Ten National Parks for Guilt Free Unschooling

children listening to a young ranger at yosemite

Photo by James Carnes


Unschooling: noun. Not teaching your kids a damn thing. Parental laziness.

Or so they’d have you believe. While we personally do take an active role in teaching our kids things like reading, writing and ‘rithmetic, we have taken entire years not doing any formal schooling and certainly aren’t on an 8 – 3 schedule with our little ones.

The world is full of valuable lessons, and for those of you who are interested in unschooling, here is our list of the ten best National Parks to just let your kids enjoy being young and learn a thing or two without even knowing it.

10. Learn All About Geology at Arches National Park

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Find a ranger and ask him about how often the natural sandstone features that give the park its name fall. The answer is surprisingly often–in the context of all of history.

9. Witness Wildlife Galore in Glacier National Park

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Imagine a flock of bighorn sheep careening down a mountain as though they were a wave of horns and hooves. Turn your head and a mountain goat protecting its baby is eyeing you up. And that’s just the beginning.

8. Discover the Legend of the Coyote in Bryce Canyon National Park

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Spoiler: when the ancient people who lived here got too greedy, the Coyote turned them into rocks now known as hoodoos.

7. Watch Thousands of Exotic Birds Mingle with Alligators in the US’ Subtropical Big Cypress National Preserve

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When the visitor center reveals that the nearly endless stream of birds you see here are only a small fraction of what once was, you’ll wonder if you should have brought an umbrella. Not for the rain, for the bird poop.

6. Get Lost in a Magical, Otherworldly Cactus Forest in Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument

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One of the few parks you can have largely to yourself, aside from discovering this stunning forest you can learn more about US / Mexico relations firsthand from the rangers tasked with protecting this land and their opinions on who should or shouldn’t be coming over the border.

5. The Beginnings of How the West was Won Live in Gateway Arch National Park

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America’s newest park, and one of the most controversial when compared to other, larger, more “natural” parks, this St. Louis landmark is all about Thomas Jefferson’s plans to go west, young man.

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4. Lay Your Hands on Trees More than Twice as Old as Jesus Christ in Great Basin National Park

5000 year old trees, the oldest living things on the planet, await you in this park in Eastern Nevada.

3. Relive Early American History at Great Smoky Mountains National Park

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Easily the most songed park, and the most visited, the Smokies are a history book of American ingenuity, and the struggle to protect our freedoms versus our national treasures.

2. Walk Amongst a Rare Species of Yucca Before They’re Gone at Joshua Tree National Park

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Perhaps due to man, perhaps the cycles of nature, walk in the shadows of the Joshua Trees before they leave this world forever.

1. Relive the Nearly Lost Magesty of the Bison in Theodore Roosevelt National Park

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Teddy more or less invented national parks, and this is our nation’s tribute to his contribution.