Who would’ve thought that back-to-school 2020 would look nothing like back-to-school 2019?
Not this family. Probably not yours either.
But, you know what? Change is about the only constant right now.
As you’re navigating your back-to-school preparation, I wanted to share what’s been working for our small homeschool pod. I think there will be tips that fit virtual school as well, and maybe even hybrid programs.
Make a schedule and stick to it
Last spring, when we suddenly flipped into virtual mode, I spent a weekend planning out the rest of the year. The first order of business was to come up with an educational schedule that could accommodate the reality of two working parents. We took a high/low tech approach to this.
Don’t reinvent the (curriculum) wheel
Our spring semester was very much an experiment. Our 1st-grader would finish the take-home packet within a day, leaving us to figure out what the rest of the week was going to look like. Additionally, our preschooler needed more mental stimulation than a packet could provide. On Sunday mornings we would ask the kids what they wanted to learn about during the week, and then we would spend the day pulling together the resources to make that possible. More on that in a bit though.
I bring this up because as parents who aren’t trained educators, we were anxious about whether or not we were missing important educational milestones, or if we were even going in the right sequence. On the other hand, it was exciting to teach them things that most schools don’t cover, binary math and cursive writing.
When we committed to homeschooling in the fall, we decided to get expert guidance to ensure we hit all the essentials. We looked into several, and then chose the curriculum that worked for our needs. We're now sprinkling in some additional topics that pique the kids’ interests.
Get it together
I mentioned pulling together resources above. This was another one of those sanity-saving practices. On your planning day(s), gather all the supplies you’ll need for the week. I used a 3-tiered file organizer and a bunch of sticky tabs during the spring experiment. I tabbed each day’s work on either their worksheets or sections of their workbooks. This was empowering for them, and saved me from answering many questions throughout the day.
Now that we’re doing an actual curriculum, it still remains important to plan the week out and gather the right materials, especially since our pod incorporates two grades. Our file folder has evolved into a full cupboard, but we still have tabs for the work to be covered.
We’re going into our 6th week of homeschooling now, and have hit a stride. Getting there all started with planning. The time spent dedicated to picking a curriculum and getting organized has paid off during hectic weeks, and allowed us to really enjoy it.
by Koreen Hines
The hustle and bustle of the holidays are over and we are now left with well, plain old winter. If you are sitting at home or at work daydreaming of sunshine, warmth, and the splendor of the Caribbean Islands, then it’s time to put on your thinking hat and budget for that well-deserved family vacation. Below are some of the tips we’ve gathered for you.
Start with the big expense items such as your airfare and accommodation. Once you determine the cost of airfare, you can adjust for accommodation, meals, and activities. Choose your activities and get an idea of how much they will cost and add those too. Researching ahead of time will help you find the best deals, especially for big-ticket items such as airfare and accommodations. Also, don’t forget to add the cost of travel documents such as your visas and passports.
Budget planning tools such as a spreadsheet or vacation calculators are great for creating your travel budget. There are many calculators out there but here’s a pretty neat vacation calculator that we found: Travel Budget Calculator Country List. We like it because it is user-friendly and you can pick from a number of destinations to calculate costs specific to that destination. Check out this one specifically for Jamaica and another good one from Microsoft Office: Trip Expenses Planner.
We have ICJ Travel Partners that we can put you in touch with whenever you'd like, so if you are short on time or your travel planning starts to feel a bit too much, let us know. Our Travel Partners are an invaluable resource for you. Like most travel agents, they have traveled to the destinations they sell and can save you a lot of time in your research and planning. Tap into their wealth of knowledge and experiences to plan your next family vacation.
At Irie Camp Jamaica, we make it easier for you too with our camp sessions. Meals, activities, and excursions have all been pre-packaged for your ease and convenience. Check out our unique and culturally immersive camp sessions. Summer will be here before we know it and we can’t wait to see you here at Irie Camp Jamaica!
While this post isn't exhaustive, we've polled our families, friends, and fellow travelers to get these top travel picks to you. We've been using these ourselves, so the picks are our very own tried and tested.
