Saturday, April 25, 2015

Field Trip: Carl Sandburg Home and Thomas Wolfe House

View of the Carl Sandburg House

 My 11th/12th grade Classic Literature class loved our trip to the Shakespeare Tavern in Atlanta so much that they begged for another field trip. I wanted to oblige but I also did not want another overnight trip just because of all the arrangements that would need to be made. We're only a couple of hours away from Asheville, North Carolina, so I thought a trip to see the homes of two classic American authors would be perfect.

Before going to Asheville, we did a short unit on lives of authors. I had each student pick a "classic" author and do a short presentation on him or her. The driving question: how does an author's life shape his or her writing? We had everyone from Seuss to Solzhenitsyn, and the presentations included posters and even a wax museum presentation by James Joyce.

James Joyce in the wax museum

I didn't intend to do this biography unit as part of our year, but that's one of the awesome benefits to teaching at a homeschooling co-op: we can be incredibly flexible.

The majority of my students were able to take a whole Thursday to go on our North Carolina trip, so we took three vans full of kids. We were prepared for a day of rain, but fortunately we just had occasional drizzling. Our first stop was the Carl Sandburg House in Flat Rock, NC.


I had made arrangements for a guided tour of the house, grounds, and barn. Fortunately for us, there was a writer-in-residence, Lisa Lopez Snyder, there during our visit. When the tour guide announced that Ms. Snyder would be doing a writing exercise with them, the students gave an audible collective groan (even though I know most of them love creative writing). She had a couple of fantastic exercises for them, and they loved it. I was so appreciate of Ms. Snyder's session— the kids talked about that all the way home.

After the writing session, we had a great tour of Sandburg's home. What really amazed me was not just the staggering number of books that he owned, but that there were pieces of paper bookmarking pages in hundreds of the books. His bookmarks. His flags that "here is something important." Astounding and inspirational to me.

After a chilly picnic lunch, we headed a little north to Asheville. We arrived 30 minutes early for our tour at the Thomas Wolfe Memorial; but since we were the only guests, they were happy to oblige us and start our tour early. After a 22 minute video of Thomas Wolfe's life, we had a fantastic tour guide take us through the house. He had all kinds of great stories about Wolfe and read passages from Look Homeward Angel in various rooms. The kids were a little slap happy at this point, but I think they enjoyed it for the most part. I wish we would have had time to read the whole novel before class, but I just couldn't schedule it.

On the front porch of the Thomas Wolfe Memorial Home

We had a couple of free hours when our tour of the Thomas Wolfe house ended, so we let the students explore downtown Asheville for a couple of hours. They split into two groups and went on their way. We three chaperones did the same. Asheville's such a fun little town, with lots of great shops to wander through. We all found fabulous restaurants and then met back at the designated time and place and headed home to Knoxville.

Over half of my students are graduating this year, including my sweet daughter. I've been teaching many of these students since elementary school (creative writing, reader's theatre, literature circles, and essay writing) and several of them for all four years of high school. I am going to miss them so much next year—and I'm so glad we had this one last trip together.

Linked up with the Weekly Wrap-Up


  1. Your literature classes sound great. I love that you've managed to include another field trip. Literature and field trips often don't seem to go together - beyond watching a play that is.


  2. You were in my hometown. What a fun day trip. We love the Thomas Wolfe house. It is wonderful that you have had so many lovely years with the same group of kids.
    Blessings, Dawn


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