An Island of Freedom, by Jeanie M. Curry

Cumberland Island is an 18 mile long barrier island off of the coast of Georgia. It has a rich history, having been first inhabited for thousands of years by Indians, most notably of which was the Timucuan tribe.  Over a period of several hundred years the Spanish, French, British and Americans all had settlements on the island. During the 19th century the island was owned by the members of the Carnegie family who built several beautiful mansions. The island was then, and remains today, mostly undeveloped with no bridge to the mainland. In the 1970’s it became known as Cumberland Island National Seashore, a unit of the National Park Service.

My husband has been a park ranger for many years, having served in parks in many interesting places around the United States. The last four years before retirement from the National Park Service he accepted a position as a resident ranger on Cumberland Island. Since our only child, McKenzie, is homeschooled, we were able to accept duty stations in remote locations. When McKenzie was born we lived inside a national park. He has, to a large extent, grown up in parks. McKenzie was six years old when we arrived at Cumberland. He was the only child living full time on the island.

There are no paved roads on the island which is mainly wilderness.  There were many days we would travel the length of the 18 mile long beach and never see another person. There are no malls, no stores of any kind. We would travel by boat every week or two for a few hours on shore to buy groceries. After a few hours on the mainland, we couldn’t wait to get back to the island. It didn’t take long before I realized our family had the homeschooling opportunity of a lifetime.  There were so many beautiful days enjoying the remoteness of this wilderness island. How can a child learn to know about himself, without some solitude and nature? We shared an abundance of time and relationship building together.

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