Heads up: we're using affiliate links to our recommendations, so we may receive a small commission if you make a purchase through one of the links (but like our tips, there is no cost to you for checking them out).
Do you have any other recommendations to share with our camp family? Drop them in the comments below.
by Jen Battles
Why you should think about your next family vacation.
What is the one thing you remember most about those family trips you took as a kid?
Was it the anticipation and excitement of planning for the trip? Or was it stopping at that favorite restaurant for a special treat on your way out of town? Family travel has many benefits including spending quality time together and strengthening family relationships.
Here are 3 additional benefits to traveling as a family:
1. Learn together
Traveling somewhere new?
Ask your family to help you plan the trip! Turn a daunting task into something great by having them help you research new things and plan experiences. This will also help ensure that everyone will enjoy the itinerary while learning something new!
Food is a great place to start, learn some interesting facts about regional dishes and how they came to be. It will be exciting to seek out the restaurants that specialize in these dishes and to try them together.
If you are traveling somewhere that speaks a different language try learning simple phrases you can use when ordering. You may discover that someone in your family has a passion for language or perhaps spark some curiosity for new foods!
2. Create New Traditions
Traditions don’t have to be a complex and grandiose experience, it can be as simple as choosing a playlist for the road or rewarding yourself with a delicious treat after enduring airport security lines. Travel traditions help build up the anticipation and make the journey more fun.
Creating new family traditions also helps to strengthen family relationships, creating opportunities for inside jokes that provide a sense of unity. Even something small can help create a strong family bond.
3. Lasting Memories
Along with those new things you learned and the new traditions you have created, fond memories will be the best souvenirs! Just like your own experiences shaped happy memories that you passed on.
You can use technology to get the family involved in preserving these memories by creating a digital scrapbook. Apps like Canva and Pinterest are free and a great way to get the kids interested. It also is an easy way to share these awesome memories with other family members.
Remember, family trips don’t need to be extravagant or lengthy to reap the benefits we talked about here. What is most important is finding the right fit for your next family adventure and enjoying your time together!
Check out our camp sessions and learn how Irie Camp Jamaica can help enrich your next family vacation and help create amazing memories.
The benefits of learning about a new culture are endless for both adults and children! It helps promote curiosity, engagement with others, and developing an understanding of cultural diversity.
Through designing experiences around dance, sports, music, art, and food, Irie Camp Jamaica immerses children into the local Jamaican culture. These engaging and culturally unique activities help your children to develop a firsthand understanding of Jamaicans’ ways of life and customs.
Of course, you don’t have to wait until your plane lands in a foreign country to start exploring the culture – you can do it right from your living room!
Check out 3 easy ways you can explore a new culture.
First things first! Choose a country by dusting off that old globe in your storage closet. Ask your child to twirl it around and pick a spot at random. If you don’t have a globe, you can use a world map to point to a country, too.
Once you and your family have chosen your destination, you can begin to make some interesting discoveries.
1) Let’s boogie!
Did you know that many cultures around the world have a traditional dance? Traditional dances are often intertwined with storytelling. Cultural groups all over the world used a combination of storytelling and dances to pass on their histories from generation to generation.
Dance is a great way to express yourself. It also helps children with improvisation skills and encourages creative decision-making. Not to mention you will be able to add some new tunes to your playlist!
2) What’s cooking?
We know that food is an awesome opportunity to learn about another culture and a great way to get the whole family involved. Our culinary exploration at Irie Camp Jamaica is always a crowd favorite.
You’ll get to see what other families eat. How food brings them together and what traditions they may have.
What are some of your family traditions? You may see some similarities with other cultures or discover something new to add to the next family gathering!
This can also be an opportunity to test out some new recipes and sneak in a few more veggies!
3) Who, what, wear?
See if you can pick out traditional outfits or a style that is unique to the culture you are learning about. You will see how styles evolve and change throughout history... and maybe even how they influence fashion in other places.
