4 Natural Ways to Learn on Vacation

Written by Jamie Martin, editor of Simple Homeschool and founder of Steady Mom

Summer is almost officially here, and undoubtedly many of you are in the planning stages for a family vacation. Whether you’re heading into the woods for a week of camping, venturing to the seaside, or boarding a plane to another country, we all know that as homeschooling families we never take a complete break from learning.

Of course your educational route may be a little less formal now than during other times of the year, which is as it should be. That’s why it’s good to brainstorm and come up with some gentle, organic ways to continue learning no matter where your journey takes you.

Consider these four possibilities as you vacation this summer.

1. Audiobooks

If you’ll be driving cross-country with slightly older children (beyond the preschool stage), then you can’t go wrong with listening to a good book together. We’ll gear up in late summer for a 12 hour drive down south, and you better believe that I’m already creating a list of audiobooks to keep us busy as we spend time on the Interstate.

Here’s a list of titles good for younger listeners:

  • Winnie-the-Pooh and The House at Pooh Corner
  • Amelia Bedelia Audio Collection
  • The Frances Audio Collection
  • Frog and Toad
  • Tales from My Father’s Dragon
  • The Boxcar Children
  • James Herriot’s Treasury for Children
  • Little House on the Prairie series
  • Tales of Beatrix Potter
  • A Bear Called Paddington

And consider these options for older children:

  • The Chronicles of Narnia
  • The Lord of the Rings
  • The Call of the Wild
  • The Black Stallion
  • Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer
  • Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland
  • Peter Pan
  • The Secret Garden
  • Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
  • Pippi Longstocking
  • The Wizard of Oz
  • Aesop’s Fables
  • Anne of Green Gables

Also check out this post, by Simple Homeschool contributor Renee Tougas, which gives a helpful overview to the use of audiobooks in family life.

2. Postcards

If your destination includes any museums or historical landmarks, postcards can be a natural way to combine history with handwriting for your children.

The search for a particular card can be fun in and of itself. Grandparents and other relatives or friends love to be on the receiving end as your child describes his adventures.

3. Journals

Photo by Jess Sloss

Add to the anticipation of your upcoming trip by purchasing (or creating your own) travel journals. Make sure every member of the family has one–this gives it less of a “school” appearance and more of a casual family activity.

At the end of each vacation day (maybe after dinner), the whole family can sit together and work in their journals for a few minutes. Younger children can draw while older children write about their favorite memory from the day’s events.

4. Scrapbooks

In our family every person has what we call a “learning scrapbook,” a binder in which we collect the items that chronicle all we’ve been learning throughout the year. After returning from a trip, it’s fun for kids to get out their art supplies and add a page (or multiple pages) to their learning book. Include items like postcards, train tickets, brochures from museums, photos, or menus–whatever makes your kids feel happy!

You can also have a family scrapbook that everyone contributes to together. Contributor Stefani Austin recently described her family’s lovely idea of creating a scrapbook while spending time at the beach.

No matter where you head this season, keep your eyes and ears out for organic educational opportunities. These learning sparks flicker constantly if we remain on the lookout, and it only takes a moment to gently fan them into a meaningful flame.

How do you integrate natural learning with your family vacations?

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About Jamie Martin

Jamie is a mama to three cute kids born on three different continents. She is the co-founder and editor of Simple Homeschool, where she writes about mindful parenting, intentional education, and the joy found in a pile of books. Jamie is also the author of a handful of titles, including her newest release, Give Your Child the World.


  1. Jamie, Thanks for the link and thanks for the great list of audio books. Off to add this link to my post as a reference.

  2. I love audio books. I found a site called Librivox a couple of years ago. (http://librivox.org/ ) They have a reservoir of great classic books. All for free! We just download them and put them on an MP3 player.

    I also like to make laminated cards (or you can buy them) with a notable work of art on one side and the name of the piece on the back. I do this with bugs, flags of the world, birds, geography, typefaces… It’s fun to memorize and you can give treats and prizes once they memorize 5,10,20 etc. Kids are great at memorizing, I’d rather them memorze Picasso than Pokeman. 🙂
    .-= Leah Sidwell’s last blog: Father’s Day in T-Minus 6 Days…. =-.

  3. Here is a great site for knowledge cards if you don’t want to make your own, There are some very funny categories, not just “school stuff. Forgotten English, one-letter words, “It Happened Here” All sort of interesting cards.

    Here is the site: http://pomegranate.stores.yahoo.net/cultural-math—science.html
    .-= Leah Sidwell’s last blog: Father’s Day in T-Minus 6 Days…. =-.

  4. I love this post!!! Especially the journal picture… My kids have really got the journaling bug and are into documenting everything at the moment… The other day we spent time looking back at journals I wrote on travels we did before we had kids they loved it!!!
    Also, there are quite a few really good podcasts for kids – free weekly stories and things… I blogged what my kids listen to on their ipods and there are some links you might like down the post: http://www.se7en.org.za/2009/03/28/saturday-spot-the-hifi-and-friends-part-two
    .-= se7en’s last blog: The Week That Was – 2.50… =-.

  5. I love these simple, powerful ideas.

    We are screen-free and my child loves audio books. May I add Enid Blyton’s The Magic Faraway Tree – extraordinarily well-told by Kate Winslet – her best work ever! – to your list for younger readers?

    A grown-up friend of mine, now passed on, once sent me a simple postcard of a rough drawing he sketched and colored while sitting in a Parisienne cafe – I still treasure it years later.
    .-= Flora’s last blog: When you were little =-.

  6. We are getting ready to take a BIG road trip so the audio books are a great idea.
    .-= Mary @ A Simple Twist of Faith’s last blog: Sweet Surprise =-.

  7. Those are a bunch of my favorite books of all time! Good choices. Also try The Penderwicks for older children. It’s a newer book, but destined to be a classic.
    .-= HereWeGoAJen’s last blog: Hair Care Questions =-.

  8. There is also the Classical Kids Series – audio stories about classical composers. I think they’ve got seven now. My favourite is Vivaldi’s Ring of Mystery.

  9. Very nice site and article

  10. Worth sharing this information. Good Work

  11. I love the idea of the “learning scrapbook.” We take some of our home school supplies with us when we go camping and make nature pages. The kids love it. Thanks for the creative ideas.

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