We have had an exciting 6 weeks in the beautiful state of Oregon. The kids and I are adjusting to our new homeschool routine, and since this is my FIRST year as a homeschool mom, it hasn’t been all rainbows and unicorns, but we are getting there. My youngest (autistic) child requires my full, undivided attention during school hours, so we’ve had to work out a system for a combination of independent work, and help from dad in the evenings for the other children. Even though it has been challenging, I am blessed to see my autistic son start to recognize sight words, and write his letters!
I’ll admit, I had a great deal of fear over homeschooling. If it wasn’t for the community over at Hip Homeschool Moms, I may have never taken the plunge. In this group (especially through their Facebook page) I found so much support and sound advice. I highly recommend it to anyone and everyone! Love, love love them!
On the weekends, we head out and explore the local area, taking advantage of all the free activities we can find. We had the most amazing experience at the Bonneville Lock & Dam, where we were able to watch the Chinook Salmon on their annual upstream swim through an underwater viewing window. We also visited a nearby fish hatchery where the kids fed the Rainbow Trout.
Just a few miles down the road, we enjoyed the view of Multnomah Falls. Since we brought our lunch, or only expense for this entire amazing day of salmon viewing, trout feeding and waterfall gazing was $25 in gas!
We spent some time exploring the local history, including parts of the Oregon Trail. This is a replica of a toll gate that stood in this very spot in the mid 1800’s. What an amazing experience it was to walk through it, and imagine what our brave countrymen must’ve been thinking!
Total cost: $0!
Near the tollgate, we visited the grave of an unknown pioneer woman. She crossed the entire country, and was 100 or so miles from her destination when she died. The kids and I talked about what might’ve happened to her, and what her trip must’ve been like. We all agreed she was undoubtedly a courageous and strong woman to come so far through all kinds of weather and adversity.
Total cost: $0!
We take advantage of as many easy to moderate hiking trails as possible, since they’re free. This one took us to this breathtaking view of Mt. Hood from Mirror Lake. Incidentally, the photo at the top of the blog was also from a hike. We were at Lava Canyon at the Mt. St. Helens National Volcanic Monument when we came across this suspension bridge that just about took my breath away. I managed to summon the courage and cross it, but I won’t be doing that again, y’all.
Total cost: $0!
Our budget of $4,000/month has been very do-able, especially since we have been taking advantage of our Thousand Trails membership. It allows us to stay for free at over 80 campgrounds nationwide, and pay only $10-$20 per night at several hundred other locations. We have also saved by staying in one location for several weeks at a time, which has cut down on the gas expense of pulling a huge trailer across the country. By finding campgrounds that are centrally located, we can explore the area while staying within our means.
Since we have no debt, no house payment, no lot rental fees (with TT membership), and no cable, electric, garbage or internet fees, we are able to do all this on an extremely tight budget! Who knew we could have so much fun for so little money! In fact, we have decided to lower our budget to $3,000/month for the time being so we can save more aggressively for the adventures that will come after our road trip is over (hint, it involves a tiny house)! If you are struggling to make ends meet, I recommend considering RV life. Once our debt was eliminated and the 5th wheel was paid for, we have been able to do so much for so little money, I am kicking myself for not doing this sooner!
We will be headed to Southern California in a few days, and we’ll give you an update on the free & frugal family activities we find as we go along. It will be a little more challenging to find free activities in such an expensive area, but I am up for the challenge!