Happy New Year 2019!!

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We spent a beautiful first day of 2019 doing what we love most! EXPLORING! 2018 was a dousy and wonderful at the same time. Every single year I say “ok there’s no way next year can be crazier than last year.” Somewhere in the Universe, I challenged the galaxy to do me one better and it never fails the next year is ridiculously crazier! In 2018, the kids and I visited ELEVEN different countries. broke many a bone, ate and ate everywhere. We visited as many museums and archaeology sites as they would let me take them too and every single beach we saw. We swam in four of the seven seas and one ocean. . .People have been asking, regularly since our U.S. return in September, what is next?!?!?! The blog followers are getting the inside scoop on what 2019 has in store for our family.

Big Changes and Travel in 2019

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The things that are set in stone for 2019:

  1. Spending 2 weeks renting an apartment in Washington D.C. this February! One of my dearest friends and bridesmaids is having her first baby! This doula/placenta encapsulation specialist and salty seasoned mama is going to go be her birth worker for a couple of weeks. Simultaneously we will use the two weeks to see every free museum available in D.C. as the kids will be in tow of course.
  2. The kids and I are headed to New Delhi India for the month of March! One of my college friends is getting married in a small town outside of New Delhi and our presence has been requested. I am very excited about India. I cannot extend the trip this time, but I’m hoping three full weeks there will be enough to satisfy the wanderlust pallet for now.
  3. An end of summer permanent move to Iwakuni, Japan! Mother Marine Corps has spoken and a move to Japan is in our near-ish future. We all have to pass a medical clearance before this can happen though.
  4. I would love to head back to Mexico for a few weeks this summer.
  5. If we do make it to Japan by September then the kids and I will be heading to Bali in October to rendezvous with other worldschooling friends!
  6. The kids say that Tokyo Disney and Tokyo Legoland need to be on the list too!

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Personal Goals for 2019

I’m not typically one to make “resolutions” for the new year, because life is busy and it happens all the time and I refuse to feel guilty about a shift in expectations of myself. Goals aren’t designed to make you feel bad. Goals aren’t made in the spirit of failure. I do however make lists of things I’d like to improve. Improvement is a success in my opinion. 

Despite your endless amounts of encouraging words. Despite so many of you putting me on a pedestal of inspiration. There are still things I’d like to improve upon and I want to include you all in on those goals because I am human and I need your support for many of them to be a success. These are my top 10:

  1. I want to run an average of 15 miles per week. Ten is the goal, twenty is the dream.
  2. I want my family to spend a minimum of 20 hours a week outside. Not necessarily all together, but 20 hours none-the-less. 25 is the dream, 20 is the goal. 
  3. I want to move to Japan early enough to catch the Mount Fuji hiking season, which is not up to me at all.
  4. I want to read more. I have a huge book list and I  fluctuate severely between reading a ton and not reading at all. I want to gain more consistency. 
  5. I want to grow The Wild Bradburys facebook page to a thousand people. This is where you come in. Share it. Please. Send it to friends. Grandparents, mothers, fathers, aunts, and uncles. Anyone who wants to touch the life of a child. I hope that there is something for everyone on the page. I want there to be. So share your ideas with me so we can grow together!
  6. A PODCAST. Yes, Yes, finally I know. So many people have contacted me about launching a podcast. My goal is to begin working on it when I get back from India. April will be the month of the podcast. I want everyone that has visited the blog and page to be able to listen to a podcast and feel as if we are having coffee/tea at my table and hashing out adulthood, motherhood, spousal responsibilities, travel, dreams, homeschooling, natural living. There is so much to discuss and so much that should be talked about so let’s do it!
  7. In a perfect world, I’ll make it back to Greece in 2019. I love it so.
  8. Invest more time and energy into my dearest friends. They are so special to me and I do not sing it loud enough or often enough.
  9. Spend more time fueling the passions of our little people.
  10. Incorporate more European habits into our American lifestyle.

I hope that 2019 finds you hopeful, encouraged and motivated to be the change you want to see in your own life, in the life of others and in the world. Thank you for coming with me on this journey. Let’s make it a good one and get out there.

*Lydia

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What is Forest School? Incorporating More Nature Into Your Family

 

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Far removed from the feral Mogli child in the forest stereotype, forest school is an immersion into natural landscapes. In nature, children can study the world around them while learning creative, technical and social skills. By giving a child an opportunity to explore their natural world you are igniting a love of learning that, so far in my parenting journey, has not been matched. There is a sense of freedom, followed by belonging in the world that the outdoors gives us all. This feeling seems to be amplified in children as their wonder and curiosities for the natural world are their guides.

