School in a Suitcase: How to Homeschool on the Road
- Wednesday, August 27, 2008
British Clergyman Thomas Fuller once said, “He that travels much knows much,” and as a homeschooling father of three, I couldn’t agree more. Whether it’s a weekend jaunt to a local historical site or an overseas adventure, traveling can provide your children with some of the most amazing educational experiences they’ll ever have.
Sure, traveling with the kids isn’t always easy and it can take a bite out of the budget, but when done right a family vacation can yield a vast harvest of educational opportunities. On our trips through Europe, Asia, and North America, my family and I have experienced firsthand the educational benefits—and hassles—of travel. Here are some tips to make schooling on the road a much richer and simpler educational experience.
Choosing a Destination
No one wants to spend his entire vacation marching through museums or historical sites, so finding a balance between education and play is important when choosing where to go. It’s a good idea to choose a location that sounds like fun for the whole family and then explore the educational sites available to you there. When in Hawaii enjoying the beaches, take a day to visit Volcanoes National Park. When visiting Walt Disney World, spend some time at the Kennedy Space Center learning about the space program. Remember, opportunities to learn about history and science can be found everywhere.
Packing for school on the road can be a daunting task. With enough textbooks, teacher’s guides, and supplies to fill several suitcases, it’s difficult to know where to begin. When planning a recent road trip to France, we had to find a way to fit our three kids’ curricula into the trunk of one tiny European rental car. One way we saved space was by photocopying all of the math, social studies, and science textbook pages that we were going to use on the trip. Since they took only the pages they needed, our kids did not have to lug around heavy backpacks full of books.
To keep organized, we file these copies in individual folders, one for each child. When it’s time to work, we simply pull out their folders and hand each of them the unit of study he or she is on.
Another way to travel light is to trade in heavy language arts texts for paperback novels. A novel provides rich literature practice without the extra weight. It is helpful to choose a novel related to the place that you are visiting. For example, if you are traveling to Gettysburg, have your kids read historical fiction or nonfiction literature related to the Civil War.
Front-loading your children with information about the place you will be visiting before you leave is important. Lessons and projects about the history, culture, and language of a location can really enhance the enjoyment and educational benefits of a journey. If you have a summer trip planned, take time in the spring to provide lessons and assign projects about the location.
Before a trip to Europe, we had our children complete projects related to some of the countries they would be visiting. My second-grade daughter chose to make a trivia-type board game about France, and my fourth-grade son completed a comic book about the Netherlands. When we arrived in these countries, they were excited to eat some of the traditional foods they had read about and see some of the sites they had researched.
When planning, keep in mind that you want to make these lessons and projects fun, because a fun project will enhance motivation and participation. Besides, family vacations should be enjoyable.
One of the best ways I have found to enhance vacation learning is to have the kids keep a travel journal. Not only do journals help improve writing skills, but they really cause a child to reflect upon the places he is visiting, thus making travel a richer academic experience. These travel journals can become a treasury of childhood memories that they will be able to share with their own children.
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