an extensive collection of  ‘food items’ with rocks they’ve found, bought and received as gifts. The collection on display now spans two tables and contains more pieces than I could count. From the marshmallows in the hot chocolate, to the Jell-o to the Key Lime Pie, it’s hard to imagine that it’s all put together with rocks. I guess seeing is believing.

If you get a chance to see this display at a Gem and Mineral Show near you, make sure you take a moment to stop by and say hi to Bill and Lois, and who knows? You may leave with a diamond of your own too.

What is the most unique rock that you’ve ever found? Do you have one that would fit in their collection?  

Friday, October 8, 2010

Our Weekly Wrap-Up

weekly wrap-up

I’m thankful to say that our household experienced no near death experiences like last week.

We kicked off the week with our first Charlotte Mason/Nature Study Co-op of the year. I’d selected a nearby park that is scenic, has a pavilion available for the public’s use and has a well marked, easy to follow trail. One thing I hadn’t counted on was the unseasonably cold front that decided to come through- that and the fact that it’s always cooler on the mountain made for a chilly time.

Armed with Ziploc bags and a scavenger hunt list, we set off to see what we could find along the trail.

After our hike, we took a lunch break in the parking lot and returned to learn a dry brush painting technique followed by a simple handicraft project.

land trust hike 008 After a quiet school day at home on Tuesday we decided not to let the beautiful day pass us by and headed to a nearby hiking trail that we hadn’t explored before. The trail was rocky, well shaded and very pretty. Sadly we had started late in the day and I needed to start dinner so we didn’t finish the trail but any walking that we can fit into our schedule is better than no walking in my book.

Wednesday was an off day.  We just won’t talk about that.

fencing Thursday we were pleasantly surprised to find that my husband was able to spend the morning with us. Since the kids and I had planned to head to the local botanical garden and see a bit of jousting, he decided to go along with us. We enjoyed watching a bit of what turned out to be fencing before taking another look at the scarecrows. Our membership to the botanical garden has certainly paid for itself again and again!

I was excited to run into one of my Facebook friends- that I’d not met “in real life”. I told my husbandhomeschool girls that I just needed to speak to her and oh my goodness, I could have spent all day talking to her- I swear, Karen is one of the sweetest people that I’ve ever met!  She has an awesome blog called Home School Girls where she shares all the cool things she does with her daughter.  They certainly have a lot of fun times!

After we finished at the botanical garden, my husband headed off to work and the kids and I headed across town to meet some more friends for a park day. I have to admit that I wasn’t really looking forward to hanging out at the park but it turned into a lovely day with incredible company! It still amazes me that critics of homeschooling don’t really think that homeschoolers are socialized properly. It seems like we’ve been doing quite a bit of socializing lately and it’s been really good for all of us because we have been missing our friends at home. I wonder if that will ever cease?

For a couple hours the kids played soccer, football or just hung out while the moms talked about public schools (surprisingly it wasn’t all negative- we aren’t ANTI-public school), our current curriculum or lack of, issues we face with our children and plans for future get togethers. I left feeling incredibly blessed because we really have met some incredible people in Alabama who have gone out of their way to make us feel welcome.  wind power

We had another surprise waiting for us at home, I had a package from CSN Stores sitting on my doorstep which was really fun because I wasn’t expecting it to arrive until next week. And guess what was in the package?  A Thames & Kosmos science kit on Wind Power that I’m eager to review with my kids. 

Friday proved to be another busy day. The Von Braun Center for the Huntsvile Gem and Mineral Society’s Show. I really wanted to go to this because last year we’d met one of the exhibitors and I was intrigued.  Take a look at the table setting in this picture:  rock table  Can you believe that all of this food is actually rocks? It is really amazing to see and I plan to write more about this exhibit later because it truly is something.

Back at home, the kids did some of their book work while I cleaned in preparation for our first camping trip since we sold our camper and the first time we’ve actually slept in a tent in years! I’m sure I’ll have a tale or two for you next week. After all, isn’t tent camping always an adventure?

So, how was your week? You can see what others have been up to at Weird Unsocialized Homeschoolers.    

Because I love Field Trips…

When I found out that the TOS Crew would have the opportunity to review the virtual field trip series from Digital Frog International, I was really disappointed that  I wasn’t chosen to participate. I guess I’m just too busy going on real world field trips! Still, I thought this was a great way to learn about places that many of us wouldn’t normally be able to visit like the desert, wetlands or the rainforest. If you’re as interested in the program as I was, why not stop by the TOS Crew Blog to see what the members of the TOS Crew thought of the program?