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Forest School Varieties

“Forest School” is a term that I use loosely to describe a gathering of children in wooded landscapes. There are Forest Schools, Forest Kindergartens, Nature Schools that are set up as a classroom outdoors. Following a set curriculum but using nature as their primary guide, These “schools” typically have an age range of 2 years to 7 years. This is also the threshold for truancy laws in most U.S. States. If enrolling your child in, essentially a private, tuition-based, forest school is not on your “to try” list then there are other options!

Some of the FREE options are some of the BEST options. There is a wonderful initiative called ‘Free Forest School.’ Organized by chapter locations within U.S. States, Free Forest School allows parents and children to explore nature in the safety of a like-minded group. There are no fees, no stress, very little planning. Typically, a chapter will meet weekly, sometimes more, in different wooded areas surrounding a city. Once in the area, they set out exploring. You are exploring with other families with the same intentions of learning from nature play.

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Another wonderful option is your local hiking or outdoor groups. They can be found on facebook, meetup, Instagram, etc. Through social media, you can create your own kid’s exploration club without having to found a Free Forest School Chapter. Meet as much or as little as you want! How many of us have been members of a mommy and me playgroup in our younger parenting lives? Probably all of us. It takes a little more effort to find outdoor spaces to meet, but with just a smidge of research, you can successfully move those mommy and me playdates to the outdoors, even with babies!

How Do I Incorporate More Forest School Concepts Into Our Family Life?

This is a recurring question that I get asked frequently as The Wild Bradbury followers see many photos outside in nature. If you are reading this and thinking “I like traditional schooling, but I want our family time to move to the outdoors more” then your solution comes in the form of TWO simple steps.

  1. Invest in Weather Appropriate Gear. The idea of the outdoors as your learning center is not based solely on fairweather opportunities. If you want your child to learn from nature then they need to witness it as the weather and seasons change. A lot can be learned from a drop of rain rippling on water. The forms of water are best learned in high-temperature snow (32 degrees). You can start with simple protection to make outdoor play more comfortable. Rain bibs, boots, and jackets (best made by German, Swiss, and Swedish companies). worldschooling with the wild bradburys what is forest school 4A similar wardrobe for snow and cold temperatures. Snow bib, hats, waterproof gloves, fleece lined coats, and lined boots. This might sound extensive but for approximately $75 for each of these two seasons, you can get years and years out of this gear, which also allows for extensive growing room. Feeling comfortable with your preparedness for the weather will make you feel more comfortable with your children being out in it. There is a saying in forest school that “there is no such thing as bad weather, just bad gear.”
  2. Say YES! You all have heard me say this over and over again. Once you have your gear in place there is no reason for you to say “no.” If you say yes, every time they ask, your children will suddenly be spending 2/3 of their time outdoors. Also, with very minimal effort! As you get more comfortable with your new lifestyle you will begin to venture farther from your home. Go explore the world around you! It is FUN and FREE!

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Reprograming Your Inner Child

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If you did not grow up exploring forests, riverways and wildlife then there will be a significant amount of personal reprogramming to do. Start small. You do not have to become Bear Grylls overnight. If you do not know who Bear Grylls is, well, start there. The outdoor experience is extensive and different every time you step outside. The time outdoors will be significantly richer for your children if you are a part of it. Therefore, you need to embrace the lifestyle change first and foremost. There is so much to see and learn about the world around us. Get out there.

Roaming

The City of Fountains: Rome

Worldschooling with the wild bradburys: the city of fountains Rome 11 things to see

In the middle of Italy sits a city like no other in the World; Rome. Also referred to as the City of Fountains, Rome has been calling tourists to its streets for millenniums. With so much to see and do in the city of Rome and the surrounding areas, it is likely that you will return time and time again to experience new things. I have now visited Rome twice and the list I have compiled would leave you exhausted and fulfilled after a weeks visit.

