A Dozen or So Ideas for Family Time

When asked, children say the number one thing they want most from their parents is time. Parents don’t have to spend a lot of money to spend quality time with their children; any time spent together sharing an activity is considered quality time.

Children grow and change quickly, so family time is a wonderful time to get to know your child better. It builds strong family ties and creates lifelong memories. Family time also creates an environment that builds self-esteem and character in children.

family timeIdeas for Family Time

Here are a dozen things families with teens and preteens can do together as a family.

1. Eat Meals Together

Eating our meals together, especially our evening meal, had been a big part of my childhood. I always knew this was a tradition I wanted to continue when I had children of my own. Times have changed, however, and coming together for dinner is more difficult than it was in the 70s and 80s.

Parents are working longer hours. Kids are involved in more extracurricular activities – sports, school clubs, etc. We’ve thereby made family meals a priority. Though some nights we have to juggle, the majority of our evening meals are enjoyed with each of us seated at the dining room table.

2. Cook Meals Together

This is an endeavor we have only recently begun, but it certainly more fun to prepare a meal with one another than to do all the work oneself. The way our kitchen is laid out, only two people can be actively cooking or preparing a dish. There just isn’t space for more. When Patrick and I are cooking, the kids like to sit at the island and engage us in conversation. It helps to extend our family meal time.

3. Go for an Evening Walk

After we’ve cleaned up our meal and taken care of any pressing tasks demanding our attention, we often enjoy a short walk around the neighborhood. These strolls provide us a chance to catch up and focus on one another without distractions. Sometimes it’s just hubby and I – a great time to assure we are on the same page. Other times, it’s the four of us.

4. Take on a Challenge

Going for walks together is something we have always enjoyed. Shortly into the new year, we challenged ourselves to hike 52 different trails together as a family. We started the year strong, visiting new trail heads in parts of the state we had not previously explored.

One of the stipulations we made for ourselves is that all four of us needed to be there. In other words, Patrick and I can not count the hikes we did during our romantic weekend away to celebrate our anniversary. The kids can not count the hikes they do at summer camp. Illnesses, schedule conflicts, and other obligations have thereby set us back for a couple months.

5. Play a Board Game

It’s well-known that kids need plenty of exercise, but it can be hard to pry them off the couch and away from their electronic devices. One way to get them moving is to engage the whole family in games that are simple and fun. There are many spectacular games available today. Some of our favorites include: Carcassonne, Takenoko, Timeline, & Tokaido. Host a family board game night, invite your friends, and find new favorites. You’ll be glad you did.

classes6. Take a Class

My daughter and I have taken several classes together ranging from seaweed art and foraging for mushrooms. Each class has provided us with opportunities to bond with one another and share our passions.

I have long desired to take a dance class as a family but thus far, we haven’t been able to work this experience into our schedule. I haven’t given up, however, and will continue to hope. Other ideas include cooking classes, martial arts, swimming, creative writing, guitar lessons – wherever your heart leads.

7. Go Camping

In years past, we went camping on an annual basis to our favorite county park. As the kids have gotten older, they have expressed an interest in going more often. I love this for many reasons but namely because it enables us to squeeze in more hikes and detox from screen time. This year, we have camped twice already and three more weekends are planned.

We keep it simple – we tent camp and have agreed that an RV just isn’t necessary. We plan easy meals and cook over the open fire. Bring along a fun outdoor game like Bocce ball or Kübb (a Viking lawn game) and Let the Fun Begin.

8. Take a Road Trip

As a family, one of the things we most enjoy is traveling. In the past few years, we have been blessed to have the time and financial means to travel abroad regularly. As our financial circumstances have changed, we know we won’t travel as often or as far in the near future, but travel is something we have agreed is very important to us and we thereby make sacrifices in other areas to assure we can continue to explore our world.

While not everyone may desire to travel abroad, road trips are a fabulous experience; providing opportunities to connect with one another and to learn more about our nation’s history and natural areas.

