Confluence

We departed Hotlanta and meandered towards the Land Between the Lakes, which spans the confluence of Western Tennessee and Kentucky.  On our way, we stopped at the Stones River National Battlefield to learn more about the Civil War.

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The girls had the opportunity to earn another Junior Ranger badge, making it their third at a designated civil war site, which meant they were also eligible for becoming Civil War Junior Rangers.  A twofer – WOO HOO!

Actually, our little sojourn in Tennetucky (Kennessee?) provides a great opportunity to give a little update on the roadschooling aspect of our travels.  Why, you ask?  Well, frankly, because we didn’t do much else there.

Permit me to back up to the start of the second phase of our travels, which we started up again on the Spring Equinox.  Our girls had been playing going to public school for six out of the eight weeks prior to our departure (minus our time in Bend) while Keeper continued homeschooling while we were back in Maryland.  You can read more about the decision making process for that choice here.

Getting back on the road and resuming the education of all three of our kids has been extremely rewarding, most especially because everything is all converging at the end of the official academic year.  Our kids are (mostly) motivated to knock out their work in a timely manner and are learning by leaps and bounds.  A quick refresher on our educational goals for our kids that generally fall into three categories:  1) the basics (math and the Four Arts of Language (reading, writing, listening, and speaking)); 2) the application of the basics in other directions (e.g. science, art, history, geography, economics, social studies, etc.); and 3) life skills (e.g. meal planning, cooking, cleaning, laundry, sewing, knitting, etc.).

To solidify the first of these basics, every day our kids each complete a math exercise, review, or test in accordance with their respective Singapore Math curriculum.  To improve their writing skills, they each pen a journal entry on their respective experiences the day prior (WoodSprite a few sentences, Firebolt a paragraph, and Keeper at least three paragraphs).  To further advance in the other three arts of language, they all silently read at least one chapter in a book to themselves (we alternate between books of their choosing and ours) and each is also required to read aloud to the others (or me or Flight).  Keeper reads The Story of the World to his sisters, Firebolt reads the latest Laura Ingalls Wilder book to WoodSprite, and WoodSprite reads Inside Out aloud to me.  Somehow I came across a History Sticker Book in the bargain books section of Barnes & Noble and, just for fun, completing at least one page has been an additional requirement for WoodSprite.

A bonus – it has neatly tracked along with Keeper’s readings aloud on world history, and Firebolt has been eager to help her sister through the pages.

While they are all practicing the fundamentals of math and the Four Arts of Language (they also each have weekly spelling tests), we are encouraging them to apply these basics in directions they enjoy.  Keeper started the year intrigued by chemistry, so Flight and I have worked through an online high school chemistry class with him until we returned to Maryland. Since then he’s been captivated by physics, so Flight covered the basics of trigonometry with him before we jumped into a high school physics class, which he has enjoyed.  While on the road, the girls have had the opportunity to complete Junior Ranger programs at all the National Park Service (NPS) sites we visit (24 so far!). In earning Junior Ranger badges, the girls have become savvier on social studies, biological diversity, ecology, history, paleontology, archeology, marine biology, and numerous other varied disciplines.

Aside from writing about his observations about his experiences in his journal, Keeper had not been held accountable for learning much of anything at any of the NPS sites we had seen.  Although I didn’t stumble onto it until later into our adventures, the NPS website has a cache of curricula for teachers to use, aptly named “Teaching with Historic Places.”  Most conveniently, the curricula available are listed by subject and by location.  When asked whether he would prefer to study more about somewhere we’d been or learn about where we we’d be heading, Keeper insisted on the former.  From these posted lessons, I put together a solid packet that Keeper could work through in a week.  He’s evaluated the varied manifestation of urban planning in the vastly different cities of New Orleans and Savannah and how those architectural differences reflect the identities and societal norms of these developing urban centers.  As we were departing the Great Smoky Mountains, Keeper studied the Trail of Tears and the forced relocation of the Cherokee people. As we roll into Kansas, he’ll be assessing the five different cases that are collectively referred to as Brown v. Board of Education, which I’m excited to tie to our heavy civil rights day in Atlanta.  It’s all coming together…

Tangentially related to their daily writing exercises, our children are each required to draw something that illustrates some aspect of our travels that they’ve written about.  I’m excited that at the end of our journey they will each have a portfolio journal capturing their experiences in their own words and drawings.  Hopefully some of those will make their way into the blog before too long…

One of the topics we really can’t get around is geography.  Thanks to dedicated focus, each kid now knows the location of all 50 states, and they have nearly mastered learning their capitals (mostly thanks to this youtube video…).  Keeper learned about this video in 5thgrade and recently introduced his sisters to this fantastic study aid.  WoodSprite is the last of the three to learn the capitals by heart, and you can see her intensely study during our stay at the Land Between the Lakes.

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We also hope to teach our kids some of the major geographic landmarks that define our country (e.g. rivers, mountain ranges, lakes, etc.), which we’ll continue to revisit through our travels.

The final focus for our roadschooling efforts is on life skills.  The kids take turns helping to meal plan, generate grocery lists (although I relish the opportunity to shop unencumbered), assist in the preparation of meals, set the table, and clean up after meals.  They are also each working on a knitting project, although Firebolt’s is in hibernation while she finishes her very first latch-hook project.

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This week Keeper learned how to sew on a button. Maybe next week he’ll teach his sisters. I think surgeons are onto something with trying out new procedures: “See one, do one, teach one…” Truth be told, I’m much more comfortable with the efficacy of such a practice when learning how to sew on buttons, measure twice before cutting out a sewing pattern, or binding off a scarf.  However, on second thought, these evolutions do strangely resemble basic surgical procedures…

This academic year has been incredibly rich with learning for everybody, me especially.  Although it took a while to get everyone on board and eager to work, slowly we’ve gotten the hang of it (literally).

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True to Navy form, now that we’ve figured out how to roadschool most effectively, it’s time to change our SOP.  Summer will be officially upon us after Memorial Day and we’ll be downshifting our academic efforts.  Not entirely, mind you…  It is our intent to still require some academic work over the summer (namely math, reading, and writing) and we’ll be seeing plenty of our country, NPS sites and otherwise, as we make our way west.  May the learning never end…

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