Top 11 Things-to-do in Rome

  1.  Colosseum: On everyone’s list of things to see is the Colosseum and rightfully so. The architecture that comprises one of the World’s most visited sites is absolutely incredible. If you are taking along small children (even if you’re not) it would behoove you to study up a little bit. There is so much information and the tour guides speak very quickly and move even faster. There are kid-friendly tours available through Get Your Guide and Viator. worldschooling with the wild bradburys: the city of Fountains Rome 11 things to see
  2. Aquaducts: Running over, under and around the city of Rome are stunning examples of the human imagination, ingenuity, and spirit. If you are even remotely interested in the city’s history and the development of the city planning as we know it then you must take an aqueduct tour. These tours are available on foot, by bus, and by bicycle.
  3. A short day trip South of Rome lies one of the archaeology world’s greatest treasures; Herculaneum. A wonderfully preserved archaeology site that is significantly less publicized and less crowded than Pompeii. You could manage to see Pompeii and Herculaneum on the same day if you plan accordingly in the right season, but if you have to choose Herculaneum is a much better experience all around.
  4. Roman Catacombs: Specifically the Capuchin Catacombs. If the crowd you travel with is interested in a more Macomb experience the catacombs are a must! Experience underground churches where a beloved community of Friars were turned into skeletal works of art. There is even a children’s tour of the catacombs done in daylight hours so to lessen the eerie factor. worldschooling with the wild bradburys: the city of fountains Rome 11 things to see
  5. Saint Peter’s Basilica and Vatican City: An entire day should be spent touring Saint Peter’s Basilica (better known as the Vatican) and the surrounding buildings and streets that comprise Vatican City (the smallest country in the world). Book these tour tickets online in advance as the lines to purchase tickets are miserably long. Even if you are of little or no faith Saint Peter’s Basilica is mind-blowing in beauty, sculpture, history, and culture. Definitely a must- see. worldschooling with the wild bradburys: the city of fountains Rome 11 things to see
  6. While in Vatican City; those readers who are renaissance art lovers should experience the Sistine Chapel. I will forewarn you that the chapel and Michael Angelo’s Creation painting are small, but the tour itself is wonderful and full of information that helps set the ambiance and connect the pieces. This is a bit of a “stir crazy” situation for small children though so do not enjoy sugary gelato beforehand.
  7. In between heavy adult sightseeing days, I highly recommend taking your children to the Bioparco of Roma. The Zoo! A wonderful little zoo that sits in the middle of the Borghese Family Estate and Gardens. The zoo is full of endangered animals and even ones I had never heard of before. You can run the same grounds and trails that the Borghese family did so many years ago. The park is full of original fountains and aqueducts that you can refresh yourself or water bottles in. When you tire of the animals you can take a beautiful stroll or a tour of the Borghese Villa. rome 15
  8. The Trevi Fountain: One of the most heavily visited sites in the city. An absolute must do event in the dark as its beauty is magnified tenfold when lit up at night. You DO NOT need a tour guide for the Trevi fountain. It is a free open space. What I recommend you do is watch a documentary about the fountain on youtube prior to going. I learned so much more from a 40-minute video than from guidebooks. For those of you who are superstitious, you can help navigate your fate by throwing coins into the fountain. 1 coin=to someday return to Rome. 2 coins= to find Love and Marriage. 3 coins=a smooth divorce. Watch out for flying coins as visitors throw over 3,000 Euros into the fountain daily! worldschooling with the wild bradburys: the city of fountains Rome 11 things to see
  9. Gladiator School: Another fun afternoon for those children and young adults traveling with you! A fabulous experience where you learn the ways of the Colosseum Gladiators through dress- up and weapons training!
  10. Castel Sant’Angelo: Also known as Emperor Hadrian’s Mausoleum. This beautiful fortress and the surrounding bridges comprise one of my favorite spots in the city. Full of history, mystery, art. You cannot go wrong spending an afternoon along the water, learning about Emperor Hadrian’s plans for his resting place. worldschooling with the wild bradburys: the city of fountains Rome 11 things to see
  11. The Pantheon: A wonderful FREE thing to do! The Pantheon does not require a lot of time spent touring and viewing, but it is an architectural wonder and worth adding to your list. You can enjoy it in the same evening as the Trevi Fountain as they are located about a half mile from one another.

The City of Fountains

As much as I hope you are able to see all of the things on this list; I know good and well that you will find yourself lost in wonder on cobblestone streets. Window shopping at every turn, or people watching for the umpteenth hour in a corner chair. There is no shame in enjoying the bustle of Roman life instead of heavy sightseeing. As a matter of fact, if you choose to not sightsee at all this trip all you have to do is throw a coin in the Trevi fountain and you are guaranteed a return to this beautiful mysterious city.

