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!

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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.

Castle Crags State Park & Mt. Shasta

When we returned from our holiday in Southern California (Disneyland, Legoland, & Long Beach), we were in dire need of some outdoor time.  Solitude and peace that only nature could provide.  The weather Sunday morning was perfect – sunny and relatively cool so we ventured out for long hike to Castle Crags State Park.

Castle Crags State Park features 28 miles of hiking trails, including a 2.7 mile access trail to Castle Crags Wilderness, part of the Shasta-Trinity National Forest.  The Pacific Crest Trail also passes through the park.  The park is named for the 6,000-feet tall glacier-polished crags.  The solitude you experience as you explore the forest or traverse part of the Pacific Crest Trail cannot be matched.

The spectacular mountains you see in these pictures represent vastly different geologic stories and processes that have been shaping the land for more than 500 million years.  The persistent forces of day-to-day erosion, together with slow earth movements, keep this mountain landscape in dynamic flux.

The Gray Rocks are mainly greenstone and are a detached portion of the Copley Formation, related to the ancient and complex geologic history of the Klamath Range.  The spectacular Castle Crags are made of granite that cooled slowly deep within the earth.  Over time, this granite was uplifted and the rock above it worn away.  Once the granite was exposed to the elements, water and ice have taken over as the main sculpting forces, breaking fractures in the rock, creating the castle-like features.

Mt. Shasta reaches the impressive height of 14,179 feet and is by far, the youngest geologic feature in the area. Mt Shasta is volcanic, forming in episodes beginning 530,000 years ago and last erupting in 1786.  Considered dormant now, it will undoubtedly become active again in the future.

It was an awesome day.  We planned ahead and managed to bring along snacks and plenty of water to drink. It was an arduous hike, however, so we rewarded ourselves with dinner in Dunsmuir – where we discovered a little brewery.  The food was delicious and though our bodies were tired, our spirits were rejuvenated.

Whiskeytown Waterfall Challenge

One of my new favorite places is Whiskeytown National Recreation Area.  Within the park, are four wonderful waterfalls, accessible year-round.  The National Park Service, in an effort to promote a healthy lifestyle and get families outside, encourages visitors to take part in a waterfall challenge.  You can download their colorful waterfall passport (or use a nature journal of your own) to document your visit to each of the falls.  Along the trail to each of the falls is a metal pedestal with a relief carving perfect for crayon rubbings.  If you are taking part in the challenge, you are asked to do a rubbing at each of the waterfalls.  Visitors who complete the challenge are awarded a free “I Walked the Falls” bandana.

Crystal Creek Falls
Crystal Creek Falls

Crystal Creek Falls is the only “man-made” waterfall in the park. When the Central Valley Project was designed in the 1920s, an important component was the diversion of a large portion of the Trinity River to Whiskeytown Lake and from there to the Sacramento River. A 17-mile tunnel was excavated to transport the water underground from Trinity Dam to Carr Powerhouse and the tailings were dumped in the area near Crystal Creek Falls.  When it is necessary to shut down Carr Powerhouse for maintenance or to enter the tunnel for cleaning, the valve is turned and the excess water from the tunnel spills into Crystal Creek.  When the overflow structure was built, the Bureau of Reclamation rerouted Crystal Creek. The creek was moved about 50 feet to the left to make a shortcut over the cliff, creating this picturesque waterfall.

Whiskeytown Falls

For over 40 years this 220-foot waterfall was only a secret to the few that knew it existed. For a variety of reasons, some people decided not to share the falls’ existence with others. Today, people from all over the world have heard about the hidden secret.

Brandy Creek Falls
Brandy Creek is noted for five large cascading falls that sweep down across the polished granite rock in the upper box canyon. Upper Brandy Creek Falls plunge in a unique split formation through the steep vertical walls. The trail to the falls was improved in 2005 with hand-hewn rock steps and a metal railing to help hikers safely reach the top of the waterfall. 
Boulder Creek Falls

At over 138 feet high, Boulder Creek Falls was thought to be the tallest waterfall in the park until Whiskeytown Falls was re-discovered in fall of 2004.  The three cascades of Boulder Creek Falls are tucked into a dark, shaded box canyon filled with moss and ferns. 

