Take your summer outdoors and create educational opportunities that are fun, memorable, and different. We will have ideas and resources for adventure-making memories.
Gretchen Roe: 00:00:06.041
Good morning, everyone. Welcome. This is Gretchen Roe, and I’d love to welcome you to this presentation of The Demme Learning Show. I’m really excited for the information that Amanda and I have to share with you all today. This is going to be a lot of fun. We’re hoping that we’re going to set you up for a really fun summer, a summer of new adventures and things to think about. We have gathered information from a wide variety of sources. Some of it is things we have done; other things are things we’d like to see you have the opportunity to do, but all of it should keep your cup full for this summer. So I’m going to let my coworker Amanda introduce herself, and I’m going to close my office window because there’s a little too much breeze. Amanda, please.
Amanda Capps: 00:00:50.778
So I’m Amanda Capps, and I’m coming to you from northwest Arkansas, where I am a second-generation homeschooler and a mother of eight. My oldest is graduated, and my caboose is two and a half. He’ll turn three this summer. And I have an even split, four and four, so three girls and a boy, girl, and then three boys. So it is always something going on around here. I’ve worked extensively in customer service with Demme Learning for the last 13 years and just love interacting with our customers. And we do get these questions a lot. What do we do over the summer? How do we keep steam moving forward and not lose ground, and then what can we do that’s a little fun and a little out of the books?
Gretchen Roe: 00:01:39.532
Amanda, we have a million things to talk about. And my biggest challenge here is what do you talk about first because there’s so many things to talk about, so tell me a little bit of how you take school outside, recognizing that there’s a limited opportunity in Arkansas between lovely weather and hot as the steps of Hades. So how do you get school out the door in that sweet spot period of time?
Amanda Capps: 00:02:10.673
Absolutely. And that’s a great question. So some things are going to, obviously, be in the parameters of geography where you live. [laughter] You might still be experiencing snow if you live in our northernmost states. You may already be in the heat zone if you are in southern states. But almost everywhere does have at least, whether it be shorter or longer, a window where you can really take the books outside, and that is dual purpose. We’re getting some vitamin D. We’re getting a change of scenery. We’re getting some fresh air. But again, I think you really have to gauge whether this is a good idea on your students themselves. Some parents have shared that going outdoors can be really distracting, [laughter] depending on what type of student you have, and they’ve asked for tips for that situation specifically. And what I would say to that– because I do have a couple of those kiddos myself, is you can kind of curate the environment, so maybe outside is where we would do a read-aloud but not try to do math work where we really need to stay engaged and focused. Outside might be a fantastic place to do times tables with a bounce ball against the side of the house, but it may not be the best place to try to do a spelling dictation if you really need your kiddo to focus.
Gretchen Roe: 00:03:41.123
Right, exactly. And I had the privilege of spending a little bit of time this week with someone who is a children’s librarian and a former art teacher, and she says, oh, there are opportunities all all summer long for you to be able to take your kids outdoors. So one of them that she gave me, which I think is a brilliant idea, She said go to the dollar store and buy a couple of hula hoops. And take them outside with your kids, put them on the ground, and in this circle, I want you to find half a dozen things to describe, be it animal, vegetable, mineral, and you can be the scribe for your kids. I mean, if you have children who are more science-oriented, give them a clipboard and say, “Hey, let’s sit down and have you guys do this.” But if not, sit down and say, “In this circle, tell me six things that you see.” Why would you do it inside the circle of the hula hoop? And she said that’s designed to help those kids who have that imminently distractible, “Oh, look, a squirrel,” kind of mentality. Here’s where you’re going to focus your attention right inside this nice little plastic ring. Which I think is a brilliant idea. Now, she’s also a former scoutmaster, so she said she would do this with scouts, and they would have to compile a list three or four kids at a time. And in the summertime, that’s when we get together with friends. That’s where we have some really cool experiences when we’re hanging out with our friends. So what she said is she would assign four boys to a hula hoop. And then they’d have to decide who was going to be the scribe, who was going to be the observationalist, who would look for what. And she said what that then becomes is a team-building exercise, which I think is really a brilliant idea. And now I’m regretting that I don’t have small people to do that with. But my grandkids are going to have fun with some hula hoops this summer. What do you think of that, Amanda?
