California For Kids: A Simple Guide for Parents

Visit California With Kids

If you are in the process of planning your next travel experience in the US, then you will almost certainly have considered California. One of my best childhood friends lives in California, so that makes it nice for me! (Free place to stay!) The state is incredibly well-known for the plethora of options it offers to tourists, and remains one of the most visited states in the US for a reason. It really is diverse and beautiful.

However, California is not a state particularly known for its child-friendly options. Many of the most popular attractions in state – from wine tours to the nightlife of LA – are rather adult-focused, which are less than ideal if you’re looking for a family vacation. Thankfully, California is a great destination for a kid-friendly experience, and below, we’ve put together a few hints and tips that can help you get the most of the Golden State…

When is the best time to visit California?

Visit California Pixabay (CC0 Licence)

California enjoys a mild climate, so you should be able to enjoy pleasant temperatures throughout the year. However, if you’re hoping to visit one of California’s famous beaches, May to September are usually the best choice.

However, as we have noted, California is an extremely popular destination – which can mean it is crowded and overwhelming for children during the summer months. If you’re looking for a quieter experience, then look to plan a trip just after Thanksgiving but before Christmas. The weather will still be pleasant, but the tourist numbers will be far lower, and you should be able to find some good prices on accommodation too.

Where are the most kid-friendly places to stay in California?

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The most famous places to stay in California are not necessarily very kid-friendly, especially given issues such as smog and pollution. As a result, avoiding the major cities such as LA and San Francisco is advisable for families – you can visit for a day trip, but basing yourself elsewhere is likely to be the better choice.

Instead, look for family-friendly resorts that are located just outside major cities – there are hundreds dotted across the state, so you should be able to find an option close to the main attractions you wish to visit. These resorts are specifically designed with kids in mind, and many offer on-site amenities such as pools and tennis courts that you and your family are sure to enjoy when you’re not exploring elsewhere.

Is California expensive to visit?

Visit California with KidsPixabay (CC0 Licence)

California does have a reputation as an expensive state to visit, but as with all vacations, where you choose to stay, the type of accommodation you choose, the sites you choose to visit and the discounts you can find will greatly influence the overall cost of the trip. However, as a guide, the average cost per person, per day, for a vacation in California is around $200.

What attractions and tourist hotspots are suitable for kids in California?

Visit California with KidsPixabay (CC0 Licence)

  • Disneyland. Of course, if you’re not from Florida, you’ll have to visit Disneyland. It would be impossible to discuss a kid-friendly California vacation without a mention of Disneyland, which is located in Anaheim. Given the eternal popularity of the park and that discount Disneyland tickets can help to keep the experience as affordable as possible, it’s definitely worth ensuring your vacation is enhanced by all the magic and charm Disney is able to provide.
  • Santa Monica Pier. Santa Monica Pier – which is located, unsurprisingly, in Santa Monica – is a Californian classic, with plenty of kid-friendly attractions and rides that will keep the whole family entertained for hours.
    Living Desert Zoo and Gardens. A spectacular experience that will live long in the memory, the Living Desert Zoo and Gardens are a must for families visiting California. Located in Palm Desert, Living Desert offers the chance to see a huge range of wild animals, explore the San Andreas Trail, and even take a glimpse behind the scenes if you wish.
  • Griffith Observatory. Found in LA, the Griffith Observatory is the perfect choice for parents looking to add an educational element to their trip. Your kids will be delighted by the amazing Samuel Oschin planetarium and the astronomical exhibits, and you’ll also be able to enjoy the surrounding landscape by grabbing a bite to eat in the on-site cafe.

What natural wonders can you and your kids explore in California?

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Studying the National Parks is always a fun activity for homeschoolers and non-homeschoolers alike.

Yosemite National Park. Located in the famous Sierra Nevada mountain range, Yosemite National Park offers incredible natural features such as waterfalls and cliffs, breathtaking panoramic views of the landscape, the opportunity to visit renowned ancient sequoia trees, and much more besides. If you want to ensure your children have the chance to immerse themselves in the delights of nature during your Californian vacation, you simply can’t go wrong with a day or two spent in Yosemite.

Joshua Tree National Park. Another famous natural wonder in California, the Joshua Tree National Park is always worth a visit if you are visiting southern California. You and your family will be able to see the eponymous trees, explore the desert landscape, and visit exhibits such as those at the Cottonwood Visitor Center – a perfect day out for a nature-loving family.