Tamolitch Pool Nature Hike

A hidden gem along the Mckenzie River, Tamolitch Pool (known to some as Blue Pool) is a remarkable natural area secluded in the lush forest of the Western Cascade Mountains.  While it is a part of the McKenzie River trail system and can thereby be reached from a couple  different directions, we hiked in from the  the trail bridge, an easy to moderate 4.2 miles round trip.   The beginning of this easy hike is through old growth Douglas fir forest. As the McKenzie river falls away you walk along the cliff. Eventually you come upon an old lava flow.  As we were hiking in mid-April, there were patches of snow across several areas of the trail.  
We marveled at the stunning turquoise color of the water and wished it were summer – perhaps the water would have been a little more inviting.  It is very cold though – so even then, we likely would only have waded.  We pondered the depth of the pool and were given a little hint when we googled Tamolitch Pool to discover videos on YouTube of several brave (?) people jumping into the pool from the 70′ cliffs circling the pool.  
Unbeknownst to most, there is a waterfall here … though it is hidden, a geologic oddity where water disappears under a lava flow. The pool is where the McKenzie River emerges from the basalt covered terrain.  Due to the porous nature of the basaltic lava in the area, water has a difficult time staying on top of the ground, especially in seasons of low precipitation.  From just below Carmen Reservoir, the entire river suddenly vanishes underground for roughly 3.5 miles before silently bubbling back up at the pool.  Oregon – Like No Other is a great site that further explains the dry falls and the natural area of the McKenzie.  His photos are stunning – much better than what we could capture with our iPhones (sadly, we’d forgotten our Canon). 
If you are ever in the area, I encourage you to take the time to explore this area further.  Oregon is indeed like no other.  

Walking Sticks & Gangemerke

In Central Oregon, our Sons of Norway lodge had an active barnesklubb (kids club).  Prior to the monthly social, the kids would gather in the back of the lodge for craft & learning activities that introduced them to the culture of Scandinavia.  Here in Northern California, though we are members of our local lodge, we have discovered that sadly, there is no kids club.  In fact, there was been little programing to encourage heritage members.  I’ve made it my goal to remedy that.

In March, I began a Barnesklubb – selecting a time of day that works for me (1:30 – 3:30) though I know I may need to change this to encourage public schooled kids to join.  My goal is to meet just once a month to engage the kids in activities that educate and inspire.  Our first gathering was successful – with five families joining us – and everyone enjoying the watercolor activity I planned on the Aurora Borealis.  Our gathering coincided with the Sons of Norway general business meeting later that week so I asked a few of the kids to come and present.
Our April gathering focused on getting outdoors – in celebration of Spring and warmer temperatures.  I began by sharing with the attending families (three new families, in fact) about the lodge’s Sports & Fitness recognition program.  Buddy & Sweetie were delighted to show everyone their Gangermerke pins.  As lodge members, they keep track of the miles they walk and when they reach certain benchmarks (varies with age), they earn these lapel pins (free of charge).
I then spoke briefly about the Scandinavian lifestyle … about their love of the outdoors.  Not much different than our own really.  🙂  I noted that on the pins you can see the older carrying what looks like a walking stick … thus my inspiration for this month’s activity.  I asked everyone to bring a walking stick (and I brought extras just in case) and I provided the decorating materials (feathers, silk flowers and leaves, colored electrical tape, paint and brushes, and for those with parental permission, carving tools).

My first inspiration for this activity came to me when we were in Sweden in May.  We had visited Skansen – the first open air museum and zoo in Sweden (founded in 1891) and located on the island of Djurgården in Stockholm.  One of the activities the visitors could take part in was making walking sticks.  We weren’t able to participate – knowing we still had 2 weeks of travel ahead of us – but I mentally made a note of the activity.   

Then a few months back, as I started gathering ideas for future Barnesklubb activities, I discovered a pin on Pinterest and I promptly repinned it to my Barnesklubb board.  Many thanks to the mom at Full Circle for providing me with an alternative to carving … ensuring this activity would be enjoyable for all ages.  🙂