Clothing has always been a way to showcase cultural identities and personal expression. For example you may notice some cultures use clothing to show unity or communicate a person’s status or occupation. Clothing is also a great introduction to learning about how different cultures celebrate as traditional garments are often worn for special occasions. One of my personal favorites is the Sari which is an everyday garment for many women, I love the bright colors!
Now that everyone has learned a little something new and hopefully had fun along the way, you can save these as ideas as inspiration for your next family trip.
Add Jamaica to your list and check out our camp sessions at Irie Camp Jamaica. We make planning a cultural family experience a breeze!
Before the advent of Tupperware and fancy luggage, baskets were used for storage and transport. There are mass-produced baskets available, but basket weaving in Jamaica is a true work of art because it is completely done by hand and bears the unique signature of the person who made it.
Whether you use cattails, bramble willow, rush, grass, or soft bark, and your method is braiding, twining or plaiting, your heart and soul gets immersed in the craft and the results are stunning.
In as much as we have evolved, the beauty of this ancient pastime is still visible in the craft markets across the island and to a lesser extent on our street vendors. Almost every home has a handy basket stored in a corner.
Basket-weaving is one of the crafts our campers will be learning this summer. We can't wait!
Till den... walk good,
"Story time! Story time!" A long time now mi nuh hear dem words ennuh! Yuh memba dem time deh? No? Well, come. Mi 'ave a likkle story fi yuh!
The Jamaican tradition of storytelling originated with the African Griots who were brought over to the work on the island's plantations. Storytelling was a way to provide entertainment, pass on knowledge, teach morality, and so much more.
Elders would very often tell a story to a child in order to explain the consequences of particular actions. On moonshine nights especially, families would sit out under the stars or on their verandas, and the elders would have the undivided attention of the children as they recounted one story after another about Bredda Anancy'santics to outsmart his friend, Bredda Tucoman.
Life experiences were also topics in storytelling. History lessons were narrated as stories of what happen to Great Great Grandpa So-and-so. From how him used to buck aaf him big toe when him was a bwoy to how him used to deal wid him pickney when dem nuh have mannas.
Male elders, especially when they had a little “whites” (a drink of rum), would transition to duppy stories as the hour got later. These spoke of the supernatural - ghosts - and were (looking back) ridiculously embellished. Every time a duppy story was repeated, it got more dramatic. Children were both intrigued and terrified by these stories and would often report having nightmares and “seeing duppies" in their sleep.
As our favorite storyteller, Dr. Amina Blackwood Meeks would say, "I think human beings are wired for storytelling and in this age of techno-fascination it is an important up-close-and-personal irreplaceable tool for human encounter."
Wi cyaan wait fi di next story time.
Until then, Jack mandora... mi nuh choose none!
I asked my kids what they thought of whenever they bit into a piece a bun and cheese. One kid said to me that it made her think of rainbows... The other kid said that it made him happy. Then they started talking to each other and apparently bun and cheese makes them happy because it makes them think about rainbows and rainbows make them happy. Kid logic…
I recently watched a video where they were talking about bun and cheese (among other snack items). One of the commentators put forwards a sentiment that I totally agreed with; bun and cheese was "a warm hug of a snack." Now that I'm thinking about it, I can see where the kids came by their rainbow-happiness comparison.
Bun and cheese has a history steeped in the colonialism of Jamaica but for us kids, it was always about that snack that could both fill you up and feel like dessert at the same time. Whether at lunchtime or after school, you could always buy bun and cheese because it was both quick and cheap. The shopkeeper would just cut open a round bun right there in the plastic, slip in a thick slice of tin cheese, and send you on your way. If you were at home you probably had a loaf of bun that you would slice so that you could put the cheese in between. Which ever way you decided to eat it though, it always tasted so much better when you squeezed it down to flatten it. I never figured out what made it taste so much better when you made it dense, but it was always just so good.
If you're in an area with a significant Jamaican population, you might find that as we go into the Easter season, Easter bun is now on sale. Regular bun and cheese is available year-round, but nothing and we mean absolutely nothing compares to Easter bun. It could be the extra fruit in the Easter bun or maybe the fancy packaging, but whatever the reason, Easter bun was always worth the wait. Seeing as I just rushed into the store to buy some, trust me on this.
