Annual Passes Worth Every Cent!

There are two annual passes we have bought every year that I highly recommend, the “Forest Adventure” pass and the “America the Beautiful” pass. You can buy them online at My Scenic Drives.

The “Forest Adventure” pass is $30 and a second is only $5 more, so share with a friend! It allows you to park anywhere in the forest. Yes, there is controversy here. Does the money really go to keeping the trails nice and the bathrooms clean? Who knows?! And do they give tickets for parking without one? Occasionally. And I’ve heard the fine is the same as the pass. But…I’m trying my best to teach civics here as well and the law of the land is to have a parking pass, so we get one and leave it at that.

The “America the Beautiful” pass is $80 and gets you into all the National Parks. Of course, if you don’t plan on leaving the immediate area this year,  you can always get an annual pass for just Joshua Tree National Park for $40, but we’ve found that we usually get up to other parks in California at least once a year, so the $80 one is a deal for that.

When I lived in Orange County as a kid, I rarely went up to the mountains. My parents worked regular, Monday through Friday type, jobs, so we only had weekends and holidays to make the trek. Those are crazy busy times! I just assumed it was always like that, so I didn’t take my kids up there until we moved out to the desert and were looking for fun stuff to do during the week while Dad worked. That’s when I fell in love with Big Bear!

We’ve been making the hour drive up there about once a week for years now. We’ve explored mountain trails, hiked all over, gone fishing (another permit, of course, we ARE in California), looked for geocaches, played in the snow, ate (a lot), mountain biked, gone to the zoo. There’s so much to do up there! And during the week it’s so NOT crowded!

Here are a few links to places we love!

Fishing – Take Me Fishing is a good place to start if you’ve never been before! You can get a license there and look up the myriad of rules. I also love Big Bear Lake Sporting Goods. You can get a license there and everything else you need. Ask all the questions you like, they are nice people!

Mountain Biking – Check out Mountain Bike Big Bear for trails and such. And the best bike shop ever is Chains Required! Great prices, great people, they have everything you need. You can even rent a bike for a day and see if you enjoy the sport!

Hiking – AllTrails can help you find the best trail for you. Add Geocache to your phone and find those on the way!

Big Bear Discovery Center

Big Bear Zoo

And my favorite tip, we always stop at the Village Visitor Center first for a bathroom break and to re-group after the drive. It has saved us many times. I’ll also admit that we stop there before we leave as well. Lunch, ice cream, bookstore. They even have an awesome music store!

What does this have to do with home education? Everything. This IS education. So much science, history, PE, even literature. This isn’t a day off for adventuring. The adventuring IS the education. We had a backpack of snacks, water, and tools we took with us everywhere. We took pictures of things we found, made maps of where we went, looked at things with microscopes and binoculars. We had a notebook to draw in, a nature guide, a bandana (for everything), and a first aid kit. We even brought a book with us and read out loud while we picnicked at the top of the hike, alongside the lake, or in a grassy meadow. Go explore!

Civil War Days at Calico Ghost Town

Here’s a great day trip coming up on February 17-19, 2018!

Calico Ghost Town in Yermo is a great way to live some history! And a Civil War Reenactment only adds to the day! Check out some age-appropriate books, websites, and maybe a movie before you go and then spend the day (or the weekend) in Calico!

Click HERE for the details!

Fiction and Biology

I just finished reading Isaac Asimov’s “Fantastic Voyage” and couldn’t help but see how I could have used this book as a jumping off point for a couple of great education adventures. Personally, as an unschooler, I already did that for myself. I’d like to watch the movie as well, read more about the Cold War in the 60’s, and learn more about what we know about the human body. If I had found this book when my boys were younger, I would have read it to them chapter by chapter over lunch and followed up with some of the movies, printables, and reference books I found. I wouldn’t assign them to the kids, though. I would have gone on the adventure myself and invited them along for the ride. I’ve listed some sites and leads I found below. Go get the book! It’s a great read-aloud even for younger kids! Although, remember “Journey Thru Inner Space” at Disneyland? It’s very similar and that ride scared me to death as a kid.

Free “Human Biology” class at Khan Academy

Human Biology Printable Book at TeacherVision (subscription required – 7 day free trial, $40 per year, $7 a month)

Anatomy for Kids list of great books and toys on A to Z Home’s Cool

Another topic that you could discuss and/or read about would be the Cold War. This book was written during the Cold War in 1966. It reflects many sentiments at the time about the race for weapons and “mutually assured destruction”. This would be a great way to lead into a study of this era and an expansion of the idea. These are a few ideas I had while reading the book.

Wikipedia Article about the Cold War (1962-1979) 

Cold War Books and Lesson Plans

10 Best Movies List

Calico Ghost Town’s 50th Calico Days!

Calico Days at Calico Ghost Town
October 1 & 2, 2016

This looks like loads of fun! Did you know they do school tours as well? Even if you can’t make it to Calico Days, consider making a day of Calico Ghost Town. It’s all my favorite parts of Knott’s Berry Farm (from when I was a kid) without the high ticket price and crowds!

CalicoDays

Dino Fest & Homeschool Days at the Natural History Museum

This looks like loads of fun for Dino-loving people! The Natural History Museum in Los Angeles has announced Dino Fest on September 24th & 25th. Check their site for details about the day’s offering. Tickets run from $5 to $12 per person. There is a parking fee as well. You can pre-order tickets online.

