Monday, January 31, 2011

Hiking Trails near Huntsville, Alabama: Devil’s Racetrack at Wade Mountain Preserve

Like much of the country, the past few weeks have been a bit cooler than normal. Although, depending on where you live, you may disagree with me when I say it’s been cold here in Alabama. Thursday we got a break when the temperatures climbed nearly 15 degrees to the high 40’s. I decided the kids and I would take advantage of the beautiful weather by exploring one of the hiking trails near Huntsville, which led us to Wade Mountain Preserve.

043 by travelermom, on Pix-O-Sphere

The trailhead at Wade Mountain Preserve begins in the parking area, off Spraggins Hollow Road, minutes from Alabama A & M University. There is a small picnic area with two or three picnic tables but you won’t find any bathroom facilities so make sure you pee before you leave home- and be sure to pack plenty of water.

008 by travelermom, on Pix-O-Sphere The trail is well marked and maintained, though a bit rocky at times. 

006 by travelermom, on Pix-O-Sphere We’d decided that we’d follow the main trail just over a mile to the Devil’s Racetrack.  Periodically we’d encounter a tree with a diamond markers that assured us we were on the right path.

010 by travelermom, on Pix-O-Sphere Along the way we enjoyed listening to the birds and viewing the rock outcroppings. I couldn’t help but think that we should have hiked this trail in the fall—I imagine it would be quite beautiful when the leaves were changing.

 007 by travelermom, on Pix-O-Sphere

At one point I was really disappointed to see that much of the land that borders the preserve has been cleared and wondered if the land is planned to be developed for yet another subdivision. 

011 by travelermom, on Pix-O-Sphere

The trail gradually climbs to an elevation of 1100 feet. Though it isn’t particularly steep,  there are benches located along the trail so you can enjoy the scenery or rest a minute of two if needed.

012 by travelermom, on Pix-O-Sphere

The summit,  and the Devil’s Racetrack Trail,  opens to a rocky clearing with a Cedar glade. Like many other hiking trails near Huntsville, in the spring the landscape will be colored with beautiful wildflowers, a great excuse to plan another hike.

 017 by travelermom, on Pix-O-Sphere

The climate of Wade Mountain is considered to be almost semi-arid. Since the soil is very sandy, it also drains very quickly leaving little water behind for plants. As a result, the plants found here are different from what is typically seen in the area. 

018 by travelermom, on Pix-O-SphereDevil’s Racetrack is an easy 1/2 mile trail that is not only popular to hikers, but to mountain bike riders as well. The trail leads to spectacular views of North Huntsville and on a clear day it’s said that you can see all the way to Tennessee.

019 by travelermom, on Pix-O-Sphere

This was a great hike—one that we’ll look forward to revisiting during various times of the year.  If you find yourself in the area and would like to venture out on one of the trails at Wade Mountain Preserve, you’ll find a map at this link to help you plan your own adventure.

Next time around I think we’ll hike the Rock Wall Trail—and hopefully we’ll see some of those wildflowers, too!

Friday, January 28, 2011

The Homeschool Mother’s Journal- Week 2

The Homeschool Chick

In my life this week…

I was surprised to find out that I won a trip to Tunica, Mississippi! The timing is perfect since my parents are planning a visit from Ohio, which means they can stay with our kids and my husband and I will slip away almost unnoticed! A mommy and daddy need that every now and then, ya know?

Anyway, maybe you can help me out. Tunica is famous for the casino’s but I’d like to break away from the norm here. I plan to visit the Mississippi River Museum, we’ll be staying at Harrah’s and have a gift certificate to eat at 37’s. I’m not saying that my husband won’t enjoy sticking a few pennies in the slot machines, but if you have any suggestions on things to do in the area that don’t include gambling, I’d love to hear them.    

Places we’re going & people we’re seeing…

I think I already let the cat out of the bag on that one.  As far as the kids and I, we’ll be heading out to check out a new Sculpture Trail that is around town. My kids are also super excited to attend a concert where they will see some of their favorite Christian bands like Thousand Foot Crutch and one of my favorites, Casting Crowns. I’ve not decided if I’ll go yet- normally I do go to the concerts with them but this time they think they may want to go with their friends. *sigh* My babies are growing up…*sniff* *sniff*  Actually, its all good with me because now that I’m getting older, I much prefer outdoor concerts.

My favorite thing this week…

Has nothing to do with school. We watched the movie Secretariat. Have you seen it? Oh my. I don’t even like horse shows and am not a fan of horse racing, but I thought that movie was excellent! When it was over we even looked up Secretariat online to learn more- though my kids probably won’t admit that to anyone.   

My favorite thing ,school wise, is that we actually had a couple really great school days. We’ve been reading I Kissed Dating Goodbye by Joshua Harris and discussing it. If you have teenagers and you don’t want to go the dating route, this is a great book. My kids are really enjoying it, though they probably won’t tell you that either. *smile*

I don’t know how many times I’ve heard my husband tell our children, “…that other than choosing to accept Jesus as your personal Savior, choosing a spouse is the most important decision you will ever make.”  We don’t want to encourage them to date, giving bits of their hearts away little by little or throwing them into temptation’s way when they aren’t ready. Unless they are ready, emotionally, spiritually and financially to get married, they aren’t ready to date.  Of course, that can’t just be our decision. Our children have to come to that realization themselves. Oh well, it seems that I’ve gotten off track… 

What’s working/not working for us…

Our YMCA membership is working beautifully for Phys. Ed. I think my kids will get all of their hours in for their high school credits this month if we keep up the pace! We are really serious about getting or staying in shape. 

This week I signed up for a Free class from Homeschoolblogger, The Greatest Hoax on Earth by Dr. Johnathan Safarti from Creation Ministries International. It was the first class that we’ve joined, but my oldest son really enjoyed it so we’ll be joining others in the future.   

