Homeschooling in the Great Outdoors

The fourth weekend of June brings up a great opportunity for family fun time. What is it? The Great American Campout! I don’t know about you, but my family and I love spending time in the great outdoors. We camp a few times a year. And by camping, I don’t mean camper and electricity. I mean pitching a tent and really camping. Why? Because there is SO much that can be learned by spending time in the great outdoors.

Read the rest of the post at the Southeast Homeschool Expo.


The Best Field Trips in Alabama


The state of Alabama has much to offer. Beautiful landscapes, gorgeous beaches, and many attractions. If you homeschooling in Alabama you are in luck! Alabama also has many wonderful places to visit with your family for field trips!

Here are some of the BEST field trips in Alabama!

Birmingham Zoo

Located in Birmingham, this zoo houses 700 animals and sits on over 100 acres. They also offer Homeschool classes for kids in grades 1st-12th.  

Birmingham Museum of Art

Located in Birmingham, this museum offers activities for children are free!
Imagination Place Children’s Museum at the Center for Cultural Arts

Located in Gadsden, this museum is one of a kind! Shaped like a triangle with an enormous cylinder, kids will be excited to experience the many educational opportunities Imagination Place offers!
The U.S. Space and Rocket Center

Located in Huntsville, The U.S. Space and Rocket Center boasts of having the greatest collection of rockets and space memorabilia anywhere!
Biophilia Nature Center

Located in Elberta, this Nature Center is open year round. It includes over 100 species of interesting labeled plants. Children will also learn about butterfly gardening, wetland values and much more!

Children’s Museum of the Shoals

Located in Florence, The Children’s Museum of the Shoals, Inc. offers hands-on exhibits and programs geared specifically to the developmental stages and needs of children. Their goal is to further education and encourage children to imagine, make choices and create.

Alabama River Museum

Located in Florence, this museum allows visitors to travel back in time to an early 1800s camp on the river. There they will visit with Indians, frontiersmen, traders and travelers.

Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo

Located in Gulf Shores, this zoo is just blocks from the beach! It is home to more than 290 animals.   There’s also a petting zoo, reptile house, aviary and daily animal shows in the summer.

Huntsville Botanical Garden

Located in Huntsville, the Garden provides a variety of opportunities for individuals and groups to expand their knowledge of plants and nature. The Nature Center/Butterfly House is open May through September.

Alabama Nature Center

Located in Millbrook, he Alabama Nature Center provides fun and exciting field trip opportunities for homeschool students. Staff will choose and plan activities in regards to special topics requested by the person planning the event.

Rosa Parks Library and Museum

Located in Montgomery, this museum is the only one in the nation dedicated to the civil rights icon.

Montgomery Zoo

Located in Montgomery, this zoo offers over 500 animals from five different continents, all housed in natural, barrier-free habitats.

A. Gayle Planetarium

Located in Montgomery this planetarium is one of the largest Planetariums between Atlanta and New Orleans. Educational shows are given daily.

Pioneer Museum of Alabama

Located in Troy, this is a living classroom! Students will be able to experience life in a log cabin. Activities include cooking at the wood stove and fireplace, churning butter, fetching water, sweeping the yards with handmade straw brooms, feeding the chickens and gathering eggs. Museum tour includes a spinning and weaving demonstration that goes from making thread from raw cotton all the way to the loom.

These are just some of the BEST field trips in Alabama. So, take the time to explore our great state by experiencing one of these amazing field trips!


Fall Learning Activities

Fall is my favorite time of the year. I love the beauty that surrounds this season, and one of our favorite things is to enjoy the evenings as the temps die down. As homeschoolers, we can take the fall season and turn it into learning activities. Here are some of our favorite Fall Learning Activities.

Fall Scavenger Hunt

This is something I enjoy doing with my kids each year. You can create a printable list of items found in nature during fall. Or, you can find one on the internet and print it out :). Ours includes different color leaves, acorns, blades of grass, and other misc items. This is a great activity for preschoolers and early elementary students.

