Summer Learning Programs for Homeschoolers

Plan now for a one-of-a-kind summer experience. BY SHAWNE TAYLOR

VeerThe sun is out, temperatures are rising, and flowers are blooming. It’s starting to feel like spring has sprung in Atlanta, which means it’s time to start thinking about summer camps.

As homeschoolers, we know that learning happens year-round… even in summer. And while taking it easy and lounging by the pool may be the perfect way to pass the long summer days, sometimes we want to get out and try something new or continue studying something we’re passionate about. That’s where the following camps come in.

We’ve rounded up information on eight awesome learning experiences happening around Atlanta this summer (and three outside the state that may be a great fit for your teen). From art to technology, economics to debate, these cool camps might be just what your homeschoolers are looking for during Atlanta’s hottest months.

Metro Atlanta
Circus Camp has been a popular Atlanta camp since 1992, and with good reason. This weeklong day camp experience combines hands on instruction, lots of fun, movement, and games, and a final end of week performance in front of parents and siblings. Circus Camp is geared towards kids ages 5 through teens, and is offered at several locations around town – Decatur, Dunwoody, Sandy Springs, Marietta, and Norcross. For more information or to register, visit

Humblebee Art Summer Camp may just be one of the coolest art camps ever. Campers will make festival-quality arts and crafts, and choose projects from drawing, painting on wood and canvas, painted pillows, jewelry, clay, sewing and crochet, and more. Outside time and lunchtime picnics are included each day, and there will be an art show for family and friends on the last day of camp. Led by longtime homeschool art teacher, Heather Sotack, this camp will be held at the Avondale First Baptist Church (where the LEAD Homeschool group holds classes), June 15-19. For more information, email Heather at Humblebee Art Company.

Young Thinkers Seminars: Economics of the Real World at Berry College is a one-of-a-kind summer experience for teens and young adults, ages 14 and up, who are interested in economics, the free market, and critical thinking. Participants will spend three and a half days on the beautiful Berry College campus, located 70 miles northwest of Atlanta. They will attend lectures, take part in discussion groups, eat, sleep, explore, and network with peers and interesting professionals. To find out more or to apply, visit them online at

Play Well: Engineering with Lego Camp is offering two sessions per day, the week of June 15th in Avondale Estates. Ages 5-7 will meet from 9 A.M. to noon for Pre-Engineering with LEGO, and ages 8-12 will meet from 1 P.M. to 4 P.M. for Engineering Fundamentals with LEGOs. Each age group will have a chance to dive into Play Well’s massive LEGO collection and build elaborate objects, structures, and vehicles, while exploring the fundamental principles of engineering and physics. Campers will also learn to collaborate and create without fear of mistakes. For registration and pricing information, visit and find the course by zip code (30002) or click on Summer Camps Georgia, and Dekalb County.

Margaret Mitchell House Summer Camps provide an opportunity for kids ages 9-14 to discover the power of writing, in a fun, interactive environment. There are weekly themes to choose from, including Mystery in the City, Historical Fiction, Sci-Fi, and Investigative Journalism. Each camp is limited to 10 to 15 participants, so that each young writer gets individual attention and instruction. And, really, how cool is it that these budding young authors have the opportunity to hone their skills in the historic, three-story home where Margaret Mitchell lived and wrote her Pulitzer-Prize winning book, Gone with the Wind? For registration and pricing information, visit

Summer Institute for the Gifted at Emory is a residential program that gives local (and not local) students the chance to live on campus in a college dorm, take classes, and socialize with other gifted students for three weeks. Open to participants ages 9-17, this popular camp offers a variety of courses to choose from, including Math, Science, Humanities, Visual Arts and more. A commuter program is available for those wanting to forego the dorm experience, and a day program is available for kids ages 5-8. Applications are required, but information and registration can be found online at

