Last Day of School 2013

Last Thursday was our last day of “school.”  I put it in quotation marks because we continue doing school during the summer, we just don’t call it school.  During the summer, we do a math lesson or two each week to keep our hand in, and reading never stops in our house.  Truly, I don’t know how parents whose  children don’t like to read survive the summer.  During the hottest days of the year, my kids end up hiding out in the basement reading book after book.  But since this is just the beginning of the summer, we had to celebrate by spending the last of our last day of school camping.

We made aircraft carriers out of bark and floated them in the stream running through our campsite.

max and boatLulu and Max made “houses” complete with broom cupboard.

lulu's houseWe picked the best place for the tent, with shade . . .

tentand a view.

benny creekEarly the next morning, we ran (Lulu and Max are in the middle of a couch to 5k program.)

lulu runningAnd then we hiked  . . .

nebo from loafer trail

and did a little  cow anatomy.

cow bonesWe sat in camp and read.  Eden brought along a little last minute school work.

brett reading eden working in campIt’s a hard life, but somebody has to do it.

max

Here’s hoping your summer is starting out just as challenging!  How did you wrap up school for the year?  Please leave me a comment below.

 

 

 

 

 

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Another Great Family Hike near Escalante: The Box (Pine Creek)

On our family hiking trip to Escalante this year, we did 3 great hikes, but I can’t really recommend all of them to you.  We spent one very long day crossing the Boulder Mail Trail, including freezing in the chest deep water of Death Hollow.  I won’t recommend that one as a great family hike — it was HUGE!  But another hike, this one only about 10 miles up the Hells Backbone road outside of Escalante, I can recommend unreservedly for your family.  This easy hike up a beautiful drainage crosses a little creek through a Ponderosa forest, and could definitely done by any level of hiker.

sun coming up in the box the box -- looking upThere are two ways to hike “The Box,” which is what the Pine Creek drainage is called.  A really wonderful way to enjoy this whole trail would be to be dropped off at the top Upper Box Access point, about 19 miles from Escalante, where Pine Creek crosses the Hell’s Backbone road.  Follow the stream about 9 miles down and be picked up by a shuttle car at the Lower Box trailhead, only 10 miles up the Hell’s Backbone road.  We did not do this because after our monster hike on Thursday, we weren’t sure how much of a hike we wanted on Saturday.  Turns out, we could easily have done this as a through hike.  Instead, we hiked about 5 miles up from the Lower trailhead, then turned around and headed back to our  car.  It was a great hike, although we regretted not seeing the whole trail.

lulu crossing pine creek crossing at the boxStream crossings begin right away from the lower trailhead, and in the 5 miles we hiked, we crossed the stream 20 times. (And 20 more on the way back down.)  Many of the crossing were “rock hoppers,” and could be done without getting your feet wet (if you are coordinated–which I am not.)  There were trees across many spots as well, but all of us ended up with wet feet.  Eden grabbed a little tree to steady herself on her next-to-last stream crossing and it slowly lowered her into the stream, getting her whole side and back wet!  If only we had known in advance to turn on the video . . .

pine creekThere are many wonderful campsites along this trail, making it ideal for an easy, light (no need to carry water) overnight trip as well.

We completed our trip to The Box by driving the rest of the Hell’s Backbone road.  Of course, we had to take a picture at the Hell’s Backbone bridge, a narrow span between very steep drop-offs (Death Hollow and Sand Creek drainages.)

all of us at hells backbone

I highly recommend this trail to you and your family.  Have you started your hiking season yet?  How is spring progressing where you are?  Please leave me a comment below.

Navajo Knobs 2013

Early in March, we hiked Navajo Knobs in Capitol Reef again.  Since I’ve told you about this great hike before, I won’t write all about it again.  Instead, we let Brett be in charge of the camera, and I want to share this great picture.

picture from top of Navajo Knobs

Just showing the forever you can see from the top!

Some more hiking posts soon to come, and a little about how we wind up our homeschool year.  Hope to see you again soon!

Ocean Science at the Beach

This post could be subtitled “Why we count beach vacations as school days.”  One of the things I love about teaching my children at home is being able to recognize the real learning that comes about in the course of our lives, without worrying about catching up on busy work missed from school.  Our recent trip to the ocean really reveals how that works in our family.