My kids have excelled in their weekly ballroom dance classes and have now moved up from beginner status to intermediate. I guess you could say that’s working.

Homeschool questions/thoughts that I have…

This week has been a good week. I may not a perfect homeschool mom, but it’s not one of those weeks that I feel like a failure. It’s good to have a week like that. 

A photo to share…

023 by travelermom, on Pix-O-Sphere

I was disappointed when the hike we were going to take with friends at Bankhead National Forest was cancelled due to lack of interest- actually, I don’t think it was lack of interest, but threat of inclement weather that scared everyone off. When I woke up to a beautiful sunny day in the high 40’s I knew we had to get out of the house. We headed to nearby Wade Mountain Preserve to hike the Devil’s Racetrack trail. I didn’t read the directions quite right and actually told the kids that it was a mile and a half hike. Turned out it was 1 1/2 miles TO the Devil’s Racetrack trail. Our mile and a half hike turned in to nearly four miles!  Oh well, we survived, lived to tell about it and spent an hour at the museum afterwards! I’d say we got a workout, what do you think?

Want to share the thoughts floating around in your head? Why not head over to The Homeschool Chick website and join in the fun? 

TenMarks: A TOS Crew Review


As a member of the TOS Crew, I was selected to review TenMarks, an online math program for students in 3rd grade -- high school.  This quote from the website sums up what the program is all about:

“TenMarks is on a mission to build a stronger foundation and a stronger future for all children. TenMarks was founded by entrepreneurial parents searching for a better way to help students achieve their potential in math, and supplement and enrich their classroom learning.” 

Though I could explain how TenMarks works, this video does a better job than I ever could, so why don’t you take a look and then I’ll tell you a bit more about the program? 


After you take the first step and sign up your child,  you’ll receive a weekly email with your child’s assignments, a series of worksheets. (My children each had four to complete.)

Your child simply logs in to their homepage where they can see their progress, their assignments and any rewards that are available, and get started. Below is an example of a worksheet.

On the left of the screen, you will see the problem, which is multiple choice. Your child can work out the problem and give their answer. You’ll notice on the right of the screen, they can ask for a hint (limited to three) or watch a video lesson. For my children, this is perfect. If they don’t understand a concept, there is no need to dig through a textbook to figure out how to work the problem, the tools they need are right there, a click away. 


After they have completed their worksheet of ten short questions, they simply submit their assignment to be graded-- which takes seconds.  I can’t tell you how much I LOVE this feature. Despite my best intentions, grading my children’s papers has never been my strong point. With TenMarks, they have immediate feedback with the opportunity to view their mistakes and correct their answers right away, while the concept is still fresh in their minds.

Below, you see a Worksheet Summary. The first time your child corrects a worksheet, they immediately see what questions are correct or incorrect, much like the screen shot below.  The large red button on the right would allow them to correct their answers, or they could choose to go to the Home Page.

My child chose to correct their answers and this time around, you can see that my child got 8 out of 10 questions right. Again, they see what questions are incorrect, can view an explanation as to why they missed it, can review all their answers (but not correct them) and can return to the Home Page or simply Log Out.

tenmarks summary

From the Home Page, your child can select to complete another worksheet, see when one is due, play a game or go to their Reward Center (which we have not utilized).


Each week, you will receive an email showing your child’s progress or, if you prefer log in at any time to see how things are to make sure your child is staying on track.

As a mother of high school students, I’ve discovered that you really do lose what you don’t use. Personally, I haven’t used higher math for years and to be honest, at the detriment of my children, I’ve not been interested in learning it again. It was rough enough the first time. My children have all fallen behind in math while waiting for me to “catch up” and get my act together. Math just isn’t my strong point. I may as well be learning a foreign language. I’m lost. As a result, so are my kids. We need a program like TenMarks to walk us through, step by step. A program that can give my children the help they need without me. TenMarks fills that need for my family, specifically, for my children.

You can gain full access to the site for a free trial to see if you think it would be a good fit for your family as well.   

TenMarks works at your pace, on your time frame, and is affordable at a cost of $10 a month, $49 for six months or $89 a year. You can visit the TOS Homeschool Crew blog to see what the other crew members had to say about TenMarks. 

If your current program isn’t working as well as you’d hoped, you’re looking to try something new or you just need to supplement your current program, why not take a look at TenMarks and see if it would work for you?

*I received this program free of charge as part of the TOS Homeschool Crew in exchange for my honest review.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Music Week on the Company Front Porch

This week, the author’s at The Company Front Porch are writing about music. Not sure when my post will be up since I can’t seem to get my act together and turn in my posts at a reasonable time (so sorry, Kristen) but I did enjoy Michele’s post Music Soothes the Savage Beast as she explains what music instruction has looked like in her home over the years. Make sure you read to the end because she included an awesome link of clips to old cartoons that incorporate notes from classical composers in their tunes.  I think you’ll really enjoy it!     

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Update: February Homeschool Days at Burton 4-H Center on Tybee Island


A couple weeks ago I shared some information about Georgia’s 4-H Centers hosting Homeschool Days. Today I got an email stating that the Burton 4-H Center on Tybee Island has just added a new date to the list. February 21st- 23rd they will be offering another Homeschool Days Program with special reduced rates, with classes appropriate for children between the ages of 5-16.  

The full program is $82 per person which includes lodging for 2 nights, 7 classes and 5 meals. Other options include a one night/one day program for $46, or a day program for $26 . Children 5 and under are half price, while those under 2 are free.  The program appears to be very flexible with options for families that chose to stay off-site as well as options which allow families to extend their stay by arriving a day early, or staying a day later.

