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?

 

Kalahari

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A view from inside the water park at Kalahari resort
As I explained in my Beginnings post, I haven’t always considered myself an unschooler. I went to my first unschooling event four months after the death of my  husband, Ian. I was always curious about the idea of unschooling, and had already become much more relaxed in my methods of schooling at home. I was excited to attend the Unschoolers Waterpark Gathering in Sandusky, Ohio at the Kalahari Resort in January of that year. I was very curious and had a lot of questions.
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Our first year attending the Unschoolers waterpark Gathering it was January, and we had snow flakes to catch while in the hot tub.
It was a fantastic experience for me. I first attended in January of 2013.  I met David Albrecht  and CIndy Gattis and soaked up as much as I could from the many speakers. I was inspired. I have always enjoyed the speakers at this event, however I”m always surprised how few parents turn up for them. Often there are several hundreds of families that register, with less than 40 parents turning up for some speakers. I suppose this means many families attend this event with just the idea of it being a holiday. However I am always looking for an opportunity to be encouraged along my path, that is what I often find at these gatherings. I was also impressed by the other children in attendance. As a group, I found them to be free spirited, independent and kind.  It ended up to be a great idea for my mom to go along with me the first year, she was impressed as well, and it gave her an educated view of unschooling.

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While it can be pricey, the food is quite delicious at the several restaurants in the Kalahari resort.
The second year I attended with my cousin. She was great fun and helped with the kids when we wanted to split up and do different activities. The kids marketplace was a lot of fun that year for us. My cousin is a great crafter, and all of us had so much fun making jewelry and crafts together. It’s a wonderful experience to see all of the hard work that goes into the  items the kids want to sell. It’s really exciting to see them set their prices, and barter with other kids for some of their wares. It’s an opportunity to buy some pottery, jewelry, soap, candles, etc., you name it the creativity is overflowing.
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Lego fun shop
UGO is set up in such a way, that there is so much to do for parents and kids, it’s sometimes hard to chose. There are fun shops, which are fun classes led by other kids. The second year we attended, BIg Z did fun shop on Littlest Pet Shops. Lil’ Z loves the lego mini figure trading fun shops best. They are different each year, but the largest is always the Nerf war. There are plenty of fun family events, like the dance party and the talent show.  We also love the chance to be involved with the Fairy God parent program. It’s so fun to give and receive gifts, and surprise each other with wonderful random acts of kindness.
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Big Z at the Marketplace selling her wares
Last year I attended with Poose, his mother,  all of our kids  and our friend, Chris.  We weren’t married yet and the idea of unschooling was very new to their family. All of us got one of the combined rooms with a full kitchen. It was a blast! It saved us a lot of money to cook in the room, it made it easy for everyone to drop in and out of the room, grab something to eat and be on their way. There was plenty of space for everyone. Perry and PeeWee having been public schooled until recently, didn’t feel comfortable with joining in a lot of the activities by themselves. They spent most of their time in the water park. It still served as a positive introduction for them into unschooling.  Poose enjoyed listening to the speakers with me and had a lot of  his questions answered.
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Poose getting a massage at the marketplace
Sadly we won’t be attending this year. The kids talk about our Kalahari waterpark Adventures all of the time. They are disappointed we won’t be going this year, but we are sure we will return. This year the Unschoolers Waterpark Gathering will be held May 22-27th. You can’t beat the rates. So please visit the website or their facebook page to learn more. For me, my very favorite part about going to Unschoolers Waterpark Gathering was the non judgmental approach of the event. I was new to the idea when I decided to first attend, I am so glad I felt welcome anyway. I have found the online communities of unschoolers to be less than welcome to new comers with questions. I have found the opposite to be true of this event. It’s a great introduction into the world of unschooling, you should check it out.

History

 

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There are so many fabulous ways to learn about events that happened in the past. Looking back on my high school experiences, History was one of my least favorite subjects. Though as an adult I love history. Historical fiction, in books and movies, is my very favorite. I also enjoy reading historical biographies and enjoy going to historical reenactments. Sad to say that is now how history was presented to me. It was given to me in large volumes of textbooks where I was forced to answer the questions at the end of the chapter in complete sentences. I had to binge on the info until I was able to purge it onto the test. I would get great scores, and I wouldn’t learn a thing, except how the system worked.

History is all around us. If I walk to the local park and read the signs along the way I learn more about the history of my neighborhood. The area where I live has a very interesting history related to the civil war. My house is old, and it has it’s own history. An professional baseball player once lived here and the town mayor when this was a busy little town. That is history that applies to me and I find fascinating. History can be brought alive in my imagination as I learn more about where I live and the people that lived here before me.
Traveling also brings many opportunities to learn history. We often go camping and stay in State Parks. There is usually some sort of historical museum or house at each of the parks we visit. Recently we went to Croft State Park,SC and learned about it’s history in relation to World War II.It was used as a prisoner of war camp. This brought up some interesting discussions for our family. Most towns have great learning opportunities. We have a fantastic history museum as well as many historical homes that offer tours. My children and I thoroughly enjoy living history events. We love getting into the feel of what it must have been like to live in the past.
Our children enjoy watching movies, the older girls are currently watching ROOTS. We also enjoyed watching the PBS series, Mercy Street, together.  I find it interested as an adult to realize that many of the “facts” I was taught in school, weren’t true by any means. It’s good to look back and learn from our past. But it’s good to have accurate information, unfortunately school text books are often filled with out of date and false information.
I’ve discussed a few ways our family enjoyed learning history. What are some of your favorite time periods to learn about? How does your family go about learning from the past? Do you have any favorite historical dramas or books you’d like to recommend?