July Best Bets

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

Get in the giving mood in the summer at Legoland Discovery Center. Bring a new and unwrapped toy with a value of $10 or more to receive a Kids Go Free voucher for free admission. 

Learn about the inner workings of the human brain and the latest neuroscience through interactive videos, games, models, and more. 

This is Now covers Alex Katz's landscape paintings over the past 25 years. 

Enjoy movies such as The Breakfast Club, Jaws, Ghostbusters, and The Princess Bride at the Fox Theater this summer. 

Enjoy a meal while watching what fools mortals can be at the Shakespeare Tavern. This production is good for all ages. 

This family friendly event includes ice cream vendors, live entertainment, and—appropriately enough—fitness routines. There are plenty of different flavors of ice cream that will keep everyone happy. 

At the High Museum's teacher appreciation day educators can get to view the High's permanent 
and special exhibitions for free with one guest. Homeschool teachers can get in with a copy of your declaration of intent or a teacher I.D. 

At Camp H20 elementary age children (1st through 5th grade) can go behind the scenes at the Georgia Aquarium, meet the animals' caregivers, and more. There are still a few slots available at this day camp.

This yoga class, for all levels, is open to everyone including first timers! All you need to bring to the class is a bottle of water and your yoga mat. 

Experience the wonders of the full moon while paddling at Lake Lanier. You can bring your own kayak or canoe or rent one at the park's boat ramp. 

At the Open Studio, teens can create with materials such as charcoal, paint, metal, fabric, and duct tape. Teenagers are allowed to create anything that comes to their mind with the materials provided. This is a drop-in activity any time between 5 and 8 P.M. Open Studios are free for all high school students.

Enjoy a variety of different foods at the Atlanta street food festival. This festival features more than fifty of Atlanta's favorite food trucks, local merchants, and live entertainment. A portion of the festival's proceeds will go to the Giving Kitchen.

Explore a forest of lights at the Atlanta Botanical Garden. This event has creative pieces made from hundreds of miles of optic fiber. 
This is a family friendly barnyard tale created with puppets at the Center For Puppetry Arts. Find out what happens when chickens go on strike and cows figure out how to type. 
Erin is Atlanta Homeschool's awesome summer intern and a recent homeschool graduate!



Field Trip: Andersonville

Explore one of history’s darker moments

Library of Congress

When you step onto the rolling fields of Camp Sumter, close your eyes for a moment. Open them again, and imagine the serene lawn covered with makeshift shelters, sick and starving men exposed to the sun’s heat and the winter’s chill, and the smell of human waste thick in the air. At its height, Camp Sumter held more than 45,000 Union prisoners of war on a site that was designed to hold a maximum of 10,000 men. 


Built just fourteen months before the end of the Civil War, Camp Sumter—the military prison better known as Andersonville—was an attempt to solve the problem of what to do with captured prisoners. At the beginning of the war, armies used an exchange system, meeting after a battle to trade prisoners of similar rank and importance. But when the Confederacy refused to trade African-American prisoners, military prisons like Andersonville and Elmira, in Illinois, sprang up. Poorly planned and hastily established, both Confederate and Union prisons suffered from inadequate food, overcrowding, lack of shelter, and poor sanitation. Nearly 60,000 Civil War soldiers died in military prisoners. Andersonville was one of the worst: Almost 13,000 Union prisoners of war died here, more than forty percent of the Union’s total number of POW deaths.


Today, Andersonville National Historic Site stands as a memorial to all soldiers who have died in military prisons. Explore the remains of Camp Sumter, where men rigged makeshift shelters nicknamed shebangs and lived inside a fence called the deadline, guarded by snipers. The Andersonville National Cemetery was established here in 1865 with help from the prison record-keeper Dorence Atwater and Clara Barton, who were determined to see all the dead properly identified and their families notified. The National Prisoner of War Museum here is a sobering reminder of the darkest side of war. In addition to details about Camp Sumter, you’ll find a reconstructed cell from Vietnam’s notorious Hanoi Hilton (which housed several well-known people, including Presidential candidate John McCain) and the “Sack of Cement Cross,” made by American POWs to commemorate their fallen comrades during World War II.


