Camping, Travel and Learning

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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?

 

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.

 

Outdoors

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There are so many benefits to being outdoors it’s hard to contain it into one small post. We know the health benefits of getting our Vitamin D by soaking up the sun’s rays. We often can feel the mental rewards by a change in our attitude once we have breathed in some fresh air. I know when I”m feeling overwhelmed by my day, a nice walk outside does me a world of good. It can do the same for our children.

I saw a lovely little video on my facebook feed this morning that discusses benefits of getting outside and hiking. One fact that was new to me, was the benefit of improved creativity and problem solving skills. I think we could all benefit from that, and it wasn’t a small increase either. We are talking a 50% increase in their problem solving abilities. That’s amazing! Being outdoors changes your brain in positive ways.

“Never be indoors when you can rightly be without.”-Charlotte Mason 
Charlotte Mason encourages 4-6 hours a day of outdoor time for the youngest of learners. While we don’t meet that mark on a daily basis, I do agree that this allows children to have a quiet growing time. Often technology takes over our lives much too easily. While I think technology provides so many benefits, it is hard to escape from it. I often feel frustrated just trying to eat a meal at a restaurant without several TV’s blaring across the room.  I love to pack up a simple lunch and eat it at the park.
Our family has bonded a great deal this last year over trying our hand with kayaking and paddle boarding. We have all learned patience, persistence and balance in the process. We have laughed and have found a great peace at being out on the lake with the stillness of the water. We have also enjoyed outdoor adventures at many of the State Parks  when we go camping. Some of our favorites have been Fall Creek Falls, Interstate Breaks Park and Santee State Park.
Being outdoors provides endless opportunities for learning. We can observe wildlife and the clouds passing the sky. This often slows us down a bit and gives us time for reflection. This can be really beneficial for impulsive children and helps us become more attentive. Being outside wards off depression and can help us have a positive mental outlook. I love how spending time outdoors, camping or hiking, helps me reconnect with myself. I feel more at peace and relaxed, and can be a more patient person as a result.
We bought some started plants for our garden yesterday. So off I go to plant some herbs with the kids and spend some time outdoors. What do you like to do outdoors? What benefits has it brought your family?