Amanda Capps: 00:05:53.724
Oh, I think that’s a fantastic idea. I’ve seen another really great thing via Pinterest that I shared with our colleague Sue, and she was like, “Oh, my gosh. This is so great.” Where you go to a hardware store, and you get paint chips with the varying colors. And you can glue those to a paper, you can put them on a clipboard-type situation, but then go on a nature walk, and they have to find something of each of the colors. And it gets them really engaging with their senses, with what is around them, and observing and building those observation skills. And I just thought, wow, what a fun way to incorporate– and that can be done with really littles, middles, and bigs, because obviously in my household, that’s a big deal trying to get so many different age ranges engaged and doing something together can sometimes feel like nailing Jell-O to a tree. [laughter]
Gretchen Roe: 00:06:56.330
That really is true. And I’m so glad that you said paint chips. I just finished reading this marvelous book called Honey Butter, and it is written by a young lady who is, by the time we talk, maybe Millie will have turned 20. She’s a homeschool graduate and an author. She’s getting ready to publish her third book, and we’re going to have a webinar conversation with her in September. And all I’m going to tell you about the book, Honey Butter, is that paint chips are involved with the protagonist, who is an 11-year-old. And it was such a fun book. So there’s a book you could take outside and read in the summer sun and have a great time with. Another one that I love– another idea is to go cloud gazing, and this is how we spent a whole summer doing the science of atmosphere to be able to figure out on a day– my kids, they kept a diary of the weather, and they would get up every morning– and they couldn’t go to one of these, because this was back in the day before this was ubiquitous, but they would get up and they would look at the weather and then they would go look at the temperature and then they would go outside. We had given them feathers so that they would throw the feathers up, and we taught them the directions so they could figure out which way the wind was blowing. And for about a month, we kept that diary every day. And then if we had a day like today that’s beautiful, sunny, blue sky, big clouds, we would take our lunch outside and we would cloud gaze. And we would say, “So what do you see in that cloud?” And there were no wrong answers there. But what it gave us the opportunity to do was be connected to the creativity of imagination. And I think that is sometimes where in our hustle-bustle of time, we tend to forget that allowing imagination to have space is so essential and so important.
Amanda Capps: 00:09:11.292
I think one of the things that I have really picked up on lately, and it seems to be a theme, is the gift of boredom. That–
Gretchen Roe: 00:09:20.815
I knew you were going to talk about this, so. There’s parents in the audience who have just gone, “Say, what?”
Amanda Capps: 00:09:29.129
Well, it’s so true, though. We grew up in an era, and maybe we were the last generation of “Hey mom, I’m bored.” And I know in my household that if I dared let that slip past my lips, there was going to be a list of chores and a list of things that needed to be done, task wise. And so I was very careful to ever let that phrase slip through my lips. But today’s generation, with the constant– all the streaming, all of the devices, all of the things, all of the activities, the extracurriculars, the stuff that we get involved in, it is a rare day and a rare moment indeed, when we hear our kids complaining about being bored, or if they are, it’s usually because we’re not willing to give them screen time or the thing that they’re wanting to do with their time. And that magic of boredom is so important, because that’s where imagination and creativity and pretend and role playing and all the fun things of childhood that we really remember back with fondness, I mean, that’s where that all rooted and grew from.
Gretchen Roe: 00:10:48.392
Absolutely. And I think that there is an inherent inability of us, particularly as homeschool moms, to do one thing at a time. And so if we can model that one thing, that one good thing at a time, boredom becomes creativity in the presence of giving our kids opportunities like that. And so we need to think a little bit about what do we want our summer to be. Now, that having been said, I just dissed phones, and now I want to talk to you about a couple of things that you can use on your phone that would be tremendous ways to get your kids outdoors, involved in nature, and to be able to get them to see different things. One of my favorites is an app called Seek, S-E-E-K. And I’ll show you what it looks like here. It’s a little tiny– can you see that there, here? Seek is an app that was created by National Geographic and it is designed to be able to identify things in our environment. So you can take a picture of something and SEEK will take it all the way down to species and genus. So a student can identify it. As a matter of fact, I was using this in Minnesota this past weekend because we saw an oak tree that neither my colleague nor I had ever seen before. It was a very interesting, unusual kind of oak tree. And it was fun to find out what kind of oak it was. And unfortunately, of course, I can’t get it to come up here on my phone now because I’m talking about it. But that was a really interesting experience. So to take your kids out and have your phone become their phone for a period of time and everybody has to identify something new, I think it’s a fun thing to be able to do. And maybe there are practical applications. So I’ll tell you how that comes about. My six-and-a-half-year-old granddaughter, I got to spend Mother’s Day with her, and she was adorable. And she said, “Grandy, I want to show you this moss that Daddy and I are collecting to make spring kimchi with.” And I was like, “Moss. Kimchi. Isla, what are you talking about?” And so we went outside. [laughter] And across their backyard are these wonderful ground cover, and it is used in Korean food to make something akin to a watercress salad, but they call it a spring kimchi.
Gretchen Roe: 00:14:00.965
And so we’re sitting around at lunch an hour later, and Isla disappears and comes back, and she said, “I thought maybe we could make kimchi this afternoon.” She had a whole basket of this stuff. It wouldn’t be my first choice for flavor and texture, but it was interesting to know that here was a six-and-a-half-year-old who’d spent enough time outside that she could find this crazy plant and her father had helped her figure out that they could make kimchi with it and my son had set it up a little bit because he made sure that he had all the ingredients so that we could make spring kimchi together. And it was actually pretty good. I have to say. It wouldn’t be my first choice for a salad, but the fact that she made it was pretty special. So things to think about when you’re out and about. Amanda, I wonder if you could talk a little bit about the things that you have done on camping trips with your kids. I know that you do a huge family gathering in the spring that is a wild adventure and I know that you’ve had some terrific adventures in that process.
