Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Time for a Break

For our third day in Gatlinburg, we decided to take one of the auto touring trails through the park. These trails have guide books that describe the stops on the route. You can take as much time as you like making your way along the trail, stopping and checking out things like this grist mill along the road. The boys spent a lot of time exploring areas near streams that criss-crossed the road all along the Roaring Fork Trail that we followed.

The weather was perfect that day, so we took our time and got out of the car at most of the parking areas. Later, we made our way back to the park office, did a little souvenir shopping, and followed the easy nature trail hike that started at the visitor's center. We bought one of the National Park Passport books so we could start recording our trips. Each time you visit a national park, you take the book to the visitor center and get the special stamp for that park with the date you visited. We were able to pick up two stamps on this vacation.

Our school days are wrapping up for 2015. Today was our last official day until January 12, 2016. There will be some school work during our Christmas break though. JT needs to keep making progress on his Rosetta Stone German 2 since we didn't take it with us on our vacation. He also needs to log some days for his introduction to computer programming class he is doing. We want to count it as a half credit for this year so he will need to log 60 days by the beginning of May. He only has about 20 days at this point, so extra days during the holiday break will be good. EM is in the middle of a chapter in his Thinkwell pre-algebra, so I thought he should probably finish it instead of stopping for three weeks and coming back mid-chapter. Other than those few things, our days should be pretty relaxed. That is a good thing since the wind up to Christmas has really worn me down. I need a few weeks with no planning necessary. Have a Merry Christmas and I'll be back in 2016!

Friday, December 11, 2015

Gloomy Days

Our second day of the Tennessee trip was spent in downtown Gatlinburg. We went to the aquarium and did some shopping and eating. The aquarium was more pricey than other nicer aquariums we have visited in the past. As part of our package for our rental we got one free admission. If it wasn't for that, we probably would have skipped it.

The town itself is interesting. My husband described it as a boardwalk minus the beach. There were stores selling just about anything you could think of, lots of places to get food, and even a Sky Lift that runs from the main street up the mountain. We spent a few hours walking and shopping, then had dinner at Calhoun's, a great BBQ place. Later we went to the Gatlinburg Church of Christ to see a couple that had moved from our area congregation nearly 20 years ago. It was fun to walk in and visit after not seeing them in so many years. My next post will be our final day in Gatlinburg before we traveled further west in Tennessee.

As far as things going on in life right now, this whole week we have been dealing with very thick fog in our area. I'm not sure what has caused it, but I know I am tired of not seeing the sun. JT was complaining tonight about feeling exhausted for the last few days. I think we are all experiencing some gloomy feelings because of the lack of sun. This picture is right before sunset when the fog starting thickening up for the night. We went to game night at the library; driving home I didn't get above 15 mph on our road because I just couldn't see anything. This morning the sky is still hazy, but I did see a little sun peeking through the clouds. I plan to drag the kids outside for a walk if it lasts. I guess I shouldn't complain, last year on this day we had about nine inches of snow on the ground!

For the last few months I have been trying to find an Envirothon team for JT to join this year. It looks like that is not going to work out. No local homeschoolers seem to have a team and our school district is not participating due to budget issues. I did connect with the science teacher who has coached the team in the past; she loaned me a lot of good material from a previous year. I will use those to round out JT's ecology course for the remainder of the year. The last two weeks have been focused on the environmental movement. He watched a PBS American Experience film, Earth Days. I downloaded the teacher's guide from the site and he's been doing the activities. We just ordered the documentary Silent Spring through our inter-library loan system to finish the remaining activities from the guide. In the meantime he's reading the book, Last Child in the Woods by Robert Louv.

I just looked out the window and the gloom is gone! I think it's time to act on some of the ideas in that book and get these kids outside.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Getting Back on Track

I had very good intentions to get back to weekly posting after we came home from our trip to Tennessee. Seven weeks later... here I am! My plan for the next few weeks is to include a picture with a short description of a part of our trip at the beginning of each post in order to give a summary of our adventure. The picture here is from the top of Clingman's Dome, one of our many stops in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. To get there we left the park visitor center and followed the Newfound Gap Road up the mountain, turning on to the Clingman's Dome Road. The drive took us to an elevation of about 6,340 feet. After arriving in the parking area we needed to hike about half a mile up a rather steep, paved trail, to get to the observation tower. The dome is at an elevation of 6,643 feet. The view is incredible and well worth the short, strenuous hike.

Since we've been home, the boys have been doing quite a bit of school work. Both of them wrote a short composition about our trip. It was interesting to see what each considered to be the important details and best parts of the vacation. EM expressed that he was ready to come home a few days before we did, but JT was happy to be traveling. A week after we came home, I saw a great deal for a weekend trip to the shore, but when I mentioned it to the boys, EM said, "We just got home! I don't want to go on any more trips." The plans wouldn't have worked out anyway, but if they had, I think I may have had to do a lot of persuading to get him interested in the trip.

We are working our way through the Lightning Lit materials I bought this year. EM is using the Seventh Grade books and JT is using the American Lit. EM recently read Alice's Adventure in Wonderland, thoroughly enjoyed the book, and did the activities from the guide. He is still very resistant to any writing assignments so I limited the work to just a few things. JT did not enjoy reading The Scarlet Letter for his most recent novel. The study guide had a long discussion about kinds of conflict in literature. We realized that JT's least favorite literature all has a large quantity of internal conflict which would explain why The Scarlet Letter was not an especially gripping read for him.

Since we have been home JT has also been working on reading and researching the Civil Rights Movement for his American history paper. He has read quite a few books, watched a PBS American Experience movie called Freedom Riders, and watched the movie Selma. The topic for his paper will be why the non-violent protests were effective. This week he has been putting his outline together and started writing his introduction. This paper will be his 10 page paper required for the PHAA diploma program. I would like to see him get it out of the way before Christmas break. Last year, the paper was the last thing he did for the year and I felt like it was hanging over our heads at the end. I'm glad he is making the progress that he is so we won't have to experience that again.

As of this Friday, we will have 82 days of our required 180 days completed. Even if we take a two week break for Christmas, our school year should end at the beginning of May. I feel like things are on target with their work and going smoothly even with our extended vacation in October. That's a good feeling to have!