Pinnacles National Park. It’s fair to say that, when compared to Yosemite and Joshua Tree, Pinnacles National Park is nowhere near as well-known – but there are still plenty of wonders to explore in the Salinas Valley, around 80 miles from San Jose. Bear Gulch Cave is worth the trip in and of itself, but you’ll be able to explore the incredible landscape and, if you’re lucky, may even catch sight of one of the park’s 27 condors.

McArthur-Burney Falls. Finally, the McArthur-Burney Falls, located around six miles north of Burney, a little-known natural Californian gem, but one that you’ll definitely want to see if you have the opportunity. As well as the spectacular falls themselves, you can enjoy the peaceful surrounding landscape and wildlife, while there are also numerous hiking rails to explore if you decide to linger.

In conclusion

California may be a state that seems to have more to offer to adults than children, but as the above shows, it could well be the perfect choice for your next family vacation adventure!

If you’re on the East Coast, and want to combine your summer break with some educational activities, be sure to see our post Georgia History Spots That Kids Will Absolutely Love. 

Top Five Things We Love About Digital Homeschool Curriculum

top five things we love about digital curriculum

I’ll be honest, it took me some time to warm up to digital curriculum. When my girls were younger, we leaned toward a more holistic approach to learning, although my eldest daughter did use the online EPGY program for a while, and loved it. I am a book-junkie, and if anyone could say that I hoarded anything, it’d be books. It pains me to get rid of books, no matter what type they are. If I could have kept every single book I’ve ever owned, I totally would.

But, it is 2019, and not all of us can have gigantic antique book rooms like this one, <sniff sniff>. So now, I’m a bit of a digital curriculum hoarder. I love digital curriculum for so many reasons. Here are just a few.

Saves Space

I don’t need to box up all my digital curriculum when we’re finished with it, and I don’t have to search through endless boxes in the garage for the material the next time we want to use it, or when it’s time to pass it down to my youngest daughter. I can keep our downloaded curriculum organized on my external hard drive, and the girls can keep theirs organized on their flash drives. Any digital courses we use are even better, because there is no need for us to provide space on our devices for those.

Access From Anywhere

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Benefits of Distance-Evaluations

The Benefits of Homeschool Portfolio Evaluations – at a Distance!

Just this week I had several homeschooling moms ask me why I no longer portfolio evaluations in person.  I did write about this on the old blog, and I think it deserves a place here in our new(er) space as well.  Before I answer though, let me just say that I really would love to meet you, but I’d rather talk to you via Skype or phone. 🙂 Let me explain why. 

Introvert, Extrovert, Ambivert? 

There has been a lot of talk on social media about personality types: introverts, extroverts, and ambiverts too. I have spent some time pondering this myself and I do find personality/learning style quizzes fun and interesting. I am most definitely an introvert. When I have too many places to have to be, too many people to talk to, and too many outside-the-home commitments, it can take me days to recover my energy. This is how introverts are: they recharge by being alone and quiet. 

Because I am a homeschooling mom, I don’t get much alone time, but I can go outside and work in my garden, or go hang out in the barn with my horses for a bit.  I need this. Fortunately, my family understands and lucky for me, my girls are also introverts so we “get” each other. Yet, despite not necessarily getting “energized” by our social activities, we trudge on and go to classes, meet with friends and live a joyful, full life.  I couldn’t imagine living in a household full of extroverts! 

I work from home as well, both as a homeschool consultant and evaluator, curriculum creator, and as a part-time teacher.  Both of these provide me with joy and satisfaction, but I can get drained of energy. Can you relate?

The Need for Change

I began doing homeschool evaluations and consulting in 2007.  My clients and I would meet in local coffee shops.  Since the bulk of my evaluation requests come in during the late spring and summer months, I found myself spending all of my Saturdays and three to four nights a week away from my family. They started to feel the effects of my absence.  My girls were littler then and I missed them!  That was when I decided to change the way I did things.  

Most of my consulting work was done long-distance anyway, and I had many clients from other parts of Florida and other states already doing distance-evaluations by emailing or snail-mailing me work samples, so I decided to ask my local clients to do their evaluations online too.  I knew that this would make it easier for me, but I never expected that most of my clients actually preferred doing their evaluations this way as well.  Maybe they are all fellow introverts! 😉 Seriously, though; the process is just so much more convenient and thorough for everyone involved. 

Do Your Homeschool Portfolio Evaluation From Anywhere!

