Taking Your Homeschool on the Road
Let me just start by saying we are not a traveling family. We have not sold our home and piled into the RV for a year long journey around the country! Although there are many days I think this would be great, the type A in me always wins out, and alas we nestle into the predictability of suburbia each night! We do however seem to venture out on vacation each year. Typically two weeks of sun and sand are penned into our calendar!
Given that we homeschoolers have a quirky little habit of believing there is learning to be had everywhere 😉 , and in almost (if not all) situations, our family is known for taking homeschool on the road with us. That is not to say that our usual school work comes with us, but that we look for opportunities to learn and explore along the way. Last year after returning from Florida, I wrote a post titled Random Things We Learned on Our Trip to Florida. It was comprised of things we saw, tried to do, or talked about along the way. It is amazing what you just stumble upon as you drive down the road of life.
These are the things I would recommend for taking your learning on the road:
1. Look for places near where you are traveling, or along the way, to explore. Look to include things you wouldn’t have access to near your home. Maybe there is some historical site to visit, or a beach, mountain, desert, aquarium, zoo, park, ball field, etc.
2. Remember that learning happens anywhere, anytime. Keep your eyes open for things around you. A great way to do this is to keep an “exploring” journal. Each child can keep a log of things they see that they want to inquire about. Maybe they see a building, a landmark, an animal or a flower that they are unfamiliar with. They can draw a picture, write a description or the name if there is a visible sign. Then they can look it up when they have access to a library or internet.
3. If you are taking a trip that you know will include something specific, such as Washington D.C., Yellowstone National Park, a forest or beach, then be prepared. Do some research and reading with the kids before you go. For example, before we head out on a road trip our son likes to get the state books out of the library for each state we will be driving through.
4. Take books along relating to things you might see. Field guide books are great references for flowers, trees, animals, shells, etc. that you might see along the way. When we headed to the beach I stocked up on seashell and ocean life resources for the kids to read and reference as we found things during our stay.
5. To combat the kids restless car syndrome, consider audio books with the corresponding paper books for them to follow along. Print out scavenger hunt sheets to keep them engaged and looking out at the scenery as you drive. Include coloring sheets, word searches, and license plate check lists too. Mad Libs are always a car pleaser in our family!
7. Print out maps for them to keep track of the roads you drive, the cities you pass, or the states you enter. For smaller ones just have them color the states, for older ones you can print out more detailed maps to include cities and major roads.
8. Let your older children help you plan your trip, either by helping to choose places to go, or to help navigate along the journey.
Heidi…phenomenal piece, great examples and suggestions. XO, ;0)
Thank you Teri! We don’t have the money to fly so we do a lot of car traveling. Through the years we have found many little things that work and don’t work for us while on the road.
I’ve got to get that license plate game! I’ve seen it in stores a million times and have always just passed it by. We play the old fashioned way, with me writing states down with a pen and paper. But I’m almost positive this would be much more fun for my boys, they could be more involved and I might be able to squeeze in a nap!
We typically play the old fashion way as well. This board was a gift from fellow homeschool friends who LOVE using it. Last year on our trip we actually saw Alaska and Hawaii! We are hoping we might get lucky again this year!
I have recently realized that my kids learn more at the smaller locations. For instance they learn when we go to the zoo or the aquarium, but when we attend a historical state park or small science center they learn a lot. I think this may be due to the fact that they get more one-on-one with the park rangers or volunteers, but it is also due to the fact that they are not overwhelmed. It is easier to tie their learning to something they already know when they aren’t taking in a lot of information. We still like the big learning centers, though!
What a great thought! I can see how smaller, less commotion, and more personal interaction could make a big difference in their learning experience. Thank you for sharing with us!
Museums & aquariums are a big hit with our family on the road! There is always something new to learn! Like this alligator farm that was a spur of the moment “Let’s Go” decision; http://winkeysolutions.wordpress.com/2011/09/21/choose-your-own-adventure/
We recently came back from a road trip. Initially I had packed the Leap tag books – but the pens ended up not working and we feel back on dry erase boards (abc, number, & shapes tracing), books on cds (absolutely loved!!), knowledge flashcards, games (card games and hungry hippo – because they couldn’t lose the pieces in the travel size), and books. They each had their own notebooks to write in and of course we played the ABC hunt game!
