Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Shifting my thinking about "home"schooling!

When we started homeschooling, I was looking forward to keeping my kids home with me & teaching them myself. We did a lot of things within the 4 walls of our home. We did a lot of "school at home" type work. Lots of worksheets, lots of busy work.

Over the last several years, the way we homeschool has slowly changed. We are doing less & less traditional schoolwork. Yes, we still do math & grammar worksheets. But the way we do the rest of school is changing. I used to let the textbooks we had dictate the lessons I taught for science & history. Now, I'm letting life dictate the lessons we learn. 

When we were at my parents this past summer, we learned about plants. We learned about planting, picking weeds and harvesting vegetables. When at my in-laws, they learned about serving others by delivering Meals-on-wheels. They learn about the past from their Great Mamaw, Grandparents & countless Aunts & Uncles. They learn about construction, destruction, wood & hard work from their Uncle Bob. They learn about Chickens from their Aunt Wendy. 

When we travel with Hubby, they learn about lots of different things depending on where we are at. They've learned about the Ocean, Airplanes & space travel and recently caves & the Civil War. They are also learning about family & getting along with each other in small hotel rooms.

If you ask them about what they've learned so far in life, they won't be talking about what they learned in some book or on some worksheet. They will, however, tell you about meeting General Grant, who is a college professor. Or tell you about the cave they went through & what it's made of. They will tell you about the ocean & how it smelled & felt. 

I'm leaning more & more towards hands on travel & life experience. I'm teaching science based on questions that come up or situations we find ourselves in. We've had lots of interesting discussions about buoyancy and displacement in hotel pools. We talked about geology at Mammoth Cave. 

History discussion lately have come from visiting several Civil War Battlefields. These battlefields also brought up political & religious discussions as well as ones on ecology, preservation & human dignity/worth.

Reading opportunities avail themselves everywhere. Information signs at historical sights, wikipedia & other articles pertaining to something we've seen, and books we've picked up in our travels. Writing is covered when they journal about their experiences or fill out guidebooks to become Junior Rangers at the National Battlefields.

I guess you could say that I'm shifting my thinking & my approach from homeschooling to life educating! Forget the textbooks, give me hands-on learning opportunities any day! Besides, who remembers what they learned in public school?? I don't! If I want to know something, I research it on the Internet or in books. So we are going to teach the kids how to find information & how to think critically about what they find. Then we are going to put them in situations were they can explore, play & experience life! 

Feel free to follow us in this journey of living life here on our blog! We might even resurrect our podcast!

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Living history at Fort Donelson & Fort Defiance

Like I said in my last post, there's just something to be said for seeing reenactments of history. On Saturday, February 18th, the KY 9th were at Fort Donelson to reenact the occupation of the fort after the surrender. It is amazing to see the passion these men have for history & for imparting that history to others!

 Here the men are lined up to receive their ammunition in order to demonstrate to us how to load their guns & then how they shot their guns.

 There were lots of people watching. Notice that David is intently watching & Jessica was a little less impressed by it all.

 After their demonstration, we were invited into the camp to check it out & to ask questions. Here are the remnants of their lunch.

Here are some of their guns. Beautiful, aren't they?!

 This young man was showing the kids how to build a proper fire. He was so good about explaining everything he was doing and why.

Jessica is eating Hardtack that one of the soldiers passed out to everyone. It's a cross between bread & a cracker. The soldiers would eat this when they were on the move.

This young man was showing the kids what a soldier might have in his pack. David was very interested in these glasses.

 This was a sewing kit that a soldier might carry. 
Jamie was impressed that soldiers had to know how to sew.

These beautiful Lilies were growing on the hillside next to the camp. I wonder if they grew in that spot 150 years ago & if they cheered the soldiers.

 These men were visiting the River cannon embankments. It made it a little easier to visualize the past.

 The kids posing for a picture before we left Fort Donelson.

 Then today, February 19th, we went to Fort Defiance to witness a ceremony commemorating the occupation of Clarksville by the Union. There were lots of people dressed up as well as lots watching.

 A few of the soldiers talking before the ceremony.

 This ceremony was in a small room that was not designed for this type of activity. David was frustrated because he could not see. I don't blame him. 

 Jessica was on Daddy's shoulders the whole time & still could barely see.

 Jamie looked quite bored as she could only see the people in front of her & had to stand there just listening.

