Education Thru Travel

Pretty much everything we do provides a learning opportunity for the girls.  So when we plan travel, we like to make sure it’s something we will all enjoy.

In the past, we have made our travel plans and then simply looked forward to what was in store.  This time I’ve decided to change it up a bit and will have the girls work on some projects leading up to travel time.

For those who have been following my blog since the beginning of the year, you are aware that one of our favorite ways to travel is by boat.  To be exact, by cruise ship.

During our cruise in February, we booked two more cruises.  Since then, hubby and I have spent quite a bit of time discussing our plans and decided to change them completely.

No, this doesn’t mean we’ve cancelled the cruises.  That would be crazy!!!!!

We simply changed the cruises.

Both cruises will be to the Caribbean, which is my favorite winter destination.

This winter we will be traveling again on Allure of the Seas.


This time though we’ll be heading to Haiti, Jamaica and Mexico.

The following winter we will be on Royal Caribbean’s newest ship, Symphony of the Seas.

Image result for symphony of the seas

She is so new in fact, that she is still being built and won’t sail until Spring, 2018.  Cruises will begin in Mediterranean before she sails to the U.S. in October, 2018.

On Symphony we’ll visit St. Kitts, St. Thomas and the Bahamas.

So what kinds of things can the girls be learning between now and our cruises?

  1.  How cruise ships are built?
  2.  History and facts on each of the islands we will be visiting.
  3.  Caribbean sea life.
  4.  Caribbean geography.

The possibilities are endless.



Homeschooling Made Easier

When hubby and I discussed the possibility that we might be moving out of Illinois to Texas, one of the first things I did was research homeschooling.  Illinois was (and still is) a very homeschool friendly state.  The last thing I wanted to do was move to a state that would be problematic for our homeschool family.

Fortunately, Texas is also a homeschool friendly state, but I’ve discovered that homeschooling is made easier living in Texas (specifically the DFW area).

The number of options for homeschoolers is almost overwhelming.  There are co-ops, groups, classes, field trips, etc. specifically for homeschoolers.

The girls and I recently took advantage of a class/field trip opportunity at Dogwood Canyon Audubon Center.    I recently learned about the center from another FB homeschool group and discovered they host a monthly homeschool day.  The cost is quite reasonable and it was only a 40 minute drive (would have been shorter without traffic).

In the morning, they taught the kids about adaptation, most specifically bird adaptation.

The kids were asked to identify bird feet and discuss why they might be shaped the way they are.

They were then presented with some bird wings and asked to identify the wings.  They discussed the shape and span of the wings and how the birds adapt to the environment they live in.


We also examined a couple of bird nests before moving on to meet two turtles – one a land turtle and the other a water turtle.  Again, we examined their feet and their bodies to learn more about how they have adapted to their environments.

Following the class on adaptation, the kids participated in a craft project, each creating their own bird to take home.

Then we were off on a hike to learn more.


Along the way we met a new friend.


We just stayed out of his way and he stayed out of ours.  Overall, a friendly meeting.

Along the way, we stopped and learned about some of the fungi growing on the downed trees.  We saw, what looked like a fox den.  Our hike also included a scavenger hunt for things like butterflies, snails, tree limbs shaped like the letter Y, pink or purple flowers, etc.

We hiked about a 1/2 mile up the canyon and this was our view.

Then we headed back down the canyon to have lunch.

The afternoon class was how to identify trees using a Dichotomous Key.  We broke up into small teams to identify marked trees around the center.


Like I said, Dogwood Canyon is just one of many homeschool opportunities around the DFW area.  Several libraries host different homeschool programs.  Local museums offer homeschool classes.  Some local amusement parks also offer homeschool specific events.  For a matter-of-fact, the girls and I plan to participate in a couple different ones next month.

Six Flags over Texas has a Homeschool Day coming up which includes a Math, Physics and/or Texas History workbooks.

Heritage Farmstead Museum has an upcoming Homeschool Day.

Making a major move can certainly be challenging, so I feel fortunate that we moved to an area which provides so many more homeschool opportunities than we had before.




