Just received the signed contract from my Manhattan publisher, Skyhorse, who will release my new book, “a BIG Life- Using the World of Nature and Travel to Create a Lifetime of Family Learning. It will be published in the spring of 2018. Anyone who would like to work together scheduling a speaking gig/book signing in your town in 2018-19, message me- at a library, outdoor shop etc. Am so excited to share all that we have learned with parents everywhere.
Emily Dickinson asked, “Why not have a big life?” To Cindy Ross and Todd Gladfelter, a “big life” for their family means one filled with abundance, passion, and purpose, a life that requires taking some risks and thinking in new ways.
Their story begins in the Rocky Mountain wilderness on a unique and extraordinary journey: two parents leading their very young children 3,100 miles along the backbone of the continent on the backs of llamas. This singular and epic family adventure plunged author Cindy Ross’s one-year-old son, Bryce, and three-year-old daughter, Sierra, into a life-changing experience that lasted well into their teens.
The family’s Canada-Mexico trek across the Continental Divide spanned Sierra and Bryce’s formative, most impressionable years. Because they grew up in the wilderness, traveling and leading an adventurous life, encountering challenges, and having their senses extraordinarily stimulated, they were irreversibly changed… for the better.
The Continental Divide Trail illustrated to Cindy and her husband, Todd Gladfelter, what experiential education can do. It gave them the conviction, skills, and courage to pursue education in this way. The impact was so positive, Cindy and Todd were inspired to commit to and create a whole new way of nurturing and supplementing their children’s education. They focused on two major arenas for learning: The Natural World and Travel. The result: A BIG LIFE, an inspirational family adventure story that shares experiences from twenty-five years of extraordinarily rich learning.
A deep believer in Richard Louv’s worldwide advocacy of reconnecting children to the natural world, Cindy shows us real-life examples of how the rich environment presents a multitude of ways to teach and learn. One of the most concrete results of a childhood spent closely connected to nature is how it feeds creativity. More than ever, creative thinking and problem solving are essential to building and maintaining a healthy, sustainable world. In this age of world connection and the necessity to understand and work with people all over the planet, it is also increasingly important to raise children who are broad-minded, empathetic and knowledgeable about other cultures. This can best be accomplished by transporting our children out of their insulated, narrowly-focused lives and into the big world.
Before her children left for college, Cindy orchestrated learning opportunities for them in more than a dozen countries. The family typically spent a month or more, once or twice a year, in some far-flung destination, actively experiencing a stimulating culture. They moved about largely by foot and bicycle, living simply and being exposed on an intimate level. But just as important, and more accessible for many parents, were the opportunities Cindy provided for learning closer to home. For example, in “Learning from our Ancestors,” she traces the rich experiences they had while finding relatives in their Polish and Sicilian homelands as well as spending time with her children’s great grandmother just twenty miles away and hearing about her life. Or, in Learning from “Traveling to a ‘Developing’ Country/Community,” they visit an impoverished village in the hill country of Thailand as well as share intimate stays in New Mexico’s Navajo Country.
Although exceptional storytelling is so important to initially captivate readers, Cindy knows that after she inspires, she has a repsonsibility to help guide her readers. As they read of each new educational idea found in the individual chapter topics, they will then find concrete ways to implement change according to their own family’s needs and lifestyle. First A BIG LIFE inspires, then Cindy guides and directs…walking the talk. She maps out how take the first steps, providing solid informaton, and time-tested, nuts and bolts advice, on every individual chapter topic. All will not be boring and dry in this section, however, because Cindy has an honest, open, deeply human style of sharing her own journey of learning to balance needs, individual personalities, maintaining energy for the “job,” how to afford it, and the challenges that persuing an alternative lifestyle of learning naturally involves. At the end of the book will be an extensive Appendix of organzations, webistes, prorgrams, and clubs to help parents get started.
Besides gaining a storehouse of knowledge, Sierra and Bryce received intangible gifts from the experiences illustrated in these stories: values not always fostered in a traditional curriculum but crucially important to raising children who will grow up to be good people and creative thinkers. These values — compassion, empathy, resilience, self-reliance, and appreciation, among others — are learned more powerfully and penetratingly when children are actively engaged.
The real gift A BIG LIFE has for parents is that this type of learning opens up new possibilities, beyond and in addition to the traditional classroom experience. It empowers parents to believe they are not only capable, but actual ways that they can be their children’s best and most important educators. Playing a more active role in their children’s education will help them raise the well-rounded adults our world needs.
Adding a rich dimension and complementary voices to the book, Sierra and Bryce will share their honest thoughts and impressions about their unorthodox education, along with some of Bryce’s illustrations.
A BIG LIFE is for parents who are seeking inspiration, who love to read a good story, and are looking for an unorthodox way to raise the happiest, healthiest and brightest children they can. Just as Cindy and Todd modeled how to live a life and craft an education for their own children, their story will be a model and a guide for others.