Van Life: White Sandy Beaches and Emergency Rooms

After our stop at the secret beach in Manistee we dried off, shook off the sand and jumped back in the van for the final leg to Young State Park just outside of Petoskey, Michigan. The ride took us through beautiful country side and rolling hills. The weather was perfect to roll the windows down, turn on some road trip music, and sip on the last bit of coffee we had left in our mugs. The kids were good and tired. They kicked back and enjoyed the warm breeze and eventually fell asleep.

After a couple of hours we made it to the park. To our surprise the campsite was about a 2 minute walk down to what can only be described as our own private beach. The beach and park sit on Lake Charlavoix, an amazing body of water that turns turquoise blue when the sun is out. We took our time unpacking the van and getting it all set up for the next 4 days. We set up our canopy, hung a clothes line, set up the tent, and made the beds.

The first day was spent down at the beach just enjoying the sun and staring out at the water. We grilled up some burgers and headed back down to the beach that evening with some wine and watched the kids play on the shore. The stars and moon finally came out and we headed back to camp. We tucked the kids into their tent and we settled into the van with our youngest son. I have to say that having the portable A/C keeping the van nice and cold was a treat to come back to after a hot day. We laid down, turned on a movie and drifted off to sleep.

The next day was just as nice as the last. After some coffee and breakfast I decided I should take the dog for a trail run to get him some exercise. We took off and before long he was doing what all dogs do, sniffing and peeing on everything. It was during this time that I turned my head, if for only for a moment, to tell him to hurry up and next thing I knew I had stepped onto a large rock and my ankle went sideways. I went down hard and fast. As I lay there in pain Lincoln continued to sniff and pee and went on being a dog. I was finally able to stand up and hobble back to the campsite. It was painful to say the least. Once I returned my wife suggested we go to the emergency room to make sure it wasn’t broken. Several hours later I returned with a brace and brand new set of crutches. It wasn’t broken but it was swollen and painful. Not exactly how I pictured the road trip turning out.

I always try my best to stay positive. It doesn’t do anybody any good to sulk or feel sorry for themselves. I was actually pretty grateful that I could at least get around on crutches. I was still able to get down to the beach and the bathroom. Those were my two main concerns.

The rest of our time at Young State Park consisted of us being beach bums and it was glorious. We haven’t done that in a really long time. I grew up surfing and spent most of my high school years at the beach and avoiding school. Being able to just live on the sand for a few days with my family was a beautiful thing.

Unfortunately, our time was up and it was time to head down to Traverse City. So once again we packed up the van, made a big pot of coffee, filled our mugs and hit the road. Windows down, music on, and good vibes all along the way.

E86: Home Ed Series: Cultivating A Vibrant Homeschool Through A Classical Education with Jennifer Dow From The Paideia Fellowship

Hello and welcome back to the campfire! Today we have Jennifer Dow joining us at the campfire to continue our Home Ed Series. We discuss all things on a classical homeschool as Jennifer brings with her a wealth of knowledge as well as a passion for the classical education. She is a certified classical teacher, homeschool mom, speaker, and writer. She is also the founder of the Paideia Fellowship, an organization devoted to helping teachers and leaders, at home and at school, teach the classical liberal arts.  

As Jennifer researched for her kids’ education, she embarked on a life of learning and challenged herself to move beyond where she found herself to be. Jennifer’s journey has led her to books, conferences, conversations, and other teacher training opportunities like the CiRCE Apprenticeship, all of which has increased her knowledge, understanding, and love of truth more than she could have asked or imagine.

So grab a seat by the fire as we travel to North Carolina to discuss the world of classical education with truth, goodness, and beauty.

If you like what you hear and have enjoyed our show, please show your appreciation by subscribing to our Podcast and leaving us a review on your Podcast App of choice.
We would love to hear from you so please email us with any comments or questions you have.
Visit us and all of our content, including our blog, at http://www.thehomeschoolprojectpodcast.com
As always, let’s Light A Fire They Can’t Put Out
Thank you for listening!

