SCHOOL ON THE GO

THE 2018 FLORIDA PARENT EDUCATION ASSOCIATION

 

NO MATTER WHERE OUR RV TAKES US, WE ARE ABLE TO BRING EDUCATION ALONG FOR THE RIDE.

 

Many families, like ours, have discovered RV travel is the only way to really see this country.  If you have two or more children, it just makes financial sense to make the most of your vacation time and money by hitting the road in an RV.   Countless families have also made the difficult yet rewarding decision to homeschool or even road school their little Einstein’s.  We have found that blending RV travel with homeschooling is the perfect recipe for a well-rounded education and an abundant life.

 

Yes, over three years ago we decided that we loved hitting the road so much so, that we did not want the school calendar to dictate when or how far we could travel at any given time. Needless to say, once we made that decision to home educate our three lively little boys, reality hit me that I was in charge of determining our children’s curriculum and ultimately their educational destiny.

 

THE FPEA PROMISED AN AWESOME CONVENTION AND THEY DELIVERED!

 

When I was introduced to the world of homeschool conventions, it became a resource I would continue to tap into every year.  This year I was lured to beautiful Orlando, Florida to explore the Florida Parent Educators Association (FPEA) 2018 Homeschool Conference.

 

Who could turn down a trip to Florida, right?

 

These homeschool conferences can be huge and somewhat daunting to many families, but I want to share some tips that will allow you to consume this large educational meal in small digestible bites.  These four tips will get you started on successfully completing your first homeschool conference.

 

  1. Pre-register for the event and print out the vendor list and speakers schedule. This way you are able to highlight the vendor booths you are interested in getting more information from and which speakers you feel have information you need to be successful in your homeschooling journey. These conventions usually have a broad spectrum of topics for families, no matter if you are thinking about beginning homeschool in the near future, you’re a newbie to homeschooling or even if you have been homeschooling for years.
  2. Wear your most comfortable shoes because you will be doing a ton of walking. The larger homeschool conventions will have several breakout sessions that you have to navigate through as well as a large curriculum fair, where you can browse through hundreds of curricula books and other related homeschool wares and services.  All this amounts to a lot of time on your feet.
  3. Don’t forget to bring a bottle of water, snacks and a brown bag lunch. The convention halls are notorious for expensive food. (I usually bring my boys with me to the curriculum fair so that they can have some input in what we choose for the upcoming year.)  If your kids are anything like mine they will want to snack frequently.

 

THE SNACKS AT THE CONVENTION ARE USUALLY SOLD THROUGH THE VENUE’S VENDORS AND CAN BE PRICEY.

 

  1. I usually bring a rolling cart to carry away my curriculum finds. Who wants to be stuck carrying around heavy books and what not? Mine also doubles as a handy-dandy seat to take a load off my feet when a chair is nowhere in sight.

 

 

Personally, I really enjoy attending the homeschool conferences every year.  Why?  Mostly, I believe the speakers usually provide topics that speak to my needs and give me that extra motivation I need to tackle another school year. Homeschool is not easy, but it is probably the most important job I have ever had.  Just like public school teachers, home educators also need to have classes that are able to uplift, inspire, and offer them with new strategies.

 

The speakers this year spoke on topics such as How to Choose and Adopt Curriculum, Homeschool 101, How to Teach Multiple Levels, Teaching, Critical Thinking, and Creating a Roadmap for High School.  This is a very small sampling of the topics that were addressed in the workshops.  As you can see there was something for the newbies to homeschooling, as well as for the seasoned homeschooler.  It didn’t matter if you were educating your preschooler or your high school student that is juggling dual-enrollment courses; there was a workshop to meet your needs.   This is one reason why I continue to go to the homeschool conferences every year.  I always learn something new that nourishes my soul and equips my toolbox so that I can soldier on.

 

If you are worried that these events are dry and boring, let me assure you that they are not.  This year’s FPEA homeschool conference offered the parents some fun activities to participate in such as the Mom Strong Pajama Party and the Guys Night Out.  Kids of all ages were able to participate in the conference by attending the FPEA Teen Town Hall and having special workshops designed for teens.  The younger kids were invited to register for a special children’s program where parents were able to drop them off in a supervised environment for loads of games and activities.

 

 

THIS IS ONE OF MY BOYS’ TOPS PICKS FOR SCIENCE CURRICULUM THIS NEXT YEAR.

