The Little Philosopher



The Very Long Title:

Creating Ourselves Today by Understanding Ourselves of Yesterday…

The Spectacular and Necessary Preservation and Interpretation of History through National Parks and Institutions that Support Historic Knowledge

The Very Short Title:

Save Our National Parks and Historic Places!

by The Little Philosopher Group

(The Schmitt Family)


The Very Long Part of the Story…

Being a philosophical family, we often enjoy thinking about the many connections of what we are learning and how it all fits into the bigger picture of our existence. Things generally all happen with reason and effect in a seemingly huge jigsaw puzzle that spans many generations of real people making real choices. It's pretty darn fascinating! And, when our family, in particular, takes the time together to learn about and to put some of the historic pieces into place, we undoubtedly discover something about ourselves as well -- our own feelings about things, how we got to where we are, how difficult or simple certain things were or could still be.


Our family also loves to travel! We use our "thoughtful family travel" 4-step method by studying about a place first before we go. We then experience the place, come home and reflect on the experience, and then create something special and meaningful about our experience. More often than not, National Parks and state-run and county-run historic landmarks  are an integral part of every step of our process. The interpretive information presented in a variety of manners, the extremely helpful rangers, workers and volunteers, amazing artifacts and buildings, tranquil parks, meadows and woods all have contributed to each and every part of everything that we learn and love. These experiences -- in fact, everyone's experiences -- create us. They become the very cells of our being, molding and shaping not only our thoughts and decisions but forming the very energies and structures of who we are and who we become. The Danish philosopher and "Father of Existentialism", Søren Kierkegaard, proposed that a person's truth is determined ultimately by the choices he/she makes. This living in truth is, according to Kierkegaard, the only way to live a life considered to be valid. Our human truth has, as a huge part of the big picture, our very own history -- a history that needs to be valued, preserved and interpreted, as our National Parks and local interpretive sites do so well -- for everyone.

Recently, our family has travelled to many Civil War National Battlefield Parks as well as National Historic Sites and locally-run historic sites devoted to leaders of Civil Rights. There are so many pieces to try and link together in this vastly complicated subject of Civil War and Civil Rights -- an issue very much alive today! Visiting these places run by the NPS  and others has been crucial to us in developing a better understanding of these issues and how they still are influencing us today. As a family, we often find ourselves gravitating toward any National Park Service site or historic landmark because we know that what we will find there will support our efforts in our own search for truth. We have travelled the Blue Ridge Parkway, the Natchez Trace, visited Jean Lafitte, Shiloh, Gettysburg, Martin Luther King, Jr. Birthplace, Valley Forge, the Grand Canyon. We have learned from local, part-time workers at county-run and state-run historic sites with walking tours and interpretive trails. Think for a moment how many National Parks or state- and local-run parks and landmarks your family has visited recently and the experiences you had there. It's staggering to realize just how much our national and local parks and sites have given us!


Unfortunately, today, we are also learning in our travels that there are places in this country -- some of the wealthiest places in our country, even -- that do not value history. We hear stories of funding for historic sites being completely cut off by local politicians, and historic buildings being sold or shut down. Our family trembles when we hear of such things! Is it really possible that people think history is "boring" and certainly not worth supporting financially? That's like saying that living is boring and eating food just costs too much, so why bother? Just as the saying goes, "You are what you eat," so, too, it is valid to say that you are what you value, what you learn, what you pay attention to. Just as junk food becomes a junk body, so, too, does a bored mind become a dullard.

The Very Short Part of the Story…

Support organizations that support history -- or live a lie. The choice is yours.

P.S. Be sure to check out Zoë and Zach's terrific download! They created a template of a boy and girl, or you can draw yourself. Fill in your thoughts with pictures of history and all the other wonderful things you experience at national and local parks. Then draw your hands creating something uniquely "you" that you gained from those experiences. Have fun!


The Little Philosopher Group is a family business providing fun, philosophical materials and programs for families and organizations that support families. Our materials include books and activities designed to introduce families to the fun and joy of thinking together. Their recently published book, The Little Philosopher Family Visits… Shenandoah, The Blue Ridge Parkway and The Great Smoky Mountains, is available on Amazon. More fun, creative, thoughtful activities are also available on The Little Philosopher Group website,

June 2015


How to Have an Extremely Great Family Adventure … on the Blue Ridge Parkway and Beyond!

