Many home school families have been amused by the term HOME schooling or HOME education, because, well frankly, we are not quite home as much as others may think. We drive to co-ops and extra classes, drive to the parks, to social groups, and drive to countless field trips. Perhaps we ought to call it car schooling? But that concept might be for a different post. Once or twice during the school year our family embarks on a major trip across country or states to visit family. As we are out of our routine for one to three weeks, I never like to just take off all that time from academic work. I am still quite caught up in counting the number of “school” days and making the most of every learning opportunity, besides the fact that it becomes increasingly difficult for my boys to jump back into books and studies when they have had a lengthy hiatus. As I type these words in to my iPad, we are munching pretzels and sipping cranberry juice on the airplane while on our way back from family and friends in Arizona. It was a successful visit in many ways. Here are a few of the simple ways we maintained our learning while still having a fun vacation.
Make use of local museums-
While this may not always be possible depending on your budget and the affordability of your destination, museums are a wonderful way to experience new places while learning. Although not necessary, if you can tie them in to your curriculum, even better. This trip our family hit the art museum and science center. On previous visits, we have explored children’s museums, geology centers and history or state museums.
Appreciate relationships as their own education-
Here is where the tired and trite socialization argument dies. Before we officially began our home schooling adventure we comprised a concise list of all the reasons we wanted to keep our kids at home. The freedom to travel and family closeness topped the list. I love seeing A’s and S’s brotherly relationship solidify the longer we do this thing. G adores being a part of his big brothers’ daily routines, and has learned an indescribable amount. Traveling only enhances this. It is not only the relationships in our immediate family, however, that benefit us when we travel, but the relationships with everyone we meet. This is particularly crucial for my guy with Asperger’s. All three of my guys need to know their grandparents. We live in a time when the value of family may be fading. Unconditional love can be the greatest educational tool, not to mention all those extra life skills they may learn from being around different people from different generations. Utilize them in your travels, or if you have the grandparents next door, be appreciative, and allow them to serve your family well.
Notice nature and take advantage of the outdoors-
Regardless where your journeys take you, there will be something new to see and explore. Taking advantage of nature centers, hiking trails and parks only makes sense. It can be as simple as photographing and observing the diversity in our world to something more intentional. One year we spent two weeks walking about my parents’ neighborhood identifying various cactuses – saguaro, ocotillo, prickly pear, organ pipe, cholla, etc. One of S’s favorite memories is chasing (and catching) lizards around the Sonoran desert.
Packing textbooks and heavy curriculum is not what you want to do. Traveling with kids can be stressful enough. Simplify. On this trip we packed The Story of the World, volume 3 by Susan Wise Bauer, and our read aloud, which currently happens to be Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. That’s it. We read the Bible together, we practiced our copy work, we watched a couple of science videos, and did some random math practice. Supplemented by our museum trips, it felt like just the right amount without providing too many stressful expectations.
Let go. Come to terms with taking days off.
Honestly, I only “counted” two-thirds of our travel days toward schooling. The rest of the time I let the guys just be. They laid around and watched far more t.v. than is usually permitted. They played in parks, and threw rocks at each other in the backyard. They ate far more desserts than was typical. They relaxed.
Now, we are back in the Midwest buckling down once more to studies and winter. Though leaves are sparse, we love them. “Travel schooling” allowed us to go from summery hikes to craving peppermint mochas in a single day. It was a wonderful break.