Our Secret to Surviving Long Road Trips

ScreenFreeSuccess

Anyone have some long road trips planned for this summer? We don’t, but that’s only because we clocked about 60 hours in the car at the end of last year…  Surviving with your sanity intact is imperative.  Being ready and willing to do it again is the cherry on top.

I want to share our biggest secret to surviving long road trips and doing so screen-free!

A few years ago I wrote a post about Creative Travel Ideas for Young Kids. When my kids were little, I took as much care with preparing for a road trip as a general would planning an invasion. For our really BIG trips (6 hours to California) I loved to do an hour-by-hour countdown with special activities to pull out along the way.  And when we would fly, I’d break my little to no screen-time rule to let them watch a movie.  I figured that being stuck in a metal box in the sky was NOT the place to be for a melt-down or restless child, so we’d sedate them with a movie which was a special treat for our screen-deprived children. I broke that tradition a few years ago when we flew over the same weekend, that I had agreed to participate in a national “Screen-Free” week. I lived to blog about it later.   But even with the movie my kids would watch on our trips across the country, I was still careful to pack special toys or books to occupy them during the remainder of the flight.

Everything has eased up since then. Now that the kids are older, I throw a few things in a tub for the car, being sure to pack some special items to occupy the 4-year-old and we set off.  Only now we live in Texas where you can drive A.L.L. D.A.Y. and still be in Texas.  Anything under 6 hours is now considered a quick road trip because it takes 15 hours to get to see my family and 9 hours to drive and visit my hubby’s family.

While the kids are older and better able to sit still, we’ve honed in on the BEST way to pass time in the car…  Audio books and audio dramas!

Our absolute favorites, hands-down, are the audio dramas from Heirloom Audio. Have you heard of them? Listened to them? If not, you seriously need to check them out!  This is the newest venture from the former producers of Adventures in Odyssey! The boys received their first one for Christmas 2 years ago.  They fell in love with In Freedom’s Cause, which takes us into the life of William Wallace. He was an amazing man of faith and conviction – a true hero that I love introducing to my boys.

Last fall, I shared about how sick I had been and how we fell in love with In Lee in Virginia which was the perfect companion to our study of the Civil War. We loved them so much that I packed a portable CD player in our aging minivan on our road-trip that we took around Thanksgiving because our CD player in the car was broken. You would not believe how quiet a car full of kids could possibly be as they strained to hear the story from my portable CD player. Thankfully, we had a new-to-us minivan for our 15-hour drive to Arizona. Yes, 15 hours of me with 4 kids as we departed for Arizona for a couple of weeks before Rich joined us at Christmas.  Yes, that was the time we drove ALL DAY and were still in Texas…

We survived, thanks to hours of these audio adventures!

In recent weeks, as we’ve simply been driving around town, we’ve been listening to one of their newest adventures, The Dragon and the Raven. After listening to it one weekend, my middle guy surprised me with this little impromptu note on Monday morning…

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He’s especially excited to now jump into the book that inspired the story that I just happened to have on our bookshelf and was hoping he’d read this summer! #win

Let’s Give Them Access to Real Heroes

The more I look around at what the world has to offer our boys by way of entertainment, the more I’m sold on reading great books to them, exposing them to these kind of heroes via audio dramas. Boys need heroes.  Girls do too, but in an age where boys tend to be adrift without a sense of purpose, I’ve found that filling our boys minds with the stories of brave men who have gone before, performed heroic deeds, made a difference in this world is so very important. These accounts inspire my boys to want to make a difference too. They inspire them to apply themselves to the work of learning and growing up so that they too can make a difference in their culture, in the world they will be thrust into.  And with how things are going, we are in desperate need of modern-day heroes, people who have firm convictions, people who are willing to live selflessly to serve others, to serve a greater good and to draw people to the truth and the One who is Truth.  And I love to watch the role that these audio dramas play in this unfolding of their going from boys – to – men.

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So if you are looking for a way to make the hours in the car just speed by, if you are looking to inspire your kids with some amazing real-life heroes, and you want something they will want to listen to over and over again, then check these out. I’m sure they will become favorites in your home and car, just as they have in ours!