Amanda Capps: 00:15:11.752
So those are wonderful opportunities for nature walks, nature notebooks. So that is as simple as going to Hobby Lobby, Michael’s Walmart, and just getting a spiral bound notebook that has almost like card stock style paper. It’s a little thicker so that as you’re compiling the things that you’re doing, it’s not bleeding through the pages. So interesting leaves, pressing wildflowers, sketching the things that we’re observing in nature. Identification is a huge part of that. Depending on where we’re camping, there can be a lot of natural flora and fauna and all of that fun stuff. This past spring, we were informed by the park hosts about just how voracious the raccoons are and to not make any assumptions that anything that was not in our vehicles would be ransacked. And my 17-year-old daughter at one point, we were sitting around the fire late one evening, and she made this little squeak, and I’m immediately jump out of my chair, and there was a raccoon sitting right behind me just taking in the evening with the rest of us. So they were not giving us inaccurate information, and we did keep all food out of tents. So you learn. You learn about the area. You learn about the wildlife. Those trips have also really fostered water skills. So teaching a child how to navigate an inner tube down a water system, how to navigate a canoe. Last year we were on a river that was quite adventurous. I’ll just put it that way. And I was panicked when we got to the put-in spot because I had, of course, my two youngest children, and I’m thinking to myself, “Getting in at this place with these rapids, I don’t want to give them a negative water experience.” So we talked through everything. I told them exactly what I was going to do and why, and I didn’t want them to panic. And we made it and navigated through that beautifully. But again, all great opportunities. We always try to incorporate hiking. Usually, an older child is planning meals, and we’re making sure we do all the food prep. We have it down to a science at this point with a checklist, and so far, that has worked, other than the one year that the rain fly got forgotten. It’s been a real positive experience.
Gretchen Roe: 00:17:57.069
Okay. So your mic just glitched for a hot second. Other than the one year that what got forgotten?
Amanda Capps: 00:18:03.987
Rain fly. Those are important.
Gretchen Roe: 00:18:08.306
That’s not fun. Well, as someone who hikes in the mountains of Western North Carolina and has to take the food and tie it up and hang it in a tree a quarter of a mile from the camp. So the bears will leave you alone. The raccoon story makes sense to me. I totally understand. I think one of the things that intimidate parents is, “Oh, my goodness. Look at all this stuff that we have to do and plan.” And sometimes it doesn’t have to be that difficult. I’m going to give you a recipe. I have it here, for making bubbles. And what a cool way to be able to make really cool bubbles. It is a half a gallon of water, three tablespoons of dawn dishwashing liquid and a half a teaspoon of glycerin. And what a fun thing to be able to do in the backyard to get some bubbles. And you know what? The interesting thing is you don’t need the plastic bubble wands. You can simply use wire to create bubble wands, and it really is a great deal of fun. So if you’re looking for something that can be a little bit of an experience outside but not a long one, that might be a great way to do that. I know Amanda, we had parents who said to us, well, how do I keep my distracted kids from being distracted? But isn’t that what we want them to do in that environment? Can you talk a little bit about how sometimes having attention deficit disorder is to our advantage when we’re on a nature walk?
Amanda Capps: 00:19:46.456
Oh, absolutely. Those kiddos are the noticers. And they pick up on things a lot of times that very boring neurotypical in me misses completely. And so it’s very fun to be walking down a hiking trail where I may be focused on making sure we’re all together, and counting heads, and scanning the environment for any potential– because in Arkansas, we do have snakes, and ticks, and all kinds of fun little critters that can join the fun. But they are really wonderful for just pointing out, and picking up, and exploring. I’ve had them bring me rocks with fossils that I have never noticed. We’ve gone arrowhead hunting. Again, depending on the area you live, there are just so many great opportunities. Here in Arkansas, if you want to go to the Crater of Diamonds field, and one of the best times to go is after a torrential rain because it unearths things. Did you know that’s why Arkansas has a diamond on their state flag? We are the only diamond-producing state in the United States. And that is why we have the red diamond and then the little white diamonds all around. So again, literally doing just a little cursory research on a state, finding out where some of your local state parks are, finding out if you have local living history events. We live in a part of the country where there are wonderful opportunities in both theater. Check with your homeschool group. A lot of times if you actually have a group with a name or some sort of formalization like that, the theaters, local theaters, will offer a homeschool day and you can get tickets either free, $5-$10, very, very reasonable and way marked down from the retail ticket price to take your kids to experience incredible things with the arts, either orchestra or theater. So those are things that are really, really easy. A lot of times your local library knows about those types of events. So definitely avail yourself of that. Oftentimes they have summer reading programs. There is such a wealth with not a lot of work if you just kind of pool your community.
Amanda Capps: 00:22:18.776
Right. And I love that idea of reaching out into the greater community and seeing what might be available and what might be offered to you. If you have a student who’s a middle schooler or above and you’re going to plan one of those events, I think it’s a great idea to engage them in the planning so that they have to do a little bit of research before you go so that they can be your docent while you’re there. And by that, I’ll give you an example. Years ago, my younger son was very interested in the Revolutionary War and here in western North Carolina, we have several sites where we can go and study a little bit about that. So I assigned his older brother to find half a dozen facts about this fort that we were going to go visit. And so when we got there, instead of having a teenager who was like, “Oh, I can’t believe you’re going to make me do this”, Duncan was in the position of my thing. So Duncan, tell me about what you learned about this place so we can help everybody understand. And it all of a sudden went from, I can’t believe you’re going to do this to me to, “Oh, I have an opportunity to teach somebody something else”. And that was a hugely valuable experience. Small shift, but a really cool thing. Now, I will also tell you, because on Mother’s Day, I also spent time with my other two eldest children, and they laughed saying, “We got to the point, Mom, when it was summertime that we hated to see a historical marker because we knew you were going to pull over and make us read it. [laughter] I didn’t think I was that bad. But I might still pull over and read historical markers. So who knows what you might create in your students? Amanda, I know you’ve done some reenactments along the way. Can you talk about how that has enriched your study of history in your family?
