It’s a big, big world after all and child development experts say exposing kids to new things and cultures widens their horizons, increases their empathy for others, encourages creativity, and can improve those all important test scores. With busy schedules and bitsy budgets though, how can you realistically take one of those vacations that tops bucket lists like traveling abroad, visiting our nation’s capitol, and going to see Mickey and Minnie at Disney? We’ve assembled some first-hand experience to help our readers crack the code on family vacay success. Whether you’re going some time this year or this decade, here are top tips for tipping the scales in your favor.
We certainly don’t want to forget dynamite destinations right here in The Natural State. Arkansas is amazing from border to border and is a perfect addition to any bucket list. Every month Little Rock Family highlights great things to do in our great state. This month’s feature family, the Buckleys, shares one of their favorite places—Hobbs State Park-Conservation Area.
It’s Arkansas’ largest state park in land area covering 12,056 acres of diverse Ozark landscape along the southern shore of 28,370-acre Beaver Lake. Twenty-two miles of the park’s 60 miles of border stretch along Beaver Lake. The park goes through Benton, Madison and Carroll counties and consists of plateaus, ridges, valleys, and streams featuring an upland forest. It boasts unusual water features which include disappearing streams that have carved hollows into the fragile limestone landscape creating cave-related elements and sinkholes.
Hobbs has a 17,531 square foot visitor center, a wide variety of trails, programs, summer camps and activities, and the only public, outdoor shooting range in Arkansas with a bullet trap. Go to ArkansasStateParks.com for more information on Hobbs and all other Arkansas state park offerings for family fun.
Drop by Bass Pro Shops Little Rock this weekend (July 26 & 27) for a family-friendly event hosted by the outdoor store and Professional Bull Riders, Inc. (PBR). The free family fun includes crafts, face painting, costume contests, bull roping and free gifts.
From noon-4 p.m. July 26 & 27, kids can make a cactus cowboy craft, show off roping skills in the bull roping arena (don't worry, parents -- no live bulls!), have their faces painted like Flint the Entertainer, and saddle up a stick horse to race friends.
Plus, on Sunday, July 27, kids can participate in a Cowboy and Cowgirl costume contest. One winner will receive a $50 Bass Pro Shops Gift Card. Judging will begin at 2:30 p.m.
For more info on the PBR Family Event at Bass Pro Shops Little Rock, click here.
Dream of fall and football season this Wednesday (July 23) at the free outdoor showing of the flick "Friday Night Lights" (rated PG-13). The 2004 film starring Billy Bob Thornton is this week's Movies in the Park screening at Riverfront Park's First Security Amphitheatre.
Movies in the Park presents free films screened outdoors at the First Security Amphitheatre in Little Rock's River Market. Audiences can bring picnics (no glass containers) and settle onto the grassy field or snag seats in the amphitheater. Concessions will be available for purchase, including soft drinks, candy and popcorn, hot dogs, ice cream and more.
The park opens at 6:30 p.m., and films begin at sundown. The final film of the Movies in the Park 2014 season will be "E.T." on July 30. For more information, click here.
“Wow, I could never do that,” say most people when I tell them that I homeschool my children. Questioning them generally reveals that a lot of parents feel inadequate to home educate. They think that if they don’t have a college degree, or if they never took algebra, or if they cannot speak a foreign language, then they are ill-equipped to teach these things to their kids.
But homeschooling doesn’t require that you actually teach your children everything—as long as you provide the means by which the child learns. As homeschooling mom of six Lori Murafka-Orme puts it, “I will admit I’m not able to teach everything…that’s OK. It’s important to recognize your weaknesses and figure out ways around them.”
Perhaps you’ve gotten up the courage to take the plunge, remove your children from a conventional school setting, and homeschool them; but you have no clue where to begin. Here are a few ideas to get you going.
New homeschoolers must network. Visit a support group. To find one, ask at your public library or search online. Join one that fits the needs and personalities of your family, making friends for yourself and your children. Homeschooling mom Christie Clark feels that, especially for the first five years, a support group is a necessity. “The amount of support and encouragement,” she says, “is imperative.”
For several years my family hosted a small co-op in our home. Two other families joined us every Friday to study language, science, state history and nutrition. All our children were close in age, making the lessons easier to prepare. Each mom taught either what she felt comfortable with or had certain qualifications to teach. We changed classes with each semester. If you cannot find an established co-op, and would like to start your own, I recommend Homeschool Co-ops 101 by homeschooling parent Karen Lange.
Lorene left an engineering career when she had her first child. She teaches algebra for moms that feel unqualified to do so in exchange for other services. Holly, an accomplished artist, teaches art to homeschoolers. Mike hosts a chess club in his home. How do you find these parents willing to share their knowledge with more than their own children? Network—meet people and make your needs (and strengths) known.
