Palace of Versailles

Driving up to the Palace of Versailles had us all wondering with excitement.  Would it at all be like Hearst Castle which we had visited earlier in the summer?  Well, not at all, the Palace of Versailles makes Hearst Castle look like a guest house, albeit an amazing guest house!  The grounds where the Palace of Versailles sits are enormous.  The formal French gardens were originally designed by Andre Le Notre and took forty years to complete.

Hard to imagine what life must have been like for the royal families who lived in the Palace before the French Revolution, but what a spectacle it must have been.  Complete opulence. 

Every turn of the corner brought another incredible priceless wonder.

What a treat to see this treasure of France!

Au revoir!

Hot, hot, hot!

Well we are done with Palm Springs, thankfully! As much as I love Palm Springs and its environs in the winter, summer is another story.  There is much to appreciate in the Coachella Valley with its desert landscapes, mid-century architecture and wonderful resorts but as much as you try, the heat is just oppressive and there is only so much of being in the pool (which is the only place that makes being outside bearable).  I have had a hard time not being outside, we are very spoiled here in Southern California! 

We have had fun though and have tried to make the most of the heat.  Palm Springs was the best place for us as we try to stay on budget. We do have a pretty big trip planned for the next 6  months so we  needed a place where it was easy on the bank account.

While in Palm Springs we have been lucky to be able to see lots of friends and family, plan a few more stops for our European adventure, get the girls in some French classes and swim classes, watch lots of the Olympics (loved it!) visited the Palm Springs Art Museum and began our online homeschooling.  This was especially good on the really hot days when there was not much else to do anyway…
Don’t tell anyone but both girls learned how to drive a golf cart and a golf ball (you can tell people that part) but not the driving the golf cart part, not sure exactly the “rules” for that one. They enjoyed driving the golf carts much more than the golf balls but still did amazingly well, they get it from their dad! Not an easy sport. Takes a lot to get that little ball all the way to that little hole!

Trying to come up with fun indoor activities, we headed to the bowling alley, they have got to do something about the slimy finger holes in the balls and the shoes! Just saying…yikes!
Now we are in Idyllwild, it is 20 degrees cooler and very nice to see some greenery. Idyllwild is a sweet little town in the mountains with lots of art galleries and great hiking trails. I am excited to be able to be outside without sweating. Next, we head to San Diego to spend our last weeks in the States before heading abroad. Looking forward to seeing family and friends!

Here is my very handsome husband in Idyllwild.  It is so nice and beautiful, such a nice change from the desert!

The girls love it here and are out searching for forest faeries as we speak, so sweet!  It is strange with everyone getting ready for back to school and we are well, not…  So excited for our traveling adventures to begin!

Schooling on the Road

Figuring out how to school my children while we are traveling has been one of the biggest concerns of our adventure to Europe. There are so many choices for homeschooling but homeschooling on the road, is a little bit different. In many communities there are homeschooling groups that seem to be very successful but for us, a computer and wifi are what we will rely upon.

I only looked into homeschooling because of our extended traveling and may not have looked at it otherwise. Homeschooling definitely is gaining in popularity and since researching about it, I can easily see why. With the unfortunate state of our schools, social issues and the bonus to have such influence on your child’s education, make homeschooling very appealing. We have been fortunate to have had a very good experience in public schools and have been in good school districts.  I have the utmost respect for the incredible teachers and principals we have had.  Of course, there are always “issues” though and I can only imagine how hard it must be for so many.  I definitely now see homeschooling as an excellent option for anyone who may need an alternative type of education. Once we return from our trip and head back into the traditional school system, I will know we have an exceptional “back-up” plan, if needed, and may end up going that route anyway depending on our experience. I have found several traditional schools that are becoming more flexible to the changing climate of education with more independent study programs suited for individual children, I think this is a wonderful trend. It is so great to get out of that box.

We will be using an online homeschooling program, as lugging around textbooks is not a good option. I plan on supplementing with history, art, foreign language, geography and cultural activities in the countries we are visiting. I am amazed on what there is online these days, really a limitless source of education. I have been collecting an incredible list of online resources and have been using some of them as we finish up the school year in our public school (some are listed below). 

We will gather all the required standards for our daughters’s grade levels to make sure all our bases are covered. We also have to file a private school affidavit with the California Department of Education, we become a private school. We have to keep attendance records, as well. All of this seems doable but I will keep you posted on how it all goes.

Obviously, my children’s education is incredibly important to us and their life experiences are as well.  I am hoping the combination of traveling and schooling will open up their minds to the endless possibilities of life.  They can do anything they want to do, no limitations.

Below is a list of resources that I have found.  Some I have used, some I plan to use…  Most are free but some do have membership costs.

www.khanacademy.org

www.time4learning.com

www.brainpop.com

www.xtramath.org

www.cut-the-knot.org

www.spellingcity.com

www.bbc.co.uk/skillwise/english

www.storybird.com

www.chompchomp.com

www.gosocailstudiesgo.com

www.sciencekids.co.nz

www.howstuffworks.com

www.scistarter.com

www.sciencetoymaker.org

www.kidsdiscover.com

www.makingmusicfun.net

www.artsconnected.org

www.web4.audubon.org/educate/kids/

www.pbs.org/teachers

www.superteacherworksheets.com

www.theteacherscorner.net

;

;

Home is where your heart is…

You know how nice it is to come back home from a trip (no matter how fun that trip maybe) and sleep in your own bed?  Well, that is not something we are going to be doing for a long time.  Goodbye nice comfy bed, I will miss you!  It is time for me to branch out and find other beds to slumber in.  I know not all will be as sweet as you but it is a risk I will have to take.

