Field Trip: Mobile Medical Museum and the Medicinal Garden

skeleton-2711096_1920Is your student fascinated by human anatomy? How about the history of medicine? Or perhaps a love of medicinal plants? Join us on November 3rd at The Mobile Medical Museum for November’s stop in our Reluctant Science Student series.

Our Reluctant Science Student field trips are intended to give older students who might not be wild about science experiments the hands-on activities they need. But these trips are not limited to just the shy scientists among us. Everyone’s welcome!

Our field trip will start with a tour of the museum. See an array of fascinating medical artifacts including an iron lung; leeches and a blood-letting demonstration; a functioning heart/lung machine used in the first heart bypass surgery in Mobile. The lecture portion of our tour will focus on human anatomy. But there is much to be learned at the Mobile Medical Museum — everything from civil rights to medical equipment to midwifery and pharmacy.

Students will spend time learning about the plants in the museum’s medicinal garden. They will work on medicinal booklets that include recording information on plant species, care, habitat and traditional uses in medicine.

Mobile Medical Museum Tour and the Medicinal Garden
Date & Time: Friday, November 3, 2 PM – 3 PM

Location: The Mobile Medical Museum is located on the campus of USA Children’s and Women’s Hospital, just off Springhill Avenue. Turn off Springhill into the hospital’s main entrance (Walshwood St.). Take the first left into the parking lot just past Ronald McDonald House. The Museum is at the end of the driveway behind the parking lot.

Cost: $4 for students and chaperones

Instructions: Meet in the parking lot by 1:45 PM. Due to space constraints, the museum asks for no more than one chaperone per six students. Adults who would like to attend the field trip should indicate their willingness to chaperone when they sign up. However, we may not be able to accommodate all parents.

Suitable for middle and high school. Sixth grade and up, please. Parents with elementary or preschool siblings are encouraged to make other plans for the field trip hour.

As with most of our more academic field trips, a very limited number of tickets are available. If you plan to attend, don’t delay! One person who RSVP’s ahead of time and completes the field trip will win the cost of his or her attendance back at the end of the program. See our Contests & Promotions page for details!

You are also invited to join us for The Bone Lab our December science lab field trip at the Archaeology Museum on the campus of the University of South Alabama.

Sign-up instructions are here.

©Northern Gulf Coast Home Educators, 2017

Old St. Stephens Day – An Alabama Bicentennial Celebration

From 1817-1819, St. Stephens served as the seat of government for what was then theflag-28561_1280 Alabama Territory. This earned St. Stephens the designation “First Capital of Alabama.” The capital would move from St. Stephens to Huntsville, Cahawba, and Tuscaloosa before being permanently located in Montgomery on “Goat Hill” in 1846.

Saturday, October 7, 2017, marks the bicentennial of St. Stephens’ designation as the territorial capital of Alabama. The St. Stephens Historical Park will host “Old St. Stephens Day,” a celebration of the bicentennial featuring demonstrations of traditional arts and skills, historical re-enactments, vendors, food, music and dancing. Enjoy a guided tour of the St. Stephens Archaeological Site. Experience the legacy of Old St. Stephens as the past comes to life around you!

The park is located at 2056 Jim Long Road in St. Stephens, zip code 36569. Old St. Stephens Day begins at 10 AM and ends at 2:30 PM. The event is free and open to the public. For further details, see the park’s website or facebook page.

I am excited and privileged to be one of the historical actors at the Old St. Stephens Day celebration. Lots of hard work is being done to make this unique event a success. Consider this your personal invitation to join us!

© Northern Gulf Coast Home Educators – 2017

From the Alabama 200 website: “Old St. Stephens Day is part of a three-year commemoration of the bicentennials of the Alabama Territory and Alabama’s statehood. Activities and events will happen throughout the state. For a calendar of events and information about how you can participate, visit”

An Open Letter to Free 2 Homeschool Members

cropped-ngche-banner-collage1.jpgGood evening, everyone. In a post in our private facebook group earlier this school year, I promised to be working on field trips and other activities. Most of these have been geared towards older students (middle & high) since I have a senior in my house this year. But I promise to incorporate more activities that can include the younger kids as well. I am not going anywhere after this year is over. I am planning on sticking around as long as God is willing.

