Sea Turtle Summer

Weaving Zoology into our Summer Homeschooling

My eldest son has had a fascination with turtles since he was two. I have no idea why. They aren’t especially cuddly. They’re only mildly cute (in my opinion). Plus they don’t really interact with you. I know this because we’ve had a Three Stripe Mud Turtle for several years now. He was a gift to Jack for his third Christmas.

The mud turtle drives me crazy. That’s because when we got him, I swore the only way I would approve this acquisition was if the turtle didn’t land on my chore list. Yet, he did. Guess who cleans that smelly tank every six weeks. Ugh.

As a mama committed to supporting my kiddos’ interests, I try my darndest to find turtle-y things to add to our education toolbox.

Last year at Lubee Bat Conservancy, I ran into the folks at the Sea Turtle Conservancy. They had these amazing Florida sea turtle posters and I asked where I could get some. Turns out that all you have to do is fill out a form on the Sea Turtle Conservancy website and they will send you one set of five posters for free to use in your homeschool classroom.

Click here for the Sea Turtle Conservancy Free Poster Form

loggerhead-poster kemps-rdiely-poster hawksbill-poster

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We like to leave learning “lying around” so I promptly purchased some cheap poster frames at Walmart and hung these in the playroom. Guess what? Jack insisted that I read every single word on every single poster to him. Immediately. Without a break. Love it.

This summer, we are upping our turtle-ante and going to join a Guided Sea Turtle Walk. Kids have to be at least seven years old to attend and Jack just turned seven, woot! During the months of June and July, the Sea Turtle Conservancy invites the public to join them Monday through Friday nights for a guided night tour in hopes of catching loggerhead sea turtle nesting in the Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge. Click here to learn more and make a reservation: Sea Turtle Conservancy Guided Sea Turtle Walk.

I’m pretty sure we’ve watched every turtle movie made. If a Guided Sea Turtle Walk is too aggressive, another way to incorporate some turtle love into your home is the movie Turtle: The Incredible Journey. We got our copy from Amazon and the mixture of music, narration and filmography is striking. It’s not really sad, either, as some nature shows can be.

What are you doing this summer? Any off-the-beaten-path activities like sea turtles? Please share below!

Happy homeschooling,

Kate

PS: Some of the links above are affiliate links which means at no additional cost to you I earn a small commission on those links where you click and purchase. Thank you for your support in this small way!

High Springs Hidden Gem

Camp Kulaqua Offers Homeschoolers Fantastic Field Trips

This past Monday the boys and I joined 200 Gainesville homeschoolers for an incredible end-of-year swim party at Camp Kulaqua River Ranch in High Springs, Florida. Hosted by homeschool mama, Carol Stride, I can’t emphasize enough how special it was to be surrounded by so many like-minded parents and kids.

Our family experienced this wonderful feeling of safety and freedom as my oldest son swam freely with his friends, without the need for my constant oversight, while my youngest was able to splash in the shallow wave pool with other littles as I connected with new friends and families we haven’t seen in some time.

We constantly switched back and forth from the wave pool to the lazy river, which gently pushed us along in our camp-provided inner tubes or allowed the kids a nice “boost” as they swam among the tubers. Camp Kulaqua’s lazy river is shallow enough that my diminutive four year old was delightedly able to stand up and walk without the need for a float or assistance from mom.

The wave pool boasts some pretty big waves, churning 10 minutes on and 20 minutes off, yet it has a gentle slope allowing you to walk right in and four vigilant life guards keep the non-swimmers from crossing the 3.5-foot line into deeper waters. The biggest joy came when the boys discovered they could ride the breaks in the waves and pretty quickly they had their timing down allowing them to be gravity-free for just a second as the wave took them into the air.

Not knowing everyone, yet also sensing that everyone was a friend, is a terrific gift and my boys felt the warmth and kindness of being surrounded by their fellow Gainesville homeschoolers. The kids were impressed that homeschoolers could have their own special day and they didn’t once have to explain to anyone what grade they were in, why they weren’t in school or why they don’t have a favorite teacher.

During summer months, Camp Kulaqua River Ranch is open to the public on select Sundays.

However, Camp Kulaqua’s River Ranch isn’t the only opportunity for Gainesville homeschool families. Camp Kulaqua is a 10 acre private, Christian retreat available to the public for group tours. They offer horses, a natural spring, exotic zoo and a water park, plus camping/cabins.

Last fall, sixty members of the Gainesville Homeschool Cooperative and 100 members of the MICAH Homeschoolers attended the Camp Kulaqua Zoo on two separate days for educational field trips. Each tour was smartly divided into two smaller groups and children age 4+ enjoyed a kid-friendly, guided tour of the zoo complete with tigers, bears and panthers.