Amanda Capps: 00:24:30.022
So I have to give a little backstory here. So I know I told you in the introduction that I’m a second-generation homeschooler. And because of that incredible opportunity and my mother’s attunement to recognizing just what a history buff I was, when we moved to Arkansas I suddenly was smack dab in the middle of Civil War history country. And so when I became a high schooler, I formed something called the Young Ladies Living History Club. And what that was was myself and a group of my girlfriends. We were all in age range of about 14 to 16 at the time. And we found living history events in our local community or very close by. And we would meet about once a week, maybe every other week, depending on how busy our schedules were and things like that. But the mothers did a wonderful job of committing and getting us together. And we learned everything. We learned the etiquette. We learned the food. We learned the dances. We sewed the clothes. We did extensive research. And we did Victorian tea. So the Crescent Hotel in Eureka Springs, Arkansas does a silver tea every year in December. And we hosted that event in full Victorian clothing. And we did renaissance festival. I will give a little caveat and disclaimer renaissance festivals can be very adult and very not PG depending on who is hosting them. And so do your research upfront and make sure that you’re going to a family-friendly one. But again, still fantastic history, wonderful costuming, amazing music, live chess matches. If you have boys that are into archery, into knights, into horsemanship, into falconry, all of that stuff is displayed at those types of events. And then, of course, we have Civil War battlefields all over the east and Midwest. And even some northern states have some good ones. And so those are events that are put on– typically, they are used as extras in movies that were about the Civil War. So that’s a great way to kind of segue into that is maybe watch some of those documentaries, watch some of the movies about that time period. You’ll see reenactors in those films. But anyway, it’s a fantastic way to get that history off the page in a real live ask your questions, ask– these living history reenactors thrive for being able to share the history and what they’re doing and they have such a passion for it. And so it really is just a wonderful, engaging opportunity. And I cannot recommend it highly enough.
Gretchen Roe: 00:27:46.545
I love the way with– the enthusiastic way in which you speak about it because I think sometimes we just have to sort of change our thinking a little bit. I remember setting my eldest son up one year for we were going to go to Gettysburg. And we only lived about an hour and 15 minutes from Gettysburg when I homeschooled my children because homeschooled my kids in Maryland. And so I set him up to do some research, and he is laughingly called the looptionary in our family. His name is Lucas. But Lucas was the king of research. He’s the only person I have ever known who literally read the Funk & Wagnalls encyclopedia from A to Z because he was just interested in everything. But I said to him, “Hey, we’re going to go up to Gettysburg.” I did not think about the fact that we were going to be in Gettysburg 4th of July weekend. And so my kids got a living history experience bar none. It was absolutely fascinating. But I didn’t expect that. I don’t know what I was thinking. Obviously, I wasn’t. Because if I had half a thought, I would have recognized that it was going to be an overwhelming amount of people that they got to see live fire exercises, and the people at the event explained to them how they were loading the guns and what it took to make gunpowder in the 1860s and what it was like to do those kinds of things. And as adults, they still remember those experiences. So investing that kind of time can be really important. And I think it makes a difference.
Amanda Capps: 00:29:36.502
Well, we all know history not learned is doomed to repeat itself.
Gretchen Roe: 00:29:41.251
This is true, as well. I’m also laughing because you know we were talking about field trips to state parks and things like that. For my youngest’s graduation present, he has decided he wants to travel through the southwest for a week. He and I are going to go out and do a trip through the desert southwest to go to Arches National Park and Zion and Bryce Canyon, and he is wildly excited. But guess who’s doing the logistical planning of that trip? Him. Yesterday, I was having a conversation with a friend, and there is a whole circle that we will be able to travel. And she is a state national parks aficionado. There’s actually a – it’s called the national parks passport – that you can get, and every time you go to a national park, you get a stamp in it. Well, her book is almost full. So she has a great deal of experience. So she had said to Owen, “Okay, if you’re going to do this, let me tell you how to do this.” And so now, somehow in 24 hours, I’ve foisted off onto him the planning. So I’m going to have a great time because I’m just going to be the driver. It’ll be a lot of fun. So lots of things for us to think about. And I want to turn my attention back now. I can’t believe we’re half an hour into this conversation. So we need to answer some of these people’s questions. But a couple of parents said that they were looking for fun ideas with their children that didn’t involve a lot of time. And one of the things I think it’s important for us to call out is we’re going to give them half a dozen different blogs that we have published over the years that are going to give them ideas we have discussed to this point in time. But I mean, one thing I think it’s important for us to talk about is balancing exploration and education and to be intentional that not every experience needs to be an educational one, so. Didn’t you tell me that one of your daughters got after you for that one time? Do I remember this story correctly?
