Glen Rose, Texas

Our home for 3 days in June, was Glen Rose, Texas, a town about 45 minutes South from Fort Worth, Texas.
We splurged on this outing and stayed at the the Lodge at Fossil Rim Wildlife Center, a safari park.  

The Texas landscape was reminiscent of  South Africa, and seemed to be quite well suited to the antelope, zebras, and giraffes that called it home.  Our behind the scenes guided tour included a visit to the Wildlife Center breeding program for cheetahs, prairie chickens, and wolves.

Not quite like our African Safari, the stay still allowed us an early morning drive through the safari park and a chance to feed some giraffes.  

We enjoyed the hot breakfast overlooking the watering hole, but the best wildlife spotting was at sunset from the deck at the Lodge.

After a rest, we went into town, checking out the old courthouse and town square, which is surrounded by shops and restaurants, like the Shoo Fly soda fountain and Pie Peddler pie shop, where we picked up some desserts.

The next day, we stopped for snow cones before swimming in the river and climbing on the rocks at Big Rocks park.

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Prehistoric Texas

About 1 1/2 hours South from Dallas, on highway 67, we came to Glen Rose Texas.  Our first stop, Dinosaur Valley state park.  

The park is known for dinosaur footprints found in the rock of the Paluxy river bed.   The state park has a number of hikes, all less than a mile long.  Though the short, well cleared trails, are suitable for all ages, they are still rocky and have a number of stairs.

With summer in full swing it was HOT. Stretching our legs after the drive, we appreciated that the first hike took us to the Blue Hole, a swimming hole from the 1800s.  Near the edge, were 3 clear footprints. Hidden in the winter, the lower river level in the summer exposes them, in about 4-5 inches of water.  We left our shoes and socks in the bank and waded in to get a better look.  Boy took the opportunity to go for a full swim and play with some other kids in the cool, clear water.

Other short hikes took us to the Ballroom site and the main site where tracks were first discovered. The Ballroom has hundreds of footprints.  When we were there, they were in about 2-3 inches of water, so we waded out for a good look.  Boy loved splashing through the shallow water and Mom slipped and managed to get quite wet, as well.

The next day, we returned to the area for a stop at Dinosaur World, a series of nature trails enhanced by lifesize statues of dinosaurs.  There is also a dinosaur themed playground and a small museum with fossils and animatronic dinosaurs.  The highlight for Boy was the fossil dig.  Included in the child admission, the fossil dig is a sandbox, studded with real, small fossils.  Children are given 10-15 minutes to dig through the sandbox and choose 3 fossils to keep.  The trails in Dinosaur World are paved, and it is an easy stroll for strollers or wheelchairs.  It would have been a big hit with our boy at 5 or 6 years old, or if we had a wider variety of ages and mobility in our group, but at 11 years old, the admission, at almost $13 a person (in 2017) was a bit steep for the excitement level.  Dinosaur World is across the street from the Creation Museum, according to its website, a museum dedicated to the story of biblical creation and a place to see how dinosaurs and humans lived side by side prior to Noah’s flood.  We did not visit.  


On our way back to Dallas, we drove through Waco for a stop at the Waco Mammoth National Monument.  Declared a National Monument in 2015, the park has had lots of new construction of a visitors center and signage from the National Park Service.  The enclosed dig site shows the excavation of a number of mammoth fossils in situ, where the animals were buried after a flash flood.  We checked out the Junior Ranger program and had a chance to touch and examine skulls and teeth models with rangers at the visitors center.

The Junior Ranger guide


The dig site


Our fossil identification guide, and a snack:

Our travel reading list

We have maintained our massive Worldschooling list of children’s books, we used while traveling here, but what about the parents?  What did we read?

Mom and Dad did our share of reading both before and after we started our travels. Our hometown library was a lifesaver, with tons of travel guides we borrowed both as physical books and through the library’s e-book program.  We were even able to continue checking out e-books while we were on the road.  Here is a selection of what we read:

Planning & General Travel

ONE YEAR OFF: Leaving It All Behind for A Round-the-World Journey with Our Children by David Elliot Cohen, Simon and Schuster, 1999

Europe on 5 Dollars a Day, by Arthur Frommer, Frommers 2007

The World’s Best Travel Experiences, by National Geographic, 2014

1,000 Places To See Before You Die, by Patricia Schultz, Workman Publishing, 2011

The Rough Guide to First-Time Around the World, by Doug Lanky, Rough Guides 2013

The Practical Nomad: How to Travel Around the World, Fifth Edition, by Edward Hasbrouk,  Avalon Travel, 2011

Vagabonding: An Uncommon Guide to the Art of Long Term World Travel, by Rolf Potts, Villlard Books, 2002

Travel guides: we liked and used Lonely Planet and Fodors for country research

 

Fiction – some travel themed favorites
Around the World With Auntie Mame by Patrick Dennis, Kindle edition, 2007

