Tuesday, November 3, 2009

A Quick Few Days in Monterey

We just got back from a great couple of days away. It's just one more thing I love about homeschooling- I can call my mini vacations field trips, and go fun places mid week.

One of my kids has been on an ocean life kick, so I'm trying to facilitate that as much as possible. It works out nicely that I also really like lounging at the beach, so I can incorporate that as well.

We were lucky to get in on one of the Monterey Bay Aquarium's awesome homeschool field trip days. It's an incredibly generous deal- they offer a limited number of free admissions to homeschool families and groups to their facility each year. Of course, you have to sign up months in advance, and we didn't get our first choice of days, but I'm not about to complain about a free deal. We ended up being there for some of the loveliest weather that town has seen all year. It was so sunny, we were actually almost hot, which is a rarity on northern California beaches.

It cooled off quite a bit when the sun went down, which gave us a chance to view some of the monarch butterflies coming in for the night to rest over in their wintering grounds in at the Butterfly Sanctuary in Pacific Grove. The hard core migration of these delicate butterflies is an amazing story in itself.

Bargain hunter that I am, I found a smokin' deal on a room through the TravelZoo Top 20 email newsletter. My ocean life kid was really into helping plan the trip. She figured the mileage and gas cost, mapped out our route, planned a food budget, and packed; all great life skills.

We stayed at the Deer Haven Inn, which is located in a quiet area right across from Asilomar State Beach and within walking distance to some lovely dunes and beaches. There were deer walking down the road, and some of the biggest raccoons I have ever seen came out at night. We got a clean and comfortable room, and the continental breakfast wasn't bad either. The kids thought the push button fireplace was such a cool luxury- especially the kid who just spent a couple of days stacking firewood with is dad.

Monterey Bay Aquarium is just an incredible place. My favorite exhibit is probably the beautiful jellies, but the newest exhibit, the “Secret Lives of Seahorses” is amazing as well.

This amazing creature is not some kind of sea plant- it's a sea dragon- a relative of the sea horse. Pretty cool, huh?
In addition to the beautiful sea life, they had some fun hands on lab stuff, chances to view animal feedings and talk with the scientists, and some interesting presentations. One thing I really appreciate about the homeschool days is the high adult to child ratio. Because they don't schedule school field trips the same days, there aren't ten times as many children as adults. I like children, mind you, but when they've been cooped up too long, and they outnumber the adults by a long shot, their energy and volume can be a bit intense to say the least. It makes it a little hard to concentrate or learn anything, let alone relax and enjoy yourself. It's a whole different experience when almost everyone has their parent there- and a much more pleasant one. We were able to spend the day in peace, marveling at the beauty and diversity in nature.

The trip was quick, but my kids got plenty of time to run around and be crazy on the beach, and my husband got plenty of time to look at boats, and dream of sailing away. It didn't matter that we had to do a whole lotta driving, and wanted to stay another night, but had to rush back, or that the free field trip ended up costing a couple hundred dollars. In the end, we had a great time, learned a bunch, and enjoyed each others' company, and that was the whole point after all.