Great-Smoky-Mountains-Family-Fun

GreatSmokyMtns

This was our view as soon as we pulled into the Great Smoky Mountain National Park! Elk everywhere! We later learned that this was really rare to see them out like this, so we felt even more blessed for their wonderful welcome into the Park!

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We loved hiking in the Great Smokies and you can see why! We got to hike a few more miles along the Appalachian Trail that runs through here. Our first AT miles hiked were when we were in Harpers Ferry, WV so it was fun to jump on the trail again for a few more miles.

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Our home base while visiting the area was the Cherokee/Great Smokies KOA. We were fortunate enough to be here during their first Halloween weekend celebration! This meant pumpkin decorating contests for the kids… How cute that they came up with a KOA theme on their own.

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After a costume contest, the kids all went around the park trick or treating in the afternoon. It was so fun! My big kids were hesitant, but luckily we’d purchased some new costumes from the Goodwill in Mt. Pleasant, SC so we were all ready. Aidan had to dig into his hockey bag in order to grab his treats!

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This KOA had the first indoor pool that we’ve come across yet! The kids loved coming back after hiking all day in the park to jump in for a warm swim.

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The grounds are just beautiful here!

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This fishing pond at the front of the property is quite popular. You have to get a fishing license though, so it’s a little more serious than the fishing we’ve been doing!

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We even extended our stay here in Cherokee one more night so we could enjoy some whitewater rafting on the Nantahala River. We chose a guided excursion with Adventurous Fast Rivers Rafting and loved it! It was the companies last day of the season so we lucked out!

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Now it’s time to talk laundry. There has certainly been no escaping this task while on the road. It has been very interesting acclimating to keeping up with the dirty laundry along the trip. We do have a stackable washer and dryer in our motorhome, Ally B, that I am so very thankful for. But, with a family of six it’s sometimes way too much and is just easier to head to the laundry mat.

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The positive thing is that every KOA has one. The downside is that they can be busy and sometimes not too appealing. Doing laundry side by side with strangers is not my idea of a good time, but you do what ya gotta do when you are living at the campground. In Cherokee, I spent my Saturday night right here. I planned my laundry time right in the heat of the Halloween festivities at this KOA as I figured I’d be the only one in here and I was right.

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These washers were only $1 for a load too, which is the cheapest I’ve come across! It’s usually $2. It’s the little things people! I am now a laundry mat connoisseur. Who would’ve thought? I used to collect quarters for my parking meters in downtown Chicago and now I gather them just to get the clothes clean. Gotta love life’s journey!

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Hope you are enjoying your October and all that Fall has brought your way!

Asheville-North-Carolina-Family-Fun

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Fall is definitely in the air here in Asheville, NC! This mailbox made me smile and made me present to the fact that we are a long way from home y’all! This area has been on my list to visit for awhile, so it was exciting that we were able to get to North Carolina on this RV trip at the perfect time to see Fall in all its glory.

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Our first stop when arriving in Asheville, was Sliding Rock in the Pisgah National Forest!

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This was not a warm day, nor was this water anywhere close to being warm. But, my family members embrace any time to get wet and wild in nature. This spot was amazing! It was so fun to watch the kids go up and down this natural waterslide until their poor bodies were too cold to go on. Here’s Sliding Rock from the top…

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All of the tourists bundled up in their fall attire enjoyed watching my crew as they were the only ones crazy enough to do Sliding Rock at this time! I, of course, had to take photos and couldn’t partake in the fun (glad for the excuse.) In the summertime, the lines are long for this, so if you get a chance to come in the fall, do it!

During the weekdays in October, admission is free. If you come on the weekend or anytime in summer the cost is $2 per person to enter the recreation area.

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After Sliding Rock, we took the Blue Ridge Parkway back to our campground.  This was pretty much our view along the famous Parkway. Crazy fog but a fun experience nonetheless. We did end up on the Parkway at various other times and it is as gorgeous as everyone says! Glad we were driving our car and not the RV for this adventure though.

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Chimney Rock State Park was our next day’s destination and I was highly impressed with all that we found to do here! We did several of the hiking trails, including the main one up to Chimney Rock itself.

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There is a $15 adult and $7 “child” admission but it is totally worth it! I wanted to upgrade to an annual pass actually because I loved it here so much. Then the reality hit that we are a long way from home and most likely won’t get here again. It was wishful thinking anyway….

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The view of Lake Lure below is worth the hike up!  You can even take an elevator to the top if you aren’t up for the climb. It is very doable though and there are pretty views all the way. There is also a cafe and shop at the top where you can sit and relax to reward yourself after.

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Apple picking at a local orchard was high on the kids’ list, so we headed to Justus Orchard to do just that.

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The last time the boys picked apples was when they were in kindergarten and we were living in Minnesota.

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This was the view leaving our Asheville West KOA. So gorgeous! I know I will make my way back to Asheville, NC hopefully sooner than later. For now, it’s off to Cherokee and the Great Smoky Mountains we go!

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South-Carolina-Family-Fun

Biking has been the highlight of our time in South Carolina. See all six of our bikes all thrown down in the beautiful South Carolina sand? That’s because our Myrtle Beach KOA was only a 2 block easy bike ride to here!

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After beaching it, I set out around the campground to take pictures of the kids enjoying themselves as I always do. Daughter dear saw me and said, “why don’t I take pictures of you instead?” Ok. Why not? So, here I am enjoying the beautiful Myrtle Beach evening on my favorite cruiser.

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There’s something about riding a bike that just makes life feel simpler. I love any opportunity I get to cruise around on her. I think I particularly enjoy riding around on this trip because it is a chance for me to have some alone time. Just me on two wheels and I can go as fast or slow as I want to. Meaning I can keep up with my family or I can lag behind if I choose.

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Look at these beautiful tall trees throughout this Myrtle Beach KOA. We were all quite surprised how much we loved it here! It was so nice to come back to all of this shade after a sunny day at the beach.

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We rode our bikes to 2nd Avenue Pier every morning! We loved the breakfast at the restaurant there and highly recommend coming here if you are ever in the area! It had some charm about it that the rest of the main area is lacking.

Charleston, SC

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More biking shots….. I’m telling you our trip would not be the same without these bikes to hop on every day around the different campgrounds! The Mount Pleasant/Charleston KOA Holiday has a 1.5 mile beautiful trail to ride along. I wasn’t too keen on this sign as you entered the trail though! Luckily, we didn’t encounter any critters and it was a gorgeous ride!

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The entrance to this KOA is so beautiful! We could ride to Blackbeards Cove Fun Park right across from here for a little mini golf and arcade action.

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This KOA is situated on the grounds of a real antebellum plantation so there’s no mistaking you’re in Carolina Lowcountry when you camp here. We took the free weekend wagon ride tour of the privately owned Oakland Plantation, which was a lot of fun!

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And then there’s fishing on the serene 30-acre lake.

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Or serene until you see this sign about the residing alligators. We were going to rent stand up paddle boards here until we read this. I think we’ll pass….

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This is the most beautiful tent camping site I’ve seen at a KOA yet. We thought the covered picnic area was a great idea. You may be able to talk me into tent camping here.

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CHARLESTON, SOUTH CAROLINA

And now to why we came to this area in the first place……Charleston. Charleston, SC is simply gorgeous. It embodies everything I love in a vacation spot…. great food along cobblestone streets, fun shopping, beautiful scenery and churches as well as many historical places to tour.

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Just walk all around here and get yourself lost in their beautiful neighborhoods.

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The horse drawn carriage rides are a unique way to start your day in Charleston. Wait a minute. Who’s on this carriage? Could that be me with a girlfriend and not my family?

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Yes! That’s because I was actually just in Charleston in April for a little girlfriend getaway celebration for my friend Judy’s milestone 50th birthday! She and I had a ball and honestly this is how I recommend visiting this beautiful city- with a friend or your spouse. It’s a little too laid back for teens I think. I hope to come here with Keith alone next time.

Cheers to you Charleston!

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Our most recent stop was at the Colonial KOA in Williamsburg. The campground is perfectly located in Virginia’s Historic Triangle, minutes away from Colonial Williamsburg, Jamestown and Yorktown.

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We spent our first day at Colonial Williamsburg. They had a spy program going on while we were there called RevQuest, which the kids enjoyed. Other than that there wasn’t a whole lot going on here.