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Field Trip Friday: Niña and Pinta

I was excited to learn that replica’s of the Niña and Pinta would not only be making a stop in Huntsville, Alabama, but that they’d be docking not even 15 minutes from our home. One of our all time favorite field trips was to see the replica of the Santa Maria in downtown Columbus, Ohio. The kids were much younger on that trip and we’d just wrapped up a unit study on Explorers. Our tour guide was amazing and we had the ship all to ourselves. What a perfect outing! When I found out we’d have the opportunity to visit Columbus’ companion ships, I couldn’t wait! 

Arriving at the dock, we were surprised to find that both the Niña and Pinta were smaller than we imagined they would be. After spending a few days on a rocky cruise ship, I couldn’t imagine sailing across the ocean in the boats that were on the water before us.         

The Niña and Pinta are both caravels, a type of cargo ship commonly used during the Age of Discovery when Explorers roamed the seas.   These two great replicas of Columbus’ ships were constructed in Brazil under the direction of an American engineer and maritime historian, John Patrick Sarsfield. The ships are both historically accurate replicas of a 15th Century Caravel, built using techniques dating back to the same time period. 

The Niña

the Nina

The Pinta

scarecrow trail 053

Since both of these ships are both sailing vessels we were warned before boarding that we were not to untie any of the ropes. We could look at them, touch them, photograph them but under no circumstances were we to untie them. Ropes were everywhere!

scarecrow trail 056scarecrow trail 058scarecrow trail 059

The boats were also painted black to represent the icky, sticky pine tar that would have been used to preserve the wood on the boats.

scarecrow trail 073scarecrow trail 066scarecrow trail 065We also found it interesting that the ships had square sails rather than triangular ones to catch the trade winds.    

scarecrow trail 052 

Today these ships spend warm weather traversing the rivers and lakes of the Western Hemisphere offering tours to the public as the ships dock in various locations. The crew members volunteer and we found it extremely interesting that our tour guide had just joined the crew three weeks earlier in Kentucky while vacationing with his family. He saw the Crew Wanted sign and away he sailed. He hasn’t been home since and will spend the winter in Mexico while the ship is dry docked for repairs. Now that really is an adventure, isn’t it? 

You can find a schedule for the ships here and if you are lucky enough to have the dock in a marina near you, check out this easy Ships in a Bottle tutorial at Noggins and Nonsense. It would make a fabulous follow-up activity that your younger students will enjoy.  

Have a field trip that you’d like to share? We’re all ears, so please do. It’s really simple. Just link up with Linky Tools. It’s not necessary, but I would be grateful if you included a link back to my site so more people can learn about Field Trip Friday. Don’t forget to stop back next week for more Field Trip Friday fun! Until next week~ Happy Field Trippin’!participated in FTF

Birthday Wishes

Sunday was my birthday. I’ve been loathe to write about it because frankly, I am getting older and though I know it has to happen eventually I’m kind of beating myself up a bit. I’d imagined that by the time I was nearly 40 I’d be a bit more “together” so to speak.

Well, leave it to the Lord to use your children to convict you. The very day that I’m really not pleased with myself my son shares what he had learned from his morning devotion (which of course, I personally had been missing too often).  

He read about someone that was contemplating suicide (and NO, that doesn’t describe me) and were on the edge of a building ready to jump. A police officer showed up on the scene and began talking to the jumper and asked them to name something, anything they were thankful for. After naming one thing, the officer had them name another and another until finally they had an entire list of things and circumstances in their life to be thankful for and no longer even knew why they wanted to jump in the first place.

Simple but it really is true, isn’t it? When we have a thankful spirit, it is so hard to become discontent. So, instead of focusing on the things in life that I’m not pleased with- I chose to be thankful on my special day.

So for my birthday I was thankful that my husband and children were there to celebrate with me. I was thankful that I was able to call or receive calls from my parents’ and brothers’ that live hours away.  I was thankful that my husband was able to make what turned out to be a very minor repair on my van which allowed us to drive an hour away to spend the day hiking somewhere that I’ve wanted to visit for a year!

Just look at these pictures from our hike at Lake Guntersville State Park, the largest manmade lake in Alabama. I loved walking along the trail enjoying the crisp autumn air lightly scented with pine with the distinct smell of  water, letting us know that the lake was near.  The gentle breeze against our skin was so refreshing. I’m so thankful it’s October here in Alabama and finally feels like fall, my favorite season.  

 lake guntersville 035 lake guntersville 036 lake guntersville 037 lake guntersville 038 lake guntersville 040 lake guntersville 042 lake guntersville 058 lake guntersville 060

What a great way to spend a birthday.

This is the day which the LORD has made; we will rejoice and be glad in it. ~ Psalm 118:24

How do you like to celebrate your birthday?

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