We had hands on experience with ocean science last week, as we took a quick trip to Pacific Beach to revel in sunshine, warm air and beach sand.  The kids had studied up on ocean science in the few weeks before our trip, learning about currents, tides and tidepools, so they were interested in thinking about some of the things they had learned.  But mostly, they were just delighted to play at the beach.

Max and Lucy running from the waves Max running from wavesWe visited Scripps Aquarium to see fish in aquariums.  My favorite part of this aquarium is the huge kelp forest tank, where the kelp forests off the coast of San Diego are recreated.  The kids especially enjoyed the jellyfish and the sea horses, which Scripps has in abundance.

seahorse aquariumScripps also has tidepool aquariums — man made areas where we saw many of the huge variety of creatures that live in this specialized environment.

seeing tidepools at scrippsWe were able to observe the tide going in and out, something not too easy for kids living in Utah to understand.  At low tide one evening, we visited the rocks on the beaches just south of Seal Rock in La Jolla to enjoy the tide pools.  We saw many anemones, large and small, small fish caught in the tide pools, barnacles, mussels, and hundreds of hermit crabs.

tidepools at La JollaThis sort of “live” experience is better than any sort of youtube video or book reading for helping us understand what the ocean really is.  Although the huge variety available in an aquarium or seen on tv is wonderful, it doesn’t match the experience of seeing it for yourself.  Of course, we didn’t have our camera with us when we walked to the end of the pier and watched dolphins swim past under our feet.  But our eyes saw it and our hearts will remember it.

There were some parts, however, that I’m not sure how to label as school — for example, would you call this mining science?  Or perhaps spa therapy training?

lucy burying Max buried in sandAnd the only name I can think of for what we did at Balboa Park was People Watching 101.

castle van, san diegoI guess in unschooling or interest-led learning, those are perfectly practical course options!

Another very interesting lesson was learned by the older kids.  Both Brett and Eden are reading The Grapes of Wrath right now, and traveling across the desert and through Barstow to southern California really made them understand the Joad’s journey.  What we traveled in a few hours in great comfort must have been quite a trip.  Eden kept commenting about the “weirdness” of reading about Barstow in Barstow.

Anyway, it was a great break from our normal routine, and left us refreshed to finish off winter with a smile.  Do you take a mid-winter break?  What is your favorite way to continue learning during vacations?  Please leave me a comment below.

Winter Fun: Snowshoeing with Kids

The weather broke here, for a minute, and instead of highs in the 10s we had a high of 40 degrees on Friday.  We grabbed our opportunity to go try out snowshoeing.  A local town has arranged a yurt in a canyon park to rent snowshoes, and there are several miles of groomed trails to try out.  This was my first experience with snowshoeing.  Aside from re-doing Max’s straps every 5 minutes, it was great fun, and so WONDERFUL to be outside in clear air after several weeks stuck indoors.

snowshoeing

 

lulu in snow Eden snowshoeing

resting Max

Snowshoeing is hot work.  My one word of advice (since I am truly not an expert!) is don’t dress too warmly!  The kids took breaks laying in the snow to cool off.

taking a breakWe were the only people enjoying this park in the middle of Friday afternoon (yay, homeschool!) So the quiet was wonderful, and although we didn’t see any animals or birds, really, it was just great too be listening to the quiet.

wintertime creek

snowy rock

Howdy to everyone, and hope you’re enjoying your winter.

mitten salute

Reason to Homeschool #239

Reason #239:  You don’t have to share the sledding hill.

lucy on snowboard

 

eden and max

 

Share one of your favorite reasons to homeschool in the comments!

And Winter is Finally Here

We’ve been in the “blahs” of winter without any snow . . . until today.

snowy tree

Snow season has finally arrived.  Ready for some snow shoeing or cross country skiing anyone?  Just one of the ways I plan to enjoy the season this year.

sandbox snow

Hope you’re have a great start to winter.

