Yosemite National Park


yosemite park

We are moving out west now! If you are on the West Coast or in the Southwest Region these next couple of weeks we will cover parks that you have to see. We are beginning with the beautiful Yosemite National Park!

“First protected in 1864, Yosemite National Park is best known for its waterfalls, but within its nearly 1,200 square miles, you can find deep valleys, grand meadows, ancient giant sequoias, a vast wilderness area, and much more.” – National Parks Website

History of the Park

The Gold Rush is what brought the first non-native visitors to the area around 1850. In 1851 a battalion of U.S. troops began exploring it while searching out Native Americans so that they could end the conflict. After being in Yosemite, the members of that battalion began spreading the word of the area’s grandeur and beauty.

In 1855 the first visitors came to see the natural beauty and wonder. This is when people saw an opportunity to make money off of the tourists. Soon the visitors had places to stay and eat before heading into Yosemite. A homesteader named Galen Clark then discovered the beauty of what is now known as “Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias.” After seeing their beauty he began a long fight to protect them and the greater Yosemite Valley from lodging and homesteading. After gaining political support they finally were able to get Abraham Lincoln, in the heat of the Civil War, to sign the “Yosemite Grant.” This officially protected the park from homesteading and lodging. In 1890, the park was official deemed a National Park.

Top Attractions

Yosemite Valley – This valley is world renowned for its waterfalls, meadows, cliffs, and amazing rock formations. This is certainly a main attraction for any visitor. Hiking, biking, photography, bird-watching, and many more outdoor activities are available. This valley is open all year!

Glacier Point – This view is incredible and allows you to over look Yosemite Falls, the Half Dome, and Yosemite Valley. There is a road in the park that takes you to just a short walk away from the point.


Yosemite Museum – This museum studies the cultural and historical development of the park and is right next door to the visitor’s center.

For more things to do or places to visit go here: http://www.nps.gov/yose/planyourvisit/basicinfo.htm

Places to Stay

This park is 3 hours SW of Sacramento which if you stayed in Sacrament you could make it a long day and still see the park. If you do not want to commute to the park here are some places to stay:

Lodging at the Park & Camping

If you live in the area, make sure you take advantage of it by seeing this park. This park is rivaled by few in the world with it’s beauty and variety of natural environments. Go, take a trip to Yosemite National Park!


Summer Homeschooling:

5 Ways to Not Waste Your Summer!

Water Ballon Quote

If only this was all that had to happen…

Although huge water balloon fights are an awesome and a pivotal part of any summer there other ways you can make sure that your summer is not wasted. We all know that summer’s need to be fun. Kid’s need a break and a time to just be kids without wondering if they are “supposed” to be learning or not. The warm weather also allows families to get outside, take trips, enjoy the water, have water balloon fights, enjoy slip-n-slides in the backyard and everything else that makes summer awesome. We want you to have that, but we also want your kids to keep their minds active too.

With these five ideas we hope to provide you with ways where you can balance your summer between pure family fun and opportunities to learn.

1. Summer Reading Lists or Challenges.

Summer Reading List

“A good book is an event in my life.” Stendhal

This is a long understood idea, but sometimes the best ideas are the simplest. Summer reading lists are easy for kids that love to read. Give them a list of classic books or more popular books. You can give them some voice in which books appear in the list or make the list yourself. If your child loves to read they won’t need any convincing or a reward. Summer can’t be spent entirely outside so this is a great way to keep them learning and stimulated. There are so many lists to choose from! Make sure you explore all your options for books your child should read.

If you child is not an AVID reader this may seem challenging or not worth the time. There are a lot of kids that are much more excited about climbing trees, swimming, playing sports or fishing and it can seem daunting to make your child sit down and read. In this situation we recommend that you’re not so demanding that you make their summer miserable for them! Summer is the perfect time for them to be outside. With that being said reading is still important and really valuable. We would recommend that you make the list smaller and more manageable, and then create a reward system. For however many books they read they get a certain reward: ice cream, day with mom/dad, more time in the pool or at a lake etc. Your goal is to foster a love for reading and you will not foster a love for reading by shoving it down your kid’s throats. On the other hand if you encourage them to read by rewarding it you may soon see that they will discover what a joy it is to read!