 

I had a chance to chat with new vendors and others that were more established.  Why is this important?  Well, like many other homeschoolers, I too have researched curriculum online and thought it would be a perfect fit for my family.  However, once I received it I realized it wasn’t what I thought it would be.  That is the beauty of the Vendor Hall!  In the hall you are presented with hundreds of vendors who are eager for you to browse through their curriculum and ask the questions that you need answered.  Oh, and did I mention the discounts?  The majority of the vendors offer conference discounts and/or sample curriculum so you can be sure this is indeed right for your family.  My boys enjoyed the vendor hall as much as I did.  I really love bringing them in so that they are able to sample the material. They are really good at offering their impressions of the curriculum.  Lately, I have found that when they are able to weigh in on what curriculum that we use they are more likely to be invested in their work.

 

SPEAKING TO VENDORS IS THE BEST WAY TO MAKE THE MOST OF THE VENDOR HALL AND LEARN ABOUT CURRICULUM.

 

All in all, I found the 2018 FPEA Conference to be one of the best homeschool events that I have attended.  We are one step closer to making some curriculum changes for next school year due in large to the generous variety of vendors and workshops that were available at the conference.  Having had the opportunity to physically view and in some cases, allow my kids to sample a couple of our curriculum picks was worth the price of admission to the conference.

FMCA RALLY RECAP

The thought of attending an RV rally is something that just doesn’t excite our family. We have attended a few NAARVA rallies, and even an FMCA rally two years ago. Check out the links to those blogs here. Neither of those rallies were particularly family-friendly. Honestly, we just didn’t see the value in attending these types of rallies in the future, but when the invite to the 97th FMCA’s International Convention and RV Expo arrived in my email box, I must admit I was interested. Over the past few years, there has been so much buzz in the RV industry, and unless you were hiding in a cave, it would be impossible to have not heard about the recent explosion of sales and interest in RVing. With the average age of RV ownership dropping into the mid-forties and nearly a million RVs being sold in the past 24 months, we were very eager to experience these changes firsthand.

 

 

 

Not to mention that FMCA themselves had recently undergone a massive change. FMCA, after a membership-wide vote, would now be allowingtowable RV owners to join. For the first time, towable owners can actually join and be full-time members enjoying all the great benefits that the FMCA offers.

 

Heading to Perry, GA….

 

As life happens, there was a family conflict and we had a choice to make, either I attend the rally alone or we don’t go at all. I was too curious not to attend and knowing that a friend of mine was coming down in his rig from D.C., I figured I would have some company. I set out with our dog, Ebony, for the drive down to Perry, Georgia. I have to admit I was nervous heading south, and it wasn’t because I was driving by myself.

 

 

I was nervous because for the first time in my five years of RVing, I would be boondocking for multiple days. I know many of you are probably laughing at that statement. What do you mean by boondocking for an extended period for the first time? Yes, 99.9% of our RVing in our first five years has been at campgrounds. Yes, we have had, enjoyed, and been spoiled by full hook-ups.

 

 

Hopefully, boondocking would be just one of the many new experiences I would enjoy at this rally. If you haven’t  been to the Georgia state fairgrounds, it’s a massive place and perfect for a rally of this size. I read some preshow posts that reported over 2,000 rigs would be camping at the show.

 

 

 

As I arrived, I was greeted and escorted by golf cart to my camping area.

 

I was assigned Lot I 42ndStreet. I was impressed already by the street names and signs at an RV rally. After setting up quickly, I assessed the area around me. There were plenty of open spaces for the dog to walk and plenty of rigs were around me. I chose to camp out in the 24-hour generator access, as my knowledge of boondocking was limited.

 

 

 

There’s an App of That Too…

 

After I settled in, it was time to explore the campground. After texting my friend and learning he was still a few hours away, I grabbed Ebony and we walked around.

 

 

Not far from where we set-up, we came across a group of NAARVA members, called the Fun Seekers. I could tell from their set-up they were veterans of rallies like this. I then proceeded to the main area and checked in, got the rally schedule, and picked up a map of the campground. I also found out that FMCA was using a cellular app for the first time. I downloaded the app to see if it would be effective or just a dud.

 

 

 

 

 

I will admit I was very surprised how useful the app was during my stay. This was another big step forward for FMCA.

 

Meeting Some of Those Mysterious Millennials…

 

Off in the near distance, I noticed a Type B parked by itself and wondered why they were there by themselves. I made a mental note to see if I could meander over and do some investigation. My chance came the next evening while walking Ebony. I noticed there were two dogs outside the Type B, and of course, Ebony was attracted to the idea of going to meet some new dogs so I allowed her to lead me close to the rig. One thing I have learned from my years of RVing is RVers typically are very friendly people. As we got closer, the dogs started barking, and so did Ebony. To my surprise, two young ladies popped out from the rear of the RV to say hello. I don’t know why I was surprised, but I have to admit I was. Maybe it was the stereotype of two women camping all by themselves.