Homeschool Dreams

Lili loves studying history.  Naomi is just okay studying history, but her study of the fall of Rome and the rise of the Renaissance seems to capture her interest a little more.

Image result for history

Lili is studying Victoria’s Empire currently, and their studies makes planning a European vacation more appealing than ever.

My homeschooling dream has been some book study at home, with travel to help the girls better understand what they have learned.  So completing our history studies this year followed by a trip to visit some of the places they have been learning about will help fulfill my home school dream.

Teach Them to Be Life-Long Learners

I could create a pretty long list of what I love about homeschooling.  However, this post is specific about today.

Monday mornings we have started going to the park for a couple of hours of play.  While I would love to do this on a daily basis, Mondays are the only day of the week where we typically don’t have anything else going on.  So we head to the park, come home, have lunch, then do school work.

Most days, the girls get thru their school work within a couple of hours.  Some days it take longer.  Then there are days like today.  One struggles and her anxiety gets the best of her.  The other just can’t stay focused.  We try to push thru, but the truth is, neither of the girls can learn well under these circumstances.

Instead of forcing either of them to push thru, we simply ended our day.

As adults, we go thru the same thing.  We can’t focus on work.  We’re feeling stress about work or something outside work that doesn’t allow us to be as productive as we need to be.  We’re tired.  We’re bored.  We need a break.  We need a vacation.

Kids aren’t any different, except they aren’t physically, mentally or emotionally mature enough to push thru.  Sometimes, what they really need is a day to unwind.  They need time to focus on something else.  In some cases, they need more physical activity to shake off the cobwebs.  Many times, they need to ignore the books and learn by being outside.  Maybe they need to go to a museum or the zoo.  Maybe they need to paint or draw or play a board game.

Apparently, living in Texas means that on October 17th, it’s near 90 degrees.  The girls completed as much school work as their bodies and minds would allow and are now very happily swimming and playing in the pool.  They weren’t forced to doing more than they were capable of doing today and I’m not in the least bit worried that they’ll fall behind as a result.  After all, tomorrow is a new day and after a day of additional exercise and hopefully a good night of sleep, they will likely be in a much better place to focus and learn.  If not, we’ll switch it up and doing something more fun and exciting.  Regardless, they still be learning, but they’ll be learning because their minds and bodies are where they need to be to learn.

Flexibility and understanding is what each of them needs to be successful.  After all, my role in all of this is to teach them how to become life-long learners.  That doesn’t require sitting at a table or desk with their noses in book.

Image result for homeschooling life long learners

Where Does Your Garden Grow

I’m thinking a Botany class should be part of our homeschool program this year 😉


No soil necessary.  It’s the hallmark of hydroponic gardening, plants held in place while their roots dangle in nourishing water.

IKEA is using is mass marketing capabilities to bring this, newly miniaturized, technology to the masses. 

It is with the idea that it should be affordable to grow your own food.  An aspiring gardener can suit up and get to it, even in a high-rise apartment building, for around $50.

The system is a basic grow tray with small pods to put your seeds in.  Once seeded, keep an eye on the water level and make sure they get enough light.  You’ll have veggies soon.

One of the scientists that worked with IKEA to help create the hydroponic system is Helena Karlén, lecturer at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences.  She reveals the challenge “to make growing plants in a hydroponic system simple, so that anyone could succeed,” adding, “we were also very interested, not only that they grow, but also the taste… they should taste good, very good actually.”

Vertically farming vegetables and living in the city just got synergistic on the cheap.

**Published – Beta Minds**

RV Dreaming and Planning

Later this month we will be heading up to Chicago to attend the Chicago RV and Camping show.  This is a huge RV event in Illinois and it will give us the opportunity to take a close look at some of the RV’s that interest us.

We have discussed and considered pretty much every type of RV . . . . .

A pop-up camper.

A travel trailer

5th wheel
Class C

Class A

Choosing the right RV means knowing how you will use it.  For us that will mean primarily weekend camping trips with a couple longer trips during the year, as well as a couple longer trips with just me and the kids.

Some of those weekend trips will include visits to see our oldest son who will join us for the day at the campground.   With 2 adults, 4 kids and 3 dogs as well as a guest or 2 or 3 from time-to-time, having enough room is important to us.

