Posts tagged ‘athens’

November 5, 2013

Scary, Oozy, Slimy Day at the Sandy Creek Nature Center

Attending Scary, Oozy, Slimy Day every October at the Sandy Creek Nature Center in Athens, Georgia has become a tradition in my family. There’s nothing scary about it, of course. It’s a wonderful event that showcases under appreciated animals such as snakes, frogs, bugs, spiders and more. There are many hands-on activities and games for children, and children are invited to wear their Halloween costumes, if they want to.  We have especially enjoyed meeting and speaking with the college students who man several of the stations and share creepy crawlies from the university. Since my son is interested in biology, we’ve learned a lot by chatting with them.

Here are just a few images from our visit this year, in October 2013.

 

 

 

My husband the beekeeper? I don’t think so.

 

 

June 6, 2013

Events for Kids & News for Homeschoolers

{Winder, Georgia} {Athens, Georgia} {Georgia homeschooling law changes 2013}

Note: This column was published in the Barrow Journal on June 5, 2013.

Here are a few odds and ends for parents and homeschoolers as you begin your summer vacation:

Georgia House Bill 283 was amended so that homeschoolers no longer have to submit attendance forms to the Georgia Department of Education. Last year the bill was amended so that homeschoolers no longer needed to submit their forms to local school districts. Now we report directly to the Georgia Department of Education, and with this new change, all we are required to submit to the state is a Declaration of Intent to homeschool.

Recently I spoke with Patrick Blenke, Program Manager of Curriculum and Instruction, and he confirmed that this law will take effect July 1, 2013.  Any homeschooler whose school year ends after July 1st as stated on your Declaration of Intent does not need to submit attendance forms. He did make it clear that homeschoolers still need to track attendance and must have 180 days of instruction.

Home study programs must include instruction in reading, language arts, mathematics, social studies and science, but may include more. We are also required to administer a standardized test every three years starting in the third grade, and write an annual progress report, but these items don’t have to be submitted to the state either. If a child is homeschooled and then enrolled in a public school, these records may prove useful.

For the complete law on homeschooling go to the Georgia Department of Education’s website: http://www.doe.k12.ga.us/Curriculum-Instruction-and-Assessment/Pages/Home-Schools.aspx

  • Whether you homeschool or not, you may be interested in checking out the new Atlanta Homeschool magazine. It’s full of great travel information and activities to do with kids, and of course, it’s full of advice for homeschoolers as well!  You can subscribe to receive a print edition, or you can read it online for free: http://www.atlanta-homeschool.com

Here are a couple of items you can find on the web that you might enjoy too:

  • If you are a space buff, you probably already know about Commander Chris Hadfield, who wowed the world recently with his rendition of David Bowie’s “Space Oddity” from the International Space Station (ISS). Commander Hadfield posted several educational videos and photographs during his recent five-month mission on the ISS. My six-year-old especially loved the video he did of wringing out a washcloth in zero gravity, and your children probably will too. You can see all of Commander Hadfield’s videos and photos on his Twitter feed at https://twitter.com/Cmdr_Hadfield.
  • If your kid is a nature lover like mine, you’ll be interested to know that we are raising a second generation of butterflies (I wrote a column about our first generation a few weeks ago), and they are almost ready to turn into butterflies! You can see photos of the whole life cycle on my Facebook page, if you’re interested. It’s a public page, so you don’t have to join Facebook to see the photos: https://www.facebook.com/mamaofletters. Of course, I’ll write about our adventure with the butterflies when we’re finished.

Please add any other event information or online resources for kids in the comments section below.

November 6, 2012

Sandy Creek Nature Center’s Discovery Boxes Are Available to Home Educators

It wasn’t long after I taught my (then four ~ five-year-old) about the solar system that I learned about the discovery boxes at the Sandy Creek Nature Center.

You can check out a discovery box for two weeks for the cost of $5.00.  Though they are created for classroom use and may have more in them than one family can use, they are still worth looking at if you are working on a particular subject.  They are for approximately pre-K through 5th grade.

They have discovery boxes for a wide array of subjects such as astronomy, weather, rocks and gems, mammals, animal tracks, creatures of the night, birds, trees, marine life and more… If you stop by the nature center, ask the receptionist to see the list of discovery boxes. There’s an inventory list for each box.