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The Dreaded Tourist Experience: Foreign ER

We have all felt this dread. “Should I let them go ziplining? Cave Diving? Cliff Jumping?” “What happens if something goes wrong?” It would be a nightmare no matter where in the world an accident occurred, but especially so abroad right? You would be correct in this fear. It is scary. This fear allows us to not take risks, to not live fully, something happening to ourselves or our children is the scariest thing about parenting. I am here to tell you that it is not the unnecessary risks that will land you in the ER, it is the daily tasks gone array.

In the summer of 2018, while backpacking Europe with my three small children, we had the joy (sarcasm) of experiencing four different Emergency Rooms in THREE different countries! Trust me, I know how it appears, like the world’s most overlooked CPS case, but all three incidences were bizarre and took place within whatever living situation we were in at the time.

The Greek ER: When Things Other Than Language Are The Issue

In June, we were eaten alive by mosquitos in Athens, Greece. This was not new to us as we seem to be magnets for them no matter the continent or weather. One afternoon we were walking back from the park in sweltering heat and my oldest son started complaining about his hip hurting. He had had no recent falls or bruising that I was aware of so I didn’t think much of it. Later that evening he was still complaining about his hip and side hurting so I took a look. What I discovered sent me into a small panic attack; there in his right groin area, in the lymph node, were numerous bulging masses. . .

I immediately thought that he had a severe bowel hernia as it had been a few days since his last bowel movement and now suddenly it all made sense. I began doing extensive research for a children’s hospital that would take Tricare. There was one and that is how we came to find ourselves waiting in line in the Greek Pediatric Care Unit over an hour from our then apartment.

I made a decision that day that would set the stage for the coming injuries; go to a children’s hospital if you are able. Luckily that was my first instinct, but unluckily for me, children’s hospitals are not all that common in Greece. It took the kids and I the better part of the morning to get there between walking, then the bus, followed by the metro, then another bus, followed by more walking. We waited for about 2.5 hours to be seen that morning, and then we were seen by two pediatric physicians, followed by a specialist.

Language Wasn’t the Issue

Though language was a struggle, someone that spoke better English than the last was brought in to help translate. I know very basic Greek, but it’s conversational Greek not medical. When the young physician examined our then 5 year old’s groin area, the concern was not the bulging lymph node, but the fact that I was presumed to be withholding medical history because my child was circumcised and that meant that something horrible had happened to this region of his body before to warrant such a procedure! Now our oldest son is our only circumcised child (long story, sore subject) so because I see both styles regularly I didn’t even consider that it must appear very strange to a country that practices intact only.

The conversation went something like this:

Greek Physician “What happened to warrant this surgery?? Has he had an infection before?”

me “No, he is just circumcised per my husband’s decision.”

Greek Physician “(purely stunned) I have never heard of such a thing.”

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Hours later, they discovered that there was an infection in his groin due to an infected mosquito bite on his leg. Externally, the mosquito bite looked like any other partially healed bite, but when they lanced it… .well, let’s just say that I had to continue to lance it every 48 hours for three weeks while he took around the clock steroid antibiotics.

Our overall Greek hospital experience was perfectly fine. It was clean. The physicians seemed knowledgeable about everything except cosmetic circumcision. The pharmaceuticals are so cheap it is mind-blowing. I paid 8 Euros total for three specialist examinations, x-rays, and two 7-day rounds of antibiotics.

When The ER is Remote or Far Away

TWO HOURS after arriving via train to a tiny village in Tuscany our third son, then only 18 months old, fell a whopping 18 inches off of a stone wall and landed on his wrist. Thus, fracturing it. In rural Italy, very little English is spoken. In Italy as a whole, very little English is spoken. English only became the national second language in the last generation. All of the generations prior had a second language of French. When our little guy fell there was ONE person working at the castle we were staying in that spoke English and Italian fluently. He was tasked with the job of driving me to the nearest hospital. This man was God sent, would later become a dear friend and I would discover that he speaks 8 languages in total.

Elvys drove the baby and I the thirty minutes to the nearest hospital. They would not take us because they did not have an ER or any kind of Orthopedic specialist. We were sent another hour down the road to the outskirts of Florence to a small hospital there. No one spoke English except my new friend Elvys. He was not allowed past registration so I was on my own with a screaming child. Luckily, hand gestures go a long way if you are calm and coherent enough to understand them. One nurse, in particular, worked with me only using pointing and signs. She and I managed to get us through x-ray, to casting, back to x-ray and through payment without anyone crying.