Two field trips are set in stone right now. Two more are in the works. I am also working with the Mobile County DA’s office on a Bully Blocker/Best Internet Practices Seminar for homeschoolers. It looks like that will take place in November. I have leads on four community service projects. Once we get the items collected for Hurricane Harvey relief sorted and delivered to TX, I’ll be in a better position to coordinate those new projects. And last but not least is our Mobile/Baldwin community graduation ceremony for the spring of 2018.

After putting in all that work, the last thing I want to have is difficulty getting the word out. Unfortunately, facebook made things very difficult a year or so ago when they changed the rules pertaining to groups and events. Back in the “good old days” before the change, an admin or member could create a private event for the group and be assured that all the group members received an invite. That is no longer the case. Now the only people in the group who receive an invitation are the event creator’s facebook friends. Any group members who aren’t “friends” with the creator of the event don’t get an invite, even if they are in the same group together. Ridiculous.

This isn’t much of a bother for admins of small groups, or with people who don’t mind having 6,892 facebook friends. Neither of those is the case here. Our group is not small, and as much as I’d love to get to know every single one of you, I’d prefer to do it in person! Adding 600+ new facebook friends is not going to work out for any of us. Even if I wanted my feed to get that busy, (which I don’t… no offense), facebook’s algorithms would probably put a stop to it pretty quickly.

Putting information up in posts is a challenge as well. Admins can choose one post to pin. But any others that might also be important or time sensitive, like field trip announcements, get buried by all the other posts that come up afterward. An active, vibrant group where people share information and hold discussions is a wonderful thing. That’s what every admin wants for their group. But on the other hand, it is disheartening to put in a lot of time and work on something only to have it A) go nowhere because the invites are so limited; B) buried within the group by other posts, awesome though they may be; and C) not easily shared outside the group.

To that end, I have resurrected an old mothballed homeschool blog I started a few years ago and retooled it into Northern Gulf Coast Home Educators. I hope that the blog format will be more conducive to organizing and sharing information. My intentions are to upgrade the blog from free to a paid, self-hosted blog in the very near future. That will allow us all to share info with just a click of a button. Until then, we’ll have to copy and paste URL’s into posts, messages, or texts if we want to share. So bear with me over the next few weeks and months as we get things tweaked to work as best as possible. In the meantime, feel free to look around, comment on posts, and share what you find with friends.


© 2017 – Northern Gulf Coast Home Educators


Mobile/Baldwin Community Homeschool Graduation: Class of 2018

2018 Graduation
Class of 2018
Mobile/Baldwin Community Homeschool Graduation

Thursday, May 17, 2018, 2 PM
Robertsdale Church of the Nazarene
Host: Pastor Melissa Aaron, Senior Pastor
Organizer: Heather L. Weatherspoon, NGCHE

The Mobile/Baldwin Community Homeschool Graduation for the Class of 2018 will be held Thursday, May 17 at 2 PM. The ceremony will take place at Robertsdale Church of the Nazarene in Baldwin County. Rev. Melissa Aaron is graciously donating her time and the use of the church as a ministry to the homeschool community.

There is no direct charge for students to participate. However, cap and gown will be required. The spirit of individualism is a hallmark of the homeschool movement. In keeping with this spirit, each graduate is free to choose his or her own cap and gown colors. Parents may also wish to order diplomas to present to their students during the ceremony.

Any 2018 homeschool graduate from Southwest Alabama or the surrounding area is welcome. Do you use an out of town covering and need a local graduation ceremony? Do you homeschool without a covering? Is your student the only graduating senior in his or her covering and bashful about “walking” alone? All are welcome to join us!

Email with questions or to reserve a place in the ceremony. Interested families are also invited to attend an upcoming graduation meeting (see below).

October Meeting: Talking Nuts & Bolts… and Bowling

10/19/17 – 10 AM – Skyline Bowling Lanes, 4120 Government Blvd, Mobile. Topics of discussion will include ordering caps & gowns, diplomas, invitations. While moms talk shop, graduates and their siblings can bowl if they choose. Event is Dutch treat and should be over by 11:30 AM.

