SummaryOut of the many options for a family vacation this summer, why choose camping? Patricia Purcell shares why camping is her family’s favorite summer activity.
It’s that time of year again.
The schoolwork has finally been wrapped up, the weather is fine, and every conversation with friends seems to include the question, “What are you doing this summer?” To me all of this means one thing…it is time to start planning some camping trips.
My family is fortunate enough to live within easy access of the beautiful Adirondack Mountains, and we have made camping trips a part of our summers since our kids were little.
If camping is not your idea of a vacation, let me assure you that despite the presence of bugs, dirt, and well – nature, spending extended periods of time with your family outdoors is worthwhile.
It promotes many of the values that homeschoolers hold dear. In fact, I’d say that camping is a perfect vacation for homeschoolers.
1. Family Time
Taking the kids out into the woods eliminates the usual distractions. In the woods, there is no TV (unless you go in a loaded up R.V….so don’t do that!). There is limited cell phone reception, and kids are separated physically and electronically from constant contact with their friends. It’s a natural opportunity for family time.
What my own kids love best about camping are the simple things. They love getting to explore woodsy trails on their bikes, long hikes, swimming in the clear waters of a lake, paddling off in a kayak, learning to build a fire, and staying up late telling stories under the stars. Other ideas for simple family fun while camping include the following.
Play tag or teach your kids any of the other forgotten games of childhood such as clapping games or jump rope rhymes.
Play board games. Bring along checkers, Monopoly, or even just a deck of cards. Camping is a great time to start a family game night tradition.
What you do is not as important as the fact that you’re slowing down and doing it as a family.
2. Outdoor Education
Camping provides a wide range of unique opportunities for kids to acquire skills, build confidence, try new things, and understand nature. The following ideas are just a few examples.
Setting up camp: making a temporary home in the woods gives your family a chance to live like pioneers for a few days.
Everyone must pitch in to set up camp and keep it running. Even the smallest children can snap tent poles together and unroll sleeping bags. Older kids can help pitch the tent and unpack the car.
Preparing meals: cooking, whether over an open fire or on a tiny camp stove, is quite different at camp. Meals take longer to prepare and clean up. Fires must be carefully laid and tended. Kids get the chance to learn skills that they are unlikely to acquire in their everyday lives.
Science: when kids are surrounded by nature, their natural curiosity comes out. Suddenly plants and animals become fascinating, and every stone could be a fossil waiting to be discovered. Long ago lessons in Botany and Biology are recalled as kids strive to understand the natural world.
Mixing it up: my own family takes on different roles when we’re out in the woods. At home, I’m the chief cook, but when we’re camping my husband handles most of the meals (there’s something about men that makes them love to cook over a fire). The kids get to take charge of activities such as navigating a trail, or steering a boat.
Phys Ed: whether it’s biking, hiking, swimming, or boating, camping offers endless opportunities for fresh air and exercise.
Writing and Public Speaking: we have a tradition of spending at least one of our nights telling stories in front of the campfire. We tell everything from ghost stories, to tall-tales, to family legends. Our kids have learned how to spin some good yarns of their own over the years.
3. Budget Friendly
- Camping can be quite easy on the wallet compared to other vacations as there are no tickets to buy or hotel bills to pay. You might already own much of the equipment. The most important items are:
- Lodging – a large, family-sized tent will last through many camping trips and will only cost about the equivalent of one night in a hotel.
- Bedding – sleeping bags, and maybe air mattresses or cots.
- Folding chairs
- Camp stove – this is optional, but we find it makes life easier.
- Lantern and flashlights
Fun extras – these aren’t necessary of course, but can lead to hours of enjoyment. Ideas include: marshmallow roasting sticks, camp-pie pans, fishing poles, glow sticks, small radio, guitar or other instrument, beach reading material, and sand toys.
4. Enjoying God’s Creation
George Washington Carver once said, “Reading about nature is fine, but if a person walks in the woods and listens carefully, he can learn more than what he has in books, for they speak with the voice of God.”
Nothing that man has made can ever come near to the wonders given to us by God. Giving children a chance to really experience nature by living within it for a time is a gift that they will treasure all their lives.
Whether they are waking to the ghostly call of loons, spending the day observing the local wildlife, or gazing at the sheer vastness of the night sky, they will have ample time for quiet thought. It will transform their view of the world.
5. Perfect Vacation
In the woods, my children grow as individuals and grow in their relationships with each other. They carry themselves with greater confidence, their outlooks are brighter, their curiosity is reawakened after months indoors, and their laughter is louder and more frequent.
Each time we take them into the woods to camp, they rediscover their true selves and our family bond tightens even more.
Do you camp? What is your favorite thing about camping with your family?