Show Notes

Jennifer’s website: Paideia Fellowship — Teach the Classical Liberal Arts | Build Inclusive Communities

Facebook & Instagram @ paideiafellowship and @ jenniferrdow

Books Mentioned:
The Mind of The Maker by Dorothy Sayers – https://amzn.to/3iE873E

Consider This  by Karen Glass – https://amzn.to/3BMbLBt

Reaching Out by Henri J. M. Nouwen – https://amzn.to/3iNE21P

The Liberal Arts Tradition  by Kevin Clark and Ravi Jain –
 https://amzn.to/3kP6OBx (Hardcover)
https://amzn.to/3zA4VN9 (Paperback)
Websites/Resources mentioned:

Circe Institute: Circe Institute | Cultivating Wisdom & Virtue

After Thoughts blog: Afterthoughts | … for the Classical, Charlotte Mason Mama (afterthoughtsblog.net)

Memoria Press: Memoria Press | Classical Christian Education

Classical Academic Press: Classical Academic Press

Classical Conversations: Home – Classical Conversations

Ambleside: Home – AmblesideOnline – Charlotte Mason Curriculum

Ongoing Community Support:
Wild Learning Curriculum – https://discoverwildlearning.com/?ref=927


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E85: After Thoughts On A Van Camping Family Road Trip

Hello and welcome back to the campfire! Today Nathan and I share our thoughts on our van camping road trip we just completed. We traveled up the Michigan coast as a family of 5 with a dog in our 1990’s conversion van. We share what we loved, our struggles, the camping set up, and more!

If you like what you hear and have enjoyed our show, please show your appreciation by subscribing to our Podcast and leaving us a review on your Podcast App of choice.
We would love to hear from you so please email us with any comments or questions you have.
Visit us and all of our content, including our blog, at http://www.thehomeschoolprojectpodcast.com
As always, let’s Light A Fire They Can’t Put Out
Thank you for listening!

Show Notes

Gear For the Trip:
Coleman 4-person dome tent – https://amzn.to/36GnP8O 
Rhino Rack cargo carrier –  https://amzn.to/3r3mbHQ 
Rightline Weatherproof Gear Top Carrier – https://amzn.to/2Vw0m7X
Trailer Hitch Cargo Carrier – https://amzn.to/2VA5p7w 
LIFETIME 77qt. cooler – https://amzn.to/3hCMWjh
Seven Sparta cupholders with expandable base – https://amzn.to/3kfnqSN
Black and Decker 8,000BTU Portable A/C unit –  https://amzn.to/3yVgiz3
Coleman Two Burner Camping Stove – https://amzn.to/3kJMyBo


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Van Life: The Secret Beach

We woke up early and made a nice breakfast over the Coleman camp stove (https://amzn.to/3kJMyBo). We have had this stove for years and it has gotten us through camping trips, power outages, hurricanes, and backyard cookouts. It can tell its own stories. We packed up camp, made a fresh pot of coffee for the next leg of the trip and hit the road. Our goal was to reach Young State Park near Petoskey, MI. It is about a 3 hour drive of mostly back roads through beautiful lush forest. Before we had left we had decided that we were going to truly enjoy this trip. We didn’t want to be rushing from place to place like we all do in our normal lives. The drive is part of the journey. Plus with a tank full of gas and a mug full of coffee, anything is possible.

Anita searched and had found a beach in Manistee that we decided we would stop at. We could let the kids play, the dog run, and we could all stretch our legs and explore more of the Michigan coast. We found the North Beach access about an hour and a half later. The entrance is tucked behind an industrial park and you would never know something amazing started in this spot. We pulled into the parking lot and only one other soul appeared to be using the area. That is one of the advantages of homeschooling and traveling when nobody else is. We all got changed in the van and headed down the path a little skeptical. From first appearance you would not think much of this spot. The path leads you through the woods and down some stairs. Eventually the canopy opens up revealing turquoise colored water, a white sandy beach, and an incredible shoreline covered with forest, drift wood, and scattered beach homes. We couldn’t believe how beautiful the beach was. Some people had told us that the west coast of Michigan is the Caribbean of the Great Lakes but we certainly didn’t believe them. It’s hard to describe the color of the water. It’s also very deceptive because although it looks like the Caribbean it certainly is not as warm. We all jumped in anyway, except for Anita of course.

Coming from the southern part of the US, it is extremely hard to find a secluded beach anymore. Most of them are overrun with tourists and old fast food boxes. The beach in Manistee could have been used to film a movie. It was pristine. We spent our time exploring, swimming and picnicking. We saw only one other person the entire time we were there. After soaking up the sun and taking the time to watch life slow down we packed up our belongings and headed back up the staircase to the van.

