I find the terms unschooling, homeschooling, and world schooling, slightly confusing.  The terms are generally used pretty loosely these days, and everyone has their own interpretation.  None of the terms best describe what we do.  Some days we do curriculum, other days we don’t.  It just depends.  Either way, I don’t think the labels truly matter.  I love the freedom we have, the ability to do what we please and not be tied to school  curriculum or schedules.  I’m not all that concerned about what to call it, especially when we incorporate a bit from each category.

We’ve spent our days taking walks, playing lots of Minecraft, and reading books.  The boys took swim lessons, and they’ve progressed well.  It’s very slow progress, but some things take a bit longer.  They’re much more comfortable in the water, but even with lots of lessons they are nowhere near ready to move on to the next level.  I will write a separate post in detail about the joys (and horrors) of teaching autistic kids to swim at a later date.

A trip to Dawes Arboretum

We took a short day trip to Dawes Arboretum, located in Newark, Ohio about one hour outside of Columbus, Ohio.  It’s also close to Buckeye Lake, so it may serve well to combine a day at Dawes with a trip to the lake.  Dawes is a great place but it’s not a must visit destination unless you’re already in the area, or you have a lot of time in Columbus.  There’s plenty to do in Columbus with kids, driving here isn’t necessary but its certainly lovely.  If you’re studying plants or trees, Dawes is a plethora of information with all kinds of plants.  There are over 16,000 plants that bear labels with plenty of information.  Honestly, the boys and I paid no attention to any of the information given while we were there, but if you timed it properly, you could certainly tie in the study of plants with a trip to Dawes.  An arboretum is not “just a park,” but contains a diverse amount of plant life with a focus on education, and less focus on recreation.

Lots of paths and plenty of ponds like this one to look for frogs.

Dawes is completely free, no admission or parking fees.  Donations are appreciated but not pushed at all.  You’re free to walk the trails, visit the grave sites of the Dawes family, take all the photos you want, and enjoy the many beautiful gardens.  My boys were particularly interested in the grave sites, reading the names and wanting to know how old the people were when they died.  It turned out to be a good opportunity to explain death, mourning, and respect for the dead.  I explained the importance of not stepping or climbing on tombstones, the reasons why some people bury loved ones, and how the Dawes Family has chosen to leave their legacy to the arboretum.  I can’t say they totally grasped it, but they seemed to understand it somewhat.


We also saw many dogs and kids in strollers so no worries on bringing them along.  It’s open daily at 7 AM, closes at 8 PM.  The visitors center and the Daweswood House Museum hours are even more limited, be sure to check before you go if you’d like a tour of the house.  The house museum is only open on weekends, and we arrived around 3 on a Sunday to find it closed already.  Get there before noon to secure a spot for the tour.

Dawes is HUGE and pretty spread out.  Some areas are more uphill, so you may want to drive up to the top, park and walk around, then drive down and park to walk the lower trails.  You could easily spend a few hours here.  Be sure to wear good shoes, and bring water and snacks.  There’s an auto tour you can take, but we opted to park and walk.  Don’t miss the large collection of maple trees and the “sugar shack.”  Dawes has the 12th largest collection of maple trees in the world, and my kids liked visiting the shack and reading about the production of maple syrup.  A climb up the outlook will give great views of the hedge lettering, where Dawes Arboretum is spelled out by the hedges.  It is a bit hard to make out, but its pretty neat.  We didn’t have a chance to make it to the Japanese Garden, Cypress Swamp, Glacier Ridge, or the Red Barn, but will be sure to stop there when we return.

You could enjoy Dawes in any season.  Fall would be a spectacular time to come enjoy the colorful foliage and possibly have kids participate in the collection of maple syrup.  This is an easy place for autism travel, even though it was fairly busy it didn’t feel crowded at all.  We had many areas to ourselves.  There are plenty of shady areas and clearly marked trails.  There are restrooms in the visitors center, but we didn’t use them.  Bring a picnic and really make a day of it here.

Beautiful views of the word hedges if you can climb to the top of the look out.