Why are we talking about travel on a homeschool blog? Well, it’s because children(and really – adults as well!) learn by doing. They learn when they get their hands dirty, when they are deep in the woods on a hike, when they are walking in the same place Native Americans walked hundreds of years before, when they are looking out over the shore where the English settlers came aground, and when they are in the middle of a city experiencing the business world. You can learn great things in books. You can get deep meaning while notebooking your way through Ancient Greece, but you are going to always grasp something better when you are doing it.
You don’t have to travel from one end of the country to the other to learn how to be a responsible adult. You don’t have to fly to Rome to understand the size of the Coliseum. You don’t have to take a ferry to the Statue of Liberty to understand what the Irish immigrants felt at their entry to New York.
However, if you have the chance, take it! We have the opportunity to travel when everyone else is in a classroom, and many companies are now even seeing the chance to increase their business by discounting travel in off times just for us. We are homeschooling in a time when the opportunities abound, and as this site grows, we will be posting as many opportunities and tips as we can so that you can live an adventure filled life with your munchkins!
To start with, here are our top five tips for getting the most educational value out of any trip you take with your family:
Let your children help with planning the travel portion of your journey.
Use paper maps or Google Maps and have them help plan the journey. Give them timelines and schedules, and allow them to pick a stop along the way if you are driving a long distance. If you are flying, use the maps to figure out what your flight track will look like and what cities they can find along the way. Several of the airlines also have apps that will allow you to track your plane in flight. It’s one thing to see a city on a map, it’s a whole new perspective to see an entire city from the air!
Let your children help with planning the itinerary of your trip.
If you have time before your trip, request brochures and travel guides for your destination. Most states will mail them at no cost, or will publish downloadable ones that are free. Visit this link to find links to US state tourism websites!
Allow your children to look through them and discuss the different opportunities where you are going. Allow each person to pick one activity or destination that they really want to experience while you are there – if possible. Then, let your child work with you to plan the itinerary once you’ve included everyone’s choices. Your itinerary can be as strict or loose as you desire, but planning a framework beforehand will give you the chance to discuss the “what” of the trip with your children before you go.
Find books related to your stops and read them before you go.
Depending on the nature of your trip, you could spend anywhere from a few hours to a few months preparing the knowledge side of your trip. If you are taking a trip only for the educational value, plan to spend a longer time prepping before you leave. If you are simply including a stop or two while visiting family a state away, take one or two books and read them on the way.
When choosing books, keep in mind what you want the child to grasp from the experience. If you’re going to Gettysburg and want the children to understand the ebb and flow of the battle, you’re going to want to find books that focus on the battle. If you’re going to be visiting a national park and hiking, find books that cover the natural flora and fauna and help them learn to identify a couple species. Preparing your children before the trip will be the glue that helps the experience and knowledge stick for them.
When you pack, take a notebook for your child….and one for yourself!
While you are on your trip and at your activities, focus on being in the moment with your children. Enjoy the experience with them, while discussing what you learned from your reading. At the end of the day, take a few minutes and let them record what they saw before they head to bed. (This is a great activity if you are traveling and eating out. When everyone is tired it gives them something to focus on while they are waiting for food!) Don’t make this burdensome for the kids or yourself. Let them write or record in the manner they want, whether it’s a cartoon, bullet points, or some type of drawing, and do the same thing in your notebook. The point is to help everyone digest the experience.
Caveat: If you know your kids are going to absolutely HATE this step, skip it and choose some other way to record the day. I’ll have more travel recording tips later!
When you get home, get out your notebooks and discuss the trip.
Don’t take a trip then come home and forget about it. If you’ve done the notebooks or another recording method, take time to go over what your kids wrote down/saw and what impressions they took from your travels. They are going to see the trip and the travel from their own perspective, and it’s so much fun to hear what they take away from the adventure. The memories they have of their travels will be cemented by talking them over and discussing what they saw and what they learned. As you move through your school years, find chances to refer to the places you’ve been or the things they’ve seen, and it will reinforce what they have learned on the trips you’ve taken.
Now, these are tips that will squeeze every bit of educational value out of a travel experience. Am I saying that you need to do every one of the things listed above every time you travel or you’re not going to be a successful traveling homeschool family? No way! These are tips and ideas on how to help parents and children grow through travel. Take what works for the stage you are in as a family, then enjoy the journey!
I’ll be sharing much more in the future about traveling as a homeschool family, both from my experience and the experience of other homeschooling moms. Tell me about the biggest challenges you deal with while traveling in the comments below!
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