2. Family Vacations Involving History or Culture.

Summertime is always the time to travel. Families around the country are planning their long weekends, day-trips and even the epic family road trips. We do not want to tell you HOW to vacation but we would like to point out that there are ways to use vacation to stimulate your kids educationally in such a way that it doesn’t feel like school!

One of the best ways to do that is to plan to visit museums, national parks or historic sites during your vacation. Your kids will see new things and learn about history and culture while also enjoying time together as a family and making memories. Another way to approach this is to be a part of some local or even national cultural experiences. If you live near a big city these happen all the time. In larger cities there tends to be a lot of cultural diversity and because of that festivals abound celebrating different cultures.

3. Shorter Unit or Nature Studies.

Short unit studies are a great way to take a relaxed approach to doing some school work. You could spend 3 weeks doing a nature study. You could spend 4 weeks covering a very specific historical time or event. It also gives you the opportunity to experience something you wouldn’t have time for during the year. This is a no pressure (on your or your kids!) way to do some real school sprinkled into your summer.

4. Teach Practical Skills and Life Skills


Shaving is a life skill, but only for those that have hair. 

Homeschooling has a huge advantage over public schooling in that homeschool students can help their families and parents on a daily basis by being productive and learning hands-on skills that will enable them to succeed in real life and in the future. Cooking or doing laundry, changing the oil, mowing the lawn, gardening, cleaning around the house, woodwork, basic repairs and so much more! There are always more skills to learn. This opportunity expands even more in the Summer. As Mom and Dad you can focus on teaching your kids to be productive, to problem-solve, to be well-rounded people through the learning of life skills. Summer is perfect for this.

5. Make Memories! (The most important!)

The most important thing about summer is that it becomes about family and making memories. If you don’t finish your reading list (who does??) and you don’t go on that epic educational vacation but you laughed a lot, spent a lot of time together, and made a lot of memories, you have succeeded!

You can only do so much and sometimes we, and our kids, need that epic summer of absolute fun! You are in the perfect position as a parent to sense what your family needs. Come up with a game plan as a couple. Figure out what you want to do, and if you need to bail out on it halfway through your summer, do it. Have a summer full of fun and memories.

Take a Trip, Midwest: Yellowstone National Park!

Idaho, Montana, Wyoming


This park is one of the last natural ecosystems in Earth’s temperate zone. It was created because it holds most of the world’s geysers inside, and it also contains herds of bison and elk along with wolves and bears! Yellowstone is a wonder of nature and full of beauty so let’s go take a trip!

History of the Park

Many Native Americans were using this land as part of their home and would have been part of the natural development of the land. But the first European Americans that encountered what is now Yellowstone National Park was in the early 1800’s.  The first organized expedition to explore this diverse land was in 1870. Very soon after this expedition, after seeing the wonders of this area, the park was founded and protected in 1872! That is really early compared to some of the parks we have already explored! The railroad arrived in 1883, which made the park much more accessible to travelers and because of that and westward expansion and development the park opened up to automobiles in 1915. It is one of America’s oldest treasures!

Top Attractions

Yellowstone is a huge park. Yellowstone is also much more isolated than Grand Teton National park and so there is more planning that needs to happen to enjoy this park. If you are passing through it is much more difficult to really appreciate all that Yellowstone has to offer, but if that is all you are doing you will still see a lot of cool things. Bison roam everywhere! On the other hand if you make Yellowstone your destination and enjoy camping you can really dig into everything that the park has to offer. You will drive a lot no matter what! Lets see what is here!

