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.

Unplug and Get SMART: How goal setting can help teens achieve their dreams

These days, nearly everyone seems to have a device of some sort – be it an iPad, iPhone, Kindle, Laptop, or Android. Many families – including my own – struggle to find balance between device time and other activities.

It’s no surprise that kids of all ages – adults, too – can get addicted to electronic devices. That’s because every text, every Instagram ❤️, every point scored during a video game, and every chat message on a Minecraft server creates a little hit of the feel-good chemical dopamine. This is the same rush that a drug addict gets from a hit of cocaine. The same rush you get from eating a Voodoo doughnut.Unplug & Get SMART: Goal Setting for Teens @EvaVarga.net

I know from experience. Finding a balance between devices and other areas of life is something we are struggling with in our home. I’m not going to lie. Somedays, my kids spend more time on their device than they do talking to one another.

We have attempted numerous strategies and most have failed. We are making progress, however. While we haven’t found a perfect solution, what we have discovered is that focusing on our goals – both those we share as a family and those we have for ourselves – has been a huge motivator. The process of setting goals helps to keep us focused on what is important to us as a family and to each of us as individuals.

Setting goals help us to make the best use of our day. When tackled correctly, goals force us out of our comfort zone and help us to grow more each day. Most importantly, goals put us in the driver’s seat and give us control. By setting a goal, we are taking an active role in achieving our dreams. What could be more important than that?

Unplug & Get SMART: Goal Setting for Teens @EvaVarga.net

We have been talking a lot about goal setting in our home. We have each made lists of things we want to accomplish – both short term and long term. Achieving our goals takes more than good intentions, however.

We know we have to take action and then systematically measure our progress. During our family meetings, we’ve thereby brainstormed the milestones or steps we need to take to achieve our goals. Having a clear action plan has helped us to stay focused and limit our dependency on our devices.

Getting SMART

Setting Goals with Your Teen or Pre-Teen doesn’t have to be a struggle. Begin with a family discussion on what their dreams are and where they see themselves in 5 years, in 10 years. What do they want to accomplish? Consider academic goals, athletic / health goals, as well as personal / spiritual goals.

With a few goals in mind – both short term and long term – you can then help your child create a list of milestones or steps necessary to achieve a specific goal. When you ask your children to write their goals, guide them to create SMART goals that support your own goals for the same period.

A SMART goal is defined as one that is specific, measurable, achievable, results-focused, and timely. I have created a template to help guide teens through this process. With this planning tool, teens can create a plan for two different goals.

SMART Goal Setting with Teens @EvaVarga.net

Download the free SMART Goals Template here.

  • Specific: Goals should be simplistically written and clearly define what you are going to do.
  • Measurable: Goals should be measurable so that you have tangible evidence that you have accomplished the goal.
  • Achievable: Goals should be achievable; they should stretch you slightly so you feel challenged, but defined well enough so that you can achieve them.
  • Results-focused & Realistic: Goals should measure outcomes, not activities.
  • Timely: Goals should be linked to a timeframe that creates a practical sense of urgency, or results in tension between the current reality and the vision of the goal.

There are many other templates and apps to help guide you along the process of setting and achieving your goals. One of the tools that has really helped us in regards to staying on task is our online homeschool planner. The online system is so much more than a lesson planner. The kids have begun to use it themselves to block time for their passion projects or earning commissions.

~ ~ ~

Most importantly, we parents must set a good example ourselves. No matter how much I may desire to check my Facebook and Instagram notifications, I must resist the urge. Whatever rules I have set for my child, I must be able to follow them myself.

Time After Time: The Blessings of Homeschooling

Lying in my bed I hear the clock tick,
And think of you
Caught up in circles, confusion
Is nothing new
Flashback – warm nights
Almost left behind
Suitcases of memories
Time after …

~ Cyndi Lauper, Time After Time

Time After Time: Blessings of Homeschooling @EvaVarga.net

Exploring Chinatown in San Francisco

Homeschooling is not easy. There are days I get caught up in circles of confusion – not knowing which direction I should proceed. She wants to learn Chinese? How am I going to do that?!

There are days when I am totally stressed out, irritated beyond words, and I just want to throw in the towel. You haven’t finished your math lesson, why are you still on Minecraft?!

