(Continued from Part 1. This part concludes the article.)
Teach By Reading and Watching
My youngest son loves to read. My oldest will do it when he has to. One way I get them both on board with reading is by finding them books to read that keep them engaged and that is often with a book about the outdoors. As we all know, books can be both entertaining and educational. The best way to teach your kids through books is to find ones that are both!
I know that Bear Grylls is a polarizing personality in the survival world. Yes, I get that most of what he does on his television shows would get common people killed. Yes, I get that he has help when he does makes his productions (something that, by the way he has always been up front about). Say what you want about the guy, he writes good books.
My sons got into survival by reading Bear’s stories that he’s written for young readers. There are two series based on a character named Beck Granger who gets into all kinds of wild situations. He often uses survival skills to get through the books. Bear goes into detail when he gets to the survival situations. These books have generated conversations around our dinner table when my boys will say, “Dad, did you know that…” and they will state something they read in a Beck Granger novel.
Get your kids reading, and not just the books they tell you to read in school. If your library doesn’t have the right books, talk to the inter-library loan employee and they may be able to order books for you from other libraries (at least here in Michigan).
Here are some books to get your kids thinking about survival:
- Beck Granger series by Bear Grylls
- My Side of the Mountain by Jean George
- The Redwall Series by Brian Jacques
- Farmer Boy by Laura Ingalls Wilder
- Bendigo Shafter by Louis L’Amour
- The Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien
- Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe
- The Call of the Wild and White Fang by Jack London
- Any book by Jim Kjelgaard
- Hatchet by Gary Paulsen
Along with books, I have always subscribed to magazines for my kids. Now that they are older, they still look to the mailbox for their next magazine. Over the years they have learned a lot of information about animals, nature, survival, and more through these magazines.
One that they have loved has been Boy’s Life. This magazine is put out by the Boy Scouts of America (or whatever they are called now). Changes in political differences aside, the Boy Scouts have taught younger generations valuable outdoor skills for generations. Boys Life continues this ethos through fantastic articles, pictures and editorials geared toward kids just like mine.
Now that they are older, my boys enjoy all of my magazines as well. I sure hope it will save a bit of subscription costs in the near future!
A few magazines that I would recommend for your kids:
- Boy’s Life
- Ranger Rick
- National Geographic Kids
- Sports Illustrated Kids
We have never let our kids watch a lot of television or video. They’ve had certain time limits in place, and usually they watch with us. We got into Bear Grylls (yes, I know, read above) years ago. While we do not attempt the skills and techniques he shows, his shows have been inspiration for us to get out and learn our own survival skills.
We have spent time building shelters, starting fires, climbing, exploring and more, all thanks to the inspiration Bear has given us. In addition, I’ve found that he is a man of faith and in some of his writing he is very open about what his faith means to him. It’s definitely a plus when you can get your kids to follow a celebrity who also follows Jesus.
There are a lot of great survival shows out there. Any one of the common streaming sources are loaded with a variety of nature documentaries and adventure shows. I remember watching Marty Stouffer with my dad when I was a kid. Hopefully my kids will always remember watching Bear Grylls with me.
Here are some examples of television and video to share with your kids:
- Man Vs. Wild (or other Bear Grylls shows)
- Indiana Jones movies
- Nature Documentaries
- Alone in the Wilderness (Dick Proenneke)
- Wild America
- Michigan Out of Doors (for those of you in Michigan)
Planning the Nitty Gritty
The Hard Stuff
If you’re still with me, you’ve gone through a lot of fun ways to prepare your kids with skills for difficult situations. Hopefully you enjoy camping, fishing, and hunting with your children. If not, then I’m sure the rest of this article really isn’t for you. That’s because things can get really hard, and having that conversation with your children can be alarming to them, and can sometimes make you feel helpless.
A couple of years ago I started being real with my boys. I started sharing with them some of the things that can happen and why I teach them and prepare for these possibilities. The truth is, we are far more likely to have a natural disaster than a societal meltdown. My boys have been able to see me handle a lot of that as I mentioned at the beginning of this article.
But what if something serious happens? What if there’s a complete collapse of government? What if the worst nightmares of a doom and gloom episode are a reality?
I was out in the woods with the boys one day when I first started talking to them. It was simple: If there’s ever a time when I’m not home and there’s no choice but to run with your mom, this is the plan. They listened and asked a lot of questions, but I knew they were on board.
