Archive for the ‘ Trips We’ve Taken ’ Category

What? A Safari in Ohio to see Rhino, Giraffe, and More? It’s True!

Tuesday, September 9th, 2014

Would you believe there is a 10,000 acre safari in Ohio?  We took the kids there on our vacation and they were absolutely THRILLED!!  We went on the open-air safari, not the private one you see in the picture below, but we still got up close and personal with a number of animals!

The Wilds is located about an hour west of Columbus and is an affiliate of the Columbus Zoo.

Here’s how up-close and personal we got with a camel!

The Wilds is one of the largest conservation centers in North America. It is located on nearly 10,000 acres of reclaimed lands. (Years ago, the region was strip-mined. The land has been reclaimed and has about 6 inches of top-soil. They have planted grasses and bushes. In some areas, they haven’t been able to plant trees, so they’ve built shade structures for the animals.)

The Wilds is home to rare and endangered species from around the world.  It has two types of rhino: the Greater one-horned Asian Rhino (from Bhutan, India and Nepal) which you see in the photo below and the Southern White Rhino (from South Africa).

The Wilds is home to three deer species and five different antelope species. What made the safari spectacular was our fabulous guide/driver who told is amazing stories about these animals.  For example, the Père David was a French missionary working in China and sent some carcasses of these deer to Paris. The species was named after him.  A few of the animals had been sent to wildlife parks in Europe. Meanwhile, in China the only herd was kept by the Emperor of China. In 1895 a flood destroyed the garden and many of the animals perished or were eaten. Then five years later in the Boxer Rebellion the remaining animals were shot and eaten by soldiers.  The only remaining animals were in Europe. A hundred years later, the Père David’s Deer were finally reintroduced in parts of China.

Some animals we got to see up closer than others (is the case of any safari). The safari was 2 hours long. They did a good job of stopping so people (like me!!) could take photos. The guide will tell us stories and inform us about the animals we were looking at. The kids were completely engaged because they had a checklist of all the animals they would see along the way.  We were also allowed to get out (like when we were able to feed the budgerigar)

The Wilds,  Homeschool Program:

The Wilds also has a homeschool program that they have just gotten off the ground. We were made arrangements to do the safari in the morning and then did their homeschool program in the afternoon. It was FABULOUS!! If we didn’t live quite so far away we would definitely return regularly.  The day we were there, they did a program on the native habitats in Ohio.  They took us to the forest, wetlands, stream and butterfly habitats where the kids were fully engaged. They had four or five educators there and divided us all into three small groups. I really can’t say enough about their homeschool program!  I know they have another program coming up in November; the topic will be adaptations.

In the picture below, the kids were trying to find various creatures.  Depending on what they found would determine how healthy or polluted the water was.  In the end, we determined that the stream was pretty healthy. Good news!

They also took us on a hike through the forest where we came upon deer skulls, snake skins and learned about some of the local plants.   I didn’t get any photos on the forest hike.  The wetlands region was quite fascinating. Our guide told us that the cattails have a lot of uses from food to building materials, chair seats to filler for flotation devices!

The kids all loved when the ranger showed us the beaver skull. He explained that the beaver had to gnaw on things to keep their teeth from growing longer… and longer… and longer. As he did this he pulled out the front teeth on the skull to be quite long (see the picture below)!!

Our last stop was the Butterfly Habitat where they told us all about the Monarch Butterfly.  They gave the kids butterfly nets and let us have a go at catching (and releasing) the butterflies.  No one caught anything, but the kids enjoyed that!

Camping at Blue Rock State Park:

After our 4 1/2 hours homeschool program it was time to head out.  We were camping in a nearby state park (Blue Rock State Park):

COSI, Hands-On Science Center in Columbus, Ohio: 

One more thing before I go… We also drove to Columbus, Ohio to go to COSI, the science and industry museum.  It was absolutely phenomenal. It is truly one of  the best in the nation! We’d definitely recommend a visit.  It was hands-on and loads of fun for the kids. They were able to play with water, drive an underwater vehicle, make goop, attend a chemistry show, explore the human body and learn about their own, lift a car with a lever, and on and on!!   The kids really loved hunting down the clues in the special exhibit,  Adventure in the Valley of the Unknown. It truly was a fabulous day.  (My only recommendation is to arrive early to get tickets.).

Also in Ohio: Tecumseh! An extraordinary Outdoor Drama complete with horses, a stream and dozens of actors. Be sure to check out our post!

