Perfect Travel Gifts & Tips for Young Adventurists & Travelers

Traveling isn’t easy. There are frequent hiccups and unexpected delays that can lead to headaches and frustration. Over the years, we have learned a lot. We have become more savvy about what we need pack to assure we are comfortable and more flexible in how we pack to avoid potential catastrophes.

Today, I share a list of travel gifts for young adventurists and travelers – things you will find make travel with kids easier and more enjoyable.

Perfect Travel Gifts & Tips for Young Adventurists & Travelers

This post contains affiliate links which means I may receive a commission when products are purchased. Please see my disclosure policy for details.

Travel Gifts for Young Adventurists

We absolutely love to travel. Until recently, my hubby’s high pressure job necessitated that he decompress every six months. Even so, it would take him nearly a week before he could relax enough to enjoy himself while on vacation. While his work doesn’t permit us to world school on a full-time basis, we have become accustomed to traveling regularly for 2-3 week holidays at least once a year.

Build Excitement Prior Departure

Over the years, we have surprised the kids with a trip to Disneyland, slowly built anticipation for Florida with clue envelopes, and done all the planning ourselves. What we have found works best for us, however, is that everyone is involved in the planning.

When the kids were younger, we subscribed to a monthly travel adventure from Little Passports. It was a fun way to spark interest in travel and engage them in a great learning activity. They loved following along with Sam and Sofia, marking their new location on the world map and “stamp their passport book”.

Now that they are older, they take a more vested interest in our travel destinations. We generally discuss our next excursion concurrently while on vacation. This helps to make the long flight hours and delays more endurable.

Once we’ve settled on a destination, we are each expected to research the attractions and activities we would most like to take part. We make a list and share our ideas at a family meeting.

Not only does this help to build their excitement, they learn a lot about geography and budgeting as they help to plan our excursions and are more invested upon our arrival.

Perfect Travel Gifts for Young Adventurists & TravelersTravel Gifts & Tips for Packing

When we first traveled abroad to Scandinavia, our luggage was delayed and we arrived in Copenhagen, Denmark with just one suitcase. The kids had their clothing but hubby and I had only our carry-on bags. Fortunately, our bags arrived the next day but we certainly learned a lot in regards to packing on that first trip.

We now split our things between our four suitcases – a few days of clothing in each suitcase. We use Eagle Creek packing cubes to keep everything nicely organized and to take the stress out of packing for these extended holidays

Hubby and I have two large garment folders each. Each one holds several days of clothes. The kids use the medium cubes and the small cubes are perfect catch alls for outlet adapters, chargers, batteries, our first aid kit, etc.

What I love best about the packing cubes is that they come in a variety of colors. We can easily identify whose cube is whose. Eagle Creek now has a lighter weight fabric and a wider range of color options in their new line of Specter Cubes.

One quick and inexpensive way to distinguish your luggage from another traveler is to use tassels or pom poms on the luggage handle. Alternatively, luggage belts work well to secure the contents in case a zipper breaks in transport.  

I love the green color of our Eagle Creek luggage (pictured above), making it more visible on the luggage carousel in baggage claim. Though we have not yet invested in new suitcases for the kids, when we do, I know it will be Eagle Creek. They stand behind their lifetime guarantee. When the zipper on one of our green suitcases broke, we simple dropped it off at an Eagle Creek retailer, and they repaired it and shipped it back to us FREE of charge! How’s that for customer service!?

Another product we love are the colorful daypacks and gear by Cotopaxi. Lightweight and versatile, the daypacks are perfect for carry-on luggage as they fit under the seat nicely and have ample space for a change of clothing, your shaving kit or vanity bag, a jacket, and a few incidentals to keep you busy en route.

Use this link for a $20 Cotopaxi discount

Cotopaxi is making a difference in the global community, creating innovative outdoor products that fund sustainable poverty alleviation, move people to do good, and inspire adventure. Their products are guaranteed to last 61 years. If there’s a problem with your product, they’ll gladly exchange it, get you a replacement, or repair it. I love a company that stands behind their products!