The hands-on classes include Marsh Ecology, Beach Ecology, Games, Squid Dissection, Crabs and Critters and Wetland Monitoring. During your free time you may choose to discover Fort Pulaski, the Tybee Island Light House, the Tybee Pier, Historic Savannah or the Oatland Island Wildlife Center. Doesn’t this sound absolutely wonderful?

You can view the schedule and enrollment form here or call 912-786-5534 if you have any questions or for more information.

Do you plan to attend any of the homeschool days offered at any of the Georgia 4-H facilities?

Monday, January 24, 2011

The Homeschool Mother’s Journal –Will You Join in the Fun?

The Homeschool Chick

Sue, a.k.a The Homeschool Chick, inadvertently started a fun new meme. I don’t think she intended it to be that way, but her readers sure thought it’d be fun to participate. As a result, she’s added a linky to her post and each week you’ll have the opportunity to answer the writing prompts and link up your own blog post. Sound like fun? I thought it did!

In my life this week…

I have to admit that I’m a bit heavy hearted. This morning my husband called and shared a difficulty that one of our family members is experiencing. I don’t want to share any details, but they’ve been on my mind and in my prayers throughout much of the day.

In our homeschool this week…

We are re-evaluating. We’re a bit slow getting back to the daily grind and I think part of that is because we’ve struggled so much this year to find a daily routine that works for us. Our focus is on spelling, math and writing, with some foreign language thrown in. Pretty much the basics.

My husband also finished previewing The Young Man in the Mirror and has insisted that our boys begin reading it right away. If you have a teenage son, my husband can’t recommend this book enough.

We’re also attempting to spend an hour at the YMCA, three times a week. If my children weren’t so insistant, I know it would be easy for me to slack off on this but we all have a desire to work on getting fit. Okay, that’s a lie. I want to get fit. My boys just want to get six-packs.       

Places we’re going & people we’re seeing…

If you regularly read my blog than you know we’re ALWAYS heading out the door for a field trip. This week we’ll be exploring one of the National Forests here in Alabama with a naturalist. We should be able to see some waterfalls, scenic bluffs and hear about some of Alabama’s Natural History along the way.  We’re hoping that the forecast is wrong and it will be a bit warmer than the 36 degrees that is predicted!

We’re also excited to expect friends over to share a meal tomorrow night. We love to open our home to others so that is an especially special treat.  

My favorite thing this week was…

Okay, since I’m getting in here a wee bit late, I’m going to share my favorite thing that happened last week. Ready? Here it is: I reached my goal of working out three times and discovered that I’m really loving our Y membership, more than I ever imagined! Another benefit? While I’m there, I clear my mind and pray and give praise to the Lord the entire time I’m walking. I leave relaxed and refreshed. Amazing.

What’s working/not working for us…

Right now? Nothing seems to be working- which is the reason for the re-evaluation. Hopefully I can respond a bit more enthusiastically and positively on Friday.

Homeschool questions/thoughts that I have… 

I wonder if every other homeschool mom has the same fears that I have.

A photo to share….

Last week was my husband’s birthday. We bought him a super girlie purple, pink and yellow cake because it was the only one that was half white and half chocolate! We also bought those trick candles that you blow and blow and they still don’t go out. Hmmm…it’s a good thing that not all of the 39 candles were trick candles! I couldn’t believe how difficult it was to extinguish those flames. Oh well….it seemed like a fun idea at the time! 

birthday cake

There’s a peek at our week. This has been really fun! I hope that you’ll consider joining The Homeschool Chick and linking up your own journal pages. Until Friday~ Happy Homeschooling!

Through the Wardrobe and into the Land of Narnia

Have you read the Chronicles of Narnia and wondered what it would be like to step through the wardrobe and into that magical land?  I’ve imagined that moment since I was a young girl and read the C.S. Lewis classic, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe for the first time. When my children were young, we read through the entire series as a family. It took us months, as each night at bedtime, we would read a chapter from our current book followed by A Family Guide To Narnia: Biblical Truths in C.S. Lewis's The Chronicles of Narnia a devotional to accompany the series.   

When we learned that the U.S. Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville would be hosting a special traveling exhibit, Narnia: The Exhibition, I couldn’t wait to go! As excited as I was, we nearly missed it, finally deciding to go the last day it was in town -- and I’m so glad we made it! 

The exhibit opened in the study of C.S. Lewis. It was easy to imagine that you were in England, in a wood paneled room in his home, featuring his writing desk, surrounded by his treasured books, including a rare first edition of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. Oh, how I’d love to have a copy for my personal library!

As fun as it was to pretend that we were visitors of the late great author, nothing compared to the moment the docent pulled back the heavy wooden door of the wardrobe and we found ourselves stepping inside, through the wardrobe, among coats and furs, emerging on the other side, in site of the lamppost with gently falling snow brushing against our faces. We had entered the enchanting, magical world of Narnia and nothing would have made that moment better than if we’d been greeted by a half man, half goat creature named Tumnus.

If you’ve read the books by C.S. Lewis, or watched the movies by Walt Disney Pictures or Walden Media, and even slightly enjoyed them, you’ll love this exhibit. Not only are costumes and artifacts from the movie on display, but you’ll even encounter some of the creatures themselves!  The interactive, hands-on scenes ensure that this museum attraction is fun for the whole family. Young children will enjoy crawling through a log, like the small creatures of Narnia, creating a creature with the spinning blocks, or jumping in the blow up castle.

Older children will enjoy learning about science principals such as climate change while sitting on the frozen White Witch’s Throne or touching  the wall of ice—a frozen waterfall. They’ll discover the secrets of building a strong castle by building an arch and viewing an impressive scale model of King Miraz’s castle. They’ll design build their own coat of arms, lift a sword that belonged to the Pevensie children, fire a trebuchet and stand under the shadows of the majestic centaurs.    