November Meeting: Lunch with the Pastor

11/14/17 – 12:00 PM – Newk’s Eatery, McGowin Park Shopping Center, Mobile. 1335 Satchel Paige Drive Suite C-106, Mobile, AL 36606. Join us for lunch with Pastor Melissa Aaron of Robertsdale Church of the Nazarene, our gracious host for graduation.

March Meeting: Ordering Cap & Gown and Diplomas

3/14/17 – 11:00 AM – West Mobile near Hillcrest Rd. & Three Notch. Email us for exact address and directions. Graduates are free to pick their own cap and gown colors.  In addition, parents may custom order the diploma of their choosing and design their own graduation invitations. Join us in the home of an NGCHE host family as we take an up-close look at our options.

April Meeting: The Home Stretch

4/24/18 – 10 :00 AM – 22024 Cedar Street, Robertsdale, Alabama, 36567. Join us at Robertsdale Church of the Nazarene as we discuss the details of the ceremony and reception with Rev. Melissa Aaron and make decorating plans. This will be the last opportunity for community members to reserve a spot in the ceremony. Enrollment closes after the April meeting.

© Northern Gulf Coast Home Educators, 2017-2018

Field Trip: The Bone Lab

Bone Lab Field Trip


The Bone Lab field trip is another event in our Reluctant Science Student series. Some youth are not particularly thrilled with science and/or hands on activities. I know… I raised two of them. They both tried their best to convince me that science labs are not necessary to their education. They were unsuccessful.

The dread of the non-preferred activity can sometimes be eased by taking the experience outside the normal routine of home or co-op. The opportunity to fellowship with old friends and meet new people is also a plus.

Our Reluctant Science Student field trips are intended to give students hands-on experience. But they are not limited to just the shy scientists among us. If your high school student has an interest in archaeology, forensics, or just thinks bones are cool, join us for The Bone Lab. Everyone’s welcome!

Science and Archaeology Museum Tour with the Bone Lab
Date & Time: Thursday, Dec. 7, 2017, 9:00 – 10:30 AM

Location: University of South Alabama Archaeology Museum

Cost: $5 for students and chaperones

Instructions: Meet in the lobby of the museum by 8:45 AM. In order to accommodate USA student workers’ class schedules, the field trip must begin promptly at 9:00 AM. Museum tour from 9-9:45 AM. Bone lab from 9:45-10:30 AM.

Suitable for high school. Ninth grade and up, please.

Attendees will be emailed a map, parking instructions, and other guidelines once registered for the trip.

A very limited number of tickets are available. If you plan to attend, don’t delay! One person who RSVP’s ahead of time and completes the trip will have his or her cost of attendance reimbursed at the end of the program. See our Contests & Promotions page for details.

Sign-up instructions are here.

©Northern Gulf Coast Home Educators, 2017

Field Trip: The Conclusion of Edgar Allan Poe

Fans of spooky stories, classic literature, and theater are invited to join us for portrait-62996_1280Playhouse in the Park’s School-Day Performance of The Conclusion of Edgar Allan Poe. This production is based on the life of the Gothic master and features several of his most popular short stories, including The Casque of Amontillado and The Telltale Heart.

Bring a sack lunch. Weather permitting, our group will picnic together in Langan Park after the show. is a great website for those who want to assign reading before the play or brush up on their knowledge of Poe.

Date & Time: Friday, Oct. 20, 2017, at 10:30 AM
Location: Playhouse in the Park – 4851 Museum Drive, Mobile, Alabama 36608
(across from the Mobile Museum of Art in Langan Park)
Cost: $8 per ticket
Instructions: Meet in the front lobby no later than 10:15 AM. Suitable for middle & high school. Recommend ages 12 and up.

A very limited number of tickets are available. If you plan to attend, don’t delay! Sign-up instructions can be found here.

©Northern Gulf Coast Home Educators, 2017

What Homeschoolers Should Know Before Using PayPal

Using PayPal
If you do business online today, odds are you’re at least somewhat familiar with PayPal. Homeschool parents take advantage of its convenience to pay for field trips, classes, and fees from the comfort of home or via mobile app. No need to chase down event coordinators or drop checks in the mail.

Homeschoolers who use PayPal may have seen conflicting instructions on how to properly tag their transactions. One person or group may instruct you to tag your field trip money as being sent to “Family and Friends” while another may require you to choose payment for “Goods and Services.” Knowing what to do requires understanding some of the details regarding Sellers and transactions. We contacted PayPal for official clarification. Gwen from the Fraud Department was happy to help us out.