I tried the astronomy box when we were learning about the solar system.  There were two children’s books that were perfect for my son, and a bag of planet magnets that he had fun arranging on our refrigerator. We also had fun trying to get the little planetarium star theater to work, but we don’t have the right kind of room for it, and it didn’t look right in our bathroom! (The darkest room in our house.)

There was a lot of stuff that just wasn’t age appropriate for him and materials for a large classroom that I didn’t need.  Unfortunately, some of the materials were old, and things like computer programs were not compatible with my computer.  The books were outdated and stated that Pluto is a planet, but that didn’t bother me.

I don’t want to discourage you from checking into these boxes, however.  If you’re working on a particular unit, or your child has an interest in a certain subject, you should look into it.  Every box is going to offer different stuff.

July 29, 2012

Wisdom from Storyteller Winston Stephens

Note: This column was printed in the Barrow Journal on July 25, 2012.

I am a self-proclaimed “storytelling advocate,” and I believe every parent should tell their own stories to their children.  I’ve been thinking of ways to try to inspire parents to do this, so it was only natural that I should interview my storytelling friend, Winston Stephens.  Stephens is a retired kindergarten teacher, and storytelling has been a big part of her life, both and in and outside the classroom.

Children respond better to stories than they do lectures, and I believe they never forget the storytellers in their lives.  I asked Winston if there were storytellers in her life that she remembers.

“Many!” she said.  “My Stephens grandfather told all kinds of stories to my brother and me, some Br’er Rabbit tales, The Three Pigs and stories from his childhood. My Winston grandmother regularly told me stories about her life (in which she was always the heroine), sang story songs (The Fox Went out on a Chilly Night) and recited one long story poem (Lasca) that I learned by heart. My parents would make up bedtime stories and others for special occasions.”

She says her father got sick of the story he made up for her and her brother because they made him recite it over and over, and if he tried to change one detail, they wouldn’t allow it!

“I felt personally honored to have that special kind of attention paid to me.  Stories have helped me to make sense of actual events in my life,” she says.  “Those who tell stories are revealing their values, telling you what’s really important, imparting their culture. True stories about personal experiences usually impart wisdom that the teller has learned, as well as giving the sense of how ordinary life today differs from what it was like in the past.”

As the oldest child in her family, Winston slipped easily into a storytelling role and imitated the way her parents and grandparents told stories.  Later, she would use storytelling in her classroom.  She says every Friday there would be a told story instead of a storybook, and at the end of the year, she had an extra special story to tell.

“On the last day of school every year I would tell a story about how that class got stranded on a deserted island and had to figure out how to makes tents, find food, and, eventually, get themselves rescued. In the story I highlighted the real kids’ strengths and interests. While I was telling, they would cheer and add more details. It was all a validation of what we had experienced and learned together.”

Today she tells stories too. She regularly tells stories for the Kindergarten classes at a nearby elementary school, and she’s been hired to tell a few stories at birthday parties and family reunions.  For the children she sometimes uses props such as a set of nesting dolls or stuffed animal.  One of her personal favorites is using an Appalachian-style dancing man on a board to tell a story, which includes songs for him to dance to and the children to sing to.

She has also started finding storytelling opportunities for adults in the community.  In January, she took a class at Athens Academy by the Southern Order of Storytellers, which is based in Decatur.  The SOS is eager to encourage storytellers around the state, especially by getting storytelling “clusters” started.  Stephens started her own cluster, which meets at her house on the third Wednesday of every month.  They talk about storytelling news, get advice from experienced tellers and practice telling.  They invite anyone who is interested in attending.

She is also enjoying the new Rabbit Box events, which are currently held in downtown Athens on the second Wednesday of every month.  They provide a forum for people to tell a true story from their lives, but it has to be told in 6-8 minutes and related to a certain theme.  Stephens has signed up to tell a story in August when the theme is “Now I Get It.”

These events prove that storytelling must be just as good for adults as they are for children.  Indeed, whenever you are waiting to hear “what happened next” you are engaged in a story.  Stories are part of our lives whether we’re conscious of them or not.

You can find out more about Winston Stephens’ storytelling at her website, http://mswinstonstephens.com/stories.htm, and if you’d like more resources to help you tell stories to your children, visit my storytelling resources page.

