Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The Schoolhouse Expo: Your Chance to Win a Ticket

School House Expo

Have you heard about the first ever Schoolhouse Expo, a homeschool conference that is entirely online? Well, May 12-14, you can enjoy three days worth of phenomenal speakers, door prizes, over 30 free gifts just for registering, and a virtual vendor’s hall all from the comfort of your home, or if you’re like me, from the comfort of your RV! How awesome is that?

Not only will you be able to listen to each speaker as your schedule allows, if the dishwasher overflows,the kids start fighting or the dog vomits on the floor (like mine just did), you won’t miss a thing because you will have access to each session as an audio download to listen to in your quieter, less hectic moments. In fact, you’ll have these sessions to listen to over and over again when you need the encouragement the most!

The wonderful people that bring you The Old Schoolhouse Magazine® have arranged for some incredible speakers including Todd Wilson, Susan Wise Bauer, Amanda Bennett, Andrew Pudewa and Lee Binz.

*Are you struggling when it comes to teaching your children writing skills or vocabulary?

*Do you have struggling learners or children that are easily distracted?

*Are you interested in learning about new techniques like work boxes or new methods, like unit studies?

*Maybe you're approaching the high school years and it's time to think about transcripts?

*Maybe you just need someone to tell you that you really are doing the right thing?

Whether you are considering homeschooling, are new to homeschooling or have several or many years of homeschooling under your belt, you'll find something here for you. Just check out the list of speakers and workshops to see what I'm so excited about!

If you'd like to attend, you'll be happy to know that you aren't required to have any special software or equipment, just high speed Internet but you can read the FAQ's if you have any doubts.

Wanna go? I'm going and I can't wait! You can get your tickets two ways. You can register here to purchase a ticket to this amazing totally online event OR you can enter for a chance to win one here on my blog. I am thrilled to be able to offer one of my readers a FREE ticket courtesy of the Old Schoolhouse Magazine®! Yep, that's right, totally FREE! The entire 3 day event!

So, how do you enter to win this ticket? Though I would appreciate a follow here on my blog, on Twitter, or becoming a fan on my Facebook page I'm not going to make that mandatory to enter, but you can do it if you want to. I'm going to make this really simple. All you have to do to enter is....leave a comment. That's it. And make sure I can reach you if you win. I will accept entries Wednesday April 7th until midnight CST. A winner will be selected by sometime on Thursday and that lucky person will be promptly notified of their winnings by me!

So, what do you think? Are you as excited as I am? Who do you really want to hear at The Schoolhouse Expo? Personally, I never fail to be encouraged by Todd Wilson.

Deals you don't want to miss

Here are some great deals you won't want to miss!

Thanks to Crystal at Money Saving Mom for passing this deal along to her readers. Target is sponsoring Free or reduced rate admission at over 100 museums around the country on select days. You can read about the program here and find out if a museum near you is participating.

Speaking of freebies, did you know that over 100 National Parks also offer fee-free days? The first free days of the year will be during National Park Week, April 17-25. As a special treat, several of the park concessions are offering coupons and discounts on dining, shopping and tours. You can find out about those here. Remember not all National Parks charge fees, but for those that do, this is a great time to save some money!

Do you plan to take advantage of either of these offers?

Why not visit my friend Debbie?


This week my friend Debbie at Children Grow, Children Explore, Children Learn asked me if I would write a guest post for her weekly Geography/History post. I shared some of our favorite geography resources, if you'd like to check it out.

While you're there, make sure that you check out the weekly Geography/History carnival. Debbie posts this each week and you can link up with MckLinky. Though the button says Postcard Exchange, you do not have to be a member of that group to participate. The carnival is open to anyone that teaches geography or history to their children.

What are some of your favorite resources for teaching geography?

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Travel Tips: Always Pack a Map

As you know, just over a week ago, the kids and I went on a road trip. I had printed directions from Mapquest, but had forgotten to grab my GPS on the way out the door. Normally, that is not a big deal. Of course, I usually print the accompanying map with the Mapquest directions but this time I'd decided that I didn't need it. Uh huh. Mistake.

I think you know where this is heading.

Somewhere down the road, after we finished sightseeing in Paris, Tennessee, I was supposed to take West-such-and-such-street, which I did and only realized 20 minutes later that it wasn't leading me where I needed to be. I guess 20 minutes wasn't bad, but then it took me 20 minutes to get back where I started only to realize that Mapquest had made an error and I was supposed to have been on EAST-such-and-such-street. NEVER WEST!

Oh well, after a 14 hour drive what's another 40 minutes anyway? So, remember the lesson I learned and even if you have a printed directions or a GPS, it never hurts to pack along and old fashioned map...just in case.

Your turn, have you ever gotten lost while following directions? Or NOT following directions as the case may be? Please share...we're all ears...

Monday, March 29, 2010

Reminder: Field Trip Friday

Just wanted to remind you all that Field Trip Friday will be held again this week. I know I got a bit off track, but all should be good from here on out. I'm hoping you can stop by and link up some of those fun field trips you've been blogging about and guess what? This week I'll have a cute button for everyone that participates! To link up, you can stop by anytime from Friday a.m. until the following Tuesday at 6 p.m. CST. See you there!

While the Kids are Away...

...the husband and I barely know what to do with ourselves. Really. So, we went to Tunica, Mississippi. What's in Tunica? I'll give you a hint:

We aren't gamblers so the casino left a bit to be desired. I'd heard that the food at the casino is much like cruise food and it would be an excellent place to eat so we tried the buffet but didn't care much for it. In all fairness, we did arrive on Seafood night and frankly, we don't like seafood. Maybe another option would have been better but sushi, clams and shrimp in everything...ewwww....'nuf said!

We had planned to stroll along the Mississippi, but somewhere between the Alabama and Mississippi State Line, the temperature dropped considerably. I was wearing a light blouse, but had failed to pack a jacket. So much for that idea.

My husband would have enjoyed a show if there would have been something with illusions or clean comedy, but they don't have a regular schedule of shows to choose from.

Probably not the best pick for us, so we were only there long enough to eat. I know, what were we thinking? It's just not our cup of tea. If you are planning a trip to Tunica, I'd certainly tell you to do some research in advance. There are some musuems that look interesting, plus it's on the Blues trail and downtown is cute and quaint. Gambling isn't the only draw in town.

Last week we also discovered our local Dollar Theater again.Can you believe that you can get your movie ticket, popcorn, drinks and some snacks for only $1? Talk about a cheap date!

We couldn't resist watcing two movies. Our first pick was Sherlock Holmes, but we decided we didn't care for it and left- after all we were only out $2- why stick around?

The next time we gave the much talked about The Blind Side a shot. The Blind Side was very good and our kids were watching it in Ohio with their grandparent's at the same time! How neat is that? Anyway, I would caution if you haven't seen it and plan to watch it with your kids, this probably isn't one for young kids. Just my opinion. There are some words that I could have done without hearing and a couple phrases, but overall, it is a very good movie. The kids have already decided it should be added to our movie collection.

Yesterday, my husband and I headed outdoors for a fun hike. Of course the fur baby is still here and he's always eager to head outdoors so we can't really deprive him can we? We went to a nearby hiking trail that has a beautiful trail around a lake.

It was a beautiful day and we enjoyed being in the outdoors and in each other's company, but honestly...we're ready to have our children home again. We miss them.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Bookstores and Me

I’ve always been completely honest about my weakness…umm…let me rephrase that…addiction to books. In fact, one of my ongoing struggles while living in the camper has been my inability to quit buying books! At times it has seemed as though books would overtake everything and I’ve had to scale back, giveaway and donate some of the titles that weren’t completely essential at that moment. However, that is going to change and I love it!

One of the benefits of living in a stick house again is that I will be able to rescue all my books from storage. Well, maybe not all of them, but some of our favorite books, like the old Landmark books and Signature series biographies. My older son is looking forward to reuniting with his collector’s edition of The Hobbit, my younger son wants his war books and my daughter will have my collection of Nancy Drew books, if she has any in the series left to read. Me? I’m just looking forward to restocking my lone remaining book shelf.

Yesterday my husband and I drove to Books-a-Million so I could buy a couple necessary items for school…okay; maybe it was just a ploy to get inside the store! I had to chuckle to myself when my husband found a book he wanted and handed it to me saying, “If you find anything to purchase, go ahead and get this too.” Ha! As if I wouldn’t find something to buy after that comment! I can assure you I found a couple items that I couldn’t live without and even purchased their rewards card so I can save next time around.

Friday, March 26, 2010

A New Facebook Fan Page

Live the Adventure

Promote Your Page Too

I've joined several fan pages for blogs that I read and find that it is a great way to interact, ask questions and learn a few new things. So with those intentions in mind, I decided to start my own Fan Page for Live the Adventure. I have a few fun things planned down the road a bit. Mainly a couple giveaways and a few other fun surprises. Of course, if you have any ideas, I'd love to hear those too. So I hope you'll consider joining me on Facebook.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Field Trip Friday: Jerry Brown Pottery

One of the first stops I made in Alabama last year was to a local Visitor’s Center. After all, I just had to know what this state had to offer. One of the guides mentioned a potter by the name of Jerry Brown that had pieces on display in the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History in Washington D.C. Intrigued, I knew this was one stop we would certainly make and when I discovered that one of the homeschool groups had planned a field trip to his country studio, I was really hoping we'd still be around to attend. So when March rolled around and we were still here, I was thrilled to sign up!

Jerry Brown Pottery is located in Northwest Alabama in a small rural community called Hamilton. The kids and I drove right around two hours to get there, missed the road we were supposed to turn on, drove out into the middle of nowhere, literally! Thought we'd never make it back to civilization, realized our error (well, my error) and made it just in time for the show to start!

Jerry Brown was born into a pottery making, clay firing family. In fact, he's a 9th generation potter. He told us that he was working in his dad's shop before he was old enough to go to school! One day, his own son will takeover the family business and the Brown legacy, built upon unique folk art creations will continue.

Our tour of the studio began with a demonstration. Mr. Brown effortlessly molded three lumps of clay into a usable vessel waiting to be fired in minutes on his pottery wheel that was made from the rim of an old car and powered by a go cart motor. It was fascinating to watch the clay transform before our eyes.

Though the Brown's once fired their pieces in a wood burning kiln, that was just a bit too tedious and labor intensive so they now use a natural gas fired brick lined kiln. Running the kiln is a bit tricky because the pieces need to be heated slowly and cooled slowly so they aren't damaged. It normally takes about 15-16 hours to fire each piece. We also learned that the kiln will get so hot that the bricks will turn white.

The clay used in all of the pieces is found locally and processed by Blue, their friendly 20- year old, well-cared for mule. Blue was a hit with everyone when she demonstrated turning the clay and grinding the lumps out. It takes her about 2-3 hours to process 2,500 pounds of clay. Though this step removes the majority of lumps and impurities, it still requires a few more steps before it can be turned into the art piece you'll see in the studio.

The studio is full of the best selling Face Jugs, gallons jugs, popcorn bowls, bacon crisper's, egg separators, mixing bowls, coffee mugs, whimsical piggy banks and much more. Since I'm a nut when it comes to handcrafted pieces, I couldn't leave without purchasing one or...two items...after all, who could resist the folk art Face Jugs?

This was a great first stop on our Road Trip to Ohio and along the way the kids and I discussed what we learned and enjoyed about the trip. My oldest son shared with me that he really wanted to try his hand at making some pottery pieces of his own. I was thrilled. The field trip had done just what I'd intended. It had piqued an interest. After all, isn't that what field trips are all about? Exposing our children and ourselves to new things? Hopefully developing a deeper understanding or appreciation of the subject matter?

If you're ever in the area, I'd highly recommend adding Jerry Brown Pottery to your list of stops and if at all possible, call ahead for a tour. You won't be sorry! Oh, and for my RV friends, you won't fit in his parking lot, but there is plenty of parking along the road.

Well, stay tuned because I for one am really eager to see what pottery creations my children will come up with as they give the wheel a try.

Hamilton Things To Do on raveable

5 People, 1 Dog in a Camper for 1 Year

I can't believe it has been nearly a year since we bought our camper and excitedly drove it to Alabama, embarking on our grand adventure. Of course, like many things in life, it didn't actually turn out as we had planned. We have taken a few trips, but we've not spent all our time on the go. Or even a fraction of our time for that matter. Since we began traveling with my husbands' job four years ago, we've spent more time not mobile in the past year than ever before. Oh sure, we'd travel back and forth to Atlanta on occassion,and to Ohio to visit, but mainly we've been here exploring all there is to see in Northern Alabama. But things are about to change. And I'm very excited.

No, we are not hitting the open road. For some it may even seem like we are taking a step backwards. For us we are taking a very necessary step. We are moving. Not from Northern Alabama. From our camper.

My husband has been offered a position that was just too good to pass up so we've decided to stay. Though our hearts are with our family and friends in Ohio, we've decided the time has come to put some roots down here. It just doesn't make sense for us to stay in our camper for the next four to five years if we're just sitting still. So, we're looking for an apartment or a house that we will be renting while we continue to save money to buy land of our own....wherever it may be that we eventually decide to really settle down.

If you found this blog and stick around because you have enjoyed reading about our adventures, don't be alarmed. We'll still have those so I hope you will continue to stop by. I have no intention on giving up our field trips and other excursions. Plus, we're planning a couple other fun trips this year that I hope you'll enjoy reading about. But for now, I guess I'm becoming a once and future full-time RVer. You know what? I'm really looking forward to this new chapter in our lives.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Bonjour from Paris

If you've poked around this blog for awhile, you may remember my daughter's infatuation with all things Paris. I mentioned it awhile back in the post For the Love of Paris when she painted her own picture of the Eiffel Tower. Well, after our trip last week, I think she'll have even more inspiration.

We drove hours out of our way just to see Paris. Well, Paris...Tennessee, that is. Home to the World's Biggest Fish Fry, which was not happening last week, in case you were wondering, we were a few weeks early. No, we planned our trip only to see the 60- foot tall replica of the Eiffel Tower in Memorial Park.

My daughter could not have been happier. I must admit, it was pretty neat. Smaller than I expected. But neat nonetheless. Even the boys enjoyed stopping. Kind of... We stopped at Walgreen's on the way out of town to purchase postcards (did you know you could find them there?) so she could mail one to some of her friends and one to marked Paris, of course.

So, was it worth it to drive three hours out of our way just to see this Roadside Attraction? I guess that depends on who you ask, but my daughter would wholeheartedly reply, "Oui!"

Now I have a question for you make it a point to visit Roadside Attractions? If so, what has been your most memorable so far?

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

I'm Back!

Sorry to have neglected this blog for the past week. I had tried to schedule a couple posts before we left but blogger was acting up and everything was posting immediately. I really thought I'd have time on the road to upload a few pictures and let you know what we were up to, but that's a bit difficult when you are using someone else's computer and of course they want to use it too! How dare they....Ha!

Well, I'm back and hope you'll take the time to stop back and see exactly what the kids and I were up to on our very brief trip to Ohio. I have an amazing field trip to share with you on Friday, so please stop back and I hope the beautiful weather you're having will entice you to head out this week on your own field trip so you can link up here. I say beautiful weather you are having because yesterday it snowed here and though the temperature has gone up considerably, I'm still a bit cool. Guess I really have gotten used to the Alabama weather after all!

I also wanted to share just a bit about why we went to Ohio. My dear grandmother was diagnosed with colon cancer sometime ago. Though I've been able to speak to her on the phone, I hadn't seen her since July. Since January she has had three heart attacks and has not been doing very well. I decided I just didn't want to wait until April (when we had planned a trip North) to visit with her. So...after a great field trip last week, the kids and I continued to drive...and drive...and drive....

We did break up the trip with a stopover at an awesome La Quinta Inn & Suites in Bowling Green, KY. Doesn't it look like the kids were enjoying themselves?

Doesn't he look comfortable?

Keeping in touch

The Flat Stanley's' look like they'll sleep well

After a peaceful night's sleep we awoke and hit the road again. Our first stop was to visit my grandma. She grudgingly posed for a picture with my children, her great grandchildren. Actually, she doesn't like to have her picture taken, but we really didn't twist her arm.

The kids thought we had the best visit we've ever had with her. I'm so thankful we were able to visit when she was in a good mood and not experiencing a lot of pain. If you feel led to pray for her she began radiation or chemo (I'm not sure which one because I heard both) yesterday and will have it five days a week for five weeks. Her name is Audrey.

The hardest part of being on the road is not always being near those near and dear to our hearts.

We have a Winner!

We have a winner! I used the random number generator at so the winner of the A is for America book goes to comment #12 which was left by Jeanine and I will be sending her an email right about now. Thanks for everyone who participated in the giveaway!

Friday, March 19, 2010

Spring Cleaning Curriculum Giveaway

It's time to clean those shelves and I've joined the fun at The Curriculum
. If you have items on your shelf that you no longer need you may be interested in hopping over and getting in on the action.

I am offering a very nice hardback copy of A is for America. I loved this book! I'd love to post a picture or two, but I'm still on the road without my computer so it will have to wait. I'll try to stop back and edit this post later.

MckLinky Blog Hop

Thursday, March 18, 2010

You may be interested...

Are you honest with your struggles? Do you openly share with other homeschoolers when things aren’t going exactly as planned?

Sadly, I’ve found if your child wins the local spelling bee quiz, or gets 1st place in the support group science fair, you’re eager to spread the excitement with all your friends and family about those accomplishments, but are you likely to share when your 10-year old child isn’t reading? Or that you are concerned that your child may have a learning disability? Do you openly and honestly share those struggles?

Sadly, the answer isn’t always yes. After all, why open ourselves up to criticism from those who don’t understand? You may even receive well meaning advice from someone that doesn’t have a clue with what you are dealing with. The words that are intended to help may really hurt. I know. I’ve been there. After sharing many of my struggles with my own local support group, I would have mom’s approach me “privately” to ask my opinion about a certain program, only to remark that there is nothing “wrong” with their own child.

To read the entire article, Resources for Struggling Learners, visit Homeschool Classroom.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Where have I been?

Wow! Right now we are on another whirlwind trip. Well the kids and I are. We've decided to head North to Ohio to visit friends and family but we took quite a detour to get here. I'll post all about it later, but I left my computer in the camper with my husband and am using my children's laptop now, so it won't be much of a surprise that I won't be on too frequently this week.

I had planned to upload some of the awesome pictures that we took today and set up a couple posts, until I discovered that I actually left my USB port for my camera at home too! I guess you'll just have to stop back and SEE what we've been doing next week. I'll give you a hint I bought an ugly cup that I love and we saw the Eiffel Paris! Any ideas?

I'd say so far we've had an incredible trip. Other than the fact that the Mapquest directions I printed routed us through every small town between Alabama and Kentucky. I finally decided to stop for the night because I just DID NOT want to drive one more mile and it was simply too fatiguing for me to concentrate on driving 45 mph! Ha! You may think I'm joking, but I'm not! I'll pay extra special attention to those directions next time.

I do have an exciting announcement though. Well, I don't know how excited you will be, but I'm excited and just can't keep it to myself any longer! Okay, here goes...I will be writing a weekly column at the Company Porch for the Homeschool Blogger. I'd love it if you'd stop by and visit me once in awhile there too! I also need a name for my column and I'm just not feeling creative this week. Can anyone help? I'll be writing about our relaxed way of homeschooling. Here's a bit of this week's post:

Our Journey to Relaxed Homeschooling

I didn’t always call myself a relaxed homeschooler. When I began homeschooling my three precious children 11 years ago, I started on a different path. I had very specific plans. My children were going to be advanced beyond their years. They were going to read at 5th or 6th grade level by first grade. They were going to begin Latin by second. I was going to show everyone what homeschooling could do by creating super progeny.

Wanna read more? You can do that here.

Have a great week! I'm hoping to post a Field Trip Friday if I can borrow the internet from a friend so look for it late tomorrow night or early Friday. I'll be back to my regular post schedules next week! Blessings!

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Gulfport, Mississippi

For once, I don't have a lot to say other than when we set out on this trip I tried to plan something for everyone. My husband wanted to dig for diamonds, my oldest son wanted to go to the WWII museum, my youngest son wanted to visit the Alamo and my daughter wanted to visit the coast. Me? I was just happy to hit the road.

We'd checked everything but the Gulf off our list and began cruising along towards Alabama. After awhile I realized that I had missed my turn. I knew if we didn't go back, my daughter would be really upset with me so we began the trip back. What I thought would be an hour and a half back turned into two with the traffic and stop lights. My husband was not pleased. Finally, we arrived to see this:

Are you thinking cold, wet and windy? BINGO! But even at that, the brief 20-minute stop made my young 'uns day!

Can you believe this was her favorite aspect of the entire trip?

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Field Trip Friday: The Homefront in New Orleans

Welcome to the 5th edition of Field Trip Friday. Now that the weather is getting to be a bit more pleasant, I imagine more of you will be heading out to explore your local communities…and beyond! Don’t forget to share some pictures of your day and tell us a little bit about your trip so we can all pretend that we were on the trip too! I know that most people don’t go on field trips as often as we do, so feel free to link up one of your past field trips as well. You can link up below and feel free to snag the Field Trip Friday button. I’d be grateful if you’d include a link back here so others can hear about this meme too.

Remember our whirlwind 2, 444 mile trip that we just returned from? Well one of our final stops in New Orleans was to see more than just the Superdome we heard so much about during the aftermath of horrific hurricane Katrina. We had one stop to make to appease the WWII buffs that live in my household, The National WWII Museum or D-day Museum, as it was originally called.

Unfortunately, I don’t have many photos to share with you. Not only did I lose the men folk as soon as I’d purchased the tickets, but they also ran away with my camera.

Entering the museum, you’ll see a two story pavilion that holds jeeps, planes, tanks, and the famous Higgins craft that was built in New Orleans and assisted in winning the war.

This museum is not all encompassing of the war, but begins when the US got involved after the attack on Pearl Harbor. It's broken up in a series of exhibits beginning with a brief introduction to what life was like on the home front during the war and continues onto preparations to D-Day and the battles and invasions in the Pacific that ensued.

While the guys hurried through to look at the guns, my daughter and I chose to listen to the personal accounts of the many men and women that are scattered throughout the exhibits that offer a first hand account at life as a civilian and enlisted man during the war.

I appreciated the personal side of the exhibits, the many photographs, journal entries and even newspaper clippings that were on display but what I will remember most are the snatches of conversation and stories that we heard from men that had fought in the war that had chosen to visit on the same day, as they reminisced with the men that were visiting with them. They looked at the pictures and teary eyed, quietly recalled some of the horrors that they’d seen, while a moment later, regaining composure, excitedly pointed to the maps on display and recalled where they were when they found out they were going home. There work was finished. I wanted to thank these men for their service, but I didn’t want to intrude on such a private moment.
Catching up with the guys, we somberly continued through the remaining exhibits. It’s suggested that you spend 2 ½ to 3 hours to tour the museum and though we were there for just over 2 hours, we all agreed that we could have spent a bit more time.

I didn’t really prepare for this field trip because my boys (husband included) have been interested in this time period for as long as I can remember. The boys regularly read about different aspects of the battle and watch documentaries from the History Channel as well as talk to some vets that they've met. Next week I’ll post some of those places and include some of our favorite resources for learning about this time period.

This is certainly one of the nicer museums that we’ve encountered along our travels and we left with a deeper appreciation of the sacrifice that was made by the many men that actively fought in those battles and by the families that made sacrifices on the home front.

Have a field trip that you'd like to share? Please link to it below. Until next week, Happy Field Trippin'!

MckLinky Blog Hop

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Check this Out!

Do you currently use an online company to host your photos? Do you love to take photos and share them with others?Are you a blogger that searches the blogosphere for photos for your blog only to run across something't quite expecting? Yeah, I'm sure you know what I mean.

What would you say if I shared with you that there is a brand new Family Friendly Photo Community that is preparing to launch their website and you can enter a giveaway for an Advanced FREE Membership?

Would you be interested? I am. In fact, I was so excited I applied to be a beta tester! This is a company that I am very excited about. You can visit The HomeSpun Life website to hear more about this neat company that will host your photos, allow you to share photos with the blogoshere or even apply to sell some of your photos as stock photography and it's all moderated to keep this site family friendly and safe for all eyes.

If you want to enter the giveaway, visit here.If you are curious about the company but not in the giveaway, you can join them on Facebook or Twitter or simply visit the Pix-O-Sphere website and enter your email address to be notified when the site launches, which will be soon!

So...what do you think? Are you interested?

San Antonio Riverwalk

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Travel Tips: Stay your way to FREE nights

If you travel frequently, or even occasionally, by now you've probably signed up for a Free Hotel Rewards program. Or two. Or three. Depending on how often you travel. Nearly every hotel chain offers them. Most are free to join and the points you earn add up to FREE stays for you, while gaining loyal customers for the hotel chain. After all, if you are staying in a town with a hotel that participates in the reward program, wouldn't you stay there and earn points towards a future stay rather than a hotel that doesn't? I would and do, especially if they are comparable in price and features that I'm looking for.

Personally we belong to several programs but have mainly used one exclusively for the past 15 months. Over that time we've earned Elite status, which means that my family stays in a lot of hotels and as a result we receive even more points. To give you an idea of how it adds up,I've included a screen shot of our account. You can see that I have just over 12,000 points, which in our program is enough points for two free nights at some hotels.

Before our recent Texas trip, I had just under 6,000 points. We spent 4 nights in a hotel room and paid under $60 per night. We earned enough points for an additional free night with our bonuses.

(The bonus would not apply to the basic membership, but with our particular rewards program as long as we use it every so often- I believe yearly- the points won't expire so if you don't travel frequently, it will still add up eventually.)

As a rewards member, you'll also receive notices of special offers, like extra points for staying during certain times or in certain destinations, free upgrades and special welcome gifts.

Want to hear more? I found this great post, The Best Hotel Rewards Programs to Earn Free Hotel Stays, that explains more of the benefits of joining a hotel rewards program. Oh,and just so you know, many programs allow you to use your points towards flights, gas and even dinner!

Do you belong to a rewards program? How does it work for you?

