As usual, the first thing Curly said to me today was, "Mommy, can we go somewhere?" Outside the sun shone and soft, spring breezes blew. I agreed with her that we needed something to fill the long hours of the day until Daddy came home and the weekend began. Spontaneously I decided to create a homeschool field trip.
Our first stop was the bookstore. While I browsed in the Regional section, the kids chose a Thomas the Train book that sang songs when you pushed a button on the side.
Since we decided to take our field trip up to the woods, I bought a couple of field guides. I didn't know whether the kids would be interested in identifying wild flowers but I certainly was so I wanted to opportunity to expand my own knowledge.
We drove out to our favorite piece of "woods" not too far north of town. The kids enjoyed their new book on the trip and I enjoyed the gorgeous Idaho scenery.
We picked a campsite in the "forest" to have our picnic lunch. Unfortunately, rude weekend campers had already swiped all of the picnic tables in the area and told us bluntly that we would have to move our car or we would shortly be blocked in by their relatives' numerous RVs. I assured them we weren't planning to stay long; at the same time I tried to keep their four big Labradors from intimidating Little Mister to the point of tears. Some people never learned to share.
We built a small fire in the designated pit and ate our picnic lunch sitting on the carpet of pine needles. The kids brought piles of sticks to feed the fire.
Since the Weekend Warriors were riding their noisy motorcycles up and down the road spoiling the tranquility of the forest, we soon left our campsite and began our hunt for wildflowers. Catching my enthusiasm, the kids excitedly helped me find new species of flower, photograph and name them from our new book. Some we found along the side of the road as we drove back down the mountain.
At last we were free from the noise of the motorcycles and what did we see but a mule deer right in the road, tranquilly watching us and waving his long, rabbit-like ears. Curly was beside herself with excitement as I snapped picture after picture from the window of the van. He (She?) eventually ambled off into the thick brush at the side of the road and we continued on our way.
As we neared the highway, I was surprised to find an old log cabin, fenced off from marauding animals. As I moved closer to take a picture I noticed that the gate didn't have a lock, apparently welcoming visitors to take a closer look.
A sign proclaimed the old cabin had been rescued from a highway improvement project in 2004.
It had to be well into its second century of life and wasn't in stellar condition; still, this tangible piece of American history thrilled me to the core.
The kids, too, we eager to explore the old structure. I swallowed my mother-fear of rusty nails and rotten boards and let them go right in, chattering away about the "real Lincoln Log House" that looked just like Laura's house must have looked.
Curly didn't think much of the missing floor, but I was fascinated by the two-room partition, the old wall-board and the stove-pipe hole. In my imagination the house was new and whole, built by Pa's own hands and we were living in it, setting up the beds in one corner and spreading a checked tablecloth on the hand-made table.
Mister and Curly poked around for a while, looking for ants, of which there were many. The looked at the old, glassless windows and the rickety log walls. Mister in particular could not seem to get enough of the "weel winky-wog house!"
Finally it was time to climb back into the van and head home for nap time. Our trip had yielded much more than I ever had dared hope, both in education and entertainment. I love letting real life lead and teach us; learning science and history in this manner never leads to dry, boring lessons but rather memorable, exciting, delightful fun.