 
Online or distance-evaluations are super easy. You can upload work samples whenever you want to, and email them to me ahead of time.  Of course, this is not the only way to show me the work that your students have done.  Over the years I have had families share their work in these ways:

* Create a blog (I love these and many of my unschooling families do this.)
* Create a private Facebook page (Love this too!)
* Create a Youtube channel (some of my families who do this are amazing and I love to see and hear the students I am evaluating)
* Scan and email samples of work
* Snail-mail work samples to me

Florida asks evaluators to have a conversation with the student as well, and the way we fulfill this requirement is via a short phone chat, or Skype session. After that, the time is YOURS for whatever you’d like to discuss. Read more about how I conduct evaluations here.

Evaluation and Consultation In One

A big perk of scheduling a portfolio evaluation with me is that you are able to ask me any questions you want to during our phone session.  Yes, the phone session is for the student; however, that time is for you as well.  One of the benefits of doing a distance-evaluation with me is that you can decide what you’d like to discuss with me before-hand and give me a heads up about it so that I can research and ponder before hand.  This is the best way to use our time together, and is the way that I have been doing consulting sessions since the beginning. Another benefit to you if you choose me as your evaluator, is that I will answer any questions you have via email all year long.  If you have more in-depth questions about a particular topic such as curriculum choices, learning styles, etc. then we can schedule a consult; however, many questions can be answered via email. 

Book Your Appointment!

Are you ready to book your appointment!  Just click here for my appointment scheduler, and choose the time that works best for you and your family.  I look forward to talking with you! Read my testimonials page to see a sampling of what some of my other families have said about working with me! 

 

What You Need to Know Before Your Homeschool Portfolio Evaluation

I will not ask your child to jump through hoops for me. A few years ago, in my local area, it was common to hear from homeschooling families that their portfolio evaluator “tested” their kids during a portfolio evaluation. My initial reaction: WHY?! During a portfolio evaluation with me, I will not ask your child to read aloud to me, do math computations for me, or recite the dates of the major battles in the Civil War. There are, however, certain things that all homeschool evaluators must look for according to their state laws, and a portfolio evaluation does not include any of those things listed above for the states of Florida and Virginia, where the bulk of my clients reside. Always check your state’s requirements. 

We are so fortunate as homeschoolers across the country to have several options to choose from when it comes to providing evidence that our students have made progress each year. The benefits of using the portfolio evaluation option are many. Just take a look at this article to read more. I feel so strongly that the portfolio gives you and me a much more comprehensive picture of your child’s progress than any standardized or nationally normed test, that I do portfolio reviews exclusively.  Testing has its place. I have my girls test every year in addition to reviewing their portfolio and I often recommend that my clients do both as well. 

Why Choose a Homeschool Portfolio Review

Portfolio assessments provide an authentic way of demonstrating progress, skills and accomplishments. If I ask your child to read aloud to me, in order to assess his/her fluency, what would I be basing that day’s progress on? I would not know how your child’s fluency was at the beginning of your homeschool year in order to compare. Similarly, if I ask your student to take a math test for me, or any other one-time summative assessment, I would need a standard or benchmark with which to compare.

Formative and Summative Assessments 

A portfolio should include any type of formative or summative assessments that you, (the teacher) have done throughout the year.  The difference between formative and summative assessments is that formative assessments are given by you (the teacher) and help you monitor progress and provide feedback as you go along. For example, you are reading a great work of literature with your student, and you pause at the end of every chapter in order to assess comprehension. You provide feedback and identify any areas of strength or weakness which will help your student improve their learning.

Summative assessments are assessments that come at the end of a unit or course, and will examine your student’s learning by comparing it against some standard or benchmark.  For example, you may make up your own grading rubric after doing a unit study on Shakespeare. You then ask your student to compare Romeo and Juliet to Julius Caesar by designing a multimedia project.  Your grading rubric shows your student details of what you expect out of their paper or project which you will later use to “grade” it.

What to Expect During Your Homeschool Portfolio Review

During a portfolio review, I like to see YOUR formative and summative assessments included in the child’s portfolio.  I am happy to listen to your child read so that I can assess fluency if you would like me to, however, I never include this as part of my portfolio evaluation process, nor does the law in my state ask me to.

I am concerned that if homeschool evaluators who conduct annual portfolio reviews continue to ask their students to do these types of activities as a general rule, that they will be setting a precedent for this, and eventually our homeschool-friendly state will be adding these requirements to the law so that all homeschool evaluators will then put your child to the test As a homeschooling parent myself, I rather enjoy my freedom to be able to decide whether or not I want another person to administer (any type of) test to my children.  I certainly wouldn’t want my children to have to be subjected to it during a portfolio review.

