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Retreat down time MusIcal Creativity, games, books, puzzles, boardgames

Dreary Days

There will be days, depending on where you live, where you will experience days of rain, snow, or other weather phenomena that will relegate you and your family to being inside the house. You could spend this retreat down time time mending clothes, sharpening tools, canning, or planning for when the weather allows you back outside. If you have children, this indoor time could elevate the stresses they may be feeling due to the dramatic changes in their lives. Life without electricity, without a cellphone signal, and without an Internet connection. This will be especially hard for children learning to live a tech-free life. What are your plans for these dreary days?


Often overlooked survival items are the things that allow us to enjoy down time with the family. Everyone needs a break now and then. If yours is a family of readers, a nice library can be accumulated for very little money. Garage sales usually have a wide variety of books for all age groups. While you are there to buy blankets, clothing, and tools, pick up a few books to read. You can also get them cheap at Amazon and at many online discount book sites. Here are some quick online sources:

Note:  Always look below the main listed book price on Amazon for other sellers offering used copies at discount prices.

Amazon Prime ships for free and many discounters offers prices low enough to acquire several books for minimal cost. Personally, I will also always have a Bible nearby. If you will be able to power a Kindle or your laptop, you can download e-books inexpensively or for free. Just holding a Kindle might be the methadone type of treatment your kids need as they wake up to their new post-cell-phone world.

A Roll of the Dice

Board games can be played by lantern light, candle light, or sun light. They can be fun and take up very little storage space. The same can be said of dominoes, checkers, chess, Scrabble, Yahtzee, decks of cards, coloring books and puzzles. One plastic storage tote can hold all the board games or other types of entertainment you and your kids would enjoy. Most games require some math, logical thinking skills, or word skills. For example, Scrabble has both math and vocabulary involved. Yahtzee is a game of strategy and math. Any variation of dominoes involves strategic thinking and math. All card games involve logic and math. These are skills that would be part of any home-schooling situation, which, of course, you would find yourself in since you want your children to be able to read and write.

Don’t Forget Education

Home-schooling isn’t often mentioned in the various survival/prepper blogs. Everyone assumes that we will all be sitting at windows with AR-15s, chewing jerky, and wondering what to do with last night’s slop pail. Granted, that may be a scenario that will play out, but there will come a time when that won’t be the case. Your children will grow up and inherit whatever new America emerges. If they are not educated, they will struggle even more than they did surviving the EMP, social chaos, or whatever happened to thrust them into survival mode. An educated individual is much less likely to be manipulated or suckered into a bad deal or situation. As before, online book sellers have plenty of basic math, science, history, and literature books you can also place in a tub. A good web site for free textbooks is LoveToKnow. You can now find a whole host of math and language work sheets online. A few good sites to visit are

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Now, while you have a printer, print out various grade level worksheets and tuck them away for a just-in-case scenario. Don’t forget to stock up on pencils, pens, paper and crayons. Toss a solar/battery-powered calculator into the tub too.

retreat down time MusIcal Creativity

No doubt, you and your family will be creating new ways to do things every hour of every day. It would be a good idea to have some other ways to enhance those creative juices. So far, I have advocated for a library tub, a game tub, and an education tub. Now, you can add a long tub to stack the other three on top of. While you are finding gems at garage sales and auctions, look for a small guitar or ukulele. Look for a flute or small musical instrument. If you can find a small battery powered keyboard, that would be great. While you’re printing out math worksheets, print out some music and some basic how-to instructions for whatever musical instruments you snatch up. Some websites that are helpful include:

If you don’t find a small guitar, then you won’t need a long tub.

Learn a New Language

There are numerous places online where you can plug-in words, sentences and paragraphs to be translated into any language you want. My favorite is Google Translate (formerly called Babelfish) but you can also use IBM Watson Translator, Elan Languages and duoLingo. You can then print these passages out and begin compiling a binder of common phrases in another language. I know the rhetoric that everyone should speak English if they live here, but what if we are in a bug-in/bug-out scenario where there are individuals roaming the streets who don’t speak English? What if masses of individuals have breached our borders and are now looking for food and shelter? Wouldn’t it be good to be able to understand what they are saying? They won’t expect you to understand what they’re talking about so you would have the upper hand. You could integrate the new language lessons into your home-schooling and place the binder in that tub.

