We're changing names!

Happy Trails, Wild Tales

I'm excited to announce that Long Live Learning is growing, expanding and changing direction. Along with this comes a name change. The site will n...

Preschool Hiking

Five Tips for Hiking with Preschool...

I had the pleasure, this past weekend, of taking my grandson on his first hike. By pleasure, I mean practice in patience. He's a boisterous 5-year-old...

First Look from Fort Mountain Overlook

Ahead of the Storm or How To Be On ...

  [caption id="attachment_869161" align="aligncenter" width="600"] First Look from Fort Mountain Overlook[/caption] We've made a habit of h...

Benefits of Traveling with Other Families

4 Benefits of Traveling & Bunk...

Camp Cook Chronicles - Traveling & Bunking with other Families We're crazy lucky to be friends with some amazing families who enjoy traveling &...

Southern Summer Bucket List

This is why I do what I do

Openness: Wild Wonder, Natural Curiosity, True Appreciation

This is why I do what I do. I will only be with them for this very brief window in the history of planet earth. I want to leave them with op...

Travel & Adventure

First Look from Fort Mountain Overlook

Ahead of the Storm or How To Be On Time

  [caption id="attachment_869161" align="aligncenter" width="600"] First Look from Fort Moun...

Camping

Benefits of Traveling with Other Families

4 Benefits of Traveling & Bunking with Other Families

Camp Cook Chronicles - Traveling & Bunking with other Families We're crazy lucky to be friends with some amazing families who enjoy t...

Thrills

Exploring St Augustine with Tweens

Exploring St. Augustine with Tweens

As you can imagine, my two tween sons keep me in search of buzzing action to satisfy their indomitable spirits while balancing quality famil...

Science

Seasonal Learning in Fall / Autumn

Seasonal Learning: 20 Things to Learn This Fall

There are some things that are better taught during certain seasons. Here are some seasonal learning prompts, for fall / autumn. Visit my Se...

Happy Trails, Wild Tales

We're changing names!

I’m excited to announce that Long Live Learning is growing, expanding and changing direction. Along with this comes a name change. The site will now be titled, “Happy Trails, Wild Tales,” and is now accessible via the domain HappyTrailsWildTales.com.

This was not an easy decision to make. After all, I just had 500 business cards printed with “Long Live Learning,” that I’ll be passing out at a conference this weekend. Go ahead and laugh… It’s funny. The thing is, I have several posts sitting in draft that I am struggling to publish because I fail to see how my current direction matches the original purpose of the site - homeschool resources.

I started this thing on the heels of the most devastating experience of my life, the death of my husband. How was I to know that, despite my best efforts, that event would change everything about my life? Now, that I am picking myself up and dusting off, I can more clearly see that I have clawed my way out of the darkness as if I were buried right alongside him and left to dig my way out of the grave.

For three years, I have uncovered myself one suffocating handful of darkness at a time and as I turn away from that pit of loneliness, I see a new direction for me to take my life. This is where Happy Trails, Wild Tales is born – from experience, exploration and an appreciation for this life on planet Earth.

For the most part, I have already been making more posts in the direction I’m taking the site – outdoors! Here are some things appearing more regularly on Happy Trails, Wild Tales.

  • Outdoors & Nature
    We spend a lot of our time outdoors and I want to bring more of that experience to the forefront. I am currently a student, enrolled in college, studying Environmental Science. All of us are campers, hikers, kayakers, mountain bikers, budding naturalists and always looking for a great place to explore and broaden our knowledge of planet earth.
  • Family Travel & Adventure
    I’m offering encouragement and inspiration to other families who want to hit the road, whether it’s a staycation or a road trip. I’m sharing my fears, doubts, and the challenges I overcome to give my boys (and myself) the experiences that we really want for our lives.
  • A Personal Perspective
    I’m posting more of my photos, more meaningful thoughts and feelings about our life experiences, probably some history and behind-the-scenes. You’ll read more about that woman behind the camera, behind the veil; the captain of this particular time machine on planet earth.
  • Gear Guides
    Let’s face it… Being a mom, a writer, a student, an outdoor enthusiast and a photographer all come with huge collections of favorite and failed gear. I’ll share my experiences in gear guides to help outfit y’all with your own collections of field-tested faves.
  • Video
    While there is little chance of me going viral, I’m definitely seeing the benefits of moving some of my content to video. I’ve already created a few. But, you can expect the quality and regularity to improve.

