Earlier this month we hit our goal of 1000 hours outside for the year 2020! If you haven’t heard of this challenge, it’s main objective is to get children to match screen time with outdoor time. The average child has 1200 hours of screen time each year! 1000 Hours Outside seeks to shift some of that time towards more productive time spent outdoors!

We learned about 1000 Hours Outside late last year. Starting January 1st I began to keep track of Jasper’s hours outside. I thought it would be easiest to choose one person in the family, rather than everyone individually. Some families do charts for each person. The challenge is really whatever you make of it and this is what worked for us.
January was very hard and somewhat discouraging. Multiple days in January reached a low of -25°f. We managed only 27 hours outside. One day we went to an outdoor birthday party where the ice cream cake was frozen solid. Another day we made froze bubbles. After an incident where our semi-wet clothes froze in the dryer I got the inspiration to freeze some of Jasper’s clothes standing up. I think Jasper’s favorite winter weather outdoor project was our rainbow snow volcanoes. He is still talking about them and has grand plans to improve upon them this coming winter.

Our hours increased in February. We got 37 hours outside. I felt better with this because at least we managed an average of a (little over) an hour each day. If you live in a cold weather climate you know the key to staying outdoors for any length of time is good layering and to keep moving! This is what we did!

In March we saw a big leap, up to 75 hours! The temperature warmed up and generally stayed about 0°f. Though we did get a lot more snow, and COVID shut everything down. We had planned to go on a 3 week trip to visit family in the lower 48. However, that obviously didn’t happen. We are very lucky to live in a city that made press releases stating things such as, “Slowing the spread of COVID-19 through social distancing. This doesn’t mean you can’t leave your home. Remember, we have 224 city parks and more than 250 miles of trails to explore.” We spent that first month pretty isolated. However, we live on the very edge of a state park. A 10 minute walk will take us there. We spent a lot of that first month of quarantine exploring the trails that lead to the state park and to the nearby river. Luckily it was still pretty cold out, so I wasn’t overly concerned with bears.

In April we got a whopping 128 hours outside! We continued to further explore the trails leading down to the near by state park. In addition we began to turn our back porch into a sort of second playroom, and we participated in the Tales of a Mountain Mama #getoutsidefamily challenge. Every day there was a new outdoor themed challenge to complete. We made relay races, painted the snow, went on a scavenger hunt, made a journey stick, created & floated a boat down our creek, and much more. In addition, Jasper learned to ride his bike without training wheels this month! Plus, despite there still being snow on the ground, we had social distancing ice cream dates (outdoors) with grandma.

May was our second highest month at 187 hours! In addition, we started to hang out with friends again, in outdoor settings, in small groups. It began to get warm enough (by Alaska standards) to spend most of the day outside. Some days we camped out in our backyard, doing art projects and making mud soup. Other days we would spend our time with friends by a lake or on a trail. By this time most of our snow was gone and that meant bears were out for sure. I was very thankful to be able to spend time with others again. I don’t like hiking alone in bear country. We began bringing friends to the black sand beach we found at the state park near our house during our quarantine explorations. It is now one of our favorite spots!

In June we dropped to 161 hours. I can only think this was because we were driving further to get to places and therefor spending time in the car that we would normally have spent outside. We spotted a mama moose and her baby three times in our neighborhood. They prevented us from going on planned excursions twice, but we just hung out in our backyard instead. We climbed the Bodenburge Butte with friends and visited the seaside town of Homer for a weekend. During the month of June I saw six different black bears!

July is the month I think Alaska has the best weather. For this reason it is also the month that guests usually visit. In addition it is Jasper’s birthday month. Despite being so busy, July was our month for having the most hours outside, 188! My brother visited us for the first time since we moved to Alaska. We brought him to waterfalls, glaciers, multiple lakes, and up to Hatcher Pass. For Jasper’s birthday we got him a puppy and we proceeded to walk him multiple times a day. We also brought the kids tent camping for the first time this month! Grandparents visited towards the end of the month and we visited the seaside town of Seward.

In August we managed 159 hours. August begins our rainy season and as of the last day of August termination dust (the first snow of the year) began appearing on the mountain tops. We went on two more camping trips during the month of August and spent lots of time picking berries.

In September we “officially” started homeschooling. Though in truth we were about 5 weeks into our curriculum already. This didn’t slow us down. Doing school work on our picnic table is more pleasant than doing it inside anyway. In addition part of our schoolwork is the Exploring Nature with Children curriculum. This means we spend a few hours outside with friends every Tuesday learning about science. However, there is the fact that September is one of our most rainy months. It’s hard to do schoolwork outside when your books are getting wet.

On September 10th Jasper passed the goal of 1000 hours outside! We celebrated by making stone soup. (We had read Stone Soup as part of his English curriculum shortly before this.) In addition I gave him a 1000 Hours Outside t-shirt and a slingshot as part of the celebration for him reaching this awesome goal.

We will continue to keep track of our hours for the remainder of the year just to see how many we can actually get. I am very thankful that we took on this challenge. It has changed some of my views. It has made me appreciate better that being outside is a worthy goal in itself. We don’t actually have to get far on our hikes to feel accomplished. Being there, in the moment and enjoying the amazing outdoors that God has blessed us with is all we need. In addition, I now better at recognizing how often and how easy it is for us to eat, read, sleep, and bring “indoor” toys outside.

Are you interested in participating in the 1000 Hours Outdoor challenge? There are many great resources! Our tracker is inspired by 1000 Hours Outside trackers found on their website. In addition, there are lots of great chats, resources, support, and stories on the 1000 Hours Outside Official Facebook group!

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