School this year has looked completely different for many parents. Virtual education is an experience that many were not expecting to tackle in their lifetime.
Even though Chatham County schools and teachers are working hard to make sure children will continue to learn, it isn’t the same as in-person classes. Fortunately, a homeschooling cooperative is offering hands-on learning opportunities for the whole family.
Leza Chandler and her husband Cory founded the KnUW Way Homeschool Cooperative in 2017. "We’re a homeschooling co-op, and we’re experiential in nature," said Chandler.
The co-op creates learning experiences for kids. Chandler explained that, in her experience, children learn better by doing. "What we can do is create these experiences and put them in situations where they want to learn."
This month, that experience is learning more about bees and the important role they play in our ecosystem.
After researching several bee farms in the areas, she landed on Savannah Bee Company. Chandler liked the educational hive in the bee garden at the Wilmington Island location.
"You can see through glass what the inside of a hive looks like. They also have several observational hives outside in their bee garden," she said.
"They will open up the hives for you. You can look inside and see what the bees are doing."
There’s also the chance to handle the bees; something that caused a mixed reaction during the first experience in August.
Chandler said the younger children were resilient and wanted to try everything, but some of the older children and parents weren’t as certain. She said there was one moment that stood out to her. A mother had brought her son and her daughter to the bee farm. When the bees came out, Chandler said the son was excited to hold the tray where the honey is made.
She asked if the mom wanted to try.
"I saw the mom hesitate and take a step, and then she stopped. Then it was almost a moment of ‘meh, forget it’."
The mother shook off her doubts and held the honeycomb.
"That one moment gave her the understanding that she was more capable and braver than she thought she was."
Aside from seeing the hives, participants can sample different honey and compare them based on what the bees are pollinating.
"I wouldn’t have known that honey has such a variety of flavor."
After the tour, each family is given wildflower seeds to plant at home. This will attract bees and continue their experience.
Chandler said that many of the parents and children left with a newfound respect for bees.
"It’s one of those things where you could read it in a book, and it would be just the knowledge," she said. "But by going to the bee garden and getting that hands-on experience of hearing the bees buzzing around you and having a bee land on you, that is in an experience that makes you really interested to learn more."
The two days that KnUW booked in August were so popular that the experience was extended it into September with plans to offer more at a later date. "It’s really an amazing experience and an opportunity for families. We like when parents and kids learn together."
Learning experiences, like the hive tour, do give preference to homeschooling families, but they are open to other families as well.
"Homeschooling, despite the name, is a social experience. We are not used to being in the house. We are not used to being by ourselves. We are used to connecting with the community."
Chandler hopes these experiences will show families who are virtually schooling that it doesn’t have to be isolating.
"One of our missions is to reconnect the community, so not just the homeschooling community to itself, but a family in the community to another family in the community."