One of the great benefits of homeschooling is the flexibility and room for spontaneity. If you want to work outside, you can enjoy the sunshine. If your kids need an exercise break, they’re off to the trampoline. And, when you just need to get out of town or the family is finally having a reunion, you can pack the car and head out knowing that school goes where you go. Who else but homeschoolers can claim that?
While many homeschooling families choose to bring work with them on vacation or to visit a few sites that go along with what they’re learning, most aren’t fully maximizing their vacation experiences and taking advantage of the opportunities to integrate travel into their child’s homeschool year and curriculum. But with a little planning and a few supplies, car time, pit stops, and new destinations can complement your homeschool year well beyond a few journal entries and audiobooks.
1. Travel Planning With a Purpose
Perhaps there’s nothing more frustrating to a parent than to hear “I’m NEVER going to use these math skills in life!” Vacation provides the perfect opportunity to prove them wrong. From mileage calculation to map skills to vacation expenses, travel gives you the ability to put those math skills to good use. Give older kiddos a vacation budget for the family and let them help you to choose hotels, stops, meals, etc. while staying within budget. Using an excel spreadsheet can add even more value to this activity as they master a new technology application. Younger kids can learn to budget and revisit money skills at each snack stand with a roll of quarters.
Want to eliminate the dreaded “are we there yet?” Younger kids can be tasked with counting mileage and mapping out their destination. Give them a map with the route highlighted (or let them find it and print it out themselves!) and then have them use addition and subtraction skills to discover where they are at various times during the trip. This can even be a great way to introduce calculator skills to those younger kiddos who cannot yet do 2 and 3 digit addition or subtraction. And, don’t forget the map reading and geography skills you can impart with a simple atlas or map. Stop at vacation centers and rest stops to get local maps and have your students compare different map legends and types of cartography.
Challenging your kids to think critically during vacation is one way to keep them busy while keeping your sanity.
2. Busy Bags
In a previous blog post I talked about the sanity that Busy Boxes and Bags bring to homeschooling and travel. Putting a student or child’s activities within a hand’s reach is the key to joyful travel (that and lots of snacks!). For those who want to homeschool while traveling, make sure to fill your busy bag with more than just school work and pop in a few surprises before leaving. On a recent trip to Williamsburg I surprised each of my children with old fashioned candy, root beer, and a new journal in their busy bags. And, while I wouldn’t recommend loading up on sugar before a long car ride (lesson learned), the sugary surprises were a great way to discuss Colonial food and manners while on the long car ride.
3. Critical Thinking Games
By car, by train, or by plane, vacation often means long periods of time in confined spaces with your family. Use that time to grow together through gaming, and I’m not talking about Candy Crush. For older students who would like to bury themselves in a screen, consider putting their language skills to work with brain busting, critical thinking activities. Mad Libs, memory puzzles, riddles, etc. are a great way to challenge one another, and your brain, while passing the time. We recommend Mad Libs or The Critical Thinking Company’s Brain Busters as they are fun and can be enjoyed by the whole family without feeling like you’re studying grammar.
4. Journals That Give Back
There’s nothing I loved more while on vacation as a child than a clean notebook, pencil, and a glue stick. Why? Because memory books and journals last long after the vacation has ended. At every rest stop, outing, museum, etc. I kept what pieces of the day meant most to me, glued them into my book, and wrote about the day. From Broadway ticket stubs to sketches of the Charleston Battery, I can still look back in those memory books and remember my journeys.
For homeschoolers, there’s an added layer of benefit — journaling can be counted as writing credit! And, you can use your journal to spark writing and project inspiration after you get home. Kids are more apt to enjoy writing and completing projects when they can choose their topic and have concrete experiences to draw upon. So put those vacation experiences and dollars to further use down the road when your student is tasked to write an essay, give a speech, or create an art project. I think you’ll enjoy the walk down memory lane as much as they do!
5. Language and Fine Arts Fun
Sometimes it seems daunting for homeschool families to work in time for fine arts and electives like foreign languages. Vacations provide a great opportunity to bank elective hours and experiences that can be turned into projects at a later time. What better way to study art than to see it live? Most cities have art museums, cultural centers, or local artist shops that you can visit. You can think outside the frame here. Take pictures and study graffiti art in the city or enjoy bluegrass music in the car while studying American folk art. And, with all that time in the car or on the plane, learning a foreign language through an audio-series makes total sense.
With just a little planning and a few items, your vacation can enhance your homeschooling year in more ways than just visiting historic sites and museums. But, whatever you choose to do, make sure you keep the most important elements of vacation at the top of your to-do list: fun and family time.
Tell us about your most memorable vacations and how you used them to boost your homeschooling year!