You may have missed Narnia: The Exhibition in Huntsville, but you can still step through the wardrobe at the Buffalo Museum of Science in New York where the exhibit opens today, January 24th !   

The only downside to the exhibit is that photography is not permitted, but you can watch this short YouTube video to learn more.

Are you a Narnia fan? Wouldn’t you love to step through the wardrobe?

*The above post does include an affiliate link to

Sunday, January 23, 2011

The 2:1 Conference: Are you Going?

Last month, the Somewhat Crunchy Mom, my friend Cheryl, introduced the 2:1 Conference that is a faith based event designed for homeschool, social savvy moms or those that want to be this April in Washington D.C. I have to admit that I would love to go to this conference. I’ve wanted to go ever since I caught wind of it on Twitter - and that was before the line-up of speakers was announced! Both the keynote and breakout speakers sound incredible! And who wouldn’t welcome the chance to meet the bloggers that you read online everyday? Not to mention that Washington D.C. is an incredible place for a homeschool field trip, and one of our all time favorite vacation destinations!  Oh yeah, did I mention that I could use the encouragement?  Well anyway, as much as I’d love to attend the 2:1 Conference, I think it will take a miracle to get me there this year. But if you’re planning to go the tickets are on sale Monday only.  So don’t miss out on your chance to get in on the savings!     

Now, who’s going?

Friday, January 21, 2011

I was a Mom, Long before I was a ‘Homeschool Mom’

In a few short years, our homeschooling journey will come to an end. My oldest son will be 18 in less than six months. It’s common to hear him comment several times a day that he is nearly a man. Our days are no longer focused around learning to read or multiplication facts. My independent learners are now interested in things like  photography, writing a novel, gaming, physical fitness and sometimes it seems, everything except school. My children are growing up and soon, their homeschool careers and mine as ‘homeschool mom’ will come to an end. I have to admit that on occasion that very thought has gripped me with fear.

Not because I’m not ever tired of homeschooling or teaching. If I’m completely honest, sometimes I am. Not because sometimes I wouldn’t rather spend the day browsing thrift stores, or playing on Facebook, or Twitter, or reading a stack of novels from the library. Sometimes I can find a hundred things I’d rather do than homeschool my children. Not because sometimes I wouldn’t love to have a career outside the home. I’ve often wondered if choosing to be a stay at home mom and depriving my kids from a public school education wasn’t a huge mistake.

When my senses return, I remember that though it has had its ups and downs, for the most part, I have LOVED homeschooling my children. Has it taught me patience? To be diligent? To persevere? Oh, yeah! Has it been hard? You bet! Has it stretched our entire family? Yes. Has it been worth it? A loud, resounding, thousand times, YES!

Thrift stores, Facebook, Twitter and that bestselling novel will still be there when my children aren’t, and honestly, working outside the home wasn’t that great the first time around. Have my children really been deprived of a traditional school atmosphere? I think not, after all, how many times have I heard someone tell me to be thankful that the Lord has led my family to homeschool?

Homeschooling has had its ups and downs but, now that we’re nearing the end, I’m reminded of the blessings that my family has received over the years as a result of homeschooling. My children have learned at their pace without the stigma that they may not learn like everyone else. We have memories of wonderful field trips, snuggling on the couch on a cold winter day, reading an amazing read aloud, the laughter at failed science experiments, the joy of reading the bible together each morning, and the fact that we love to spend time together. Plus, we’ve been able to travel with my husband which has been an education in and of itself; something we wouldn’t have had the freedom to do if our kids were in public or private school.

I’m not stricken with fear wondering if we made the right decision. I’m stricken with fear because sometimes I wonder if my children will still need me when we no longer homeschool. And then I remember that I was a mom, just plain mom, long before I was a homeschool mom . And I know that my fears are unfounded. Yes, my children will still need me. They will always need me.

This post is linked to…


Thursday, January 20, 2011

Smoky Mountain Attractions Welcome Homeschool Families

As a homeschool family that loves to travel, I’m always on the lookout for attractions that offer great deals and discounts to the homeschool community. Recently, our homeschool cover school announced that two Smoky Mountain attractions offered specific discounts to homeschool families. Well, that certainly got the gears in my brain in motion! I’ve been waiting for a good excuse to visit the area and that was just the push I needed to begin planning our fun, family, homeschool field trip!   

Aquarium- Smoky Mountain Attractions

Ripley Aquarium of the Smokies in Gatlinburg, offers homeschool students and their immediate family (living in the same household) a discounted rate of $7.00 per person. You can purchase your tickets from Guest Services when you arrive at the aquarium. Be prepared to display your homeschool membership card or attendance record. If you have any questions, you can contact the aquarium’s education department.

This was a great deal for my family since we pay adult prices now that my children are all over the age of 12, but if you have children between the ages of 2 to 5, you’ll get a better rate if you pay for them separately (don’t forget you can save $2 per ticket if you purchase them online before you arrive).    

WonderWorks, a Smoky Mountain Attraction

WonderWorks Science Museum in Pigeon Forge is not only one of the top rated Smoky Mountain attractions, it is also one of the best science museums we have ever visited! 

If you contact Andrea, the Educational Director, at least 24 hours prior to your arrival she will alert the box office of your visit so you’ll receive the discounted rate of $14.50 per person upon your arrival. When you contact her include your full name and number of people in your family and make sure you have your homeschool I.D. card handy in order to receive the discounted rate. If you don’t have an I.D. card, The Homeschool Buyers Co-op offers a free template that will allow you to create your own. 

Homeschool rates for 2011 are valid Sunday- Friday with prior reservations throughout the year, excluding holidays. However, February is homeschool month so everyone in your party with a homeschool I.D. can enter for only $10! No reservations are required for the month of February only.   

Purchasing the souvenir book at the box office for $3, will give you a coupon for buy one, get one free for laser tag (which normally costs $5.50 a game). If you have four in your family that want to play, you’ll want two books in order to get two free coupons. The souvenir book also has a fun scavenger hunt in the back that your children will enjoy as they make their way through the exhibits.     

Titanic Museum, a Smoky mountain attraction

There was one other Smoky Mountain Attraction that I didn’t want to miss out on while on this trip, The Titanic Museum!  I wasn’t aware that they offered a homeschool discount, but I thought it certainly wouldn’t hurt to ask if one was available. Guess what? It turns out that they offer a family pass of $64.50 for advance reservations (includes tax) or $66.50 at the door- though  this offer is not specific to homeschool families, it is a great deal for families with older children that would normally pay $20+ per person for the individual ticket rate (for those over 12).

We had studied The Titanic in the past so we didn’t spend a lot of time looking over the website, but if you need to brush up before your visit, the educational resource page is a great place to start.  

We had a great weekend and I can’t wait to tell you about each individual attraction, but in the meantime, maybe you can begin planning your own homeschool field trip to the Smokies!

Are you aware of any other Smoky Mountain attractions that offer discounts to homeschool families?

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Travel Tips: Finding Free Attractions

When planning a trip, we seek out free attractions or those that charge very low entrance fees. Some of the best attractions we’ve found have been through searching National Park Sites, State Parks, the wacky, fun and free attractions found at Roadside America and museums and zoos we can gain free or reduced admission to with our reciprocal memberships

We’ve discovered that the more money we pay for admission, the higher our expectations are. Sometimes this leads us to be overly critical, which ultimately leads to disappointment, but who can argue with free? 

When you’re planning to travel with your family, what resource do you use for finding low cost or FREE attractions?

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Georgia 4-H Centers Host Homeschool Days

GA 4-H I’m excited to announce that the Georgia 4-H Centers will be hosting  Homeschool Day programs again this spring and fall. This year I’m really hoping my family can attend one of the programs, which are designed exclusively for homeschool families - they sound amazing! 

These are hands-on, experiential learning programs for the whole family.  Families stay on site in dorms or cabins, eat in the dining halls and attend the programs designed for 5-17 year olds (children grouped with children of similar ages) together.  Classes offered include various topics and subjects such as marsh ecology, herpetology, beach ecology, pioneer studies, etc.  The aim of the 4-H centers is “to inspire youth with a love for learning by using the outdoors as a “classroom without walls” filled with unique learning opportunities.”  Doesn’t that sound incredible?

I’ve listed the dates of the Homeschool Days at each of the various facilities below. You’ll need to visit the links below for further details  or contact the facility directly at the number provided, as details (classes, prices and schedule) vary among each individual 4-H center.

Tentative- February 21-25 - Homeschool Days at Burton 4-H Center on Tybee Island

Email David Weber ( if you are interested.  If there is enough interest a program can be scheduled for these dates.

April 11 and 13 - Homeschool Days at Fortson 4-H Center, Hampton

April 18-19 - Homeschool Days at Rock Eagle 4-H Center, Eatonton

September 8-10; 11-13; and 18-20 – Homeschool Days at Burton 4-H Center, Tybee Island

October 17-18 - Homeschool Days at Rock Eagle 4-H Center, Eatonton

(at this time the Homeschool Days in the fall seem to have the same schedule as the spring program)

November – Homeschool Days at Burton 4-H Center, Tybee Island

OR…Schedule a Homeschool Day for your own local support group

If those dates or events don’t work for you, there is another option. If you have a group of ten or more friends (children and adults), you can plan your own trip to any of the following Georgia 4-H Centers. You pick the classes and schedule that work for you for either an overnight or day field study. 

Wahsega 4-H Center, Dahlonega,  706.864.2050

Fortson 4-H Center, Hampton,  770.946.3276

Rock Eagle 4-H Center, Eatonton, 706.484.2862

Burton 4-H Center, Tybee Island,  912.786.5534

Jekyll Island 4-H Center, Jekyll Island,  912.635.4117

Tidelands Nature Center (day programs only), Jekyll Island , 912.635.5032

Do you know of any special Homeschool Days in your area? Leave a comment below with a link and I’ll check it out.


Friday, January 14, 2011

Dolly Parton Statue: a Roadside Attraction

Dolly Parton roadside attraction

No need to drive three hours out of our way to find a roadside attraction on our recent trip to East Tennessee- we nearly drove right past one.

When I asked for suggestions of things to do in the Sevierville/ Pigeon Forge/ Gatlinburg area, @SevierFun recommended that we have our pictures taken in Dolly Parton’s home town with her life like statue which is located on the courthouse lawn. It sounded like just the thing my family would be interested in, and @SevierFun wasn’t even aware of our love for roadside attractions! How could we resist?

The bronze statue of this larger than life, local legend was created by an artist from the area by the name of Jim Gray. He captured a young Dolly, barefoot and laughing with her arms lovingly wrapped around her guitar.  Somehow the statue wasn’t quite as… ummm…large…as I’d expected it to be.

If you find yourself near downtown Sevierville, why not swing by for a peek of the   superstar yourself?

You’ll find the statue located at 125 Court Avenue on the Sevier County Courthouse Lawn.

Positive Action for Christ: A Review of The Life of Christ Bible Curriculum


I didn’t know I was on the list to receive this product to review when it was delivered to my door. Talk about a surprise, and a wonderful one at that! Right away I was impressed, from the careful packaging to the attractive appearance of the enclosed materials; I couldn’t wait to dig in with my children.

What we’d received was a Bible program produced by Positive Action for Christ,  titled The Life of Christ, taken from the Book of John. With a student workbook with nearly 300 pages of full color pictures, charts and maps and an accompanying teacher text in a matching three ring binder with a CD of Transparencies included, this program is certainly for the serious student.

