The best aspect of homeschooling, in my opinion, is all the opportunities families have for interactive learning.
Field trips are a big part of this, so a while back a friend of mine in Athens initiated a field trip group for homeschoolers. Because I have a family connection to the William Harris Homestead in Monroe, I thought it would be a good idea to have one there.
At the time, I didn’t know that in order for the Homestead to do their full school tour, they would need at least 60 paying attendees. Considering that one accompanying adult and children under five are free, this meant I needed to get a considerable amount of people to come.
At one point, I did pause and ask myself why I would pursue such an undertaking when my eldest is only three years old and my youngest is just a baby. But I love the Homestead, and the advantage of knowing that I will homeschool when my children are so young is that I have time to make connections now before the real schooling begins. So, with the goal of meeting new people, I sent the information to five different homeschool e-mail loops. As such, I had quite a turnout.
According to Murphy’s Law, however, after months of coordinating a field trip for 100+ people, my family got sick a week before the big day. Such is life with children, and I was resigned to missing the whole thing. Fortunately, however, by the morning of the tour, my little ones looked much better, so at the last minute, I decided to go. Better late than never.
And I’m so glad we went. It could not have been a more beautiful day. It was an exemplar April day in Georgia with all the dogwoods blooming and a cool breeze blowing.
The William Harris Homestead is a fully restored and intact plantation that shows how families lived in the early 19th century, just after Walton County was created. The school tour is divided into four units, which last about 20-30 minutes each and participants rotate.
The first unit is a tour of the log house where students learn about the early Harris family who settled on the property in the 1820s. They learn what daily life was like for the family and see a demonstration of the cotton wheel and loom.
Next, they tour the herb garden and learn about the medicinal plants a 19th century family would have used, and they also tour the cemetery and get to see inside the smokehouse. After that, they listen to a Civil War interpreter talk about what life was like for a soldier, and he shows the students what a soldier would have carried with him during the war.
The fourth unit is a walk down to the natural spring where the Harris family got their fresh water and did their washing. There is also a discussion about the Creek Indians who inhabited the area at the time. At this time they get to take a hayride around the property too.
After this main tour is complete, there is a sheep herding demonstration, and then, to top it all off, the Civil War interpreter shows the group how to load a musket, and he fires it in the air!
Sounds great, doesn’t it? I think so, and the response I received from the group was extremely positive. Donna Guntharp, a homeschool mom whose family joined the tour told me, “My children and I enjoyed it immensely. I've been to many historic sites and taken many tours. It was by far the best organized and the most interesting one I've been on.”
So my first foray as an organizer for a homeschool field trip went well, and I’m tickled pink. Truth be told, I enjoy organizing events, but I’ll probably wait until my boys are a little older before I do it again.
You don’t have to be a homeschooler or a school student to enjoy the Homestead. It is open to the public on the first and third Saturday of the month from 10-2 p.m., and they also do private tours and events. Everyone is also invited to Antiques in the Country Roadshow on May 1. Learn about all this and more at their website: www.harrishomestead.com.
Shelli Bond Pabis is a Winder resident and columnist for the Barrow Journal. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.