9. Enjoy a Book

Whether we are going about our errands around town or enjoying a road trip across state borders, we always have an audio book in our car. This is a great way to squeeze in genres and classical literature that your children may not otherwise choose for themselves. I love the conversations that we have as a result of experiencing a great book together.

volunteer10. Volunteering

There are many volunteer opportunities for kids. When we first moved back to Oregon, Geneva expressed interest in volunteering at the art museum. As she is not yet 16, I am required to go with her. It has been a great experience for us both – exposing us to artists and mediums previously unfamiliar to us. It has also given me the opportunity to observe her professionally.

Likewise, both children and I volunteer together in a variety of capacities at the estuarine research reserve and marine learning center, providing us with experience doing real science (fish seines and annual counts, biomonitoring field work), education outreach, and interpretation. We have also enjoyed volunteering while on vacation.

11. See a Concert or Go to the Theatre

As a classically-minded homeschool family, we try to see a play at least once a year and hope to eventually see Shakespeare’s entire canon. We also try to see live concert events whenever possible. This is especially important to us as both kids are young musicians. While Geneva plays for self interest, Jeffrey has expressed a desire to possibly pursue it as a career. We are most looking forward to seeing The Piano Guys perform again next month.

12. Engage in a Friendly Competition

Whether you consider yourself an athlete or not, there are a wide range of entertaining “runs”. I am sure you’ve heard about them in social media: bubble runs, color runs, mud runs, etc. are all the rage. There is nothing competitive about them other than seeing who has the most color on them after the race! There’s no timing, no timing clock and no placement awards. Just a great excuse to come out and have fun with your friends, family and kids while doing something healthy!

?   ?   ?

What do you do together as a family? Leave a comment below and share your favorite activities.

Join the other iHomeschool Network bloggers to learn How We Spend Family Time.

FamilyNight

The 52 Hike Challenge: Our Family Goal for 2016

A park in the center of town is centered around the natural beauty of two lakes and stabilized dunes. Along the trails are many viewing areas of the lakes with benches to sit and watch wildlife. It is our favorite place for a little exercise – mostly because it is so close – but it also provides a sense of solitude.

Hike #7 Saint Perpetua Trail, Cape Perpetual Scenic Area

Hike #7 Saint Perpetua Trail, Cape Perpetua

The kids accompanied me on a run this afternoon, they on their bikes and I in my kicks. While they took turns choosing which direction to turn each time we came to a fork in the trail, my daughter remarked, “I just love Oregon. I am so glad we moved back. There is such diversity here.” I couldn’t agree more.

An active lifestyle has always been an important part of our life. We have enjoyed outings as a family since the kiddos were infants and we pushed them in a stroller. Now that we are back in Oregon, it seems we have more time together as a family. More time to devote to the activities we enjoy doing together.

Family Goals

In a family meeting some weeks ago, we had discussed our goals for the new year. We each outlined what we hoped to accomplish and the challenges we set for ourselves as individuals. In addition, we talked about our goals as a family. I have outlined a couple of them for you below.

52 Hike Challenge: #8 Simpson Beach Coast Trail, Cape Arago State Park

Hike #8 Simpson Beach Coast Trail, Cape Arago State Park

What projects did we want to undertake in our new home?

–> Pay off our mortgage (acquired in October) as soon as possible … this is why I am substitute teaching

–> Geneva wants to utilize the raised beds in our backyard to plant a vegetable garden

— > Jeffrey wants to landscape our front yard

How do we plan to stay physically fit and mentally alert?

–> I want to begin running again

–> Go camping more often

— > Hike 52 different trails

52 Hike Challenge: Hike #9 Cape Arago Pack Trail, Cape Arago State Park

Hike #9 Cape Arago Pack Trail, Cape Arago State Park

52 Hike Challenge

There it is … 52 hikes. Essentially one hike every week. This coming weekend will mark the conclusion of the thirteenth week of the year. However, we’ve completed only nine hikes (we agreed each hike must be at least 1 mile in length to be counted) thus far.