This year’s “Homeschool Days” have also been announced! These events are free but there is a charge for parking. Get there early and explore. Bring a lunch and then wander the Rose Garden!

Thursday, September 29 – The Wonderful World of Pterosaurs
Wednesday, February 1 – The Art of Science
Monday, April 24 – Plants and Pollinators
Tuesday, June 13 – Extreme Mammals

Don’t want to drive to LA? Post to a local group, or grab a homeschool friend, see about maybe renting a car for the drive. Get there! It’s so worth it!

 

Civil War Reenactment – Huntington Beach

Want to escape the heat of the desert and need a legitimate excuse to drive to Huntington Beach? How about Southern California’s Largest Civil War Reenactment?! This a great event for the whole family.

September 3rd & 4th at Huntingbeach Central Library

Afterwards, you can drive north through Buena Park and stop at Farrell’s for ice cream before you head home!

La Brea Tar Pits – Homeschool Days

The La Brea Tar Pits in Los Angeles has announced its “Homeschool Days”! This a great chance to take your family to see what the museum has to offer. For details, click on the links above to take you right to their site. They have a page about how to get there and how much it costs, what’s available, and a link to resources for your family to use before and after your trip!

Meet the Mammoths – Wednesday, October 19, 2016
L.A.’s Carnivores – Friday, January 13, 2017
Bugs and Botany – Tuesday, March 14, 2017
Dig It! – Wednesday, June 7, 2017

 

Do you like trains?

The railroad had a huge part in our part of the country so there is a lot of very interesting history there even if you aren’t interested in the locomotives themselves and we have a huge resource for everything railroad right near by!

The Southern California Railway Museum in Perris has several events coming up this fall, not to mention it’s a great place just to come and wander around. There are lots of hands-on exhibits and even a real train to catch a ride on. Take the family and check it out!

Here are some links to train activities and ideas to help you make the most of the day!

NEA’s Transcontinental Telegraph and Railroad

DIY Homeschooler’s Unit Study on the Transcontinental Railroad

The Great Railroad Race Game

Unschooling History/Social Studies/Current Events Etc.

Even if you’re not totally on board with unschooling in the broader sense, an easy way to look into it and see how it works could be by starting with history. History, Social Studies, Government, Economics, and Current Events are covered in our home school by following trails. Those trails start everywhere you look! I’ll give you an example that came up today.

My oldest son has been fascinated by the 90’s show “X Files” for the last several months. He found out that they are on Netflix now, so he’s been watching them in order while he eats his breakfast. This morning there was an episode with a character that had spent time at a camp for Haitian Refugees. The camp looked a lot like a prison and there was some discussion about it. I wasn’t watching so I’m not sure about what was going on in the show, but my son came and asked me if I knew what they were talking about. I didn’t remember anything about it so he went to the internet and searched. At first, he searched “1992” because that is when the show was released. I told him to broaden it a bit and search for “1990’s” and “Haitian Refugees”. There was a Wikipedia article about a camp in Guantanamo that shed some light on the subject and one about a coup d’etat at the time. I won’t get into all the details. He came back and told me a bit about it. The article reminded me that I had heard about “boat people” from Haiti when I was in high school. We talked about why people would leave, why the government wouldn’t want them here, how they could be held against their will, court cases about it, what’s going on now in Europe, Syrian Refugees, etc. The conversation went on for about 45 minutes before he went back and watched the rest of the show.

Another piece of the history puzzle has been added. Our history lessons don’t come on a packaged and nice looking timeline. They come as we need them and when we are interested in learning more, little bites at a time. Some day we’ll find out more about that time period and what was going on in Haiti, how it was related to something else at the time, and other people that were affected. It will probably come from another tv show, a movie, a game, an article, a book, or a conversation. And it will tie in with the world around us. It will be relevant to our own time and it will be remembered in a deeper way than any pre-written history course.

Civil War Reenactment in Perris

Here’s an amazing living history opportunity coming up on May 21 & 22 at the Orange Empire Railway Museum in Perris, CA! The Civil War period of American history was a fascinating time. The people who put on these reenactments love their history and love talking about it. This one is coming up in a bit more than a week, so you have time to read a short book or watch a movie about the time. That will give you a heads up on what you’ll be experiencing in Perris!

My sons loved “Rifles for Watie” by Harold Keith when they were about 10 years old. It says the book is for teens and young adults, but we read aloud together and they truly loved the story. It is a war book, so more sensitive youngsters might find the story troublesome. “The Red Badge of Courage” by Stephen Crane is another awesome story. Perris is about an hour and a half way from our part of the desert. You could find an audible file of the story and listen to it on the way there and on the way home!

It also looks like there are a lot of Civil War video, card, and board games available on Amazon. My sons had the XBOX one and enjoyed playing it. They said loading the guns and cannons was the part that really got them. It really slowed down the battle and gave them way too many places to get killed. I can’t imagine fighting like they did!

If the war aspect isn’t your thing, there will be a civilian camp at the reenactment with women and children. Why would they be there you ask? They have the answers and it’s not just because the reenactors thought it would be fun.

Also, don’t miss a ride on the big steam train around the grounds. The engineers love talking about their engines!