Its funny because you said to print off maps – I wish I had known before we started! The map was very popular especially with my oldest! We had to pullover and pick up one at Truck stop to get any peace & quiet!
**Still haven’t found good field journals to use … recommendations?
We love the ecosystem line of journals. They work so well in all circumstances. We like the “soft” cover ones.
Christine, we are in fact hitting an aquarium this year! I am not sure who is more excited, the kids or me! Welcome centers are a great place to pick up free maps of the states you visit. Our kids always load up on brochures as well as maps from each place we stop. I wish I had good recommendations for field journals for you. I will post to the HHMs Facebook page as we are more likely to get a greater number of suggestions there!
I would never apologize for giving my kids roots. Travel is wonderful and incredible, but having a place to call “home” with people you know for more than a year or two is invaluable.
That said, I would LOVE to be able to travel for a month a year. Just a “holiday” like the Europeans seem to be able to do. Wouldn’t that be fabulous? A holiday to the seaside. Pip pip cheerio.
We are hoping to make a 3 to 4 week journey “west” in the next few years. Years ago my oldest Chloe and I did a whole year on the 50 States. She loved it so much and plotted a list of all the places she wanted to visit; the Grand Canyon, Mt. Rushmore, Golden Gate Bridge, etc. I promised her when they were all older we would do it.
We make a journal/scrap book of our road trips using postcards bought along the way. The kids write something about what we did or saw on the back of the postcard, and then we hole punch and clip the postcards together into a book.
What a great way to use postcards! I like post cards for the picture perfect photos you could never get yourself. But adding a personal note about your experience and keeping it in book form is a great souvenir/scrapbook idea!
We drove down to Florida last year (to Disney) with the in-laws and we did our best to make the trip about more than just the Mouse. We made a point of reading about the states we drove through and discussing everything from religion to politics to history and pop culture a long the way. We even stopped at St. Augustine’s, a place my husband’s family had never been though they’d driven to Florida countless times. Then, on the way back, we took a detour specifically to drive over the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel. I don’t see the point in taking a trip that long without looking for opportunities to learn. Great post!
I have to agree that long trips seem to be more worth the effort if you can find learning along the way! Thanks for taking the time to read this post and share your thoughts with us!
I really enjoyed your article. You had many great ideas. I hope that you do get your month long trip across the country.
Our family did pack up our house, and put everything in storage for one year, and traveled. We traveled in a 34 foot fifth wheel and had the most glorious time. We live in S. California, and really wanted to spend time on the East Coast. Then we came home and stayed for seven years where the girls bonded with friends. During the seven years we took smaller trips, and still had many adventures.
As you travel, try hooking up with other homeschoolers. The locals in the area where you are traveling to know all the quaint and cool places to visit. We did this all across the country. We had a great time and met many interesting people along the way.
What a great idea to try hooking up with local homeschoolers in the areas where you are traveling! I will have to consider this on any of our next little adventures that we take, and of course if we every get our month to travel across the country!
Heidi – this was a wonderful post! I had never thought to print out a map (at least for my oldest) to take long on trips. I suppose I could make one for the two little guys with only the BIG landmarks – that is so much fun!! And having a journal just for exploring is great! We travel so much more now living in Europe as we are trying to soak up as much history as possible before Uncle Sam sends us back to the US 🙂 Thanks for the suggestions!
Thank you Carlie! All our kids love maps. This year a brought something as simple as an empty notebook for my 5 year old. She has loved doing her “school” in it. She tried writing some of the big numbers that the older kids and I are fussing around with while doing some “real life” math calculations. She asked for “spelling” words to write in her notebook and has drawn pictures of some of the things we see and talk about. Who knew a simple spiral notebook could add so much entertainment!
Great article! We are just starting to take our homeschool on t road and I am blogging about it. I love reading about other families travels. We will be taking lots of day trips and are doing one big 20 day, 3000 mile trip south in July and August. And we will continue into the fal and winter with weekend getaways.