The opportunity we have had to visit some of the most beautiful places in this country has been priceless. Going to national parks has somehow become a part of what we do. We had no idea when we started out on this crazy adventure that going to national parks was to become such an integral part of our whole experience. They are all so unique and amazing, each one is different and we are surprised to keep finding that we love all of them. Visiting them with our children has created some unforgettable memories for our entire family. Having our kids right there with us is not always easy, but totally worth every moment.
Many things have changed in our lives since we have been on the road full time. My children have always been home-schooled so the transition to road-schooling has been easy enough, but there are some big differences in our daily routine. I want to share with you some of our biggest changes, some of these we expected and others we did not, but so far it has been a great experience.
1. Daddy Time- The fact that we now get to share all of our learning experiences together as a family has been awesome. We don’t have to say good-bye to Daddy every morning and then bombard him with all the days activities the minute he walks in the door at night. He is there to share the day with us. He gets to participate in all the fun (and not so fun) things we do each day. There is no more “Daddy we wish you could have been there,” because he is there.
To homeschool or not to homeschool? I think this may be a question more parents are asking themselves as the time to enroll their child(ren) in public school approaches. I did not really consider homeschool myself at first. Although, I think as a populous we can all see that the public school system is failing. Many parents would prefer a private school, and even charter schools seem to be gaining popularity as an alternative when homeschooling just is not an option for working parents. My husband and I always kind of knew in the back of our minds that we would probably need to supplement at home what we felt our children would be missing out on at school. However, when my oldest child turned four I decided it was time for him to start learning to read. I have been able to read since the age of three so I knew it was possible and saw no reason to wait until he began school, not to mention the kid loved being read to.
So the lessons began. I will admit it was somewhat daunting at first. Nothing is easy when first learning it, and being the oldest I think he didn’t really think a child could read. Most days we would practice letter recognition, when he had this task accomplished we moved on to sounds, next came putting sounds together, and the progression to full on reading shortly followed. He was able to read very well by his fifth birthday, and with this came the idea that if I could teach him to read why not just teach him myself at home. So I did. Continue reading
This year is the 100th anniversary of the national parks. There is also a really great program that started last year where all fourth graders can visit national parks and public lands for free. We somehow lucked out on this as our oldest is technically a fourth grader this year! It has been great so far on our adventure to have the opportunity to visit so many of these special places. Another great program they have is the Junior Ranger Program. This is a program that I feel really gets the kids excited to learn more about our protected lands. As a homeschooling mother I am always happy to expand on our education in a fun way.
When making the decision to go on the road our children’s education was a major factor in the overall plan. Since we were already homeschooling there weren’t any worries about taking them out of school to consider. Our thought was that learning the state capitol’s by visiting each one beats finding them on a map or reading about them in a book any day. So when we discovered this awesome Junior Ranger Program it was great. Our kids can get hands on experience learning about the places we are visiting in so many ways. This program consists of the children each receiving a book (even the youngest) with lots of questions and activities for them to complete all relating to the types of plants, animals, land, and things they can do to help protect these things within the park. They are required to complete a certain amount of pages, which varies from park to park, and then return it to a park ranger. Since it is part of our curriculum I encouraged them to go above and beyond what is required of them, and they always do! Upon completion of the book a ranger checks their answers, asks them some questions, to make sure they learned a few things, and then awards them a badge while they are sworn in as an official Junior Ranger. It is a great, fun program that we all enjoy participating in.
I consider this program to be our nature studies for science. To me it is so much more interesting and relatable for them to be doing these things hands on (in some of the most beautiful places in the country) than sitting at home looking at pictures or reading about them in books. We plan to visit as many of the national parks as we can and I am hopeful that they continue to be interested in this program at everyone of them. It is important to motivate the next generation to keep these places special and I think that the Every Fourth Grader in a Park program is an excellent way to get started with this endeavor.