Leaf Hunt

Take your kids on a walk and pick up leaves. Let them find ones with different colors, shapes, and sizes. This is great for all ages!

Leaf Identifying

Once you have found some leaves bring them home and see if you can identify them. I have an old book I made in middle school that has all kinds of leaves from different trees in it, so we use it. You can find websites that help identify leaves, and even apps if you have a smart phone.  This is great for older elementary and middle-grade students.

Leaf Sorting

Preschoolers and early elementary students can sort their leaves by color, shape, and size. You can count the leaves, group them and teach  more and less.

Fall can be a great time to enjoy things together as a family. Cookouts, hikes, and hay rides are all symbolic of Fall. You can also take this time to learn and teach your homeschooled children. Hands on learning can happen anytime, and Fall is just another wonderful example of that!

Misty Bailey is a wife to Roger and a homeschool mom to three. She loves helping new homeschoolers and has a free Homeschool 101 eBook for those getting started. She shares her struggles with time management, becoming unglued and finding joy in the everyday moments on her blog Joy in the Journey.

Seven Fun and Frugal Family Activities

I don’t know about your homeschool family, but sometimes I feel like even though we spend a ton of time together, we don’t actually spend “time” together. If you know what I mean…. Most of the activities I do with the kids are school related, the weekends are filled with grass to mow, errands to run, and commitments we have to keep up. Family fun days happen, but not as much as we would like.

For this reason, we decided that one Saturday each month we were going to have a family fun day. This day is set aside as time to spend together, just us. So far it has been a great addition to our family calendar.  I encourage you to try it out as well. If you need ideas as to what to do, check out these seven fun and frugal family activities!

  1. Hiking: Grab a backpack, some water, and go hiking! You can find trails that are good for all whether, you are a beginner or a pro. Check your local state park if you are unsure where to begin looking. .
  2. Bird Watching: Grab a bird book from your local library and see how many backyard birds you can find! Bonus points if you can learn the birds by their calls!
  3. Zoos: Zoo admission tends to be lower and very family friendly. Most zoos offer petting areas,   train ride, picnic shelters so you can pack a lunch and much more!
  4. Board Game Tournament: Choose your families favorite board games, and have a tournament for the day. See who can be crowned king of the games!
  5. Volunteer: Families who serve together, grow together. If your family has a favorite organization that you have wanted to support, family fun days are a great opportunity to take the time and volunteer as a family.
  6. Bowling: If you have little ones, be sure to ask for the bumper lanes! Bowling is a great way to spend time together as a family.
  7. Geocaching: Similar to a scavenger hunt, this activity is quickly becoming very popular for families. It is free, and only requires a GPS enabled device like a smart phone. To find out more about geocaching   go to the official Geocaching website,

Homeschool parents, I encourage you to take the time to spend together as a family. Yes, we see our kids all the time, but for many of us, that time is structured and we tend to forget to take off our “teacher” caps. Relaxing family fun is important for our families, and time together is time well spent!

Misty Bailey is a Christian wife and work at home homeschool mom. She loves helping new homeschoolers and has a Homeschool 101 eBook for those getting started. She shares her struggles with time management, becoming unglued and finding joy in the everyday moments on her blog Joy in the Journey.

Chess Area & Tournament

Alabama Homeschool Expo
Scholastic Chess Tournament

Where: 201 Tallapoosa St.
Montgomery, AL 36104
Saturday, June 13, 2015 from 11:00 AM – 1:00 PM
Open to: All students aged 5-18
Sections: Elementary (ages 5-11), and Middle School and High School (ages 12 -18).
Format: Fast Chess Tournament, no time controls, but players must complete 4 games to be eligible for a trophy.
Registration: On-site registration available
Awards: Participation awards to all players. Trophies to players in first, second and third place in each section.


Is this a knock-out tournament? Do I go home if I lose a game?

No! This is not an elimination tournament, like the NFL play-offs. All players can and should play at least four or more games if possible within the three-hour time frame.