Foreign ER

 

This hospital did not bill Tricare, it was my only option and I had to pay out of pocket within three weeks of the casting. My whole bill was $75… Nothing compared to American health care. Are you noticing a pattern yet? My bill so far for ER visits in two different countries is now totaled at $83.

The Italian Hospital was significantly more dingy, darker, etc, but ultimately got the job done just fine.

The Third Foreign ER Visit

The night we arrived in Rome, my oldest son pushed the middle son (then 4) off of the hotel room bed, shattering the top of his foot. Because this happened at 10 pm at night, now knowing that I would have to wait at least 3 hours, I opted to wait until morning. The next morning we spent almost 5 hours waiting in a Roman Children’s Hospital ER. They did an initial exam, then x-rays, followed by an open-toed cast and another set of x-rays as-well-as the canceling of 2 tours, the purchasing of a wheelchair and having to opt for the train to Germany because he was not allowed to fly. The cast they put on him would be temporary until we arrived in Germany for the removal of that cast and the creation of another one that he would be in for an additional month.

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The Roman ER was very nice and new. I left there paying nothing. As a matter of fact, I asked the lady at the desk if I owed anything and she said “money? Why would you owe anything? No! Please go enjoy the day!” This was not the hospital I was told to go to by Tricare, this is the one I went to based on local recommendation. 

The Straight Lines of the German ER

When we arrived in Germany I found the Tricare approved children’s hospital. A well run, efficient addition to the area like most other things German in design. We went through the Emergency Room to have his cast removed because they would not allow us to make an appointment since they did not put on the original cast. So we waited…again. The cast was taken off, more x-rays were done, then another (non-weight bearing) cast was put on for another month. We left without a price tag. Four weeks later we went back to the same hospital for the cast removal and another set of x-rays. We saw the Tricare bill just last week for $47, which Tricare covered. Our cost for the broken foot was the $150 I had to pay for a used wheelchair through a third party pharmacy in Rome.

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Most of Germany speaks English fluently. The issues I found with the German medical system were small things that became frustrating later. For example, this particular hospital only does cast removals by appointment on Tuesdays. They only accept walk0in removals on Monday afternoons. Things of this nature were frustrating but understandable. The reason why the German infrastructure runs so smoothly is that everything has its time.

Putting Foreign ER Fears Aside

The scariest thing in the world is something happening to our children. The second scariest is the cost that might come with it. Rest assured that with Tricare insurance you will be able to be seen at no cost. If you are somewhere with an out of network ER and they do not accept Tricare, do not fret. The foreign medical system, especially in Europe, is incredibly affordable. You are not charged for seeing specialists and physicians you are charged for material (plaster, tape, x-rays) even these items are significantly cheaper than the American system. Live and let live out in the world with little fear of what could happen and more trust in the capabilities of the people’s whose country you visit.

All of the NEW news with the Bradburys

 

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Mid-November finds our family of 5 together again. Greg has been approved for 30 days of leave that will carry us through Thanksgiving and the road trip back to North Carolina. After months of searching, praying, and calling we have finally found a livable house in New Bern, NC. Many of you may not know, but hurricane Florence did a number on North Carolina, in particular, the area of New Bern where the storm surge came through. With so many families displaced and swooping up the rentals before they even came on the market, we were struggling to find anything, much-less something large enough to house our family. The home we finally put a deposit down on is the smallest place we have lived in as a family of 5, but considering that we just received news that we are headed to JAPAN this summer we will have to downsize anyway. 

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When we return to North Carolina in early December Greg will be stationed at a new duty station, beginning training on a new aircraft. There are huge changes happening for our family this year. WE are transitioning from one military community to another, a very small specialized community. Then we will assimilate into another later in 2019 across the world. We have established a weekly family meeting to keep everyone up to date on the happenings of the week to come. To give the kids an opportunity to voice their opinions and concerns with us. We hope that by widening the communication lanes for everyone we will be able to make the changes in the year ahead a little smoother. BUT the biggest change of all is having Daddy home. After 10.5 months of travel, deployment, more travel, hurricane separation, house hunting separation, and homelessness we are all together again for the foreseeable future. This is obviously a wonderful thing, but, maybe surprising to my civilian readers, is the hardest transition of all. 