Outdoorsman’s Heaven – Yellowstone is filled with camping, boating, hiking, bicycling and ranger-led activities that would keep any outdoorsman busy for weeks! Much like Grand Teton National Park, Yellowstone is rich with the opportunity to connect with the world around you and to experience nature in a way that no other place on earth can offer!

Here is a map of the park. The park’s main road is made into a circle because there are a 5 enterances that surround the park.

yellowstone map

Hot Springs Along the Loop – Hot Springs are all along this route. These springs come up from deep inside the earth and make for a spectacular viewing experience. Although, you should know, that because of the sulfur in the springs the smell is far from pleasant.

Old Faithful – Old Faithful is obviously the most famous stop. This geyser goes off about every two hours, sometimes sooner and sometimes later. It is a grand display of nature! When you go see this you will have plenty of great seating but unless your really lucky, plan on sitting for a while before you get to see it.

Other Attractions – Make sure you visit the West Thumb, where you will see awesome hot springs. Make sure you also check out the Yellowstone Falls! These falls are a little bit of a hike off of the main road but worth it if you can make it. There are a few other attractions listed here: http://www.nps.gov/yell/planyourvisit/placestogo.htm

Places to Stay

This park is isolated from any major cities or towns to stay in therefore the park has the corner of the market when it comes to places to stay. If you are not just driving through as we did you will want to take advantage of the campgrounds. There are 12 campgrounds to stay at! But if camping is not your thing then the park does have 9 lodged totaling up to 2,000 rooms. Which means there should be room for you!

For more information go here.

Take a Trip, Mid-West: The Badlands

South Dakota


This was another great park that we were able to visit, but were only able to do a quick tour. You could spend hours in this amazing park! This park spans 244,000 acres! It is filled with unique geologic deposits that are like “micro mountains.” These deposits contain some of the richest concentration of fossils and contain animals that once roamed here! This park is rugged and beautiful, and is open to hiking and rock climbing. Lets discover this park together!

History of the Park

The badlands were unprotected until 1939 when President Roosevelt declared that it was a National Monument. It was not until 1978 that it was officially made an National Park. Before it was declared by President Roosevelt to be a National Monument, locals had recognized it as protected and had been fighting for it to be officially protected. In the 1920’s two men: homesteader Ben Millard and U.S. Senator Norbeck, fought for nearly a decade to make it protected. In 1929 they finally had gotten the result they were looking for, when it gained approval to be considered a National Monument.

Top Attractions

Highway Loop 240 – If you don’t have more than a day at this park, the views and beauty of the park will be the best part. The Badlands are filled with such a unique array of landscape, and the geologic deposits are so unique you will want to take them in as much as you can. This loop that goes through the park will give you a front row seat to the beauty that this national monument has to offer.

Hiking – This has been a theme with many of our National Parks. But this is one park where if you have the time, you will definitely want to hike some of the trails that this park contains. You will need to make sure you bring water, sunglasses and a hat because of the arid conditions. Throughout this park you can go on trails that allow you to climb some of these geologic deposits, experience the prairie and get up close and personal with this unique setting. You won’t be able to hike like this anywhere else and you wont want to miss it. Here is a link to different trails in the park: http://www.nps.gov/badl/planyourvisit/hiking.htm

Night Sky Viewing – Have you ever seen those pictures of the night sky that you just don’t get from your backyard? That is because of all the light that our cities produce. Out in the badlands there is little to no light pollution, which gives you a stunning view of the stars. There is a campground where you and your family can enjoy this awesome opportunity to gaze at the stars.

Places to Stay

There are just a couple of spots to stay. If you want to spend more time at this park, camping will be the route you should go. If you love the outdoors and have the time, this would be a great place to enjoy your passion! Here is a link to a listing of places to stay: http://www.nps.gov/badl/planyourvisit/eatingsleeping.htm

This park was amazing to just drive to and check out, I cannot imagine what it would be like to spend a weekend camping there!

Take a trip to: Jackson Hole & Grand Teton National Park!

