After five months of being cooped up inside our house, my son needed reassurance that the pandemic would not bulldoze his former existence, that distance learning would not destroy his social life, and that wearing facemasks around town would not be required forever. Immersing himself in Netflix TV shows, HBO movies, and video games were helpful distractions during the first quarter of 2020; but I sensed he needed more. He looked tired and unmotivated as the summer months continued, and I was running out of ideas.

“Mom, I’m bored,” said Louie, frustrated. “There’s nothing to do anymore.”

“Why don’t you read a book?”

“I don’t like reading,” he said, averting sad eyes.

“You used to like reading,” I said.

“That was when I was younger,” he said. “Plus, it’s too hard to concentrate these days.”

“Well, what do you want to do?” I asked.

“Spend time with my friends,” he said. “But nobody can hang out.”

My husband joined the conversation. “Where do you want to go?”

“Hiking,” said Louie, with a glimmer in his eyes.

That’s when I realized a change of scenery was needed. My plans for the rest of the day no longer mattered. Everything else could wait, because our son needed emotional support.

Louie pulled out his phone and searched for local hiking trails.

“How about the Hollywood Reservoir,” said my husband. “We could see the Hollywood sign.”

Louie’s smile lit up the room. “Really?”

Within minutes, we were driving southbound on the freeway, well stocked with water bottles and snacks for the journey. Spontaneity was refreshing, considering our freedom to explore had been restricted for far too long.

An hour later—while hiking along a paved trail in Hollywood Hills—we observed the nostalgic Hollywood sign on a nearby mountainside. We’d never seen the fifty-foot-tall letters up close, although Louie had peered through a high-powered telescope at Griffith Observatory and seen them during a field trip when he was younger.

Being surrounded by nature and feeling the sun’s warmth on my face brought back memories of weekly outings with our tight-knit homeschool community. Those hiking jaunts seemed to shape our son’s perception of God’s green Earth and all of its inhabitants; plus, field trip days brought us closer together as a family.

Along the three-mile stretch, I reached out and touched wild buckwheat and tobacco plants—reminders of countless hikes we’d enjoyed with other homeschoolers from 2003 to 2013—and smiled. I reminisced about witnessing Louie’s aha moments on those excursions, like the time he saw a six-foot rattlesnake slithering across a footpath and identified it by the shape of its head.

Ironically, we stumbled across a coiled rattler on the shady walkway in Hollywood Hills; all three of us stared in amazement while maintaining a healthy distance. We recalled some life-saving survival skills taught by Tracker Robert Remedi, who led families along Earth science expeditions in Los Angeles and Ventura Counties. Putting one foot in front of the other, I slowed down to reflect on those homeschooling days—the best years of our lives—a season in time that will always give me pleasure.

Paying attention to Louie’s needs was the best decision we could have made that day, and I wondered whether other parents had considered the gifts they’d been given during the quarantine. How a change of scenery—homeschooling or distance learning—had afforded everybody an opportunity to slow down and spend quality time with their children, while strengthening family bonds during the pandemic.

“No regrets,” I whispered under my breath, as we continued along that winding trail.

Gina Wileman is a published author (My Twisted Life In Middle School: Best Friends & Bullies) and the owner of EUREKA! Tutoring (EurekaTutoring-SMILES.com), where she offers in-studio and virtual tutoring sessions for students (grades K-12). She homeschooled her son for ten years (2003-2013) and was a networking group facilitator of hikes, field trips, classes, plays, and club events for homeschool families in southern California. Gina loves teaching and mentoring students, writing books and blogs, listening to personal-growth podcasts, furthering her spiritual development, and creating allergy-friendly recipes. Mostly, she cherishes time spent with her husband, son, and two shih-tzu pups.

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