Are you interested in finding other fun things to do with your kids? Click here to see all the Trips We’ve Taken: From New York to California and places in between (Branson, MissouriColorado Rockies, Colorado Springs)! Or click here to see what it was like living in the Outback of Australia (where the kids were born. We lived there for 12 years).

See you soon here or at our Homeschool Den Facebook Page!


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Tecumseh! — An Extraordinary Outdoor Drama in Ohio

Friday, September 5th, 2014

Many years ago, a friend told me about an amazing outdoor drama called Tecumseh.  This is a 2 hour outdoor drama about Tecumseh, a Shawnee Indian who lived at the end of the 1700s and died fighting in the War of 1812.  His dream was to unite all the Native American tribes from Ohio all the way south to Georgia and Alabama.  For years, he traveled trying to gain the support of other tribes in the region to stop the spread of settlers west across the Appalachian mountains into the Ohio Valley region.

Each summer there is a phenomenal outdoor drama — complete with dozens of actors, horses, an amazing backdrop with a stream and “mountains.”  It is located in Chillicothe, Ohio which is just south of Columbus.

Right from the start a horse and rider splashed across the stream. The drama was action packed filled with action scenes, fighting & loud gunshots. At times horses cantered down the hillside to the stage in front. There were canoe scenes and dancing scenes.

The drama was more than two hours long (with an intermission)… and absolutely captivated the kids! It was one of the highlights of our trip and we did some pretty amazing things while we were away! Here are just a few more scenes:

The only thing I’m sorry about is that we did not see this show at the beginning of the summer so I could share this with you sooner! The outdoor drama is now closed for the season. But keep this in mind for next summer as a MUST SEE with your family.

This semester we are starting off the year with a study of some of the Native American tribes. Once we got home, the kids read a couple of books about Tecumseh.  Our family especially recommends this book by Rachel Koestler-Grack. It would be a great book to read to the kids before seeing this show and it’s a quick read:

Note: I contacted the offices of for permission to use their photos, but the opinions in this post are entirely mine. I was not given free tickets or compensated in any way.  Our family simply loved their production and wanted to share our opinions with you… Go see it if you have the opportunity next summer!!

Tomorrow, I’ll share a couple more reasons to make Ohio you next vacation destination! :)

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Our Visit to West Virginia – Harpers Ferry, Adventure Ropes Course, Blackwater Falls

Thursday, September 4th, 2014

With all of my health problems last year, we weren’t able to get away much at all. At the last minute, we decided to throw our camping gear in the car and head out for some adventures! We had a wonderful mix of camping, nature, education and fun. We unplugged for the week… and headed off!!

Our first destination was West Virginia.  You may have heard of John Brown, who raided the armory at Harpers Ferry, West Virginia just prior to the Civil War? Hubby remembered visiting Harpers Ferry as a child and thought it would be interesting to the kids. Of course, being homeschoolers we read a couple of books about John Brown before we headed out.

Hubby was really impressed by the changes to Harpers Ferry. When he was a child, cars crowded the downtown streets and there was very little parking to be found. Now they have a parking lot and visitors center outside of town. You board a bus that lets you off just at the edge of town. You walk a short distance and there you are (but without the traffic jam of years ago)!! The day we visited, it was National Park Day so our visit to the Harpers Ferry National Historical Park was free!

We started out with a film and then continued on to the various exhibits and museums.

Each store  had a different display. We meandered from building to building check everything from the old-time grocer, post office,  dry good floor, industry museum, wetlands display, African American History exhibit, Civil War Museum and of course the John Brown Museum.  Here are a hodge-podge of our photos:

Harpers Ferry was an amazing place to learn about African American history. They had displays and exhibits on everything from slavery to the Civil War and beyond.  The kids were really blown away by some of the things they read… be sure to read the “Sale of Negroes” below. The kids were stunned.

Our family absolutely loved the John Brown Wax Museum.  We had to pay extra for it as it is not part of the Harpers Ferry National Park, but it was worth every penny!  The displays reinforced everything we had learned the week before (and then ED came rushing over to check out all the pictures as I was putting together the collage for the blog. She narrated his entire story looking at the pictures. I’d say they really learned a lot — and will remember a lot — about John Brown!

Also near Harpers Ferry, we took the kids on an amazing adventure ropes course at Harpers Ferry Adventure Center.  With my balance/ear issues, I didn’t go up but all three kids and Hubby had an amazing time way up in the tree tops!

After that we headed west further into West Virginia to a a state park called Blackwater Falls. I had read it was really pretty… and it sure was! The kids had an absolute blast with some other homeschoolers we met at the campground. We loved the hike to the falls and some of the activities they had at their nature center.

