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Archive for the ‘Homeschool’ Category

Meals On Wheels Is Not What I Expected It To Be

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Local mom Tina Mackey went a Meals On Wheels trip with her kids so that she could share with us her experience. For more ideas of how to give back, see our list of ways to volunteer with kids in Greenville.

Ya’ll, have you every thought about something for a long time (I mean years). And you have in your mind how it should go? That’s how it was for me with Meals on Wheels. This has been something I’ve wanted to do for years. I had preconceived notions about time commitment, how it would work taking children, how often I would have to commit to driving, and much more. Let me tell you how Meals on Wheels is not at all what I expected it to be.

How volunteering with Meals On Wheels went for my family

First, let me say that our experience with Meals on Wheels was far better than anything I ever thought it would be. This is one of those times that I ended up saying, “why haven’t we done this sooner?” We began by going to orientation and learning about the organization. Being briefed on how things worked made us confident that we could really do this.

Next, we picked up our food. The food packages are pretty straight forward. They have special trays for certain dietetic restrictions, but other than that it was pretty simple. All food is cooked and packaged at their site just off of Augusta St. If you want to be assigned a route further out of town, you have the option of picking up your food from a drop off site closer to your location.

Last, we drove to our locations. The papers that they give you detail everything. It gives you directions to your first house along with the house description and specific directions on where and how to drop the food.  (Food is never to be left alone on a porch). Then, you follow the directions to your next house. Even if you don’t have GPS, you can do this just by following their written instructions. We were finished with our route in exactly 1 1/2 hours.

Things you should know

Orientations are every Thursday at 9:30 am.

Food pick-up can be at the downtown location or at a food drop elsewhere.

Food pickup begins at 10 am.

Most people like to pickup at 10 am and be finished by 12 pm.

MoW services a very large area including places from Travelers Rest all the way down to Fountain Inn and beyond.

You do not have to commit to a consistent drop, but can choose on a weekly basis.

Time commitment is roughly 2 hours.

There are other ways to volunteer your time from greeting volunteers to cooking and packaging the meals.

Benefits I didn’t expect

The clients were so happy to see us and genuinely thankful for us.

You are welcome to visit with clients.

My son got great experience with navigation!

My kids loved meeting new people and having a chance to help them.

My children each took turns knocking on doors and taking the lead on talking to the clients.  I loved that they had a chance to learn assertiveness.

We saw parts of Greenville that we’ve never seen.

There was lots of time in the car to talk about how we can help others.

My high-schooler got service hours.

How to get started

Contact Leslie LaRue, Volunteer Services Coordinator
Phone: 864.233.6565 ext 216
Fax: 864.235.1264
www.MealsonWheelsGreenville. org

Meals on Wheels main office location is found at 15 Oregon Street in Greenville.

So if you’re thinking of volunteering, but are hesitant because you’re not sure what to expect, my advice would be to go ahead and try it. They would be more than happy for you to try it once just to see how it works for your family. And from then, you can commit to a weekly route or just takes routes as they fit into your schedule.

Give it a try! You won’t be sorry!

Meet Tina
Tina Mackey is a SAHM to three boys and a little girl (who thinks she’s the fourth boy). She enjoys staying busy keeping her children in extracurricular activities and exploring new things in Greenville. A diet of homemade, whole foods is a priority for her and she’s constantly in search of the next best healthy recipe.
Jackie Vest is a writer and at-home-mom of two energetic little boys. She enjoys adventuring around the beautiful Upstate, the hilarity of kiddo-raising, outdoor fitness with friends, and her Favorite 5 C’s: cooking, crafting, camping, coffee, and chocolate. You can connect with her via her blog at: JackieVest.com.


Visiting Colorado’s Rocky Mountains with Traveling Homeschoolers

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Local mom Maria Bassett shares her experience taking her children on a trip with Traveling Homeschoolers. This special group offers travel packages specifically tailored to homeschool families that combine adventure with education!

Nearly every year Traveling Homeschoolers, a group based in Rock Hill, SC, offers a homeschool retreat in addition to the many domestic and international trips they offer each year.  My family has joined them for several different trips and retreats, and we always enjoy these retreats.  It’s lovely not to have to plan out all the details, and instead leave them in the capable hands of Traveling Homeschoolers.  My family just returned from this year’s retreat in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado.