Monday, March 8, 2010

Thrills, Wheels and Deals: Six Flags in Fiesta, TX

Planning something for everyone meant that EVERYONE was able to plan one place that they wanted to visit, but that didn’t necessarily mean that EVERYONE wanted to go there. Though my husband had already requested that we stop at Crater of Diamonds State Park, when I gave him a run down of our agenda, he didn’t think there was quite enough FUN involved. He suggested that we add an amusement park to our list. So grudgingly, I looked into it. It’s not that I don’t enjoy amusement parks, it’s just, well…let me just say I don’t enjoy them as much as I did when I was a teenager but that’s not the only reason I’m a bit hesitant. In case you haven’t already figured it out, I’m cheap. And amusement parks are not.

However, we’ve been so busy working at paying off our debts that we decided we could splurge just a bit. So I did what my husband asked and found that there just happened to be a Six Flags in San Antonio. Perfect. I was pleasantly surprised to find that when you purchase a one day ticket for $49 you can visit any Six Flags park for the season at no additional charge. Sounded like a good deal to me.

But then I found a better deal and the thrifty side of me was happy! If you purchased your tickets in advance online, you would save $15 per ticket! This price wouldn't include admission to other parks at a later date, but there isn't one near us or where we plan to travel to this year so we decided to take the addtional $75 in savings. We even postponed our trip one week so we could be there for opening weekend!

We had season passes to a Six Flags one summer several years ago when the kids were smaller and really enjoyed it. Everything but the crowds that is. This time, we didn’t have any crowds to deal with. We didn’t even wait in line. We bounced from ride to ride to ride. Sometimes we didn’t even get off the ride, we just stayed in our seats and away we went. There are certainly benefits of not traveling during the peak seasons!

Of course the downside of not traveling during peak season is that not all the attractions were open and my kids would’ve loved to have spent time at the water park section of the park.

Here's a glimpse of our incredibly fun day:

First stop, the front row of GoliathThe coloring didn't quite turn out right when I scanned this picture, but you get the point.

We thought it was warm until we got wet...brrrr...

My husband, out to get my daughter. She's very frightened!

The view from the top of the Ferris Wheel. See how empty the parking lot was? More fun for us!!!

Old time Wheels

Last ride of the day, The Rattler. The 4th largest wooden roller coaster in the world that reaches the top speed of 65 miles and hour and an portion of it tunnels through the rock quarry walls. Just close your eyes when you're going down the first hill and the rest of the ride is a breeze. Not the best picture, but we wanted to show you how huge this coaster is.

What do you think is the best amusement park you've ever been to?

Sunday, March 7, 2010

The Best Family Trip Ever

After leaving the Crater of Diamonds State Park, we had a long drive ahead of us. We were heading to San Antonio, Texas to see the Alamo. We weren’t messing around on this trip.

It was on this leg after we’d just filled our gas tank and bellies that my 14-year old son commented that this was the best family trip ever. Wow! It’s not that we weren’t having a good time, but we’d just started and so far we hadn’t experienced much more than the rubber hitting the road and playing in the mud. Let’s not forget that this is the child that had experienced the unfortunate ‘accident’, thanks to Vincent, our dog.

Perplexed, my husband asked him what he was enjoying so far. His answer? We had chosen to take this trip. Makes sense. This past January we celebrated our 4th year on the road with my husband’s job. Though we’ve been to some really cool places, and experienced some incredible adventures, we hadn’t chosen to go to those places. It’s true, we could have chosen NOT to go, but that’s not really much of a choice since it would have meant that my husband would not have any work.

So, I guess my son was right. We had chosen to go on this trip and this was probably the first REAL trip that the kids actually planned details right along with me. We had a family conference, discussed where they wanted to go and built our trip around their wants. After all, leaving a home we loved, family and friends and our beautiful but neurotic Siamese cat behind hasn’t been all fun and games for them. It was about time they had a say in something.

So when my 14-year old told me he loved this trip, I was feeling pretty good, especially since we hadn’t even gotten to the ‘good stuff’ yet!

Friday, March 5, 2010

Are you ready to homeschool through High School?

Reasons to homeschool are many and varied. Maybe you’ve chosen to keep your children home to teach them the values, believes and convictions that you hold dear, to tailor an academic program to their abilities, because you’re unhappy with the current educational system that is in place, or one of the many other reasons why a parent would choose to educate their child at home. Whatever your reason would be, I’m convinced that it boils down to one thing; you simply want what is best for your child.

