Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Field Trip to Moosilauke, June 6, 2011

Gorge Brook Trail, Moosilauke Carriage Road, and Snapper Trail. 7.5 miles, 2450 elevation gain.

I'm going to do something a little different with this blog entry. Normally, I restrict discussion to matters pertaining to the trail. This is, after all, a record of my daughters' adventures in the mountains. However, lately I've been asked a question that I'd like to answer using the experience of today.

The question: why do we homeschool?

It's not because the girls had a bad experience with a particular school. They've actually never set foot in a school, except to attend Girl Scouts, which is held at the local elementary building. It's not because we don't like specific teachers. I admire teachers and think they do the best they can with the situation they've been given. It's not because we're religious fundamentalists. On the contrary, we're quite secular.

So why do we homeschool?

It's simple, really. We homeschool so we can hike Moosilauke on any day we please.

Of course, it doesn't have to be Moosilauke...and it doesn't have to be hiking. It can be swimming, painting, playing games, or hanging out with friends. It can be attending a museum, visiting a chemistry lab, experimenting with the piano, or taking apart the blender. It's about flexibility, freedom, options, and taking the time to explore.

I put the girls through a variety of structured academic activities three days a week, year round. They also have playdates and extracurricular classes (karate, swimming, Girl Scouts, etc.). The rest of their time is theirs to use as they see fit. They both recently tested two grades above their age level on the IOWA standardized test (complete battery), so Hugh and I feel comfortable with their intellectual progress and our method of education thus far.

Flexibility -- it's a wonderful thing that allows us to take advantage of beautiful days. Therefore, when a beautiful day presented itself this morning, I asked my kids if they wanted to hike. They said yes, so off we went.

The view from Moosilauke Ravine Lodge:

The trailhead:

The first leg of our hike:

By the time we'd gotten to the "Last Sure Water" sign, which is the approximate half-way point, the girls and I had reviewed Spanish vocabulary, compound words, rules of grammar, and Latin phrases. None of that review was planned, it just happened spontaneously on the trail. Both girls enjoy word games while ascending a mountain, and both girls had the previous day's academic lessons on their minds. Informal and spontaneous "schooling" happens a lot with us. The girls learn far more during one of these sessions than they do during a regular "school day."

We took a break at the spring and watched Max as he chewed on a few dozen fallen branches.

We moved on when the girls felt ready.

The rest of the ascent involved discussion of upcoming media possibilities regarding UP. I'm careful to talk about all potential publicity opportunities with both the girls; I cannot make a move without first consulting them...which is how it should be, given our specific situation. This is not a case of one author promoting a book. My entire family will soon be in the spotlight, and Hugh and I need to make certain that both girls are comfortable with every single aspect of their immediate future.

All discussion ceased when we entered the "little tree zone," as the girls like to call it. This is the part of the hike where we feel like we're close to treeline. The sunlight pours down, the trees start to shorten, and views pop up here and there through the blowdowns.

From this point to treeline, it's all about enjoying the present moment.

I mean really, why would you be inside on a day like today when you could be here?

Sage reached the top and -- my camera battery died. I therefore took the summit photos with my cell phone.

The girls and I spent at least an hour hanging about, appreciating the scenery and eating far too much chocolate. Eventually, we meandered down the Moosilauke Carriage Road toward the South Peak. We met our season's first Appalachian Trail thru-hiker by the intersection with Glencliff Trail; I welcomed him to the Whites and gave him a Hershey bar.

Unfortunately, the trail between Glencliff and Snapper was filled -- and I do mean filled -- with blackflies. It was impossible to take any breaks or even slow down...they swarmed, bit, and drew blood anytime our pace fell below a jog. It was a difficult descent, especially for Sage, who was tired and wanted to rest more than we were able.

Once on Snapper Trail, the blackfly situation improved and we were able to relax and catch our breath. Life became much easier after that, and we arrived back at the Lodge in fine spirits.

A gorgeous day indeed. Sage got 4K #17 and Max got 4K #8. I enjoyed another fine day with my girls, and we made it home in time to grab dinner with friends.

Life is good.

*For what it's worth, I don't advocate a one-size-fits-all approach to education. What works for us might not work for others, and what works for others might not work for us. Thank goodness for options.*


Anonymous said...

Your daughters are lucky girls!

Patricia Ellis Herr, Alexandra Herr, and Sage Herr said...

Thanks! I love your website, by the way! Cool family!