May 19, 2012

Homeschool Science Classes at the Sandy Creek Nature Center in Athens, Georgia

I have already written about my five-year-old’s favorite knee-high naturalist class at the Sandy Creek Nature Center in Athens, GA. Now it’s time to write about the other awesome classes they have that are just for homeschoolers!  We’ve been taking the Homeschool Science classes this past year, and we intend to keep taking them as long as we can.  I can’t sing the praises of the staff and volunteers at the nature center enough. They are a wonderful group of people who truly care about educating children.

Homeschool Science classes are once a month and last for two hours each.  There are two separate classes – one class for ages 5-9 and another for ages 10-15.  They are very reasonably priced (at this time: $4 per class for Athens-Clarke County residents and $6 per class for non-residents) and you can sign up for just one or all of them.  Parents accompany the students and many younger siblings tag along too.  Everyone I have encountered there has been easy-going yet eager to learn and help the kids.  Surprisingly, my two-year-old wasn’t too much trouble for me when I brought him along:

Every class begins with indoor instruction/activities and then everyone goes outside for a hike and other activity.  Classes are usually divided into two or more groups, depending on the size, and then they rotate the activities.  Quite a few people enroll in these classes!  

In our last class, we learned about fish, and the whole class got to go fishing! (Complete with safety instructions too.)  Another group went to another area and used small nets to catch critters in the pond.  Then the groups changed places.  The staff and volunteers always make sure that all the kids get to participate and receive any help they might need.  Parents also help as needed.  (I wish I had my camera when my son was fishing for the first time! The photos you see on this page were taken during two other classes.)

If you are a newbie to these kind of classes and have small children, you might find that a two-hour class is quite long!  At least, I felt that way the first couple of times.  I was quite tired at the end.  For some reason, it feels a little easier for me now.  Maybe that’s because I’m physically and mentally prepared.  I make these recommendations for you:

  • Wear comfortable shoes that can get dirty. Most classes include a hike in the woods. Strollers are not accessible.
  • Pay attention to weather and wear appropriate clothing. They WILL GO OUTSIDE EVEN ON COLD, RAINY DAYS.
  • Bring snacks/water, but nothing difficult to carry.  Students don’t eat during the class, but I’ve noticed several kids are ready to eat right after class.  My five-year-old doesn’t need to eat, but I usually have to give my two-year-old a snack, if he’s with us.  I keep water in the car for the drive home.
  • I wear a small backpack so that my arms and hands are free.  This makes my life easier all the time – not just during this class!  But I do recommend it for the class.
  • You may want to leave your toddlers at home with a babysitter the first time so that you can see how the class goes, but don’t worry if you need to bring them with you.

Please share where you live and your favorite classes available to homeschoolers.

November 9, 2011

Knee-High Naturalist Class at the Sandy Creek Nature Center in Athens, Georgia

This autumn, my five-year-old and I have been enjoying the knee-high naturalist class at the Sandy Creek Nature Center.  It takes place every other Wednesday from 3:30-4:30p.m.  Children ages 3-5 are eligible and must be accompanied by an adult. Click here for more information.

In the class the children have met and touched several live animals, and many times we go outside too.  My son was in his element during the “creep walk” when we waded through a stream in search of critters!  We’ve learned about the cardinal directions and how to use a compass and also about recycling, just to name a few of the activities.

 

“Miss Sarah” is a wonderful teacher/facilitator.  Her patience and ability with kids is amazing, and once she talked an extra twenty minutes with just my son after class because he had questions about snakes!  (Thanks, Sarah!)

 

I took a lot of good photos during one of the classes, but I don’t want any parent to be mad at me, so I’m only sharing photos of the backs of heads of the other children.

 

Below my son is awaiting to get his jar filled with compost in hopes of creating a mini bug habitat in a jar.

 

We have also been attending the Homeschool Science classes at the Nature Center, and we love those classes too.  If I take any photos during one of those classes, I’ll be sure to share.

What classes/activities do your children enjoy around town?

June 15, 2011

Our Visit to UGA

One night my husband told me that our four-year-old surprised him with this conversation:

A: “Daddy, where will you be living when I go to college?”
Daddy: “What?”
A: “When I’m 20, and I go to college.”
Daddy: “Well, hopefully not too far away. It depends on where you go. If you go to the University of Georgia, you can even live at home if you want to.”
A: “I want to study animals. ALL the animals.”
Daddy: “Well, UGA is a good place to study animals.”