There’s little light or fun about this historic site, but that darkness and heaviness is part of its importance. Older kids can experience some of the atrocities of war first-hand, giving them a powerful context for studying the wars that shaped much of the past three centuries.


INSIDER TIP  Check out the one-hour audio driving tour at the museum’s information desk to explore the 26.5-acre site.


REQUIRED READING  Soldier’s Heart tackles the tough topic of life after war, with a teenage Civil War soldier as its main character. For older kids.


FUN FACT  Look for the dove on the headstone in section H, marking the grave of L.S. Tuttle. No one knows when or why the dove appeared.


WANT MORE?  The Cyclorama sounds cheesy—a gigantic diorama of the Battle of Atlanta—but it’s actually a pretty compelling portrait of a Civil War battle.

5 Cool Ways to Beat the Heat

From splash pads to pools, lake trips to frozen treats, we’ve rounded up five fun ways your family can keep cool this summer.  BY SHAWNE TAYLOR
Photo by Shawne Taylor
Make a Splash 
Community splash pads have popped up all over metro Atlanta in recent years. Zoo Atlanta’s Splash Fountain is 2,500 square feet of fun, with 18 water jets on interactive pads, located in the KIDZone near the train and carousel. You’ll find ample covered seating around the edges of the splash pads (and some nice mist overflow action for spectating parents), convenient bathrooms, and snack carts. Splash Fountain is open daily from May through October and is free with zoo membership or regular admission.


The Old Fourth Ward (O4W) Sprayground, tucked between ralph McGill and north Avenue, at 680 Dallas Street NE, is a gem of a splash pad. It’s part of 17 acres of green space that also include a lake, creek, and sprawling state-of-the-art playground. The splash pad itself boasts two play areas with jets that shoot water straight up at varying intervals, sprinklers, and a system of elevated buckets that fill up and pour water down from above. There are benches around the pad that offer seating, but not much shade. Parking is off-street and sometimes difficult to navigate, but if you can find a space, it’s totally worth the trouble.



Keep Cool in the Pool 
What feels better than floating in the pool on a steamy summer day? If your neighborhood is pool-free, or you just want to try out one of the area’s super pools, get ready to dive in. Piedmont Park Pool is an aquatic oasis in the heart of the city. The pool offers laplanes, a beach-entryway, current channels for floating, fountains, concessions, locker rooms with showers, and a landscaped deck with shaded areas. On- street parking can be an issue around the park, so visitors are invited to use the Sage Parking facility on Worcester, off of Monroe Drive ($1.00 per every half hour or $15 for the day).


Mountain Park Aquatic Center in Stone Mountain is known for its waterpark amenities at public pool prices. Here you’ll find an indoor lap pool, an outdoor leisure pool with zero-depth entry, two giant water slides, a river channel, a bubble bench, and water play structures. Bring your lunch and sunscreen, and make a day of it.



Take it to the Lake 
Some days call for more adventure than the local splash pads and pools can provide. If that’s the case, load up the car and head out to one of the many beaches on Lake Allatoona. Dallas Landing Park, Galt’s Ferry, Old Highway 41 #1 Park, Proctor Landing, Sweetwater Park, Tanyard Creek, and Victoria Park are all open for swimming during the summer months. Most of these parks have picnic tables, restrooms, and playgrounds in addition to sandy beaches, but do not have lifeguards. Admission is generally per vehicle, rather than per person, so it can be an affordable way to get out of the house for the day.



Cool Off from the Inside Out 
Sure, there are lots of good ice cream shops around town. But it’s hard to beat Morelli’s Gourmet. With three locations (Ormewood, Edgewood, and Dunwoody), offering fresh-made, ultra-creamy ice cream in flavors such as Banana Chocolate Chip, Butterscotch Ripple, and Salted Caramel, it’s easy to taste why they have been voted Best in Atlanta by Creative Loafing and Atlanta magazine, and voted 4th Best Ice Cream Shop in the united States by Bon Appetit.


