Great Hollow Wilderness School

Highights From the Hollow ~ Harvesting New Stories


Autumn is underway. The students at Whole Earth Homeschool have been busy harvesting new skills and creating new memories and stories of their own.

The very first day was no exception. Even after a full day, sometimes nature has her own plans to present. A recently deceased groundhog was found on our driveway, and the tribal minds of the  advanced Wilderness Skills group wasted no debate: swiftly and respectfully they took the animal into their own hands. Greg and Broch carefully explained every detail of the process and the anatomy as they dressed the animal and gave the organs back to mother earth. The fur, meat, and bones were reserved for use.

Each student was enamored. They asked thoughtful questions, examined each step with intense focus and curiosity. The knowledge and talent of our new instructors was deftly demonstrated.

The Pioneers and Scouts seem to embody the old saying “work hard, play hard”. Both the groups work up laughter and sweat first thing in the morning with high octane games. After that the Pioneers head straight into their goal propelled construction project; the first ever Great Hollow primitive TreeHouse . I can’t wait to see how it turns out!

For the Scouts, the order of survival and the village tasks occupy much of their day.  They have worked on fire building, camouflage, wild tea, and lots of nature activities. Patrick and Jen always return with great stories and big smiles from their Scouts!

These are two groups that really fulfill the ingredients for a rich childhood.

Which sometimes requires extra shoes and a tireless good spirit,

as well as strategy. She looks innocent, doesn’t she? Little do the coyotes know that there is a quiet second deer hiding below, making them immune to being tagged. Deer can be tricksters too.

On the other side of Great Hollow, the Wilderness Challenge group rises to each occasion. This semester they are working hard at building character; physically, mentally, and emotionally. Anyone who witnesses their departure on Thursday mornings knows what I mean; you can’t help but be moved by the pack of them tearing into the woods like a thundering herd of Elk! It is breathtaking. And that’s only the morning. An hour later they’ve added a layer of muscle from their conditioning and are pumped for the day’s adventures.

So far, the ropes courses have been a hot pursuit. One of the most significant challenges they have tackled is Emily’s favorite:  the Giant’s Ladder. This initiative requires an incredible amount of willpower, teamwork, and overcoming of one’s perceived limitations. It provides fertile ground for self discovery and growth… in ways difficult to explain. Perhaps you will see into the photograph and imagine yourself in their position.

Turning the wheel of energy, we come to the last day of our week. Sweet Fridays. This day is dedicated to absorbing nature on its deeper levels. To understanding the subtleties of song and cloud and wind and soil. To hearing the leaves tickle branches as they fall, and smelling the air as the hours pass. Fridays are dedicated passionately to honing relationship with Nature.



In plant class we are working on a very practical level, with our focus on conservation. Components of this endeavor are three-fold: Conservation of land integrity and biodiversity, Bioregional and traditional alternatives for herbal medicines which replace overuse of endangered plants, and Place-based knowledge. The latter being the founding root of the former two components.

Our classes thus far have reflected this. The first day we studied and planted Goldenseal roots. The second day we studied Elder and made wise Elderberry Elixir to keep everyone healthy this season. The third day we took root cuttings to help propagate our existing Bloodroot, and the students scouted the proper habitat for their transplant. Very well done. The fourth day we assimilated what we have learned about these plants and their  accompanying lessons by creating our own folklore stories. This was an especially challenging and rewarding class – all the stories were fantastic, and if read to a sibling or younger friend, would indeed pass along the intended wisdom in clever and enchanting ways.

And of course our MicroScouts! Oh the fun and play these kids have. Every time I pass them they say something to make me laugh or smile. This group is seriously busy…. exploring the trails, finding bugs, drawing pictures, carving in the mud, baking, and picking lots and lots ….. and lots…. of goldenrod flowers. (This was at least their fourth bushel.)

Happy October!