Welcome to my new series, "A Homeschooler’s Guide to Charlottesville!" We have been homeschooling in the Charlottesville area for nine years now, so I have collected a great list of field trips and activities that I would like to share with you. Each post will explore a different homeschooling treasure in the Charlottesville and Central Virginia area. These posts are meant to be used both by local families and by homeschooling families visiting Charlottesville. I would like to start the series off with an obvious favorite, Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello. If you are thinking, “Been there, done that,” I urge you to think again. There is a lot more to Monticello than the house tour. You could spend a week just doing the free and low-cost activities in and around Monticello without ever purchasing a house pass.
Recent research shows that being creative is an easy way to reduce stress. Cortisol levels in adults were measurably lower after a 45-minute art session. As a homeschooling mom, I have no problem finding creative outlets for my kids, but I often neglect myself. It's hard to make the time to paint a picture or knit a scarf when I feel responsible for raising the next Steve Jobs.
When we take a trip, I either plan it based on a current book we are reading or find a book to coincide with our trip. Although I have dreams of visiting England to go on an adventure with Enid Blyton or to visit a secret garden, most of our trips are within driving distance of our home in Central Virginia. And because we have so much fun exploring the places we read about in our books, I thought I would share them with all of you through my new series Books and Trips!
My nine-year-old son is a budding naturalist. We bought him a huge glass cabinet to house his collections of insects, shells, marine animals, rocks, nests, bones, dried flowers and more. Since he loves to collect and explore nature, I decided to use this as a learning opportunity. We began studying the classification of living things. We have visited many natural history and nature museums. And we started reading about the lives of other famous naturalists.
Growing up, I was two different people. In my personal life, I was confident and outspoken. In my academic and professional life, I was unsure and quiet. In school, I was a straight-A student but I was largely ignored by my teachers because I sat quietly in the back of the classroom. I never raised my hand or offered any input into the academic discussion. I was one of many females who felt like my opinion didn't matter or that I wasn't good enough or smart enough to participate.
Summer may be almost halfway over but it's not too late to get your kids involved in some summer reading. And what better way to motivate them than with free stuff! My son was a late reader. He resisted all of my efforts to read for fun until he did the Barnes & Noble Summer Reading Club last summer. He picked up a free book, The 13-Story Treehouse, as his prize and read it in two days! So I am a big fan of summer reading programs. Here are some of my favorites:
My 9yo son is most definitely a future entomologist. Everywhere he goes, he flips over logs and digs through debris to find new and unusual bugs. While many parents might squirm when they have a bug in their face (and believe me I do when it comes to things like dobsonflies), I try to turn it into a learning opportunity. Read on to learn how to keep insects as pets and how you can use this as a great teaching tool for your kids.
The Wishing Chair is a lovely collection of three books about two children who discover a magical chair that can fly and grant wishes. They go on amazing adventures and visit fantastical places like the Land of Wishes and the Land of Dreams, and they even help Santa deliver presents. I love that these stories appeal to a child's sense of adventure and fantasy without introducing scary or inappropriate subject matter. They are just timeless, sweet stories that are full of the stuff that kids dream about. We first read them when my son was five but I think kids of all ages would love them.
Geography is one of those subjects that we touched on in kindergarten and then have covered sporadically since then. I still remember the kindergarten geography lesson. I printed out a series of pages - one with a picture of the solar system, one with just Earth, one with North America and then the United States, then our state, our county, our city and our neighborhood. We reviewed it a bunch of times until I was sure that my son understood our place in this big wide world. And of course we sang The Continent Song. Then that was that.