 

 

 

However surprised I was, we struck up an incredibly fun conversation. The Livingston sisters happened to be first time attendees at the FMCA rally. They came there to learn about the RV they have owned for a few years. They had a full-schedule of seminars they planned on attending. We visited for over an hour. It was fun to learn about their experiences traveling in a Type B. Two women and two big dogs; they are braver than I am.

We exchanged information to keep in touch. I hope to see them again on the road soon.

 

Vendors, seminars and so much more….

 

One of the best things about attending a large FMCA convention is there is always plenty to see, do, and have done (to your rig).

 

I was having my tow bar serviced. During the service, they noticed a major safety problem. They were kind enough to send me into the vendor hall where I was able to purchase a new tow bar (at a show discount). They even sent a tech right out to my rig to install it that afternoon!

 

 

There was a list of over 100 different seminars to attend. Topics ranged from full-timing, RV maintenance and RV solar systems (which I attended) just to name a few.

 

 

The vendor hall was filled with hundreds of vendors selling all the items you knew and did not know you needed to enhance your RV experience. Of course, I walked away with a few new items that I absolutely needed to make our RVing easier. I dare you to try not to buy something…

 

There was also a good-sized RV vendor section featuring hundreds of the newest RVs if you wanted to upgrade your current rig. There were some big-time dealerships like NIRVC and Camping World. I spent a lot of time checking out the RV my wife has been trying to convince we need in our lives. She fell in love with it at the Florida RV Super Show this year and it would be the second RV for our family.

 

The Hymer Active 2.0 loft addition just might be the perfect 2ndRV for our family. Now, if only I could just pick those winning lottery numbers, I can place the order.

 

 

 

 

Final Thoughts…

 

As Ebony and I drove away from the Georgia fairgrounds, one thing struck me clearly, the needle has definitely moved over the past two years. Seeing towable RVs camped side-by-side with the motorhomes was refreshing.

 

 

While the bulk of the attendees I interacted with were of the retired age, I did notice a significant increase in both minorities and younger RVers. What was my biggest takeaway you ask? Make a FMCA convention a meetup with friends.  You can couple new learning in seminars with getting work/upgrades on your RV, all while hanging out and having fun with friends. The experience is furthered when you are surrounded by thousands of other people who love RVing.

 

I will definitely be attending another large FMCA convention. Next time, I will make sure to invite plenty of friends to camp with us!

 

Keith Sims

Soulful RV Family

GIRLS RV GETAWAY

Many ladies are intimidated by the thought of taking the RV out on their own.  This is especially true if you have only gone RVing with your husband and the kids.

 

 

If your situation is anything like mine, as the wife and mom, I am responsible to pack everyone up and be sure that we have a meal plan before every trip.  Once we arrive at the campsite, I am the one who gets the RV’s interior situated and starts the evening supper in the crockpot.  Meanwhile, my husband goes outside to connect the RV to shore power, sewer and fresh water.  Yes, everyone has a job and since our maiden RV voyage in 2014, we have perfected this process and I must say it goes off without a hitch…most times.

 

 

But, what is a girl to do when she decides to take the RV out solo or at least sans the husband and kids?  What if I took the RV out with a couple of my girlfriends for the weekend?  Am I able to do this without my trusty life partner?  I have seen my husband hook up the RV many times and I am very comfortable driving it.  So what do I really have to worry about?  I can do this!

 

 

Now before you start thinking about hiking and all the awesome possibilities of the great outdoors, this was not what I had in mind at all for this getaway.  You see, I have never been that outdoorsy type of gal.  Don’t get me wrong!  I love to go hiking and exploring with my boys, but this was a girls’ weekend.  As such, we were looking forward to being pampered, relaxed, and dined.

 

 

Now since this was our first “Girls Trip” we were determined to stick to a few rules.

 

  • No discussions about husbands, kids or work.
  • No phone calls with the above parties. (Except for emergencies, of course)
  • No morning wakeup alarms.
  • No reservations, no time schedules to keep.
  • HAVE FUN.

 

Okay, so the groundwork has been established let’s go!

 

GET PAMPERED

 

The first thing on our list of MUST DO’s was to find a spa where we could enjoy a nice massage.   As women we play so many different roles during the course of the day.  We are a wife, mom, daughter, sister, confidant, therapist, nurse, cook and household CEO and that is before we ever step foot outside of the house.  Therefore, it is vitally important to take some to rejuvenate oneself periodically.  Heading to the spa for a full-body massage and foot reflexology was the best decision that we could have made for ourselves, as it set the tone for the remainder of the getaway.