Grand Teton National Park

Grand Teton National Park

 Jackson Hole, Wyoming

This park has an average of 2.5 million visitors a year. It is one of the top 10 most visited National Parks in the country! Lets go see why! This park is a beautiful spot for families to enjoy the amazing diversity of nature. You will experience impressive mountains, glaciers, rivers, mossy wetlands and much more. You could see a diverse range of animals and ecosystems. Not only will it be beautiful but it will also be quite a learning experience!

History of the Park

The park was originally established in 1872. From 1907-1911 the park took up the task of putting in dams to regulate water flow. In 1929 President Calvin Coolidge signed an executive order to expand the boundaries to include the Teton Mountain Range, which made it 96,000 acres!

Major Attractions

Jackson Lake Dam – This dam was built in 1905 and upgraded to a cement dam in 1916. This dam is quite a site! It’s last upgrade was in 1986. This dam has raised the natural lake level 30 feet since it’s inception! Amazing! This is a beautiful site!

Beautiful Scenic Drives – Grand Teton National Park offers some amazing driving tours. The roads that go through this park offer a wonderful opportunity for viewing the amazing diversity in the natural landscape. Including the epic 42-mile scenic loop!

Hiking/Climbing/Biking – This park also offers great opportunities for the outdoor enthusiast. There are great hiking and biking trails, also fishing and camping opportunities as well. It would be a great destination for any bucket list outdoor experiences.

Jackson Hole Rodeo – Another great attraction is in the city of Jackson Hole, where a rich history of rodeos continues. People of any age would be able to enjoy this!

Links to more information:

For more attractions go here — http://www.grand-teton.org/plan-visit/top-10-attractions/

Where to Stay

grand view lodge

There are a lot of places you can stay, hotels, lodges etc! We stayed at the Grand View Lodge, which is associated with Snow King Resort. This was a beautiful location with a wonderful view of the mountains surrounding the Grand Teton Range. For detailed information on places to stay go here: http://www.grand-teton.org/plan-visit/top-10-places-stay/

Fees & Costs of Park

To gain access in the park, each vehicle must pay a one-time fee that is good for that vehicle for 7 days. Meaning you pay one time, and have unlimited access for 7 days! This is great!

Vehicles: $25

Motorcycles: $20

Individuals (Hiking or Biking): $12

This park has so much to offer you and your family!

Take a trip to: Dinosaur National Park!


We travelled here during our WinterPromise trip! This was a wonderful opportunity to see some amazing fossils and so many of them! This park is a must see for any family that wants to become more familiar with the dinosaurs that lived in this part of the world.

This park is home to visible dinosaur fossils! These great beasts once roamed the earth and now in this unique park you and your family can see their fossils right in the ground where they once walked! Who doesn’t love dinosaurs!?

History of the Park

The land where the park is currently has been home to Native Americans for a long time before we made it a national park. The art in the rocks reveal that we are walking on and next to history! The Shoshone were the most recent people to live in the land and some still do in the area.

The fossils were first discovered in 1909, by paleontologist Earl Douglass. President Woodrow Wilson in 1915  officially declare the fossil beds as “Dinosaur National Monument.” At the time it was only 80 acres in size but were expanded in 1938 to the incredible 200,00 acres it is today!

Major Attractions

 What would you want to see here? There are some really cool sites to see. Let’s take a look!

Quarry Exhibit Hall – This is the main attraction for this park. You can now view the roughly 1,500 fossils that’s still lay in the rock visibly. You will walk inside a comfortable building with the rock wall inside creating an awesome viewing experience! Along with that you can see an exhibit that talks about the dinosaurs that have their bones in that rock wall! Amazing!

NOTE: You must go to the exhibit information center about 1/4 mile away and then be shuttled over to the exhibit.

dino wall 3

Hiking, Trails, Rafting – In the expansive and mountainous park there is a beautiful river, amazing mountains to view, trails to hike and even a river to raft down!  The hiking and rafting would not be ideal for families but for couples who are experienced in hiking this may be a wonderful opportunity.