My daughter wanted to learn cake decorating. We found a class at a craft store in a nearby city. She took several classes there and excelled in each one. My son wants to learn photography. Our county Parks and Recreation Department offers just the course. We struggled to learn Spanish together as a family. We were unsure of ourselves and inconsistent. Then we saw an ad in the paper for free Spanish classes offered at a local church. The instructor? A retired college Spanish professor wanting to make a difference. We are now well on our way to understanding our Hispanic neighbors.
Some families hire private tutors for the subjects with which they feel uncomfortable. Murafka-Orme feels that what works best for her family is to pay for services or to participate in co-ops that charge a fee. “This way everyone is on the same page and knows the expectations being set,” she says. To find tutors, ask older homeschooling moms in your support group or call the local schools. Many teachers moonlight tutoring and some may recommend their brightest students for the job.
For high school juniors and seniors, dual enrollment at a local community college is an option. The child gets both high school and college credit for the courses taken. Clark, who has homeschooled her four children for 11 years, says that “the community colleges are accepting of homeschoolers and this is an excellent avenue for the higher math, science, and foreign languages courses.”
A myriad of educational opportunities exist online. Several math and science curricula now offer companion DVD’s that tutor the student. Bob Jones University offers a satellite school. Pam Bishop uses a Catholic correspondence program called Mother of Divine Grace School. “They offer day-by-day curriculum as well as call-in classes,” Bishop says. “A student can also send in their papers for grading and receive feedback from teachers.”
Finally, remember the local library. Library personnel generally keep abreast of community affairs and are always willing to help. When we moved from one state to another, I first asked at the library. The woman at the desk gave me the phone number of the leader for a local support group. The rest is history.
Online resources to consider:
The Homeschool Lounge is a place for homeschool moms to connect for support, encouragement, fellowship and fun.
The Homeschool Village offers articles written by homeschool moms giving sound advice, suggestions, and encouragement.
Parent at the Helm was created by veteran homeschooling parent Linda Dobson. Dobson describes herself as a homeschool mom turned grandma turned full-time advocate for intellectually freeing children from the confines of government (public) schooling. PATH is the place to find the impetus to take charge of your child’s education…no matter where that may come from.
We're always on the the hunt for good eats in central Arkansas. In our blog series, Foodie Families, we share the latest news about Little Rock's family-friendly restaurant scene. Here are a few of tasty morsels we've heard about lately:
David's Burgers: This family-friendly burger joint (a silver winner of our 2014 Family Favorites Awards, in fact!) told us that they are planning to open a new location near Bass Pro Shops Little Rock. The growing shopping area is also soon to be home to the Outlets at Little Rock shopping center, scheduled to open in the summer of 2015. David Alan Bubbus owns the fast-growing restaurant chain, and his father David Bubbus calls himself "the coach." Bubbus Sr. says the focus on high-quality meat is paying off -- sales at the Conway location were up 32 percent from Jan. 2013 to Jan. 2014.
"You would hope that people would know the difference between real quality meat," Bubbus says, "and they really can tell the difference."
Bubbus told us that fans should also see a location in the west Little Rock area around Rodney Parham Road very soon. The smaller store even has plans for a drive-through window to serve customers who are in a hurry. Also in the works: a second location in Conway, and restaurants in Cabot and Maumelle. The new restaurants will join existing locations in Conway, North Little Rock, west Little Rock, Park Plaza Mall and a roving food truck.
For those who've never been to a David's, here's an insider tidbit: If kids eat all of their burger, they might get a free taste of homemade custard ice cream!
For more info, visit DavidsBurgers.com.
Chuy's: North Little Rock will have its own Chuy's location in February 2015! The Tex-Mex chain will be located at 5105 Warden Road in the former Little Rock Parker Auto Group's Saturn dealership. For more info, click here.
Southern Gourmasian: Food truck-lovers will be delighted to know that Southern Gourmasian will finally be opening a brick-and-mortar shop at 219 W. Capitol Ave. sometime later this year. Take a seat at the permanent location to get your steamed bun-fix or track down the food truck, which will keep rolling through town serving customers at various locations. Read the full report from Little Rock Soiree here.
Butcher & Public: This full-service butcher shop, charcuterie and sandwich shop will join Good Food by Ferneau in the former Argenta Market space on North Little Rock's Main Street. We can't wait to try the house-cured bacon! Read the full report from Little Rock Soiree here.
Oishi Hibachi & Thai: Robert Tju, owner of the popular Sushi Cafe, will open another restaurant in the Heights -- this time focusing on hibachi and Thai cuisine. Look for the new spot to open in August. Get more details here.
