The following is a guest post written by Gwynyth Kier of Grapefruit Jam.
One of my favorite perks of homeschooling is the flexibility to travel unconstrained by the school calendar. No matter the season, there is always the possibility of adventure on the horizon, and we can all use a break from time to time.
So pack your bags! We are heading out the door.
But where to go?
We can’t always jump on a plane headed for the far corners of the earth, but there are still plenty of opportunities for adventure when you think small:
• Do you live in, or close to, a city with a public transit system? Be a tourist in your home town! Grab a family day pass and transit map, and hop on train, bus, or streetcar, stopping wherever it tickles your kids fancy. Learning potential abounds; kids get to know the nooks and crannies of their city, they learn how to navigate with a simple map, and it’s a great way to sneak in important travel safety, like what to do if you become separated from your group.
• Take your exploring further by making a family mission; “Today”, or “This week, we are going to find the BEST sushi/tacos/doughnuts!” or, “The BIGGEST tree/bridge/pool”. For extra homeschool points, you can document your findings with graphs, or make mock reviews composed for print or video.
• Set your kids loose in the wildest part of your local park, ravine, or trail, with a simple nature treasure hunt/I spy list. Load it with seasonal plants, animals and birds they are likely to see. You can up the ante by disguising the items in riddles. Throw in a couple field guides, blank notebooks and coloured pencils, and you’ve got a great natural science/art class.
If exploring your own town isn’t doing it for you, think a little bigger:
• Road trip! Strap them in with some car bingo and audio books and get out of dodge. For a successful, sanity preserving adventure, try to keep travel time to 3-5 hrs. The destination can be completely arbitrary; think any hotel/motel with a pool, or a simple cabin, and spend a few days playing crazy eights, swimming and exploring.
Remember, the destination does not have to be flashy. We have driven to a world renowned city to visit family, expecting to take in all sorts of culture, architecture and delicious food, and all our kids wanted to do was go to the local playground and eat pizza in our hotel room.
• Make this adventure extra fun and travel by rail instead. The freedom of movement, and the novelty of railroading is sure to be hit with kids and parents alike.
Last but not least, don’t be afraid to think Big:
My husband and I catch the ‘travel bug’ fairly regularly. I’ll admit, with three young boys-one of whom is a toddler–I am always a bit apprehensive when planing a bigger trip. Will it be worth all the organizing and corralling? Not to mention the money?
Well, I am grateful that my partner is the eternal optimist, because we never regret taking the plunge. You can do this, and it will be worth it. If you need extra encouragement, check out Sarah’s post- My Biggest Homeschooling Mistake: Not Traveling More.
Here’s what we do to keep everyone happy on big trips:
• Plan destinations around modest flight times and seat sales. In this season of my family’s life, we are going for manageable. For us, this usually involves a beach, and we love visiting places with vastly different flora and fauna from home.
• Embrace the underbelly of traveling. Adults want to whip through baggage checks and customs quickly and get on with the fun, but for kids, this is an exciting part of the adventure! Get to the airport extra early, so you don’t feel rushed when the kids want to watch baggage trucks on the runway, or ask a zillion questions about security protocols.
• Keep your expectations in check, and main goals in mind. It can feel like we have to pack our vacations and outings full of attractions and educational opportunities. Try to remember that learning happens everywhere, and the simplest things are often enough.
Sure, my kids loved LegoLand, but they were equally enthralled by eating citrus fruit straight off the trees. While the banana boat was fun, stalking lizards and geckos is what they’re still talking about.
So, of course, plan a few must-dos, but keep a lot of space open for unexpected discoveries, bumps in the road, and time to just be as a family. Because ultimately, that’s the point right?
We may spend enormous amounts of time together as homeschoolers, but when we take out the familiar, we are brought closer together. Our kids may bicker night and day, but on these adventures, they’re thick as thieves.
Where is summer taking your family this year?