Wednesday, October 24, 2012


© Markus Langer -
I'm baaaaaack!

Sorry for the long absence.  Its been a little crazy around here.  I know you understand.

One thing I'm trying to accomplish this year is more outdoor activities.  We're not a particularly outdoorsy family.  Yet, we enjoy time outside.  How does that work?  Well, sometimes I think we just need some motivation and purpose to our outings.

This past weekend we tried something new - orienteering.

I had never heard of orienteering.  My husband said, "Oh yeah!  I used to do that as a kid."  Really?  Ya learn something new every day!

I think orienteering is a great activity for homeschoolers because it includes skills in math, geography, decision making, and physical activity.  So, what is orienteering?  In a nutshell:  you go to an organized orienteering event where you choose a level of difficulty and are given a map.  Using the map, a compass, and your feet, you find your way through a plotted out course.  There are designated points on the map that you find and check in using a punch (either manual or electronic).  The course is timed and usually the top finishers get some sort of prize.  Our family went primarily for the beautiful scenery and a nice hike.  I haven't checked, but I'm pretty confident we came in dead last.  Really, that doesn't concern us at all because we didn't go for the competition...this time.

Its probably best that you learn a little about how to orient before you go to an event.  In our case, we were into the woods before we realized that we really didn't know what we were doing.  Luckily, we could call upon my son's Boy Scout powers to help us through.  Also, we chose the easiest course so all but one of our checkpoints were along a well established trail.

If you're interested in trying orienteering, these websites may be helpful:
Please use precautions when going to YouTube as the videos in the sidebar are not always family friendly nor is it usually a safe place for kids to visit on their own. : This site is the U.S. Orienteering site.  Here you can locate an event near you as well as get more information on orienteering in general. : A dated but useful video on what to expect when you go to an orienteering event. : A quick and easy to understand video on how to use an orienteering compass. : A video a little more in depth on how to use an orienteering compass presented by a company that makes compasses. : This YouTube video can teach you how to orient using bearings without a map.  We didn't encounter this on our trek, but it might be handy to know at some point.

Before going on our first outing, we discovered what we should take with us:  water, an orienteering compass (you may be able to rent/borrow one from the organizers if you don't have one or forget), a whistle to blow in case you get lost, and clothing suited to the weather.  Our experience was that there were people of all sorts orienteering that day - scouts, families, adults, kids, retired people, and all were enjoying themselves.  We were beginners and felt welcomed.  Any questions we had were happily answered by those  organizing the event at the beginning of the course.  They were all very helpful.

Finally, if  you do go orienteering, have fun! We did.  Even the grumpy kid who had better things to do that day said at the end he would like to go do it again.


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