Days when I fear we are falling behind their peers and I feel like a failure as a teacher and as a mom.  There are plenty of moments when I question myself and second guess my decisions.

Time after time, I am asked whether we will continue to homeschool through the middle school and high school years. Despite the obstacles and frustrations, I truly believe that homeschooling is worth all the rough patches.

The suitcases of memories we have made as a homeschooling family will be cherished forever. This life is truly a rich life and we have been blessed in so many ways!

The Blessings of Homeschooling

Time with Family

One of the blessings for which I am most grateful is the opportunity to spend more time with family. We have recently moved back to Oregon and now reside again on the southern coast where both my husband and I grew up. Here, we are surrounded by family and childhood friends.

With family in such close proximity, we are able to include them in our outings. Most recently, we met up with my dad for breakfast and then drove to Dean’s Creek Elk Viewing area, located northeast of Reedsport. Here we spent time watching the elk graze in the meadow and listen to Papa as he shared with us his wisdom.

We are also able to meet their dad at work regularly for lunch dates. When he has business meetings or conferences away from home, we are able to accompany him.

Time After Time: Blessings of Homeschooling @EvaVarga.net

Our excursion to Machu Picchu, Peru

Time to Travel

Not being tied to a school schedule, we are able to travel during the off season. We have thereby made it a tradition of traveling abroad in the fall when rates are lower and crowds are smaller. Last year, we spent three weeks in Ecuador and Perú. The year prior, we were in China. This year, we will be touring the ruins and museums of Italy and Greece.

Time to Explore

We are also able to try new hobbies and experience classes that may not otherwise be available. One of our most enjoyable experiences was a week-long sailing class. This coming year, we look forward to trying our hand at wood carving.

Time to Pursue Passions

When we discover a handcraft or activity we thoroughly enjoy, we are able to pursue our passions with gusto. In a series of guest posts, my daughter shares her first passion project, Fly Tying.

Time to Bless Others

My children and I have been volunteering in a variety of venues since they were toddlers. Homeschooling affords us the time to bless others as we share our skills and talents. Volunteer Opportunities for Kids abound. You just need to know where to look and don’t be afraid to ask.

Time After Time: Blessings of Homeschooling @EvaVarga.net

Accompanying their dad on a business trip in Las Vegas

Time to Connect

Related to time with family, homeschooling also allows us the time to connect with others with shared interests. When my daughter wanted to learn more about fly tying – we sought out local fly fishing enthusiasts. These encounters and relationships open doors.

Time to Reflect

Homeschooling allows each of us to reflect on what we feel is important.  I feel confidant that my son is passionate about playing piano because we have celebrated it in our home. He has never felt he had to stop doing what he loved in order to fit in with others.

Relatedly, my children have been able to take as much time as they need to grasp a difficult math concept. Working at our own pace and not feeling pressure to keep up with the Jones’ is another blessing of homeschooling.

~ ~ ~

Cyndi Lauper’s Time After Time is one of my most beloved songs. It has been selected by many in the industry as one of the best love songs of all time. Though it was written about romantic love – the opening stanza reminds me of the joys and tribulations that we face as homeschooling parents.

HomeschoolGiftsThankfulHomeschool Gifts: What I am Thankful For is a link-up sponsored by the iHomeschool Network.

Our Well Traveled Family

I am so excited to begin this new venture. I have been blogging about our homeschooling journey for years. As we have begun to travel aboard more regularly as a family, I have had a burning desire to share our stories with the world.

I realize, however, that not everyone who visits my homeschool blog is interested in the details of our travel. It is for this reason that I was inspired to create Well Traveled Family and I am delighted that you are here.

Welcome to Well Traveled FamilyMy first memory of traveling abroad was a road trip with my parents to British Columbia when I was about 9 years old. I recall vividly how enthralled my brothers and I were watching an HO train traverse along the tracks of an elaborate model. I can visualize my father holding my hand as we meandered the pathways of the botanical gardens in Victoria.

In college, I spent a summer in San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato, Mexico teaching at a girl’s orphanage and working with the municipal government in a youth sports program. These experiences engrained in me the importance of connecting with one another through travel.