There is also a fantastic nature center with the largest python snake I ever hope to encounter, plus all sorts of lovely native birds, reptiles and other critters to observe. After, we enjoyed a picnic at a huge pavilion and walked along a board walk in the midst of one of the most spectacular cypress swamps I’ve ever seen – including the fourth oldest cypress tree in the United States; it’s 2,600 years old! The Camp Kulaqua zoo is open to the public on Saturdays at 1PM or call to organize a group tour at $5-ish per participant.

If you’ve got horse-crazy homeschoolers in your group, you can enjoy Camp Kulaqua horseback riding. Trail rides are 1.5 hours long for riders ages 8+. You can make reservations online ahead of time (required) for up to 12 people.

Finally, take advantage of their amazing lodge or cabins and organize a homeschool campout! The natural resources at Camp Kulaqua are an amazing opportunity for outdoor education and the chance to build community with other Gainesville homeschool families is priceless.

In fact, I just might organize such an event next fall. Would you be interested? If so, leave a comment below and I’ll whip something together for all of us.

I hope you have a chance to visit Camp Kulaqua soon. Only a twenty minute drive from Gainesville, its well worth taking a trip off the beaten path.

Kate

PS: Don’t forget to stop by The Talented Cookie or Station Bakery on your way out of town and take home an amazing homemade dessert. I picked up two cakes from the Station Bakery for my wedding and they have been a family favorite ever since.

 

 

 

Tampa Field Trip

Tampa Offers Homeschool Fun

We have just returned from a few days in Tampa, where I was shuttling my sister’s teenagers back and forth to school while she traveled to the west coast. This gave my littles plenty of time to explore a new homeschool playground.

I always viewed many of the learning activities in Tampa as too-pricey for our family to engage in very often. During trips to visit my sis, we’ve occasionally visited the Lowry Park Zoo or Busch Gardens, and we did purchase an annual pass to MOSI last August, however, these are expensive and like many homeschool families we have a budget to maintain.

My goal this past week was to find some innovative, educational outings that would also be affordable.

Can you spell success?

We discovered slam-dunk fun for free at the Tampa Electric Manatee Viewing Center. Only a 20-minute drive from downtown, this designated sanctuary hosts tons of manatees who return annually to the warm discharge waters of the Big Bend Power Station.

There is a viewing platform with interpretive signs, which the boys used to identify the various fish and birds. A long tidal walkway gave us an opportunity to sit and watch the circle of life. Afterward, we wandered through the environmental education center before hiking the coquina-laden nature trails en route back to the car.

Hiking coquina road to TECO manatee viewingTECO Manatee ViewingHomeschool boy reads interpretive sign at TECO Manatee Viewing Center

 

 

 

 

The next day delivered a hands-on museum that finally lived up to my four-year old’s expectations. He loves the Creative Discovery Museum in Chattanooga, TN which we visit each year during on vacation in Cloudland Canyon, GA.

The Great Explorations Children’s Museum in St. Pete met his standards and both my kids rocked this museum for hours! Tickets were only $10 per person.

We chose to run off pent up energy at the Sunken Gardens next door first because it was only $5.00 more for all three of us. After a short snack, we then descended upon Great Ex with fervor!

The boys pounced on a series of building blocks before organizing veggies at the make-believe farmer’s stand and milking a pretend cow. Music played in the background as children and adults alike took turns playing a German Glockenspiel and  African Balafon. We fought fires, treated pets at the vet and enjoyed a pirate treasure hunt.

Best of all? The pizza bistro, of course! The boys loved creating their very own pizza pies and I was inspired by the amazing materials used to make the ingredients (get ready for a DIY blog coming soon!)

Great Ex Children's MuseumKids Size Publix Shopping CenterHomeschool Field Trip at Great Explorations Museum St. Petersburg, FL

 

 

 

 

Our final outing was a bit odd, but loads of fun for all of us. IKEA, located near Ybor City, was a half-day delight! Both boys insisted that they push their own shopping cart, which then became transport vehicles in an imaginary game of follow the directional arrows stamped on the concrete floor.

The boys tried out all sorts of bunk beds, selected toys and housewares (!) and took a break in the bargain-price cafeteria. The huge elevator was a treat and walking through the warehouse was novel.

We planned to drop in for 45 minutes and stayed three hours!

If we hadn’t been on our way home, we would have continued our tour into Ybor and checked out the historic Cuban influence.

Homeschool boys enjoy a field trip at Ikea TampaBoys strike a pose on Ikea bunk beds in TampaHomeschool Field Trip Ikea Tampa Cafeteria

 

 

 

 

It’s amazing how homeschooling allows you to take learning with you and do so in a fun, engaging way. Next time, I’ve got my sights set on the Dunedin Fine Arts Center, suggested to me by homeschool mama Keri S.

I’m glad I took the time to look beyond the typical Tampa amusements and find these unique and inexpensive gems. I encourage you to check them out next time you are headed to Tampa Bay.

Happy road tripping!

Kate

PS: Send this post along to a friend who needs a little Tampa inspiration!