If you would like to order the series now click here.

With this special package you will get:

  • All four audio dramas (The Dragon and the Raven, With Lee in Virginia, In Freedom’s Cause, Under Drake’s Flag –there are 2 copies of each audio drama so that you can give one to a friend!)
  • Study Guide and Discussion Starter Sets for each audio drama
  • Award-winning soundtracks from each audio drama
  • Poster Art from each audio drama
  • Four limited edition Henty Collector Coins
  • ALL of this for only 79.95 !!!

Here are the details:

Recommended Ages: 6+ (some intense action and war scenes, complete with sound effects)

The Dragon and the Raven
Historical Setting: Alfred the Great, 800’s AD, England
Lessons: Mercy, Courage, Faith,
Duration: 2 hours

In Freedom’s Cause
Historical Setting: William Wallace, 1290’s-1305 AD, Scotland
Lessons: Persistence, Courage, Humility, need for God’s guidance
Duration: 2 hours

Under Drake’s Flag 
Historical Setting: Sir Francis Drake, 1500’s, England
Lessons: Courage, Conviction, Character, Faith
Duration: 2 hours

With Lee in Virginia 
Historical Setting: Robert E. Lee, Civil War – 1860’s, United States
Lessons: Loyalty, Freedom, Human Dignity, Honesty, Faith
Duration: 2 hours

{Disclaimer: While we have listened to and loved these audio’s for a few years now, I was sent The Dragon and the Raven for free and compensated for my time invested in putting this post together. All opinions are solely my own. Please see my disclosure for more information.}

Is it Possible to Fly Screen-Free???

Is it possible to fly screen-free? Pack well and prepare them!

*Affiliate links used.  I only link to stuff our family uses and loves.  See full disclosure.*

Last Thursday morning found my four children, hubby and I packed and toting bags through Sky Harbor Airport – Florida bound for my sister-in-laws wedding.  Snaking our way through the line at security, I was feeling good.  Why?  Because I’m a pro at this whole flight thing…  Ok, maybe I’m a little bit nervous this time around.  It was Screen-Free week and for the first time since my kids were old enough to be interested in screens we were going the old-fashioned route and flying screen free.   I severely limit screen-time for our children.  But I groaned inwardly after agreeing to this screen-free challenge when I realized that I’d have to take 4 children into a metal tube in the sky without a visual sedative, aka portable DVD player.

Thankfully, I’m one who relishes a challenge and if generations before me could do this, so could we.  I packed well: books, our Lyra Ferby pencils {yes, we are a bit obsessed with them}, a car cozy {packed with matchbox cars}, wikki sticks and a huge ball of freshly made peppermint scented playdough.  We were set.

A twinge of panic set in as a TSA agent told us he needed to confiscate the playdough.  Noooooooooo, not my beautiful playdough.  No hands but mine had yet touched it.  Anticipation was high since we hadn’t made playdough in nearly a year…  The TSA agent must have seen Rich and I exchange desperate glances or overheard us mumble something about this being our kids activity on the airplane…  Poor guy was pretty mortified to claim a kids toy in the name of national security, but there was no way around it.  Apparently any ‘form-able substance’ is now forbidden.  It is a sad day and age.

The flight out went well.  Thankfully the boys are older now and quite used to having to entertain themselves without the aid of screens.  They played, snacked, colored and read.  The 19 month old…  Well, there is no easy way to fly with a child this age.  A new sippy cup with a straw helped occupy attention as well as lots of laps up and down the aisle as she flirted with other passengers.

But can anything in life be truly screen-free?

When I first participated in ‘screen-free week’ several years ago, it was so easy to limit access to ALL screens.  But now, unless you want to stay in your home for an entire week, it is impossible to go completely screen-free.  And the OCD personality inside of me so likes tidy, exact following of the law. 🙂  You can’t walk into a grocery store, doctor’s office, the airport or a hotel lobby without finding a TV screen broadcasting something back at you.  Our flight out even had screens built into the headrest of the seat in front of us, so even while I turned our screens off, I found the boys craning their necks to glimpse what people were watching in the row in front of us.

