Thursday, September 22, 2011
Last week, we surprised the kids with a road trip to North Carolina where we spent the week at Jellystone Park in Marion, a wonderful campground (we cheated and stayed in a cabin) in a gorgeous setting with fun-filled activities for the whole family. My kids are huge Yogi Bear fans, so to say they were excited was an understatement.
Like any homeschool mom, I packed a small bag of curriculum to bring with us - mostly books to read, math games to play and a few other activities. When we got home last weekend, I unpacked the bag that had gone completely untouched.
Instead, we filled our time with wonderful vacation activities - hiking, mini golf, swimming, riding the water slide, boating, outdoor games and endless hours on the playground - along with a few great educational activities in the nearby area.
Our first learning adventure was panning for gold and mining for gems at the Thermal City Gold Mine. The staff told us the kids would last about five minutes panning for gold, and I have to admit that it did bear quite a resemblance to looking for a needle in a haystack. My little ones are pretty determined, however, and gave it a good half hour before switching over to the gems. Gem mining turned out to be fun for everyone! The kids each got a bucket of dirt and were shown how to rinse it in the flume. Each bucket contained plenty of gems, and the staff was great with the kids and very knowledgeable about the different types of stones.
In the gift shop, I picked up a copy of Rocks & Minerals and a pocket sized book about identifying gemstones. Identifying their gems and reading about how they were formed kept the kids busy and happy for several days - and they requested another trip back to the mine on our way out of town.
A few days later, we headed to Linville Caverns, where we ventured a half mile underground and 600 feet in from the cavern entrance. I'd never been in a cavern before, and I have to say, it was pretty interesting! Thanks to our guide, I finally remember which is a stalactite and which is a stalagmite (in case you were wondering, the stalactite hangs from the ceiling and has to hold on "tight" so it doesn't fall; the stalagmite comes up from the ground and "might" one day reach the ceiling!) After our 30-minute tour, I found an activity book called Caverns for Kids that had some good information about caverns plus plenty of fun activities like mazes and word searches.
Our final educational adventure was to Sky Top Apple Orchard in Flat Rock. None of us had been apple picking before, and it was so much fun we now want to go every year. Ava practiced her reading skills looking for the signs for each type of apple we wanted to pick, and we got to see all the yummy things they made with the apples, including some really delicious apple cider slushies made only from apple cider.
This was really one of our favorite vacations ever - very relaxing with just the right balance of down time and activities. We loved all the time spent outdoors, a wonderful break from the Florida heat and the bonus of some cool learning experiences for the kids!