Debate Camp at Emory offers two- and three-week commuter and residential camp opportunities for high school students on the beautiful Emory campus, and one and two week day camps for middle schoolers on the campuses of Pace Academy and High Meadows School. Find more information by visiting

STEM summer camps at Georgia Tech – officially called CEISMIC Summer P.E.A.K.S (Programs for Enrichment and Accelerated Knowledge in STEM) – are week-long, hands-on, interactive learning experiences, offering participants the chance to dive into a number of experiential activities on the Georgia Tech campus. P.E.A.K.S. programs cover a variety of different science, tech, engineering, and math concepts through camps such as Artbotics: Lego Robotics for elementary students, Industrial Design, App Design, and Architecture for middle schoolers, and Roller Coaster Physics, Interactive Product Design, and Digital Modeling for high schoolers. For complete information, or to register for the camps, visit

Out of State
Minecraft Coding Camp is a two-week STEM-based camp for teens ages 13-17. Campers will unleash their imaginations as they discover programming concepts and logic, and develop the coding skills needed to create custom mods and assets in Minecraft. Non-screentime activities during the two weeks include LARPing, dodge ball, kickball, ultimate Frisbee, swimming, and more. This year’s camps are being held in two locations – Boston College in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts and Lake Forest College in Lake Forest, Illinois. Check the website for dates, prices, and registration.

Canada/USA Mathcamp is an intensive five-week-long summer program for high-school students interested in mathematics. This year’s camp takes place at the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, WA from July 5 to August 9, 2015. Interested students must complete an application and a qualifying quiz – both located on the website. The deadline for early decision has already passed, but the deadline for regular decision is April 15th.You can learn more about Canada/USA Mathcamp at

Marlboro College’s Pre-College Summer Programs offer students age 15 to 19 the opportunity to spend a week on campus, working closely with faculty members, getting to know each other, and discovering what life is like at this academically challenging, homeschool-friendly college. The weekly themes include topics such as Food and Farming in Vermont, Game Theory and Social Change, The Art of Persuasion, and DIY Chemistry, so participants are invited to apply for the session that sounds most interesting to them. The deadline to apply is June 5, but completed applications received between March 16 and May 1 will receive an automatic 5 percent discount on the program fee. For more information, visit


Reading Roundup: Pi Day

March 14 is Pi Day. Celebrate with pie (obviously!) and these quirky books about every circle’s favorite number.

Sir Cumference and the Dragon of Pi
by Cindy Neuschwander
Pi saves the day when young Radius accidentally gives his father Sir Cumference a potion that turns him into a fire-breathing dragon. To cure his dad, Radius will have to find the mysterious number that all circles have in common, regardless of their size. This book is a lively introduction to the idea of pi for young readers, and what it lacks in mathematical nuance (you could argue that it oversimplifies pi), it makes up for in engaging instruction.

Why Pi
by Johnny Ball
Pi may be an irrational number, but it’s definitely an important one — and this kids’ book traces its significance through history to modern-day technology with plenty of facts and engaging anecdotes. Ball does a great job of making math — and pi — feel like important pieces of human history.

The Joy of Pi
by David Blatner
Blatner’s lighthearted book is a playful history of pi, full of intriguing anecdotes and mathematical details that never bog down into only-math-nerds-will-get-this territory.

Piece of Pi: Wit-Sharpening, Brain-bruising, Number-Crunching Activities with Pi
by Naila Bokhari
Kids who want to try things for themselves will appreciate the hands-on pi activities in this little book. Though some parts are a bit classroom-y, you’ll find lots of activity inspiration for middle school and up. (Younger kids with a knack for math would enjoy it, too.)

A History of Pi
by Petr Beckmann
Brainy and opinionated (you will find out what Beckmann thinks of the Roman Empire — spoiler: he’s not really a fan — in addition to what he’s discovered about the history of pi), this book isn’t for everyone. But the mathematically minded will appreciate the obsessive, nuanced detailing of this impossible number’s place in history and math.