That’s it! So, be like a tree and stick around for Happy Trails, Wild Tales!

Five Tips for Hiking with Preschoolers

Preschool HikerI had the pleasure, this past weekend, of taking my grandson on his first hike. By pleasure, I mean practice in patience. He’s a boisterous 5-year-old who hasn’t had much experience communing with nature. So, when the opportunity presented itself, we took him along to a tried-and-true trail that winds through the forest alongside a creek.

My own sons, now 10 & 12, have been raised with a nature connection and the ground rules for hiking seem to come as natural to them as the breeze through the trees. They’re reserved, enjoying the trail relatively quiet. They’ll be still to observe small wildlife and insects or take in the big picture. They take notice of sights, sounds and intricate details of the environment. Hiking with the boys is simple and easy. It’s been part of their life since they first began toddling down a trail which adds up to a decade of experience.

Which brings me to our time on the trail with a newbie hiker, my young grandson. I knew it wouldn’t be like taking my boys out on the trail. But, I was still unprepared for his complete lack of connection or attention to nature. Afterward, as I processed the lessons I learned from our outing, I decided to share with others. Surely, I’m not the only one attempting to take on the responsibility of introducing an inexperienced preschooler to the great outdoors.

Patience
It’s important to realize, beforehand, that your hike with a young child may prove to be a great exercise of your patience. My older sons grew up hiking trails and wandering through the woods, so they have naturally developed an appreciation for the benefits of hiking. My young grandson has little outdoor experience outside of park playgrounds where he is encouraged to expend as much energy as possible in small, confined and usually well-manicured areas. He’s loud, very and consistently loud. He’s into everything and blissfully unaware of potentially dangerous plants and animals. This hike isn’t going to be about your connection with nature. Plan another hike to satisfy that desire and make the child and his/her desires your concentration.

Preschool HikingTrail Choice & Pace
I can’t stress enough the importance of choosing the right trail and letting the child set the pace. Choose a short hike on a trail with interesting features. Make time to explore the micro-environments, to move slower and to take breaks. We chose, for my grandson’s first hike, an environment that is highly stimulating to the senses. We visited a local conservation park with a river, many song birds, and some small rock outcrops along the trail. It’s a place we know very well and can direct attention to familiar features.

Focus
My older sons are wise to the ways of the wild. They both have keen senses of observation and will point out wildlife, plants and potential habitats for snakes and lizards. The younger fellow, along for our hike, has yet to develop these skills of observation. Some helpful tools to encourage the development of quiet observation are magnifying glasses and binoculars. Bring these along and help the youngster find interesting objects or animals and insects to observe.

Food & Water
This really goes without saying. Pack enough food and water to take several breaks and drink along the entire route. A young, inexperienced preschoolers is not going to be thrilled about carrying his/her own water bottle for a hike. Expect that you will be the pack mule for all food, water and equipment on these first hikes. Eventually, equipping a more experienced child with their own special pack is ideal.

Fun
Have Fun! This is what it’s all about. Play games, like I Spy, or bring along a scavenger hunt to complete. Enjoy seeing the natural world through fresh eyes with your young hiking companion and don’t be afraid of the dirt and mud!

wpid-20140705_135017_1.jpg

Seasonal Learning: 20 Things to Learn This Fall

Seasonal Learning in Fall / AutumnThere are some things that are better taught during certain seasons. Here are some seasonal learning prompts, for fall / autumn. Visit my Seasonal Fall Learning and Fun Pinterest Board for more information on these and other fall activities.

HOW TO:
Bake & Cook: Make a soup, Bake Bread, Make pumpkin pie from scratch!

Riding: Learn to ride your bike, a horse, or even a motorcycle.

Identify Signs of Wildlife: Animal tracks, tree rubbings, scat

LIFE SKILLS:
Winterize your home and car and learn how animals prepare (growing thick coats, migrating or hibernating)

What crops are in season for fall?

