The River Speaks: Homeschooling on the Little Miami – WYSO | Wonder Mind Kids

Heather Sabin talks about her life on the Little Miami River. Heather and her late husband spent 50 years together celebrating their anniversaries on the river. They also raised their children on the Little Miami, often canoeing, hiking, and biking while homeschooling. Now she takes her grandchildren on the same trips down the river. Sabin shared her stories with Hope Taft of the Little Miami Watershed Network…

Heather Sabine: I have home schooled my two youngest and taking a canoe or kayak trip or even a bike ride down the river the history is so rich. So those would be some of our outings, which most people call excursions, and learning about the history of the area and so on. You could start at one end of the river and follow Ohio’s history to the end. So I loved doing it with the kids.

Hope Taft: What was one of the most notable things you learned?

Sabine: I liked it when we were taught where the Indians camped and you can still see some of the remains. The charcoal fires would make dark circles—dark, dark spots on the river and things like that. And of course making papaya pudding and picking the papayas to take home.

Taft: Is that good?

Sabine: Anything with sugar and is good for kids. It doesn’t have much flavor, almost between a pear and a grape. But yes, do that. And I enjoyed the bird watching because I love birds and the indigo buntings will come through and the warblers will come through in the spring and you can really see a lot.

Taft: Have you noticed any changes?

Sabine: Not with the birds, but with the river itself. I think because we helped out so much with the cleanup, we saw a lot of stuff you wouldn’t believe: hoses, washing machines, heavy metal plates. People just throw them in – car parts and other weird stuff.

The latest is – we take a trash bag with us when we kayak or boat so we can pick up stuff along the way – and there’s been a lot of masks lately, which really didn’t make any sense to me at all that you’d have to wear a mask on one river, and then throwing him into the river. So the changes with the amount of garbage that we see now are bigger than before. Not sure why but we still see a lot of wildlife.

Fun to take my four and seven year old grandchildren to see the turtles, the snakes and the frogs. And I like it because you can always stop with the kids. There are always sandbars they get out on and hunt for frogs and toads and turtles and snakes and whatever little boys and girls love to do. And yet, for the most part, it is a safe river. If we’re careful.

Taft: What’s one of your favorite places to take your kids?

Sabine: From the Narrows down to Washington Mill. It’s about an hour and a half drive and that’s enough for small children. But we probably need two and a half because we stop all the way. And the other thing that struck me on the river is that we meet a lot of different people from different walks of life, but everyone is friendly. You know, everyone has a good time, even when it’s raining or the weather is against you. It just seems like they are helping people and so it’s a whole different vibe that the river brings with it. And being near water is, I think, my favorite thing to do.

Taft: So what do you notice? Do people get kinder when you say it’s a whole?

Sabine: No I do not think so. On the river people just tend to relax maybe more. Every time I’ve been on the river since the early 60’s up until now it just seems to bring out the best in people. They’re just prettier floating down a river now.

Taft: Well, that particular river out of all the different rivers, your lakes, that you’ve been on. What makes this one special memory?

Sabine: The memories? And it’s absolutely beautiful. The Great Miami is just that. It’s the Great Miami, and it’s wide and it’s big. And being surrounded by mostly trees and wildlife is the difference between a skyscraper and a shack. And I’m a cottage maid.

I just like being around and I love history and there is so much history along the river – the stories you hear people tell. “Well, Daniel Boone jumped off this cliff to this cliff when the Indians were chasing them.” It’s just fun like that. And most of the memories, but I have the memories because I left, because I loved the river and I love the trees and the wildlife.

The River Speaks, an Oral History of the Little Miami is produced at the Eichelberger Center for Community Voices.

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