Back at the van we washed off, changed clothes, and settled in for the second leg of our trip to Young State Park. During the drive we reflected on the fact that when we had the camper we never would have taken the road less traveled to this beach. We would have gone from point A to point B because campers are bulky and a pain to pull. With the van we realized we were willing to explore and venture to unknown places. Thank god we did because this beach was a place we will remember forever. Next stop, Petoskey.

Coleman Two Burner Camping Stove – https://amzn.to/3kJMyBo

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Bonus Episode: Homeschooling from A to Z / A Step By Step Process In Getting Started

Hello and welcome back to the campfire! Today’s episode is a replay. In this episode I recommend the steps to take in getting started in homeschooling. With the new school year approaching, we felt now would be a good time to help those needing guidance on where to begin. If you would like me to email you these steps along with a list of commonly used school supplies, then just send us an email. We hope this helps and remember we are here to answer any questions you have or guidance you need. Stay tuned as we continue our Home Education Series with many amazing guests joining us to speak on all things Home Ed.  Hope you enjoy!

If you like what you hear and have enjoyed our show, please show your appreciation by subscribing to our Podcast and leaving us a review on your Podcast App of choice.
We would love to hear from you so please email us with any comments or questions you have.
Visit us and all of our content, including our blog, at http://www.thehomeschoolprojectpodcast.com
As always, let’s Light A Fire They Can’t Put Out
Thank you for listening!

Show Notes

Our other episodes to check out:
Figuring out your ‘why’- #23 & #24
Homeschool Methods- #29, 30, & 31
Encouragement- #32

HSLDA:  https://hslda.org/

Time4Learning: https://www.time4learning.com/homeschooling/by-state.html

Ohio Homeschooling Parents: https://ohiohomeschoolingparents.com/

Cathy Duffy’s book: 102 Top Picks for Homeschool Curriculumhttps://amzn.to/3zienVg

We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.

E84: Home Ed Series: A Culturally-Rich Living Education with Amber O’Neal Johnston from Heritage Mom

Hello and welcome back to the campfire! Today we have the wonderful Amber O’Neal Johnston joining us for a conversation. Amber is a  wife, homeschooling mama, and creator of Heritage Mom. Committed to bridging the gap for her 4 children, Amber has embarked on a journey of uniquely merging living books with life-giving books to ensure that their education is not a legalistic venture in Charlotte Mason but an honest experience that honors the Truth while helping her children to see themselves and others.

In this conversation we discuss how Amber implements the Charlotte Mason philosophy in her home, the importance of adding culture to our home education, world travel, and more!

So grab a seat by the fire as we travel to Georgia and discuss how one mama is curating a culturally rich home education where, as Amber says, “Charlotte Mason wears an afro”.

If you like what you hear and have enjoyed our show, please show your appreciation by subscribing to our Podcast and leaving us a review on your Podcast App of choice.
We would love to hear from you so please email us with any comments or questions you have.
Visit us and all of our content, including our blog, at http://www.thehomeschoolprojectpodcast.com
As always, let’s Light A Fire They Can’t Put Out
Thank you for listening!

Show Notes

Amber’s website: Home | Heritage Mom

You can find Amber on Facebook & Instagram @ heritagemomblog

Amber’s post on her homeschool schedule: Scheduling My Charlotte Mason Homeschool Day | Heritage Mom

Van Life: Hitting the Road

We have been waiting a long time to finally hit the road. We sold a camper, bough a van, prepared the van, planned trip, and now it was time to get lock up the house and get moving. We woke up nice and early to finish packing the van and to double check that everything was strapped down. By the time we were done we were covered in sweat but our excitement could not be diminished. There is something so freeing about going on a road trip. I think that part of it is leaving all the day to day chores behind. Knowing that your whole world is wrapped up in a small vehicle. Your scope of responsibility shrinks and sometimes that just feels good.

We left late morning with a full tank of gas and mugs full of fresh coffee. The kids were all settled in the back and the dog was sleeping comfortably on top of all of our gear. We departed NE Ohio and headed west for the beaches and forests of Michigan. The first leg of the trip was about 5 hours. It was all highway and pretty uneventful. We try to avoid highways at all costs. If we can take back roads to get to our destination we will, even if it adds some time. The drive is part of the adventure and in many ways makes or breaks the trip. We love driving through the country but on this route it just wasn’t possible.

We made it to to our destination by mid afternoon. Our first stop, Grand Haven/West Grand Rapids KOA https://koa.com/campgrounds/allendale/ don’t stay at KOA’s but when we planned our trip a lot of the campsites we wanted to stay at were already taken. I have to say we were pleasantly surprised. The KOA had a pool, a jump pad, some animals for the kids to pet, fishing ponds, and hay rides. The owner of the park is a character and nice as can be. You know its him because of his multi-colored mohawk. Several years ago he left the corporate world, bought the park, and moved his family down to Ohio. It’s always nice when the owner of a business is involved and cares about the service they provide.

We spent 2 days at this park and took the opportunity to check out the Grand Haven city beach, about a 25 minute drive from the park (https://visitgrandhaven.com/listing/grand-haven-city-beach/). It’s dog friendly until about 11am and the beach is beautiful. We soaked up the sun and played in the cold water. We would definitely recommend this beach to anyone that is visiting the area but get there early because parking is limited. I have to say having the van was so convenient. We had the space to change the kids inside and to grab a bite to eat away from the sun.

The rest of our stay at the KOA consisted of the kids swimming and fishing. It was a great start to our trip and it would definitely be somewhere that we would stay again.

The sleeping situation we decided on was for Anita and I to sleep in the van with our 4 year old and for the two oldest to sleep in the tent. Before we left we purchased a Coleman 4-person dome tent (https://amzn.to/36GnP8O) to give us a little extra space to store our gear. It sets up quickly and has plenty of room for two people and a decent amount of storage space. It was a very reasonable price at about $70 and kept the kids dry through the trip. As for Anita and I, the seat in the back of the van folds down to a bed but about 1 quarter of my legs hang off the end. Figuring out angles was key. Even though this isn’t as comfortable as the camper there is something very cool about making this all work in a van with a family of 5. I wouldn’t go back. We chalked the first two days of our trip up as a success. Next stop, Petoskey, MI.

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Van Life: Packing The Inside of our Van for a 2 week road trip

Preparing the inside of our van was quite a feat. The van originally came with 2 captains seats and a bench seat in the back that folds down into a bed. We removed one of the captains chairs to give us some more room. We also removed the center console that was between the two front chairs. The console had a TV/VCR combo. Figured it was time to retire it to the great unknown. I’m not sure where to get any quality VHS tapes anymore, haha.

With this new space we decided that this is where our cooler would go. We went back and forth over whether we wanted a traditional cooler or a plug in. The plug-ins are typically pretty small when it comes to interior space. With 5 people it just wasn’t going to cut it. We decided on purchasing a traditional cooler but one that wouldn’t break the bank. We went with a LIFETIME 77qt. cooler ( https://amzn.to/3hCMWjh ). The cooler fit perfectly between our two seats and held plenty of food. Perfect for a big family. It is extremely durable and we only had to replenish ice every 3-4 days. That was also with us leaving it at our campsite out in the sun for most of the trip. At $184 it was well worth the price.

After the cooler the next thing we found we needed were some new cup holders. I’m not sure why after producing vehicles for over 100 years car manufactures still haven’t figured out how to make a decent cup holder. The ones that were in the van were not capable of holding any style of cup or bottle that I am aware of. We spent our first few trips desperately grabbing our coffee mugs around every turn. We finally decided that this was something that would need to be taken care of. We originally ordered some that were terrible and had to return them. The ones that we purchased after that were the Seven Sparta cupholders with expandable base (https://amzn.to/3kfnqSN ). Basically they are a one size fits all. You place them in your existing cup holder and twist. The base expands and tightens. These things were a life saver and worked like a champ. They held every type of cup we put in there and never loosened up. No more hot coffee flying across my lap or the dash board.

Finally, about 1 week before we hit the road we realized that our house sitter was not going to be available. This also meant that the dog was coming with us. This changed the dynamic of the trip considering you cant leave a dog in a van in the summer. So, this either meant we couldn’t go anywhere that dogs weren’t allowed or we needed to figure something out. What we decided was that we needed A/C for the van when it wasn’t running at the campsites. After a ton of research we chose to purchase a portable A/C unit to put into the van. We could keep the van nice and cold for our furry friend and it wouldn’t be so bad to have some air conditioning while we were sleeping. It was a big decision because these things are not cheap and we looked hard for a good deal. We ended up going with the Black and Decker 8,000BTU unit (https://amzn.to/3yVgiz3). You have to remember that if you use one of these for your van or home you have to vent the hot air out a window. Our van has perfect sliding windows to set this up. The unit worked great for what we needed it for. The dog stayed comfortable when we had to leave him behind and at night it was such a relief to climb into a nice cold van after a hot day. The money was definitely worth it. The only downside is that is is a little bulky especially in an already packed van. We ended up storing it behind the drivers seat when we were on the road and it did just fine.