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Colonial Williamsburg is a beautiful place to walk around and it is fun to see everyone dressed in period costume and playing their various roles. But, I can see why the place is filled with mostly senior citizens. I can’t really recommend this spot for anyone with older kids. It was the first time the kids voiced that we had wasted our money. Possibly, but it was still a beautiful day out and fun to have a relaxing day wandering around.

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The most fun the kids had all day was playing this colonial game of trap ball in the street!

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The rest of our time in Williamsburg we spent back at the 180-acre quiet, wooded campground for the real fun. The grounds were all decked out with Halloween decorations, making you realize that the holiday is just around the corner!

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This was the first campground that we’ve come across so far with two jumping pillows! Our kids were the only ones here during the weekdays, so they had this pillow all to themselves and had a ball making up new games on it!

Candy bingo was a big hit for our family as we were the only ones to show up for the fun, which meant the candy was all going home with a Carney no matter what! Afterwards, the kids bobbed for apples for the first time in their lives which brought lots of laughs and was a perfect ending to a fabulous fall day.

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The evenings have been gorgeous out east and the kids love turning on their bike lights and riding around the campground. Aren’t they so fun?

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Thanks for a great time Williamsburg KOA! We enjoyed all of you and your beautiful campground!

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I am a big lover of travel guide books. I’ve been using them long before the internet was available. Frommer’s and Foders Guides were all I used before I had the web at my fingertips! I still love balancing a travel book in hand along with my beloved online trip advisor!

Eileen Ogintz, the author of The Kids Guides , sent us three different books for our kids to try out along our trip around the USA- Boston, New York and Washington DC.  We enjoyed all of the tips we learned from these little books!

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These books are awesome for many reasons:

The guides are:

  • geared toward only kid-friendly activities and places, which is not the case with other travel books.
  • geared toward kids 6-12 and they were very reader-friendly for our four who are at the upper end of the recommended age group.
  • very compact making them the ideal size to carry along in a purse/backpack.

We found the books perfect to keep the kids occupied and learning on the trains and public transportation that we were on in all of the cities. I brought along little post-it-note flags that the kids could mark pages when they found things that interested them. It also helped the kids feel like they were a part of the planning!

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The books include various games and quizzes that the kids can work on as well. I thought about photocopying each activity since we have four kids and only one book, but the activities are a bit young for our newly turned teens, so they happily took turns. It’s something to keep in mind though before you leave on your trip if your kids would each enjoy working on the activities!

We would’ve loved to have simple maps included in the books where we could get an idea of where the noted spots were located. It would’ve helped in our planning for sure. The kids also pointed out that the books talked about doing things from your hotel, even though we were staying at a campground!

Our family loved using these books and we look forward to checking out other city guides in the future! These Kids Guides would make perfect stocking stuffers for anyone planning an upcoming trip. The books can be purchased through Amazon, Barnes and Noble and on Eileen’s website Taking the Kids!

We (I) are (am) wearing down a bit. I actually questioned out loud if we should possibly start making our way home quicker than we had planned to. The kids are starting to complain and bicker and it’s wearing us (me) down. I think everyone misses their friends, sports and routine and it’s starting to show. Really it’s quite a feat that it’s taken us 4 months to start feeling this. Four months is a whole lot of non-stop together time, no matter how great you get along!

Have you ever gone to Europe and after awhile you don’t care if you step foot in another church because you’re over it, as beautiful as it may be. That is where we were starting to find ourselves I think. We did Boston. Then New York. Then Philadelphia and Washington DC and everything in between. That is a lot to take in within a few weeks. It was all awesome, but it’s time to slow it back down a bit, so we welcome the quieter South that lies ahead. (And no, we’re not heading home….)

Our Washington DC highlights were:

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There is so much to do and see in Washington DC that it’s near impossible to fit it all in, even with the five days we had here. Our favorite outing was Biking the Sites with Bike and Roll. It’s always a bonus when we can be active and learning at the same time! The National Mall and all of the Monuments and Memorials are as gorgeous as you would imagine.

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One day, we spent time at the Library of Congress and touring the Capitol building- which are across the street from one another.

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We set up a private tour of the Capitol with an intern from our Congressman David Schweickert’s office.

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Go to the National Archives to check out the original Declaration of Independence, the Constitution & the Bill of Rights. Always fun for the kids to watch Disney’s National Treasure movie before coming here too!