5 Ways to Encourage Teens to Enjoy Hiking

While parents of toddlers long for the day that their kids will “just walk!” beside them, making hiking easier, parents of teenagers have their own challenges to face.  As kids grow older and more independent, their desire to make their own fun — outside of the family circle– can lead to diminished returns on family hike outings.  What can we do to help our teenagers maintain their enthusiasm for the outdoors and hiking?  Here are my ideas:

  • Let them choose the trail.  Does your teen have a special interest, such as waterfalls, mountain or desert hiking?  Perhaps he can look at hiking books from the library and find a place he would love to visit.  Let him be in charge of the choice and his enthusiasm will build.
  • Leave the younger ones at home (sometimes).  If your family, like ours, has older and younger children, try a hiking trip without the youngest members of the household.  It will allow you to fly along the trail or mosey without whines of boredom, and will set a much different pace than a “whole family” trip.  It might also allow for much longer distances to be covered, or steeper trails to be experienced.
  • Bring the Ipod.  I know, I know.  For the  full nature experience, you need the sound (or silence) of nature around you.  Teenagers in our society, however, are accustomed to a constant barrage of sound and stimuli.  If bringing the Ipod makes hiking more enjoyable for your teen, try to strike a compromise.  We allow in-ear music on the return trip.  On many of our hikes, this means we will already have spent 3 or 4 hours listening to nature or talking to each other, and are ready for some alone time.  For Brett, this means music, and the compromise makes our hiking trips more enjoyable — for all of us.
  • Don’t hike every weekend.  With school and other responsibilities growing, kids view weekends as their time to relax and be with friends.  If you can’t convince their friends to come along with you on hiking trips, (we haven’t been successful in this area) your teenagers will want some time at home to arrange their own kind of recreation.  Make sure they have that time.  If your schedule allows the flexibility, schedule some family hikes during the week when other kids are in school.  Then your kids will be available on the weekends for “normal” teenage fun.
  • Make it a big deal.  Let your kids know that you think their hiking is a big achievement, something to be valued.  Sometimes we make a big deal about our little ones doing long hikes, but how many teenagers get off the couch to do a 10 mile hike?  We can let our kids know that what they are doing is special.

Most importantly of all:

Don’t Give Up!

Teenagers are entitled to their down days.  It happens to all of us.  Hopefully, following this advice will give you more great hiking days, and put more smiles in your (trail) miles.

Do you have any great tips on keeping enthusiasm high for hiking?  Please leave me a comment below.

Upper Muley Twist — Capitol Reef National Park

Upper Muley Twist, in Capitol Reef National Park, should definitely be rated one of the most scenic.  After all, how often do you hike past 10 arches in 6 miles?  Last weekend, with snow flurries and wind chasing us to hike quickly, we hiked into the bottom of Upper Muley Twist.  We stopped at the first trailhead, although only about 1/10th of a mile to the next trailhead was rough (it was the first 1/10th, and we turned around.)  The first 2 1/2 miles to the real trailhead was easy road walking, and the first arches were spotted on that part of the hike.  Peekaboo Rock is the only arch found in the white sandstone, the rest all on the east, red sandstone side.

 

The only two arches marked on the map are Peekaboo Rock and this one, called Double Arch.

 

Keep your eyes peeled, don’t just stare at your feet, or you will walk right by some spectacular arches.

 

All of these arches are quite high on the canyon walls, as you can see in the picture below.

This one was our favorite, and is our designated lunch spot for next time we visit this hike.  It was the only one accessible to climb into, and had a wonderful alcove below it.

We definitely want to return to Upper Muley Twist soon, because we did not get to hike the rim route.  There is a loop hike that goes to the top of the canyon to see the Waterpocket Fold, and while we hiked to the top, we did not hike along the top because of the gusty wind.

We really need the perspective from the top to see the angles and beauty of this canyon.  It is definitely a “revisit soon” hike.  In the meanwhile, we are congratulating ourselves on stretching the hiking season:  this weekend was exceptionally cold and blustery for November, with 30 degree temperatures and snow squalls, along with 20 mph wind gusts.  One reason there aren’t many people pictures for this hike:  no one wanted to stand still long enough to get their picture taken.  The little kids enjoyed it, though, and Lulu bragged about wearing 3 hats!

All in all, a great trip — one we would love to repeat.

Hope you are enjoying great autumn times wherever you happen to be!  Leave me a comment below.

 

Happy Sunday

We headed south out of a big snow storm to spend this weekend hiking in alternating snow squalls and bright, windy sunshine.  This picture was taken looking down the Waterpocket fold from the top of the Upper Muley Twist.  I’ll be sharing more photos from our trip in the coming days.

We felt invigorated, challenged and brave as we hiked this weekend.  Hope yours was equally wonderful!