Of course, if your budget allows for it, and you have a battery-powered CD player, or will be able to power your laptop, you could buy any of the language programs you want. You can get these language programs at Amazon, Barnes and Noble,, and Rosetta Some of these have free trials online while others want you to buy the whole program. [Editor’s Note: It bears mention that the entire duoLingo program for learning 23 different languages online is now available free of charge! Various members of our family are presently studying three languages with duoLingo. Sadly, it is only available online. But take full advantage of it while the Net stays up.]  You can supplement with the online-translation-binder you are creating to put together sentences specific to your needs. It is doubtful the programs will include discussions about stealing, breaking in to a house, or weaponry. I would supplement with the kinds of phrases and words I might actually hear and need to know the meaning of. I would want to know the words for knife, gun, pistol, rifle, money, food, fire, hurt, break-in, and night, or darkness, just for starters.

Years ago, when I was a child, my family landed deep in the interior of Mexico. No one spoke English so I was forced to learn Spanish. This wasn’t the Spanish taught in school, but real Spanish. Many years later I was out with a friend when a group of young Hispanic males came into our location. Understanding Spanish allowed me to tell my friend that it was time to quickly head to the car. The young men were discussing what they planned to do us. We left so quickly, they didn’t have time to react and we avoided harm. Just something to think about.

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Learn Basic Skills

If you plan to learn a new skill or to teach your children some basic skills such as sewing, knitting, how to sharpen tools or knives, how to cook, or even fix things, make sure you get the supplies you need now. Use this time to buy thread, buttons, zippers, safety pins, sewing needles, material, yarn, a honing stone, and whatever items you will need to successfully teach the skills you will want to teach. Certainly, over time, clothes will need mending, new clothes may need to be made, knives will need to be sharpened, and any number of other things may need repair.

If you go to Google or YouTube and type in how to repair, you will find a variety of videos and documents you can download to use later. Included in the instructions are the tools and supplies you would need to repair anything from a glass window to a small engine. To keep the budget for these supplies to a minimum, check out sales at local small businesses that cater to your area of interest. Some areas have stores that sell material, thread, yarn and the accessories needed for these projects. They may have better sales than Wal-Mart or Dollar General, although both of those stores have good prices and offer starter kits. One of my best finds at an estate sale was a large cookie tin full of rolls of thread. I paid just one dollar and got 100 rolls of thread in a variety of colors.

Local auctions, often on Saturday nights, offer another cost-effective way to obtain things like used tools, sharpening stones, fishing gear, buckets and a myriad of things you can find uses and teaching moments for. I have seen whole boxes of perfectly good tarps, miscellaneous tools, sewing supplies, and dishware sell for two dollars a box at Saturday night auctions. It’s a good idea to pick up whatever newspaper lists all the garage sales in your area. There are also several garage sale listings on Facebook. I prefer garage sales, estate sales and auctions to those sites where you meet up with some stranger. Too many sad stories have come from people being robbed after meeting up with a potential seller from CraigsList or similar sites.

retreat down time Wrap-Up

Surviving any type of national or local emergency-situation will be a strong test for everyone. Having gone through both Hurricanes Ike and Harvey, I’ve spent weeks without electricity, had to take in flooded-out family members, and dealt with the hours between cutting up downed trees, trying to find food, searching for gas for a generator, and dealing with bored house guests unable to help me do the aforementioned activities. It was a life-saver to have something to fill down time with books, games, and endeavors that did not require power. If you have children who do not know what to do with themselves without their tech gadgets, then you will definitely want to have some alternatives to keep them occupied. Children are not adults. You can berate them into working for a while, but they will not carry the load that an adult will carry. Keeping their down time in mind will actually free you up to be more productive, as they learn to adjust.

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