Homeschool Winter Update

Sean Cornell, February 15, 2016

Greetings from the fields and forests,

The 2016 winter homeschool session is in full swing. Our tracks have scattered like the fall leaves and settled into new trails which spiral from 4-H acres in the east over to west hill and everywhere in between.

Winter is a time for exploration, games, hiking and tracking in a landscape made new by snow and ice. However, (up to the time I first wrote this!) the weather had been so mild that we were spending less time with our gloves on and more time crafting.

At west hill we have been focusing on pure wilderness survival. Each week we follow the “sacred order” and focus on the survival priorities of shelter, water, fire, and food. We are building an advanced shelter this season with a roof of woven reed grass. To complete this big project we built a loom and took a field trip to gather huge bundles of reeds for thatch. We have also been learning to navigate by the sun because a shelter is not much use if you can’t find your way back to it.

The winter explorers have been expanding their horizons and pushing their edges as they investigate the winter wilds of Ithaca. Our travels have found us in exciting wilderness areas such; as six mile creek, the old growth of the fisher tract, and the Roy H. park preserve. Animal tracking has been a central theme as we search for true north on a compass of spontaneous and intuitive learning. We have followed the red squirrel and the fisher into adventure and trusted our hearts to bring us back home again. Each new day brings a new landscape and we take what it offers and give thanks.

In a far corner of 4-H acres there is a dark and mysterious place known as “the hemlock forest.” Some say that the trees and even the roll and aspect of the earth can move and change here leaving anyone inside lost. In tracks and trails we have been following legends of a magical golden birch tree deep into the hemlocks. Along the way we have discovered ice castles, frozen forests of moss and secrets hidden deep underground. Its friction fires only in the muskrat lodge where we warm up and work on mini-bows and coal burned spoons. And at the end of the day if there is time (and snow), we do some sledding and harvest “stain glass ice” from the stream.

We are all looking forward to the rest of the winter; following the sacred order, ranging far and wide, and exploring a magical forest. We are so thankful that all of you can be part of this journey through the seasons.

See you in the woods, 
Danielle, Mark and Sean