Monthly Archives: March 2015

Roadschooling through the Yukon

midnight with a Yukon River backdrop

midnight with a Yukon River backdrop

The Yukon tourism tagline is “Larger than Life” and it certainly lives up to that. While  not very populous in terms of humans, it is full of breath taking scenery, abundant wildlife and living stories of the Klondike Gold Rush. We firmly believe that coming to the Yukon (summer or winter) is a must do for all Canadians! With summer just around the corner we thought we’d start to plant some seeds out there…

We recommend the following adventures to make the most of any visit:

Drive the Alaska Highway:

The Alaska Highway is a historic monument in itself. Also referred to as the Alcan Highway, it was completed in 1942 to create a connection between Alaska and mainland USA for World War II, and is a partnership between the Canadian and US governments. Be sure to pick up the Milepost Guide Book which gives you mile by mile information for the entire highway.

Be sure to stop at the Liard HotSprings in Northern B.C. (between Fort Nelson and Watson Lake) for a soak or two in a natural hot spring. You can camp or stay at the lodge across the road.

There are plenty of provincial/territorial campgrounds along the Alaska Highway and you don’t have to worry about them being full other than on long weekends.

Skagway, Alaska – start at the beginning:

Recognizing the critical role that the Gold Rush played in Yukon’s history, it is best to take a side trip to Skagway, Alaska as this is where most miners started their Yukon adventure. Skagway is a historic town that is quiet 8 months of the year and plumb full 4 months of the year thanks to the cruise ships that show up every day.

Be sure to check out both the Skagway Museum & Klondike Gold Rush National Park centre to get yourself oriented to the region. They are both open year round.

There are a number of hiking options in the area, from and hour or so all the way up to the multi-day Chilkoot Trail (a national historic site). Another fun activity is to ride the historic White Pass & Yukon Narrow Gauge Railroad.

Carcross:

In order to get to and from Skagway, Alaska you have to pass through Carcross. Be sure to take an hour (or a day) to explore the area. It is located on the shores of Bennett Lake and has a nice beach for swimming, world class mountain biking trails, fishing off the town bridge and yummy eats, all surrounded by beautiful first nation’s art & carvings.

Whitehorse – the hub of the Yukon

Whitehorse is the capital city of the Yukon and where the majority of the services and people are located. It has many hotels and campgrounds (both territorial & commercial) to meet a broad range of budgets.

For the more active minded, the best way to see the area is by bike and canoe. We recommend Boreale Explorers for guided bike, canoe and hiking tours of the Whitehorse area. If you want to rent equipment yourself then stop by Icycle Sports for bikes and UpNorth Adventures for canoes/kayaks. Whitehorse was recognized as the top mountain biking destination by Outside Magazine in 2013.

Other fun stops on the living history tour are the S.S. Klondike National Historic Site and Canyon City Historic Site.

Haines Junction/Kluane National Park:

Haines Junction is the entry point to Kluane National Park (a UNESCO World Heritage Site), which is home of Mount Logan – Canada’s highest peak. The visitors centre is very educational and well worth the stop for all ages. Kluane can be enjoyed from the ground but is best appreciated on foot through one of the many trails in the park.

Dawson City:

The heart of the gold rush, Dawson City comes alive in the summer time (June 1st – end of August). There are numerous festivals and a plethora of historic sites to be toured. From the dirt streets and wooden sidewalks, you can’t help but be transported back in time. If you have time, take a side trip up the Demster Highway to Tombstone Territorial Park for some rustic wandering.

Going above and beyond:

Epic trips that really allow you to experience the splendour of the Yukon are:

  • Canoe the Yukon River from Whitehorse to Dawson City (7-10 days)
  • Explore any river in the Peel Watershed and see some of the most pristine wilderness in the world (10-15 days)
  • Drive the Dempster Highway up to Inuvik (or Tuktoyaktuk when the road is finished) and then head to the Arctic Ocean
  • Raft the Tatshenshini-Alsek River and be in awe of the glaciers & landscape

Home Schooling connections:

The Yukon was home to a number of key historic figures over the past 100 years. They provide a lot of pre and post learning opportunities:

At 483,450 square kilometres (186,661 square miles), the Yukon is larger than California and covers more area than Belgium, Denmark, Germany and the Netherlands combined. It represents 4.8% of Canada’s total land area. That’s a lot to explore so be sure to give yourself lots of time!

Learning is Everywhere

lee & hunter hugging a tree

The below article was published in What’s Up Yukon: http://whatsupyukon.com/family-learning/education/learning-is-everywhere/#sthash.vDOclfV8.dpuf

‘Road-schooling’ is the concept of using travel, either by itself or in concert with a curriculum, to educate a child. It brings learning to life and is grounded in the belief that learning is all around us, waiting to be explored and embraced.

We began our road-schooling journey 18 months ago when we decided to take eight months to travel and avoid winter. We had been on a fairly traditional educational path — our son attended daycare at Yukon College, entered the French immersion program at Whitehorse Elementary School in Kindergarten, and transitioned to Yukon Montessori School for Grade 4.

Knowing that I wanted a different home-school experience, not full of textbooks and workbooks (I envisioned the hell of living in small quarters and having a running battle about doing school work), I sought assistance from Dominic Bradford of Yukon Montessori School to help me design a learning plan that both leveraged our planned travels and met the B.C. curriculum requirements.

Bradford’s assistance set us on the path as road-schoolers, and boosted my confidence in our plan.

The first few months were stressful; I was constantly questioning myself and wondering if we were spending enough time on what I had traditionally thought of as school. By month three I wrapped my head around the concept of measuring how we were doing at “learning” versus the amount of time spent at the kitchen table doing math or spelling.

Our first trip was eight months on the road around North America, from September 2013 to May 2014. We successfully avoided winter, and we spent as much time as possible adventuring. We covered over 36,000 km and played in oceans, forests, deserts, and everything in between.

Using a combination of books, videos, and National Park Junior Ranger programs we dove deeply into American history (Lewis & Clark, War of Independence, Civil War, the Underground Railroad, and the Civil Rights Movement), and culture (regional diversity, live music, and imagery, to name a few example). And gained a real-time sense of geography, and how it influences people and places.

The knowledge stuck, since our method of learning brought information to life. The things we learned were real, and relevant; we had a rich learning experience.

It has changed us as parents — we intentionally take advantage of the learning opportunities that are presented to all of us in our daily lives. If our son asks a question and we don’t know the answer, we pause and Google it, and then leverage the curious moment to dig a little deeper into the topic.

When out for a walk, we make sure we talk about the flora and fauna as well as other things we notice, such as a stream that is overflowing or a new type of plant. We have learned our biggest roles are to be learn-facilitators, and curiosity-enablers. This is something that can be integrated into every family, even if it isn’t off adventuring.

– See more at: http://whatsupyukon.com/family-learning/education/learning-is-everywhere/#sthash.vDOclfV8.dpuf