Camping, Travel and Learning

fire
photo by @_zphotoz_

Growing up my family moved a lot. I lived in several places in Pennsylvania, Maryland, Nebraska and now in Tennessee. However it wasn’t until I was with Ian in my twenties that I really got the chance to travel and really see places. Places that were out of my comfort zone like Mexico, Italy, England, Portugal, and Spain. Now Ian is gone but he passed a love of travel, learning and exploring along to me and our children. As a single parent, I enjoyed finding new adventures with my children and made it a goal to travel with them out of the country to get out of my box. Now with our new blended family, I’m so happy to have found someone else that shares my desire to camp, travel and learn. We’ve only been a new family for about a year but at the end of this month we’ll have camped in 10 different states together. It’s been a real blessing.

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Photo by @_zphotoz_ on Instagram

My favorite part about camping is the opportunity to be out in nature and away from the hustle and bustle. I try to lead a simple life at home, however with 4 kids it still ends up to be busy and hectic at times. I welcome the change of scenery and pace of life that camping brings. I love the chance to connect with nature. Being in the trees and near the water makes a world of difference for my mental well being. The kids tend to put down their electronic devices, get on their bikes and seem to be open to more conversation. We are able to work as a family/team to set up the camper and do the cooking. There are less distractions and more focus and quiet time which we all enjoy. There is something about being away that gives you a new perspective on your everyday anxieties.

Traveling opens our eyes to the world around us. I have found by visiting different areas we become more tolerant and accepting of differences, as well as each other. Traveling teaches patience, you can’t just snap your fingers and be at your new destination, it takes time. Our kids enjoy their electronic devices on the way, don’t get me wrong. When we first started taking trips together there would often be frustrated huffing, and complaining along the way. I’m pleased to say they seemed to have found a way to enjoy the process and give up the negativity (most of the time). We’ve also found ways to use the car ride as a bonding time. We sometimes play games together, or listen to songs or books on tape. Just a little bit of effort and planning can make a world of difference for a long road trip.

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Taken at Croft State Park by @z_photoz_

As I’ve stated a bzillion times before, learning happens all of the time. It’s not contained by the walls of a classroom. Learning happens everyday, you just can’t stop it. I find traveling and camping to be an exercise in teamwork, cooperation, patience, and simplicity. There are valuable skills that will last a lifetime. When life slows down I’ve noticed that often new books are pulled off the shelves and read in an afternoon, and new projects are started and new skills learned. This is done by their choosing, at their will. This kind of learning stays with you and changes who you are, makes you a better person.

 

We have some big changes and exciting things planned for our family over the next year. It makes me nervous and excited to see things coming together. We hope to keep expanding in our travels and spend more time with our kids learning and exploring every step of the way. I have enjoyed this past week participating in the Write Tribe challenge. It has given me the chance to catch up in sharing our camping adventures over the last year. I hope you will keep joining us for our journeys.

What are you favorite places to travel with your family? What have you learned? Suggestions where we should camp next?

 

Cooking and Camping

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Using our Lodge cast iron Dutch Oven

There are different kinds of campers in this world. Some are more “glampers”, they like to have every bell and whistle and TV’s outside and A/C and every luxury when they are camping. So these kinds of campers usually have really nice campers and it feels like home away from home. The other type of campers are the more rugged type, that don’t mind getting dirty, cooking over an open fire and sleeping under the stars. I would say our family is a perfect mix of the two. We came from two different camping philosophies to find peace in a new one that works for us, together.

 

Poose and his family have always brought their own pre-packaged foods for camping. So they would use their outside kitchen on their camper and make cans beans and boxes of macaroni and cheese. Me and my kids on the other hand have always cooked over the fire for our food. We’ve made hobo dinners that we’ve thrown in the coals and roasted food on sticks, etc. So it was unique when we came together to find a way to handle our meals for camping that met in the middle.

 

For our wedding my mom got us a large Lodge castiron 14″ dutch oven.I was excited to try it out for our family of 6 on our camping trips. We read the little book that came with it and it explained how you use the coals underneath and on the lid to do the cooking on the inside. We tested it out on a few of our recent camping trips and we are hooked. It makes the most delicious meals and is very easy to do. I highly recommend using the liners for easy cleanup. I have also found the lid lifter and the lid stand to be helpful in avoiding burns.

 

campfire cooking 2
Cheese Enchilada Casserole

Our favorite recipes are easy and have become staples when we go camping. One of the easiest is a cheese enchilada casserole. You simply layer enchilada sauce with corn tortillas, cheese, beans (kidney and/or black beans) onion and some taco seasoning. It doesn’t take long before it’s bubbling and smells so delicious. We top it with some green onion and sour cream and we never have any leftover.