Eat Pray Love: One Woman’s Search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia.  by Elizabeth Gilbert. Penguin books, 2007

A Walk in the Woods, by Bill Bryson, Broadway books 1998

In a Sunburned Country, by Bill Bryson, Kindle edition 2011

Neither Here Nor There Travels in Europe, by Bill Bryson, Kindle edition

The Innocents Abroad, by Mark Twain, Kindle edition 2011

A Room with a View, by E.M Forster, Dover Thrift Editions, 1995

The Razor’s Edge by W. Somerset Maugham, (Vintage International) Kindle Edition, 2011

 

A Moveable Feast, by Ernest Hemingway, Scribner, 1996

 

News Articles

“Senior Nomads: A Grand Tour With 46 Oases” by Steven Kurutz, New York Times, February 26, 2015 

“Traveling the world with grandchildren” by John and Sally Macdonald, Seattle Times, October 9, 2015

“These 7 Families Will Change How You Think About Taking Your Kids On The Road” by Erin Bender, Sept 20, 2015 Matador Network.

“Now Working From Home Can Be Working While Seeing The World” by Molly Osberg, Wired Magazine, December 2015

“Family ditches classroom to take learning on the road” by Ethan Gilsdorf, Boston Globe, November 30, 2015 

“Gee and family sell everything to travel — and give back” by Molly Blake, December 15, 2015, today.com. 

“Retire? Not this D.C. couple, who spent 17 weeks trekking across the globe” by Travel Editor, Dec 3,2015, Washington Post 

“Why Are Americans So Afraid of Vacation?” by Laura Dannen Redman, December 21, 2015, Conde Nast Traveler 

 

Safety while traveling

Safety is a concern while traveling, but has to be balanced with being open to new experiences.

Leaving the USA, friends and relatives expressed concern that the world can be a dangerous place, and we would be exposed to too much risk, though we found we often felt more safe outside the USA than within it.  It was California where we witnessed a police chase, and Texas where my son was astonished to see someone carrying a handgun. Our closest encounter with the Ebola scare came when we had to travel through Dallas, TX on the way to a family event in Houston. It happened to be the month when there was an active Ebola case in Dallas, so upon LEAVING the US, we were subject to extra health screenings for Ebola before we could enter China and Singapore.

That is not to say our travel was entirely uneventful.  Once or twice we got lost in a less than desirable area, and had to backtrack to a major road quickly.  My husband was pick pocketed once, losing some cash. Our credit card was skimmed once, and it was a challenge to get a replacement card delivered to our small town in Greece. We were in the country of Australia when there was a terrorist shooting at a café, though we were hundreds of miles away from the event, and we had some uncomfortable moments in large crowds in India.

We had several strategies we followed to limit risk.

  • As we were traveling with an elementary school child, we made sure he always had a laminated card in his shoes and in a pocket with his name and passport info, our passport and phone numbers, the address of our home apartment in that country and emergency contacts in the USA. We helped him memorize our phone numbers, and that he knew to ask for the US consulate.  We always made sure we could all recite the address of our local “home.” My husband and I had similar laminated cards.
  • On arrival in a new country, we talked about and rehearsed what to do if we became separated when in a crowd or boarding a vehicle. We had a plan for who would stay put and who would find the other if the door closed when boarding a train, for example, and set a meeting place in crowded locations.   We learned a few key words in local language to ask for help and identified what the local police or security force uniforms looked like.
  • Our key documents were photocopied and kept in multiple locations. We also had digital copies saved online that could be retrieved if needed.
  • We tried to be aware of our surroundings, kept a close eye on our belongings, and researched our local city and country well before we arrived to know what was and wasn’t considered safe.
  • We also had an emergency fund, separate from our traveling money, of about three months expenses. We did end up calling on this fund, though it wasn’t for medical care, as we feared. We unexpectedly had to return to the US for a family matter, and were most glad to have the emergency funds accessible quickly. Thankfully, we only needed the emergency fund once
  • And on days we were moving from place to place, airport and train days, we all had a specific job, one person watches luggage, one person handles tickets and documents, and the third person navigates the airport or station, reading signs and determining where to go

 

Here are some safety strategies used by others traveling with kids:
http://expatexperiment.com/tips-help-lost-kids/

http://www.transitionsabroad.com/listings/travel/articles/travel_abroad_family_staying_safe.shtml

https://www.flipkey.com/blog/2011/11/11/6-safety-tips-for-traveling-abroad-with-kids/

http://mylittlenomads.com/tips-and-advice-for-traveling-with-children

Worldschooling?  What is that?

Worldschooling is an educational philosophy of using the world as your classroom.  Using elements of experiential learning and unit studIes, worldschooling is recognizing that education does not only take place inside the four walls of a school room, but is instead all around us.  One can learn anywhere.