Amanda Capps: 00:32:10.569
I’m trying to think which one that would be. It’s not coming to me right off the top of my head, but I definitely can speak to this. Because I can tell you for a fact, as a homeschooled student myself, my dad used to love to corner us in the car where we were buckled in and could not escape with real math facts. And to this day, there are certain songs, there are certain places where I can literally feel the anxiety building in my body because of that experience. Because, of course, I was not a very strong math student. Being a history English buff, that was not my strong suit. Praise Jesus for Matthew C because it really changed that trajectory for me. But prior to, I had a younger brother who would often beat me to the answers for questions that I very well should have known. And so it was a whole experience. It was a whole thing. Can you have math trauma? Is that a thing? Is that a term?
Gretchen Roe: 00:33:15.043
I think it is. Honestly, I know I talked to enough parents at conferences who relate some sort of math trauma which has become math anxiety for them as adults. But I think that’s a possible thing. It does make sense to me.
Amanda Capps: 00:33:29.668
And thankfully, through the correct curriculum and getting a more visual and hands-on approach which was definitely more my learning preference, that definitely turned that boat around and I was able to be successful. But, yes, I think if you try to turn everything into a teachable moment, everything into a chance to drill facts or recite state capitals or those types of things, I mean, there is definitely something to be said for time just being off the books. I know we’re all busy, I know we’re all trying to get everything in and fit everything in a day, and so that can be very tempting. But my encouragement would be, to let car time or around the dinner table be the time when your kids really get the opportunity to ask questions and to shine, and to share what they have learned and what they– you can definitely ask some wonderful leading questions. It’s a great idea and a great time to engage Dad. I will say I will always make a shameless plug for audiobooks on trips because they just are wonderful. That’s a wonderful time to employ that type of learning and it’s very low stress, low pressure. Everybody enjoys that going on in the car as long as it’s a good and engaging story that can kind of appeal to multiple age ranges. So be cognizant of that, for sure. And then I’m trying to think.
Amanda Capps: 00:34:57.986
And I think the other thing too that we need to really focus in on just a little bit is I school year round– some parents do, some parents do not, and they do decide to take a traditional break and follow more of a traditional school calendar, and either way is fine. But I will say I only do math and reading and writing in those summer months, and that maybe only takes 45 minutes to an hour of our day total. I usually utilize nap time. It’s in the middle of the day, it’s in the heat of the day anyway, especially here in Arkansas. And so that has worked beautifully for us to just kind of keep those kiddos that would lose too much ground if we just stopped completely, and we’d have to focus on way too much review at the beginning of the next kick-off. And so it allows us to just keep the pace. It also just works well for our life and our lifestyle. So, obviously, I’m a working parent, and so that has led to unconventional schooling hours, schooling year-round, but we’ve made it work for us. And it’s been a beautiful balance, but sometimes encouraging parents to find that balance can be the challenge.
Gretchen Roe: 00:36:16.044
Right. I think if parents don’t take anything else away from our conversation, I think it’s important to cut yourself a break. You’re doing a full-time job when you’re educating your children at home. And more and more parents today are doing a full-time job on top of educating their children at home. And sometimes I think we need to lower our own expectations. We just ask too much of ourselves. So if we could lighten up a little bit, I think it would be easier for our children to lighten up in turn. And it would be a more profitable experience.
Gretchen Roe: 00:36:56.857
I did ask a couple of colleagues what they thought would be a great summertime activity. And we have a colleague who is an ardent gardener. And she said creating the opportunity for container gardening for your kids to be able to grow some tomatoes and things like that would be a fantastic thing to do. And it was interesting, because when I talked to her about this, she said, “What you do is you plant a caprese garden.” And I said, “Back up, I don’t know what we’re talking about here.”
Gretchen Roe: 00:37:32.830
And she said, “Have you ever heard of a caprese salad?” I said, “Oh, with tomatoes and mozzarella and basil?” She said, “Yeah.” She said, being able to get kids involved in the process of maybe planting cherry tomatoes. And then learning that basil is a companion plant to tomatoes to keep hornworm bugs off of tomatoes. And I said, “Really? I didn’t know that.” You’d think, given the fact that I’m supposed to be living on a farm, I would know that, but I didn’t.
Gretchen Roe: 00:38:02.070
She said, “Yeah.” She said, “In your container, you plant both basil and tomato.” And she said, “And then, when they finally have the profitable yield from that, you teach them how to make that salad.” And I thought, “Wow, okay, so there’s an all-summer adventure that you would go through.” I would really love to have some kids at my house this week, because my strawberry plants have come in in spades.
Gretchen Roe: 00:38:28.583
And since Sunday, I have picked eight gallons of strawberries. Eight gallons, and I maybe have picked half the patch, so being able to go do something like that. So take your kids out and take them strawberry picking. Take them blueberry picking. I live in the mountains of western North Carolina where apples are an industry here. Take your kids out in the late summer to go pick apples. What a great opportunity to have fun together.