That was the first part of our trip, but there are some even more amazing tales to tell! That’ll have to wait until tomorrow though because the kids are pulling me away from the computer!

Have a wonderful day! ~Liesl

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National Aquarium in Baltimore

Sunday, August 24th, 2014

Last week, we took the kids to Baltimore for my post-op appointment at Johns Hopkins. We were able to stay right next door at the McElderry House,  small business that provides affordable lodging for families of Hopkins patients in the neighborhoods adjacent to the East Baltimore hospital complex. Everything checked out fine, the stitches that completely block off my ear were removed and the implant in my skull for the hearing device is healing nicely (See this post if you want to know more about my ear dramas and crazy symptoms, “I’m Going Deaf Today… Single Sided Deafness, That Is“.

Hubby and I decided to make the most of being in Baltimore so we took the kids to the National Aquarium at the inner harbor in Baltimore.  It hosts more than 16,000 animals representing 660 different species.  We all had a fantastic time! Here are some of our photos from the day.  (The girls took turns with the camera, so I have to give them credit for some of these pictures as well!)

The National Aquarium is located along the inner harbor.  There are potentially lots of other things to do there as well — the science museum, paddle boats, shopping, a huge selection of restaurants. Our time was limited, so we just visited the aquarium (for 4 1/2 hours).

This is a Green Sea Turtle named Calypso. It weighs around 500 pounds and its shell is as long as my daughters are tall (3 1/2 feet)! It is huge!

DD took over the camera in the shark display area! This is a picture she took of the sawfish. The rostrum, snout or saw area, has between 14-23 teeth protruding from it. Largetooth sawfish eat small fish, prawns, and other crustaceans.

We all loved the rain forest display and spent a lot of time look at all the creatures!

This guy looks menacing, doesn’t he?!

The poison dart frogs come in a wide variety of colors. We were surprised that the most toxic frog of all was the white one you see in the picture below, not the bright yellow or blue frogs. It is called the Terrible Poison Dart Frog and its skin secretions were traditionally used to poison blow darts.

The kids loved the dolphin show:

And my favorite was the jellyfish display! Relatives of today’s jellies swam in Earth’s oceans over 600 million years ago. Jellies have seen the dawn of fishes, the extinction of the dinosaurs, the ice age and the arrival of humans.

On a personal note, this day was phenomenal for me because I spent the last ten months barely able to leave the house (due to my crazy ear symptoms: intense sensitivity to noise, balance issues, and vision problems (everything would go blurry when I turned my head)).  I can’t even begin to tell you how great it was to be able to get out and about again!!!! Hooray!!

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A Tour of Jamestown, Virginia – Fabulous for Kids!

Friday, May 23rd, 2014

On our way back from the Outer Banks, we decided we would spend a day at Jamestown.  This is a reconstruction of the first permanent settlement by the British in the New World. We first saw the film and toured the museum — which was just fabulous!  The kids spent a lot more time reading and browsing through the museum than I thought they would (I guess they’re growing up!!). Then we headed outside to visit the rest of the park.

After the settlers arrived in Virginia 1607, they built a fort to protect themselves from raids by the Spanish and local Indians. The fort was recreated from a description written by an English settler in 1610. The early colonists built the public buildings first such as a storehouse for supplies, a church and a guard house.

The kids absolutely loved the fort. There were guides there to share information about the buildings and the lifestyle back then.  The blacksmith was  a huge hit (we could hardly pry the kids away from there!) And of course, they all had to try on the armor.

Next we went to visit the replicas of the three ships that brought settlers to the Virginia colony: the Susan Constant, the Discovery and the Godspeed.  We were able to go on board all three ships.

Finally, we went through the reconstructed Powhatan Indian village.  The recreated village was based on archaeological evidence from an excavated Paspahegh Indian site. I didn’t get any pictures, but the kids were able to try making rope for a fishing net, grind corn and play a traditional game. We wandered through all of the long houses. They were made by bending saplings and placing woven mats or bark over top of the saplings.

The kids really liked exploring all of the long houses which were full of fishing traps and nets, skins from all kinds of animals, bowls, tools, weapons, bags and things like that.

Below is a picture of Chief Powhatan in a longhouse. It is from a 1612 map of Virginia by John Smith:

Picture courtesy of Wikipedia

Large version of this map can be viewed at Virtual Jamestown

 If you have the opportunity, Jamestown Festival Park is definitely a fabulous place to take the kids.  It was educational; there was tons to see and do!

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