Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Relaxing at Stones River National Battlefield...NOT

Last Saturday started out so wonderful! My husband actually had a Saturday off work to spend with us and I'd planned to visit Murfreesboro, TN to see the artillery and cannon demonstrations at Stones River National Battlefield. Not only was I looking forward to a fun day with the family, I also thought it would be a great supplement to our Civil War study. We'd learned about the Battle of Stones River while we were reading Across Five Aprils and I thought that they all wanted to go. Well, here's what I heard on the LESS THAN TWO HOUR drive....

Where are we going?

How long do we have to be in the car?

Are we almost there yet?

We've been driving forever!

I'm carsick!

Why are we even going to River Stone or Stones River anyway?

Don't touch me!

Don't look at me!

Are you kidding me? Have I written enough for you to begin to understand what was happening in our vehicle? Somewhere after passing over the Alabama/Tennessee state line, my children had reverted back to four year olds, or rather two of them had. With each passing comment, I could just feel myself getting more and more frustrated. But yet, I was so happy to have my hubby along on the excursion that I wasn't going to let the 'voices' steal my joy....yet....

We arrived at the park just in time for the cannon firing which was incredible! A reenactor spoke briefly about the battle and the cannon fired with a bang so loud that it literally shook your body! After the demonstration we needed to wait an hour for the artillery demonstration so we made our way through the museum exhibit in the Visitor's Center, my son and I watched the film that was shown and we wandered through the gift shop where I made mental lists of the books that I want to use for our continuing Civil War study.

Somewhere between the gift shop and the few feet it took to exit the front doors, an attitude gripped two of my children once more. And this time, it frustrated me as well. Our fun family day was on the verge of being ruined. I tried unsuccessfully to lighten the mood, only to have things go from bad to worse. By this point, I was beginning to think that we should just get in the car and drive home. After a couple more, why do we have to be here remarks, I was nearly in tears and my husband had had enough. He set my children straight and two of them sat through the artillery demonstration in the car.

By the time the gunfire was over, the children were repentant and had decided to enjoy the day instead of sulking. We strolled through the cemetery, drove along the driving route, learning about the battle that had waged and saw Hazen Monument, the oldest, intact Civil War monument in the nation.

And though we took a longer, scenic route home through the mountains, we didn't hear one complaint from the backseat. We even stopped for ice cream and sandwiches and if you'd seen us then, you'd have thought we'd had a perfect day.

Ever had one of those days?

Saturday, September 19, 2009

The Pro's and Con's of Homeschooling on the Road

In August, I wrote an article on the Pro's and Con's of of Homeschooling on the Road as a guest writer for Melissa's Homeschool Blog. If you'd like to read it, you can find it here.

So What Does our Homeschool Look Like When We Travel?

Though our homeschool often changes as our location changes many times our school has pretty much looked the same on the road as it did at home. The difference was our bookshelves full of books and curriculum had been condensed into one large Rubbermaid tub. Imagine lugging all of your books up four flights of stairs when the elevator’s out of order, we've been there, not fun! Back breaking! Limiting what we could take on the road really forced me to focus on what was important. There have also been times, when the bulk of our schooling really was spent on outings and field trips.

While staying in the Historic Triangle of Virginia, we were immersed in Early American history. Our curriculum pretty much consisted of outings to places like Jamestown, Yorktown and Colonial Williamsburg with frequent trips to the library to check out books and videos on that specific time period. Since I didn’t have a laptop at that time , and we didn’t have regular access to a computer, we went to the library often. When we wanted to learn about the construction of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel or when we wanted to identify the ghost crab that we’d found on the beach, we went to the library. We counted a day trip to the Wright Brothers National Monument as an Ohio History day as we learned about the struggles and triumphs of that first flight. We took art classes at the local art museum and learned that Planter’s Peanuts began in Suffolk, VA. We went to the Great Dismal Swamp in search of bears and were so thankful when we left without seeing one.

In Tennessee, we learned about the Secret City of Oak Ridge, home of the Manhattan Project-an undertaking that was so secret that during the construction of the city, a shipment of mattresses were returned because there was no record that Oak Ridge existed. This trip led to a fascination of WWII and the atomic bomb. In the World’s Fair Park in downtown Knoxville, we traveled to the top of the Sunsphere and my husband and I reminisced about the Rubik’s Cube and other neat inventions of the day.