Amanda Capps: 00:39:06.854
And I just want to make a shameless plug, because I happen to be married to a first responder. And just let me tell you that when he comes off of shift and he tells me that a homeschool family or the local public school or a private school, they have stopped by the fire department and the kids all get fireman hats and stickers, and they get to take the kids through the trucks and through the department and show them what it’s like to be a first responder, those are his best days.
Amanda Capps: 00:39:38.381
He loves that, when he can engage the community. And here’s the deal: we need young people who get interested, who get involved, and who want to pursue those types of careers, because, obviously, these guys get older, they can’t keep up the pace anymore, and they’re retiring out of that career. And we need young bodies and minds to take up the banner and keep those industries going, and they’re incredibly valuable and incredibly needed. And a lot of departments have junior programs. So firefighters, police, the cadet programs, the different branches of the military. There are some wonderful opportunities.
Gretchen Roe: 00:40:22.159
Yeah, civil air patrol. I know that there’s a civil air patrol chapter here. And I see those kids involved all the time. My youngest was involved for a summer with them and thought it was great. And sometimes, we don’t think about the opportunities to learn to volunteer and what that might be like. I think I had mentioned to you about volunteer opportunities and how we’re going to do a webinar with someone who has parlayed volunteer opportunities into having an annual volunteer experience with the National Park Service. So what do you have to say about that?
Amanda Capps: 00:41:00.764
So if there was anything in my own schooling experience and something that I was very aware of going into, so those of you who have upper middle school and high school students, sometimes I think as homeschoolers, we get so focused on that academic excellence, which is important. Don’t get me wrong. We want to do well on our tests and our college entrance exams and all of that stuff. But when my daughter was looking at universities and looking at colleges, they want to see a well-rounded student. They want to see a student that has participated on a sports team so that they understand about teamwork and sportsmanship. They want to see community volunteer things where the student got out of their comfort zone and got engaged in the community and did outreach and did service, whether that be worship team at church, whether that be a soup kitchen over the holidays, whether that is volunteering as a camp counselor at a boys or girls camp. There are extensive opportunities that will enrich and well round your students’ educational experiences because while sometimes homeschooling does get a knock for those social skills, there are vast opportunities to give an extroverted kid all that they can handle in that department.
Gretchen Roe: 00:42:21.617
Right. And this one that talking about those opportunities, I think, is an interesting experience. I had a conversation with a homeschool parent in Minnesota who had this wild experience on volunteerism, and she told me this story. So I’m going to relate the story but in a briefer capacity. She was looking for something to keep her kids occupied in the middle of a summer day and lived about three doors from a very old cemetery in Minnesota. So they walked down to the cemetery, and she tasked her kids with, let’s see if we can find the oldest date. Who can find the oldest state? So you’re kind of playing a little bit of math there and having conversations about what happened on this date and those kinds of things. But she said one of her sons was really fascinated by that. So about three weeks later, he said, hey, Mom, there’s this cemetery in another town. Could we go see if we can play the oldest date there? And she said, who knew that dragging my kids to a cemetery– because I was just so tired of being in the house with them, would now her son is a senior in college. He graduates today, tomorrow, one day this week, he graduates college, and he has gone into restoration. He has a degree in history and restoration, and he’s going to be going from Minnesota to Philadelphia to help restore the cemeteries from the Revolutionary War. And he has a job with the National Park Service to go and do that. She said, “Be careful the things you drag your kids to because you don’t know where that’s going to end up.” And that was just such an impressive conversation quite by accident. What a great idea. I have a cemetery half a mile down the road for me. I don’t know who the oldest tombstone is there, but it would be fascinating to go and reverently, not haphazardly, play tag among the graves or something like that. But to go and learn about that particular area. And I thought, “Wow, how cool?” You just don’t know the kind of seeds that you’re going to sew with your kids.
Amanda Capps: 00:44:56.160
It’s true. And that makes my little history loving heart so happy. Oh my goodness. That is fantastic. And yes, I didn’t bring it up, but we have spent an inordinate amount of time in graveyards because they are quiet and shaded and peaceful sometimes. And there’s amazing things that you can glean just in the dates. I mean, you can look at, okay, what particular illness was going through a community based on the graves that are there and what was happening in history. There’s a wonderful author named Opel Wheeler, she wrote a series of books, one of them was Abraham Lincoln’s World, George Washington’s World, Christopher Columbus’s World, and what I loved, especially about her writing, was she would pick up character, a pivotal person in history, but so many of our biographies and our history books are written from one angle, one view, and what I loved about her writings were– so Abraham Lincoln’s born here in America at this time, and this is what’s going on in Podunk, Illinois, and this is what’s happening in England, and this is what’s happening in Australia, and this is what’s happening in Asia, and the leaders and the people that are all at the same time alive and affecting policy and procedure. And so you got this incredible broader worldview. And it was fascinating because a lot of times we don’t necessarily– when we’re very singularly focused like that, put a lot of those things together. And so it just opened up my mind to like, “Wow, look at all the stuff that was happening.” Even though we were kind of focusing on this one American person in history, there was a lot of stuff going on around the world at the same time, and it just really was so enlightening.