There will be two sections – Primary (ages 5-11) and Youth (ages 12-18)

All players must know how to play a complete game of chess through to checkmate.  Players should be able to comchess2plete each game within 20-30 minutes.  We expect to have space for 28 players and will put you on a waiting list if the tournament spaces fill.  Refunds will be made to those who are on the waiting list and do not get to play in the tournament.

How are the scores determined?

A player gets one point for every game won, half a point for every game drawn, and zero points for every game lost.  A player’s point total for the tournament is found by summing that player’s points. Thus a player who wins one game, draws two games, and loses one game will end up with two points for the tournament ( 1 + .5 + .5 + 0 = 2).

Any player who cannot commit to stay for the entire time should not enter the tournament. The score of any player not completing at least four games will not be eligible for trophy awards but will receive a participation award.  There will be free chess play opportunities at the Caesar Chess booth during the rest of the tournament for those who cannot commit to the tournament schedule.


 How do you pair players?

In general we will attempt to pair players with equal scores when possible, and also to equalize color allocations.  This is a “Fast Chess” tournament, which means that each child plays a game, comes to the Tournament Director (TD) when finished, and will be paired up with another player as soon as another pair with similar scores has finished their game.

This is not a USCF rated tournament. Will you be enforcing USCF rules?

In general, yes, we will be. Exceptions to that are that scorekeeping (taking notation) is not going to be required, and all rules pertaining to scorekeeping will therefore be null and void, and that players will not play with a chess clock. One rule in particular that we will be enforcing is the “touch move/touch capture” rule. This means that if a player touches one of that player’s own pieces in a manner that can reasonably be interpreted as the beginning of a move, then the player will be required to move that piece, if that piece has a legal move. If a player touches an opponent’s piece in a like manner, then the player will be required to capture that piece, if there is a legal way to do so. Note that an accidental touching of a piece, such as brushing it with your shirtsleeve when reaching for another piece, does not constitute a violation of this rule.

While by and large we will be going by USCF rules, we will try to avoid becoming too technical with these rules, and enforcement of other USCF rules will be on a case-by-case basis.


What if I need to leave the tournament early and unexpectedly?

In the event that you decide to leave the tournament early, please notify a tournament director before leaving.  Breaks for use of restroom do not need to inform the TD.

What fundamental rules of chess should I know before participating?

You should know how the pieces move, including the details associated with castling, checking the King, promoting a pawn, and capturing “en passant.” You should be able to recognize an illegal move, as well as checkmate and stalemate. Caesar Chess reserves the right to disqualify from further participation any student who clearly does not know the basic rules of the game.  For example, we will disqualify someone who clearly doesn’t know how a Knight moves, or what is meant by “checkmate.” No refunds of any kind will be given to any player so disqualified. So please be certain that your child can play an entire game correctly according to the rules of chess before signing up for this tournament.

Am I going to be required to keep score?

Scorekeeping (chess notation) will not be required, and we will not be furnishing score sheets, pens or pencils. Players may elect to keep score if they so choose, but they will need to bring their own scorekeeping equipment and must be able to notate their games without slowing down play.  Scorebooks will be available at the Caesar Chess booth prior to the tournament.

Will I have to use a clock for my game?

No clocks will be used or required in any of these games.

What should I do if I have a problem, or I don’t understand something?

If you have a problem or a question about anything during the game, you should raise your hand to summon a tournament director. This cannot be stressed too strongly. Do not take your opponent’s word for anything. Your opponent does not necessarily know the rules any more than you do. The tournament directors are here to answer questions and to solve problems, so please don’t hesitate to get them involved. Once a game is over and both players have agreed to a result, then that result is going to stand, and it is too late for the tournament directors to do anything.

Game Area

There is plenty of room for children to play various board games and chess matches at the game area inside the exhibit hall. It is always a popular attraction at the expo! Children of all ages love to hang out at the Game Area while their parents shop the exhibit hall and listen to speakers.