While my husband worked in Kentucky, we stayed in a travel trailer at Lake White State Park. Since we really didn’t have any money at that time, we often stayed at the camper and focused on Ohio History, visiting the nearby Portsmouth floodwall murals or enjoying the local wildlife. While we were annoyed by the early morning quacking of the Mallard Ducks, we enjoyed catching a glimpse of what we believe to be a mink or muskrat lazily swimming in the canal just after daybreak. The kids went swimming, fishing and rescued turtles from tires and snakes. We had contests to see who could find the most cicada shells and undertook a limnology (or study of freshwater ecosystems) study. The kids caught up on book work, added entries to their nature journals and we lazily spent the afternoons with one of our all time favorite family read alouds, Rilla of Ingleside. Evenings were spent on the screened in porch playing board games. It was during this time without internet, cell phones and TV reception that the kids each began writing their own book or memoirs of our travels.

In Alabama, we learned about rockets and the race to the moon, Helen Keller and other local legends. We visited a slave cemetery and spent time researching it in the library’s heritage room. We read Old Yeller and then went to a Coon Dog Cemetery. We have hiked and explored the area finding natural attractions like Cherokee Rock Village and Caney Falls that we will never forget.

In Georgia, we learned about the ancient Chin dynasty and China’s Terra Cotta Soldiers at the High Museum of Art. We visited Civil War battlefields and toured a Confederate Cemetery. We panned for gold while learning about Georgia’s Gold Rush, climbed Indian Mounds in the beating sun, learned about Martin Luther, King Jr., the Civil Rights Movement, the 1996 Olympics and hiked on fields of granite while trying in vain to catch lizards and skinks. Since we stayed in Atlanta, we were also exposed to many different cultures and ethnic groups, in some areas, a trip to Wal-Mart was like stepping into an International market place.

Before my husband’s job actually took us on the road, some of our favorite field trips were to Washington D.C., The Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island and a Florida trip which included St. Augustine, Disney World and Sanibel. My kids swear I am the only mom on earth that would make them learn about Disney by writing my own unit study before actually traveling there.

Most of the inspiration to the places we visited came from books we were reading or another study that we were undertaking in our homeschool at that time. For us, books and travel logically go hand in hand.

Something Amazing Happens

When I was just about to give up on our dream of traveling, something unheard of happened. My husband’s job slowed down (that’s not the unheard of; he’s in construction so that is a pretty much given every winter), but we were offered the chance to go to Virginia Beach to work for a few months. Never before had I dreamed that we would be able to travel with my husband’s current contractor job! With little thought we packed up, and headed out. I made a few phone calls and was able to get out of our many obligations graciously, but certainly not happily.

This is where my job comes into play. I had no idea when I took my job, how the Lord would use it. My job actually allowed for us to stay together as a family. I had spent the previous year, working as a front desk representative at a great hotel, just for the perks of traveling discounts, and the opportunity to take my kids to the pool whenever I wanted. The travel discounts allowed us to rent rooms right on the beach for as little as $25 per night, all I had to do was continue to work occasionally when we were back in town. If we’d had to pay full price, we’d never have been able to afford to go, but the Lord knew what we’d needed long before we did. There was just one catch. We were only allowed to stay at each hotel for 7 days and then we had to move to another one. So each Sunday that we are on the road, became our ‘moving day’.

Some weekends we would drive home to check on our house and visit family and friends. We were in Virginia for quite some time, off and on. While we were there, the kids and I went on a ton of outings that we called field trips and it actually became one of our best school years ever.

At home, we’d often spread out and do our own thing but in the small space of the hotel room, we were forced to see each other through the good and the bad. As parents, my husband and I had to deal with the tough attitudes and character issues that were taking root in our children. It was not easy as I realized it wasn’t only my children that needed to be dealt with, but realized that the Lord was dealing with me as well.

I’m ashamed to tell you that in the early days, I didn’t necessarily think about our journey as wonderful, we missed home, family and friends. Sometimes the pressure of constant contact in such a small space was too much for me. I’d go to the one spot that I could find solitude in the hotel room, the bathroom. I’d lock myself in and the tears would flow. I’m ashamed to say that it took me awhile to be grateful for what we’d gained. Though the first months were extremely difficult, it was also a time of healing for our family, a time to draw closer to the Lord and now, looking back, I’m sure it will be remembered as one of the best times in our lives.

After spending several months in Virginia, we returned home for the summer and began traveling on the road once again during the fall and winter months. Eventually, our travels began to take us other places, Tennessee, Kentucky, Georgia and currently, Alabama. Over the course of the past 3 ½ years, we’ve truly learned that home is where the heart is. After living in hotels, temporary apartments and a travel trailer, we are now living full-time in a motor home and continue to travel with my husbands job. Though it has been a difficult journey and we’ve truly given up much, I’m thankful that the Lord allowed us to ease into this lifestyle, step by step and that along the way we have learned to trust Him fully as He continues to lead us on this adventure.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Meet the Traveling Praters'

Well, who are we and just why would you be interested in joining us on our journey? We are the Traveling Praters' and our family consists of my husband, myself, two teenage boys, one daughter that is just days from joining the ranks of 'teenage-dom' and our wonderful adopted pound puppy. Please allow me to give you some introductions.