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Every year, I think “this has been the craziest year yet” and just like all the years past 2019 will say “hold my drink.” Luckily for Greg and I, we have been successful in our mission to raise resilient, determined, strong-willed, wonder seeking children who seek adventure almost as much as their parents. We are wishing you all a very warm Thanksgiving week surrounded by laughter and encouragement to do the things that set your soul afire. 

-Lydia

What Homeschooling Looks Like for Us: Homeschooling the Military Child

Once You Decide to Homeschool 

The first major decision that you need to make is whether or not you are going to use a secular or non-secular curriculum. The majority of homeschooling curriculums are Christian in design and content. Finding the curriculum that best suits your family will be one of the more difficult aspects of beginning your homeschooling journey. Our family is not of traditional faith, in terms of the military whole, so pinpointing a curriculum we love took a significant amount of time. Keep in mind that what works for one child may not work for another and it is ok if your curriculum changes every year or every kid. This is not uncommon!

Identifying some key characteristics in regards to play and learning will help aid you in this decision-making process. There are all sorts of curriculums out there; strictly textbook, nature-based, book based, manipulative-based and the list goes on. Using a combination of them all is common as well! There is no right or wrong way to homeschool. There is only the right and wrong way to do it for your family.

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Some families do not use a structured curriculum at all. This is especially common during the elementary years. If you are a hardcore Pinterest mom, you may be able to create it all yourself. In which case, BRAVO TO YOU!

PCS-ing and State Homeschooling Laws

Homeschooling is legal in the majority of the United States. With that being said, each state has it’s own homeschooling laws. These laws vary drastically! Some states have almost no laws at all and others are incredibly strict. If you have already begun to homeschool and are not sure of the laws in your area, do yourself a favor and keep samples of work from each subject. Being organized and having paper trails can be a saving grace in these types of situations.

If you are not sure where to start in regards to the legality of homeschooling at your current duty station then this is a great website to expose yourself to https://hslda.org/content/laws/. This website is full of wonderful resources no matter where you are in your homeschooling journey.

The Flexibility That a Military Family Needs

The majority of homeschooling families follow a standard 36 week or 9 month school year. This works wonderfully for some people. Especially if your military member works standard weekday hours. In our household (pilot family) we have never in the duration of our family’s history experienced standard working hours. Therefore, I began homeschooling our children year round. We take off all major holidays, but for the most part, we follow a 6 week on 1 week off schedule. What this scheduling does for our family is unmeasurable.

Post-deployment leave is spent loving daddy hard. No one is missing out because of school and we just have to do 6 weeks of schooling on either side of it. When family comes to visit we can plan that visit to fall at the end of a 6-week unit study. Even with this type of schedule, you are looking at a 40 to 42 week school year, which is longer than most. The remaining weeks I tend to leave open for sickness and pcs season if that is something on the horizon.

Scheduling Your School Days

When most families begin homeschooling they compare their scheduling to that of a mainstream school. Mainstream schooling is misleading in regards to scheduling. An 8 hour day is not necessary for your homeschool classroom. In all actuality, about 3 to 4 hours a day of actual classroom work is done in mainstream schools. The rest of the time is spent lining up, recess, lunch, etc. In our home, we do about four hours of school on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. We are always learning and creating things throughout the week, but standard subjects of Math, Language Arts, Geography, Living Books (curriculum specific), History, Art, and Science are focused on from approximately 0830 to 1330 Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. The time frame of 0830 to 1330 also includes an hour for lunch.

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Spending time outdoors is a huge passion for our families, but a huge part of our curriculum as well. We do additional learning activities in nature. For example, we keep nature journals, plant and tree identification, animal tracking, and everyone’s favorite fort building. This side of our homeschooling falls closer to the forest school description that you may stumble upon online. I will be addressing forest school a bit more in a later article. Our afternoons are spent outdoors and sometimes our mornings are as well. We aim for a minimum of three hours outside per day.

Every family and every child is different. What is working for us right now may not work for your family at all. With that being said, it may not work for us in a few years either. Homeschooling, sometimes, means being ridiculously flexible. This can also be one of the biggest perks to homeschooling! Embrace it, but give yourself enough time to feel like you are accomplishing things as well.