A pop-up and a small travel trailer could work for us in some cases, but on those rainy and/or stormy camping days, we will quickly begin to feel claustrophobic.  Because we don’t have a vehicle that will tow anything more than a pop-up or small travel trailer, we can rule out a 5th wheel as well as mid to large size travel trailers.

Another consideration is homeschooling.  I do year round school with the girls and RV travel is wonderful for the homeschool family.  Having a comfortable way to travel and do school work, especially during those longer cross-country trips is important to us.  A Class C or Class A would make a wonderful mobile classroom providing us with the comfort and room we need.  With seatbelts at the RV kitchen table, the girls can easily complete their work so when we reach our destination we are ready to explore and enjoy our camping experience.

While we think we already know what we want, the RV show should help us to solidify our decision and hopefully sometime in the next 8 weeks, I will be able to share pictures of our new home on wheels.


Polar Opposites

Some people seem to have very little difficulty making decision, even big ones.

Hubby and I use to be those people, but it seems that those days are over.  The decisions we make now, especially the big ones, take a lot of thought and consideration.  If something in our life changes, we have to re-address our decision and make sure it’s the right choice for us.

Recently, something has happened that has caused us to once again re-evaluate our homesteading decision  Not because we don’t want to homestead.  Not because we think homesteading is a bad idea – to the contrary.  We’ve had to re-address due to health issues and in re-addressing the homestead, we’ve begun to re-address another topic that we put to sleep some time ago.  The thing is, these two topics seem to be the polar opposite of each other, so it may not make sense, but let me explain.

A few years ago, hubby began experiencing low back pain.  Not just the back pain one might get from a hard day of work, but severe back pain.  The kind of pain that made it extremely painful to sit and impossible to stand.  The kind of pain that landed him in the hospital for 2-3 days on strong pain killers.  Eventually a physical therapist came in to work with him on stretching and strengthening his back, then he was sent home.

Unfortunately, his back put him in the hospital 1 or 2 more times after that and a couple of times he has been bedridden at home to try to avoid another trip to the hospital.

As we have made plans for our homestead, hubby’s back problems have been kept in the front of our minds.  In an effort to improve his back, he has been making changes.  Then a couple of weeks ago hubby was doing some work around the house and since that time he has been suffering more back pain.  By last Friday the pain was getting pretty severe.  He was using a cane to get around and trying to rest it as much as possible.  Saturday was worse so I cancelled my plans for that evening as he was unable to lift FS2.

Hubby’s back problems could not be ignored and I suggested that we rethink our homesteading plans.  There is a lot of work that needs to be done daily on a homestead and if his back was unable to handle the work required around our house, we certainly couldn’t pretend it would be fine doing all the physical labor farm work requires.

And it’s not just hubby.  I’ve been going to physical therapy for months because of my knees (arthritis) and hand (tendonitis).  My problems aren’t as limiting, but there is no way to predict the future.

Where is that crystal ball when you need it?

Without the crystal ball, we needed to re-evaluate.

Does it make sense to pack up and move to a home in the country or does it make more sense to stay put?  We have our garden here, but we can’t have animals.  At this point,  other than chickens, we aren’t sure what animals may be in our future now.  We have to determine if the time and expense of buying a home, selling a home, and moving will be more beneficial than staying where we are, especially if the only animals we will be raising are chickens.

As hubby and I discussed our options, we began discussing another option for our family.  It was an option we had put to rest some time ago, because it just wasn’t in line with the homesteading lifestyle we were planning.  For a matter-of-fact, in many ways it is the polar opposite of homesteading.  However, it’s something we had considered long before we decided to homestead.  It was something we considered before we adopted the girls.  It was something we considered again after the girls came home.  It was something we considered after I began homeschooling the girls.  When we set our sights on homesteading, we let the other option die.

In our decision to homestead, we knew we would be giving up or at least greatly reducing the amount of time we would travel.  We enjoy traveling, especially me!  I love seeing new places!  I love going to visit friends and family!  I love the educational opportunities that travel provides!  I enjoy meeting new people and seeing how differently, yet how much alike we all are!