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Ford’s Theatre is a must see as the kids were really intrigued to see where President Abraham Lincoln was assassinated.

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The White House. Need I say more?

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We stayed at this Capitol KOA for six nights and loved the location. It is close to DC, Baltimore and Annapolis. We were able to easily drive to the metro station that we could take into Washington DC every day.  There are two KOA’s that you can choose from when you want to go into the city. This one was perfect for our touring needs.

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 The other KOA is a further hike in Fredericksburg, VA and is KOA’s campground of the year for 2014. We had originally thought we’d compare the travel into DC from here as well, but we had burnt ourselves out so we didn’t move from this campground for the two days that we were here. No sightseeing allowed! Time for some downtime at the campground to regroup and relax.

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Look at our beautiful spot! I think this could be our favorite site of the trip. It was exactly what we needed to relax after all of our city touring!

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The kids have a new found love for fishing, which this trip allowed. They really hadn’t had opportunity to experience doing this before we hit the road. It’s fun to watch them embrace a new outdoor hobby and as long as I don’t have to touch the bait or fish, I’m good with it!

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Location, location, location! You cannot get a closer stay near a National Park than from this Harpers Ferry KOA. You could walk or ride your bike here even though we chose to drive because we have our NPS annual pass allowing us free parking. Plus, our time was limited so we wanted to make the most of the hours we had in the park!

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West Virginia was the 31st state we hit on this trip! We finally committed to putting our USA map (which we bought from the St. Louis West KOA) on the back of our RV. Maybe we won’t be selling our home on wheels once we get back to Arizona after all? Hmm….We are growing a little attached I think. The kids had fun taking turns putting on the various state stickers onto the map and celebrating just how far we’ve come.

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This was our 5th Recreational Adventures owned KOA that we have stayed at. Recreational Adventures Campgrounds owns and operates ten premier KOA campground and resort facilities in the United States.

Their properties are always busy on the weekends as they offer lots to keep the campers busy having fun. The Harpers Ferry Grapes and Grinds is adorable as it is a replica of John Brown’s Fort. It’s always fun to go to the wine tastings they offer and enjoy a specialty coffee drink in the mornings as well.

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Did you say free pancakes? Our family is there. Every time. We can’t help ourselves.  Another perk at most of the Recreational Adventures Co. campgrounds on the weekends! I can’t thank you enough for feeding my family at least one meal a day!

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This Harpers Ferry location has it’s own movie theater- the first we’ve seen along our KOA tour!

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The weekend we were here the KOA was having Civil War reenactments all day on Saturday. Our kids were not necessarily thrilled that we made them sign up to volunteer to be a part of the afternoon show. But, we try to teach our kids to be “gamers.” Just go with the flow and if someone asks you to do something and they want your help, then you just do it whether it’s cool or not.

Luckily, they helped out because they were good examples to the younger kids who had trouble following the directions because of their age! Believe it or not our kids also said they learned things that they didn’t already know. Go figure. The more we put into life, the more we get out of it!!

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The highlight of our time in Harpers Ferry was learning about the Appalachian Trail.

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We spent a while in the Appalachian Trail’s only Conservancy learning about the famous trail and earning another Junior Ranger badge.

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We really enjoyed meeting this couple who happened to come into the Conservancy while we were there. It was fun to hear about their time on the trail and share stories of our uniquely designed travels. They were very inspiring! I love to see people out there living their lives!! Go get ’em Liver and VA!

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GettysburgKOA

Everyone’s first question for us when it comes to us doing this trip during the school year is “Are you homeschooling?”

I explained before we left on the trip that this is the one area that caused me a bit of anxiety about taking off around the US for 7 months and pulling the kids from 6th and 7th grade. I wanted to do a relaxed curriculum focusing on obviously geography and history through our travels. Here is how we are learning at our Gettysburg, PA KOA.

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Starting off our day with a home-cooked breakfast outdoors while watching our History Channel DVD on Gettysburg. I purchased many History Channel movies for the trip so we could brief the kids on areas and events that we would be experiencing.

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After breakfast and the movie, it’s time to drive to the Battlefields of Gettysburg to experience them firsthand. The kids had a wonderful 5th-grade teacher who interactively taught them a lot of Civil War history so it was fun for them to see in person many of the things they had studied.