Pi: A Source Book
The historical documents about pi in this fascinating collection — including the 1897 proposed Indiana law to fix the value of pi and Lambert’s 1761 proof for the irrationality of pi — make great primary source reads for pi aficionados.

FYI: If you buy a copy of this book through the Amazon link above, Atlanta Homeschool gets a tiny percentage of the sale. We use this money to help cover some of the costs of this website, so we appreciate your support. You can also find most of the books we recommend at the library, through Paperback Swap, or in used bookstores — and if affiliate links make you feel funny but you want to find a book on Amazon, you can just copy and paste the title into the Amazon search bar.


Field Trip: Big Trees Forest Preserve

Explore an urban forest as the weather warms up

Photo by John.P/Creative Commons

Who knew that there’s a forest hidden in the heart of Sandy Springs? Just steps from the North Fulton County Government Annex on Roswell Road — they share a parking lot— is the Big Trees Forest Preserve, thirty acres of urban forest crisscrossed with 1.5-miles of walking trails. We’ve got four smart reasons this urban forest should be on your spring field trip list. (Bonus: Admission and parking are both free.)

1 :: Break out your wellies and go wading in either of the two creeks that flow through the preserve. Though dam-building is off-limits to protect the watershed, the creeks are irresistible for adventure-seekers, especially in the places where they’re dotted by smooth, flat river rocks. Bring towels, and keep an eye out for water snakes.

2 :: Wannabe nature nerds will appreciate that the preserve labels trees and plants along the paths, so it’s easy to identify the flora you’re looking at. If you’re hoping to catch sight of some spring wildflowers, the sunlit garden near Nature Trail Stop #3 includes lots of native wildflowers.

3 :: Climb the oversize boulders that line the park’s waterways to soak up the sunshine. The rocks here are a great place to view the root systems that help protect the stream banks from erosion.

4 :: Follow the Nature Trail to learn about the importance of the watershed. The fourteen stops along the trail all highlight different elements of water conservation, from the fallen trees bridging the stream that help slow down storm runoff to the dangerous impact of exotic plants the original homesteaders here planted to fancy up their garden.

Big Trees Forest Preserve, 7645 Roswell Road, Sandy Springs, GA 30350


New Books: The Imaginary

The Imaginary
by A.F. Harrold, illustrated by Emily Gravett

During the climactic battle of The Imaginary, Amanda and her imaginary friend Rudger try to fend off the evil Mr. Bunting by hiding in an imaginary submarine in Amanda's hospital room. As Amanda and Mr. Bunting feverishly think of imaginary attacks and defenses, Amanda's real life hangs in the balance — which is kind of the point of The Imaginary: Just because something is imaginary doesn't mean it's not real.

Amanda and Rudger's story starts out simply enough. Amanda is a girl with a Big Imagination, so it's only a matter of time until Rudger, a perfect imaginary friend, appears in her closet. Amanda and Rudger have all sorts of adventures together, until creepy Mr. Bunting shows up, followed by his own, even creepier imaginary friend. Mr. Bunting is after Rudger, and when Amanda tries to save her best friend, she's hit by a car, knocked unconscious, and rushed to the hospital. Rudger, meanwhile, is left to fend for himself. What happens to an imaginary friend when its creator forgets it? In Rudger's case, he ends up investigating Mr. Bunting, discovering his nefarious habit of eating imaginary friends to keep himself young. Along the way, he finds an employment office of sorts for abandoned imaginary friends and a new appreciation for what a wonderful friend Amanda really is. Existential crisis notwithstanding, Rudger is a charming hero — an imaginary friend who (literally) takes on a life of his own as he hatches a plot to rescue Amanda and himself.