As I snapped pictures at the wedding, I realized how mesmerized the boys were with the weather channel updates in the hotel lobby…  Thankfully, I’ve learned to relax and obey the spirit of the law {limiting our intentional use of screens} and not fretting about inadvertent exposure. For those that know me and how black and white my thinking can be, you can say, “finally.” 🙂

So what did we do in our room with that nice big, blank flat panel TV staring at us?  Pillow fights and wrestling…

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So it is back to normal desert living.  We’re feeling refreshed after our screen-free week and quick weekend trip to Florida.

p.s. If we thought we had trouble with the TSA on the way out, it was nothing compared to the way back.  Since I had Greta in the Ergo, they always test my hands  {for explosive material, I guess}.  I’m not quite sure why wearing a baby automatically leads to that, but it is done every time.  In this tiny Florida airport however, I set off alarms and had to undergo a full body pat down and piece by piece detailed search of my luggage.  Memorable for sure.  Something I hope to never repeat.

Screen-Free Bliss! See you in a week…

Well, after all of my big talk about limiting screen-time, I don’t think I’ve ever been more excited to go screen-free myself.  I’m not used to the every-day blogging like I did for this last series and my poor brain is feeling pretty fried.  Ironic, isn’t it?   So as I mentioned 2 weeks ago, next week is national “Screen-Free Week” and we are participating!

I also want to avert any more of this…  My 5 year old decided to color on baseball catcher leg guards one day this week when I was putting last minute touches on a post.  A clear reminder why I must blog when my kids are sleeping.

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Plus, I’ll have plenty of time to READ!!! I’m looking forward to Kevin DeYoung’s, The Hole in our Holiness.   Are you reading anything interesting right now?  I’m always looking for interesting books.

We are also going to dive into more books from our Heritage History collection. Remember when I wrote about them?  I read a book about the adventures of Captain Cook on my own.  It was fun spending an evening going back and forth between the book and my globe as I tracked his progress across the Pacific.  I think I’m going to select Heroes of Progress from the Early American CD for my next fun read!  The boys are excited to dive into Stories of Robin Hood for our next read aloud!  By the way, they are having a great sale right now if you want to take advantage of it.
Spring Sale at Heritage History

Also on my MUST DO list: Capitalizing on the last of our spring weather to get outside and enjoy the last vestiges of our desert spring before we hit the 100’s…

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On a recent trip to the Blythe area to speak to a homeschool group, some friends took us off-roading and we found these incredible petroglyphs.  I’m thinking we need to go find some closer to home now! 🙂

Ok, signing off.  See you on the other side!

{This post contains affiliate links.  I truly appreciate your support of this site.  Please see my disclosure for more information.}

How to Waste Brain-Boosting Opportunities

How to waste brain-boosting opportunities?  Reasons why we should limit screentime.  {Day 6 of Boosting Brain Power}

So we’ve been talking for the last week about boosting brain-power.  Water, nutrition, sleep and exercise are foundational.  When it comes to our educational environment, movement is the key to turning our children ON to learning.  Friday, I wrote about how active, rough and tumble play contributes to wiring the brain to learn.

As much as movement turns the brain ON to learning, today I’m tackling the unpopular topic of how we turn their brains OFF to learning and rob them of the time needed for all of these brain-boosting opportunities…

Screen Time

Yes, the biggest culprit that kills active play and learning is screen time – and by this I include TV, movies, netflix, computer and touchscreens (like the ipad and iphone).

I think deep down, we all know screens are time-suckers and should have strong limits.  But in today’s culture that is very hard to put into practice, isn’t it?  So, let’s start with a fresh reminder of why we should limit screen time…

Why is Screen-Time So Bad?

