Life has so many teachable moments, and as homeschoolers, you and your family are probably on the lookout for them constantly. The beauty of learning at home is that it never has to stop. When you make that learning both fun and meaningful, then your children will not even realize that they are always “at school.”
One great way to keep the learning going is to take an education vacation. This does not at all mean that the family vacation has to be boring or that it has to involve any schoolwork in the traditional sense. It simply means planning a trip that involves more than simply laying around poolside. When you plan your family vacation—which can be any time of year, thanks to the flexibility of homeschooling—pick a location that will allow you all to relax, to have fun, and to learn something new.
Tips For A Successful Education Vacation
- Learn ahead of time. It can be doubly rewarding to see in person something that you have read or learned about. Plan your lessons for your children to match up with your travel plans. For instance, if you want to visit Civil War sites, all of your children should have at least some knowledge of the history of the war.
- Leave the workbooks at home. Unless you are traveling for an extended period of time, be sure to leave the routine and rote learning at home. An educational vacation is a wonderful opportunity for your kids to learn in a hands-on manner. The experience should be fun and different from what you normally do.
- Resist the urge to play teacher. At home, you may step into your teacher shoes when starting a lesson or helping with math problems. To ensure your children do not think of this trip as formal learning and lose themselves in the experience, avoid that teacher role. Just go with the flow and let the learning happen.
- Be flexible. This vacation is about both learning and having fun. This is no time to get uptight when things do not go according to plan. The special museum exhibit was sold out? No big deal. Go to the beach instead and explore tide pools for a nature lesson. The key is to be relaxed, to have fun, and to learn at the same time.
The Classic American Road Trip
What could be more American, and more summer, than packing up the car and hitting the road for a little adventure. A great thing about a road trip is that you can plan as much or as little as you want. There are still many, many places across the country where you can simply pull in for the night and find a motel room or a campsite without any advance booking. If you do intend to do a minimally planned road trip, however, it’s a good idea to bring along a motel guide such as one from AAA so that you can at least call ahead for a room. Sleeping in the car is no fun, and driving while sleepy is deadly.
If you and your spouse have the freedom to do so, consider purchasing or renting an RV and taking an extended school trip. The kids can do their schoolwork on the road, and you can make stops at any location that is educational or just plain fun. As a bonus, you need not stay in a different room every night. You get to take your home with you for as long as you can. Here are some ideas of great places to visit for fun and an educational experience.
- National parks. Our national parks are one of the United States’ most undervalued resources. In most of the parks, you can experience and learn about nature, geology, history, wildlife, and even outdoor skills such as camping, hiking, rock climbing, canoeing, and other similar activities. You can get national park passports and make a game of visiting as many parks as possible.
- Historic sites. There is no better way to learn about American history than to hit the road and see historic sites. There are thousands of possibilities in all fifty states and include places like the Alamo, colonial Williamsburg, St. Augustine in Florida, Gettysburg, Jamestown, and the missions up and down the coast of California. Pick several locations that you can visit on one road trip for a history-themed vacation.
- Pick a city. Especially if you live in the countryside, let your kids experience all that a city (or two) has to offer. American cities are amazing places with diversity, culture, and history. Whether you choose New York, Boston, Los Angeles, Chicago, Seattle, or any other great American city, you and your family have the chance to experience history, architecture, museums, theater, music, and diverse dining experiences.
- A civic lesson. Washington D.C. is our most unique city. Here, you and the kids can learn about how our government works, see historic sites, and visit the world-class Smithsonian museums. Before you arrive, contact your senators or representative. They may be able to arrange a tour for you or even meet with you in their office on Capitol Hill for a real, live lesson in politics and civics.
- Don’t forget Canada. If you are anywhere near our large northern border, consider crossing over to experience Canada. It may seem similar to the U.S., but there are many differences, and your kids will benefit from touring the scenery and culture of our friendly neighbor.
An overseas trip is a wonderful way for your children to experience and learn about another culture. Depending on where you go, they may also learn about history, art, politics, the natural world, and any number of other topics. Your international trip could be as simple as a week’s stay on Mexico’s Riviera coast or could be as ambitious as this family, which travels the world from one country to the next while homeschooling their daughter and blogging about it. Their stories are fascinating and inspiring, but their journey is not practical for most of us.
Even if you can only afford the time and money for a weeklong trip here and there, your children still stand to learn a great deal from the experience. If your kids are learning a foreign language, visit a country in which they can practice speaking it. Being immersed in another language and culture is, in itself, one of the greatest learning experiences you can give your children.
If money is an issue (and flights can be very expensive these days), try an international trip closer to home. Depending on where you live, either Canada or Mexico may be within road trip distance. Both countries have unique experiences to offer the American traveler and should not be overlooked. In Mexico, your children can practice their Spanish, visit the ruins of ancient civilizations, and see what real Mexican food is like. In Canada, you can experience the variety of scenery and culture that can be found in Vancouver on the west coast, Nova Scotia on the east coast, and everything in between.
A standard overseas vacation is a great and rewarding way to learn. To make it even more so, consider making missionary or volunteer work part of your trip. Your church may have mission trips planned that you can join, but if not, your church leaders should be able to point you in the right direction. You can also find volunteer vacations by doing a quick Internet search. You may end up working with children, with animals, on environmental projects, or on community development. Just be sure to research an organization thoroughly before arranging a trip and spending your hard-earned money.