By The Little Philosopher Group

(The Schmitt Family)

On Saturday June 20, 2015 in Roanoke, VA, The Little Philosopher Group will be presenting a family workshop in collaboration with the FRIENDS of the Blue Ridge Parkway. This article features the highlights of the upcoming workshop. Contact the FRIENDS for registration information. Hope to see your family there! 

It’s time for a vacation…

Our family likes to think … a lot! And, with all that thinking, it’s hard not to do things in a real and meaningful way. So when it comes time for a family trip somewhere, we try our best to create an experience that really lasts, something that will become a part of our lives in some positive and lasting way. Think about it – every commercial for that fun-filled family vacation seems to promise just that – an experience that will fill your family with such magical joy, such profound connection, and such out-of-this-world bliss that all life for all time will forever be changed – that is, until you need to take another vacation again next year. All the advertising words and promises in the world mean very little unless there is your own family's understanding of truth within all those claims. The bottom line is that in family travel, just as in life, in order for something to be good -- really good -- it has to be real.

Making it real with “Thoughtful Family Travel”…

Our family has created The Little Philosopher Family Visits… book series in which we outline our  “thoughtful family travel” four-step method of travel for families – study, experience, reflect and create. In our first book of the series, we  wrote about our wonderful time traveling to Shenandoah National Park, down the Blue Ridge Parkway and on to The Great Smoky Mountains. In our family’s own traveling experiences, we have learned that the absolute best times that we have are the ones in which we learned about the particulars of the place before we traveled there. When we take the time to study things about the animals and ecology or the history about a place before we actually go there, it makes the experience so much better – even reading about Walt Disney and the creation of Disney World made our experience there so much richer. Furthermore, when we take the time to learn things together, it not only helps us to better understand the subject, but it also deepens our connection with each other – we are learning together in the same time and space and that fun experience itself becomes part of the overall enjoyment. It’s something shared by everyone involved, and it feels pretty terrific!  Thinking and exploring together have been the most influential components of our joy as a family! Next in the four-step process, we experience the trip. We keep a family journal and record our observations and feelings about things. When we return from the trip, we reflect on our experiences that we had. We write poems, talk about the trip together, cook up recipes from our favorite restaurants and research new things that we didn’t realize before. This step is a crucial part of making the trip feel like it has become a part of our lives. It’s not just a vacation. It’s not some escape from reality. It’s not just some break from the grind of work and stress and school and soccer and dance practice. It changes us in some way – for the better. It helps us to grow and to understand life a little better. Then, after this step, we  create a project as a family that expresses the things we learned and experienced on our family trip. The create step really solidifies the entire experience as something that our family will remember together. For our create step for this particular trip, we wrote a book about our great family adventure on the Blue Ridge Parkway.  There are so many ways to create! Do a fund-raising project for an endangered animal you learned about, clear some of your favorite trails at your local park, write some poetry together and read it at a nursing home. The ideas are limitless! Do what your family loves, and share it with the world – the reward is in the giving of the gift itself – and what your family will gain together as a result.

It is our family's sincere hope that our books and our "thoughtful family travel" method can encourage your family to enjoy thinking and being together in a more fulfilling and meaningful way.

Happy family travels!


The Little Philosopher Group is a family business providing fun, philosophical materials and programs for families and organizations that support families. Our materials include books and activities designed to introduce families to the fun and joy of thinking together. Their recently published book, The Little Philosopher Family Visits… Shenandoah, The Blue Ridge Parkway and The Great Smoky Mountains, is available on Amazon. More fun, creative, thoughtful activities are also available on The Little Philosopher Group website,


May 2015


The Greatest Show on Earth… now playing at a local park near you

by The Little Philosopher Group

(The Schmitt Family)

Our family recently went to our local zoo, and we saw that, with just a few extra dollars, we could obtain a "Total Experience" package that included a movie about a famous cartoon character in 4-D. 4-D? We all looked at each other, very confused. We could certainly envision the assaultive image of this cartoon character coming at us with the help of some 3-D glasses. But we weren't quite sure, nor were we interested in finding out how the element of yet another axis could be added to this already annoying cartoon. The extra "D", we concluded, must be one of those elements that certain theme parks recently have added to their rides that include sensory experiences -- bursts of wind in your face, particular scents and smells, even insect stings. Since this is a zoo 4-D "Total Experience", maybe we would get a nice tetrahedral-shaped scratch from a lion, or a delightful, slow-motion bite from a hippo spinning in space, or, perhaps best of all, a chance to outrun pieces of man-eating tigers that disappear and reappear as they enter into our dimension-- that might cost extra!

