We are a family that loves to learn through travel. We’ve learned that there are amazing life lessons lurking around every new corner of an adventure. We seek opportunities to pack a suitcase or carry on, and we love to try new adventures.
One of our favorite travel guide publishers, Moon Travel Guides, has sponsored this post. We love their Moon Alaska guide and recommend it to any family planning an Alaskan getaway! Find the Moon Alaska book at this link.
In the summer of 2017, we boarded a plane on a hot summer day in Atlanta, and jetted off for the Land of the Midnight Sun. We were fulfilling a life-long wish for my mother-in-law. Also, we were taking the opportunity to show our kids the majesty of the vast Alaskan wilderness.
The flight to Alaska was not the adventure’s beginning for this homeschooling family. We had been learning about life in the state for six months before we set foot on the plane. We’d studied Native Alaskan cultures and learned about the geography of the land. We’d even tracked five mushing teams through the Iditarod in March 2017. I believe we checked out every Alaskan resource in our library system at some time during those six months.
Why would we go to such lengths? Why would we consider a trip part of our schooling and take the time to learn more about the state? We did so because we knew we had an opportunity to give our kiddos valuable learning experiences. We just didn’t know how valuable and amazing the learning experiences would be. I don’t think we will ever be able to completely quantify how valuable that journey was to our family! What all did our kiddos learn? I know they learned at least 15 things, and I know this list will grow with time as we discuss the trip in the future.
10 Amazing Life Lessons Learned in Alaska
1. First, our children learned that we live in a majestic and wonderful world. We live in Georgia, and the kids have seen the Smokies and the Blue Ridge. They’ve hiked in deciduous forests and they’ve gone swimming in the rivers of Missouri. We’ve visited the beaches of Florida and we’ve seen the Atlantic together, and it’s been beautiful and wonderful, but it’s been normal to them. Snowcapped, craggy mountains and glacial vistas have not been a part of their lives. On the Knik River, I saw absolute wonder cross their faces as we caught the first peek at icebergs the size of our home!
2. I saw my children learn to care for their environment in ways that we’d never had the opportunity to discuss. We are a pretty crunchy family and my kiddos know what belongs in the recycle bin and not to waste water. Caring for the environment became more important when our guide talked about the glaciers shrinking over the years. Choosing to be responsible with our trash became more real to my preteen as she adored the otters and sea lions in Glacier Bay National Park.
3. In Anchorage, my children found a new respect for the people who originally inhabited the lands of the USA. We visited the Native Alaskan Heritage Center and learned about Native life. Our tour guide who grew up in the barrenness of the Arctic Circle. As she taught my children about her childhood, Native Americans and Native Alaskan life became real to my children.
4. My children learned that survival may be tough, but the human spirit is tougher. While we learned about the lives of the Native Alaskans, we learned how hard life was in Alaska. Native communities eked out their existence on sheets of barren ice and depended on sea animal migrations. This was all done while living in fear of Alaska’s wild and ferocious predatory beasts. Yet, these people persevered and prospered in the unforgiving environment.
5. Frequently during our travels, our children had opportunities to practice relating to others, which is one of those invaluable life lessons. This was especially true on the cruise part of our adventure. We chose a boat based on the itinerary. Our kiddos ended up being three out of only thirty children on board the entire boat, yet they thrived. From sitting in the dining hall to playing chess in the drawing room, they had many chances to talk to their elders. They had conversations about our life with retirees from states all over the USA. Each conversation taught them more about speaking well with others, no matter the age.
6. Every single day was a learning experience for our kiddos when it came to etiquette. We practice correct manners all the time in our home, yet, we don’t host formal dinners on a regular basis. The biggest opportunity they had to practice their manners was at the dinner table on our ship. That wasn’t the only opportunity. They learned to request a drink from the flight attendant with respect. On our excursions, they learned to speak well to the guides. We even had a chance to learn about proper etiquette on a suspension bridge four hundred feet in the air, which definitely was not one of my favorite life lessons!
7. Our children learned that research and investigation lead to a richer journey. We spent months learning about life, geography, and the climate of Alaska. We read books and watched movies, and we followed local sports and competitions. My children knew where we were on the Alaskan map at all times while we traveled. They knew about the flora and fauna of their surroundings. The kids were star little nerds on our excursions. The kids were able to explain scientific facts to other members of our excursions. They were able to ask intelligent questions of our guides. Through it all, they broadened their own understanding by seeing things in real life after reading about them.
8. The children also learned that learning doesn’t stop when they finish traveling. Things they saw and learned on the trip sparked their curiosity. They still choose books based on animals or locations they learned about during our trip. I’m writing this article as we are waiting for the 2018 Iditarod finishers to cross the finish line. All week, the kids have discussed the weather and circumstances the mushers are facing.
9. As we rode deep into the Chugach Mountains, my kids learned that climates can vary from one small area to the next. We learned the term “Rain Shadow” when we drove out of dense woods into sparse growth and tumble weeds! Learning that a hunk of land can change the weather pattern on the other side amazed our kids!
10. While we were on our boat, our children learned cruise dining is a great time to try out new foods and flavors. Since the cruise was all inclusive, we didn’t let the bigger kids order off the kids’ menu. They had to pick something new off the adult menu to try out, and then they could have something familiar. We also ordered extra dishes a couple of times for us all to split and try something new. Every child learned to like a new food on our voyage. Now, they are all looking forward to another opportunity to try new foods.
Most of all, my children learned to live boldly on this adventure. From getting on a plane for the first time to off-roading in the front seat of a jeep, we had adventures at every turn. Not a day went by without some new and interesting opportunity to grab life by the horns and rock the adventure. Each day these three amazing small humans rocked it out with gusto. They took risks, pushed themselves beyond what they thought possible, and they thrived. Alaska 2017 is not simply part of our family’s history. The journey marks the moment we stepped beyond “ordinary” and taught our children to embrace life to the fullest.
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