Gretchen Roe: 00:46:58.226
Fascinating. I remember going with my kids several many years ago. My husband is a native of Charleston, South Carolina. And so we would go to Charleston to go to the beach in the summer, but 7 days on the beach in the summer and the sun when you’re all blond and red-headed is not really the best enterprise. So I would always have to plan two adventures in there, where we would do something else. And so if you’re planning a vacation this summer, see if you can incorporate some sort of an adventure in there. Maybe it’s a trip to a museum. One of my fondest memories is going to a Charleston rice plantation and learning how the process of propagating rice was brought here to the United States. And that was really fascinating. I think what we’re talking about, Amanda, overall, is if we as parents are attentive to the world around us, we can teach our children to be attentive to the world around us, which is, to me, very fascinating. Now, my husband and I are beekeepers. And every once in a while, we’ll get a call from a family because I’m still active in our local homeschooling group here in western North Carolina. And they’ll say, “My children really have an interest in beekeeping. Can we come see what it’s like to keep bees?” We have seven veils, white pants, the whole nine yards so that these kids can come, and we’ll actually take them into a hive, and help them find a queen and show them what it’s like to be a beekeeper. And in your community, you probably have farmers and beekeepers and people like that who would be willing to encourage the next generation to consider that adventure. So he probably ought to be a little bit attentive. And sometimes it just comes down to ask a question or two. Ask people, where would I go to find out about–? And then fill in the blank.
Amanda Capps: 00:49:07.227
And this is a wonderful way to engage your kids in the interest that they currently have. I have sent my husband and sons to Monster Truck rallies. I have sent my husband and my daughter who loves all things horses and cowboys to Rodeos. Going to the local county fair and supporting your local Four-H kids is fantastic. One, you can learn about Four-H and possibly get involved. They’re very active with homeschool families. And two, going out and supporting them when they’re showing off all the hard work that they have put into their animal husbandry, in their crafts, in their canning, and cooking, and it’s fantastic and you get to see so many incredible things that these kids have done with their time and with their interests. And again, it’s just an opportunity to spark a kid on a journey on a topic they had never even considered interesting before.
Gretchen Roe: 00:50:10.198
Right. And you know when it comes to summer, we’re a little bit more kicked back and casual as far as different kinds of things.
Amanda Capps: 00:50:18.264
And the weather’s cooperating. [laughter]
Gretchen Roe: 00:50:19.853
And the weather. Yes. But it’s wonderful to have the opportunity to maybe let your kids plan the dinner. One of my children’s favorite summer experiences was, we made what the kids called hobo dinners where we would put a hamburger and vegetables and rice in tinfoil and wrap it up, and then we would have a bonfire, and we would put those packages into the fire. And the fire cooked our dinner for us. And man, I don’t think there’s anything to taste any better than doing something like that. So it might be a fun idea for you to consider for the summer.
Amanda Capps: 00:51:02.418
So the hard part with this webinar is really, you’ve got to try to figure out how not to want to do all of it. All the time, because I mean, we’ve given you so many endless options, and so many ideas. So I’m just going to encourage you right now. Don’t pressure yourself. I mean, if you’ve got a newborn baby or you’re breastfeeding or you’re pregnant, this is probably not the summer to take on a ton.
Gretchen Roe: 00:51:31.622
Of reenactment. Yes. [laughter]
Amanda Capps: 00:51:32.873
Exactly. Exactly. But you could potentially build a fire pit in the backyard and do a fire or pull out a blanket and everybody we’re going to get on the blanket and eat lunch outside today. Or even with projects with regular house maintenance, building a picnic table. If you have a husband or a brother or an uncle or a grandpa that is willing, you can have that discussion get the grandparents involved. Hey, it would be so great if you took one, two, three, and you did this event with them. When or how could we fit that into your schedule? Recruit people from your community. Switch out with another mom who– you take everybody and you do this. I’ll take all the– I’ll keep all the littles here so that the bigger kids can focus or things like that. And then also don’t forget about, again, in your community, depending on the age of your son or your daughter, there are CPR classes. There are lifeguarding classes. There are things and opportunities that are great to get those certifications, heimlich, CPR, all of those things look really good on a high school transcript because again, it’s all training experience classes working together. There’s really no end to how awesome you can build these experiences.
Gretchen Roe: 00:53:02.032
Right. And I had said that I was going to talk about some apps that would be toward the end of having some fun. There’s another app that I want to talk about that is actually an ornithology app. And it allows us to figure out– now I have to be honest, birds were things with feathers until I moved to North Carolina and got chickens. And then when I got chickens, I realized that I wanted to encourage crows to come because when crows are happy to live in proximity to your chickens, it keeps hawks away. And I did not even know that there were opportunities to be able to figure out the difference between the sound of a cardinal when the sound of a Carolina wren, but there’s an app that is published by Cornell. It’s free. It’s called Merlin, M-E-R-L-I-N, bird ID, and how fun it would be to take your coffee out on your back porch early in the morning and let your children figure out who are the birds in the area and what kinds of sounds are they making.