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Here at Round Top, General Porter tells a story of his daughter and a famous pencil, before giving our daughter a replica herself. The kids all did the Junior Ranger books here and earned another badge as well.

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One of the kids had made this box up awhile ago and I brought it with us in the RV so that we could use it for something fun along the road. The kids had enough change to rent banana bikes, play mini-golf, and do some mining at the KOA when we returned from the battlefields.

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Hands down this is the best part of staying at the KOA… the time to decompress after a long day of touring historical sites!

The kids can run around while Keith and I take a walk and just breathe in the fresh air or sit with a glass of wine. You can’t compare staying at a hotel at times like this. At most hotels, there are very limited activities for kids to do, possibly an indoor pool. At the campground, there is an abundance of outdoor fun. This is also when we can grab our moments of solitude! Back to the curriculum…

Physical Education- Never worry about the kids getting in their physical education! You know it’s most kids’ favorite class all throughout school anyway. And pictures of kids having fun outdoors are priceless anyway!

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Science- This is the first KOA that the kids have done any gem mining. They had a lot of fun just messing in the sand and water and seeing what gems they could find. Then they were able to read on the poster what elements they had acquired.

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Math- We are doing daily math on Khan Academy right now. It is easy to do from the iPads and the kids enjoy the challenges. Most KOA’s have good wifi which enables the kids to do some work from the campsite. Otherwise, we do most of it while we are on the road driving. Not a bad environment to learn a little math before dinner!

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Homework-  The kids had to read the directions to this new game and work together to figure out how to play Carpetball while we were making dinner. They loved it and it was the first one we’ve seen at a KOA.

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I think we’re all going to miss this relaxed way of learning! Any questions on how we are road schooling throw them my way!

>PhiladelphiaKOA

Labor Day is behind us which means summer fun is over for most as kids have gone back to school across the country. Everyone that is but crazy families like ours who are choosing to roadschool. Campgrounds are much quieter and tourist crowds are minimal during the weekdays so September is the perfect time to be camping and traveling out east!

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Here in rural Pennsylvania we are getting the best of both worlds. A city experience combined with downtime at the quiet campground. This Philadelphia-Westchester KOA is a 50 minute drive into the big city. It is far from even a grocery store or even a highway.

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The kids working on their National Park Service Junior Ranger books outside Independence Hall.

I love visiting all of the major cities in our country. I am fueled by the energy of a big city! Philadelphia is an absolute historical gem. I would wander around here every day easily, if we were staying closer. We chose to hang out at the campground for our second day in the area and I’m really glad we did.

Sometimes we can get caught up in trying to fit in all of the historical sites or touring around and not take the time to just relax and be at the campground itself. I have to say, that downtime doesn’t come naturally to me. I’m not used to taking time to just hang out and chill.

This trip is teaching me how important it is that we take time out to relax along our journey. The kids would never leave the campgrounds if we left it up to them! I’m so happy that this beautiful KOA afforded us opportunity for quiet time in the outdoors or we would’ve missed out on these moments…

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A quiet picnic lunch by Brandywine Creek.

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Fishing and renting canoes…

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Time for our son to inflate his raft that he bought in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho and take it for a cruise along the Brandywine!

Sometimes I get nervous about not having the kids in school or on their sports teams and I wonder if we’re doing the right thing. Then we have days like this and I am reminded that this is quality of life and I am so grateful that we are doing this family trip together!

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How great that we were in Philadelphia for the 227th anniversary of the United States Constitution! It was one of those perfect days when road schooling rocked. The beautiful National Constitution Center offered free admission today so we took a train in from our KOA into the city to be a part of the celebration.

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Citizens of the United States have celebrated Independence Day and Presidents’ Day since the 1870s. In 2005, the nation began to celebrate Constitution Day also know as Citizenship Day. Constitution Day honors the day 39 delegates to the Constitutional Convention signed the United States Constitution. This historic date was September 17, 1787 and we were here in Philadelphia’s Independence Hall to see the exact room where it took place.

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Philadelphia is an amazing city with such a past that has been wonderfully preserved for all of us.

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So proud to be an American and so grateful for our Constitution that affords us so much!