Once you get past teaching your child how to read, the next BIG fear that homeschooling parents seem to face is the high school hurdle. We wonder if we really have what it takes to continue the journey. How can we teach the higher level classes like algebra, geometry, or biology from home? Are we really equipped to prepare our children for college? What if we mess up? If you are considering homeschooling with older children, you may wonder if it’s even possible to begin this late in the game.

If you’ve experienced fears as the high school years approach or if you are already homeschooling a high school age child but doubt your abilities, then like me, you’ll be encouraged by reading this e-book. Recently published by The Old Schoolhouse Magazine, Help, Lord, I’m getting ready to Start Homeschooling my High Schooler! is a collection of articles and stories submitted by over a dozen very different homeschooling families.

In this e-book, you’ll find that each family has their own method of homeschooling with varied goals and methods to attain those goals, but like you, they also desire what is best for their individual children. This e-book will show you that there is no right or wrong way to get there. You’ll find helpful tips, encouragement and examples of what homeschooling high school looks like an over a dozen different homes and as an added bonus, there’s also several pages of helpful resources listed in the back.

If you’re looking for stories from perfect homeschooling families, you won’t find it here. This e-book is a compilation of stories written by real homeschool moms. They have shared openly and honestly regarding their heartfelt struggles and successes as they’ve endeavored to do what are best for their children, while following the path that they feel the Lord has lain before them.

Though this book is written for those with high schooled aged children, I’m sure you’ll find this encouraging wherever you may be in your homeschooling journey and the best part? It’s available instantly as an automatic download for only $12.45 at The Old Schoolhouse Store; encouragement is only a click away.

Just so you know, I received this e-book for free in exchange for offering my honest review. I don't receive any compensation if you choose to purchase it as a result of reading this post.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Field Trip Friday: The Alamo

It's Field Trip Friday, a chance for you to get involved and tell everyone in the blogosphere about an exciting field trip you went on this week or one of your all time favorite field trips!

Of course, if you already posted a fun field trip on your blog you're welcome to link that too.

We drove and drove and drove to get there but when we finally arrived, we loved it! Welcome to this week's Field Trip Friday: The Alamo! Woo hoo! My kids were so excited to go they didn't even complain about the drive from Alabama! And believe me when I tell you it was a loooooong one!

Last year the kids took a history class about Texas gaining their independence and when the teacher suggested visiting the Alamo, the wheels in their heads began to turn.

Since we'd already spent time learning about this period in history, I didn't feel we needed to go everything again but we did enjoy this YouTube video by Marty Robbins. The boys loved it and watched it several times.

We also enjoyed watching several movies including the 1995 miniseries based on James Michener's novel, Texas, the story of how Texas became a state.

When we arrived in San Antonio, it was too late to tour the Alamo but my friend, Melissa of Discovering US, another family on the road, had suggested that we stop anyway just to see it lit up at night. We had intended to, but something was going on downtown and the police had one block closed off so we had to take a detour and our GPS kept routing us back to the same spot which was a bit frustrating. By the time we arrived, we'd pretty much lost interest and just wanted to get to the hotel.

The following morning we got an early start and arrived right at 9:00 a.m. when the doors open. After taking the customary picture, we began our visit to the Alamo in the Shrine. No photos were allowed here as it is a memorial to the men that lost their lives in the battle. We enjoyed listening to a guide describe the details of the battle over a diorama that depicted what the mission looked like at that time. We also saw a Bowie knife, items that had belonged to Davy Crockett, and the room that housed the women and children during the battle. None of the women or children were injured during the fighting and Santa Ana ordered their release after the battle and instructed them to go and tell everyone they met about the battle that took place. That's how the saying "Remember the Alamo" came to be.

After stopping by the gift shop and walking around the grounds we stopped in the barracks to watch the short 15 minute movie that was shown. We found it interesting to learn that the barracks were where the final battle took place, not the Shrine. The remainder of the barracks is also a museum which details that battle.

If you are able to visit the Alamo, I'd highly recommend that you allow 2- 2 1/2 hours, which will give you plenty of time to enjoy the Ranger led discussions and programs and thoroughly explore the grounds. I'd also encourage you to go as soon as it opens, it looks as though it gets busy rather quickly. If you have children between 5-10 they can participate in the Young Couriers program.

Well, there you have it...the lo down on the Alamo. Now it's your turn. Have a field trip to share? Link up below and remember to stop back next week and I'll post about the stop we made in Louisiana. Until next week...Happy Field Trippin'!
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