Did you know that pecans are a fruit? Did you know that pecan trees take 10-12 years to become fully grown, about 10-15 years to begin producing pecans and they can produce them for around 100 years?

These are all facts that around two dozen area homeschool students and their parents learned during a nature study Wednesday afternoon at Copperas Cove’s South Park.

“I mean, I didn’t know that pecans were a fruit,” said Stephen Clark, a 16-year-old homeschool student from Copperas Cove.

Stephen and his 13-year-old sister, Lilyanna, have been homeschooled for their entire lives.

Since the summer, Jennifer Morello of Christian Homeschool Educators’ Support System, also known as CHESS, has led nature studies that are open to all homeschool students.

For Stephen, Wednesday’s nature study was the first one he has attended, and he said it was interesting.

“Really, for me, it’s something that I’ve always wanted to do with my kids, and it keeps me wanting to do it when all the other kids come out,” Morello said.

The weekly nature studies normally draw a crowd of about 40 to 50 students, even those who are not a member of CHESS, Morello explained.

“The community has really opened up a lot this year for us,” Morello said.

After learning about the tree and the pecan itself, the students had an opportunity to draw a pecan in their nature study notebooks using a picture of a cross-section of a pecan as their guide.

After that, they embarked on a nature walk around the trail at South Park looking for their own pecans.

CHESS is a ministry designed to meet the educational, spiritual, social, and academic needs of homeschooling families in the Central Texas Area, according to the organization’s website: www.chesshomeschoolers.org.

The organization serves homeschool students from all over Central Texas, including Killeen, Fort Hood, Harker Heights, Gatesville, Kempner, Lampasas and Copperas Cove.

Along with doing the weekly nature studies, CHESS members do co-op classes on Friday’s from 9:30 to 2 p.m. They also go on field trips.

The organization also holds parties and has parents nights out.

One of the things about homeschooling Stephen Clark said he likes is that it is not a classroom setting.

“You get special attention to the problems that you have with each given subject,” he said.

His mother, Desirae, said it also affords them the opportunity to travel, where every trip ends up being a history lesson.

“When you’re a homeschool family, it’s a lifestyle of learning,” Desirae said.

Parents of a homeschool student interested in becoming a member of CHESS can sign up on the website. Morello’s phone number is listed on the website for those who need to reach her.

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