Unless you have someone who can care for the homestead while you’re gone, travel time is limited or obsolete.  Even if you have someone who can care for the homestead while you’re gone, travel time is still limited.  We discussed the fact that our days of travel may end with the homestead lifestyle we wanted to live and it was a sacrifice we were willing to make.  But with the homestead plans now in jeopardy, we began to again discuss the option of travel in our future.  Specifically, RV travel.

Homesteading + RVing = Polar Opposites!

Okay maybe not polar opposites.  After all, homesteading would allow us to spend a lot of time in the great outdoors and RVing certainly allows us to spend a lot of time in the great outdoors.  RVing just gives us an opportunity to spent that time enjoying nature in places other than our own back yard.

Both would provide us plenty of learning opportunities.

Homesteading would allow us to raise our own food.  RVing would allow us to spend time at lakes catching fish for dinner.  Not a great comparison there 🙂

The fact is, I’ve always looked at these two things very differently.  Homesteading being the right way to live and RVing being the wrong way to live.  But after a lot of discussion with hubby over the weekend, I came to the realization that life if meant to be lived.  For a matter-of-fact I said to hubby, “Life is meant to be lived”.  One isn’t better or worse than the other.  They are just different ways of living and enjoying life.  If hubby’s back won’t allow us to live the homestead lifestyle as we planned, it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t enjoy our life another way.  We can still garden here and raise a lot of our own food.  Sadly, we can’t raise meat 😦 but the food we raise can go on the road with us and we can fish lakes and hit farmer’s markets along the way for meat and eggs.

As we considered RVing after I started homeschooling the girls, one thing that truly excited me was all the educational opportunities we could create on the road.  Loading up the RV and heading to places we had just studied in books.

Learning about Mt. Rushmore and then going to see it.

Studying the Civil War while traveling in the RV then stopping at Fort Sumter National Monument

Manassas National Battlefield Park


or many other sites to help then better understand the Civil War.

We could study the history of the U.S. while traveling up and down the east coast visiting many historical sites.

Studying a specific state and then going to visit that state.

Learning Native American history then finding ourselves at the Aztec Ruins in New Mexico

or Mesa Verde National Park

Doing a science lesson on the ocean and then camping on the beach to discover all we can about the ocean, sea life, and sand.

Along the way they would learn history, geography and science.  They would exercise their math skills as we talk about how many miles or how much time it takes to get from place to place.  They would improve their reading skills thru their studies in the RV and at each site we visit along the way.  The opportunities to learn in this environment are immense!

While homesteading and RVing may seem to be polar opposites, there are good things to be found in both.  I’m sad to think that our homesteading dream may be coming to an end.  I’m excited to once again explore the possibilities of RV travel.  Until then, we’ll see where life takes us and if we’re lucky, we may just be able to experience both of these dreams one day.



It’s All Good and Wonderful

They were all talking about it.  All the meteorologists that is.  States to the north and west of us got hit hard and it was heading our way.  During the wee hours of the morning, we had thunder, lightening, rain and wind.  Fortunately though, it was mostly a lot of noise with somewhere between 1.5 – 2.0 inches of rain.  We very much-needed the rain though, so it was very welcome.

With my little anxiety attack over a possible Derecho behind me, life went on as usual.   Homeschool, riding lessons, laundry, cooking, cleaning, yada, yada, yada.  Then today we went on our weekly outing with the homeschool group.  We so look forward to our weekly get-togethers.  None of us know from week to week what we’ll learn and today was an awesome learning experience.

WP_000545 WP_000548

One of the families in our group took in two orphaned baby raccoons and the girls were in awe.  Actually, Lili was a bit frightened.  After all, they do have long sharp claws and he was trying to hold on to Lili just like he would mama raccoon.  Naomi, on the other hand, couldn’t get enough of these babies.  Typically it’s the other way around with my girls.  They got to learn about feeding the babies, stimulating them to pee, and how to hold them.  The kids went to the creek, caught minnows and fed them to the babies.

Then it was time for the babies to leave.  They will be going to a nature preserve and wildlife area to be cared for, but what a wonderful learning experience for the kids.  It was a special treat and yet another reminder of how awesome it is to be a homeschool family.