If fro-yo is more your thing, you can’t go wrong with Yogli Mogli. This yogurt shop, with 14+ locations throughout the metro area, is a favorite with kids and adults. they have 16 flavors, tons of toppings, spacious dine-in areas, and free Wi-Fi. They are also certified by the national Yogurt Association for exceeding the required criteria for healthy yogurt. So, you can cool off and feel good about it at the same time.


New Orleans SnoBall Cafe, located in Decatur and Stone Mountain, sells frozen treats of a different kind—authentic new Orleans-style snow cones. These soft, fluffy, shaved ice masterpieces can be topped with your choice of syrups as well as organic fruit puree, condensed milk, and whipped cream. Add a scoop of local ice cream for just a $1 more, and then kick back on the patio and enjoy, while listening to Zydeco music coming from the cafe’s speakers.



Put Yourself on Ice 
Finally, if you just can’t take another day of trying to stay cool outside, it may be time to take the fun indoors. The Ice Forum, in Duluth and Kennesaw, offers year-round ice-skating for kids and adults. Here you’ll find daily public skate times, classes in figure skating and hockey, skate rentals, a pro shop, and even a snack bar and restaurant. Best of all, it’s so cold on the ice, you’ll be able to forget about the summer heat — for at least a few hours.



This article was originally published in the Summer 2014 issue of Atlanta Homeschool and was updated for the website in June 2015.



Science at the Beach

Whether you’re hitting the shore or just dreaming of the seaside, summer is an ideal time to learn more about the science of the beach. We’ve rounded up a few books and activities to help you do just that.
3 Fun Experiments to Try
Bubbling Beach Sand
Wondering if the sand in your sandbox is real beach sand? Scoop up a tablespoon of sand and douse it with lemon juice. Real beach sand will bubble up when you add an acid because of the calcium carbonate in seashells.

Salt Water Float
Do things float better in salt water? Fill a cup about halfway full of plain tap water and try floating an egg in it. Take out the egg, and stir about four tablespoons of salt into the water. Try to float the egg again. The salt water buoys the egg so that it floats better.

Be the Erosion
Scrub a few small rocks clean — you want to get rid of any residual dirt — and add the clean rocks and a cup of water to a small, lidded plastic container. Shake the container vigorously for at least three minutes, then take a peek. The water should be brown with tiny rock particles in it — the early stages of a sandy beach formed by water- eroded rocks.

13 Science Books to Read on the Beach
How to Hide an Octopus and Other Sea Creatures by Ruth Heller has spectacular full-color illustrations.

In A House for a Hermit Crab by Eric Carle, a young sea creature adapts to his changing environment.

Investigate waves and currents, shorelines and tidepools, the ocean floor, and more through the hands-on experiments in Awesome Ocean Science by Cindy A. Littlefield.

One Small Square: Seashore by Donald Silver is full of illustrations and activities for exploring the seashore.

Take a stroll along the shore with a smart, engaging guide in Take a Beach Walk by Jane Kirkland.

One Small Place by the Sea by Barbara Brenner takes you inside a tidepool ecosystem.

Get a close-up look at sea anemones, hermit crabs, blue mussels, and other tidepool residents in What’s in the Tide Pool? by Anne Hunter.

Use National Audubon’s First Field Guide: Shells to familiarize yourself with different types of shells.

Scientist-divers team up to dig into serious ocean science in The Oceans by Ellen J. Prager and Sylvia Earle. (This one's a good pick for older kids.)

Simon and Schuster Children’s Guide to Sea Creatures by Jinny Johnson is an encyclopedic reference for ocean life.

You'll find lots of fun activities and experiments in The Ocean Book: Aquarium and Seaside Activities and Ideas for All Ages by the Center for Marine Conservation.