What's lovely about this book — and what sets it apart from other imaginary friend-based literature (in addition to Emily Gravett's solemn and delightful little illustrations) is that it treats imaginary friends seriously — both the twee, silly, happy side, and the dark, creepy, mysterious side. Because imagination really goes both ways, and anybody who's ever been afraid to fall asleep because of something you've imagined under the bed knows that there's a real dark side to a wonderful imagination. Harrold plays that balance perfectly, dancing lightly from Roald Dahl adventure to Neil Gaiman darkness without stepping too heavily on either side. This book could be a good pick for middle readers who like things a little spooky or for older readers who aren't put off by whimsy. It also makes a nice readaloud, though you may want to assure particularly nervous youngsters that a happy ending is coming during the scarier bits near the conclusion.


March Best Bets

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

Chart the African Cosmos at the Carlos
Get a different perspective for your astronomy lessons with the Smithsonian's National Museum of African Art's African Cosmos: Stellar Arts. featuring more than 70 works of art exploring celestial bodies and phenomena from across Africa.
Continues through June 21 at the Michael C. Carlos Museum

Get Inside Eintein's Brain at the Oglethorpe University Museum of Art

Sometimes, the proof is in the proof — and The Experimental Confirmation of the General Theory of Relativity, penned by Albert Einstein around 1920 and on display at the Oglethorpe University Museum of Art, is a perfect illustration of the power of the proof.
Continues through April 30 at the Oglethorpe University Museum of Art

Join the Triple Hike Challenge at Georgia's Monadnocks
As part of Monadnock Madness — Georgia's month-long celebration of our distinctive granite peaks — this hard-core hikers' event invites you to scale Stone, Arabia, and Panola Mountain with local tour guides who can clue you in to each monadnock's unique ecosystems. (Registration required.)
Sunday, March 1 at Arabia Mountain, Stone Mountain, and Panola Mountain

Get a Taste of Women's History at the Bartow History Museum's Homeschool Day
Just in time for Women's History Month, the Bartow History Museum's March homeschool day focuses on the women who served our country during wartime, including Clara Barton, Rosie the Riveter, and more. Recommended for ages 6-12.
Monday, March 2 at Bartow History Museum

Unleash Your Inner Archer at Panola Mountain State Park
Prep for the Hunger Games or just learn to shoot straight at this indoor archery class, which includes all the basics beginners need to know. The park provides the equipment and a certified instructor; all you need to do is register in advance and show up.
Saturday, March 7 at Panola Mountain State Park

Show Off Your Super Powers at the Georgia Aquarium's Superhero Day
Kids 12 and younger get free admission to the aquarium if they show up in their favorite superhero costume. (Somebody please be CorrectUseOfApostrophes Man!)
Saturday, March 7 at the Georgia Aquarium

See What's Happening at Zoo Atlanta on Educator Appreciation Day
Homeschool parents get free admission with a copy of your Declaration of Intent and current photo ID and $2 off general admission for their guests on Educator Appreciation Day. The Educator's Lounge is open from 10 a.m.-3 p.m. with discount coupons for zoo vendors, and there are activities for kids. Registration recommended.
Saturday, March 14 at Zoo Atlanta

Explore Your Options at the Dunwoody Nature Center's Homeschool Open House
The Dunwoody Nature Center is teaming up with the Atlanta Audubon Society and the Discover Science Center for an afternoon of hands-on activities and information about the center's homeschool programs. Check it out from 1-3 p.m. (Advance registration required.)
Monday, March 9 at the Dunwoody Nature Center

Gear Up for Poetry Month in the Dead Poets' Lounge
Celebrate the poetry of name-check poets from Poe to Dr. Seuss with performance art pieces featuring music, circus arts, literature, and theatrical performances. (Tickets required.)
Monday, March 9 at the New American Shakespeare Tavern

Learn More about Monadnocks at Arabia Mountain's Homeschool Day
Arabia and Panola Mountain educators team up for a monadnock-themed homeschool day as part of Georgia's Monadnock Madness month.
Thursday, March 12 and Thursday, March 19 at Davidson-Arabia Mountain Nature Center

