Homeschooling outdoors

small child looks out window of ruins of an old mill

One of my favourite things about homeschooling is how much more time my son and I have to spend together doing things we love. He only went a full day for a week, and half days for little more than two months, but even that impacted our lifestyle. Bedtime had to be on the dot because he needed to be rested in the morning. (Not an easy feat as he rarely sleeps through the night, and is up and reading a stack of books before I’m even awake in the mornings.) He needed to unwind after school, aka yell at me for two hours. Then it was time for me to make dinner and time for lessons. Not to mention his rage learning. And then it was bedtime again. There just wasn’t time for much else.

I think my best friend was the most excited when she found out that homeschooling is very different from what it suggests. Our nature walks are learning opportunities. Homeschool isn’t just in the home, it’s anywhere you are. It’s pretty much just parenting with essay questions. So today we bundled up the kids and braved the mud. With everything going on right now, we needed some nature therapy.

I hadn’t been to Balls Falls in a good 5 years at least, but if I’m being honest I think it’s been closer to a decade. There’s a huge welcome centre! And you have to pay to get in. I was skeptical, I mean, the heritage buildings weren’t even open. But it was totally worth it.

My son hates walking with a passion. He generally hates the act of going outdoors, but is usually okay for small periods of time once we’re actually out there. I’m slowly learning that I can make anything fun for him as long as I make it intellectually stimulating. He likes to find sticks when we walk and pretend they’re a compass pointing us in the right direction, and I’ve made at least a hundred mental notes to pick him up an inexpensive one, but mom brain. So last night I was plotting today and I googled, not very hopeful I must say, “how to make a compass.”

What do you know? I asked and Google answered. I found a great article on Scientific American and before we left the house Kaleb had his very own compass.

It did not work amazingly. We’ll need to try again with a stronger magnet to magnetize the needle, and I’d like to try Steve Spangler Science‘s idea of wax paper versus the cork. The Scientific American article was a bit more in depth for K’s liking though as he likes big words and technical science.

It’s difficult to see as he was not going to be slowed down, but we enclosed our compass in a mason jar filled with water and turned it upside down. I think I get bonus points for this thought however when we got home I realized the metal kid might have interfered more than a tad… I tried okay!

No worries. I had more tricks up my sleeve. My grandpa gave K some binoculars when we were visiting and I thought they would be an excellent addition to our hike. We found a huge bird’s nest that I’m not entirely certain Kaleb actually saw, but again, we’re trying here. I quite enjoyed their craftsmanship however.

One highlight was climbing down and looking out the old Woollen Mill ruins. Learning about textiles and clothing? Check. Learning about hydro? Check. Learning about brick and mortar construction? Check. And we even hypothesized about the white mineral residue on the walls and lamented that we didn’t have anything to attempt to capture tardigrades with. Oh, and sliding down a mud hill on your bum? Check!

My friend and I started our walk with expectations of lasting 20 minutes before someone getting cold or someone’s legs hurting. To our amazement though, the trees sheltered us from the breeze making the walk quite pleasant and K was actually excited to keep exploring! We made it through the entire trail, from the upper falls down to the lower ones.

We talked about so many topics I don’t even know if I can list them all. Early settler life, erosion, layering of rock and different minerals, different bridge constructions, water levels, cloud types… all with the degree of talking completely out of our asses. K knows to take whatever I tell him with a grain of salt though, and we googled a few choice subjects when we got home.

You would think after all that walking and learning he would be right tuckered out. But you’d be wrong because we came home and filled our afternoon with Periodic Table cards. Oh, and then we played element Go Fish and he begged to do Beast Academy while we ate dinner. I have to admit, I am absolutely loving this homeschooling stuff.

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  1. Google “rare earth magnets.” Not only will they help you make an amazing compass, they are seriously the coolest thing ever. You can throw a steel bottle cap at one across the room, and it’ll catch it no matter how bad your aim. Also good for learning about ferrous versus non-ferrous metals, and inducing a charge in a coil by running it through a magnetic field.

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