A Seller can seek to profit off transactions or keep none of the funds that change hands. If the Seller charges the Buyer a fee or provides a good or service for which he keeps all or part of the money, he owes PayPal something for the transaction. In that case PayPal intends for the transaction to be marked as payment for “Goods and Services.”

If the Seller simply collects money in order to make a group payment to another party and is not keeping any of that money for himself, no fees are owed to PayPal. In that case, the Seller may direct Buyers to tag their transactions as money sent to “Family and Friends” and thus avoid incurring fees. The difference is whether or not the Seller profits from the transaction.

“But, what a minute,” you say. “I know so-and-so’s group is all volunteer and keeps none of the money they collect. Yet they are required to use a commercial account and pay fees to PayPal.” That is accurate, too.

Volunteer groups who take in regular, substantial amounts of money may be required to use commercial accounts. An example might be a statewide group that arranges multiple field trips or expensive events. Even though they may be all volunteer and charge no fees, their activities and transactions likely involve substantial amounts of money. It would be unwise for Buyers to mark those transactions as anything other than for “Goods or Services.” To mark as “Family and Friends” leaves the Buyer with no protection whatsoever in the event of a problem. That is not a situation that PayPal endorses.

Gwen assured me that PayPal keeps their Buyers’ best interests in mind by using algorithms to monitor for unusual activity in personal accounts. Some of the situations they look for include an excessive number of transactions received by a Seller from “Family and Friends.” Unusually repetitive transactions may also call for a closer look. In those cases PayPal may investigate a Seller’s account to ensure that Buyers’ best interests are protected. PayPal may contact the Seller and require him to convert his account from “personal” to “business” to better safeguard Buyers’ activities.

Sellers with commercial accounts must pay fees on all their transactions. On the other hand, when it comes to personal accounts, PayPal leaves it up to the Seller to instruct Buyers on how to tag their transactions. If no profit is made from the transaction, the Seller may correctly instruct Buyers to tag as “Family and Friends” with no fear of wrongdoing.

But… Buyer Beware. If you as the Buyer tag a transaction as “Family and Friends,” there is no protection whatsoever in case of a dispute. You have no recourse if the money is misappropriated or lost. You cannot file a claim with PayPal for fraud protection on money sent to “Family and Friends.”

The good news is that most of us use PayPal for small amounts paid to non-profit organizations or community volunteers not pocketing any of the funds. In that case, PayPal does not intend to charge fees. It is acceptable to mark those transactions as “Family and Friends” as long as the Buyer is comfortable foregoing fraud protection. In that case, most of us have no problem using “Family and Friends” to save ourselves a little money — especially with small transactions like $5 here for admission to a museum, or $7 there for a theater ticket.

If you the Buyer want that extra protection, you may mark any transaction as payment for “Goods or Services” even if it goes into a personal account and even if no money is made by the Seller off the transaction. This is recommended by PayPal for transactions the Buyer deems substantial. However, the Buyer should expect to add those fees on to his payment to the Seller.

PayPal currently keeps 2.9% of “Goods and Services” transactions plus a 30-cent fee per transaction. You as the Buyer will most certainly be expected to pay that amount over and above the original cost. Most Sellers cannot and do not cover those fees but must pass them on to Buyers. It is up to each individual Buyer to decide whether the extra to cover the fee is unnecessary given the situation or money well spent.

©2017 – Northern Gulf Coast Home Educators


Biology for the Reluctant Science Student

There is no doubt my son and daughter both have the “squeamish” gene. No amount skeleton-2266078_1920of encouragement, begging, pleading, wailing, or gnashing of teeth could convince either of them to embrace the study of biology. My son would take failing grades on science projects rather than so much as look at a specimen of any kind, much less touch one. My daughter has also firmly dug in her heels over laboratory dissections.

Both my son and daughter have real physical responses to others’ descriptions of medical problems and to viewing medical or scientific procedures. Sympathy pains, if you will. It matters not at all if the subject at hand is an already dead though well-preserved laboratory specimen. The act of dissection alone is enough to cause them so much dread and discomfort as to render the whole experience nearly useless.