Go here to learn more about the benefits of distance evaluations. You can read more about my services here. 

Tips for Healthy Meal Planning Around Your Busy Homeschool Life


Meal planning around my busy life, or just being in the kitchen in general, isn’t one of my favorite things, unless I’m preserving the bounty of my garden, or making a new batch of sauerkraut. It’s just not my passion. It’s not my “blue flame” as Jennifer Fulweiler might put it. I get that people enjoy cooking and that it’s a creative outlet for them. I get that people enjoy showcasing this skill for their friends and family. I even have friends who do this and who say, Cooking for my family is how I show my love for them. I don’t get that. If that applied to our home, my meals would say, Dear family, eh, you’re okay, and here are some chicken nuggets to prove my lukewarm feelings for you. Luckily, I stumbled upon some pretty good tips for healthy meal planning around our busy homeschool life, and they will help you, too. I’m kidding, of course. I do love to feed my family healthy meals, it’s just that I have to follow these tips and more in order to bring my family healthy food, instead of chicken nuggets.

Good Planning = Extra Time

We eat gluten-free, mostly dairy-free, and a lot of other-things-free, too. We are  mindful of eating healthy foods, but the hard part is that it’s just so time consuming making sure that we have these healthy meals and snacks ready for when we need them. And it makes me want to cry if we don’t. The key is to follow a few tips in order to provide you and your family with healthy meals.

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How to Keep Your Family Healthy Using Homeopathy – Part II – Dealing With Allergies

How to Keep Your Family Healthy Using Homeopathy
Before I began this series on how to keep your family healthy using homeopathy, I polled my readers and asked them what their number one health concerns were. The overwhelming majority of responses were about helping their family members deal with allergies.

I am not a doctor or a health practitioner. I am simply writing this series in order to share my experience with homeopathy and how it has helped myself and my family. If you are brand new to homeopathy, start here by reading about what homeopathy is and what it isn’t. You will find that there are many misconceptions about this amazing, and efficacious, system of medicine.

Since homeopathy deals with the whole person, and not just symptoms, tougher cases like food allergies allergies which cause anaphylaxis need to be addressed by a medical doctor who practices homeopathy, or by a licensed homeopath. This post will discuss common symptoms that people experience related to common seasonal allergies that many people experience.

Homeopathy in Your Own Home

If you haven’t yet bought a family medicine kit, I highly recommend doing so. I am never far from mine, and I always travel with it. I just never know when I’m going to need it! Homeopathic medicines last forever if kept in the right conditions, and a small vial of medicine can last years at a time. It’s truly one of the best investments you can make to keep your family healthy.

The following medicines can help address some of the more common allergy symptoms that many people experience. (more…)

How to Keep Your Family Healthy Using Homeopathy Series – Introduction to Homeopathy

How to Keep Your Family Healthy Using Homeopathy

Introduction to the Series

You’ve probably heard of homeopathy. Maybe your friend or neighbor has used homeopathic medicines with great success. Or perhaps, you’ve heard someone talk about homeopathy in terms of herbal medicines and/or other natural alternatives. I have found that most people believe that homeopath encompasses everything: herbology, naturopathy, etc.

This is not true. Homeopathy is a very specific system of medicine. We will discuss it briefly in this introduction to homeopathy, and will follow up with several blog posts about how to treat specific common ailments that you might see in your family. This series will teach you how to keep you and your family healthy using homeopathy.

Disclaimer: I am not a physician and this is not to be considered medical advice. Always consult with your physician or homeopathic practitioner before using any homeopathic medicines. 

What is Homeopathy

Homeopathy. The definition of homeopathy from the Miriam-Webster Dictionary is:
a system of medical practice that treats a disease especially by the administration of minute doses of a remedy that would in larger amounts produce in healthy persons symptoms similar to those of the disease

Law of Similars

This system of medicine is based on the Law of Similars, meaning that the medicine used to treat the symptoms, if given in high doses will actually cause the symptoms.

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Do-Over Day!

 


This blog post was taken from our original site and was published in 2009. Even though it’s an old post, and many of my life circumstances have changed, the content is still relevant.

Please comment and let me know if you can relate to this first-day-of-school scenario!

​Today was the first day of public school. Even though I have been gone from the classroom for long enough not to feel the usual excitement and anticipation of new beginnings, and even though my daughters did not go off to school today, and even though we’ve been into our homeschool rhythm and routine for months now and did not take the summer months off, I still can’t help but perceive this day as somehow new and different.