Our family loves to explore concepts of the fourth dimension and space. But, somehow, we didn't think those concepts could be portrayed in any intelligent and satisfying way through a highly commercialized cartoon character. It seemed obvious to us that the intention of the zoo's 4-D "Total Experience" was more about providing an audience with entertaining stun factors than about fostering any true appreciation for nature, animals and their environment. Needless to say, we didn't purchase the 4-D "Total Experience" package but opted instead to have our own fantastical family fun by simply observing the animals quietly, talking about the things we noticed and learning about ourselves and our natural 3-D world in the process.



Desensitization. What a horrible word! It's long, it's hard to say five times fast and it's kind of ugly-sounding. But it's what is happening far too often in our families and in our world. Our senses are perpetually overloaded with constant, loud, insta-second input from sources that seem, at times, to surround us. Many grocery stores now have television screens blaring at you from every aisle and check-out lane. Pizza places, drug stores, hotel lobbies. Electronics are everywhere. Recently, our family was staying at a hotel with a room off the lobby that read, "Guest Library". We were thrilled, and then disgusted upon entering to see three televisions lined up on one wall all blasting three different channels at once -- and not one single book to be found. Gee, only three TVs? There was enough wall space in there to add at least four more. Better yet, why not just assign a channel to be displayed on each other's foreheads, then when we look at each other, we won't have to miss a single nanosecond of television input. Don't laugh -- it may be coming soon.


The worst part about desensitization is how it numbs the most vital parts of how we are able to experience the world in a deep and meaningful way. It doesn't just numb our senses, leaving us needing yet more flashing lights and a deafening volume of sound in order to feel anything. The constant "assault" of the electronic blitz crushes our ability to connect -- with our environment and with each other. We shut down -- it's our only defense -- and we wind up shutting out a spectacular world of possibility unfolding right before our eyes.



Spring. What a nice-sounding word! It's easy to say, it's both a noun and a verb and it's currently bursting out in quiet, graceful glory all around us. Finally! Recently, our family was returning from a long road trip, and we stopped on the Blue Ridge Parkway on our way home. Instantly, our senses were surrounded by crisp, water-filled droplets of delectable misty air. The mountains were enshrouded with wafting white wisps as we turned each curve in our car. Hiking, we encountered the Dogwoods -- whites, pinks -- as they smiled their sweet little faces at us. Tiny Bluets sprinkled the forest floor and delighted our every step by. We sat on a log for the longest time and watched a Barred Owl napping in a nearby tree. We listened to the magical sound of dancing spring rain drop on leaves. For each of us, every sense was heightened to its fullest -- all without any electronic device whatsoever! Spring has the utmost power to trump any manmade, so-called 4-D sensory stimulus whatsoever, hands down. And it does so naturally and powerfully, all seemingly without much effort. Put simply, spring has something to offer us that no television, cell phone, video game or "Total Experience" package can ever provide -- and it's something we all desperately crave… inspiration. Spring gives all of us a certain filling up of our souls that makes all life all good. So get out there. Go for a quiet family walk in the park or the woods. Watch patiently for the flash of the most brilliant yellow of goldfinches and warblers, all in their most impressive outfits of the season. See how many polyhedral shapes you can spot in rocks and crystal formations. Find a flower or pine cone and discover the Fibonacci sequence. Let the innate wisdom of our senses put us in touch with the rhythm of the universe. Listen, watch, touch, taste, smell and become all that is spring. Do it all together as a family -- and enjoy the real total experience package of the greatest show on Earth!


The Little Philosopher Group is a family business providing fun, philosophical materials and programs for families and organizations that support families. Our materials include books and activities designed to introduce families to the fun and joy of thinking together. Their recently published book, The Little Philosopher Family Visits… Shenandoah, The Blue Ridge Parkway and The Great Smoky Mountains, is available on Amazon. More fun, creative, thoughtful activities are also available on The Little Philosopher Group website,


P.S. Try one or all of Zoë and Zach's fantastic downloadable activities for May 2015 featuring all the senses plus an extra one for the family soul!  

April 2015

Fluffy Girls Can't Jump… a story about cats, family and inspiration

by The Little Philosopher Group

(The Schmitt Family)

This article is in honor of National Volunteer Week April 13-19, 2015.

A little about cats …

Sometimes, the wisest advice comes to you from places you'd never expect -- like your family cat, for example. Our family recently became owners of another cat in need of a home. We now have two cats, or rather, two cats now have us.


