Gearing up for a month overseas

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

Something exciting is happening in our family tomorrow. We leave on a trip we’ve been planning for years –a month in England.

Why England? Well, my husband Steve is British. All of his family (my children’s grandparents, cousins, aunts, and uncles) still live there. Before having kids we visited frequently, and we took our firstborn, Jonathan, when he was nine months old to meet the British side of the family.

We’ve always had a dream to travel the world with our children. But then one child turned into two, and two turned into three. The idea of journeys overseas with toddlers and preschoolers in tow didn’t appeal to me, so we decided to wait until everyone grew up a bit to venture across the ocean together.

With my youngest having just turned seven, that time of life (that once seemed as if it would never arrive) is suddenly upon us! As a homeschooling family, we thank our lucky stars that we can nip off in the middle of the “school” year to let our kids encounter some real-life learning.

Here’s what we’ve been doing to prepare and make the most of our learning during the trip ahead. You could of course apply the same principles to anywhere you may be visiting or to just create a unit study about an area of interest.

1. We read British authors.

We’ve spent the past month with the likes of Beatrix Potter, James Herriot, and Robin Hood.

We’ll be staying in Yorkshire–the area where James Herriot worked as a vet. We plan to head to the Lake District to see the World of Beatrix Potter. (We hope to take a peek at her home Hill Top Farm as well.)

And we’ll be on our guard as we pass through Sherwood Forest and Nottingham. (Jonathan has already decided that if we get stopped by Robin or his band we can simply explain that we already give to charity, so they don’t need to rob us.)

We’re also taking some traditional British read-alouds with us: Winnie-the-Pooh, A Bear Called Paddington, and The Wind in the Willows. To say that (as a former literature major) I’m excited about this trip would be an understatement!

2. We took a trip to the library.

I combed our library’s shelves for nonfiction books about the British Isles. Upon checkout, the librarian asked if these books were for a school project and report. She seemed surprised that the books were actually for our own personal interest and travels.

We’ve learned a lot about the queen and other British basics from these titles.

3. We marked our destination.

We have a world map that hangs in our dining room. On it we’ve marked out our route–from Connecticut to England.

Also on the map we noted Italy, where Steve and I are heading for four days while the kids stay with their grandparents. (Yes, we’re thrilled!)

4. We had a family video night.

It isn’t always easy to find family-friendly travel documentaries.

Two that we really enjoyed are The Little Travelers: British Isles (this entire series is fabulous!) and Discovering England, which was divided by regions. We watched the segments relating to the areas where we’ll be visiting.

5. We’ve encouraged journaling.

I wanted to inspire the children to write while we’re away, so I set off on the hunt for the perfect kid-friendly travel journal. I think I found it!

I love this journal, which has space for more than a month’s entries–short sections to write what we did that day, and even what we ate (a fact that my kids always seem to be interested in recalling!).

My hope is that we’ll take a few minutes to work on these at the end of our days. They will make a special memory keepsake after our trip ends. We’ve already completed the sections at the beginning–about where we’re going and what we’ve learned about the country.

Now there’s only one thing left to do: Go!

Well, that, and about 100 other things on my to-do list for today. Like pack, for example. So I guess I better get back to that!

I will be blogging while we’re away, as it’s just too good of an opportunity not to share! Anything you’d like to read about? If you could take your family away for a month, what country would be your destination?

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. We live abroad, but have done many of the same things you described, both to learn about China and America. We want our kids to have a good idea about both countries and cultures (as well as others).

    My kids are still much younger so they don’t journal. They do draw pictures and my three (almost four) year old writes letters and blog posts to the grandparents. He likes to share what he has been up to and was is going on here, and the grandparents love to hear about it.

    Have a great trip! I am sure your family will always remember it.
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  2. My husband is from Bolivia and we’ll be going there this summer for almost four weeks. We’ve been going there pretty often with our three kids…my daughter (age 9) has been there four times, one son (age 7) has been three times and my other son (age 3) has been once already.
    It is always an amazing learning experience, but you’ve inspired me to be a little more intentional about it this go round. Although we don’t have the authors and books like England, I just googled some interesting facts about Bolivia and there was so much (that I didn’t know!). More of a science, nature, geology route. Can’t wait to have the kids look it up!

  3. Sounds like fun! I would love to travel to Britain/Italy if I could. Can’t wait to hear about your adventures.
    tacy’s latest post: {Pretty, Happy, Funny, Real}

  4. This is fantastic, Jamie! I am inspired by your intentional approach and hope to remember it when we travel with our children someday!

  5. I took my daughter to London for a week when she was 7. We had the best time ever. I wish you all a wonderful trip, and look forward to reading more.

  6. Oh you guys will have a brilliant time!!! We did this when we had five kids and had the most brilliant time… I visited Beatrix Potter’s farm as a child and will never forget it!!!
    Key to having fun overseas was to practice going for walks with our backpacks on (everyone had a sweater and a water bottle and so on…) and staying together no matter how interesting something was!!! You do a lot of walking when traveling… it helps to be prepared!!!
    We also browsed to a kids art book of the national gallery before hand and discovered that the more your kid knows about a spot before they visit it the more fun they will have there…
    If you scroll to the bottom of this page you will find our London/Wales posts… where to rest (essential), tips for visiting sites with kids and so on…
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    • You’re so right. I feel like the research we’ve done beforehand has really helped nurture my own enthusiasm about where we’re going, so I’m sure it’s the same for them.