Gretchen Roe: 00:54:21.959
It wasn’t until I got the Merlin ID app that I realized that the most bird song that we hear is in the early morning because the sound travels better at that time of day before the heat of the day. So there’s another opportunity to learn something. And then because I wanted to make this more than one thing, more than one app, the first one that I talked to you about was Seek, the second one is Merlin. The third one is an app called Star Chart. So everything that we’ve talked about is things that you can do during the day. But how magical it would be to make s’mores in your backyard and then lay out a blanket and learn to identify the big dipper and the little dipper and where is the dog star? And what is the difference between a planet in the sky and a star in the sky? How do they shine differently? One of my children has gotten so into that that he knows when the ISS is going to be coming over our House, the International Space Station, and to see how that moves differently from a plane in the sky or a meteor in the sky. One of our favorite things that we look forward to as a family in August is the Perseid meteor shower. And we will plan to be together so that we can spend time in our backyard in the dark to see the meteors fall. And maybe that’s something that you could consider a fun adventure for your kid in the summer.
Amanda Capps: 00:56:04.448
That was something on our last camping trip that we got to see was we got to see the International Space Station go over. And it was fantastic. Gretchen Roe: 00:56:11.883
Isn’t it amazing? And once you see it, you can’t unsee it, but then you want to know, “Okay, when can I see that again”? Because that was really fun.
Amanda Capps: 00:56:22.325
And I’m going to ask for forgiveness because I don’t know the name of the app, and I have switched phones since my sister-in-law told me about this, but I noticed one time when we had family all together, that she was checking airplanes on her phone. And I was like, “What are you doing?” And she’s like, “Oh.” She’s like, “This is insane,” but she’s like, “I was walking all the time, and I would notice planes.” And she said, “So I found this app and it tells you where they originated and where they’re going. And so it’s just fun to me to know the plane that I’m looking at overhead, and it just tracks their route and tells you origination and destination.” And how fun is that?
Gretchen Roe: 00:57:01.855
Wouldn’t that be a great opportunity for geography? Okay. And so neither one of us know what that is, but I promise it will come in the show notes because we’ll look it up to put that in the show notes for you guys so that you can have that information. I think that would be fascinating. And how imaginative it would be to say to your children, “Hey, look, see that plane that started in Baltimore and it’s going to Dallas.” What do you think that would be like and to imagine those kinds of things? Building creativity in our children is probably the most profitable experience we can have as parents. So Amanda, I can’t believe it, we’re all the way at the top of the hour. What closing thoughts do you have for our parents before we conclude today?
Amanda Capps: 00:57:45.066
So the one thing that I will say because I have graduated a senior and she is now successfully and gangly employed. And I will say that having had these experiences and investing in her growing up and taking that time and traveling and doing those things, I am so thrilled to see that the real focus and a real desire for the way that she saves her money and how she plans her time. And she’s going on an incredible trip coming up this August. She and her best friend are going to be seeing four different countries in a two-and-a-half-week span. They have planned every bit of this trip out themselves. They have their passports. They are locked and loaded and very excited. But again, all of that started foundationally here in our home and it started in the things that she was reading about and the places that she wants to experience and the foods and the people and the language. And she has a knack for languages. The language is another really fun way to pull education in. There are so many great apps. The one that she particularly uses is Duolingo. She actually loves it so much. She pays for her own paid subscription to that one to have all the features unlocked, but the free one got her fluent in German when she was in high school. So all of those things just come together and create some pretty cool adults. I’m not going to lie.
Gretchen Roe: 00:59:15.800
Absolutely. And you’ve enjoyed my journey this summer vicariously with my middle son, Duncan, who saved for five years to hike the Continental Divide Trail and I got the privilege of hiking on a four-mile expedition with him his last day of work. And we were talking about his preparations for this trip and how long he had planned it in his head and how he had budgeted to be able to make this trip happen. And one of the things he said is, “Mom, you said we spent so much time outside when I was a kid doing things that were intentional.” He said, “How could I not want to have an adventure this big?” And that’s, I think, where I want to leave you all today is, how could you not create the potential for an adventure big enough to visit four countries in two and a half weeks or to hike 3,000 miles in a summer and go through multiple states and see the beauty of the American wilderness. That, I think, is what we’re striving to create and our children, which is an imagination for the future that they own.
Gretchen Roe: 01:00:31.928
Thank you all so much for joining us this afternoon. This is Gretchen Rowe for The Demme Learning Show. And you can find us on your favorite podcast platform if you’re listening on a podcast. You can also visit us at DemmeLearning.com/Blog or DemmeLearning.com/Show. You can find us there and you can find episodes of other adventures that we have had in conversations with folks. We have lots of great things coming up for you this summer. We have plans to host a webinar almost every week of the summer. So if you’re looking for an hour to plot out, we’d love to be able to have the privilege to share it with you on a Tuesday. Thank you all so much for joining us today. And we wish you the joy of your homeschool journey. It will pass much faster than you can ever believe. Thank you all. Take care, everyone. We’ll look forward to your joining us again soon. Bye-bye.
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We hope that you have a WONDERFUL summer planned, but if you want to have some terrific ideas for taking your learning outside or on the road, then enjoy these terrific ideas. We gave you a couple of wonderful apps that will extend your learning this summer:
Seek, by National Geographic
Merlin, by the Cornell Ornithology Lab
Flightradar 24 (to track the planes you see in flight)
And if you are looking for further thoughts of summer adventures, these blogs will give you some more ideas:
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