Whether your school schedule is year-round or you plan for a summer vacation, homeschoolers know that learning doesn’t need to stop during the warmer months. In fact, those summer months are a great time to get out of the house for some hands-on, visual, interactive learning that will stick with students with the added bonus of creating great family memories. HomeLife families in Tennessee might want to start planning to check a few new places off of this list during summer “break.” There’s a good chance that your students will have such a blast, they won’t even mind that you’re sneaking in a school lesson.
This working farm is located in Hardeman County and offers year-round opportunities for families and groups to experience farm life. During the summer, they offer field trips with access to a petting zoo, hayride, educational activities, and more. They also offer horseback lessons and camps and host a youth fishing rodeo during the summer months. www.farmatfalconridge.com
Located just south of Nashville in College Grove, this family dairy farm offers tours on Thursdays in May and June. The cost is $8 per person. You will get to see the whole process of how they get their milk to the store shelves, from the milking, to the processing, tothe bottling. You will get to meet the animals up close and get a sense of daily life on a dairy farm. You can also enjoy lunch at the on-site dairy store. They suggest you make reservations to join in on a tour ahead of time, as space is limited and will fill up! www.hatcherfamilydairy.com
Farm tours at Sweetwater Valley in Philadelphia take you, according to their website, “from cows to cheese.” They teach you how they maintain healthy cows, milk them, and make the cheese. This is topped off with their interactive “Udder Story” exhibit, which looks into the past and future of dairy farming. Be sure to stop by the farm store and try their famous cheese before you head home! Cost is $6 per person, with ages 2 and under free. Tours are offered, weather permitting, at 11:00 am, noon, 1:00, 2:00, and 3:00 Monday-Saturday. www.sweetwatervalley.com
Located at Land Between the Lakes in Stewart County, The Homeplace takes you back in time to a mid 19th-century farm. This is a working history farm, producing corn, tobacco, sheep, and hogs in the same way they would have 150 years ago. Costumed interpreters can be seen working in the house and in the fields, ready to answer your questions and show you what life was like in a different time. On May 31, the Homeplace hosts Children’s Day, where children can participate in various farm tasks. Visiting hours are 10 am to 5 pm Wednesday through Saturday, with admission priced at $5 for adults and $3 for children. www.lbl.org/hpgate.html
Visit this National Historic Landmark in Nashville to see Andrew Jackson’s mansion and grounds as they would have appeared after his second term as President. Costumed interpreters will help to guide you through the house, which holds many of the original furnishings purchased by the Jackson family and a number of Andrew Jackson’s personal possessions. Marked paths will lead you on self-guided tours of the gardens and grounds, with tours by wagon also available. General admission is $19 for adults, $14 for students aged 13-18, $9 for ages 6-12, and 5 and under will be admitted for free. www.thehermitage.com
The Exchange Place is a working historical farm in Kingsport, TN, where visitors can see the daily activities of life at the Gaines-Preston Farm during the 1850’s being carried out by costumed interpreters. The grounds include the Preston log home, a springhouse, smokehouse, slave’s cabin, granary, and more. A Farm Fest will be held on July 13, a free event with music, fresh summer farm foods, and old-fashioned activities like sack races and hayrides. Children will be able to try their hand in activities around the farm. Regular visiting hours are Saturday and Sunday from 2:00 to 4:30. www.exchangeplace.info
Children of all ages will love the exciting and interactive exhibits at the Children’s Museum of Memphis. Just to name a few, there’s the “Going Places” exhibit – where children can explore a cockpit and experience how packages are shipped by air, the Skycraper – a 22 foot tall vertical maze to explore, CMOM TV, where children can give weather forecasts and news broadcasts and see themselves on the screen, and numerous others. From Memorial Day until Labor Day, a splash park is open for play outside of the museum. Admission to the museum, which is open daily from 9-5, is $12 for both children and adults, or $20 to visit both the museum and the splash park. www.cmom.com
Located in Murfreesboro, Discovery Center at Murfree Spring is a space for children to play, create, and learn. Among the exhibits are Tennesee Live! – where children can visit with regional animals including turtles, fish, and snakes, Tiny Town- a roleplay environment including a post office, house, and Tiny Kroger and Home Depot, and a Meet the Bees exhibit where students can view glassed-in hives and learn how honey is made. The Discovery Center is open from 10-5 daily, with admission for adults and children priced at $6 and free admission for children under 2. www.explorethedc.org
This museum in Johnson City boasts 22,000 square feet of exhibits for children. Down on the Farm allows children to explore a tractor and harvest fruits and veggies. A slide takes children to the bottom of the Coal Mine where they learn about coal mining in the past and present. The Water-Play Dam offers a fun and interactive lesson on hydro-power and electricity. Your children can “shop” at Kindermart or visit the Kids Bank and Credit Union, as well as visit numerous other exhibits. The museum is open 9-5 on all weekdays during the summer months, as well as 10-5 on Saturday and 1-5 on Sunday. Admission is $8 for adults and children, with children under 2 admitted for free. www.handsonmuseum.org
Civil War Sites
This park in Hardin County was once the arena for a famous, bloody battle in 1862. Here Confederate troops launched a surprise attack on Ulysses S. Grant’s Union Army, leading to a two-day affair in which the Confederate troops at first gained considerable ground but were ultimately defeated on the second day. The two armies lost a combined total of 23,746 men during the fight. Today, the Interpretive Center shows visitors artifacts and films pertaining to the battle and to the Civil War. A self-guided auto audio tour takes visitors to important areas of the battlefield and explains their significance. Shiloh National Cemetery serves as a resting place for 3,584 Civil War soldiers, 2,359 of them unknown. Additionally, the park holds six Indian mounds. Plan a day trip and picnic lunch for the whole family. The park is open every day from 8am to 5pm. www.nps.gov/shil/index.htm
The battle of Stones River came about when, towards the end of 1862, President Lincoln desperately needed a victory for his Union. The Union General Rosecrans was camped in Nashville, and only 30 miles away the Confederate Army of Tennessee was camped in Murfreesboro, protecting the farmlands they depended on. Rosecrans followed orders to attack on December 31, and the conflict that ensued was one one of the bloodiest battles of the Civil War. It became an important victory for the North in the midst of a discouraging winter. Today, you can visit the grounds from 8-5 daily. Make time to visit Fortress Rosecrans and Stones River National Cemetery. When planning your visit, check out the events calendar to find out about the numerous educational activities available during the summer. www.nps.gov/stri/index.htm
When Rosecrans’ troops forced Confederate troops under Gen. Bragg out of Middle Tennessee and eventually south of Chattanooga, Bragg called in reinforcements, totaling over 66,000 men. From September 19, 1863, a battle on the banks of Chickamuga creek ultimately resulted in the Southern army blocking supply lines to the Union. However, in October the arrival of Generals William T. Sherman, Joseph Hooker, and Ulysses S. Grant, with reinforcements for the Union troops, resulted in a supply line being opened in October. In November, they were able to attack Bragg’s troops and push them further south into Georgia, resulting in Union control of Chattanooga along with almost the entire state. This military park includes 2 visitors centers, and several hiking trails that provide a self-guided history lesson. www.nps.gov/chch/index.htm
Of course, these are just a few places you might want to visit. There is a wealth of museums, state parks, zoos, and more that might make a fun learning experience for your family. Tennessee families, what are a few of your favorite places for exciting field trips? What about our families in other states? Please comment and share!