Home Schooling 101: Creating Your Own Adventure Club

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My love of adventure started when I was a little girl because my dad had the amazing ability to turn everything into an adventure.
If we had a few rainy days, we were on storm watch.
And he’d drive us around to see what creeks were overflowing.
He’d wake us up in the middle of the night to watch lightening storms.
If we were cleaning out the garage and doing a heap of yard work, and then making a trip to the dump, he’d make up a song about it and we’d sing it loud and happily the whole way there.
He made going to the dump an adventure!
My dad is one of the most enthusiastic people I know.
Kids follow him around like the pied piper because he exudes joy and fun.
He loves life and he loves people.
Long ago he made a decision about how he wanted to live life–by making the most out of all of it.
He sees life as one big adventure.

Growing up that way, I couldn’t help but want to make my life an adventure too.
And once I had kids, and began home schooling them, I decided that I wanted them to learn through adventures as well.
This idea has so shaped the way I teach my kids that I dedicate one day of our school week, every week, to adventuring.
We adventure with our home school group, but over time, we have begun to call ourselves the Adventure Club.
Occasionally I wonder if we are doing the right thing.
I mean, is it really OK to go on a field trip EVERY SINGLE WEEK?
But then I remember all that my kids learn while we are out in the wide world, and I stop doubting what my heart tells me is right.
Everything we are learning at home, sitting around the dining room table, or laying on the living room floor, comes to life in a new way when we are out adventuring.
Science, history, math, literature–every single subject gets covered.
Often in ways I could never plan for.
It just happens because we are learning wherever we go.
The world is our classroom!
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Maybe you are longing to adventure with your kids.
Perhaps you are ready to start an adventure club of your own.
I’d love to help you get started by sharing some of the things I’ve learned in the last 6 years of adventuring with my kids.

The first place to start, of course, is to Find A Group.
Adventuring is more fun with friends. Even if you can’t find a whole group of adventurers to join, I bet you can find one other mom.
The trick is, you have to find someone who likes the same kind of adventures as you do.
Not every mom is up for long drives, long hikes, or letting their kids get muddy, and catch bugs.
And If you are, then you need to find a like minded mom.
And once you do, hold fast to one another, and get ready to adventure!

Once you’ve found your adventure buddy, or buddies, you need to Plan Your Adventures.
Here is where the fun starts!
Our group meets at the beginning of each semester to plan.
We usually plan for 3 nature outings a month and one cultural adventure.
When we started, our kids were all 5 and under, and none of us knew how much we were capable of.
So we visited nature centers, parks, arboretums, and trails that were stroller friendly.
But in short order, we found our way and began branching out–hiking further, and visiting places where we had to climb over rocks, ford streams, and climb up and down steep hills.
Even when 8 months pregnant.
(this was Lilly’s first 4 mile hike, she was 2 and a half. We waded across streams on slippery rocks and logs, and climbed a long, very steep hill at the end of the hike. I couldn’t carry her, because I could hardly climb the hill myself.  We were both exhausted by the time we reached the top. But we did it.  And that feeling was pretty great.)
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Now most of us still have toddlers and pre-schoolers, but because those kids have been doing this since they were infants, we have different expectations for them.
They just have to come along!
The more you adventure, the more your confidence in your own ability and in your kids’ ability grows.
You’ll be amazed at the things you’re all are able to do.
So now, in addition to nature centers and parks, we also visit wilderness parks, mountain trails, tide pools, creeks, woods–basically any place we can hike and explore, and learn freely.

Our cultural days take us to museums of course, but there are also so many other places to visit.
In California, we have the missions, so those are on our list as places of historical interest.
When our group was studying weather for one of our nature study topics, we visited UCLA for a class on meteorology.
We’ve toured a lighthouse, a cheese shop, took the metro to downtown LA to visit China town, and toured historic mansions in Beverly Hills.
We’ve gone to plays and puppet shows, and visited the county fair.
Most of our trips are free or inexpensive.
There are so many field trips available to home schoolers now.
Many museums have free days for the general public, and some have days just for home schoolers.
The only limit to your adventures is your imagination!

