Archive for the ‘Whole Earth Homeschool’ Category

This week the pioneers learned about candles. In order to make candles the old way…. over a fire pit….. a fire pit must be made! These Pioneers made one of the best yet…

The masons brought all the stone in and layed a sturdy border, with two flat stone oven sides, where coals could be raked under the platform. The water carriers brought up water for the project and for safety, checking for good, clean flowing water. The log rollers made seating for all, wedged by stones and small wood anchors for stability. Everyone went to collect dry firewood, and sorted it into sizes.

We learned about the three stages of tinder needed for an effective one-match fire. For this fire we used red cedar bark ‘fur’, cattail fluff, and birch bark. Then, a strategic tipi of kindling and sticks was made around the tinder, before the match was struck. See the little ‘doorway’?

The candle wax was melted and poured successfully, and the finishing touch rendered beautifully:

The bayberry wax went on as the final layer to the candles, creating an Autumnal aroma for everyone. Now, the longer nights of winter will be well lit for supper and good storytelling!


What about the Scouts, you might ask? Well, it sure is hard to get me and my camera to be in all places at once, but Melissa and Joe reported a day of survival training…… deep in the woods they had crashed from a plane, and were left to survive on their own….. what should they do first?

The Souts learned the order of survival…. from creating a shelter, finding tinder and fuel for a fire, and how to purify water for drinking by boiling or using rocks. With the most critical aspects covered, they could tell stories, journal, and think about their next task: food! They hunted down some nutritious wood sorrel before stamping the day “to be continued”…….

Higher up on the trail, were the Wildernes Challenge group. This week they were faced with some serious teamwork initiatives, forcing them to think critically and as a unit. Two types of shelter were constructed during the day, with minimal materials. Shelter is so important and can be easily overlooked this time of year, when the warm days do not tell of the cold nights ahead, and poor judgements can be made.

On the way back, each student was to bear a different disability. As a team, they had everything they would need, and so the challenge was in service of the whole as greater than the sum of the parts… as the old proverb goes….

Friday was wonderful. The MicroScouts measured water level, read animal stories, played games, and drew in their journals.

The Jr Naturalists spent this rainy day preparing wild medicinal teas and studying roots. They simmered Sassafras root, infused spicebush berries, cold-soaked smooth sumac, and prepared ginger fennel syrup. We looked at root structures, and sang a wonderful bamboo song. The Jr. Naturalists are gaining some significant strengths in gathering detail, logging in their journals, and using indexes successfully. Their teamwork is also very good!

Oh! And Sage got stung by the most amazing caterpillar……

A Saddleback …. one of the most venomous caterpillars in Connecticut. Also adept at camouflage, considering it wouldn’t show up on my camera until contrasted to Ethan’s watch! Cool little crawly!

See you all soon……


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The Apple press, that is!

Autumn for nature enthusiasts and New Englanders alike usually elicits the insatiable desire to harvest. Since Great Hollow is a former apple orchard, it is a fitting theme for Pioneer living, and a great springboard for the study of many things; fruit, trees, winter food storage, and little fruit eating critters found in the middle of apples.

Despite the years passed between now and the days when the root cellar and cider barrels were full, the apples fresh from the trees are crunchy and amazingly sweet. The collecting of apples is no small task as well…. requiring many upreaching arms and basket hauling teamwork. Ethan’s homemade apple press worked it’s magic and everyone enjoyed fresh cups of juice.

Something interesting you may or may not know about apples, is that they are related to some more of our favorite plants: roses, strawberries, raspberries, peaches and cherries! They are all a part of a larger plant family we call the Rosaceae family. The members of this family all share the same numerical pattern of flowers… five petals and numerous stamens. The leaves usually come in odd numbers with one or two pairs of leaflets and a lone leaf at the tip.

On Friday, the Jr. Naturalists continued branching out on apples, along with the other activities they did such as birdwatching, a root study, hearing a wonderful story about Cicadas from Whendi, and making a track trap. (try saying that 5 x fast!)

From a handout coming next week, here are a few quick apple facts:

~The Pilgrims planted the first apple trees in their colony

~Apple trees take 4-5 years to produce fruit

~An average tree can fill 20 boxes that weigh 42 pounds when harvested

~Americans eat 19.6 pounds or about 65 fresh apples a year

~25% of an apple is air

~The largest apple picked weighed 3 pounds

~It takes the energy of 50 leaves to produce one apple

~One of George Washington’s hobbies was pruning his apple trees

~Apples ripen six times faster in room temperature than in the refrigerator


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~and moving right along… into the brush, is the not so sneaky coordinator out to snap a couple photos of the Wilderness Challenge….

I heard it was an invigorating day!

On Friday, the MicroScouts also had their first day. They were all so cute at lunchtime, circled around drawing in their journals. They day was infused with imagination and wonder, as treasures were uncovered in the forest during a long hike almost to the waterfall. Monarch and Viceroy was the game of the day, proving just how clever a viceroy can be, and how nature creates ingenious ways of keeping her critters alive.

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Ahh yess……. back at the hollow……

We are stepping into the new semester with fruiting ideas and energy, in tandem with the ripe concords, the juicy Russian Olives, and crisp heirloom apples. The breeze whispers invisible lessons of growth, discovery and ancient ways of walking the land.

