Field Trip: The State Botanical Garden of Georgia

Learn more about Georgia’s horticultural history at this free Athens botanical garden

UGA College of Ag & Environmental Sciences - OCCS You may not know that Georgia is a horticultural hotspot, but our home state is home to some of the most diverse plant life in the United States. In fact, during the Age of Exploration, botanical treasure hunters poured into the thirteenth colony, in search of fabulous flora to take home with them to their native lands. The State Botanical Garden of Georgia in Athens celebrates and chronicles the state’s horticultural heritage.

Operating under the auspices of the University of Georgia, the State Botanical Garden is primarily a teaching garden, and you’ll find it as information-rich as it is picturesque. Five miles of trails wind through the 313-acre garden, which is home to more than three hundred native plants as well as flora from around the world. In the International Garden, you’ll learn about the history of gardening, from the cloistered forerunners of botanical gardens that sprouted up at monasteries in the Middle Ages, to the period of phenomenal botanical exchange that characterized the Renaissance period, to modern-day concerns about losing plant species to extinction. The Heritage Garden takes you through Georgia’s horticultural and agricultural history, including crops like tobacco, cotton, and peanuts. You’ll find a few now-rare botanical treasures here, too, including unusual plants like bloodroot and the endangered trillium. The three- story Tropical Conservatory shows off equatorial plants that many kids have never seen growing, including pineapples, ginger and pepper plants, and bamboo. Check the calendar online — the Garden hosts all kinds of interesting events and classes throughout the year.


5 Ways to Mark the End of the Year in Your Homeschool

Make the most of your academic year wrap-up


It’s that time of year again! Even if you’re year-round schoolers, marking the end of the traditional academic year is a rite of passage for good reason: Completing a grade is a milestone. Use these last weeks of co-op and group time to start an end-of-the-year tradition for your homeschool.

[ 1 ] Take a last day of school picture.
You’re always good at snapping that first official day of school photo (even if it’s just a photo of your gang chilling at the now-blissfully-deserted neighborhood pool), but the last day is worth marking with little Instagram action, too.

[ 2 ] Write a year-end evaluation for each of your kids
Do it now, while the year is still fresh in your mind. There’s no right way to do this: Maybe you want to write it as a letter to your child, giving him your take on his accomplishments and efforts over the past year. (You can save them up to give him at his high school graduation or hand them over as part of each year’s wrap-up.) Maybe you just want to make a list of classes and activities. However you decide to do it, you’ll be glad later that you took the time to make these notes now.

[ 3 ] Get an end-of-the-year evaluation from your kids.
I think it’s fun to ask your kids to answer the same five questions at the end of every year: What did you like learning this year? What did you like reading this year? What did you learn about yourself this year? What made you proud this year? What do you think next year will be like? It’s interesting to know how your child views his experiences, and you can compare answers (and handwriting!) over time.

[ 4 ] Clean up your homeschool space.
Get rid of all those pencil ends and crumpled notecards so that you aren’t faced with a mess when you’re ready to prep for next year’s homeschool. All the organizing you get to do is lots of fun — the cleaning? Not so much, so go ahead and get it out of the way.

[ 5 ] Make a go-me list.
Take a pen and a sheet of paper, and write down at least five things that you did just brilliantly this year — five instances of great homeschool parenting. Be specific — and be proud! Homeschooling is rewarding, but it’s challenging, too, and it’s important to recognize your own successes. On some tough Tuesday, that list will make you smile.


Summer Reading 

We dug through the Atlanta Homeschool archives for some of our favorite book lists

We’ve posted a lot of book recommendations over the years, so I thought we’d put them all together in one place in case you’re looking for a little summer reading inspiration. (Don’t worry: We’ll have lots of new book recommendations coming, too!)

Summer Reading Roundup 2013

13 Picture Books to Inspire Your Nature Table

Buzzworthy Books about Bees

Great Math Books for Homeschoolers

Great Mystery Books for Kids

6 Fascinating Nonfiction Books for Older Kids

11 Books to Read After The Hobbit

April Fools Day: Books with Terrific Twist Endings

Puzzle Me This: Brainy Books for the Backseat

Our Favorite Books of 2012


10 Free Museums for Spring Field Tripping

Free admission makes learning even more fun.

Quartz is Georgia's official state mineral — and just one of many natural specimens on display at the Georgia Museum of Natural History.
Fernbank Science Center
Not to be confused with the also awesome but not-so-free Fernbank Museum of Natural History, this Dekalb county science center’s exhibit hall is always free. (You do have to pay to see a show at the planetarium.)

Atlanta Monetary Museum
If you can round up at least ten people, your tour of the Atlanta Federal Reserve will include a behind-the-scenes peek at the vault, but there’s no minimum required for the self-guided tour of the Monetary Museum. Tours are free year-round.

Anne Frank in the World
Not a lighthearted exhibit, but an important one, this collection of photos and artifacts tells the story of life cut short by the Holocaust. It’s free.

Marietta Fire Museum
You’ll find fire-fighting artifacts and fire engines dating back to the 1800s at this free museum near Marietta Square.

Booth Western Art Museum
Enjoy an extensive collection of western art — and the awesome kids’ play area — free on the first Thursday of each month from 4-8 p.m.

