Tag Archives: road schooling

Finding your tribe as a road schooler

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As a homeschooler, a road schooler and only child, Hunter is not surrounded by other kids on a daily basis. Before we hit the road in 2013 we asked ourselves, and others, a lot of questions regarding how they deal with the “socialization” situation as road schoolers, especially with only children.

Hunter was out an event Saturday night hosted by an adult friend of ours. It was a group of 6 people, of various ages (from 11 – 40) that came together to play a multi-player networked computer game called ARTEMIS, whereby you are simulating the flying of a spaceship (think Star Trek). Each person has a role (helm, communication, engineering & weapon control) plus the captain. Everyone has to communicate (lots of loud voices yelling commands) and work together to fly the ship through the different scenarios.

The interesting part was that Hunter came home from the evening pronouncing “I found my people” mom! He had a huge grin on his face and was thrilled with both the experience as well as the new people that he had met, most of which he described as “minecraft geeks like me”. He was invited to access their private server and this has moved his minecraft efforts to a whole new level.

When I reflect over the last 3 months, I can also identify at least 7 people that Hunter has met and really clicked with, building fast and deep relationships… more additions to his tribe. These are people of all ages and from all walks of life. In some cases he only had a few days with them and in other cases, he is starting to build what will likely be a geographically distant yet longer term friendship.

A few months ago I read this great article that was written in response to some homeschool bashing that was taking place in the media… and specifically arguments that homeschooling just shelters children and impedes their socialization.  What really resonated with me, and finally parked the anxiety that bubbles up every once in a while, was the comment:

“A child in school is largely being told exactly what to do and when to do it. Where is their independence again? How exactly are school children out in the world? And tell me again, when in real-life are you in a room of 24 people grouped only by age and neighbourhood?”

Through our travels Hunter has become fairly independent and confident in this independence. He often is the first one to seek out someone for answers or directions, has no qualms about participating in a conversation with a group of adults and is developing this amazingly diverse group of tribe members. Over the last 12 months we can really see how he is starting to grow into his own person and stand within that space with confidence, and that is thanks in part to all the great people he has met along the way and all that they have contributed to his experiences. I am no longer worried about the traditional perspective of socialization…

Andean Eco-hub; Quijos Valley – Ecuador

IMG_1791The Quijos valley sits on the eastern edge of the Andes mountains and runs all the way to the western edge of the Amazon region. It is moderate in temperature (spring like all year round) and can see rain on a fairly regular basis (any time, any day). These two features combine to create this amazingly lush landscape as far as you can see.

San Francisco de Borja, located right on the Quijos river, is the home base for Endless Adventures International as well as a few other kayak companies. There are more than a handful of rivers that can be reached within a 30 minute drive so this is quite a central spot.

The drive from Quito to the Quijos Valley goes through a number of mountain passes and is definitely a windy journey, which Hunter isn’t a real fan of. We chose to give him some Gravol to help his stomach, with the side benefit that it also helped him have a well needed 90 minute nap. After our full day of adventuring in Quito we arrived at the Ponderosa (Endless Adventures International lodge) in time for a late dinner.

Note: one of the clearly differentiating aspects of an All-Inclusive trip with Endless Adventures is the focus that they put on food. Everything is fresh and local, plentiful, flavourful and there is a relentless focus on food-safety to keep everyone healthy for paddling.

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The lodge is a low key environment with rooms of various sizes, 2 shared bathrooms, and lots of indoor and outdoor shared spaces to chill out. One of Hunter’s favourite places was the main hammock, where he and his new BFF Radd would hang out with their snuggly friends.

Ponderosa Lodge is located on a working farm, with milking cows that are fed sugar cane to make their milk yummy or sweet. They grow sugar cane, various vegetables and raise Guinea Pigs (to eat, not as pets). Hunter was happy to get to use a machete (basic farm tool here) to chop down some sugar cane, which we decided is sweeter than the sugar cane in Mexico.

Our first morning was a slow start due to us all being tired from travelling. We headed off to the neighbouring town of El Chaco to check out their Sunday market and pick up some fresh fruits, vegetables and meat. Ecuador allows people to ride in the back of a vehicle IF the cab is full – Hunter was thrilled to take advantage of this rule when ever possible and was always the first to volunteer to ride in the back.

With all the overnight rain we headed to the local swimming pools for a warm up and then off to run the Borja and a section of the Quijos river. There was so much water that what is normally a trickle between the pools was a runable drop, which we had fun with. Hunter also worked on his play boating skills with Chris. With levels running quite high, we decided that Tim,Chris and I would run the Borja river, which can only be run at medium and high water. It was a fun warm up and orientation to creeking. The Borja runs into the Quijos, which was running at high +++ level. Big, brown pushy water with waves so big you couldn’t see the person you were following. Thanks to managing to find the big grabby hole that was strong enough to window shade me and pull me out of my boat, I exited at the take out at the lodge while Tim and Chris continued on to just above the canyon.

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We headed off to Tena the next day for three days of jungle paddling (details to come in my next post) and then were back in the Quijos valley in time for New Years Eve and 2 more days of kayaking.