Within half an hour they were no where to be seen….. traces in the barn of supplies collected, a walkie talkie brought, the pencil box opened and wrappers peeled back from a fresh package of moleskine journals. With hillsides rich in diversity, there wasn’t a chance of missing something astonishing. Stored in the mentors minds are basketfulls of questions and clues just ready …. open to the learning that unearths at any moment. Multiple animal tracks and traces were found and recorded, plants were identified and gathered, and teamwork was practised and tested. A first day foundation is built.

……………..”Cue the music”………..welcome Melissa!

Personally, I can’t help but hear the Allman Brothers’ “Sweet Melissa” when I see her. A bright, shining light of wonder and cheer, Melissa brings us a background in education but a present moment of openness and excitement. Let’s just say Melissa and Ethan are both very lucky – not to mention us!

OK – this really goes without any special narration. Just a goofy celebration of a great first day!

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Lower Dip, Great Hollow

Lower Dip, Great Hollow

Families of Great Hollow, and considering families….

This week is staff training! Which means I am fully focused on cultivating great mentors and facilitators for your children. It also means I don’t have the same amount of time or energy to dedicate to replies and registrations.

So, if you are waiting for a response, are unsure of your enrollment, or any other miscellaneous ends that you think are loose, please do EMAIL ME with your question or reminder ……. BUT you must include information so I don’t have to puzzle piece through, even if I know you 🙂 Your FULL Name, your child’s names and ages, plus what program they are in or wish to be in.  I will do my best to answer emails at night.

If you have not yet sent in your registration forms, please do. These records are really important. I will have extra waivers and med forms on the table the first week – but it’s better if we don’t have to eat up time with paperwork.

Thank you for your patience and support while I am in a learning curve and I truly hope I am serving you all well.

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My name is Ananda Wilson and I am honored and excited to be stepping into the role of Homeschool Program Coordinator at Great Hollow in New Fairfield, CT.

Many of you already know me from Great Hollow as either the botany teacher for Friday’s programming or as part of the Homeschool Learning Cooperative (aka homeschooling Mom). A few of you may know me as a dance teacher and performing artist. Otherwise, let me introduce myself and invite you to join a conversation about the future of this unique and valuable program.

I have two children: a son of 9 years and a daughter of 11 years. My own children, coupled with my deep passion for plants and nature, are my motivation to help make the Whole Earth programs dynamic. We have been able to bond with respectful, authentic friends and mentors. We have been given the room to be ourselves and to grow. Great Hollow has been an anchor for my family.

Therefore, I come to you in service and in the spirit of community. I am picking up reins that are already in a gallop. I know full well that I cannot do this alone and so I reach out to all of you and the collaborative effort that will make us a whole greater than the sum of its parts.

There are many levels of attention that the programs require in order to keep them running – and running well. There have been some growth spurts and some growing pains, as the beauty emerges and the kinks erupt for revision. Overall, the program has seen tremendous fruition; an expression of our intrinsic need to deepen our relationship with and learn about nature as well as a reflection of our power as homeschoolers.

My intention for Great Hollow, if it may be put into a nutshell, is to maintain this sanctuary as our HeartBeat — where we come week after week, month after month, year after year, to build our layers of knowledge, self and community. Where we can build long term ecological projects, learn about the Earth, build lasting friendships and make meaningful memories. Where we are able to examine and absorb information in the most supportive and natural way imaginable.

There are traditions at Great Hollow. There are many things that students and parents count on to remain secure and yet there is much room for us to grow and renew. I look forward with great joy to this coming year of Whole Earth Homeschooling fun and learning. I look forward to working with you all and to hearing from you!

Ananda Wilson

“Climb the mountains and get their good tidings.
Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees.
The winds will blow their own freshness into you…
while cares will drop off like autumn leaves.”       
~John Muir~

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Although we usually think of January first as our ‘new year’ start, it often feels to me like August marks this moment with more enthusiasm and a more visceral effect, as the mornings turn cool and the midday sun shines high and deeply warm. In fact, looking at the ancient Celtic Holiday of Lammas, August first marks the first day of Autumn. This time is the clasp of our year in terms of gaining and losing; like the wheat that dies the moment it’s swiped by the sickle, yet simultaneously creates abundance, nourishment and plenty for it’s recipient. As the turning of our year leans toward autumn, we learn how to best use our newly garnered skills in order to face the next threshold of challenge.

The Whole Earth Home-school Program this past year has undergone some needed processes as well as growing pains. After an unsustainable growth the previous year, we are all trying to gain our footing in order to solidify the Home-school program for the future. This is the new threshold we face right now. The programs are ready to molt and grow new feathers, hopefully preened by both the staff at Great Hollow as well as the families that are the essential body of the programs. Each of the courses are ready to be fortified by student ideas, some new parent suggestions, and a collaborative means of creating a sequence of educational bullet points which can be standardized in a way that gives the programs a good strong backbone. Along with this, experiential time and sensory exploration will always remain and integral part of what we do.

As the newly appointed Home-school Program Coordinator, I have my workbook chock full of both necessary tasks and new ideas that I will be pursuing whole heartidly throughout this year. Most importantly, I am reminded of the deep value and importance of giving our children the time to learn from, and with, Nature.

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