Our Accommodations

We stayed at the YMCA of the Rockies, in Estes Park, CO.  This resort style facility boasts many lodges with hotel-style rooms, dining cafeteria style, and just about every activity you can imagine.  Picture traditional summer camp, but for families, set in a valley surrounded by magnificent mountains.  Then, add in guided hikes, animal, plant and survival skills classes and you’ll begin to get the idea.  Our family enjoyed archery, basketball, chess outdoors with giant chess pieces, playground time, swimming, roller-skating, many rounds of miniature golf and hiking all on the YMCA property.  How wonderful it is to wake up with your family, not have to worry for even a fraction of a second about meals or responsibilities, and just play all day!

But we didn’t just play, we learned a lot, too!  We enjoyed participating in a bear talk, a beaver hike, knot-tying class, family astronomy class, ecology walk and a bird banding hike!  We got to watch a professional bird bander catch birds, record data on the bird, and either band it or note where it was initially banded.  Some of us even got to hold the birds!  The staff running the activities were completely wonderful, friendly and happy.  With the exception of archery, which has a $10 fee, all these activities were included in the price we paid to stay at YMCA of the Rockies.

Our favorite adventure at YMCA of the Rockies was horseback riding on a trail through the mountains.  None of my family had ever ridden a horse before, and we had such an amazing time.  We saw several mule deer, lots of elk and many birds from horseback, as our horses clomped down and up the rocky trail, over creeks, and through trails lined with Ponderosa Pines and Aspen trees.  The livery is on YMCA property but is operated by a separate company.  Let me tell you, our wranglers (guides) were simply amazing.  I was nervous particularly that my 6 year-old would be too afraid to get on the horse, but the wrangler told him he had the best horse in the barn and showed him how to turn and stop the horse.  My little guy hopped right into the saddle.  The horses were very well trained to follow each other, and other than a few who wanted to stop and have a snack, they needed very little actual input from us.  It was a highlight for all of us.  This was not an included activity, and had its own fees. Our ride cost $45 for an hour trail ride.  It was not inexpensive, but, for us, totally worth it for the experience.

Rocky Mountain National Park

YMCA of the Rockies sits right next to Rocky Mountain National Park.  Cross Glacier Creek, and you’re in the national park.  If you prefer to drive through the park, the entrance is just about a 10 minute drive.  From there you can access many, many hiking trails or drive through the stunning scenery.  Our family hiked both the Bear Lake Trail and the Albertta Falls Trail.  We had been warned there was still snow on the trails, and advised to borrow hiking boots from the YMCA.  They have Lowa boots in all sizes to borrow for hikes, free of charge to YMCA guests.  We were super glad we had borrowed boots!  The trail was perfectly clear in some sections, but utterly covered in 6 to 7 foot iced over drifts in others.  Even with our boots, we relied on the help of fellow hikers, as well as walking sticks and poles to get down some of the drifts.  What an adventure!  And what a view.  Bear Lake was simply stunning.

Traveling Homeschoolers

When you want to travel with Traveling Homeschoolers, you select the trip you are interested in online.  You’ll see general information about the trip, costs, and activities, and then you can register right there on the website.  Shortly thereafter you’ll be contacted via e-mail by Dianna, who organizes all the trips, and she’ll tell you the payment schedule for that trip and anything else you need to know along the way.  She does all the research, finds the least crowded times, with the best deals, handles all the dealing with the venues and anything included in your trip.  You just get to show up!

Some of Traveling Homeschoolers’ trips are more organized with a schedule of group events, and some, like the retreat, are more relaxed with fewer organized events.  Our family really liked being able to pick and choose what we did, but still found ourselves meeting up with other families in our group at meals, camp fires, and for board games in the evening.  It was a perfectly lovely mix.  If you’re looking for shorter trips, closer to home, check out Carolina Homeschooler. It’s run by the same person and is also an Option 3 association.

This Rocky Mountain adventure was the anchor for our road trip across the country.  Its not something my family will soon, or probably ever, forget.  We can’t wait for our next adventure (well, I can, at least until the mountain of resulting laundry gets done.)

Note: Nothing was provided to us to review this Traveling Homeschooler trip.  These are my family’s unbiased opinions.

Where would your family love to venture for a Homeschool field trip?

Meet Maria Bassett
Maria Bassett is a former school orchestra teacher, turned home-school mom. She and her husband homeschool their 3 sons and 1 daughter, currently pre-school through 2nd grade age. Believing children learn best when they are engaged and having fun, this family loves to take their homeschool on the road, around Greenville and beyond.

Homeschooling Around the USA – A Day in St. Louis

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Maria Bassett shares her family’s experience visiting St. Louis, Missouri. They even rode a tram to the top of the Gateway Arch. This trip is a fun and educational destination for the whole family.

St. Louis, Missouri is rich in American history. From the Louisiana Purchase, to the Lewis and Clark Expedition, to fur trappers, and wagon trains setting out in search of land or gold, St. Louis played a critical role. Today we can learn how our country was shaped throughout the westward expansion of the 1800s, by visiting the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial in St. Louis, Missouri, home of the famous Gateway Arch.

The history of St. Louis

The Jefferson Expansion Memorial and surrounding area is undergoing extensive renovation. During the construction, the Museum of Westward Expansion has relocated many of its exhibits to rooms in the Old Courthouse, approximately a 10 minute walk from the Gateway Arch. Admission to the exhibits in the Old Courthouse is completely free. This is a great place to begin your day in St. Louis!

In these exhibits you can learn about the Lewis and Clark Expedition (1804-1806) which stopped for its final supplies and winter camped near St. Louis before setting out over uncharted land. You will also learn about St. Louis’s role in fur trapping and trade, and how those trappers became guides for others heading west. St. Louis also played a pivotal role for people headed west in search of land for homesteads, or wealth in the gold rush, by serving wagon trains as a final supply stop and last taste of civilization before heading out west. The Old Courthouse contains other historical exhibits as well, including information about the Dred Scott case, which was heard at this courthouse and decided in 1857. Many say this provided fuel to ignite the civil war.

During the construction, the Old Courthouse also serves as the ticket center to purchase tickets to enter the arch and to ride the tram up into the arch.  So you’ll want to get your tickets before heading down the walk to the arch. Even though we got caught in the rain, we didn’t mind the walk. Its downhill and very easy.

Visiting the Gateway Arch

The Gateway Arch is a 630 foot arch sitting on the Mississippi River in St. Louis, serving as a monument to the massive westward expansion this country experienced in the 1800s. But its more than just a metal arch, you can actually ride to the top inside the concrete and steel structure via a tram.  Guests enter small pod-like cars that seat 5 at the bottom of the arch for the ride to the top. As you ride to the top, you can see bits of the mechanics working to bring you to the top through the windows on your car’s doors. Once at the top, you exit the cars and can walk in the top of the arch for spectacular views of St. Louis and across the Mississippi River. When you have had enough of the views, you head back down the arch in the same way you came up. The tram ride to the top was by far the highlight of my children’s day in St. Louis!

Note: This is NOT a ride for claustrophobic people, and it is not a wheel chair accessible OR stroller accessible ride. Folks who have mobility problems may find it difficult to climb in through the car’s narrow and short doors. You definitely have to duck to get in. However, small children are allowed to sit on parents’ laps. In this way, our family of 6 was able to stay together in one car.

If you’re looking for something else to do, consider one of several river cruises. You can also purchase tickets for these at the Old Courthouse.  However, my family found that the Old Courthouse, the Gateway Arch, and the walk through the park around the arch, was really plenty to do for one day. If you are staying in the area for several days, you might also want to check out the St. Louis Zoo, which has free admission!

Tips and Pointers for visiting the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial

Plan for crowds, especially in the summer. Give yourself plenty of time to visit exhibits and get through ticket lines. (You can purchase tickets in advance here. This is highly recommended in the busy summer season, as the trams will fill up and sell out.)

Make sure to arrive at the arch about 30 minutes before your tram ride time, as guests have to go through security similar to an airport, removing jackets, passing through a metal detector and putting all bags through an x-ray.

Strollers will not fit on the tram, so plan to either leave your stroller inside the arch basement or utilize a wearable baby carrier instead.

St. Louis is a big city, with all the usual big city traffic. Consider staying at a hotel within walking distance to the memorial to avoid traffic and parking delays. We stayed at the Drury Inn near the Convention Center, which has an indoor parking garage, and found it to be an easy walk to the Old Courthouse and the Gateway Arch.

Would your family love the history found in St. Louis?

Meet Maria Bassett
Maria Bassett is a former school orchestra teacher, turned home-school mom. She and her husband homeschool their 3 sons and 1 daughter, currently pre-school through 2nd grade age. Believing children learn best when they are engaged and having fun, this family loves to take their homeschool on the road, around Greenville and beyond.