Our world today is so fast paced and technology driven. Sometimes it is best to slow down and spend time as a family in nature. By unplugging, we are able to teach our children how to live. We teach them what is important in life. They gain life skills that they can fall back on and they learn recreational activities that can develop into hobbies that define who they are. We take them beyond everyday safety and experiences and help them to grow.
We love our home. It is filled with love, and laughter, and technology. In many ways our life is easier because of the technology that we have. Yet a few times every year we pack up our kids and a van full of essentials and drive to the mountains for a weekend of roughing it. We go camping where there are no bathrooms. Usually we don’t even have a cell phone signal. In Arizona, sometimes we are not permitted to have campfires due to risk of forest fires. We go to enjoy our kids, and teach them about life and about how people survived before we had such technology. More over, we are able to unwind, refocus, and have real fun.
While we are camping, we take advantage of our surroundings and take the kids for nature hikes to see what we can see, and find, and learn about. We let them explore around our campsite and learn about the earth. The things they see and feel are so much different from what they experience in the city where we live. Often the things they learn about in Science are just knowledge with an occasional picture connected, and when they are out in nature they have the opportunity to connect that knowledge with experiences. We talk about what they discover or point out something that we have recently covered in their studies.
Bugs & Plant Life
While there are a great deal of bugs and plant life in the city where we live, there is an entirely different set of bugs and plant life in the woods where we go camping. Geographically it’s an entirely different biome with lots of potential for exploration. Some of our kids are much more adventurous than others. But when we take them out camping, the adventurous side of them all comes out and they open themselves up to finding bugs and touching plant life that they normally would not do. The sensory experience they gain is much more memorable than simply hearing about something and seeing a picture.
When camping, our children learn essential skills. They learn how to put up a tent, make a shelter, and start a contained fire, and how to put it out. We encourage them to collect fire wood and teach them how to build fire pits and how to best prepare and keep a fire under control. At night, we look to the stars and talk about constellations and direction in case they ever get lost in the woods. We also give them a flash light to help them walk through the dark safely, and train them on proper light positioning. On nature walks we take note of our surroundings and teach them how to mark their path.
Day or night, when cooking, playing or just trying to stay warm, our kids are taught fire safety. They learn not to play with the fire, that they are to tread with care even when they are playing. We instruct them on what is allowed to go into the fire, things like sticks and paper products. When helping with meals they learn about the heat of a fire and what it can do, both positive things and negative things.
We have a lot of fun with cooking when we go camping. Like many camping folk, we have a camping stove that runs on
propane. We also have a grill that we can use directly over a fire pit and have had several camping trips where we prepared all of our meals over the fire. It’s a lot of fun cooking that way. Everyone gets involved in the meal and the kids learn how to cook a variety of foods over the fire. From hot dogs to peach cobbler, there’s always some way they can help . Our kids not only learn what goes into cooking the meals, they also learn about proper storing of foods. Why do we need to keep the milk under ice? Why does the fruit or the salad need to not be touching the ice? Our kids are usually more appreciative of the food choices when they had a hand in preparing the meal.
Usually, we go camping with friends and family. Those that have guns typically bring them along and target practice. We allow our children to watch from a distance and learn about guns from those who hunt wild game and respect the proper use of guns. Once they learn the gun safety rules and reach an acceptable age, our kids are permitted to target practice too.
ATV Safety & Driving Lessons
When we go camping, there are several who bring ATVs along with them for off-road use. This provides a great learning environment for the older children to start learning how to operate vehicles safely. They learn the importance of safety gear and the rules they need to be safe and have fun with others. On dirt bikes, they get a chance to learn how to drive a motorcycle using their feet to shift gears and brake. In buggies, they learn how to drive with a stick shift and clutch. ATVs, like any motorized vehicle, need to be worked on, even when camping. Getting to learn about the mechanics of motorized vehicles is very beneficial in life, and learning about them with people that are experienced, and let you watch or help for free, is even better.
Education is not just about the information to be successful. It is also about the experiences that make a person healthy, strong, and wise. We take our kids camping to give them experiences that are simple and fun. These experiences bring us closer and stronger as a family and a community (when we camp with other families). They help us all to realize how much we need one another and teach us to value the life that we have been given.