In a way, I feel like we will be almost gypsy like in our nomadic life.  The longest place we have booked so far is for a month.  When we were first planning this trip, I thought it would be great to stay in an area for 2-3 months to really have time to dig in a bit, but with so many incredible places to discover, our time in each area has to be shortened.

I have found some incredible places to stay using several websites, maps and hours of time.  We like places off the beaten path and unique.  I have found a houseboat to stay in on the canals of Amsterdam and a treehouse for rent in Northern France.  It just takes a little digging.

So our home is definitely going to be where our hearts are for the next several months.  They will all be a little different, but they will all be our “home sweet home,” for that moment of our lives and I am thrilled!

Building an European Itinerary

To plan or not to plan…  Well, with two kids and 6 months plus of traveling it seems like we need to have at least a good idea of where we are going and have enough time in each area where we do not feel too rushed.  The really tough part is that there are so many amazing places to go and our time is going to go by so fast that the where and how long to stay in an area is a little bit hard to judge.  I guess we just need to jump right in and go for it. 

Being somewhat comfortable in France, we have decided to begin our journey in the Normandy region.  We are planning to tour the D-Day beaches, Giverny, the Abbey of Mont-St-Michel and the historic town of Rouen.  I have to say I am very excited to enjoy some of the local cheeses, one being Camembert, oh yes!  I have been told by several people who said Normandy is their favorite part of France, and we cannot wait to explore it.  We have leased a 300 year old thatched roof home, these homes are somewhat common to this area. 

Next stop will be a converted barn in Kent just outside of London.  We will spend most of October here, exploring London, gardens, castles, historic sites and hopefully taking in a futbol game or two.  My oldest daughter adores the Harry Potter series (what kid doesn’t) and so we are also planning on visiting the Harry Potter sets that recently opened in London. 

November will be spent exploring Belgium, The Netherlands, Paris and Germany, with a stop in Prague and then onto Vienna and Salzburg.  This part of our journey is not scripted and we will be on the move quite a bit.  We are going to see what areas “speak” to us and  adapt our itinerary as needed.  We plan to make it down to the Alps for the holidays and do a little skiing.  I am planning on making housing arrangements for the holidays but we will wing it beforehand.  This will be our busiest travel time and then we will slow it down again as we travel into Italy then the South of France and onto Spain and possibly Portugal.

I am finding most of our accomodations on www.tripadvisor.com, www.homeaway.com and www.airbnb.com.  Every place we stay must have wifi so we can homeschool and a washer and dryer, would be nice…  More on homeschooling later, but it has been very interesting to explore this topic.

It has been fun trying to figure out our adventure.  I have borrowed lots of books from the library, asked lots of advice from friends and spent countless hours on the computer.  I still cannot believe we are doing this.  I am trying to enjoy my daily life here, winding up school with the kids and preparing everything for our trip but I am counting the days until we board that plane! 

Doing the right thing for our girls!

We have taken the first step…we booked our one-way flights to Paris! This is a dream of a lifetime and we are getting ready to embark on our 7 month European adventure.  There is a ton of planning involved and it has kept me up at nights, but it is just my mind working overtime, trying to think it all through.  I really want to make sure that we are doing the right thing for our daughters.  I believe that they are at the perfect age (8 and 10) to take such an adventure.  I hope that this trip will spark in them a lifetime of traveling and adventure.  The world is getting smaller and I want them to be comfortable in it, wherever they happen to be.

We thought it might be a good idea to have them make a pro/con list so they can really think about what we are heading off to do.  Here are the results:

I know they really are not going to get the whole scope of things it until after we get there.  So, time will tell, but what a life changing time it will be for them and for us.  The lessons they will learn on the road will hopefully stay with them their whole lives.  I do really hope we will meet some families and that my girls will have a chance to make some friends.  I will have to work on that one…  Anyway, I just want the best chance for my children, as I know everyone does, and I just think this is going to be an absolutely wonderful experience.

Great App for Travel Daydreamers

Planning our extended trip to Europe has me looking at lots of different resources, one being Travel and Leisure magazine.  A recent article that I came across had writers expressing why they love to travel so much, and many expressed how nice it is just to get “lost” somewhere.  When traveling you usually have the time to get “lost” so let the adventures begin. Yes!

One of the writers, Gary Shteygart, talked about how these days, with our iPhones and other electronic devices, it is almost impossible to actually get lost.  He writes about his favorite app, Plane Finder AR ($2.99) which allows you to identify planes that are flying overhead.  How cool is that? How many times have you looked skyward and have seen a plane and wondered which exotic locale those lucky passengers inside were jetting off to, well I have…and now I can know!  This app doesn’t help you get lost but at least you can daydream about it!

Here is to getting lost my friends!