So now that you’ve planned your trips, now you need to Pack Well.
One of the most common questions I get about our adventures is, “I don’t know what to pack.”
It’s a valid question, and it takes time to figure it all out.
For starters, you need a good backpack.
This was the first year that I haven’t had to carry a baby on my back, or front, so my back pack is different than the one I used while I was toting babies.
I use a Jansport, from their Heritage series.
I tried out a lot of packs to find one that is comfortable, and big enough for all the stuff I bring.
Inside my pack I always have a first aid kit.
I pack a sheet for sitting on because it’s lighter than a blanket.
For lunches, I have streamlined to fit the things that need to be kept cold into this one small cooler bag.
I bring things like string cheese, yogurt tubes, salami, and hummus in our cooler bag.
I don’t make sandwiches because they take up a lot of room and they get soggy.
Instead, I get a baguette and strap it to the top of my pack.
When it is lunch time, I tear off a hunk of baguette, stuff some cheese or meat in there, and hand it to my kids.
It’s the easiest lunch ever and my kids think its a great treat!
Each of my kids carries his own back pack with a water bottle and snacks.
I carry my own water and and an extra bottle because you never, ever want to run out of water on the trail.
It makes for a miserable hike.
And I always pack a treat of some kind, a lolly pop, gum, a fruit roll, or something that I can use to get tired kids to get down that last stretch of the trail.
Trust me, these little treats can be your saving grace.
My kids all pack different things for hikes.
My boys fill their back packs with things like knives, ropes, hammers and nails.
And they actually use those things!
My daughter brings stuffed animals, and all sorts of other random stuff that I don’t understand the point of having on a hike.
But since she carries it, she can bring what she wants.
They all carry their nature journals, a pen, and colored pencils, so they can draw if they want.
I carry thin, waterproof field guides for identifying plants and birds as we hike.

When we visit museums, we obviously leave much of this home.
I’ll still carry my back pack with snacks, water and lunch, and the kids will carry their art history, or nature notebooks for sketching.
Packing for your adventures is an art form.
Really.
And it helps tremendously to pack the night before.
It will help your mornings go so much more smoothly.
And you might not even yell at your kids before you get out the door!
Oh wait, I know that never happens to you guys.

The last thing you need for your adventures is the expectation that you will be challenged.
You need to be ready to Expect the Unexpected.
Whether you are visiting an art museum or hiking in a wilderness park, one thing you should expect on your adventures is that something you haven’t planned for is going to happen.
Your kid might try to touch a priceless piece of art and the guards will give you very dirty looks.
Talk to kids about museum etiquette before you go.
Or they might giggle and act all silly and embarrassed when you walk into a museum wing with nudes.
Plan ahead and avoid those wings, or talk to them about nudes in art before hand.
When we are hiking, I try to research the hikes as much as I can before we visit.
I look to see if they are stroller friendly, if there will be stream crossings, and if there is shade.
That way I know what shoes to wear, whether or not we need to wear sun hats, and if babies need to be carried rather than strolled.
My kids always wear layers, but I check the weather anyway, to be prepared for rain, or hot temperatures and pack extra water.
You might encounter snakes, and your kids, and you, need to know how to react to a snake.
Or what to do if they disturb a bee hive–that has happened to us.
Can your kids pee in the bushes?
Can you?
How about pooping behind a tree?
Cause I can guarantee it is going to happen.
And you need to be ready for it.
Always carry wipes and plastic bags.
Otherwise, you’ll be using socks to wipe someone’s booty.
Trust me, I speak from experience.

The thing to remember is that you are adventuring with kiddos, it won’t always be fabulous.
This quote from The Hobbit is such a perfect description of adventures:

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The wildest adventures may make you crazy at the time, but they are going to make the best stories later.

My dream is that I’ll be out adventuring and learning with my kids until they are off to college.
And then that they will continue to learn this way long into their adulthood, just as I am doing now.
I may not be able to take my kids on trips around the world, but I can still make their world as big and grand and beautiful as possible.
I can help them see the magic God has created for them to enjoy is everywhere.
I hope you feel like you can too.

In the end, I come back to this beautiful quote, by one of my educational heros, Charlotte Mason.
It encapsulates so well what I want to offer my kids in all of their education.
Adventures included.
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5 thoughts on “Home Schooling 101: Creating Your Own Adventure Club

  1. Shelby

    I really enjoyed meeting and hearing you speak at the W+F conference. Thanks for all the wonderful encouragement to start adventuring. I’m curious if you have a link to the backpack you use? I’ve been searching online and having a hard time finding the open top style. Thank you!! 🙂
    -Shelby

    Reply
  2. Pingback: Fostering a Love for Nature in our Children (ten tips + scavenger hunt printable) | Sparrow & Lilies

  3. Kristin

    Thank you for this! As a first year homeschooler and new to Mason’s approach, I was hoping to find one that was already established. It seems like you might be near to or at least aware of the South Bay (going off of your latest IG check in) so I was wondering if you knew of any local to this area? Thanks!

    Reply

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