Written by contributor Sarah Small of SmallWorld at Home
One of the things that really aggravated me when our son was in public school in first grade was being told that we shouldn’t go on trips that would make him miss school.
Really? So being in a classroom is more culturally valuable than going to a Greek festival? So he’ll learn music better if he’s jingling bells than if he is at a symphony? History is more likely to come alive for him within the four walls of school than at Gettysburg?
When we decided to homeschool, I knew that much of my children’s education would consist of hands-on learning that included going lots of places. I imagined us taking the Civil War trail along the East Coast, following Lewis and Clark’s adventures out west, digging up dinosaur bones in Utah, ogling masterpieces at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
I even had it calculated that my husband would be eligible for sabbatical when our oldest was in high school, so we would spend six months somewhere far away (and per my husband’s career, botanically interesting), like Australia or South Africa.
The best laid plans, eh?
As so often happens, the reality of our life clashed with my vision. We had another baby, and we said we’d travel when he got a little older. We decided to be financially responsible, and, well, what would Dave Ramsey say about traveling when we really didn’t have the money? As the kids got a little older, we had too many commitments: church, Scouting groups, sports, sleepovers, and eventually teen events. And the weekends that were free? Well, all we wanted to do was recuperate.
Oh, we took a lot of local field trips; we are homeschoolers, after all. We live in an area that is loaded with historical museums and other sites, nature centers, and hands-on science opportunities. Also, our proximity to the Great Smoky Mountain National Park allows us regular visits to what is, for many people, a once-in-a-lifetime vacation. During the years that we studied American history, we splurged and visited Williamsburg, Jamestown, Yorktown, and Gettysburg.
And sure, we’ve taken lots of trips to visit family or friends in different states within a day’s driving distance. We’ve been to Disneyland and the beach.
But my kids have never been to Washington, DC; Boston; or Philadelphia. We’ve never explored together the wonders of a major city, like New York or Chicago or LA. And we certainly haven’t traveled abroad as a family.
We kept waiting for just the right time, when everything lined up perfectly, to take our big trips. And now, suddenly, our window of opportunity is more than halfway closed. Our oldest (that first grader whom we were determined to show the world to) is already in his second year of college and the youngest (that baby who needed to get a little older) is 11.
We should have been less concerned about missing something and more determined to be adventurous. We should have seized more opportunities. We should have taken more 3-day trips instead of waiting for the time when we could swing two whole weeks.
My advice? Go places.
Photo by Frank Pierson
Go north or south or east or west. See skyscrapers and pig farms, eat lobster, take a cheesy picture in front of the White House, spend a day in the Art Institute of Chicago, cruise through the Painted Desert, watch the sea lions frolic, stick your toes in as many bodies of water as possible.
Don’t wait for the perfect timing.
Don’t wait for the day when you’ll have the financial resources to stay in nice hotels and eat out for every meal. We have less than 20 years with these kids of ours, but you can see a lot of the world in 20 years, one trip at a time.
Have you made travel part of your homeschooling experience? Where do you most want to take your kids?