Wednesday, November 16, 2011


One of my favorite things about homeschooling is planning trips to go along with things we're learning about. No, I wasn't able to jet off to Europe when we studied the Renaissance, but I do like to coordinate traveling and learning whenever I can, and I usually find plenty of opportunities relatively close to home.

So, when  I recently picked up a volcano themed science kit, I decided it would be fun to take a field trip up to Lassen Volcanic National Park to go along with it. We'd been to the northern end of the park quite a few times, but had never done the drive through the whole park, or seen the southern end at all. The road is closed several months of the year due to snow and ice, but we lucked out with a warm spell. When I heard the road was open for a few days, we jumped on the chance to go before winter really hit.

A few nights before, we watched a documentary on Ishi, who was the last surviving Yahi native and lived in hiding with his family for nearly 40 years in the forests near Lassen. It's a sad story to be sure, as are many that deal with the fate of native peoples, but one worth learning about. The positive note in it seems to be the anthropologists who befriended him, gave him a place to live and helped his stories be translated. Ishi's people believed that Lassen was the center of the world, and it was a sacred place. It certainly is an impressive mountain, that's for sure.

Driving into the parks southern entrance, you are met by amazing views of the mountains. They were all snow capped and shrouded in mist off and on, which only added to the beauty. The lakes and ponds were partially frozen over already, and it was colder than I'd anticipated.

We stopped at the visitors center where we learned all sorts of things about volcanoes, including that within the parks boundaries, they have all four different kinds of volcanoes found in the entire world- shield, plugged dome, cinder cone and composite.

Lassen had a series of major eruptions between 1914 and 1917, but has been resting ever since. The mountain may be quiet now, but the evidence of its' power, in the form of boulders bigger than my car, which are still laying where they landed, can be found more than 3 miles from the mountain.

Even though the volcanoes are sleeping, the area is literally bubbling with geothermal activity. The boiling sulfur mud pits are a good incentive to stay on the trails. They smell awful of course, but still, you can't help but be impressed by the power of nature.

 Of course, we had to add in some snow play and a hike. Boy Child attempted some snow boarding, which I could call PE and Girl Child worked on photography, which falls under art. It was a lovely and complete homeschooling day, with plenty of learning despite the lack of a lesson plan and the fact that not one book was cracked open.

This is the kind of learning that I love best, and I think it's the kind my kids will remember most. I'm so glad the world offers so many ways to experience science and history. The only cost was the gas, since we packed food and have a National Parks pass. I'd say a few gallons of gas was definitely worth it. Later this week, we have a series of volcano experiments planned for our science group to round out the theme. This homeschooling life really is a good one, isn't it?