New Years Eve is quite the cultural experience in Ecuador. It actually stretches over about a 48 hour window (mid-day on the 31st to mid-day on January 2nd). Historically widows dressed in black and holding their babies would venture into the streets on New Year’s Eve to seek money to support themselves.This has evolved over time to men (young and old) dressing up as women and putting up road blocks to collect drinking money. Tim got stopped in Tena walking down the street in the middle of the afternoon 🙂

We all bought masks of sorts from the street vendors in Tena to take part in the evening festivities in Baeza, which is just down the road from Borja and a kayakers haven. It was definitely quite the street party… The other Ecuadorian custom is the burning of effigies at midnight, to send off the past year and welcome in the new one. This ranges from elaborate stuffed effigies to individual pieces of paper with thoughts.

Baeza medical centre

Baeza medical centre

New Years day brought a slow start to things… the boys paddled the Quijos from Bridge II to the Canyon while Hunter and I took a day off and enjoyed the sunshine while catching up on some school work.

Unfortunately Tim ended up hitting his head so hard on a rock on the lower Quijos that he burst his eardrum and had to make a stop at the Baeza medical centre for some urgent care. This definitely put a different perspective on his paddling for the rest of the trip – he tried to walk the line between the Doctor’s guidance of “no paddling, no water in the ear” and being in Ecuador surrounded by fabulous class IV+ creeking! Ear plugs, padding, duct tape and using Lee’s helmet with the ear protection were the compromise. He also opted out of any runs that would clearly see him likely to be totally submersed.

NOTE: At this time (late January), Tim is on the mend. Hearing is at about 50% and not consistent. We are looking forward to it improving over the coming months.

January 2nd had more highs and lows… The high was Hunter confidently paddled the Middle section of the Cosanga, a class 3+ creek that flows into the Quijos river with the entire group. He had a fabulous time and really enjoyed it.

The low was that I got hit hard by a food bug that had been brewing since our night out in Tena and was knocked out for the next 24 hours.

The last day of Quijos valley paddling saw everyone on the Quijos River again, with medium water levels, which made it a completely different river. The girls paddled from Bridge 4 to just above the canyon while the boys paddled from Bridge 1 – Bridge 2, with some carrying on all the way to Bridge 4. It was great to paddle this river at this level as I left it on a good note – nice and challenging but not too challenging. Hunter had a bit of the flu so he stayed home and recuperated.

IMG_1940We took a day off on Sunday and the entire group headed to the Papallacta Hot Springs (Termas de Pallacta), which is located high in the mountains heading west towards Quito. It is at 3800 meters/12000 + feet and the altitude was definitely noticeable. It was the last day of the christmas/new years holiday window and quite busy with south american tourists ending their holidays.

The Quijos Valley is ripe with adventure and we only touched the surface, leaving plenty of room for new kayaking and exploring experiences when we return!

Ama la vida – 2 weeks adventuring in Ecuador

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As we were planning our adventures for this winter, one of the things that we knew we wanted to do was winter whitewater kayaking, in warm water and warm weather. There wasn’t much more criteria than that… Based on our February Mexico experience, we ended up choosing to go back to Mexico in late November and then selected a trip to Ecuador with Chris and Andrea from Endless Adventures (based out of Nelson, BC), who we have been buying kayaks from for the last few years. Chris is a great coach/instructor/guide and we all have things on our learning wish list!

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At the time I didn’t really stop to think about where Ecuador was…. a bit silly I know. We made the decision in May and put our deposit down in June. Around that time I finally got around to looking on the world map and clued in to the Galapagos Islands being in Ecuador – bad geography memory on that one! Next came the library trip to pick up the lonely planet guide to Ecuador and the research began.

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The funniest thing was that once we started mentioning that we were headed to Ecuador to paddle, we were amazed at the number of our friends and acquaintances that had travelled, kayaked and adventured in Ecuador. This turned out to be quite reassuring and another great research vehicle.

IMG_1791We went back and forth on budget and timeline and settled on a 16 day trip, with 14 of those days being actually in Ecuador and the others being consumed with travel time… It takes a good 24+ hours of travel time to get from the Yukon to Ecuador, just a mere 8,283 km away. We also had to make the tough decision to forego exploring the Galapagos islands, both due to cost and time. It just means that we have to head back another time!

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Our final itinerary covered off both the Andes and Amazon region, mostly kayaking but with some exploring built in as well. We enjoyed time in Quito, San Francisco de Borja, Baeza, Tena and Banos. This was our first trip to South America and it was a great entry point into that continent. Completely family friendly, clean, and we all felt very safe, thanks to the people we were surrounded with.

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There is so much to cover that I will write multiple posts, highlighting both the whitewater kayaking and the road schooling experiences that we had. We will definitely go back to Ecuador and recommend it to anyone considering heading to South America! For kayakers – you have to hang with Chris and Andrea at Endless Adventures International– they do it right (rivers, lodge, food, and fun)!

More details on our trip can be found at: