Learning on the Go – West Yellowstone

Recently we had the opportunity to combine 2 different family events into a 10 day family trip by planning our summer vacation in the middle of them. It seemed to be the best time to go. Things weren’t crazy with Beau’s work yet, and it would help us avoid making 2 trips home to Star Valley in less than a week. Our kids haven’t been to Yellowstone National Park yet and since it was a short drive from Star Valley we thought it would be a great option for our family vacation this year.  We also needed to it to be as cheap as possible for the full five days we would be gone.

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Beau and I have been many times in our life and love the beauty that only Yellowstone has. We were looking forward to sharing that time with our kids and taking a break from the stress and busyness of everyday life. I also love the opportunity to travel, see new things and learn about places that are unfamiliar to us. I love the very nature that traveling gives us to do schooling in real life settings.  You begin to understand Geothermal in a whole different way when you are standing and observing the bubbling hot pot before you, rather than reading it in a text book.  You get to hear it, smell it, feel it and see it.  I love learning in this very hands on way. So I wanted to share our little adventure with you, along with some things we did to help it also be a learning experience while we were there.

After our last vacation and a few frustrations with Motels and limits on number of children, and just the feeling an anti-Family attitude, we have really wanted to just rent a motor home and do the rest of our trips on the road literally. After looking at one to rent it was more expensive than what we wanted or could pay right now. Of course we weren’t in a position to buy one either! Beau ended up deciding to ask his dad if we might be able to borrow his RV for the trip. Lucky for us we have an awesome Grandpa that was willing.  Honestly… it was awesome. It was so much fun and beat a Hotel by far!

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We found an awesome campground that was large enough for the RV, had electricity and was only 3 miles outside of the West Yellowstone Entrance. $16.00 a night, a little extra for the electricity – which was well worth it. Definitely cheaper than a motel. We found out that if you would like to camp in Yellowstone, make sure you reserve it months if not a whole year ahead. 🙂 Especially since our RV was so large, it was impossible to find one in the park.

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We brought all our food and cooked breakfast and dinner in the trailer, while we had lunch in the back of the truck while we were in the park.

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It worked out grand! We ate a whole lot cheaper than we would have eating out. We brought most of our drinking water in order to not use up the RV tank and was able to go the whole time camping without having to go out and dump the RV, by being frugal. I don’t think you can call it camping really.  It definitely beat having to hunt down the outhouse in the middle of the night in bear country.

In preparation for the trip I spent some of our school time learning about the places we were going or the historical eras we would be learning about or seeing. I think this worked out great in helping the kids learn a little bit about the place so they could recognize things when we saw it. We checked out all the books we could find at the library on Yellowstone, the animals that live there and some Geology books.

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Amazon prime also had this series of videos on the Seasons of Yellowstone, which are really well done. The cinematography was beautiful. They loved learning about it through these. Although afterwards Mirian wasn’t quite sure if she wanted to go. “What if the volcano goes off while we’re there, or someone falls in a hot pot, or we get eaten by a Grizzly bear.” We calmed her fears, and told her that she had nothing to worry about.

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This was another fun book. They are mystery books based on various national parks, and so we got the one for Yellowstone and read it before we took off. It helped the kids become familiar with some of the different places and geological features we were going to see. It was informative as well as a fun read. If you plan on going to any National Parks for a visit, you should check to see if she has a mystery for it as well.

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We also picked up this guidebook for the kids to use, and I was surprised how much the did use it and enjoyed having it.  They woke up first morning and came tearing into the camper to find the book so they could go identify what animal had left their “poop” behind the RV overnight. Turned out to be an elk.

They used it to look up hot pots, determine the scat of various animals, flowers, etc. When we saw a rabbit we identified which one it was.They used it to identify bugs they found, rocks, etc. It as a great resource to have on hand, and I loved that it just initiated learning… all on their own.

It’s amazing how the kids will also do math (without complaining) to figure out “how much longer” they have until they we got to our destination. They also ended up doing math with on the fly ‘I spy’ game. Only this time I told them up front how many points things were worth. If you were the first person to spot the item you won the points.  The first person to get 100 pts – wins a candy bar. Construction workers – 5 pts, Pronghorn – 20 pts, Henry’s lake sign – 15 pts, Buffalo – 25 pts, Mile marker 400 – 10 pts, Grizzley Bear – 50 pts. (guess who won that one), wolf – 75 pts. etc. We did it for signs, animals, anything we could think of. That kept them entertained the last hour as they were getting restless.

It was also fun to drive through Rexburg, ID where I went to school for 2 years at Ricks College. I was able to point out where I used to live, landmarks, and showed them the Hogo Yogi where we went to get frozen yogurt whenever we wanted.  They couldn’t believe, that I could just go get it without permission.  We explained that when you’re old enough to go to college, you can do anything you want. Which led them to the question of how did I pay for it. Which led to discussions of jobs, working, how to pay for school, how much it costs, and getting them totally pumped and excited to be out on their own. (We have been working at this for a while. We don’t want any of our kids coming back home to live. We want them to experience the satisfaction and joy of being completely on their own when they go off to school.)  So far our enthusiasm seems to be working. They can’t wait to go off and do whatever they want to do.

Our first day was basically traveling to West Yellowstone, setting up camp, having dinner and getting to sleep for the full day ahead.

Our next post we’ll share our first day in Yellowstone.

Congratulations! You made it through one super long post… only 3 or 4 more to go. 🙂

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One thought on “Learning on the Go – West Yellowstone

  1. Tiffany says:

    I love the new blog post & can’t wait to see the next ones. Looks like you had a blast & I agree an RV looks awesome way to camp. It was good to see you for a little but last week!

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