The package also came with a letter detailing ways to incorporate the study into your homeschool program, whether you would choose to use a parent-led approach, an independent study approach, for your family devotions or with a co-op or church group, there are ideas to get you started.

Since we do have a Bible study program in place, my original intent was to use this as part of a family devotional program, but that didn’t seem to work out as I planned. No fault of Positive Action for Christ, we just couldn’t seem to get started. I finally decided that I’d go through the program with my teenagers, rather than assigning it to them to work on independently.

I previewed  the lesson and printed pages from the Transparencies CD to use as notebooking pages. Armed with our Bibles we gathered in the living room and jumped in. It is recommended that the child work through the “Student Lesson” prior to the teacher covering the “Notes from the Teacher’s Lesson”. We tweaked it a bit since we were using this as a family. My children found it difficult to share one workbook  (ideally, if you plan to use this with your entire family, it would be great if each person participating in the study could have their own book) . To remedy the problem, I read from the text while the kids looked up the various scriptures as we came to them. We all took turns reading aloud while following along in our own Bibles. We would then discuss the various questions posed in the text before continuing. There is an incredible amount of scripture to look up so I found it helpful to break down the lessons over a period of two or three days.

When we had finished the “Student Lesson”, I’d read from the “Notes from the Teacher’s Lesson” while answering the questions in the workbook. Again, there is a lot of scripture to look up and we seemed to spend quite a bit of time in discussion. Once again, I would break down this aspect of the lesson into two separate sessions, or days.

You’ll also find a “Digging Deeper” section in the student text that offers additional research ideas to further your study. These can be assigned to your students or researched and discussed as a family. 

A quiz is included in the teachers’ manual for each lesson which we do orally as a review. There are also unit tests included. There is also a Scripture Memorization Program that I’d like to incorporate as well that up to this point, we have not used.

Though it is suggested that you complete one lesson per week (a total of 35 lessons), I’m finding that with the holidays and a few other interruptions, it has taken us more like two weeks per lesson, though I do anticipate that we will be able to implement a smoother schedule as we settle back into a routine once again.

There are many things that I find appealing about this program.

1. This is not a simple, fluff course- but that doesn’t mean that it is overly difficult either. Written in a style that young people can understand, it doesn’t strive to make lessons ‘fun’ but instead focuses on the Truth of scripture.

2. I love that the program is so easy to follow. You can pick up this program and jump right in- no need to spend hours trying to ‘figure out’ how to use it. Your focus can be spent on preparing to teach your students, rather than learning how to teach “the program”.

3.  You’ll learn about the customs and common practices that were in place in A.D. 29-32 which is something that my children and I have found fascinating!

4. The Teacher’s Manual also includes an extensive Recommended Reading List that I’d love to make my way through before assigning some of the books to my children.

5. The goal is to encourage a closer and deeper relationship with Christ, not just to create head knowledge.

th_ssk1300GROUP The Life of Christ is written for 9-12th grades in mind and though it may work for slightly younger children to use independently, I’m inclined to agree with the publishers recommendations on this one. You’ll find that Positive Action for Christ has a large number of materials that are suitable for other ages/grade levels as well as devotionals and materials to encourage growth of your child’s Christian walk.

This is an excellent resource that I have thoroughly enjoyed using with my children. We will continue to use this and I already have a shopping list of materials I’d like to purchase when we’ve finished this study which includes Top Priority: Manna, a daily devotional written for teens, the Christian Growth series and the Proverbs: The Fountain of Life study, only next time around I’ll be sure to purchase a student workbook for each of my children.

The Life of Christ Student Manual sells for $17.95, while the Teacher’s Manual in the binder sells for $41.95, which includes masters of all overhead transparencies (not included) or on CD for $29.95.

You can place an order or view the materials that Positive Action for Christ offer at their website.

Download a free Scope and Sequence or catalog or request one online. 

Since this is a company that produces Bible study material, you may also find it helpful to read about the history of Positive Action for Christ and their doctrinal statement, which can be found here

You can see what other reviewers had to say about the program here.

*I received the material from Positive Action for Christ free of charge in exchange for sharing my personal and honest opinion of their product here on my blog. 

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Just Call it the Snow Rocket!

The snow hit in North Alabama this week. So much snow that for a minute I forgot that I no longer live in Ohio but now live in a much warmer climate where it never snows- supposedly. 

It snowed so much that my husband couldn’t go to work. In fact, the entire city shut down. Imagine that.

As much as I thought I disliked the white stuff,  when it’s not a common occurrence, and you don’t have anywhere that you HAVE to be,  it turns out that snow is a pleasant distraction.

Since it wasn’t really all that cold, we spent most of Monday outside building what we thought would be a snow fort. However, the boys (my husband included) were having so much fun that our fort soon grew out of hand. So they thought they’d shift gears and create a giant snowman. But everyone built snowmen. We needed something different. And then, it came to me. We needed a rocket. After all , we do live in the Rocket City!

We were very pleased with the finished product, a snow replica of the Saturn V, even though it could be a bit….well…thinner….   

We even made a little astronaut guy to complete the scene.

Snow Rocket

My husband had a crazy idea to sleep inside our creation when it was to be a fort. Though we decided that wasn’t going to work, at the very least we needed to climb inside for a group photo. It was a bit snug. And a bit small.

inside our rocket

For some reason I began to laugh. and laugh. and laugh. And my children looked at my husband with puzzled looks and asked ‘Dad, why is mom laughing like that?’ In all his wisdom he responded, ‘ Because she’s claustrophobic and she’s about to freak out.’ Just as calm as can be. So to say that I couldn’t wait to get out of our ice ship was a wee bit of an understatement.

So, we all made our way out. One by One.


Don’t I look relieved?


Not everyone was as nervous as I was.


   That’s not a grumpy look, by the way. It’s his ‘cool’ appearance.