Lastly, we have a set of TSA-approved luggage locks to secure our baggage – comforting when we have late departures and need to store our luggage with the hotel prior to our departure. The TSA logo on these special locks alerts inspectors that they can unlock the luggage without cutting the lock or damaging the bag.

We have had our locks for several years. The resettable 3-dial combination is easy to set and alleviates the stress of having to carry another set of keys.

Travel Gifts & Tips for the Departure

To keep the kids busy en route, we generally bring along the iPad and their Mandarin schoolwork. Often they are expected to journal about their trip in Chinese. They also bring along a puzzle book and a paperback book or two that they will discard along the way when they finish with it.Fun Travel Gifts for Young Travelers

My son is now twelve years old. Unlike his sister, he is not an avid reader so it is rare to catch him reading quietly. He has always been fascinated with airplanes however, and will generally content himself with watching the planes take-off and land while at the airport. Once we are underway, he makes quick friends with the stewards for soda refills as we watches the inflight movie.

One thing we’ve found that works well for him is to carry a Lego mini-fig or two in his carry-on. His grandmother also gifted him with a small digital camera a year ago and he uses it to digitally journal his trip from the perspective of his mini-fig. It is so fun to watch him as he carefully poses his pocket size toy and carefully words captions and anecdotes in his journal.The Puzzling Impact of Erno Rubik @EvaVarga.netMy son has recently developed an interest in speed cubing. He thereby carries a puzzle with him everywhere. Even if your child is not a speed cuber, learning the algorithms to solve even the original Rubik’s Cube 3x3x3 takes time. It’s thereby the perfect activity for teens to occupy themselves during long flights and car drives.

Tips for Improving Your Experiences Upon Arrival

As I eluded to earlier, teens have a more vested interest in the trip when they have been given the chance to help plan the destination and the excursions you take part in upon arrival. This was never more evident than during our recent trip to the East Coast.

Our advance research and planning paid off. While in New York, we purchased a CityPASS as the majority of the sights we wanted to see were included. We thereby saved money on admission fees and avoided long lines at the ticketing window. It was well worth our time.

My daughter loves to visit art museums while my son enjoys air and space museums. We thereby did our best to alternate visits so everyone was happy. Keep in mind, however, that you don’t always have to do everything together.

National Portrait Gallery: Must See Art Museums Around the World @EvaVarga.netIn Washington DC, the boys spent an afternoon at the International Spy Museum while Geneva and I took our time at the Smithsonian American Art Museum which were conveniently located next to each other. We were able to take our time to explore the exhibits without feeling rushed by those who were less interested. 

Even with an itinerary and well-thought out plans, things do not always go as planned. When things go awry, we have learned it is critical to sit down each evening and reflect on what did go well in addition to that which fell apart. We also discuss what we each could have done to make the day better.

These vacation debriefs, as we have come to call them, are easy to implement and have opened valuable dialogue. We learn more about one another’s expectations and how we can improve our communication skills when we are in stressful situations.

christmas-gift-guides-23894

Looking for more gift ideas? Hop over to the iHomeschool Network linkup for many more Christmas Gift Guides.

Keeping Teens Challenged and Engaged with Video Presentations

Many teens dread giving a speech in front of their peers. They have difficulty capturing – and keeping – the attention of their audience. They struggle to structure and communicate their ideas successfully.

Integrating a variety of technology into your courses – whether it’s history, science, language arts, or a foreign language – will provide teens with a range of  multimedia and design tools. In doing so, teens are more engaged and thereby develop a range of skills related to production and video presentations. Best of all, they learn to communicate more clearly and more compellingly with their audience.

mysimpleshow video presentations

I was compensated for my time writing this review. All opinions expressed are true and completely our own. Please see my disclosure policy for more information.

Tips For Keeping Teens Engaged

Teens get bored easily – especially when instruction is delivered the same way or when asked to give yet another speech to demonstrate what they have learned. Keep teens engaged by designing lessons that include novelty, variety, and fun.

When teens use short and friendly video, they can awake interest for almost any topic. Creating explainer videos with mysimpleshow, for example, is easy and exciting, and it also trains users regarding the application of creative technology resources.