  7. Sounds like so much fun! I have wondered about those Little Travelers dvds…! Enjoy!
    Sarah M
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  8. How wonderful! Have a fabulous time 🙂 … and if you get time, please share pictures and more ideas of how you teach your children about people and places, based on this trip.
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  9. Fair winds and following seas, Jamie—I can’t wait to read about your travels! xo
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  10. Have a great tip. I’d love to spend time traveling Europe at some point in the (distant) future.
    Steph’s latest post: Three Transition Tricks

  11. Wow, what a trip you have planned! You guys are going to have a great time. Way to go mom for the preparation. I will be tunining in for updates.

  12. Jennifer C. says:

    Have fun! I wondered if you would be visiting CS Lewis’s home in Oxfordshire? Never been to England, but I’m sure it will be a trip to remember!!

    • Not on this trip, Jennifer. But I think definitely destinations like that and perhaps Shakespeare will be stops we make on a future trip over!

  13. Heather says:

    Must admit I am envious. You will have such a wonderful time! There are sooo many places we would love to go, but I think, given the opportunity, we would likely begin with either the British Isles to learn of our ancestry or Greece because we have more than one who love the mythology.

  14. So exciting! Have a great trip and I can’t wait to read about all of your wonderful experiences.

  15. Don’t miss Chatsworth, in Derbyshire if you’re passing through. such a beautiful house with a huge selection of art and sculpture and a fantastic playground for the kids alongside a farm park with lots of interesting information about British farming. I nearly forgot, delicious, locally produced food too. Enjoy your trip.

  16. Have fun! Can’t wait to read about your journey and experiences!
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  17. Wow that sounds great! Have a great trip! I love your travel journals.

    If I could take my family anywhere, it would be to do a road trip to western Canada, where I have been and loved, but the kids and my husband have not seen it before. I want to show them the rockies. Hopefully we can do that someday, but we’re still in the baby-toddler-preschool type of years.

  18. Have a wonderful time! I am British and live just south of London, and my husband is from Yorkshire. I’m excited to see your plans! 🙂
    Alice’s latest post: Fitting 4 boys into a 12x9ft bedroom!

  19. Oh I’m so excited for your family! What an awesome opportunity. We “might” go to the UK next year so I’ll be keeping up with your posts. Have a great time!
    Johanna’s latest post: Watching out for your kids needs

  20. I’m sure you’ll have a great trip, England is a lovely place to visit- I should know-I live there! If you get a chance to go south I can recommend the Historic Dockyard in Portsmouth,Hampshire.You get to go on HMS Victory and get a real insight into British Naval history.

  21. Hi Jamie,
    Your trip sounds awesome! I am American living with my (also American family) in London. There is so much to see and do here, but with a 10 month old and 4 1/2 year old, I find it difficult to travel anywhere further than 1 hours drive. So I understand waiting until the kids are older. On your next trip try Sussex and visiting The Hundred Acre Wood. Can’t wait to hear about your travels so we can plan a visit to some of your chosen spots. Oh, and bring Welles and raincoats. It’s been raining almost non stop for over a month! 🙂
    Deborah’s latest post: Earth Day Exploration

  22. Awesome! I’m just a wee bit jealous because I have a long time to wait until we can do something like that. My kids and 3 and 6 months, and we will probably have another later. But when they are older we want to go on a family missions trip, maybe in Russia (where we are from) or elsewhere. I always dream of traveling through Europe as well. So excited to be be able to go off season since we will be homeschooling as well!
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  23. Our family is already planning a multi-week trip (to be taken in 5-10 years from now) to see as much of the USA as we can. I’d LOVE to go overseas, and we want to do that too. But don’t forget there’s so much to do and see right here in our own country!

    I’ve started to be more on top of planning for even short weekend trips – we’re going next weekend to Pensacola Beach just for fun, and I printed out the Junior Ranger guides from the National Park Service for that area (Gulf Shores National Seashore). Voila! School field trip!
    treen’s latest post: one step closer

    • Yes! The National Park Service passport books are so much fun too! The kids love to get stamps at the different locations.

  24. I’m British and live in the States. I haven’t been back since I found out I was pregnant with my now 19 month old. I’m going back for 2.5 weeks in September and can not wait. I’m so homesick and every day I think about moving back there. Time will tell. Enjoy your trip.

  25. fyi, you can visit the actual bridge where Christopher Robin played Pooh Sticks! Near Forest Row. Enjoy your trip!

  26. Marjorie says:

    One way we have preserved our travel memories has been to buy a post card from every place we visited on our voyage that we keep for ourselves. At the end of the day, I write a short entry chronicling our day and then we set it aside in our trip pile. When we get back home the card can be put in an index card box or slipped into photo albums. I have stacks of them from previous trips and without them I would have forgotten SO much! Bon voyage.

  27. Have a wonderful adventure, friend! I can’t wait to hear all about it!

  28. Such a beautiful mama! So thrilled for your three. xoxo
    Caroline Starr Rose’s latest post: May B. Book Club in Action

  29. Victoria says:

    Have a wonderful trip!

    We’re from England…and have one set of grandparents in north yorkshire….not sure which part you’re going to. But be sure to fit in some Castles – Bolton Castle is the nearest to us when we’re in yorkshire. And if you are near there this folly is great fun the website makes it look a bit of a theme park but it is actually very nice for adults and children!

    HAVE FUN!!

  30. Wow you had it all figured out. Good for you. Im sure you will enjoy it
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  31. So excited for you! We were able to spend 2 weeks together this year in Ethiopia as we’re in the process of bringing our newest son home. Such great family time!

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