This was a philosophy we found helpful while traveling, though it can be done in a single location just as easily.  Some use worldschooling as a way to describe “unschooling,” where children follow their interests rather than a set curriculum.  We did not use an unschooling approach, but rather, used the philosophy of Worldschooling as a way to organize location based learning.

Practically, while traveling we implemented a parent guided, “read it, do it” approach.  We would read a book about the place we were living or visiting.  This could be fiction, like a novel, folktales, or local myths, but could also include biographies, history, and even science and math books on occasion.  Then we would go and see the places described in the books.  For those familiar with homeschooling, our work was similar to a unit study, with a whole lot of field trips.  
What did this look like in practice?  Here are two examples from Europe.  This was targeted for a third grader (age 8-9).

Italy

We spent just under a month in Italy, visiting Rome, Florence and Venice.  In Italy, for science lessons,  we studied Galileo and Leonardo da Vinci.  We read biographies of both men.  Then, we visited the Galileo Museum, a hands on science center where where we tried recreating his experiments.  In Florence, we visited the Da Vinci museum, where we touched and tried full scale models of his inventions.  For math, we studied Roman Numerals, and then went to Rome, where we found and translated as many as we could.  Our history studies focused on Ancient Rome and Marco Polo.  We read books and stories about Rome and the gladiators, and then we went to the Coliseum, the Forum, and Pompeii.  We read about the adventures of Marco Polo, and then went to find his family’s home in Venice.  In art, we read about Renaissance artists and then went to Florence where we went to the art museums and looked at the architecture.  In Venice, we made our own Venietian masks and toured the glass makers of Murano, where we saw glass being blown and tried it ourselves.  Our language work was one week of traveler’s Italian and two weeks of Latin word roots.  English practice was daily journal and postcard writing.  

Even though we only formally studied Ancient Rome in Italy, we enjoyed seeing Roman ruins in other parts of Europe, as we continued our travels.  Over the course of a summer, we covered about half the Roman world and really got a sense of how far they went.  England: “look they were here” France: “hey, more Roman walls” Spain: “oh, Romans again”

Vikings

We spent six weeks on the Vikings, following them on their path from England, to Denmark, and Norway.  We read Viking myths and histories.  The British museum in London had a huge Viking exhibit with many family activities, like writing in runes and designing Viking style jewelry.  We toured Viking sites in York, where we participated in a hands on archeology dig at the Jorvik Viking center.  In Denmark we visited a Viking village, dressed in Viking clothes, swung a Viking sword, and saw more museums than we could count with Viking artifacts.  In Norway, we walked through stave churches, rowed a Viking ship across a fjord, powered a bellows for a blacksmith’s forge, and hammered decorative patterns into a metal Thor’s hammer necklace.  

I have no doubt that Boy will retain more of these studies than if he simply read a textbook and completed a worksheet on Viking ships and their explorations.  Dad and I learned a fair amount, too. Dad swore he never wanted to row a Viking ship, again.

For more examples of our content and curriculum, check out our book selections here:

https://moveablegeography.wordpress.com/our-world-school-reading-list/

Here are other families who teach while traveling:

http://freecampingaussie.hubpages.com/hub/Ways-To-Teach-Children-While-Travelling

What is worldschooling?

Traveling homeschool families

Road schooling

Some of our favorites

We are often asked about our favorite or best stops along the trip.  Each place had its moments, but here is a selection of our most memorable experiences.
Cape Town, South Africa: The Best Scenery

https://moveablegeography.wordpress.com/2014/10/06/where-two-oceans-meet/

Rajasthan, India: Nothing Like Our Expectations

https://moveablegeography.wordpress.com/2014/11/13/through-the-desert-on-the-silk-road/


The Amazon: A Local Village Carnaval Celebration and the Amazon Jungle 

https://moveablegeography.wordpress.com/2015/02/24/deepest-darkest-peru-the-amazon/

https://moveablegeography.wordpress.com/2015/02/24/carnaval-in-the-amazon-rainforest/

Athens, Greece:  “Please, can we go to a museum?”

https://moveablegeography.wordpress.com/2014/07/29/how-to-make-your-family-plead-for-a-museum-day/

Vikings!!

https://moveablegeography.wordpress.com/?s=Vikings&submit=Search

What’s next?

This is a post I’ve been delaying.  It’s been about a month and I wasn’t ready to commit, yet.  

After 15 months of travel, 26 countries, and every form of transportation imaginable, we have stopped our Round the World travels.  We had planned and budgeted for 11 months of travel, which we stretched to 15.  Landing in Dallas, Texas, USA,  we are now renovating an old house.  While the work is being done, we’ve arranged a local apartment. Boy is enrolled in a nearby school.  Dad and I are looking for new work, and the suitcases are being unpacked.  We are sad to end our long term travel, but looking forward to new opportunities.  Boy is really enjoying having regular playmates. 

Our suitcase debris