Guest post by Marquette LaRee
Imagine a place where tall Ponderosa Pines embrace the sky, and cozy charm welcomes you at every turn. That's The Strawberry Inn in Strawberry, Arizona, where nature's beauty and educational adventures meld seamlessly, inviting homeschooling families like ours to embark on adventures that redefine traditional learning.
For three nights and four days, this is exactly what my kids and I got to experience on our own personal Homeschool Retreat that we’re still talking about weeks later. We invite you to step into the world of The Strawberry Inn with us. Join in as we explore the cozy accommodations, embrace the on-site learning possibilities, and build a community that shares similar passions for education and adventure. (I’ll share more about some of the nature learning opportunities and area exploration in another post!)
The Strawberry Inn, with its harmonious blend of comfort and exploration, stands as a testament to the possibilities that await homeschooling families in Strawberry, Arizona. The Bunkhouse
Home base for our stay was The Bunkhouse at The Strawberry Inn where we explored, laughed, and learned together. It was not only a cozy haven for relaxation, but also a place of connection and a launchpad for exploration!
The kids LOVED the queen-sized bunk beds and each quickly claimed their nest for our stay, testing out the noise machine, personal lights on each bed, and snuggling into the sheets. Even our 9 year old son commented on how comfy the sheets are…so you know they are fabulous.
The space was so welcoming and cozy. We ate meals out on the patio, snuggled and read on the big couches, soaked in the hot tub after a day of hiking, baked in the kitchen, played games at the big round living room table, and colored/journaled at the main table. We felt so at home! Building Community From the Very Start After being in the car for three hours, the first thing on the agenda, after unpacking our cold food into the fridge, was to get out the pent up energy stored in those little bodies. Unbeknownst to the kids, The Yard in the Upper Park is one building away from the Bunkhouse. They were delighted when our “walk” really ended up being for the sole purpose of discovering the play area there. The 9 year old immediately hit the swings, the 7 year old was instantly at the top of the jungle gym, and the 3 year old was trying out all the tiny red chairs with glee.
It was there we were able to meet other homeschooling families by pure chance. (Want to up your chances of running into other homeschool families? Go for mid-week stays and outings!)
Our kids gravitated towards each other, creating instant bonds over shared adventures and common interests. They were quickly playing freeze tag, imagining up pirate ships, and playing catch with their stuffies. As parents, we found camaraderie in our pursuit of educational excellence, exchanging area tips, book recommendations, and curriculum ideas over the course of our visit.
Making the Most of the Strawberry Inn
I’m going to admit something not so trendy…we’re not a huge hiking family. I’d love to be, but we’re not there yet. Exploring Rim Country was definitely on our list, but we also wanted to take advantage of all that the Strawberry Inn has to offer there on-site. What can you do there?
1. CULINARY ADVENTURES.
With the pans, bowls, and utensils already in the kitchen there on site (not every property/room has a fully stocked kitchen, but the Bunkhouse does!) we brought the ingredients and spent time together making cookies, french toast, homemade pizza, and Rice Krispie Treats. 2. YARD GAMES.
At both the main Inn building and the Lower Park Yard there are yard games available to play that promote bonding and honing various skills.
3. BOARD GAMES. We brought some of our own but were delighted to find a few in the cupboard at the Bunkhouse!
The plan was for each of us to bring a favorite book to leave in the Little Free Library and take home a new treasure. In the bustle of packing those books were forgotten on the counter at home but the kids still loved seeing the strawberry shaped library box. They are already planning what books they want to take next time we go up!
5. NATURE JOURNALING.
Our stay at The Strawberry Inn was the start of our Nature Journaling experience. There are so many amazing books and methods of nature journaling! We read about nature journals, discussed how they can help us learn to be observant (a skill that is helpful in any field of study and in general life), and each picked our goal with our own nature journals. With the Upper and Lower Park properties lining the creekbed, it was the perfect place to sit and complete our first nature journal entries!
6. PLANTS OF INTEREST.
The properties are full of beautiful forest life. We spent time comparing the different types of oak leaves and acorns, watching the birds eat the black cherries off the trees, collecting Oak Galls, and dreaming of the big apples at the top of the apple trees where the elk can’t reach. The kids loved smelling all the Ponderosa Pines (smell the reddish part of the bark, it smells like ice cream) and learning about the conditions that make it possible for Strawberry, AZ to be in the middle of the largest contiguous Ponderosa Pine forest in the world.
Of course! We listened to books on our Yoto, read some of our new story books we’d just gotten in for school, and worked on our family read-aloud book while we were there. That was great for evening down time, or for resting between various explorations.
I know. This isn’t technically part of the official Strawberry Inn properties, but it’s right there so I’m including it here! It’s a favorite stopping place for the kids. They found it is a highway for the local wildlife (the elk were moving through when we visited) and worked to identify the different types of animal prints they found in the soft dirt. They were way more thrilled with the animal prints than my idea for a fun Halloween photo.
9. YOGA. I brought our Yoga in Nature cards to do with the kids in the mornings out on the patio or at the Lower Park Yard. It was definitely feasible and a great idea! However, the kids slept so good after full days of exploration and enjoying the trip that I didn’t ever pull those out and just opted to enjoy the unusual extra bit of rest in the morning. Depending on the time of year you can join in a yoga group at the Lower Park Yard, too!
10. ASTRONOMY. If you’re from the city…the dark in Strawberry can feel eerie. It is magical though!! Look up! The amount of stars visible in the sky in Rim Country is astounding. Grab a great star chart, sky wheel, or astronomy app and spend some time in awe. That was my plan for our last night there. The first two nights were perfectly clear, but the third night, the night planned for astronomy, was 100% overcast. So we had to scratch that off the list. Give it a go though!
When our homeschooling retreat at The Strawberry Inn came to a close, we left with hearts full of wonderful memories and a deeper sense of what learning can truly be. The Ponderosa Pines, the cozy Bunkhouse, and the Upper Yard became more than just a backdrop for our adventure; they were our classroom, our playground, and our place of connection. We hope this glimpse into our experience inspires you to seek out your own educational adventures, whether it's in the great outdoors or within the heartwarming community of fellow homeschoolers. So, until next time, here's to the joy of homeschooling and the thrill of exploration, wherever it may take you.