 

 

RELAX

 

The next item on the MUST DO list was to simply relax.  Many ladies will agree that this is easier said than done.  But remember the ground rules that were set in place prior to leaving on our Girls Getaway?  In order to relax you have to be able to allow your loved ones to handle the day -to -day responsibilities at home.  You have to be able to unplug and just be.

 

Here is where RVing makes its most influential impact.  Being able to sit outside and just enjoy nature is so peaceful.  The girls and I were able to just talk about things that were important to us as women and sometimes just be plain silly.  It was our time.

 

DINE

 

 

Last, but certainly not least on our MUST DO list was to eat some good food.  Being able to go out with the girls to a trendy food spot in the city that did not offer a kids menu, was priceless!

 

Our RV has given us so much more than we ever intially thought it would.  This getaway would have cost us twice as much if we had to reserve hotel rooms,  and we certainly would not have had the peaceful and homelike atmosphere that we enjoyed at the campsite.  Yes, our RV has proved to be very instrumental in improving the quality of our vacations and ultimately the quality of our lives.

 

 

*Confession…As the day approached to begin this trip I was nervous and unsure of myself.   I am so happy that I soldiered through my apprehensions, because it was so worth it.  Not only am I more confident in my abilities to travel solo, I am so happy that I was able to share some much needed girl time with these incredible ladies.

 

 

CHEERS!

A TRIP TO THE EPCOT INTERNATIONAL FOOD AND WINE FESTIVAL

What is the first thought that comes to mind when someone mentions Disney World? Most people would say Mickey Mouse, Magic Kingdom and loads of kids with their parents in tow. Oh, and let’s not forget about strollers! Yes, I will admit that I love taking the whole family to Disney World.

And, I fall into all of those categories with my kids and their meltdowns from the overstimulation of a huge theme park. It is certainly one of my favorite places to go for a fabulous family vacation. Now what if I told you that there are a couple of months out of the year when Disney World can be a fabulous destination for adults, with or without kids?

Now I have your attention.

I decided to take the family down to Orlando for yet another Disney vacation, but this time it was all about the adults.  Sure, the kids came along for the ride, but this was not for them. Some might find that to be a bit selfish. However, sometimes mama and papa bear have to have some fun, too.

Personally, I think that it is good for our kids to know that even though we love to bless them with fun experiences, we are people too. Parents deserve to have a little fun.

So instead of the usual trip to Magic Kingdom and the like, we decided to hit Epcot for the International Food and Wine Festival 2017. I have become such a foodie over the past 5 years that I was excited to see what goodies I would find at the Food and Wine Festival. Not only does Epcot do a fantastic job of offering a glorious variety of culinary delights from around the globe, but they offer wine pairings for their dishes, too.

There was one small wrinkle in my plan. My husband is a traditional meat and potatoes kind of guy but my recent decision to partake in a plant-based diet would limit the variety of dishes that I would be able to consume.  I even had to ask myself if I would be able to eat anything other than a salad.

Once again, Disney World did not disappoint!

First thing is first! This mama bear will always find a way to entertain her little cubs, so we registered the boys for a scavenger hunt. Now that the boys were sufficiently entertained and distracted, it was time for us to begin eating our way around this culinary Epcot world.

One place that is only available to eat at during the Food and Wine Festival is their Africa region. There I was able to thoroughly enjoy the spicy Ethiopian red lentil stew with vegan yogurt and quinoa. This dish had me wishing that I had some take home containers in my bag.

Due to my dietary restrictions I have learned, albeit the hard way, that it is always best to do a little menu research prior to heading out to eat. To my delight, Epcot had a couple of vegan/vegetarian options at each food spot around the park.

If you plan to visit the Epcot Food and Wine Festival it is best to go in the middle of the work-week and plan to arrive as close to opening as you can. I failed to adhere to my own advice and went on the weekend. It was packed with tourists as well as local Floridians taking advantage of the weekend to get their grub on.

Nonetheless, this event is a must for adults who wish to visit the most magical theme park destination in the world.  The festival offers so many options to parents taking a break from the traditional Disney experience. If you plan ahead, you can book your spot to participate in cooking demonstrations and seminars led by well-known chefs and television personalities. That said; plan your visit well ahead of time.

As for our family, we will be back! The kids had a great time and they were happy to see that mom and dad had a magical time, too.

SOLAR ECLIPSE 2017

Our RV trip planning can take so many different forms including national parks, experiencing the magic of Disney, a beach vacation or a simple weekend getaway. No matter the trip, we always try to work in a little bit of homeschooling education. We’re not always successful but you have to try, don’t you? When I first learned of the full solar eclipse, I knew I had to be there to see it in person. I knew this would be a different kind of trip, having grown up kind of a science geek, and wanting to be an astronaut.

 

This is as close as I get to be a real astronaut.

 

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