Travel strengthens families. We’re a firm believer of this adage. But we also believe something else about travel– it’s one of the best ways for children to learn about the world. Homeschooling on the road is often called roadschooling, or lifeschooling, and it’s one of the easiest ways for your child to absorb lessons about culture, significant historical events, science, reading, math, etc.
If you’re an avid homeschooler and are considering traveling more, or if you’re just curious about how to manage traveling and homeschooling, here are 7 tips for homeschooling while on the road.
- Don’t stress the book stuff.
When you’re on the road, you’re moving all the time. Quiet time is hard to find, and often occurs at the end of a busy day when everyone is tired. Don’t worry if your day was missing the structure that it usually has at home. Your lack of book time does not indicate a lack of learning time. When you’re traveling, learning happens on the go. It’s okay if you didn’t open a workbook today.
- Education can happen at other places besides museums.
While some of our favorite places on the road have been museums, don’t limit yourself to only those activities. Learning can happen while you’re shopping, exploring the city on a bus, playing at the lake, or taking a guided tour of an attraction. The joy (and challenge) is to bring learning to your everyday living and traveling, not to force your travel experiences to fit a learning module.
- Flexibility will make your travel life easier.
One of our favorite things about traveling is allowing serendipity to guide our day…we call it “The Serendipity of the Road.” Yes, we have an overall idea for the day, but we like to leave space for changing our minds. As you explore a new city, you may run into a cool activity that wasn’t on your itinerary. You may get a referral from a local or run into an unexpected festival. Hold your lesson plans loosely. You never know what you’ll find along the way.
- Hands-on activities are the most memorable.
My kids still remember washing clothes in a metal bucket and hanging it out to dry, like a pioneer. They recount milking a cow. They reminisce about jumping off the rock into the ocean in Hawaii. They remember those activities more than the compelling exhibit info I read to them at the museum. Both are valuable to the learning process, but hands-on activities stay with them longer.
- Collect brochures and maps.
Let your children collect informational materials along the way. Let them peruse the reading materials and decide which ones look interesting, and which ones to take. Not only will these provide valuable resources to recapping your day, but you can use them in future lessons or journaling. We’ve been known to cut up the pictures from brochures and use them in journaling after our trip.
- Encourage your kids to ask questions.
I remember a recent family trip to Mammoth Cave. A park ranger was leading our group through the caves, explaining all sorts of interesting facts about bugs with no eyes that live in the dark, rock formations, and the eroding power of water. I encouraged my kids (and by encouraged, I may mean bribed them with an ice cream cone) to ask the ranger a question at some point during the tour. Not only does this make them think about what they are hearing, but it gives them experience in verbalizing those thoughts to an expert and in front of a crowd. What a beautiful lesson in public speaking for a 6 year old, right? Encourage your kids to ask questions. And feel free to bribe, if necessary.
- Discuss or journal each day’s activities.
Do it during dinner. Journal during waiting periods. Let older children take pictures or make and edit videos of their trip. I bought little blank storybooks from Target for my 5 and 6 year old and used those for trip journals. Recap in whatever format fits your family, but don’t miss the chance to ask your children questions about the things they learned. Here are some of our favorite questions:
- What was one thing you learned today?
- What surprised you today?
- What activity would you recommend to other kids? Why?
- What was hard for you today?
- Tell me one thing you wished we could have done today?
Homeschooling and travel fit naturally together. Being able to travel frequently is just one of the gifts that homeschooling affords your family; you’re not tied to a school calendar. Don’t be afraid to take your learning on the road!
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