 

Many of my friends’ children and my daughters’ friends went off to school today and I could not help but think of them all day.  I wondered how the kids were doing, what activities they engaged in, whether they were having fun, how they enjoyed the bus ride.I wondered how the moms were doing, did they take a lot of pictures, did anyone shed tears, what cute things did they pack in the lunch boxes, and mostly, how does it feel to experience the <em>freedom</em> that comes from having someone else care for you children for a large part of the day?

Don’t get me wrong.  I love homeschooling.  For thousands of reasons.  But some days I wonder what it would be like to have a quiet house for the day.  I like to fantasize about what I would  do.  Would I relax and read?  Would I write?  Would I go back to teaching and actually make a real salary again?  Would I go get a different job?  Would I take riding lessons again, get another horse?  Would I finish this Ph.D. in half or a quarter of the time it’s been taking me now?  Would my house be cleaner?  Would I be more organized? Would I just rest?

A friend once told me that she felt that one needed to “be called” to homeschool and I believe this is true.  I have received that calling but sometimes wish I hadn’t.

Today we began our Monday morning like we always do with snuggles, breakfast, a short play time then our circle time, story and learning time.  By 9:45 this morning it was already clear that we were not having a smooth flowing morning.  My eldest was already lying on the floor tantruming, her sister close behind, and I was ready to quit.  I threw up my hands, walked out of the room to regroup and suddenly it hit me: we can have a Do-Over Day!

So I returned to our learning area and explained the concept of a do-over.  This was met with enthusiasm and smiles and we continued on.  What else could we do?

I can’t say that the rest of the morning went smoothly right away.  It didn’t.  We actually needed three do-overs today; but that’s okay because we homeschool and we CAN have do-overs!  We can regroup as many times as we need to during the day.

Oh, and I burned the dinner just now as I was absorbed in my writing.  Some days are just like that.  Time for yet another do-over I guess.

How Smiling Changes Your Brain

 

Here at Our Happy Medium we believe in the simple power of positive thinking to change big things! The guest post by Jamie Reynolds, MD, shows us how the simple act of smiling changes your brain. If you haven’t yet tried some of these simple techniques to lift your mood, what are you waiting for? You’ll be pleasantly surprised at the results.

Smile Science

In case you haven’t noticed, the world is messed up.  Like crazy messed up.  And, as human beings, most of it is our fault.  Crazy nuclear-obsessed dictators.  Hyper-divisiveness in the American political system.  Bigotry.  Suicide bombers.  Children unsafe at schools. The rich getting richer. The poor getting poorer.  Social-media bullies.  Cancer.  TMZ.  The list goes on…

And, just for good measure, mother nature decides to visit us with a record polar vortex and a flu season that affected millions more than normal (including yours truly).  Not to mention the fool that cut you off in line for your latte this morning, or a million other of life’s trivial annoyances that get our blood pressure out of control.  It is a wonder any of us are remotely sane. 

Or is it?  If you listen to a guy like Gary Vaynerchuck–and if you don’t you should–he correctly rants that we as human beings live in the greatest time to be alive in the history of humans.  And even though life seems and is challenging, we have never collectively had it better.  Remember, it wasn’t all that long ago where the world was much more like Game of Thrones and a lot less like spoiled brat reality TV.  And, as annoying as Honey Boo Boo and everything ‘Housewives’ seems to be, humanity continues to trend up. (more…)

Top Three Things to Help Avoid Homeschool Burnout

I don’t know about you, but by the beginning of May, you can stick me with a fork because I’m done. I’m tired. I’m worn out from all the curricular AND extracurricular activities. I’m barely hanging on, and the words you’ll hear most often from my mouth those days are, “just skip it!” My homeschooling mojo has left the building. My inspiration lies wet and soggy somewhere underneath a pile of once shiny-new ideas. I need a pick-me-up, and a Starbucks Mocha Frappuccino with almond milk just won’t do. I’m experiencing homeschool burnout.

I’ve been through this before. Many times. Here are three things that have helped me avoid homeschool burnout (in order).

Stop Feeling Guilty

I know you feel it. You can’t deny it. We homeschool moms are the ones who begin each year with our polished new ideas and clean schedules and high hopes. When we get to May and are reminded of all the ways in which our ideas didn’t pan out, we feel awful. It’s to be expected. But guilt (or remorse or regret) just don’t serve us. Throw those feelings away and replace them with a mind open to learning why those ideas didn’t pan out. For me, it’s usually because of one of these three things: (more…)

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