I really love these pictures!

rocket 1 

Even our trusty side kick, glowing- eyed- beasty- dog, had to accompany us. I think he was about as relieved to be out of the Snow Rocket as I was.


What a fun day. And what a fun memory!

Have you experienced any wild and wacky weather this week? How did you deal with it?

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Let’s Talk History…


I have a confession. When I was in school, I hated history. If there was ever a class I was likely to fall asleep in, that would be it. Thankfully, I had a 4th grade teacher that gave me and the rest of my class a glimpse at how interesting and relevant history could be. Years later when I began to think about homeschooling my own children, I remembered her amazing history lessons and knew I wanted to my kids to learn history the very same way. Can you believe that I have three children that LOVE history?

This week the Company Front Porch at Homeschool Blogger is talking about history and I shared how my 4th grade teacher inspired me, so I hope that you’ll stop by and share what methods you use to teach history in your home. 

Virtual Nerd, Real help in math and science: A Review

logo virtual nerd

I’ve always enjoyed telling homeschooling moms about new, innovative products, materials and curriculum that I come across that is ideal for the homeschool market. One of the wonderful benefits of serving as part of the TOS Crew is the opportunity to not only to be offered products that fit that description, but to use them with my own children so I know if I want to recommend them to others. I’d barely had a chance to use this product, Virtual Nerd, when I found myself recommending  it to a friend on our recent trip to Ohio, and our discussion turned to the subject dreaded by many, math.

Virtual Nerd, Real help in math and science, is a series of online interactive video tutorials for Pre-Algebra, Algebra 1, Algebra 2 and Intro Physics with more programs in the works. In short, this program is like having a personal tutor in the comfort of your own home, with access around the clock when you need them.

The videos are high quality, clear and concise with some amazing features that allow the student to really dive in and find the answers they seek.  Each tutor stands before an incredible board that Virtual Nerd has dubbed ‘the Dynamic Whiteboard’. This feature allows the instructor to write out the problems while working through them on screen so your student can easily follow along.  The notes are then transferred to the right side of the screen so if you have a problem understanding any of the steps (or handwriting) it’s right there for you. I also really appreciate the fact that you’ll  find the video broken down step by step on the right hand side. This is perfect, allowing you to skip the portions of the video that you don’t need or allowing you to re-watch what you do, without sitting through the entire video again.

Virtual Nerd

As you watch each tutorial, you can mouse over steps and if you’re stuck you can ask the program to simplify what you don’t understand. This breakdown allows you to pinpoint the help that you’re looking for.   After you watch each video you have the option to watch it again or follow their suggestion to another video. I know that’s kind of confusing to understand but it is explained perfectly in the introductory video on the front page of the Virtual Nerd website.

preview virtual nerd

This is a great program for homeschool families as well as parent’s with children in public schools. Virtual Nerd even offers a program for classrooms! They really have thought of everything and have some wonderful changes and upgrades coming soon, which will include an enhanced search option and additional classes.

While they do offer two hour access to the program at no charge to try it out, for as little as $5 you can gain full access to the site and decide if Virtual Nerd is something that will work for your family. While they offer weekly and monthly plans, you’ll get the best deal if you sign up for their 3 month program for $129. I find their prices comparable to what you would expect to pay for an outside class and in many cases, much less than what you’d pay for a private tutor. You can view all the different options that are offered here.

Before getting started make sure that you take a look at the technical requirements that are needed to view the videos. Though I have Microsoft Internet Explorer 8, the videos would not run on my computer (this could be a glitch with my computer because other reviewers did not experience the same problem I did). I downloaded Mozilla Firefox and everything worked beautifully.

If you have a student in the 7-12th grade that is struggling with their math program or are just not as confident as they could be, take a look at Virtual Nerd.

You can read other reviews of Virtual Nerd by visiting The Old Schoolhouse Homeschool Crew website

*I received full access to the entire Virtual Nerd website in exchange for sharing my honest opinion of their program. 

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Travel Tip: Save those Quarters


Be sure that you always keep a stash of quarters and shiny pennies on you when you’re traveling. Not only will they come in handy for toll charges and parking meters, but they’re great for the smashed (elongated) penny machines that can be found at many attractions. The smashed pennies are a really inexpensive souvenir and they are so fun to collect!

Monday, January 10, 2011

A Quick Weekend Getaway to Tennessee

Our trip to Ohio at Christmastime wasn’t my husband’s idea of a relaxing getaway. Though it is always wonderful to visit with friends and family that we don’t normally see, rushing around and trying to visit everyone is a tad bit stressful. There just never seems to be enough time to appease everyone.

For the most part, we managed to make everyone happy this time around, with one exception;  my husband. He just didn’t feel like he got that break that he really needed. So we planned a weekend getaway that would hopefully do the trick. Destination? The Sevierville/Pigeon Forge/Gatlinburg area of  Tennessee.

Since my husband had requested tons of fun, we thought it would be great to visit some of the area’s top attractions.

Though this was already a spur of the moment trip, as is our custom, things changed at the last possible moment. Originally, we had plans to stop at Chattanooga Friday night before we continued on our trip. With the weather forecast looking particularly gloomy, we decided to delay our departure by one day until we had an idea of what the unpredictable weather would do. 

We woke early Saturday morning and drove straight to Tennessee, about a five hour drive. Arriving in Sevierville, we did find quite a bit of snow and some slick roads. The good news (for us) is that the weather kept the crowds at home.

Our first stop was the Smoky Mountain Knifeworks, located just off the interstate on 66 in Sevierville where my boys happily shopped.


Nearing lunch time we stopped at Long John Silver’s, one of our favorite fast food restaurants, to fill our bellies and waste time until our reserved entry to The Titanic Museum.


