When I decided to homeschool my 4th and 5th grader for the first time this year, there was a lot I didn’t know. But the one thing I was sure of was that I was going to take this opportunity, this newfound freedom, to travel with my kids and use what I knew these experiences had to offer as an educational tool for them.
Set the right expectations and revise them as needed
I knew enough to not pack school books or other extensive materials that we would normally use at home for schooling. But I did pack some math sheets and other light assignments, as well as assigned a journaling task. However, we quickly realized that even these would often be too much to keep up with as our schedule was heavy on the exploration and physical activity. So much so that when we all arrived to the hotel we were exhausted. Every kid is different, but my kids felt stressed over the fact that they weren’t keeping up with their work. It was late one night in Yellowstone Park when I finally sat them down and told them that it didn’t matter, that it wasn’t worth stressing about, and to free their minds of it and enjoy the moment.
I feel like when it comes to spreading the love for travel in our messages, this is one that I and my fellow Expedia Viewfinders always try to be consistent about: Enjoy the moment, be present, and breathe. But when homeschooling, even while traveling, it can be easy to lose sight of what’s most important and why we are doing it. I am glad to have realized that my expectations of all of us were getting in the way of that.
Let the experience be your guide
I am not a trained teacher. Most homeschooling parents aren’t. We rely on the resources around us and found online or in stores to help us with the lessons our children need to move forward. My kids would not have enjoyed every moment turning into a teaching moment, and there were times when I tried to stress a lesson but they were too distracted with something else.
Viewfinder Tip: Like with any travel with kids, allow them to be involved in the planning process and be flexible in your schedule.
I learned to let that go too and instead created an itinerary that touched on areas that had something more than just views to offer. We stopped into museums and did tours of small towns while on our road trip to Montana. We took guided walks with park rangers while visiting both Yellowstone and Glacier National Parks. We went to a powwow and learned about the local history and culture while visiting our family in Texas. We left our beautiful all-inclusive resort in Jamaica and hung out with locals and let them guide us on their favorite eateries, activities, and spots, while peppering them with questions about their country and culture.
So many opportunities that not only enriched our trip, but also our hearts and minds.
Talk, but also embrace the silence
After every day, I would ask my kids what their favorite experience was, or what new thing they felt they learned, or what they liked or disliked, or were most surprised by. It helped me check this mental box for myself, the one we mothers unwillingly have to make sure we are keeping up with our responsibilities.
But I also learned to respect the times when they didn’t want to talk, or share, or be engaged.
As travelers, we know that those moments of reflection are as important as any conversation we can have about our day. The talking would eventually happen, sometimes days later, about things we experienced weeks earlier. Sometimes the thoughts were deep, other times they were silly, and a few times they would be curious, as if the question had been slowly forming in their minds.
I would realize that silence didn’t always mean disconnect or disinterest.
Meet with other homeschooling groups out of state and abroad
While in Texas, my sister-in-law (who also homeschools) connected my kids with a local homeschooling group in the area. They all went on a camping trip together. The group was warm and receptive and so welcoming, and it allowed for my children to feel like they were a part of something bigger and inclusive, as the experience is contrary to popular belief. Weeks later, my boys talk about it as one of the highlights of their trip. You can research homeschooling groups online and contact and connect with those that best fit your ideals and style. Parents can walk away learning a lot of each other as well.
We all walk away winners
I have learned so much from this experience too. Regardless of whether you homeschool or not, traveling with your children, even to places you have seen before, gives you a new outlook. I have always said that seeing the world through my children’s eyes is one of the most beautiful and fun experiences in traveling with them.
They are curious and excited and everything is so new and scary and intense for them. As a homeschooling parent, I have had to open my eyes and mind even more, always aware of the possibilities ahead. Seeking out opportunities that we can enjoy and learn from. Nothing is meaningless, nothing is taken for granted. There is something to be learned from everything.
In the process, we are building some of the most beautiful travel memories together. They are teaching me something new every single day, and that’s so exciting to me. To be learning while on the road about the world, people, life, and each other, is quite possibly the best gift we have been given. And in the end, isn’t that what travel is all about?
What are your favorite ways to make travel educational?