Arches National Park (with kids!) in a Day — plus a glimpse of Canyonlands National Park

We recently took an epic, 4500+ mile road trip in a loop around some of the western United States, attempting to hit a number of requested stops on our way to and from a family reunion in Wyoming. Since our time was limited, we often managed only one day (generally 4-6 hours, to accommodate travel to and from each location) at each of our stops along the way. Despite the fact that ‘Love’s idea of a vacation is a three-hour drive to the cottage followed by a week of sedentary relaxation, I think we managed pretty well on our whirlwind trip. In case you have a similar time crunch and are wondering how to spend your precious hours at some of these same stops, here was our experience.

**Read about our stop at the Grand Canyon here.**

Since we were trekking up through Utah, ‘Love and I were determined to stop at one of the lovely national parks there.  After some research and agonization, we settled on Arches National Park (with a glimpse of nearby Canyonlands National Park).

We arrived in Moab, Utah in late afternoon, having driven from Flagstaff, Arizona with stops at Four Corners and Newspaper Rock–both of which were interesting, but rather brief and out-of-the-way.  Since we were not ready to lounge around the hotel that early in the day, we thought we’d take a jaunt over to Canyonlands National Park, since we just had a few short hikes we planned to do there. Continue reading

The Grand Canyon (with kids!) in a Day

We recently took an epic, 4500+ mile road trip in a loop around some of the western United States, attempting to hit a number of requested stops on our way to and from a family reunion in Wyoming.  Since our time was limited, we often managed only one day at each of our stops along the way.  Despite the fact that ‘Love’s idea of a vacation is a three-hour drive to the cottage followed by a week of sedentary relaxation, I think we managed pretty well on our whirlwind trip.  In case you have a similar time crunch and are wondering how to spend your precious hours at some of these same stops, here was our experience.

We drove to the Grand Canyon from our hotel in Gallup.  While this was a four-hour drive, we gained an hour en route because Gallup participates in Daylight Saving Time, while the Grand Canyon does not.  And since our bodies were still used to CST, we were able to easily be up, breakfasted, and out of the hotel by 7 am, bringing us to the Grand Canyon by 11 am–or 10 local time.  All this to say–if you can’t get a hotel close by, don’t despair! Continue reading

Experiential Science: Weather

My kids wanted to learn all about weather, so I cobbled together several resources to make a unit.  You may notice that we watch a lot of videos in this unit.  Not only are videos an engaging way of presenting some of the more abstract concepts related to weather (like air pressure and air currents), but my kids are thoroughly excited about watching videos related to anything at all lately, so any video I found was a win.  I tried to find a video or three (almost all short ones!) to go with each topic, but also a hands-on activity for every topic, as well.  Hopefully you’ll find plenty of fodder for exploring weather, whether you are a video-lover or not.

Much of my unit was based on this 3rd grade unit from the Williams College website, though I adapted the activities for home use.

We started our science unit by talking about water.  Since 71% of the earth is covered by water, it has a big impact on weather.  To emphasize just how much water there is on the earth, we used our big inflatable globe and tossed it from person to person, tallying how often the tip of our right thumb hit land and how often it was in water when we caught the globe.  Sure enough, we had seven “land” tallies and 18 “water” tallies. Continue reading

5 Ways Your Kids Are Learning While Playing Video Games

I married a gamer.  Since gaming is ‘Love’s hobby, it’s something the kids have always been interested in, and it’s been a natural activity for them to bond over.  Unfortunately, I feel as if I’m constantly apologizing for the fact that my kids spend an hour most days taking turns playing computer or console games with Daddy.

I’ve decided that the time for apologizing is over.  While there’s always a chance that they’re picking up negative habits or beliefs from slaying pixelated zombies or conglomerate monster-things (and we are pretty careful about the types of games we expose our kids to–though interestingly enough no one seems to think we should abandon Bible reading when the kids role play David killing Goliath or Solomon threatening to cut the head off the baby to determine its true mother), the more I’ve watched and listened to them gaming with Daddy, the more I’m convinced that gaming, like most other hobbies, has many benefits.

Continue reading

9 Book Series for Your Fairy-Loving Kid

fairybooksHave a fairy-loving kid on your hands?  Since I have spent several months of near-constant scrambling, trying to find things my daughter would enjoy reading, I figured I’d log what I found in the hope that it helps someone else.  I found five fairy-themed chapter book series and four series that involved enough magic to make up for the lack of fairies.  These range from late-second to fourth grade reading level and include occasional pictures, since my visual kid loves illustrations.  Several of them also feature a nice, big font, for those intimidated by small, crowded type. Continue reading

DIY Vision Therapy: 12 Exercises You Can Do At Home

If you read my last blog post, you know that we found out that our youngest needed vision therapy, but the price tag was beyond what we could afford.  Immediately after that revelation, I took my kids to gymnastics, where a former-OT friend informed me that she had been given a whole binder full of vision therapy exercises during her time working in a low-income school in South Africa.

We’ve now been doing vision exercises about 3-4 times a week for 9 weeks, and little Pookie has gone from only sounding out single, large words written in magnets or on the white board to eagerly reading Biscuit books for bedtime.  (In case you missed the last post, he’s been able to sound out single words in this manner for more than a year, but he just wasn’t making any progress.)  While correlation does not necessarily equal causation, I figured it can’t hurt to share some of what we’ve done with other parents who might find themselves in a similar situation. Continue reading

DIY Vision Therapy: It Is Possible!

When Pookie was three-and-a-half, he started putting letters together to make words.  Though I was surprised–he still only recognized less than half of the alphabet–I hauled out my early-reading materials and prepared for him to progress. Only he didn’t.  At first I assumed it was a readiness issue; he was very young, after all, and though his siblings also learned to read young, perhaps the fact that he couldn’t remember all of his letters was holding him back.  But after a full year with no progress, I began to wonder if there was more going on.  After all, ‘Love’s childhood medical records indicated that he had received vision therapy for tracking issues.

After receiving several recommendations for a particular optometrist, I called and made an appointment.  I had been warned that it would be pricey, but $250 (sans vision insurance) for a 75-minute-long, in-depth assessment that included a retinal scan didn’t seem too shocking.  The first appointment confirmed my suspicion–there were a few issues that deserved more attention.  A second appointment (another $350) involved another hour of interactive assessments for my little guy while I was provided with information on vision therapy and was told to expect a price tag of $3-4,000 for six months of treatment.  At the hour-long follow-up appointment (included in the cost, thankfully), the optometrist gave us a report on the testing that had been done and how our son had performed.  It was very thorough and helpful, and most of what she said made a lot of sense with what I had observed.

Then came the bombshell: the cost was going to be $6,400 for 34 weekly, 45-minute therapy appointments (plus one or two additional progress assessments).  Reeling from the unexpected price hike, ‘Love and I walked out with heavy hearts.  We had been braced to pay $500 a month for treatment we thought would have long-term benefits for our son; this amount would have been a stretch, but it was attainable.  Finding an extra $750 a month, however, was simply out of the question.  But how could we walk away from something that would help our child succeed in life? Continue reading