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!

“The Secret Garden” at Theatre 29!

A performance of “The Secret Garden” runs through September 24 at Theatre 29 in Twentynine Palms. This was one of my favorite books when I was a kid! Besides the obvious “performing arts” subject you’d find here, you could also tie this whole month into the performance. History, Language Arts, Art, Science, Social Studies, you name it! Here are some links to a few great lists of things related to “The Secret Garden”. I didn’t even know there was a movie!

Activities for The Secret Garden from The Chaos and The Clutter

For $4 you can buy a Lapbook printables set and unit study from Confessions of a Homeschooler

Of course, you’ll need to get the book somewhere! You can buy the book just about anywhere for under $5 and I highly suggest you have the book in your library instead of borrowing it. It’s one of those books you read over and over again!

 

Calendars!

Calendars are awesome! As a private school, you need to mark attendance each day (I know!) and a printable calendar is great for that. I have one from Donna Young that has the whole year on two sheets of paper. I print it at the beginning of our school year and it sits in a bright pink folder on my desk next to my computer along with my course of study. Each morning as I check my email and Facebook excitement, I put an X on the day if it’s a weekday. Legal requirement = complete. Some people print a page like this and write “Absences Marked With an X” at the top. Since our kids are not absent from our houses at any time there are no X’s, but attendance is taken none the less. Both ways are sufficient to be in compliance with the legal requirements.

I also have a student planner from Walmart sitting on my desk. I like it because there is plenty of room to write down the plan both for the month and the week. I don’t plan a lot in advance, but all our appointments, field trips, and events are on the monthly part. As we go through the week, the daily part has notes and checklists about what we did that day. Things like “boy was working on his website most the day”, “dad read to us from his book after dinner”, and “boy started reading ‘Lord of the Rings'” cover those pages. If you have a more set schedule, you can write it out there and check things off as you do them. Planners are great to look back on when you’re trying to remember what went on last week. As unschoolers, the days seem to run together at times and having the written planner really helps me get a handle on who’s been doing what and when. I’m certain someone, some day, will come across my planners and journals and be amazed…I just know it!

Did you know there are cool learning calendars out there as well? These ones are great for inspiring ideas and finding things you didn’t even know existed in a fun and spontaneous way. It’s also a great way for YOU to continue your own life long learning journey and share it with your kids. There are history, science, literature, and art calendars. There’s even one for preschool ideas! You don’t need to buy them every year either. You won’t get to everything every day, so keep them around for inspiration year after year, just ignore the day of the week!

Here’s a list of some of my favorites.

Universal Preschool’s “Preschool Learning Calendar”

Thomas Jefferson Education’s “This Week In History”

Today in Science History

Theorem of the Day

“The Mathematics Calendar” by Theoni Pappas

And a whole wall of calendars you can find at this site, from Word of the Day and Word Origins to Pets and Flowers!
http://www.calendars.com/Literature/cat00136/