 

Potato corn chowder is another winner. We simply add onions, potatoes and vegetable stock with seasoning to the dutch over. It’s not long before it’s bubbling and we let the potatoes soften then we add a bag of frozen corn. When everything is cooked through we sometimes add some milk or cream. It’s delicious when served with a dollop of sour cream.

campfire cooking 3
Potato and corn chowder

We try to eat organic whole foods as often as we possibly can. Camping is no exception to the rule. We have found using the cast iron dutch oven to be the perfect helper for making delicious healthy meals that we all like. Perry is gluten free and Big Z and I are vegetarian, so we find meals that works for all of us in one pot. All of us have been satisfied with cooking this way during our camping adventures. We all look forward to filling ourselves on these delicious concoctions. I’ve not had anything turn out where we didn’t eat it. so this makes me happy.

I feel good about camping and cooking this way. We bring our own dishes, we prefer not to use paper plates because of the wast it creates. Camping doesn’t have to be about convenience food and paper plates. It can be fun to cook around the fire, as well as healthy. We have found cooking large meals in the dutch over to be a life saver for our large family.

 

What is your favorite way to eat when camping? Do you have any go to family favorites when camping? Do you prefer to cook inside a camper or out under the stars? Have you ever tried a Dutch Oven, have any  helpful hints for me?

 

 

A-Z Reflections on Organic Learning

reflectionsI started blogging, what seems like, centuries ago. I’ve been on and off in keeping up with my blog. Life has thrown me some hard punches which have knocked me down, the largest of those that influenced the demise of my blog was Ian dying. He was my technological wizard, he helped with me everything in regards to my blog and website. After he passed I went through a great period of struggle trying to understand how to keep my blog and business going. It has taken me three years to get my blog back up and running. Of course, during the process I’ve lost so many readers and feel like I’m starting from scratch all over again. My good friend helped me get my blog switched to WordPress and encouraged me to get back on track with my blogging by diving into the A-Z blogging challenge. I’m grateful she did, I’ve enjoyed it immensely.

 

I picked the topic of organic learning or unschooling as my topic for the month. I started with A and ended with Z. I think it was a fantastic adventure for me. I hope it sets me back on track for building my readership and posting regularly.

 

So I’ll share with you what I wrote about this month. I’ll give you a brief recap for each post, but don’t be shy click through and read what tickles your fancy.  Maybe you have never heard of organic learning or unschooling. If so, then let me introduce you:

Answers-Here I explain the definition of unschooling and where living a life where you direct the learning is quite exciting.

Beginnings-I discuss how my journey into organic learning began, how my life situation landed me where I was looking for some different answers, and how my background in public education helped me make some decisions.

Cooking-I focus on learning in the kitchen and it’s vast benefits to children.

Deschool– We all have beliefs and thoughts that we have to undo. We have ingrained ideas,  that are hurting us, get rid of them.

Education by Exploration– The best way to learn is to dive in and explore. Learn how.

Find Your Flow– When a child finds a project of their own picking, and becomes completely immersed their potential for growth and learning is amazing.

Grief (and learning)- Grief affects learning and memory. Patience and emotional safety are a necessity during these stressful times.

History-Learning history without a text book, can it be true? It is, and it’s wonderful!

Individuality-Education for the masses sometimes produces cookie cutter children. Your child is an individual and their education should be as different as they are.

Joy-Learning can be fun, seriously.

Kalahari-I wrote a review of our experience with the Unschoolers Waterpark Gathering at Kalahari resort. Good times!

Life Skills– Children learn what they live. Having our children by our side as we go about our daily lives teaches them so much.

Mentors-Finding a trusted adviser can lead your child down some great learning paths, perhaps even a career path.

Nature– Up close and personal interactions with nature teach us about science, compassion, mercy and so much more. Read our experiences.

Outdoors– I write about the benefits of being outdoors. As Charlotte Mason says,  “Never be indoors when you can rightly be without.”

Play-Play and learning cannot be separated. Give your children unstructured play everyday and watch them flourish.

Quelf-I write about learning from a wild and crazy game that helps with family bonding and relationships.

Resources– This is a valuable list of my favorites in the organic learning /unschooling community. Complete with links to videos, websites and stories of success.

Strewing-Have you heard of strewing? Learn about the art of strewing for any homeschool family.

TV-There is much debate about the TV in the homes. Have you ever learned anything from the television? My guess is you have. I discuss the TV as a learning tool.

Unique-Value an education where uniqueness and diversity is appreciated. It’s important to know your child’s differences and celebrate them.

Volunteer– Volunteering has countless benefits to children and families in general. Look how it’s helped our family.

Worldschooling– Explore the idea of having the world as your classroom. Meet some worldschoolers and learn from their experiences.

XOXO– Everyone needs hugs and kisses, even teens. Learn how to provide that right amount of physical affection for every kid.

YES!– In this post I encourage you to consider the option of YES. See how it helps.

Zany– Homeschoolers are often accused of being odd, or zany. I discuss the homeschool stereotype.

 

The A-Z challenge was great for me. I feel proud of the posts I wrote, I only wish more people were reading them. I am grateful for the new readers, and the love that has been shown by pressing that little like button at the bottom. It’s the simple things in life. I have read some great blogs from the challenge, that I will continue to read. I’ve enjoyed the process, and I hope this had given me a step in the right direction. So to my fellow A-Z bloggers, I hope to see you next year, and don’t be a stranger.