Homeschooling, Summer Edition: The Great Smoky Mountains

This week was a departure – in two ways! We “traveled” to the Great Smoky Mountains and learned about much of the flora and fauna and traditions of the area; and it was also a departure from our normal version of homeschooling. This week we skipped table work and did more exploring and reading on our own.

I chose the Great Smoky Mountain area because pre-COVID, we were planning a trip to the National Park, Gatlinburg, Dollywood – it was going to be a whole big thing, our first big trip as a family, first theme park for Wyatt. However, it is now on hold for a bit. And well, now we know a bit more about the area for when we do go!

We spent a day talking about the National Parks, park rangers, and specifically Great Smoky Mountain NP. We talked about preparing for a hike, and I gathered a bunch of materials for Wyatt to choose from to pack his own adventure bag. He chose to pack all of it, and to eat his snacks immediately. I guess he is not a minimalist and does not believe in traveling light. This was also the first challenge in the Wild Explorers Club that I signed Wyatt up for. We are working on the first badge, the Wolf Badge. It worked out nicely!

Then we talked about log cabin homes and Davy Crockett, the Native American tribes that lived there (we were going to make a Cherokee pinch pot but never got around to it – another time), and watched a video of the synchronous firefly event – something I would love to see one day! We just learned about fireflies last week so this was sort of fun to revisit again. We had a day spent on Folk music, and then finally learning about salamanders, the Smoky Mountains are known as the salamander capital of the world! We read the Salamander Room, talked about salamanders, chose our own favorite animal and drew “rooms” for them (fox for me, frog for Wyatt), and finally today as a surprise to Wyatt, we are adding a new member to our family – a leopard gecko! Not quite the same thing but after reading about different types of small pets a leopard gecko sounds like a good fit for our family. We will set up the enclosure today and talk about setting up the room for a gecko, then add in our new friend!

Books Used:

(Contains Amazon Affiliate links)

All Aboard National Parks || The Salamander Room || National Parks of the USA || Great Smoky Mountains National Park (I loved Ranger Rick as a kid!)

A few links to videos we watched and websites I used:

Synchronous Fireflies

Storytime at the Met – The Salamander Room

Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Cherokee Pinch Pot

Mountain Living

Great Smoky Mountains National Park as a Classroom

And then for all of our music explorations be sure to check out my Exploring Folk Music post!

As you can see, it is easy to get lost in the beauty and richness of the Smokies – even virtually!

Exploring Folk Music

This week Wyatt is learning about the Great Smoky Mountains, and I thought it would be a great time to add in some music! He is a huge music lover of all kinds, and while we almost always have music of some sort playing in the house, I have never purposely included it in our plans – mostly because I am not well versed on music, at all. But I thought this was a good basic intro for him!

I found these folk instrument flash cards online and used them not really as flashcards to quiz him but as a way to talk about the different instruments used in folk music. Then I collected any instruments that we had around our house that were listed and set them out for him to play with. I usually have his small instruments out for him in a basket, but the guitar and ukulele are usually put away and for occasions with supervision. The guitar was his grandfather’s and is special to me for that reason. I want him to to use but treat it with respect which is sometimes hard for five year olds who are learning still.

We talked about all the instruments, the types that they are, played around with them, and then listened to music on YouTube. I specifically searched for fiddle music, banjo music, etc so that we could hear what each sounded like, and also threw some in just for fun.

We watched a few Lindsey Stirling videos because I personally love her style. I was surprised that they were not Wyatt’s favorites, because they are so lively and upbeat but I think she was his least favorite! He really loved the harmonica pieces we listened to and Abby the Spoon Lady.

Afterward we constructed a cereal box banjo/guitar but we are still working on the neck – I will update with photo later! I turned it inside out, taped it all back together and had Wyatt decorate it before adding the rubber band strings. His grandfather was an artist and was so talented with calligraphy and design – Wyatt decorating his little art project while we listened to country music just really made me feel like his grandfather was with us for a bit.

So it was a very basic intro but a good one! I am going to look into music for homeschooling as this kid seems to have music in his very soul!