Amy and Mike Sztupovsky live in semi-aridÂ Oliver, British Columbia (about halfway between Pentiction, BC and the US-Canadian border). This couple are real travel aficionados â€“ something made easier byÂ the fact that they unschool their two kids, Lan (5) and Kayden (3).
â€œWhen our oldest was coming closer to school age we started toÂ research homeschooling options,â€ Amy says. â€œI had never heard ofÂ unschooling before but when I started to learn about it, the methodÂ really spoke to my heart.â€
So this family doesnâ€™t need to worry about pulling the kids out ofÂ preschool or school to travel, and travel becomes part of the kidsâ€™ schooling. Naturally, Amy’s own website is called Worldschool Adventures.Â Letâ€™s find out why unschooling and traveling fit together,Â and what to do in the Okanagan with kids.
(All photos courtesy Amy Sztupovsky: at right, Tuc-El-Nuit Lake)
How did you decide to unschool? What is unschooling?
Unschooling is best described as interest-led learning. We watch for the sparks of curiosity in our children and then we expand upon their interests so that they’re always engaged, involved and curious.
Mike and I have been planning on doing long-term traveling with ourÂ children since before they were even born! Â The more I read andÂ learned the more excited I became about the unschooling philosophy andÂ I started to attend homeschooling meet-ups in our area. Â I questionedÂ mothers who were already doing it and began to get more and moreÂ comfortable with how it would work with our family. Â We dove intoÂ unschooling head first and havenâ€™t looked back since!
Like any type of homeschooling approach, unschooling allows us to takeÂ advantage of the off season (and off season prices!) We also like toÂ do many of our outings on weekdays when things are less crowded.
Whatâ€™s it like to live in Oliver, British Columbia and unschool?
Oliver is a very rural area, which offers both pros and cons forÂ unschooling. Â One of the cons is that our town is just too small toÂ offer many of the amenities and programs that a larger center wouldÂ offer. Â But of course, there are many advantages to growing andÂ learning in the rural Okanagan community. Â We know where much of our food comesÂ from and take an active roll in the process by supporting farmersÂ markets and u-pick orchards.
Oliver has a fabulous paved pathway along the Okanagan River and weÂ can ride our bikes into town and to Oliverâ€™s fantastic water park, Kinsmen Water Park, near the Kinsmen Playground. We attendÂ local festivals like The Festival of the Grape held every September.
Much of our learning stems from observations in our environment andÂ the South Okanagan provides ample opportunities for hiking, biking,Â and swimming in the summer, and in the winter Mount Baldy Ski Resort is only a half hourÂ drive away where one can ski, snowboard, snowshoe or cross countryÂ ski.
Do you go camping with kids in the Okanagan, in British Columbia? Â How early do you have to reserve a spot?
There are so many campsites in the Okanagan. The summer months seeÂ many tourists passing through and camping on our many beautiful lakesÂ and rivers. Â We, however, like to head for the hills when the campingÂ season starts. Â Our best resources are a Back roads Map andÂ a CampÂ Free in BC book.
Almost every mountain lake will have a forestry campsite on it withÂ groomed sites, picnic tables, fire rings, and pit toilets. Â They areÂ beautiful and best of all they are free! Â Most can be reached within aÂ half hour to an hour drive of the towns but try to get there early asÂ many will fill up on a Friday night. Our favorites are Isintok Lake and Idleback Lake near Penticton.
Do you have a favorite kid-friendly restaurant (or restaurants) in theÂ Okanagan region?
Our favourite restaurant in Oliver is the Fire Hall Bistro. Â This old converted Fire Hall hasÂ memorabilia and photos of its glory days. What kid wouldnâ€™t want toÂ eat in an old fire hall?
When is the best time to visit the Okanagan?
Many tourists come for skiing in the winter but most of our visitorsÂ come in the summer months. Â We get very hot weather in July and AugustÂ and people flock here for our lakes and beaches. Â If I were toÂ recommend a time of year though, I would say come in June orÂ September. Â Things wonâ€™t be so crowded but the weather is still great!
Read more about Oliver, British Columbia at the Oliver Tourism website.