Focus student attention by incorporating demonstrations, role playing, hands-on activities, storytelling, and multimedia presentations to enhance instruction. Requesting students create explainer videos with mysimpleshow is a great means to structure content, provide guidance, and give an overview.

Did you know?

The great Roman orator, Cicero, recommended the use of images as part of memory training. He also used visuals, in the form of props, in his speeches. For this reason, he is considered one of Rome’s greatest orators and prose stylists.

Many teens love to socialize and do projects with their peers. Cooperative learning opportunities are highly effective in keeping students engaged and participating in lessons. With mysimpleshow, students can work in teams (either in small groups or with a partner) on video scripts and visualizations to aid in their collaboration skills.

Our Favorite Resource for Video Presentations

While there are many interactive presentation and slide show apps, mysimpleshow is our favorite resource for video presentations. It is the perfect medium your students need to make their project fun, engaging, and interesting.

mysimpleshow is an online tool that enables anyone to create concise and engaging explainer videos in just a few minutes. It is also a great option for teachers to create lessons and presentations with multimedia and interactive elements such as video, audio, and embedded assessments.

Writing the video script native to the mysimpleshow platform, enhances writing skills, as students need to use transition phrases and must only include the most relevant information to align with the storyline template’s character limits.

mysimpleshow video presentations

The screenshot visible above is excerpted from a video I put together for our Scout troop detailing the 2017 Total Solar Eclipse. On the left side, you can see two highlighted words – these are the words that are illustrated with graphics from the available gallery or images the user can upload.

I love that the user has the freedom to select the words to animate. As the slideshow plays, the selected image will appear as the narrator reads the highlighted word. The user will thereby need to make small adjustments to their script to assure the graphics appear in a timely manner – a great problem solving opportunity.

My daughter used mysimpleshow to create a fabulous explainer video for Ranger requirement #2g, “Make a presentation for your crew on communications equipment used in the outdoors with emphasis on how this equipment would help in a wilderness survival situation.”

 

She loved the flexibility of the program and looks forward to making another video to teach her Venturing Crew about Leave No Trace principles.

Getting Creative with iDO 3D Art Pens

My daughter has always loved anything related to arts and handcrafts. Even as a toddler she would spend hours drawing and making gifts for her family with my craft supplies. It is no wonder that art is one of her strongest passions. She has wanted to try 3D art pens for some time and was delighted to learn I would have the opportunity to review the IDO3D for my readers.

As a family, we have been volunteering regularly at the new marine life center and have made several field trips to a variety of coastal habitats to learn more about the local ecology. When the IDO3D art pen arrived, she knew immediately what she wanted to create … jellyfish.

3D Art Pens

Disclosure: I was compensated for my time reviewing this product and for writing this review.

IDO 3D Art Pens

The IDO3D comes with four pens (or color cartridges): blue, green, red, and yellow. Each pen has a safety seal or cap that will need to be removed. Thereafter you will twist on the cap. Lastly, you snap the blue spotlight holder into place (it clicks into place).

There are instructions on how to use the 3D art pens provided as well as helpful tips and tricks detailed in a short video. I was very impressed with how quickly we got the hang of it. Granted, our lines are a little wobbly and jiggly but as they say in the video, “Practice and patience are the key.”

3D Art Pens

Creating Jellyfish with 3D Art Pens

Using my invertebrate zoology textbook as a reference for jellyfish anatomy, she was underway within just a few minutes. One of the materials in the box was a plastic sheet shaped like a bowl which she used to begin her project; creating the exumbrella inversely. She chose blue ink for this part – though she also opted not to fill in the connecting space as she wasn’t sure if she would have enough ink.

Once it had cured, she proceeded to create the internal anatomy with green ink: mouth, gastrovascular cavity, gonads, and oral arms. She discovered, however, that the space was too confined for the spotlight and she wasn’t able to add all the parts she would have liked. “I probably would approach it a little differently next time,” she stated. “I think I should have created the internal parts separately and then attached them later.”

Lastly, she began to add the tentacles and worked vertically as she did so. This proved to be the most challenging part of the process. As they were so long and thin, they kept leaning in one direction or another rather than staying vertical. Like any art medium, she recognizes that it takes practice and patience.

“I really like this pen. It is easy to use and I can create something right away. Perhaps the jellyfish was too complicated for my first project.”

3D Art Pens

Classes & Projects for IDO 3D Art Pens

We look forward to creating a variety of projects with the IDO3D art pen. There are also several 3D Art Classes from which to choose. When my son saw the following video he said,

“You can do all that?! That’s so cool!”

Where to Buy IDO 3D Art Pens

The IDO3D art pen is available from a variety of retailers nationwide. It is also available on Amazon.

For ideas and inspiration for projects, I encourage you to follow IDO3D on Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, and YouTube.

Discovering the Joy of Maple Sugaring at Home

Most people don’t realize that the Sugar Maple is not the only tree that yields syrup. We had thoroughly enjoyed our first experience maple sugaring when the kids were toddlers. Now that we have returned to Oregon, we are delighted to revisit our sugaring experience with Tap My Trees.bigleafmaple

We received a Tap My Trees starter kit in exchange for an honest review. I also received monetary compensation for my time spent in reviewing the product.  All opinions expressed are true and completely our own. Please see my disclosure policy for more information.

There are 13 species of maple trees that grow in the United States. The Sugar Maple (Acer saccharin), one of America’s best-loved trees, is the most well known due to its historical and economical importance.In Oregon, Sugar Maple is an ornamental and found only on college campuses and occasionally in someone’s yard. Oregon’s most prevalent native maples are Bigleaf Maple (Acer macrophyllum) and Vine Maple (Acer circinatum). Learn more about Our Native Maples in my earlier post. 

bigleafOur Maple Sugaring Experience

I shared a more in-depth look at Science of Sugaring a few months ago. From everything we have read and from our past experiences, we knew that sap would immediately start to flow after tapping the tree if the weather conditions were just right. Cold nights and warm days were what we needed.

We waited. We watched the forecast. Then my dad telephoned, “This week looks to be a good time to go sugaring?!” Yippee! We gathered our gear and piled into his truck.

Oregon Geography

The Oregon Coast is bordered on the west by the Pacific Ocean and the Pacific Coast Mountain Range on the east. It is 30 to 60 miles (48 to 97 km) wide and averages around 1,500 feet (460 m) in elevation above sea level. Temperate rain forests with high peaks and steep ridges dominate this region.elliotstateforest

In the southernmost section of the Coast Range where we live, you can find the Elliott State Forest. The forest is home to over 50 mammal species, over 100 species of birds, and nearly 30 reptile or amphibian species that spend significant portions of their life cycle in the mountains. It is here that the Big Leaf and Vine Maples grow.

Tapping the Trees

It took about an hour to drive up to the forest and locate the Big Leaf Maples. We found a several in the mid elevations on relatively dry slopes. As the terrain is so steep, most were out of our reach but we did manage to find a couple near the road. Sadly, when we tapped them, the sap was not running. Dad said this was an ominous sign but we hung our bucket anyway and gave it a go.

rainforestWe then drove to a lower elevation in a narrow, moist valley where we located a grove of Vine Maple. You can see in the photo above the abundance of ferns and bryophytes in the understory. When we tapped the Vine Maple, the sap started flowing immediately.

Maple sap is a clear fluid and resembles water. The collection amount may vary. Some days you will collect only a small amount and other days your buckets may overflow if not emptied.

We thereby hung several bottles amongst the vine maple shrubs that covered the hillside. For these smaller trees, we recycled a plastic soda bottle by poking a hole in the side and sliding the bottle onto the spile.

vinemaple

Collecting the Sap

We returned a few days later to retrieve our materials and any sap we collected. Much to our chagrin, the bucket on the Big Leaf was dry. It was just the wrong time. We’ve wanted to try again but the weather hasn’t been very cooperative this year. We’ve had an unseasonably warm winter and lots of rain.

The vine maples, however, were more cooperative. We collected about a quart of sap which when processed yielded only about 2 tablespoons of syrup. Enough for one pancake serving anyway. We all agreed it was very similar to the pure syrup we purchase, but with a little more tangy taste.

It is clearly much more work and effort to tap trees in Oregon, thus making the endeavor economically disadvantageous. This is due in part to the difficulty in reaching the trees but also that a larger quantity of big leaf or vine maple sap is needed to produce equivalent volumes of syrup than the sugar maple.

However, I highly recommend the sugaring experience to families, especially if you have access to maple trees where you live. It is great opportunity to get outdoors and bond together over shared memories – not to mention all that one can learn through the process.

While 2016 wasn’t a good year for tapping the Big Leaf Maple in Oregon, we’ll be sure to try again next year. Sugaring has become a lifelong hobby everyone in our family enjoys.

Maple Sugaring with Tap My Trees

Tap My Trees is the #1 provider of sugaring supplies for the hobbyist. Devoted to educating families about the practice of maple sugaring Tap My Trees has made donations of supplies to nature centers hosting maple sugar events and they’ve made quite a few products available for teaching Maple Sugaring at Home.

They offer 4 starter kits with the highest quality supplies to tap maple trees at home. You can also customize your kits by ordering sugaring accessories individually. The instructive guidebook outlines the steps to making the maple sugar and contains all the information you need for a successful sugaring from identifying the appropriate tree to how weather affects the sap run, when to collect, and how to boil down the sap.

The lesson plans also include a timeline beginning in the winter and go month by month listing the topics for each month leading to the sap collection and syrup making. Sugaring is a fabulous unit study covering botany, ecology, meteorology, physics, and even history!

Connect with Tap My Trees

Tap My Trees is committed to sugaring education and they provide recipes and other information on social media. Their products are also available on Amazon, if you prefer. Be inspired!

Facebook § Twitter § Instagram § Pinterest

The Science of Sugaring with Tap My Trees

When we first started homeschooling, we did a lot of unit studies. Often, our studies revolved around a book I was reading aloud to the kids.

One of our fondest memories of homeschooling revolves around Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder.  We had recently read about the Ingalls’ family sugaring time and a few days later, while enjoying pancakes with real maple syrup, Geneva inquired, “How do you make maple syrup again, Mom?”

I have long been intrigued with the notion of tapping trees to make syrup. I quickly took her question to heart and we launched into an integrated unit on maple sugaring.

Read more of our early experiences here, Sugaring Time: Making Our Own Maple Syrup

While Oregon does not typically come to mind when one thinks of maple sugar, I can attest that we do in fact have maple trees. Come along with me as I share the science of sugaring.

reading up on sugaring In preparation for this post, I received a maple sugaring starter kit for free and was compensated for my time in writing it. All the opinions below are mine and I was not required to write a positive review.

The Science of Sugaring

Products derived from Sugar Maple trees are common in house holds throughout the country, particularly the maple syrup and sugar industry in the Northeast. The earliest written accounts of maple sugaring were made in the early 1600s by European explorers who observed American Indians gathering maple sap.

I love real maple syrup. Growing up, even when times were tight, my dad always insisted we had real maple syrup. When I was in middle school, my dad became intrigued with the notion of tapping trees to make syrup. “Couldn’t you also tap other trees?” he would ask. “We have a lot of Big Leaf Maple? Can you make Alder syrup? What would it taste like? What about Willow and Oak? Certainly their sap would be sweet as well.”

The next thing I knew, my dad had ordered a spiles kit and we were hiking into Oregon’s coast range to tap trees. After numerous attempts and modifications to his collecting devices, we were successful.

We managed to collect enough sap from several trees to process into syrup – essentially the sap is filtered and the excess water is boiled from the sap. You would be surprised just how much maple sap is required to make just one quart of syrup … 10 gallons (though this varies by species)!

Our research revealed the most commonly tapped maple trees are Sugar, Black, Red, and Silver Maples. My father’s inquiry experiments proved that while other trees can be tapped to collect sap, including Birch, Walnut, and other maple species like Big Leaf and Boxelder; tapping a Sugar or Black Maple yields the best results.