Find more information here: http://www.nps.gov/dino/planyourvisit/placestogo.htm

Eating and Sleeping

Where could you stay? Within the park itself there are no hotels or lodging available. But there are a number of RV campgrounds in the park. This would be a great way to spend some family time if you took an RV out to Dinosaur National Monument. It also would mean you could make it a whole trip out west.

Local communities are the places to get good restaurant food. But if you brought food with you, there are a lot of great viewing places that would make for a great picnic!

More information is here: http://www.nps.gov/dino/planyourvisit/eatingsleeping.htm


“Take a Trip!” Mid-West Region

Historical Parks!

Homestead National Park!


We are beginning our tour of the National Parks this summer and we are going to begin in the Mid-West Region! This will follow our “Take a Trip” WinterPromise trip! Use this as an opportunity to learn about different parks you may want to visit with your family someday! Enjoy!

Homestead National Monument

This monument was built to honor the Homestead Act of 1862. The Homestead Act of 1862 played a huge role in the expansion of the west. With this act the United States enabled anyone to claim land and build a “homestead” for their family. 272 million acres were made available! That is 10% of the United States! This encouraged and allowed pioneers to travel large distances to start a new life. This park is a celebration of American freedom and the rights of every single person to live and provide for themselves and their families.

History of the Park


After enacting the Homestead Act in 1862, in 1909 there was a desire in the residence of Nebraska to build a monument on the property where it is today. This property was the first property claimed under the Homestead Act, it is known as the Freeman property.

It took 30 years of behind the scenes work before anything was accomplished. In 1925, a powerful congressional leader named George W. Norris also began to push for the National Monument to be built on the Freeman property. Only after the Congressman began fighting for the cause did any real change begin to happen. In 1935 a proposal was made by  Senator Norris to the United State House of Representatives for the creation of the National Monument. It was passed on March 16th, 1936.

Homestead National Park is managed by the National Parks service and has been since it’s creation. In 1971 the construction of a single-building prairie school house added another dimension to the experience for visitors. This would give visitors an idea of what life was like for a Nebraska schoolboy.

Learn More Here: http://www.nps.gov/home/learn/historyculture/creationhomesteadmonument.htm

Major Attractions

Homestead Heritage Center – Learn about the history and scope of the Homestead Act in this amazing museum and information center. You can also view the film: “Land of Dreams: Homesteading American.” You can learn so much here, even the parking lot has an education twist. It is one acre in size!

Freeman School – Want to see an old fashioned school district? This one-building school was known officially as District 21. The schoolhouse played a huge role in the culture and development of the prairie west. The park has restored the building to make it look much like it did in 1871.

Palmer-Epard Cabin – This cabin is 14 miles away from Homestead National Monument. It was moved to the monument in 1950 so that visitors could appreciate and see what a “luxurious” cabin was like for families on the prairies in the late 1800’s. It is 10ft x 12ft, and would house families of up to 10 kids! Between this and the school your children will be thankful for what they have!

You can learn more about the cabin here: http://www.nps.gov/home/planyourvisit/p-ecabin.htm


WinterPromise is stopping here and will have pictures up of what we experience! This would be a great place to visit on a trip out west. If you are planning to do American Story 2 or American Culture sometime this trip would be a great way to bring history to life for your children!

Go to this link to see what an itinerary would look like: http://www.nps.gov/home/planyourvisit/itineraries.htm

Sweeping Into the West (https://winterpromise.com/product/sweeping-west-ebook/) – 106 Pages

This WinterPromise exclusive is included in our American Culture program. This resource written by Kaeryn Brooks takes your students on a journey from the wake of the Civil War, to heading out west, to seeing the plight of the Native American tribes and much more! It would be a great resource to bring along with you as you visit, or if you can’t take a trip like this it would still be a great way to bring the history of the west to life for your kids. Available in Ebook and Print!