In the end the van was packed to the hilt but we managed to bring everything we needed. Traveling and hitting the road is really the only way you find out what you need and what items you would like to add for comfort. The money we spent on these items was well worth it and they made our trip much more enjoyable.

In the next blog its time to hit the road and head into the great state of Michigan. See you there.

Van LIfe: Preparing For Our Road trip And Some Helpful Gear

Packing for the trip was the most consuming part of the process. We have 3 kids and a dog so even a large van gets filled fairly quickly. We had purchased a few items to help with the trip which gave us some extra space and were priceless for the trip.

The first thing that we purchased were roof racks and a luggage basket for the roof. These two things allowed us to put all of our bags along with our camping chairs on the roof which freed up space inside the van. We went with the Rhino Rack cargo carrier ( https://amzn.to/3r3mbHQ ). The carrier was solid and held a ton of gear. It didn’t create any noise while we were on the highway and is built extremely well. If your looking for roof racks you need to shop according to your personal vehicle. We ended up purchasing ours through etrailer.com. They had great customer service and helped us fit the correct racks to our vehicle.

The other item that was a must have was our waterproof luggage bag that we placed on the roof. We have actually had this for some time and it has held up great on many trips all over the US. This is the Rightline Weatherproof Gear Top Carrier ( https://amzn.to/2Vw0m7X ). You don’t have to have the roof basket to use this bag but it definitely helps. The bag has a solid zipper and has always kept our gear dry. We don’t actually use the straps that come with it. We use ratchet straps and they hold it down nice and tight.

Finally, we have a hitch mount cargo carrier for the rear of the vehicle where we put some waterproof Tupperware bins and a water jug. The bins had all of our sandals and outdoor shoes and the other had all of our cooking gear. We had to bring a water jug because many of the Michigan campgrounds do not have water at each site. The cargo carrier was just another way for us to save space and it worked out great. We used bungee cords to hold it all down and to keep it from flying off on the highway. The link here is to a similar version that has some great reviews ( https://amzn.to/2VA5p7w ). You don’t have to spend a ton of money on these things to get a good product. Just take care of it.

These are all the exterior upgrades we made for our two week road trip. In the next blog we can share some photos of the interior and some things we added. We hope this helps and thanks for following along on our adventure.


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Van Life: Our Journey To Michigan In Our 1999 Ford Van

The preparation for our two week journey started with a trip to AAA. With all the technology that we are afforded with, Anita and I still like to have paper maps with us when we travel. It is also a great opportunity to open those maps up and show the kids the route that we are going to take. If you didn’t know, a yearly membership with AAA allows you to visit one of their many stores to grab all the maps and travel info that you want. Free of charge.

We also took a trip to the local library to grab some books on Michigan and all the wonderful things that the state has to offer. I think people get so hung up on purchasing new things that they forget that there are a lot of resources out there that can save you money.

After returning home we grabbed a cup of coffee and spread the maps and books across our bed. The research and the planning is one of the best parts of traveling. The anticipation and excitement of planning and mapping out a trip is all part of the experience and we love to get our kids involved in the action. It took us several weeks to really map out all of our stops, our lodging (campgrounds), and all the activities that we wanted to try and do. A piece of advice for everyone would be to book your campground early. Campgrounds tend to book almost a year in advance in certain spots. There were actually several places that we had to take our second choice because they were all filled up.

Our trip was set to take us up the west coast of Michigan. We had originally planned to cruise all the way to the Upper Peninsula but we didn’t want to be rushed. We are also taking our newly acquired 1999 Ford E-150 conversion van on the trip. We have taken her on several local test runs to prepare for this trip but with a 20 year old vehicle you just never know. We have made some upgrades to include: a roof rack with basket, new spare tire, pulled out an extra seat to make more room, cup holders (that actually hold cups), and a portable A/C unit.

So after a few weeks of planning our trip was taking us from Ohio to: Grand Haven, Petoskey, Traverse City, and then back to Grand Haven. Obviously with lots of adventures in between.

I think packing for 2 adults, 3 children, and a dog for two weeks in a van and tent is probably the most difficult part of the trip. There is only so much room but that can wait for the next post.