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”  ~ Mark Twain

When we travel, no matter how near or far, we share experiences and moments that shape our family. Each adventure – whether a day trip to the mountains or an international excursion – is a memory we share with one another.

No matter where we reside – initially in Oregon and now Northern California, we seek out adventures and opportunities to explore our surroundings. Not only does it give us something to do, it strengthens our family bond. When removed from the distractions of our work and other obligations of life, we are able to better connect with one another.

My goal for Well Traveled Family is share our experiences traveling as family in hopes of inspiring you to seek out new adventures. I will share anecdotes from our excursions as well as traveling tips and hidden gems we have discovered along the way.

Join us as sail away from the harbor and catch the trade winds.

 

 

What About Prom? Alternative Ideas for Homeschool Socials

whataboutpromHave you ever noticed that even the most intelligent seeming humans are capable of asking homeschooled teens extremely annoying questions about homeschooling? Commonly heard amongst those that homeschool are the following questions:

  • What about socialization?
  • Do you like it?
  • Is it legal?
  • What will happen if they miss the prom?

Society tells us that if your child doesn’t go to school they will miss out.  In high school, non-homeschoolers ponder the questions concerning prom, games, dances and other activities.

In the community in which I lived when we first began our homeschool journey, the annual winter ball was all the rage. I was intrigued by this concept and when we moved to Northern California, I wanted this experience for my own children and their friends. I thereby recently planned the first of what I hope will be an annual event.

Not Just Teens

Reminiscent of an old school ballroom dance or barn dance (typically involving traditional dancing and period music), a homeschool winter ball is a family affair. It is not just a teen dance. This is appealing to many homeschool families.

Homeschool winter balls provide an opportunity for families to connect with one another – particularly the dads who might otherwise not be able to attend homeschool activities and functions.

Another key difference between prom and a homeschool ball are the historic, period appropriate dances. The style and dances of course change each year according to the selected theme.

Historic Dances

  • Virginia Reel
  • Grand March
  • Polka
  • Jitterbug
  • Foxtrot
  • Swing
  • Hand Jive
  • Cha Cha
  • amongst others

How to Plan a Winter Ball

1. Select a Theme

As it was our first year (and I was initially undertaking this endeavor on my own), I chose a theme that would be relatively easy in regards to costumes and decorations – a 50s themed dance or Sock Hop.

2. Secure a Venue

I then reached out to another homeschool family who are pastors at a local church to confirm a venue. A venue is the biggest obstacle. As I wasn’t sure how many families would participate and thereby how much money I could expect to generate, I didn’t want to worry about a substantial rental fee.

3. Spread the Word

With a date and venue secured, I then created a flyer and tickets. I printed these and distributed them to our local charter schools and co-op leaders. I also began to spread the word via our Facebook & Yahoo groups – setting up an event page so parents could reach out to one another and find answers to frequently asked questions.

SockHop4. Seek Out Volunteers

I requested parent volunteers to help coordinate decorations, food, games, and prizes. A parent stepped up to chair each area of need. To assure we were all on the same page – I also planned a couple of planning meetings in advance of the social. This helped to keep everyone apprised of progress and what areas were needing additional support.

I would have loved to have dance instructors to help teach us period dances but I wasn’t able to make this part of my vision come to fruition this first year. Instead, we relied upon what we had learned via YouTube.

5. Costumes

I encouraged everyone to come dressed in period attire or clothing reminiscent of the 1950s. This was a relatively easy feat. There were many pink poodle skirts and boys with t-shirts and jeans. It was so much fun to see how individual personalities were revealed (my daughter went with a sailing themed “poodle” skirt).

6. Decorate

The planning team and volunteers arrived at the church early to decorate and get everything set up. The DJ met us there to assure the equipment was ready.

7. Celebrate Your Success

Everything came together easily and those who attended loved the decorations (45s purchased at a second hand store for just a few dollars were randomly adhered to the walls and strung from a garland) and the ’58 Corvette photo prop. Ticket sales (just $20 per family) even enabled us to hire a DJ!

The Sock Hop was a smashing success! We are already planning ahead for 2016.