♦♦♦

I don’t want to come across as one of these mothers I read about who stress out over the preschool their child will get into because it might ruin their child’s chances of getting into Harvard.  The thought of that makes me laugh.  As I have said before, I strongly feel that kids should be kids and that “play” should be their primary work.  I think the reason my son brought this up is because earlier in the day, he was asking me why he could only spend part of the money his grandmother gave to him when she visited.  I explained to him that we’d put some of it into a savings account for when he got big, and it would help to pay for college.  I think he asked me how old he’d be when he’d go to college too.

I promise I have not drilled my four-year-old son about going to college!  However, my husband and I are going to prep our children for college.  I know that many people have different opinions about this, but my husband and I both valued our time spent in college, and college degrees have become as necessary as high school diplomas once were.  Having said that, I don’t think I would push my kids into college, if they were dead set against it or didn’t seem suited for it.  Different careers have different paths, so we’ll have to cross those bridges when we get to them.

At age four, we have not deliberately talked about college to our son,  but we have occasionally talked to him about the things he likes to learn about (right now it’s animals), and we point out people on T.V. who work with animals.  We tell him that someday he might want to work with animals, and if he studies hard, he could have a similar job.  We do this for a couple of reasons.  First, as I read in Michael Gurian’s The Wonder of Boys, it’s good to point out the big picture to boys (girls too, I’m sure).  Why would any child want to do anything, if they didn’t see a clear purpose in it?  So, I feel as homeschoolers, it’s especially important to foster my son’s interests so that he motivates himself to learn.  If he sees the end goal, he’ll understand why it’s important to learn how to read and calculate.  And at age four (almost five), he is learning how to read and doing simple math.

He might change his mind about animals.  He may change his mind a hundred times before he turns twenty.  That’s okay.  My goal is to show him what’s possible for the future.  To ignite his interest.  To make him happy.  To allow him to see for himself that learning is fun.  And if I don’t start now when he’s four — when he’s excited about the world because everything is new to him — I may lose the chance to light that flame later.

After this conversation, my husband and I decided it would be fun to take him on a tour of the University of Georgia.  We started with just a small part of it.  The boys loved the fountains and beautiful gardens on north campus.  We bought them T-shirts at the bookstore.  I told my son that this was a place he could study animals, if he wanted to, when he gets big.  Next time we’ll take him to south campus, near biology, the other sciences and the UGA vet school.  We haven’t been to the UGA vet school’s open house yet, so that should be fun to do next year.

So what are your feelings about prepping children for college?  How do you motivate your children to learn?

June 4, 2011

Snake Day

We had an awesome time at Snake Day today!  (This takes place every year in early June at the Sandy Creek Nature Center.)  My son met his friend, and they had a great time looking at all the snakes….

….and some other creatures….My son said this monitor alligator was his favorite.  It’s a cousin to the komodo dragon.

And, oh yeah, getting to touch an alligator was a high point too.  My son can be shy, but when it comes to animals, he isn’t afraid of anything.

Can’t wait for next year!

May 26, 2011

Free places to take kids in Athens, Georgia

Above is a photo of the Kugel at the State Botanical Garden of Georgia, which I wrote about in my column.  My son loves to spin it and point to Georgia.

Recently I realized that some local friends who live here in Barrow County had never been to my son’s hot spots over in Athens, which is a short, 30-minute drive away.  So I wrote a column about our favorite places to go, and they also have FREE ADMISSION.  You can click here to read the column, or you can just go straight to the websites of these places, which I’ve listed below for you.  If you live around here, you don’t want to miss these places.

The State Botanical Garden of Georgia:  http://www.uga.edu/botgarden

For Memorial Park, Bear Hollow Zoo, which is next to each other, and then also the Sandy Creek Nature Center, you need to go to http://athensclarkecounty.com/ and type in the name in their search box.  It will take you to the page that tells you where and what these places are about.

Please tell me what your children’s hot spots are!

Note: If you are looking for other places to take your kids in Georgia (whether free or not), take a look at my Resources for Georgia Homeschoolers page.  I am writing a column about each outdoor area and state park that we visit.  It also includes information on indoor activities or field trips specifically for Georgia homeschoolers.

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