Homeschoolers Unite

Finding a support system in the form of like-minded friends and group members is huge for new homeschooling parents. Co-ops are a wonderful option. Though we are not currently part of a homeschooling co-op, we have been in the past and loved it. Some duty stations have plethoras of co-ops and others do not. Do your best to be a part of something larger a couple of times a month. It will help you, as the teacher, feel more supported. When we are part of a co-op we typically reserve a weekday (Tuesdays or Thursdays) for those types of gatherings.

Check out your local library! Libraries typically have a homeschool meetup, or homeschool events scheduled where you can meet others and learn more about local resources. Libraries also do homeschool resource fairs and bring in speakers and businesses that teach free classes. If you are heading into a new duty station where you know no other homeschoolers, your library is the perfect place to start!

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Child-Led Learning 

One of the reasons that most families find themselves homeschooling is because of their child’s interests, or lack thereof in the mainstream schooling sector. When you choose to homeschool you are saying “yes” to so much more than the time commitment. Homeschooled children get to pursue their interests significantly more than if they were in the mainstream sector. There are more opportunities and time to do so. There is more freedom to suggest a non-traditional subject.

Our 6-year old’s school year goals include learning to whittle. As a mother, probably raised in the mainstream system, you will have to work the most on yourself. I understand that this seems like a strange statement, but children tend to fall into the homeschooling life quite easily. It is the parent that has to re-write their life to fit this new change.

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Child-led Learning for You as well

I never wanted to be a teacher. Are you saying the same thing to yourself? Teaching was NEVER in my life plans. When there is ample time to teach and someone willing to learn, you may discover that teaching can be done anywhere doing anything. If your child wants to cook with you. I challenge you to teach fractions and let them at it, no matter the age.

You may begin a space unit study that is only supposed to take two weeks and turns into a two-year rocket building, room decorating obsession. Go for it. This is what homeschooling is all about! It is not that they will never learn how a snake sheds their skin or the life cycle of a butterfly. It is about a love of learning that they find themselves. When they come across it themselves you are suddenly winning on so many parenting and adulting levels. Give them the structure they need to learn and then loosen the reins.

Not every child, parent, and family is made to thrive in a homeschooling environment. You have to decide what is best for your child. Sometimes, homeschooling is a season. Sometimes it is necessary because of a rough duty station, bullying, learning, and teacher clashes the list goes on. The important thing is your child’s happiness and the happiness of your home. Scour for resources so that you feel supported. Join the groups and go to the events. Get out there so that when you are inside attempting to blow the volcano up for the umpteenth time you feel supported and confident in your choice to homeschool.

 

Living vs Vacationing: The Travel Mindset

When the public learns of our traveling ventures with our children I typically get a response of “how nice! What a wonderful experience! I bet that was amazing!” It is all of those things, but it is also really challenging and significantly more difficult than people realize. The main reason for the difficulty is that I am not on vacation I am living there. The household rules, budget, and ideals still apply. When you are on vacation, more times than not, everything goes. Suddenly, “Yolo” is thrown around everywhere! We all gain ten pounds and drink too much. When you are living at a destination you have to keep yourself in check. Your household depends on it.

How many times have you gone on vacation and not left the resort? Better yet, how many times have you gone on vacation and bought “Christmas gifts for everyone!” Suddenly, you turn into Oprah. A gift for you and you and uncle bud. If I had to pinpoint the largest difference between living versus vacationing, this would be it. I don’t buy souvenirs in my daily life. I think we can all agree that although Target is a difficult place to be budget conscious, we also don’t go there to get souvenirs. Your time abroad should be similar if you want to get the most out of your experience.

Things That Only Happen on Vacation

How many of us have been on a cruise and eaten chicken nuggets at 2 am because we can? I am super guilty too. Vacations are, sometimes, for these types of activities. One of the most detrimental parts about vacationing for yourself and the place you are visiting is when tourist bottleneck into stalls of products and “buy all the things” instead of going further out into the community to find the made by locals products. This is the case all over the globe!

Being mindful of the economy you are fueling with your money is something that no one wants to think about on vacation! Yet, if you were living there you would be genuinely concerned. The majority of the fine families I know, shop local whenever feasible. You do this because it brings some sense of self to know that your money is feeding and clothing the kids at the store.

It is also fueling the economy that you live and work in. You are a huge part of the equation. Why would that mindset not transfer over to vacations? The answer is pretty simple; vacations are for breaks from the ugly parts of life. The ugly part about vacations is that you can be surrounded by what a destination wants you to see. Just miles away, typically in sub-par conditions, is the elderly man carving the wooden sculpture you just purchased from the “gypsy stall” in town. Vacationers are too uncomfortable and unprepared to see these things. They won’t come back if they aren’t “happy” on their vacation.