January and February, as expected on the Oregon coast, were pretty wet. We thereby didn’t get out every weekend. There was also a swim meet in Eugene and illnesses which kept us busy or otherwise obligated. As the weather improves, however, we hope to knock off 2-3 on some weekends.

One of the things I love best about our hiking adventures – beside the unexpected encounters (wildlife, mudholes, fallen trees, etc.) and the destinations for which we aim (the views of the coast from the highest point at Cape Perpetual and the WW2 bunkers at Cape Arago) – are the learning experience it provides once we have returned home.

Each Friday, I ask the kids to select one thing that sparked their interest on the last hike to record in their nature journals. I am always fascinated to discover what they found of interest.  Roosevelt Elk and Fall Mushrooms have been my favorites thus far.

My daughter has also started a YouTube channel, Werifesteria, that highlights some of the trails we’ve hiked. She loves to take photos (particularly macros of fungi) and to put together slideshows. I have shared her first video above.

Werifesteria ~ To wander longingly through the forest in search of mystery

In addition, my son hopes to earn a merit badge in hiking this year. To accomplish this goal, we need to hike three 10-mile hikes, one of 15 miles, and one 20 miles.

To learn more about the trails and options in our region, we have also joined a local hiking club. We will be joining them this coming weekend for a hike we’ve never done before. It will be nice to go with a guide.

I’ll keep you posted periodically on our progress. I would also love to hear about the trails you love. I keep a bucket list of trails and scenic areas to explore when we travel.

The Benefits of Service Learning from an Early Age

I have always loved learning and believe that education is a community effort.  As an elementary teacher, I continually sought out service learning projects that enabled my students to become involved in the community while simultaneously complementing our classroom lessons and skills.  As a parent, I want my children to grow up with volunteering as an integral part of their lives.

My children and I began volunteering together in the spring of 2006 when my daughter was 3 ½ years old and my son was 15 months.   We volunteered as Living History Interpreters.  We dressed as homesteaders near Prineville, Oregon in 1880 and interacted with the public as they visited our homestead.  In this role, we utilized our knowledge of the region’s history to educate the public about the past.  With the exception of the winter months, we typically volunteered one day a week for approximately 5 hours.

We also worked with the Adopt-An-Animal program, whereby donors provided financial support for the care of the animals at the museum.  In turn, we sent the donor a thank you letter and a packet of information specific to the animal they selected which included an animal fact sheet, a certificate with a color photograph of the animal, a decal, and an activity sheet.

The children helped me by finding the necessary photographs and thereby learned to identify the names of our native wildlife.  They also learned about why the animals are in our care — all were unable to survive in the wild, typically because they were injured or became dependent on humans for food. Specific needs of the animals such as diet, habitat, and medical care provided great learning opportunities as well.  We typically worked 1-3 hours a week throughout the year.

While we no longer volunteer at the museum, I continue to involve the children in a variety of activities around our community.  We collect trash and pull non-native, invasive weeds along the river when we go for walks.  We donate canned food for the local food banks.  During the holiday season, we donate gifts for children in need.  Last spring, we began a garden to grow a few organic vegetables for our table.

Each service learning endeavor helps the children to think about what it means to take care of our community, animals, and the environment.

Service-learning is a teaching method that enriches learning by engaging students in meaningful service to their communities. Young people apply academic skills to solving real-world issues, linking established learning objectives with genuine needs. They lead the process, with adults as partners, applying critical thinking and problem-solving skills to concerns such as hunger, pollution, and diversity.

In the beginning, I wasn’t sure what sort of volunteering made sense for young children. In selecting activities, I take into consideration the interests and concerns that each of my children have developed.

One of the least expected outcomes was recognizing how the children have discovered themselves.  When we started, my daughter was a little timid and slow to talk with adults. In a short time, she learned to interact with the staff and other volunteers as individuals, carrying on conversations and discussing her thoughts openly.  On the homestead, she was always eager to show visitors how to pump water for the garden and can easily identify the vegetables we grow.

It is already clear that their life experiences and these service learning opportunities have helped to ensure that they will be self-assured and outgoing.