Our first cat, Roy, we've had for almost five years. He's a big, solid tomcat with huge, rabbit-like feet and legs full of muscles. One thing he loves to do more than anything else is to jump -- on the countertops, the kitchen table, the window sills, the very tops of bookshelves and, while we all hold our breath, around the valuables teetering on top of the fireplace mantle. Over the years, we've gotten used to his jumping; we've even come to expect him to easily jump to places five times his height. At our house, most surfaces are cleared of just about everything -- or hammered down in some way. It's like having a perpetual jumping toddler!

We thought a playmate cat might help calm Roy down a bit, and so, Eva came into our lives. Eva is best described as a big, black ball of fluff with eyes. She is easy-going, loves to play with just about anything and gets along great with Roy. They do everything together -- wrestle, eat, groom, sleep. However, there's only one thing that sets the two apart like night and day -- Eva can't jump. She climbs her kitty tower faster than a rabid raccoon, her paws are quicker than lightning and she scurries faster than a dust bunny in a breeze. But, she never, ever jumps.

Often times, one of us will walk by Roy as he's perched high on something he shouldn't and there will be Eva -- sitting, on the ground, beneath Roy, thoughtfully licking a paw. Zoë or Zach usually gives Eva a pat, laughs and says,  "You can't get up there, silly. Fluffy girls can't jump." Then Roy gets pulled down and the two cats go running off to play.

Our family book…

Recently, our family has written the first book in our family travel series, The Little Philosopher Family Visits. In this first book, we traveled through Shenandoah, the Blue Ridge Parkway and The Great Smoky Mountains on our way to a business trip in Atlanta. We absolutely loved the Blue Ridge Parkway -- in fact, we cut our stay short in Atlanta just to spend more time back on the Parkway!

The format of our book outlines a four-step methodology for thoughtful family travel in which the last section encourages families to create something after they return from their trip based on the interests and fond memories of the trip. We provide thoughtful questions to prompt ideas of how to use your family's interests and experiences from your trip and to do something together in a deliberate, conscious way  -- either for the Parkway itself or within your own community at home -- a fundraiser for local wildlife, an article about your experience, a recipe to cook up for someone in need. In this way, your family's trip becomes a more connected, meaningful and lasting experience. Your family is then empowered together to chose what's important to you and to help support that cause.

Cat wisdom…

As our family thought about how we wanted to write the first book in our The Little Philosopher Family Visits series, we tried to determine the best way for us to do our own "create" project after our trip. It was tough at first. No ideas seemed right -- kids not interested, who has the time -- these were our answers for most ideas.


It's usually about this time when everyone needs a snack -- including the cats. So, we all fumbled our way into the kitchen, and as Roy jumped up on the countertop, and Eva sat below, one of us said, "No, silly Eva. Fluffy girls can't jump." She looked up at us and, with a flick of her fabulous feathered tail, began a slow strut straight out of the kitchen. Roy jumped down off the counter, ran ahead, and the two began to play.

Just then, as we were munching on our snacks, inspiration unfolded and an idea was born… That's it! Fluffy girls can't jump. It's true. But they can do much more. Right then we decided to focus on what we can do best. So, we created our book. And, we decided to donate $1 to the FRIENDS of the Blue Ridge Parkway for every book sold. Our cat was right all along! There are a million reasons why something can't be done, but all you need is just one thing you can do. Who cares if you can't jump. Focus on all the things that you can do. If your family is focusing on all the reasons why you can't do a volunteer project for the Parkway or a local venue, then you're not looking at all the things you can do. The possibilities are practically limitless. Eva knows she can't jump. And she probably spends zero time and energy focusing on that fact. She couldn't care less if she can't jump. She knows what she's good at and capitalizes on all those qualities. It's hard to believe that anything so fluffy could move so fast, but she does!


Our family has learned something so valuable from this simple wisdom -- to focus on our talents, to share those talents and to let everything else go. Do what makes your family shine, what brings you joy. Share that. And the world will be a better place -- for cats and all their humans.

The Little Philosopher Group is a family business providing fun, philosophical materials and programs for families and organizations that support families. Our materials include books and activities designed to introduce families to the fun and joy of thinking together. Their recently published book, The Little Philosopher Family Visits… Shenandoah, The Blue Ridge Parkway and The Great Smoky Mountains, is available on Amazon. More fun, creative, thoughtful activities are also available on The Little Philosopher Group website,