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Uncomfortable Story Time

Allow me to preface this story with the fact that I was not uncomfortable, but my husband (who rarely travels with me) was beyond uncomfortable. As a college graduation present to my husband, who was then my boyfriend, I took him to Jamaica. Being on a ridiculously tight budget I paid for the flights and hotel and he covered the food. Well, I love traveling. I love people, I am as “one love” as Jamaica is going to get.

Therefore, when we decided that we wanted something small to remember our trip by we went out searching for something we could actually afford. We set out on foot, away from what we were supposed to see. Eventually, we stumbled upon what the government of Jamaica calls “squatter shacks.” All of the residents were making goods that they then sold to the bigger tourist vendors in town.

We watched attentively while the locals made beautiful products. The process of which we were never supposed to witness. Eventually, my husband found a lion head carving that he really enjoyed. They wanted $18 for it, which is probably the price it was going for in town. I told my husband to barter. It is more normal than not and not rude at all. He ran up to me later so excited that he got it for $15! He had done the first bartering of his life and I had done the same bartering on another item and gotten for $8 ahahahaha. There is an art form there.

The point of this story is that by going to the source everyone benefited. The old man made a killing off of my husband, but even the man I haggled with made the same amount he would have going through a middleman to market to the high tourist areas. If living on location and getting to know the locals is not an option for you; then being a responsible tourist has to be.

Living on Location

The desire to do every possible activity and buy all the pretty things is strong. Therefore, when I am living on location I try very hard, to find a happy balance. Usually, that balance comes in the form of experiences and food. You should try to do all the things on your list. They are almost always worth it. Be leery of buying all the things, that is where the peri dime shifts. Because I am living not vacationing I plan out our week like I would if I were stateside. In each week, I try to do an outing (museum, excursion, tour, etc).

Also, each week I try to have a “no spend” day. The no spend days help make the other things possible. There is almost always a stay home day. Not necessarily for spending purposes, but because my small children need a chill day. Especially when sightseeing regularly and navigating busy cities. This schedule is similar to anything you might do in the U.S. So many families that I know have regular weekly appointments with friends and libraries, or never leave the house on Mondays just because everyone benefits.

In my personal opinion, the best place to funnel your tourist money into an economy is via food. This will also prove to be one of the greatest ways to make memories. When you eat abroad most of the time you can shake the hand of your cook. You become not a tourist to that person and build a report with your surroundings. These good intentions are especially magnified when buying local produce and eating street vendor food. The same emotional and consumer benefits that you get from shopping at your local farmers market in the U.S. is available everywhere in the world. One of my favorite things to do is return to the same person time and time again. You are let into their lives and a relationship grows.

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The Happy Medium

The best place to start changing your travel habits is with your food. Like I mentioned before, eat locally. Go to the questionable tables. Smile and shake hands with people. Compliment the cook. These are simple tools for improving your travel experiences for the rest of your life. If the sight of some food on the street makes you queasy you should probably buy some. If you see an elderly woman manipulating a vegetable or harvesting something on a sidewalk (cactus fruit in Mexico for example) you should stop and watch. Show your children what is happening. Ask questions. You will make their day! When you walk past tomorrow they will wave. You have just invested in the lives of everyone around you with almost no effort.

“But that scarf! Everyone needs one!” I completely understand this. They probably do “need one.” What I am asking of you is that you step off a few streets. Find the less trafficked areas and buy those scarves. The best way to stay in control of your spending is to decide ahead of time what it is you would be most willing to buy. I say this because, when you are surrounded by beautiful, unique to that country products you will want it all. We do not go without souvenirs, but we do control it. My children get keychains from most destinations because it attaches to their packs and is easy to move around.

Changing the Mindset of Travel

All the things I have mentioned in this article are tangible, real results from traveling. You can affect the lives of your family and globally in a positive manner while still “relaxing” on vacation. The treat yourself mentality that seems to be prominent these days is poisoning not only us but everyone everywhere. The change that the world needs can be done on your vacations as well. If we all made a few comfort adjustments when planning vacations we would all be able to afford to take more of them. Living versus vacationing can be done anywhere and the long term effects of building relationships that bring you back time and time again are invaluable. It is possible to enjoy yourself and do good as you go. Get out there.

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