  • Robs Time ~ Watching TV (movies, etc) is a deprivational activity.  It deprives us of the time and opportunity to do something more productive.  For children – especially young children this critically inhibits the development of language and listening skills, imagination and various problem-solving processes that are essential in learning how to read.  It robs all of us of opportunity for real-life hands-on exploration, creativity building and time spent exploring, talking (to real people) and real rather than virtual experiences.  Time spent in front of a screen is time NOT spent doing something that builds the brain, builds relationships and builds a healthy, whole person.
  • Slows Brain Activity ~ Remember when we talked about the cerebellum last week?  Computer imaging of the brain has revealed that the cerebellum is almost entirely inactive during the passive activity of watching a screen.
  • Lacks a hands-on, multi-sensory component that is critical to learning.  When a person moves and interacts it fires up the cerebellum and speeds up the learning process.
  • Lacks verbal, personal interaction.  Children need to communicate WITH someone, not just having an impersonal ‘machine’ talking at them.
  • Highly Addictive ~  A recent study came out that reveals that screen time produces a chemical response with dopamine in the brain similar to the affect of other addictive substances (drugs, sugar, cigarettes, etc).   If you don’t think you or your children are addicted to your screen of choice, try taking it away for a day or even a week.  It’s hard to do.  Oftentimes, you’ll even notice withdrawal symptoms.
  • Rewires the Brain ~ As scary as this sounds, researchers are finding this to be very true.  Even actively engaging with screens when we are on computers and touch screens is having a rapid and profound affect on how our brain is wired. Researcher Gary Small said,  “The current explosion of digital technology not only is changing the way we live and communicate, but is rapidly and profoundly altering our brains.”   The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains explains that the very act of how we read and process information is changing when more time is spent learning ‘online.’  For instance, we lose the ability to focus and and read long articles.  We develop what’s been coined “popcorn brain” where we are constantly hopping around from topic to topic without the ability to delve deep.  For children in this season of intense learning the affects can be devastating.

The New Nanny

In this digital age, it is vital for us as parents to constantly be assessing where our families are spending time plugged-in and whether or not this is beneficial.  TV or video game consoles were the default ‘babysitter’ of choice when we were kids, but now with the technology boon, we have the opportunity to keep our kids plugged in at the park, in the car, at the store, the waiting room.  It’s as easy as handing over our smart phones or a tablet.  But should we be handing over these devices every time we want to keep them quiet?  Are we abdicating our responsibility to parent and to teach self-control?

But Aren’t Touch Screens Different?

With the explosion of smart phones and tablets, many schools are rushing to embrace a tech-centric approach to education and marketers are quickly saturating the market with all kinds of ‘educational aps’.  Since they are ‘educational’ does this make them good?  Well, the truth of the matter is that there is NO real research on this.  The ap makers themselves assert the benefits, but this is not true research.  It reminds me of the whole ‘Baby Einstein’ craze and then subsequent recall when complaints were filed stating that parking kids in front of educational DVD’s didn’t actually make them smarter, but harmed them.

A rationale for why we should limit screentime for our children! {Day 6 of Boosting Brain Power series}

So What to Do?  Some Thoughts…

Take Stock ~ Take time to record how much screen time your family is getting.  It is helpful to see how much and when you are using screens.

Assess ~ Decide what amount of screen time you want for your family. Each family is going to be different. For instance, we are a football family. We watch almost every NFL game that is aired on ‘regular’ TV (we don’t have cable). But the kids don’t watch any other TV, we don’t have Netflix and they only watch an occasional movie, maybe twice a month or so. In our family, we utilize a portable DVD player on the airplane. Being trapped in a metal tube 30,000 feet in the air with a hundred other people made plugging my kids into a movie sound like a great idea. When we drive however, I have the ability to pull over and address temper tantrums and help my children learn how to occupy themselves in the car without the need to plug in. Car time, provides us wonderful opportunity to talk and for them to observe the world flashing by them… So we keep our car screen free.

Cut BackJust do it!  We’re going screen-free next week.  Want to join us? {This mama needs it just as bad as the kids!}

Constantly Reassess ~ Last week, I had to take all four kids with me while I had my teeth cleaned.  I strapped Greta into the umbrella stroller and had snacks for her and then let the boys take turns playing Angry Birds.  In hindsight, I realized that they are old enough now that I could have had them bring a book to read.  We’ve trained them enough on how to sit still and behave that I didn’t NEED to use the screen.

Let us encourage one another in purposeful parenting – to minimize screen-time and maximize relationships and learning!

