Monday, July 8, 2013

Schoolhouse Disney for Real

Back in January, I made a big decision (by my standards) for my family (well mostly my kids and myself). I completely dropped the curriculum we'd been working with for that school year--just threw the entire thing out the window. We invested in something new for us. I won't go into too much detail on this cause I'm sure most of you reading this won't care about our homeschool habits, since this isn't you know a homeschool blog. What I have been doing up till now was following a pretty grade-specific generic curriculum for each of our boys. This wasn't too bad when it was just one, or even when it was two. When it became three, it was difficult--not really, only when it came to scheduling and time (this way was getting really time-consuming). When it became four--okay so it's still only three in school, but adding a newborn did make a real kink in my available time for not just school but everything else ranging from personal time to art to whatever, you name it. Anyways, what I picked up was a year-long, not-grade-specific, unit study. It mixes literature, science and history/geography together, so I can do school for everyone all at the same time. The actual work given to the kids is scaled by age, and math is, of course, still separate and my middle-schooler is getting extra science to prepare him for high school science. But, this has been a major time saver for me, and the quality of discussions has gotten better because I'm not feeling so rushed to get through things.

 This year we're focusing on a comprehensive world geography and ecology study. We're spending a little bit of time in every continent, learning the countries and the ecosystems found in each region. The studies are centered around 2-3 week case-studies focusing on specific countries. So far, we've studied Canada, US, Mexico, Brazil, Norway, France, and Germany. Right now we're in a 3-week study of Kenya. We got to spend last Wednesday at the zoo, since NC has some really amazing Africa-themed exhibits. We've also been able to integrate a lot of stuff my dad brought back from his trip to Kenya/Tanzania to climb Kilimanjaro--you might remember my post a while back on the quilt I helped my mom put together for him.

Anyways, that's getting off topic (only a little though, by my standards). This curriculum gives us a free 2 weeks at the end of the school year, which will fall in December (yes this has kind of messed up our school year temporally). I spent a little bit of time debating whether I wanted to add another country--but then I'd have to pick one, and there's so many fun ones to choose from--or maybe travel somewhere--but then where would I go. Well, skimming through some homeschooling forum posts, I was reminded of the World Showcase part of Epcot in Disney World. There are only a couple of countries that we're studying that are not represented there. It seemed like a great way to practically visit every location we're studying (or at least a lot of them). So, we are planning on spending our last week of school on a field trip to Disney. We'll probably spend about half the trip at either Epcot or the Animal Kingdom as those locations go with our unit study theme the most, but I'm sure there will be time for fun too.

We started planning and saving for this trip in mid-February since this is the kind of thing that we could not normally afford to do. We got a bit of a head start with this year's tax return, and for the rest of it, I've saved most of what I've made from Animazement and Anime Mid-Atlantic and from Etsy. We've also tried to cut out little things here and there and put the extra we've saved aside for the trip--like drinking less soda and getting less desert. Well, we just hit the point where we actually get to go last Friday (July 5)!  I made this chart right after we started saving to give us a visual of our progress.
The red and yellow sections represent the cost to pay for park tickets and lodging (we're going to be camping at the Fort Wilderness on-site campground because it's cheaper and we don't mind sleeping in a tent since it'll be December and not sweltering anymore). This will also cover gas and groceries (we'll be packing our own food at this point). Not bad for an 8-day Disney trip for a family of 6!

The four blue squares represent what it would take to allow us to visit the water parks or some of the other extra locations there--I've been to Disney's 4 main parks but I've never actually been to any of these other places. It's one of those optional things. The green is what it would take for us to be able to eat on site as opposed to packing our own food. Depending on how far down that part we get, I might put off the water park extras in favor of the food. Chances are, we won't need all that amount, but I'd rather budget extra than come up short and hungry. Also, I'd like some room to play and not just go for the cheapest of the cheap for food. One thing I'd really like to do is to take a day and go snack hopping where we go through every country in the World Showcase, and pick up a couple of snacks to share--everyone gets to try everything, and then afterwards we'll discuss what we liked and didn't like, compare flavors, etc.

So this is something big that's been going on in my life, and I'm super-excited that we're actually going to get to go. I really wasn't sure we could pull this off, and I want to send a big thank you to everyone who stopped by my art tables at AZ and AMA or who purchased something from my Etsy because you guys have really made this possible. <3

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