Oceans for Every Kid: Easy Activities That Make Learning Science Fun by Janice Van Cleave answers your ocean questions (Why is the ocean salty? What causes tides?) with hands-on experiments.

Detailed illustrations and lots of supporting information make The Marine Biology Coloring Book by Thomas M. Niesen better than the average coloring book.


Quick Answers: How to homeschool on a tiny budget, changes to the Georgia homeschool law, and what to read this summer

I would really like to homeschool my 2nd grader, but I feel like there’s no way we can afford it. I could only afford to spend about $100 total for curriculum and everything else. I am not interested in unschooling — I want a traditional curriculum. Is there any way to to make it work?
I get asked versions of this question all the time, and the answer is usually yes. To make low-budget homeschooling work, you will need a good printer with a reasonably priced ink supply, a decent internet connection, a library card, and a computer. But you definitely don’t need a big budget to homeschool — you just need to be savvy about wading through all the free stuff that’s out there to find what works for your family.

For 2nd grade, here’s what I’d recommend: Go ahead and spend part of your budget on Math Mammoth. (Use the placement tests to figure out which level to get.) The full 2nd grade curriculum download is just under $40. Math Mammoth is a mostly mastery-based program — meaning your child will stick with a concept until he thoroughly understands it — and you will need to be hands-on with helping him understand instructions and concepts. (The teaching notes at the beginning of each chapter will help with this.) You may want to shift programs and invest more money in math as your student gets older, but for elementary school, Math Mammoth is a solid, affordable option.

Language arts shouldn’t cost you a dime. Find a 2nd grade reading list you like (this one from the Sarasota Springs public library or this one from the Highland Park Public Library would be a good starting point), and work your way through the list with library books. For spelling and grammar, McGraw-Hill’s free workbooks cover the basics.

Download Mr. Q’s free Elementary Life Science textbook and Teacher Guide to cover science. It’s an engaging introduction to science in general, introducing vocabulary and concepts that will be the foundation of future science studies.

For history, pick up a copy of volume 1 of Story of the World — you can pick up a new copy on Amazon for about $12. Make it a readaloud, and help your child practice summarizing the important points of each chapter.

You can mix things up by including a free program like GPB’s Salsa, an elementary Spanish language program. You should also plan to take advantage of all the free field trip opportunities in the Atlanta area.

As the year goes on, you may find that a traditional school method is what works best for your family, but you may also find that you want to spend less time on structured classes and more time exploring specific topics or enjoying nature study. Your first year of homeschooling is as much about finding your family’s homeschool rhythm as it is about finding the right curriculum, so don’t let your budget stop you if homeschooling is something you really want to do.

Did the Georgia homeschool law change again?
It did — but don’t worry, it’s a pretty small change. House Bill 502 (passed on May 12) requires that parents include the name of their local public school system as part of their annual declaration of intent (DOI). If you file your DOI for the upcoming school year on or after July 1, you will have to include the name of your local school system in the space provided. (This space caused controversy in recent years since providing that information wasn’t required by law, even though its presence on the form suggested that it was. Now, though, the information is required. If you don't know what school district you're in, you can use the School District Finder to figure it out.)

What should we read aloud this summer? I’ve got middle schoolers.
Agatha Christie! It’s her 125th birthday this fall, and the BBC has two big Christie productions in the works — an adaptation of the creepy, atmospheric And Then There Were None and an adaptation of Secret Adversary, starring Christie’s lesser-known but delightful partners in crime, Tommy and Tuppence Beresford. Brush up on Christie’s most twisty-turny mysteries in anticipation. Start with The ABC Murders to get a feel for Christie’s style, then follow up with Five Little Pigs, The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, and Murder on the Orient Express. Middle school is just the right age to appreciate Christie’s tricky plotting and surprising solutions.


Do you have a homeschooling in Atlanta question? Email us, and we’ll try to help you out!