My husband Mr. P, is a wonderful hard-working, fun-loving kind of guy. He dreams of living life and striking it rich as a full-time treasure hunter. If you read about our gold panning excursions or diamond hunting expeditions, you can bet it's because the Mr. was feeling lucky!

Our oldest son, Mr. N is the easy going, carefree, go anywhere child. I think he's always lived a life of adventure. He was our 'let's strap him in the car seat and go' child. Before his 1st birthday, he'd already been to Washington D.C., Virginia Beach and Niagara Falls, Canada twice. We could take him anywhere. Much like his daddy, he is the most laid back of my three children.

Then along came #2...anyone that has had more than one child can tell you that adding that extra child to a family is certainly an adjustment. Mr. J was no exception. As easy going as Mr. N is, Mr. J is the opposite. He's certainly up for adventure, but he just needs a bit of time to warm up to the idea. He's also my outdoor loving, rough housing, get him outside to run off that extra energy child. Like his momma, he likes order and dislikes change. We're both learning the importance of flexibility.

Baby girl made three. Miss C is pretty special too. Often the quiet one in the family, she's also the most outspoken. Reserved unless she's with family and close friends and then her true self emerges. She's goofy and giddy and all those things you'd expect from a nearly 13-year old girl. She once half-jokingly confided in us that by the time our adventure is over, she's going to need therapy. We told her not to worry, everyone needs therapy after their childhood anyway!

Our family was complete until my daughter decided she needed a sister and we adopted a beautiful Siamese kitten that we called Cleopatra. She traveled with us in the early days, but as time went on she began act freakishly insane at the sight of suitcases. She is now adjusting to living life with close family friends' of ours that love her dearly.

Somehow along the way, the the kids convinced us they needed a puppy, so we found Vinnie or rather, Vincent Van Gogh. He is our adopted and abused pound puppy turned canine-traveler-extraordinaire. He has been a wonderful addition to our family for almost a year now and during that time he's traveled nearly everywhere with us. Like the rest of the family, he's up for nearly anything but especially enjoys going for rides in the car and taking walks.

Finally, there's me. wanna be writer who is self-published on the web and in the Spring 2009 issue of The Old Schoolhouse magazine. I wrote an article giving readers a glimpse of how we homeschool called 'Living the Adventure'. I dream of one day writing a best selling novel, but in the meantime, I'm just practicing with this blog.

There you have it, the lowdown on the Traveling Praters'. Our life is at times challenging, constantly changing, but rarely boring. Though it certainly has its ups and downs, I wouldn't trade this adventure for anything! So, I hope you stop by often, buckle up and enjoy the nomadic journey as much as we do! Blessings!

Monday, September 14, 2009

Loving my new blog design!

If you found me from my other blog at the Homeschool Blogger, what do you think of my new blog design? Don't you just love it??? I am so excited that it's up and running! A warm HUG and a huge THANK YOU go to Adori Graphics for blessing me with such a fabulous blog! Louise, you really went above and beyond my expectations! Please, take a minute to stop by Adori Graphics and check out all of the wonderful custom graphics and blog designs that Louise, aka The Blog Makeover Girl has been busy with. You'll even find some wonderul freebies and a page of tutorials that you can use to enhance your own pages. If you've been thinking about giving your own blog a facelift, I wholeheartedly recommend Adori Graphics! Thank you Louise!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Just a dream...

My husband and I dreamt of one day, packing up our three children, our finicky Siamese cat, and rambunctious Beagle puppy and embarking on a once-in-a-lifetime cross country trek in a motor home. In my mind I could imagine us rambling along peaceful country roads, across rivers, up mountains, and through deserts all in the comfort of an old, beat up RV with swaying hippie beads hanging from the rear view mirror; singing folk songs, and exploring every odd ball out of the way tourist trap we could find, laughing all the way.

This past year, we actually embarked on our adventure and became full-time RV travelers in an older not so beat up motor home, minus the hippie beads. We chose to place our precious cat in foster care with close friends of ours while we're roaming. Let's just say, she had problems adapting to this new way of life. This blog will show you how you can embark on your own RV journey, whether that would be starting with a short weekend getaway or leaping into the lifestyle full-time. I'll share with you how our dream lifestyle came to be, how we chose our motor home, cost involved in our RV lifestyle, how we homeschool our kids while traveling and how we all manage to keep our sanity!
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