Tap My Trees

Today, Sugar Maple stands and roadside trees provide private landowners with an annual cash crop as well as a rewarding hobby. I am excited to discover and share with you the #1 supplier of maple sugaring supplies for the hobbyist, Tap My Trees. They are the leading site for home based maple sugaring – the process of sap collection and making maple syrup.

Collecting maple sap is a green, environmentally sustainable process that can be enjoyed by anyone with a healthy, mature maple tree. The Tap My Trees website provides you with step-by-step instructions on how to tap your maple trees and turn that sap into maple syrup.

The process is actually quite simple. It does, however, take some time and a willingness to get outdoors and experience this miracle of nature – Charlotte Mason would be so proud!

sugaringkitThe Tap My Trees kit is a wonderful way to jump into the sugaring hobby. Here’s a peak of what is included in the kit:

  • Maple Sugaring Lesson Plan: Lesson plan for the maple sugaring process. Can be adapted for third grade through high school.
  • Maple Sugaring at Home book: This guide provides step-by-step instructions (complete with pictures) to tap maple trees. Includes information on how to identify maple trees, how to tap trees, collection and storage of sap, uses for maple sap including how to make maple syrup, and frequently asked questions.
  • 1 Aluminum Bucket: 2 gallon aluminum bucket is used to collect the sap as it drips from the spile.
  • 1 Metal Lid: Lids prevent rain, snow, and foreign material from entering the bucket.
  • 1 Spile with Hook: Stainless steel spile (tap) is inserted into drilled hole to transfer sap into the bucket. Hook is used to hold the bucket.
  • 1 Drill Bit: 7/16 drill bit with 3/8 shank used to drill tap hole into your maple tree.
  • Cheesecloth: Used to filter any solids (such as pieces of bark) when transferring sap from the collection bucket to a storage container.
  • Filter: 24″ X 30″ filter sheet to filter sediment from finished syrup. Durapure grade filter.
  • 1 Bottle with Lid: Empty 12 oz. maple syrup bottle used to store finished syrup.
  • Thermometer: Candy thermometer for making maple syrup. Instrument Range: 100 to 400°F / 40 to 200°C. Stainless steel housing with mounting clip

Join me next month for a maple trees nature study post and again this spring as I share with you our own experiences in tapping trees.

Physics Quest: Story Based & Hands-on Physics for Middle School

Last year, for the first time, we took part in Physics Quest, a story-based activity that aims to teach middle school students physics concepts and give them a positive experience with physics. When the kit arrived, we jumped right in!

Physics Quest: Hands-on Physics for Middle School @EvaVarga.net

Physics Quest began as a World Year of Physics 2005 project with a kit based on Albert Einstein. The American Physical Society (APS) sent out nearly 10,000 free kits that year, to classes across the country. Teacher feedback from the initial PhysicsQuest indicated that it successfully met a need for fun and accessible physics material at the middle school level, therefore APS decided to continue the program.

Spectra: High Intensity

In celebration of the International Year of Light, the 2015 kit, Spectra: High Intensity, provided the equipment needed to teach students about bending light, spherical lenses, how color and energy are related, and how the sun’s light also carries heat. We spent an entire day reading the story and exploring these physics concepts.

In Spectra: High Intensity, the storyline begins with the students learning that Miss Alignment had broken out of jail and was on the loose hatching evil plans. “Armed with a high IQ, an inferiority complex, and a secret lair, she will try yet again to control the town.”

Working together as a team, my kiddos completed the activities outlined in the book. In doing so, they applied the skills they need to help Spectra and her gang prevent Miss Alignment’s attempted town domination. It was great fun and the hands-on activities were perfectly designed for their age.

 

Physics Quest: Hands-on Physics for Middle School @EvaVarga.net

 

Sign Up Today

APS  provides a free Physics Quest kit to registered 6-9th grade physical science classes, home school groups, science clubs, and after-school programs. The kit includes a user’s manual and materials for four physics experiments. This program focuses on middle school students because these grades have been identified as the point when many students lose interest in math and science.

Registration is now open for the 2016 PhysicsQuest, Spectra’s Current Crisis.