My grandson Liam is three years old. He has brown eyes and soft, brown, curly hair that bounces when he runs or is singing a song, which is frequently. He is a happy child with a song on his mind and in his heart all the time. And after struggling with health issues early in his life, he has a voice that can deliver the music.
Recently, while I pushed him around a store in a shopping cart, Liam started singing very loudly. I am used to him singing all the time, so it doesn’t faze me to hear him or the volume. That day he was especially loud, performing some very dramatic singing.
I whispered to him to sing softly. He did for about two verses before he began belting out the words to “It’s a Big Blue World” again. Again, I tried to get him to soften his tone. An older man and his wife walked by and instead of giving us the stink-eye, they smiled. The woman said she loved his voice and would rather hear a happy child singing.
It’s hard to believe, but there was a time when Liam didn’t sing. From three weeks old until he was almost two, Liam had multiple colds and ear infections. It seemed like he was always sick and we were concerned about his hearing.
Two years ago, Liam had adenoids and tonsils removed and tubes put in his ears. After multiple procedures at Arkansas Children’s Hospital, we could see him starting to feel better. He began talking too. Instead of sign language for “more milk,” he vocalized the request.
Then the words began to flow. It started off with a few words.
“Mimi” (his name for me).
Then Liam started singing with me, songs I have been singing to him since he was a newborn.
“If You’re Happy and You know It.”
“This Little Light of Mine.”
And my personal favorite that I sang to my children, because I remember my grandmother singing it to me: “You are my Sunshine.”
My daughter and Liam moved from Arkansas to Florida last summer and I moved a few months later to be closer to them. We love going to the beach, the playground and—most of all—the Walt Disney World parks. My favorite park is Animal Kingdom because it has the show “Finding Nemo — The Musical.” Liam loves the show and I see the wheels turning in his head when we watch the 40-minute production about the over-protective clownfish searching for his son Nemo. The show has beautiful puppetry and a talented cast, and after every show, Liam wants to stay and watch it again. And again.
Not long after we leave the auditorium, he begins to sing the songs of the musical, including “It’s A Big, Blue World,” and “Go with the Flow” (when we sing this song, I dance around with my arms spread wide like the baby turtles in the show).
And Liam sings just like they do on stage, with big, dramatic long notes and his arms spread wide.
In the past year I have seen Liam’s speech improve and his vocabulary grow.
I won’t lie — sometimes hearing the same song sung really loudly for over an hour can get on my nerves. But to know Liam can hear the music around him and know he loves it and absorbs it makes it worth it.
Now Liam makes up words to the songs he does not know. But when we listen to the CD of “Finding Nemo” in my car, or watch the bootleg video of the show on YouTube or are lucky enough to see the live show, he grows more each time.
He is just a happy child singing.
Earlier this summer, photographer Mauren Kennedy caught up with families who were out & about at the Juneteenth celebration. The annual event celebrates the end of slavery in the United States, and is a fun-filled event rooted in history but focused on the future.
The block party outside of the Mosaic Templars Cultural Center included tons of family fun, including live music, poetry readings, children's activities, food trucks, and nonprofit and vendor booths.
Did Little Rock Family snap your photo? Check out our Photo Album below to find out!
July is National Ice Cream Month and to sweeten the deal, this Sunday, July 20 is National Ice Cream Day! Here are three sweet celebrations in central Arkansas.
1. Arkansas Children’s Hospital, Blue Bell Ice Cream and the American Red Cross are offering a sweet reward for all who give blood at the hospital on July 18. Blood donors at the Arkansas Children's Hospital blood drive will receive their choice of a pint of Blue Bell Ice Cream! The blood drive will be held from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. July 18 at Arkansas Children's Hospital in the Children's Hall. To make an appointment, call (800) 733-2767. Or, click here for more details.
2. The Purple Cow will be offering free one-scoop sundaes on Sunday, July 20! Visit any of their four locations in central Arkansas and mention that you saw the promotion in our sister publication, Little Rock Soirée to score the deal.
3. Yarnell’s will be giving away free cups of vanilla ice cream from 1-3 p.m. July 20 at Riverfront Park in Little Rock! Scoop, Yarnell’s mascot, will be on hand to celebrate with fans; he'll be located in the History Pavilion near the splash pad.
4. Yarnell’s will also be offering free ice cream in Conway starting at 5 p.m. July 18! Head to the Kris Allen Stage in Simon Park. THV 11 will be filming, so you may end up on TV!
Happy National Ice Cream Day! For more yummy spots to celebrate, check out our list of central Arkansas spots that offer ice cream and frozen treats.