A Homeschool Adventure at UNC Charlotte Botanical Gardens

I am not looking forward to shorter days or Flu season, but I am definitely ready for some cooler temps.

Today, our little corner of the world had an Autumn teaser with blue skies and highs around 76, a welcome reprieve from high 80s and 90-degree weather. When I saw the forecast for this the other day, I knew I wanted us to spend as much time outside as we could today.

As some of you know, we’re using Sonlight for the majority of our curriculum this year, but I also came across the Exploring Nature with Children curriculum recently. It is SUPER inexpensive and I love the ideas it gives.

Since it’s only our 1st year homeschooling, I didn’t want to throw any more on our plate right now, but I have been VERY loosely following it at times. The great thing about it is that it is built to be re-usable year-after-year with the same student, so you can definitely get your money’s worth.

Mainly this year, though, the curriculum has really inspired me to get not just my kiddos, but MYSELF, too, outdoors more. I’m not one of these “all technology is evil” kind of gals and while I do set time limits for my kids, I don’t put really strict time limits on the amount of TV or games my kids can play every day.

I’m also not someone who is super outdoorsy. There’s a homeschool nature group I’m a part of online, for example, and some of the members will post pics of spiders or snakes they’ve come across, praising their beauty and design. Meanwhile I’m over here thinking God there’s a computer screen between me and those creatures. 😉

But even still, I want to get outside more with my kids and to inspire my kids to enjoy being outside among the beauty of God’s creation. So, I’m really trying to get us out on a nature adventure at least once a week when the weather isn’t overbearing. The past couple of weeks that hasn’t really worked for us because of the heat, but with Fall right around the corner, I’m hoping we can make this much more of a reality.

So after wrapping up some of our book work this morning, we packed lunches for the 40-minute car ride to UNC Charlotte Botanical Gardens and headed out for our nature adventure of the week.

A few tips. First, wear tennis shoes. I really wasn’t quite sure what to expect and I wore sandals. I was fine, but tennis shoes would have been much better. There are some areas that were pretty steep to climb and I had to take it really slow while wearing my 8-month old and holding my 2.5-year old’s hand.

Second, the Gardens’ website gives great directions about parking, but just to reiterate, once you get to the campus, find Lot 16A. It is right beside the greenhouse and it has about 5 spaces designated specifically for the Gardens’ guests. Parking there is free, you just have to sign in at the greenhouse and provide your tag number. Thankfully, we were able to snag a spot in one of these spaces, but check out their website for other parking options if these spots aren’t available.

Lastly, I couldn’t really find any good info on stroller accessibility, but I planned to wear my baby in my Ergo carrier. I would definitely suggest you do the same if you venture here with an infant. You might be able to use a stroller in the gardens, but it wouldn’t be fun. It is mostly unpaved, there are a lot of tree roots to walk over, and there are some super narrow paths. I didn’t see anything indicating strollers were prohibited, but it sure wouldn’t be easy.

We started our adventure in the greenhouses, after a potty break of course. 😜 Here you can find all kinds of different flowers and plants. Our favorite area was the Rainforest section, but honestly, it was all fun. Some of the plants did look like they could use some love, but overall, we really enjoyed it.

Unfortunately, I forgot to charge my phone last night and it died before we even made it out of the greenhouses, so I didn’t even get one picture of the actual Gardens area! I was so bummed, because there was so much to capture. Next time, I guess.

The Gardens are separated into two different areas and divided by a gravel walkway. Our favorite Garden was the Susie Harwood Garden where we found a pond with rock seating and a small man-made water feature, a gazebo, and a neat stone archway. The Van Langdiham Glen was lovely, too, though, and should definitely not be missed. I found it to be exceptionally peaceful as we walked in the shade of some magnificent trees.

All of the hike was doable for both my 7-year old and my 2.5-year old. My 8-month old started getting very sleepy and a bit fussy about half-way into the hike, but thankfully I was able to calm him down by letting him play with fallen leaves, a rock, a small stick, and a pinecone at various times througout the hike. He was using his pacifier, so I didn’t have to worry about him sticking any of those things in his mouth. Ha! Eventually, he fell asleep on me while we finished up our walk.

Exploring the Botanical Gardens could have easily been made into a whole unit study. Obviously we covered science, but we also used map skills as my son utilized a free map of the area and navigated us down the paths. Pop a squat at one of the many seating areas, and art could have also easily been incorporated by sketching a garden scene, for example. Geography was another subject to check off the list, as we learned about where different plants we saw in both the greenhouses and gardens, grew. We could have also very easily created a Language Arts lesson for the trip, such as writing a paragraph to describe the adventure. And goodness knows we got in some P.E.-some of those hills were steep!

I’d encourage anyone nearby or in the area, to take a trip to the UNC Charlotte Botanical Gardens, but it’s definitely a great trip for homeschooling families. Did I mention that it’s free?? They do encourage donations, but you can’t beat that price for a wonderful field trip. And tonight when my son said his prayers, he said, “God, thank you for the gardens we went to today. Your creation sure is beautiful.” That right there is priceless to me and I hope we can continue to inspire that kind of appreciation this year.

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Geneva is some weird combination of a failed Southern Belle and a white girl with a Latino heart. She's married to her stud muffin husband from El Salvador and is the mom of (almost) 3 awesome kiddos. She's quirky, sometimes (often times) socially awkward, and full of corny humor. She loves to write about Jesus and her Faith, being a mom, and bridging the gap between Christianity and mental health. Her blog posts are sometimes serious, sometimes aspire to inspire, and sometimes just a public display of laughing at herself.

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