Future Theme Ideas

  • Steampunk
  • Roaring 20s
  • Masquerade Ball
  • Under the Sea
  • Alice and Wonderland
  • Arabian Nights
  • Chronicles of Narnia
  • Civil War
  • Renaissance

In the years to come, I will put together a Winter Ball Planning committee and hand down the task of planning to the upcoming teens. It will be up to these young adults to plan the theme, select a venue, and coordinate activities and food. This will allow them the opportunity to be involved in the same type of experiences other high school students enjoy.

Lessons Learned from My Mother

Last week, I shared with you the Lessons Learned from My Father.  While many of the lessons learned from my mother are similar, today I share with you the wisdom I have gained from her.

“Motherhood is a choice you make everyday to put someone else’s happiness and well-being ahead of your own, to teach the hard lessons to do the right thing even when you’re not sure what the right thing is, and to forgive yourself over and over again for doing everything wrong.” ~ Donna Bell

lessons mother

Values

I learned to be myself.

One of the most important lessons I learned from my mom was to be true to myself. I struggled a lot through school battling with peer pressure and bullying. I was fortunate to have a mother who understood what I was going through and who really listened to me. She was always there to comfort me when I came home in tears. She was always there to pick me up when I failed.

Above all, however, she encouraged me to stand up for myself and not succumb to peer pressure.  “You are beautiful. You are loved. Don’t let their jealousy change who you are as an individual.”

I learned the fundamentals of leadership and service.

My mother was always eager to help. She was my 4H leader as well as a room mom, volunteering to help in the classroom whenever necessary (building floats for the annual Cranberry Festival, holiday parties, etc.). Through her example, I learned the value of leadership and volunteering.

Leadership capability is a pretty accurate indicator of success in an individual. Leadership skills include proactivity, responsibility, empathy, creativity, vision, and public speaking skills. As I stated last week, kids learn by osmosis.

In other words, they will copy what they see us doing. As parents, we can help nurture leadership qualities in our children by giving them opportunities to take responsibility for themselves and their pets and by encouraging them to lead discussions in small groups like book club, and to share their talents with others.

thankful mother

Connection Traditions

I learned the importance of a family meal.

Growing up, we sat down to dinner together most every evening. It was a time to come together and discuss what was happening in our lives. We discussed plans for the weekend and concerns for finances when money was tight.

Countless studies have shown the positive influence that sharing a meal together as a family has on children. Of course, when I was a child electronic devices were unheard of, but today they are a huge distraction. Consider these suggestions for connecting with one another around a meal:

  • First: no TV, no cellphones, and no tablets.
  • Begin with grace. If you’re not religious, have everyone share something that they’re grateful for that day.
  • Family news: everyone takes turns sharing something positive and negative that has happened to them during the day.
  • “Got any stories?” This is a tradition that Patrick and I have had for a few years. Each person is expected to bring something interesting to the table that they’ve read or heard during the day.

I learned the value of preparing home cooked meals. 

Every August, my brothers and I would accompany my mom to Dillard where we would spend the day picking fruits and vegetables.  We had only a small garden ourselves and the farms in Dillard provided us with the food we would need for the next year. Doesn’t sound really exciting, but we all looked forward to it.

We were always a stinky, hot mess by the time we were done. Mom always stopped at Bear Creek on the way home so we could cool off in the water. For this reason I love little side adventures and unexpected surprises when traveling.

When we got home, she would spend the next week preserving and canning the produce we brought home. It was such a joy to come home from school to see rows and rows of delicious canned peaches and spicy beans that lined the counters.

I learned the importance of holiday traditions.

Instead of setting out the Easter baskets by our bed or in the living room, my mom always created a fun hunt for them. Adding a scavenger hunt to anything turns it into an awesome, memorable tradition. I’m not sure there’s anything more fun as a kid than a scavenger hunt.

On Christmas Eve, my mother would bake our favorite dishes for a buffet style meal and invite our neighbor Mr. Cole, our grandparents, and a few aunts and uncles to our home. The following day, we would load the car and drive to her parents where we would spend the day with our extended family.  I’ve always attributed Christmas with a huge family gathering as a result.

~     ~     ~

How about you? What lessons have you learned from your parents? What examples do you hope to provide for your children? Share in the comments. 🙂