Robert C. Williams Museum of Papermaking
This museum — part of Georgia Tech — about the history and craft of paper-making is fascinating. Self-guides tours are free (though the museum accepts donations.)

David J. Sencer CDC Museum
Get a rare peek inside the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention at this public health museum. Admission is always free.

Georgia Museum of Art
You never have to pay to visit this Athens art museum, but if you go between May 9 and August 2, you can see the gorgeously detailed Renaissance and Baroque drawings from the Ceseri collection.

Georgia Museum of Natural History
There’s no better place to learn about Georgia’s native flora and fauna than at this Athens museum. Admission is always free.

Atlanta Contemporary Art Center

Visit on Thursdays, and you can see the eclectic, creative mix on display at this arts venue for free.


May Best Bets 

Our picks for the best out-of-the-house homeschool fun this month

Immerse Yourself in the Civil War at the Booth Western Art Museum
The Bartow History Center and the Booth Museum team up for their annual “Civil War Comes Alive” program, featuring demonstrations, reenactments, and historic artifacts. (This year coincides with the 150th anniversary of the war’s end.) Lots of local schools will turn out for the program, so prepare for crowds if you go. Registration required.
Friday, May 1 at the Booth Western Art Museum

Learn About Stream Ecology at Don Carter State Park
Learn more about the diversity of river life, the water cycle, and the life stages of aquatic animals on a ranger-led hike.
Friday, May 1 at Don Carter State Park in Gainesville

See The Merchant of Venice at the New American Shakespeare Tavern
What is the quality of mercy? Discuss amongst yourselves after a viewing of this Shakespearean play set in Venice. If you go to the May 10 performance, you can participate in a question-and-answer session with the cast and crew.
Opens May 1 at the New American Shakespeare Tavern

Go Frog Hunting at High Falls State Park
Learn how to identify different frogs by the sounds they make, then explore the lake to see if you can spot your favorite croaker in the wild. Bring your bug spray and a flashlight.
Saturday, May 2 at High Falls State Park in Jackson

Cure What Ails You at the Atlanta History Center’s Homeschool Day
From snake oil salesmen and truly bizarre historical remedies to global pandemics and Native American medical know-how, the Atlanta History Center’s May homeschool day tackles the history of medicine with the usual mix of exhibitions and activities.
Friday, May 8 at the Atlanta History Center

Learn About the Georgia Gold Rush at the Dahlonega Gold Museum
California may get all the buzz, but Georgia was the site of the first U.S. gold rush. Learn more about this slice of Georgia history at a 3:30 p.m. lecture by Bill Witherspoon, who co-authored the book Roadside Geology of Georgia.
Friday, May 8 at the Dahlonega Gold Museum Historic Site in Dahlonega

Do the Locomotive at the Southern Museum’s Homeschool Day
All aboard for an in-depth look at the steam-powered trains and boats that made westward expansion in the United States possible. The Southern Museum’s May homeschool day focuses on the transportation methods that opened up the west. Registration required.
Tuesday, May 12 at the Southern Museum

Be a Citizen Scientist Batman at F.D. Roosevelt State Park
Learn more about bats and help scientists from the Georgia Bat Working Group collect data for a three-night study. Registration required.
Friday, May 15 at F.D. Roosevelt State Park in Pine Mountain

Explore Animals in Art at the High Museum’s Homeschool Day
Go on safari through the High’s galleries to discover the depiction of animals through history and across cultures. The docent-led tour starts at 1 p.m., and drop-in workshops are open from 1-4 p.m.
Friday, May 15 at the High Museum of Art

See The Little Mermaid Ballet at Gwinnett Center
This Disney musical, not the Hans Christian Anderson original, is the inspiration for this children’s ballet by the Northeast Atlanta Ballet.
May 15-17 at Gwinnett Center

Attend Homeschool Day at Hard Labor Creek State Park
It’s the ranger’s choice for what you’ll get at Hard Labor Creek’s monthly homeschool day, but you can expect a mix of natural sciences and outdoor exercise if you attend. Registration required.
Wednesday, May 20 at Hard Labor Creek State Park in Rutledge

Get Your Groove on at the Atlanta Jazz Festival
It’s one of the biggest free jazz festivals in the country and a great excuse to chill out to some awesome live music in Piedmont Park.
May 22-24 at Piedmont Park

Watch the Sky at the Georgia State Astronomy Observatory’s Open House
Georgia State’s monthly astronomy open house is a great opportunity to view the night sky through a powerful telescope. Tours start about half an hour after sunset.
Saturday, May 23 at Hard Labor Creek State Park in Rutledge

Test Your Derring-Do at Tallulah Gorge
Karl Wallenda made headlines in 1970 when he crossed the gorge on a tightrope. Let his daredevil experiment inspire you to master the basics of walking on a slackline. (Don’t worry: You won’t have to venture out across the gorge.) Ages 8 and older.
Sunday, May 24 at Tallulah Gorge State Park in Tallulah Falls

Get Your Geek on at MomoCon
Japanese animation and game fans from around the world don their cosplay best and descent on the Georgia World Congress center for four days of shared obsession.
May 28-31 at the Georgia World Congress Center