**For those who may be wondering about the marks on Naomi’s pretty little face, she has apparently hit that clumsy stage.  She fell on the sidewalk skinning her forehead, nose and knee.  A few days later she fell on the sidewalk again pulling the scab off her knee.  Then a few days after that she fell again and skinned her other knee.  This is going to be a very long summer and I obviously need to buy stock in Band-Aid.**

Education Brought to Us By Nature

During warmer weather, many member of our local homeschool group have a weekly get-together at a local park for fun and exploration.  There is play equipment for those who want to play.  There are some woods with trails and a small creek for those who want to explore.  It’s a big beautiful park, just perfect for our group.

We were only able to join the group a couple of times last fall before the weather got too cold and everyone retreated to warmer meeting places. Last week we joined the group for the first time this year and all three of us looked forward to being there again today.

It’s been very good for my girls, especially my oldest, who needs time to warm up to new people and new situations. She definitely enjoys staying in her comfort zone. Her safe place. Unfortunately, staying in that place isn’t always the best and last week, when her little friend didn’t show up to the park, she became a bit anxious. That someone, who makes her feel comfortable, was not there and she was not happy. She was being forced to move outside that box of security and I wasn’t sure she would leave, but she did. It took some time, but she began engaging with other kids and by the end of the afternoon she had created new friendships.

This week she was a different kid. She seemed to have a new-found independence and she began to soar. She ran off with kids she had not played with in the past and there were many smiles and much laughter. One of the boys was celebrating his 8th birthday and brought some fun equipment for exploring nature.  With my girls and some other kids tagging along, they headed down to the creek in search of natures treasures.  Several minutes later excitement exploded like fireworks on the 4th of the July.  They had caught a snake.  Okay, my girls didn’t actually participate in the catching of the snake, but they were there watching as the snake was caught and placed in a net and brought back for the moms to see. My oldest was beaming with excitement, while my youngest was beaming with uncertainty.  Should she be excited or frightened?  She just wasn’t sure.  My oldest touched the snake and allowed it to wrap itself around her hand.  My youngest sat back watching and talking about the danger of this non-venomous snake as the adults explained all the positive attributes of this particular snake.

These are the kind of homeschooling experiences I want for my girls. Experiences that allow them to learn thru childhood exploration. Experiences that leave an impression. I want them to look back on their education and remember that day at the park when the snake was caught and how they examined the snake, one up close and the other from a distance. These are the kind of experiences that  trigger interest and that interest creates opportunity for learning.  Today’s experience most certainly leading to a study of snakes.

We will continue to meet at the park as often as we can. My girls will build friendships, create memories and experience education brought to us by nature.

Lili closely examining the snake.
Lili closely examining the snake.

Why Homeschooling is Best

I started this blog post several days ago after reading a post from a mom who shared her reasons why it’s okay not to homeschool.  Her post was not homeschooling bashing.  She was simply stating her reasons for choosing not to homeschool and why those reasons are okay.

For many years, homeschool moms and dads have been in the position of explaining and/or defending their choice to homeschool. So I actually found it interesting that a mom, who chose to send her child to public school, felt the need to express why it’s okay not to homeschool.  However, more than anything, her post got me thinking about all the reasons why my choice to homeschool is okay and I was going to blog about it.

My bulleted list of all the great reasons I homeschool bean to flow onto the page, but it didn’t feel right. I deleted my list and started again, but couldn’t seem to find the right words and decided to put the blog post aside for another day. Then, while visiting a local museum today, I realized exactly what I wanted to say.

This particular museum is not open to the public on Mondays during the school year and today they opened so homeschool moms and dads could bring their kids in for a private visit.  Instead of sending my kids off to school (or at least Lili, since Naomi is not yet school-age), we were together. We were having fun and learning ‘together.’  My girls spent time with other homeschoolers from their co-op,  while I enjoyed the company of other moms.  All of us supervising and enjoying time with our children.  As I stood there watching my girls, it suddenly hit me.   My list of reasons why I homeschool is wonderful and they are very valid reasons. Ultimately though, I chose homeschooling because it is best for my children and our family and what other reason could I possibly need!