Make a scarf or hat using knit, crochet or sewing techniques

Best Survival Shelter DesignBASIC SURVIVAL:
Camp out! Learn to pitch a tent, use a lantern, and other camping gear.

Learn how to build a fire when you have no lighter or matches.

Plant fall crops

Store some food for winter and learn how animals prepare for winter food shortage. (Storing, fattening up, or leaving the area)

How to construct a suitable shelter in the wild

 

SCIENCE
What is the Equinox? When does it occur? What does it mean for humans?
Everything you need to know about Autumnal Equinox

How does less sunlight affect the plants, animals and humans?
Botany and Plant Growth Experiments
How does lack of sunlight affect humans?

Why do the leaves of some trees change color? Why do some stay green? Identify some trees by leaves.

The Geminid Meteor Shower is in December: What is a meteor? Why does this happen every year?

Sprout an acorn and plant it. 

HISTORY
Native American Heritage Month

Origins of Halloween

What is Day of the Dead?

Origins of Thanksgiving Day

Harvest Traditions

For more fall learning and fun follow my pinterest board!

 

 

Ahead of the Storm or How To Be On Time

 

First Look from Fort Mountain Overlook

First Look from Fort Mountain Overlook

We’ve made a habit of hiking every Wednesday. We’ve gotten so good at it that I even coined a hashtag to connect our #HikeOnHumpDay with social circles and other outdoor families. Wouldn’t you know that the second Wednesday of using the new descriptive hashtag would be fraught with difficulties? Of course, life. I know your patterns well and I come prepared – like a boy scout, only better because I’m their mom.

Silliness on the rocks at Ft MtnThe usual challenges of leaving the house three days in a row pop up like summer thunderstorms. Crazy Horse, caught up in a video game, doesn’t want to leave, yet. I have depleted the supply of go-food and can depend on J Bear’s relentless appetite sneaking up on the trail with us. I’ve been doing this mom thing for over a decade, y’all. At this point, it takes only a few moments to convince Crazy Horse that our outing will be worth his while and decide to stop and grab a bite to eat on the way.

There’s also the nagging ache from my ankle. But, if I can get both the boys in the car – I’m not going to let an ankle stop me. I actually stopped and bought some padded socks that surprisingly made a big difference.

We’ve hiked six mountain tops since April and today we would add our seventh, Fort Mountain. The drive from home is about an hour and a half and hiking this mountain proved a lofty goal as Crazy Horse declared he had a headache and began vomiting in a bag as we rolled down the highway.

It’s OK, y’all. I got this. We stopped by a convenience store and grabbed a ginger ale to calm Crazy Horse’s stomach. I don’t know if it really helps or it’s a placebo effect for him. But, I also don’t really care. It works. He instantly perked up, ate a bite of food and I provided some motrin from our traveling medicine collection.

Whew. Wait, somehow I have injured my shoulder just sitting here in the dog gone passenger seat and it is seriously irritating me.

At some point, during all this, I put my camera battery in the power inverter and plugged it into the car’s power outlet to charge. Yes, everyone should have a power inverter that provides a power source from the car outlet to traditional power plugs. It’s one of the most handy gadgets in my arsenal of awesome things to have in the car.

J Bear waiting on Fort Mtn Trail

J Bear waiting for me on Fort Mtn Trail

The numbers on the clock read 4:50pm when we pulled up at the visitors center of Fort Mountain State Park. With ten minutes til closing, we arrived just in time to violate the restrooms and grab a trail map.

Finally, at the trailhead, we grabbed our gear – the hip pack that holds my Canon & the camelbak filled with cold water – and set off down the trail. The trail challenges my sore ankle with a 150-foot ascension over loose, rocky terrain in the mile it takes to get to the overlook. I admit to Garfielding among the trees and boulders lining the trail. (Garfielding is the term we use to describe needing breaks along the trail – affectionately named after the out-of-shape cartoon cat).

“Isn’t this post supposed to be about being on time?” Yes, it is..