 Here are some of the women after the ceremony. I admire them for being able to dress the part & visit with all the people.

 We got to see General Grant again! Jessica was thrilled. I think David was a little intimidated. 

 This men took their color-guard duties seriously & stood here for over an hour while people talked with them & took pictures of them. Notice the beautiful city of Clarksville in the background!

This man was teaching the crowd about his gun & about the canon. It amazes me the knowledge these re-enactors have of the civil war. Some of them have been taught this knowledge from their parents & grandparents. We are so blessed to have been able to be here & learn from them.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Yesterday we returned to Dover, TN to visit Fort Donelson again. There's just something about standing on the ground where history was made that makes that history come alive.

 Everytime I stand beside these cannons by the river, I can't help but to think what a frightening sight it must have been for those men to see smoke from the ironclad ships coming around that bend in the distance.

 Jessica is intent on taking a picture, not of the cannons, but of the eagle!
 The eagle was back! Just as majestic as before. I wonder if one sat in that same tree before the battle 150 years ago.

 They were pretending the ironclads had been spotted & they had to man the cannons.

 Posing for a picture. Notice how hard it is to get them all to stand still & smile at me!

 At the lower river battery. 

 In the afternoon, we went to the Surrender House (Dover Hotel) to witness the surrender of General Buckner to General Grant. We thought we would be early (30 min before the event) but we had to park 1/2 mile up the road.

David was intently taking pictures & video of all the soldiers!

 Two of the re-enactors before the event.

 I don't think the girls were as interested in all the soldiers as David was.

 I thought it was so neat to see some ladies dressed for the part & this little boy was adorable!

 The confederate soldiers were lined up to surrender their arms. I found it interesting that the man in black was their chaplain. Chaplains always were black in the Civil War, regardless of which side they were on.

 Union bugler calling everyone to attention.

 Confederate troop leader calling his men to attention & giving them orders to follow commands of the union guards. It was at this time that the cell phone of one of the soldiers rang. Everyone got a big laugh from that.

 I love this soldier. He played the part very convincingly. There's just something him that just transported me back in time.

General Simon Buckner announcing to his troops that he had signed the surrender paper & that they were to follow General Grant's orders.

 General Grant. 
 General Grant gave a speech to the soldiers. 

 Jeff talking to General Grant aka Dr. E.C. Fields, Jr. He is a friend of one of the nurses Jeff works with here in Dover. Check out his website at

We are so blessed to be able to travel with Hubby and see historic places. Visiting places and watching living history events makes history come alive. The kids remember this more than just reading about it in a book. They can connect with it! 

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Yesterday, on February 13th, we visited Mammoth Cave again. We took the New Entrance tour again & also the Historic tour. This is a 400 stair 2 mile/2 hour tour. 

 One of the areas of the cave where there are benches. They give us a rest & tell us more of the history of the cave.

 Sample of what the ceiling inside the cave is like. Large slabs of limestone!

 Most of the cave tour is large passages like this. But there are tight places.

 Part of the Frozen Niagara. Many parts of the cave were named by early cave owners when they gave tours. They chose names that the rich east-coast people who traveled here for tours would find familiar.

 The areas that are white are more pure! If they are black, they have been polluted by human touch.

 This is a zoomed out picture of the frozen niagra to give you a little perspective of how big this is. This is only the top of the area. Those gates are about 3 1/2 feet tall.

 This is looking down at the Frozen Niagra.

 Stalactites, Stalagmites & columns in the Frozen Niagara.

 The Natural opening of Mammoth cave as we start the Historic tour. Notice this ice! It was cold!

 Remnants of the Saltpeter operation from 1812-1815.

 One of the many natural caverns in the cave.

 One of the natural waterfalls in the cave.

 More of the beauty of the cave.

Notice the ice. We are near the surface here so it was colder in the cave.

 Some beautiful flowstone. Almost missed this as we were climbing the stairs in Mammoth Dome.

 More beauty!

 This is one of the waterfalls on the walk from the cave opening to the visitor center.

It was so cold but the ice was so beautiful. 

I think my favorite moment of the day was when David looked at me in the cave & said "Mom this is so beautiful. God created all this." He said this to me several times during the tour. I love that he could see God's handiwork in the caves, even when the tour guide was talking about the cave being made by water & natural processes over long time periods.