After that sober tour we lightened up with a trip to Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies in Gatlinburg, stopping along the way to admire the snowy scenery.

snowy river gatlinburg

Spotting a sign that read “Air Soft Guns for Sale” led to us hitting the strip in Gatlinburg for a bit of shopping. Not only did the boys leave with something they loved, so did my daughter.

chelsea's suitcase

We rushed back to Pigeon Forge to meet one of my best friends from high school and her family at Ci Ci’s for dinner.

We’d considered taking in a show but after actually stopping to rest a minute we decided we were ready to call it a day so we checked into our hotel just down the street.

We slept in a bit on Sunday so instead of the traditional La Quinta breakfast, we opted for warm glazed creme filled doughnuts at Krispy Kreme before continuing the fun with one final stop…Wonderworks.

krispy kreme

We filled up on gas, grabbed subs from Subway…so much for experiencing one of the area restaurants…and we were on the road to home.   

We had a very busy but, incredible weekend. Though we’ve been to the Smoky Mountain area on several occasions in the past,  we’ve mainly spent the time hiking and exploring the Great Smoky Mountain National Park. This was the first time we really experienced the more commercial side of things and we did it with some amazing discounts that are offered to homeschool families, but only if you know to ask for them. Stay tuned, I’ll share more about those later this week.

Have you ever been to Sevierville, Pigeon Forge or Gatlinburg?  What has been your family’s favorite attraction?     

Friday, January 7, 2011

Field Trip Friday: Wheeler Wildlife Refuge


This past Monday, the kids and I drove to Wheeler Wildlife Refuge, located just outside Decatur in Northern Alabama. Our plan was to meet some of our friends, do some bird watching and take a short hike. We didn’t know that it would turn into a really special treat.

Wheeler Wildlife is the first wildlife refuge to be overlain on a multi-purpose reservoir.  I didn’t know what that meant when I heard it on the movie at the refuge, so I looked it up. A multi- purpose reservoir means that it is a man-made lake that is managed by people for different purposes. According to the website, the area was once plagued by mosquitoes so they began managing the mosquito population by draining the lake during certain times of the year. The result was remarkable. Not only is the land extra fertile in the areas that are sometimes flooded, but it also played a part in becoming a winter habitat for Alabama’s largest duck population.  And yes, it did help to control the mosquitoes.   

Created in 1938, today Wheeler is home to nearly 300 species of birds, not to mention the mammals, amphibians, insects and reptiles that roam the 35,000 acres of land.   

The kids and I arrived earlier than I’d planned, but that was okay. I thought it’d give us plenty of time to ask the Ranger on duty a few questions and snoop around in the small gift shop. We didn’t really have a chance to do either because as soon as we stepped in the door the Ranger informed us that there were two whooping cranes visible from the Observation Buildings, a short walk from the Visitors Center. Not sure how long they would be there, we wasted no time high tailing it down the path and into the building where we were rewarded with a remarkable view of the extremely endangered creatures.

We learned that each Whooping Crane is banded so they know where they are at all times. Sadly, there are only 576 known to be left…in the world!

The Observation Building is wonderful! It has two floors with large windows enabling you to great views of the waterfowl as they fly in and out of the lake and over the fields. On the first floor you’ll find a room with ceiling to floor windows and bleachers, ensuring that even with many visitors, you’ll have a great view. There are also spotting scopes so if you don’t have good binoculars, you can still get an up close look at the birds. You’ll also find many large wooden signs depicting the most commonly spotted species of birds.

We saw hundreds of Sandhill Cranes that can be found nesting at the refuge. Though we saw hundreds, I found it interested that nearly 8,000 call Wheeler home this time of year. sandhill cranes

The Observation Building also has speakers that pipe in the sounds from outside. This time of year it’s rather noisy, since November thru February you’ll find many migratory birds. 

We lingered for a bit and tried to take a few photos before heading back to the parking lot to wait for our group to join us.  

After I’d directed all our friends to the Observation Building  to catch a glimpse of the Whooping Cranes  for themselves, we all headed inside to view the indoor exhibits depicting the various habitats found at the refuge and to watch a short 20 minute film that gave a brief history of the refuge, as well as what you can expect to see on your visit.      wheeler wildlife refuge displays

On this particular visit, my goal was that the kids would be able to identify some of the waterfowl that we would see. We headed back to the Observation Building once more with simple notebook pages in hand that I’d put together showing some of the birds that we were likely to see this time of year. Though it’s incredibly simple, the point was just to introduce the kids to birds that they may not be familiar with so that they would hopefully be able to name a few of them in the future if they aren’t already able to do so.  This was easy to put together with information that I found on the Wheeler Wildlife Refuge website with pictures that were easily found on the web.

bird spotters guide

Unfortunately, the day was quite a bit cooler than we’d anticipated and as we ate our packed lunches outside on the metal picnic tables, we nearly froze. I really need to remember that we are from Ohio, so the Alabama winters don’t really feel too bad to us- unlike our friends who have lived in Alabama or warmer climates for quite some time.   

We ended our day with a quick 1/2 mile hike along Atkeson Cypress Trail. It is a scenic hike along a boardwalk though a cypress swamp.

Wheeler Wildlife Refuge is FREE and part of the North Alabama Birding Trail. If you are an avid bird watcher, this is the place to be right now. Though I didn’t set up an organized field trip with the refuge, the staff is more than willing to do that for educator’s and groups. The days and hours that the refuge is open change throughout the year so it is best to check out the website or call (256) 350-6639 to verify hours before your arrival.   You’ll find directions here.

Have you been on any fun field trips lately? Link up and share- even if it’s a field trip you took last summer! The link- up will be up for the next 7 days if you’d like to join in.

Field Trip Friday will be back the first Friday in February for another link-up so don’t forget to mark your calendars and get your posts ready!

Until next time….~Happy Field Trippin”!

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