As the trail turned from natural surface to stairs, our vision filled with a breath-taking view from the overlook. We reached the overlook platform and I pulled out my Canon to snap some photos from this fantastic vantage point overlooking Georgia. The camera feels a little light and I flip on the switch. Nothing happens. The display doesn’t light up. It’s completely unresponsive and reality dawns on me that I left the battery plugged into the inverter in the car.

 

*sigh* Enter extreme disappointment.

After a few snaps with my phone camera, we head back toward the parking lot because I’m outta here. After all the bullets I dodged to get  on top of this mountain with both of the boys in tow, complete with camera gear, and AAAGGHHH! Life happens.

I’m in a mood and high tailing it back down the trail. I’m not leaving this place without my photos. I reach in the car and snag the battery, load it into the camera and head back up the trail. Either the boys really enjoyed the trail or they know me well enough to realize that now is not the time to disagree. They happily jumped back on the trail in high spirits.

And, this is where I get to the moral of the story.

When we reach the overlook, for the second time, we walk out on the platform to witness a gorgeous storm rolling over the mountain in our direction. The sight of this huge dark cloud baring down on us was such a magnificent sight that it took me a moment to regain my senses and pull out the camera to do that thing I do.

Amazing. Brilliant. Mesmerizing. Right on time, y’all.

How to be on time

4 Benefits of Traveling & Bunking with Other Families

Benefits of Traveling with Other Families

CCamp Cook Office High Falls State Parkamp Cook Chronicles – Traveling & Bunking with other Families
We’re crazy lucky to be friends with some amazing families who enjoy traveling & outdoor adventures as much as we do. In fact, as I’m writing this, one of those families is sound asleep in a yurt near my camp office. We went on a whirlwind road trip around Florida with the adventuring family of Val in Real Life and learned a lot bunking with 365 Atlanta Family on a couple of occasions. These experiences have been a blast for the adults and the kids alike!

Children learn and teach each other naturally in a pressure-free, non-judgmental environment
Traveling and bunking, whether in a hotel or at camp, with another family provides a pressure-free environment where children of different ages can come together peaceably to learn and teach each other. This place of social education is much different from their routine in school. My older sons, 11 & 12, are able to befriend children who are half their age – imparting knowledge and willing to learn what the little guys have to teach them about life. They aren’t concerned with sticking to a tutoring topic or being seen mentoring a 5-year-old or playing silly games with a 2-year-old. There is no pressure, from peers, to leave the little ones behind.

great discoveryWhen traveling with another family, it’s been my pleasure to witness the exchange of knowledge and experience that takes place between children from different lives, different families, backgrounds and experience. I’ve listened in on lessons my children give about various subjects and I’ve watched them soak up information from others. Let’s face it, moms: Sometimes, we don’t know what they’ve learned until we see them teaching it to someone else.

Helping Hands with Extra Sets of Eyes and Ears
Another great benefit of staying with another family, on overnight adventures, is having an extra set of helping hands. Today, a young child slipped into the water and was calmly snatched up by another watchful parent. In less tense moments, we can help carry things, point out interesting items along the way, and help engage impatient children while other parents have their hands full.
The kids play their part as helping hands as well. My own sons got the fire going, last night, while entertaining the little ones with a lesson on how it’s done. It gave us moms a moment to sit back, relax and enjoy the scene.
We help each other prepare meals, watch the kids, wash dishes and do other camp chores. We support each other where our strengths falter and provide an extra sense of security.

Renewed Sense of Adventure
One of the greatest things about traveling and overnighting with another family is experiencing their adventurous spirit. We all have our own senses of adventure and ways of satisfying that need for excitement & curiosity.
It’s nice to go along with another family and experience their ideas about what constitutes an adventure. What sparks their curiosity is often different from our own and experiencing a trail or park with another family opens up new avenues of interest, knowledge and adventure.

Florida Road Trip with Val in Real Life & Sons

Florida Road Trip with Val in Real Life & Sons – Photos by Val in Real Life

The Money Saved
Last, but not least, is the obvious benefit of saving money on your trip. Splitting costs with another family is an excellent way to save money. You’ll save a lot on lodging and can share supplies. A little research into group discounts could even knock a few bucks off attraction passes.