As a result of all this, Kathryn’s high school biology got put off as long as possible. But we can’t kick the can down the road any longer. This is her senior year. It’s now or never. What to do about this conundrum?

Learning biology strictly from textbooks or videos is, in most folks’ opinion, akin to a crime. That leaves us with two options — a co-op class or do it yourself. My opinion of co-ops is generally very low, especially for high school students, and most especially for core courses like science. But that’s a blog post for another day. Back to our little problem…

In actuality, there are other choices for us on the Northern Gulf Coast. Here we have a warm climate and access to wildlife refuges, nature centers, museums, and research facilities. Instead of doing all of our bio labs around a kitchen table or stuck inside a fellowship hall, we are taking as many of our labs as possible into the field.

Our first bio lab took place on the beach at Gulf State Park in Gulf Shores — Discovering Sea Turtles. Students watched an in-depth video on sea turtles of the northern Gulf of Mexico. Gulf State Park naturalists were on hand to provide commentary, answer questions, and educate us about the turtles and conservation efforts. Following were hands-on beach activities that taught students how trained volunteers determine the site of a nest, dig without causing harm to the eggs, and properly mark the nest.

Discovering Sea Turtles

Our group on the beach analyzing simulated turtle tracks and excavating a mock nest

Rain sprinkles prevented students from using paper forms to record collected data. But that was easily remedied by the biology instructor (in this case, me) at home. The field trip was turned into our first bio lab to be entered into our biology journal. With a little extra time and effort, you can make these experiences work for you and your student.

Moms, don’t be put off if your children don’t care for a particular subject. Look for ways to make it more enjoyable before throwing in the towel. Sometimes it just isn’t possible. Sometimes we have to learn the lesson of pushing through experiences that don’t please us one little bit. I’d love to say that field trips work miracles on my daughter’s attitude regarding biology, but that would be disingenuous. The subject still hasn’t made it onto her top-10 list. But the dread of the bio labs is replaced at least somewhat by the curiosity sparked from learning “in the field.”

The best part about our inaugural Discovering Sea Turtles field trip is that it was free, though we did leave a donation for our friends at the Gulf State Park Nature Center in appreciation for providing such a great value for our time. More science labs as field trips are in the works for this school year.

Currently on the schedule:

Check out our Homeschool Events page for all the latest field trips and special events.

©2015-2017 Heart of a Homeschooler

Hurricane Harvey Homeschool Supply Drive – Closed


Supply Drive Closed. Thank you to all who participated!

Free2Homeschool of Southwest Alabama has partnered with Texas Home Educators to assist with relief efforts for homeschool families affected by the flooding from Hurricane Harvey. We are collecting NEW school supply items to be donated to our neighbors in the Houston, Galveston, and Beaumont areas.

Acceptable items include NEW school supplies that are easily transported such as:

Paper, Notebooks, Pens, Pencils, Hand-held Sharpeners, Erasers, Crayons, Glue, Scissors, Markers, Highlighters, Paper Clips, Rubber Bands, Rulers, Protractors, Compasses, etc.

Books, textbooks, or anything bulky or heavy cannot be accepted. To assist with textbook recovery, see the facebook group THE Homeschoolers Helping Homeschoolers.

Our Mobile/Baldwin County collection drive is now over. The following groups and businesses participated in our drive as collection sites. We give our heartfelt thanks for their willingness to help and their participation.

Mobile County, Alabama Drop-off Sites:
Breakout Games – Mobile, 3090 Dauphin Square Conn, Mobile

Kallie’s Cheer and Gymnastics, 7361 Zeigler Blvd B, Mobile

Lazer Zone, 790 Schillinger Rd North, Mobile

Pronto Pawn, 5790 Hwy 90, Theodore

Redemption Church, North Mobile Campus, Rev. Ed. Litton, Senior Pastor, 1251 Industrial Pkwy, Saraland.

Baldwin County, Alabama Drop-off Sites:
Eastern Shore Baptist Church, Rev. Stuart Davidson, Senior Pastor, 6847 Park Dr, Daphne.

Eastern Shore Lanes, 10460 Eastern Shore Blvd, Spanish Fort


© 2015-2017 HeartofaHomeschooler