Walk good until next time,
by Wendy Iacobello
In today’s climate, diversity is not only apparent everywhere, but tolerance to diverse cultures is a must. There are so many amazing cultures all over the world. At Irie Camp Jamaica, all cultures and children are included in this special camp that strives to teach diversity and focuses on the appreciation as well as exposure of the Jamaican culture.
How can you teach diversity to children?
Metzler, Ph.D (2009) proposes that, “Children don't come with instructions, but they do come with open minds. Much of what they learn about respecting differences comes from their parents.” Teaching children about other cultures begins at home and parents today can find several opportunities to expose their children to the diverse backgrounds of people so they can appreciate and understand the wonderful traits of others who are different from themselves.
Irie Camp Jamaica is a perfect place to experience the Jamaican culture with children from all over the world. According to Metzler, “Teaching our children to accept differences may require that we use the power of the internet to learn about differences, that we seek out cultural activities that are out of our community and explore the strength and value in diversity.” There are many ways to expose children to other backgrounds that will influence them to better understand the concepts of diversity. Another strategy is to “Try to create opportunities for children to interact and make friends with people who are different from them. As you know, children learn best from concrete experiences” (Gonzalez-Mena & Pulido-Tobiassen, 1999).
When children can be proud of their own heritage, they are more likely to be open to learning about others. Teaching diversity to children also allows room for them to be open about their own culture. Gonzalez-Mena & Pulido-Tobiassen explain that, “The more that children have a solid grounding and understanding about who they are and where they came from, the more they learn to move with grace and confidence among communities different from their own, and the closer we get to building a world of respect, curiosity, sharing, and humanity.” Learning to respect and appreciate different cultures is an important concept and life skill. Teaching children openness and sensitivity to other heritages different from their own begins at home. There are numerous activities that can reinforce these concepts and Irie Camp Jamaica is one that will leave a positive and lasting impression on those who attend.
Metzler goes on to say that, “Rather than teach children the correct labels or names for people, let's teach them that differences are only a part of who we are. It is not the total of who we are.” Teaching about diversity is not only important for many of the reasons mentioned above, but it can also help children find similarities beyond the physical differences in the many cultures of the world.
Gonzalez-Mena, J, & Pulido-Tobiassen, D. (1999). Scholastic.com. Teaching Diversity: A Place to Begin. Retrieved from https://www.scholastic.com/teachers/articles/teaching-content/teaching-diversity-place-begin-0/
Metzler Ph.D, C. (2009, February). PBS.org. Teaching Children About Diversity. Retrieved from http://www.pbs.org/parents/experts/archive/2009/02/teaching-children-about-divers.html
Wendi Iacobello has been an Army wife for three years and part of military life for five years. She has spent the last nine years as an adult educator, has a Master of Arts in Educational Media, and a Bachelor of Science degree in Early Childhood Education. Her teaching career includes; Middle and High School Special Education, Correctional Education, and Community College Instruction in Early Childhood Education, Compensatory Ed, as well as Adult Basic Education. Currently, she is a blogger, freelance writer, instructional designer, aqua cycling instructor, and avid volunteer. In her free time, you can usually find her volunteering at USO’s story time, outdoors in the garden, exercising, or enjoying time with her husband and their adorable Beagle, Daizi. Wendi is extremely passionate about helping others find their inner strength by sharing her experiences, insight, resources, and inspirational stories on her blog Strength4Spouses.
We've heard your questions about payment plans, so we've made it super easy to save your camper's spot and then make your installment payments. This is a brand new way of getting your camper all set to be Irie.
We now have two payment plans available: ICJ Plan 25, where you pay in increments of $25, and ICJ Plan 50, where you pay in increments of $50. You won't see these in the regular Camp Store though. Get started by Saving a Spot for your camper. Final payments are due by June 1, 2019.
Hi, I'm Bobbi and while I'll generally be posting here, I'll occasionally invite others to share as well.