Get Crafty at the American Craft Council's Atlanta Show
Handmade is the name of the game at this celebration of crafters, making everything from jewelry and fashion to furniture and art. (Free for kids age 12 and younger)
March 13 at the Cobb Galleria Centre

Go Ice Skating at the Ice Forum's Homeschool Day
Chill out for PE at one of the Ice Forum's two March homeschool days. Homeschooled students skate for $2 off the regular admission price.
Friday, March 13 and Tuesday, March 17 at the Ice Forum

Practice Your Parseltongue at Reptile Day at Panola Mountain
Snakes, lizards, and other herpe-riffic reptiles are the stars at Reptile Day, which features specialists and members of the Georgia Reptile Society and Georgia Herpetological Society.
Saturday, March 14 at Panola Mountain State Park

Learn More about Georgia's Native American History at the Etowah Indian Mounds
Curious about the Creek and Cherokee cultures? Get to know them better at Native American Heritage Day, which focuses on both the history and lasting impact of these indigenous Georgia cultures.
Saturday, March 14 at Etowah Indian Mounds Historic Site

Viva la France at the Atlanta Francophonie Festival
Parlez-vous some Francais at this celebration of the French language, which features film screenings, circus acts, immersion days for students, and more.
March 14-29 at various venues

Hike with Rock Stars at Sweetwater Creek State Park
Rock hounds will dig this moderate, three-mile, rock-study hike through Jack's Branch and the quarry at New Manchester, led by geologist Jack Johnson.
Sunday, March 15 at Sweetwater Creek State Park

Explore the Glover Machine Works at the Southern Museum's Homeschool Day
During the first third of the 20th century, Marietta's Glover Machine Works factory produced almost 200 steam locomotives. Learn more about the factory, its workers, and its locomotives at the Southern Museum's March homeschool day. (Reservations required.)
Tuesday, March 17 at the Southern Museum

Learn about Georgia's Role in World War II at the Museum of History and Holocaust Education's Homeschool Day
Dig into a slice of Georgia history at the MMHE's March homeschool day, focused on Georgia's role during the Second World War.
Wednesday, March 18 at the Museum of History and Holocaust Education

Do All. The. Things. at the Atlanta Science Festival
Just block off the whole week, and dig into events like a talk by Neal DeGrasse Tyson, a guided Chattahoochee River bird walk, a chance to take pictures through a telescope, workshops for STEM teachers, physics experiments, robotics demonstrations, and lots more.
March 21-28 at lots of different venues

Watch Jurassic Park with a Paleontologist at Fernbank
You haven't seen Jurassic Park until you've seen it with a paleontologist — and Fernbank has enlisted Emory's Anthony J. Martin, Ph.D., to help you do just that. (Reservations required.)
Sunday, March 22 at Fernbank Museum of Natural History

Get a Taste of Jewish History at the Breman Museum's Homeschool Day
The Breman Museum's newly launched homeschool programming includes a tour of the Maurice Sendak exhibition, a guided tour through the Holocaust exhibition, a film screening, and luncch. (Reservations for lunch required.)
Wednesday, March 25 at the Breman Museum

See Flannery O'Connor's Work Translated to Dance
The sheer, delightful weirdness of Flannery O'Connor's writing is the basis for this honors thesis dance performance.
March 26-27 at the Schwartz Center for Performing Arts at Emory University

Explore European Art at the High's Homeschool Day
The High Museum's March homeschool day focuses on its European collection, including works ranging from the Italian Renaissance to French Impressionism. Be there at 1 p.m. for the docent-led tour of the galleries; drop in any time between 1 and 4 p.m. to play in the themed workshop.
Friday, March 27 at the High Museum of Art

Visit 18th Century Georgia at Fort Yargo
Living history demonstrators highlight life in 1790s Georgia, including period music, frontier camps, craftsmen at work, and Native American life.
Saturday, March 28 at Fort Yargo State Park