 10 Days of Boosting Brain Power series {Day 6: How to Waste Brain-Boosting Opportunity}

Day 1: Boosting Brain Power Starts with Food and Water

Day 2: How Sleep Makes Us Smarter

Day 3: Exercise Boosts Brain Power

Day 4: Why Movement Matters

Day 5: Active Play Boosts Brain Power

Day 6: How to Waste Brain Boosting Opportunity

Day 7: Brain Breaks: An Important Tool in Your Homeschool

Hopscotch with the iHomeschool Network

Want to take the Screen-Free Plunge for a Week?

 Let's turn off our screens and focus on relationships, physical movement and delving into a good book!

The last week of April is a time when 1,000’s of families across the country will be going screen-free.  They will turn off their TV’s, computers, tablets, smart phones and unplug.

Copious amounts of screen time eats up valuable time.  We need time to be quiet with our own thoughts so that we can think creatively and deeply about things.  My kids need it and I do too.  It seems like whenever God starts stirring something within, He brings confirmation after confirmation into my life.  My friend Amanda has been talking about how to quiet your mind and then contemplates the idea of giving up her i-phone.  And then Michelle-Lynn wrote a thought provoking post about taking a sabbath blog break every 7 weeks. I must say that I’m very intrigued by this idea of taking regular, scheduled breaks from blogging, social media and most screen-time. I’m praying about what that should look like for me.

I’ve read much of the research on how important it is to limit screen time for my children.  It’s taken a lot of discipline, but we do a good job at that.  Sometimes I struggle with setting boundaries for myself and yet I need to unplug and step away from screens almost as much as they do.

So we are doing it.  April 29th officially kicks off Screen-Free week.  I’m modifying it to start Sunday, the 28th for our family.  We’ll unplug from our screens – all of them.

And what will we do instead?

We’ll take nature walks

We’ll paint together

We’ll play more games together…

We’ll read more together

I’ll read more in the evenings…

I’ll sleep more…

I’ll embrace quiet

We’ll delight in relationship with each other and with the God who made us.

If you want to unplug for a couple of days or even for the entire week,  Michelle over at The Holistic Homeschooler is going to start a 10 Days of Screen-Free activities series next week.  You can check out the Screen-Free Week Facebook page for inspiration as well.

Speaking of a 10 day series, I have one starting on Monday too!  10 Days of Boosting Brain Power.  How the brain develops and grows during the learning process is a favorite subject of mine! I’m getting excited to share with you all how the brain works and what things we can do in everyday life to help our children harness that brain power God gave them!  And then after that 2 week series, I’m unplugging and putting all of the advice I’ll be giving you into practice!

 

 

Finding and Embracing the Morning Person Inside of Me…

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Hello everyone.  The last two weeks have been a whirlwind of excitement with my sister here from Michigan.  We’ve spent nearly every day outdoors enjoying our beautiful desert spring.  They enjoyed basking in the sunshine!

Today, it is time to return to the normal routine of life.  One thing that I’ve been mulling over was making the switch to mornings.  By nature {somewhere deep down inside of me}, I’m a morning person.  But somehow in the seasons of pregnancy, babies, blogging and craving ‘alone time’, I’ve morphed into a night owl.  I’ve spent many a late night lesson planning, tapping out words at the computer or just plain ol’ mindless surfing of the Internet.  While the first two are necessary tasks and ones I know God is calling me to pursue, that mindless surfing is one that is not.

I have no idea who first created this graphic {I’ve searched and searched for a primary source}, but it well describes the trap I often fall into…   I keep it posted as wallpaper on my desktop to remind myself to stay on task and obedient to what I’m supposed to be doing.conviction

So today marks the first day of joining the 5am club.  For the month of April, my sister and I are committing to embracing early mornings.  I’m switching much of my blogging time to the morning hour and spending more of my evening time unplugged.  It was so nice to spend last night with my hubby – each of us reading our book of choice.  There was quiet and I was in bed, asleep before 10pm.

Are you a morning person or night owl?  When do you find that you are most productive?  With evenings, I can get carried away until the wee hours of the morning if I’m not careful.  I tend to need deadlines, so I’m thinking that mornings will work better for me since I will need to be done before the kids wake up to start their day around 6:30…