Since that day we have worked together to fine tune our skills and our plan. As they get bigger and stronger, the plan morphs a bit. As my extended family grows and changes, different parts of the plan are modified. My wife still thinks we’re crazy, but we’ll take her with us anyway!
When getting right down to it, the first thing I wanted to boys to know is where to go. “Get your mom and get out!” I prepared bug out bags for each of us and showed them where they are hanging. I went through the contents with them and made sure they knew what everything was used for.
Next, I wrote out specific instructions for each member of the family. I nailed it to the wall next to the bags. Each person has a responsibility, and if something happens to one of us, the others must fill that responsibility. “If I’m not home, this is what you do, and this is how I will know what you’ve done.”
Depending on the situation, there are short-term and long-term destinations. So part of this instruction was to discuss why we might go to each place. This topic is quite sobering when discussing with the ones that you love and want to protect dearly.
I am confident now that if the situation arose, my boys would know what to grab, what firearm to carry, what their role is and where to go. The hope is that I would meet them there.
Some things to consider when putting together the basics:
- What are your locations? Have more than one plan because you may need it.
- Put together quality bug out bags and make sure they are the appropriate weight for your kids.
- Make sure you have the supplies you need. Chances are you’re not going to live off of the land for very long with kids.
- Don’t forget first aid!
- Make sure you’re not alone. Have others in the plan.
- Drill – make sure you all can implement the plan.
Preparing and Practicing the Plan
Your kids are old enough now. You’ve had years of camping, hunting, hiking experience. You’ve read books together, watched survival shows together. Now you’ve begun preparing them for the worst. You’ve told them your plan. Everyone knows what to do. But what about practice?
We all know that when the chips are down, some will run, some will freeze and some will act. The more you practice something, the more action is likely. As awful as it is, as a teacher (and now principal) I’ve had to practice active shooter protocol dozens, if not hundreds of times. Why? So that if it happens, I can act and protect my students.
The same things needs to take place with your plan. Those involved need to practice what they are going to do. This makes action second nature. The last thing you need is for someone in your group to freeze when they need to act.
Like any drill, make sure you’re walking through the steps with your family. Don’t just tell them, show them. Walk to where the gear is, pick it up and sling it on your back. Walk out the door to wherever your next point is. Have everyone walk through the motions first.
Second, do it at speed. This may take a few times of practice to get everyone going at a decent speed. That’s okay. Nobody is going to remember everything the first time.
Third, if there is a way to put a bit of duress on your family, do it. Yell, block them, move some of the gear to an unsuspected location. This will hopefully give all participants a better understanding and feel for the difficulty of a situation.
Hone Your Skills
Never stop learning and growing. Never stop practicing. But make sure it’s fun. Participate in the activities mentioned above and add to them. Just like the drill, it’s important to keep up your skills so your body knows what to do even when your mind says to freeze.
Get to the range. Make sure your are shooting regularly with whatever firearm you are going to depend on. Get your kids involved to. Have your children shooting as soon as you feel it is safe for them. Teach them all about firearms and how to use them. Make sure they know what they are doing and are safe with guns.
Practice survival skills. If you read something in a book or see something on a video, go out and practice it. Start a fire without matches. Make a snare, even if you aren’t trying to physically catch anything. Put together a deadfall. These skills can be fun to practice and can get the whole family involved.
Cook over a fire. It surprises me how few people have really cooked over a fire. Yes, we’ve all roasted hot dogs or marshmallows. But how many have really cooked a meal over the fire? Many people take this skill for granted. They assume they can just hold anything over the fire and it will cook just the way they want it. That is seldom the case. I love cooking outdoors, and I get my boys involved in it as much as possible. One year, we did an entire Thanksgiving dinner over the fire.
Get out of your comfort zone. Perhaps try a weekend free from electricity. Turn off the main power coming into your house and see how you do. It’s not easy, but it can be fun… depending on how you look at it. Build a shelter outside and sleep in it. Go camping and stay in your hammock instead of your tent. (Or stay in your tent instead of your RV.)
Whatever you do, make sure you involve your family. There is a right time to get your kids involved. You don’t want to scare them by telling them worst case scenarios when they are too young. You know your kids better than anyone. Find the right time and the right circumstances to get them involved. Before that, teach them the skills they need to know.
Most of all, have fun! Preparing your family shouldn’t be doom and gloom. There are so many fun activities you can participate in that will get your family ready for anything that may come.