Wecome To RVs and OHVs

This blog is all about RVs (recreational vehicles) and OHVs (Off Highway Vehicles), camping, and survival
and how they work together to provide wholesome family fun and great learning opportunities.
Many posts are intended to familiarize novice campers and RVers with RV systems and basic camping and survival
skills. But even experienced RVers and campers will enjoy the anecdotes and may even benefit from a new
perspective. Comments, questions, and suggestions are encouraged.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Family Teaching Moments In Camping

RVing, OHVing, and camping provide many family"teaching moments".  I often took advantage of the clear, desert skies for impromptu astronomy lessons for my kids. They all soon knew how to find the north star using the Big Dipper and to recognize Orion, Cassiopeia, and the Seven Sisters. None of that would have been possible back in our suburban home where city lights completely obscure the Milky Way.  By the way, did you know there are only six stars in the Seven Sisters?   Or that it is the logo for Subaru?  I have a small telescope we use for star gazing.  It is big enough that we can see the rings of Saturn and the red spot on Jupiter.  Having a few esoteric facts about things you might encounter during an outing provides both entertainment and education.  There are many good books on astronomy. I think the best ones are also the simplest. I have a thick volume on astronomy that seldom gets used, but I keep one about the size of a Readers Digest Magazine handy to get quick answers to most of the questions that come up around the campfire.  And you never know when your knowledge might be challenged.  I once made a comment about "basking in the glow of a hydrogen fusion furnace 93 millions miles away"  (the Sun) only to have a fellow camper challenge the distance.  He thought it was only about 3 million miles, which would put us so close our oceans and even our atmosphere would evaporate and burn away.  I pulled out one of my astronomy books to prove my facts and he promptly refused to believe what was right there in front of his face in black and white!  He said he'd look it up on the Internet when he got home!  Yeah, like everything you read on the Internet is true! For what its worth, I do strive to avoid spreading any falsehoods through this blog. You really don't need to know the details of celestial mechanics or the chemistry of stars to appreciate the beauty and the mythology associated with the major constellations. Teaching moments can be impromptu or planned. Usually the best ones, the ones that make lasting impressions, are ones that at least seem to just happen, even if you've planned ahead for them (like my astronomy lessons). Keep your eyes open and pay attention to opportunities to share experiences with your kids and grand kids while you're out camping. Weather and nature will present many chances for discussion and scientific learning. The geology of many regions is often evident and illustrates the history of our planet better than any book. The route from our home to our favorite dirt bike riding areas in he Mojave Desert took us across the San Andreas fault and the swirls created by its movement were clearly visible where the freeway cut deep across the fault, showing up as a big "S" in the layers of the rock. Who knew rock could bend?  You will find interesting geology just about everywhere you go. 

Life lessons. I have found some excellent parables in dirt biking to help my kids maintain their perspective on life. For example, focusing on obstacles in your way turns them into "magnetic rocks" that seem to attract your front wheel. You always want to look where you want to go, not at what you want to avoid. Similarly, when climbing a hill, look over the top, not at the obstacles part way up. If you concentrate on the obstacles or difficult section, that's as far as you're going to get, but if your focus is over the top of the hill, that is where you are going to go. These techniques have direct applications in everyday life. If you focus on your problems, they tend to dominate you while focusing on the path through them or beyond them yields a much more productive course. Along the same lines, it is really important to keep things in perspective. Consider the following exercise.  Hold a penny by the edge between your thumb and forefinger and hold it up close to your eye so you're looking right at Honest Abe. You will notice that, first of all, the penny nearly blocks your entire view and secondly, that you cannot see the penny clearly. The same thing happens when we focus too intently on our problems. They block out everything else and we can't even see the problems clearly. Think what happens when you hold the penny out at arms length and see it in perspective with the rest of your surroundings. It no longer blocks out everything and not only can you see it more clearly, you can see it in relationship to everything else and recognize its relative size and value. Similarly, when we view our problems correctly and in perspective we can see them more clearly and measure more effectively their significance -- or insignificance.  If it won't make any difference 300 years from now, don't worry about it, especially if you can't do anything about it right now anyway.

Responsibility. Our modern world seems to have lost touch with the concept of personal responsibility. Liberal politicians and other "do-gooders" keep shifting personal responsibility away from individuals to "society". They blame "society" for the murderer, the gang-banger, the rapist, the alcoholic, and the drug-addict instead of holding people personally accountable for their own choices and actions. While society unfortunately does contribute to and sometimes fosters evil or criminal behavior, much of what goes on is completely due to poor choices made by individuals.   OHV activities provide many opportunities for riders to learn and exercise personal responsibility, starting with cleaning, organizing, and maintaining their equipment and extending to responsible riding behavior. I found dirt-biking gave my kids opportunities to develop both individual self esteem for their personal accomplishments on difficult trails and team work in assisting other riders -- or accepting assistance -- when needed. They also learned (sometimes quite painfully, physically and/or fiscally) that it pays to take proper care of their equipment. And it seldom took more than one time leaving something at home to teach them to make sure they packed everything.

Outdoor skills. There are many outdoor skills that are nurtured in RVing, OHVing, and camping that will serve you and your kids well. Building campfires, caring for the environment, cooking, and first aid are just a few of the fundamental outdoor activities to be exercised while camping. Almost everything we learn from camping helps give us skills that can be used in dealing with disasters where the normal facilities and conveniences we enjoy and take for granted may be interrupted.

Lesson plans? For the most part, you don't need any formal lesson plans. Just be prepared to recognize and take advantage of the opportunities that present themselves. Some things, such as astronomy, may require a little advance work (unless you're already a skilled astronomer and already know the constellations and the movement of the planets) so you'll be prepared when you get the chance, but many lessons are taught most effectively by example: cleaning up around your camp site; stopping to help another rider out on the trail; lending your tools and expertise to assist fellow campers; properly maintaining your RV, OHV, and camping equipment -- good examples in these areas will have more impact than hundreds of hours of lecturing. If you don't already have good campfire building skills, you may be able to learn together with you kids. Shared learning is an excellent bonding experience and doesn't necessarily mean your kids will think any less of you because you don't "know it all". The very example you set by admitting and overcoming your own limitations will give your kids life lessons that will help them better deal with the problems they will face throughout their lives. As my kids' riding abilities grew roles switched to where they were teaching me new riding tricks.

Science. Camping provides opportunities to examine many different kinds of science. Campfires demonstrate the "fire triangle" (fuel, heat, oxygen) and are a chance to teach basic fire safety principals. Clear night skies are natural laboratories for astronomy. Every day presents opportunities to explore weather patterns. Exploring stream beds can illustrate the effects of erosion and sometimes reveals geologic features of interest and sometimes even fossils. Observing local plants and animals offer lessons in biology. Maintaining your RV, OHV, and camping equipment teaches mechanical and maintenance skills. Even more cerebral subjects such as mathematics have applications in calculating food, water, fuel, and travel requirements. Map-reading and navigation can be practiced. Even domestic sciences, such as cooking, sewing, and housekeeping also have their place in outdoor recreational activities.

You're ALWAYS teaching. Unless you live the life of a hermit, you are always teaching someone around you, whether they are your spouse, kids, neighbors, or strangers. Sometimes all we teach is what idiots we are ("no one is totally worthless: they can always serve as a horrible example"), but with a little thought as to what we're doing and an awareness that we're "always on", we can make our lessons positive ones -- for ourselves as well as for those around us. For generations, moms have taught their kids to set a good example. We would all do well to remember and follow that lesson.

Remember: example, example, example! "What you are speaks so loudly I can't hear what you're saying!"

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