If you could go anywhere…
When I asked my 4th grader where he most wanted to go when we traveled to see the 50 states, he quickly replied
“The Statue of Liberty!”
I was surprised by his reply, and I hastily rerouted a few plans so that we could be sure to include it during our east coast road trip.
As the big day approached he became more and more excited. He had picked up books about Lady Liberty and Ellis Island, spending the weeks leading up to the tour reading and researching our destination. When we finally arrived, his smile was so big! He walked through the monument in awe and soaked in everything. I don’t think he’ll ever forget that day or the things he learned. (Read the rest of this story and view the video of that trip below).
Learning through experiences
As a classroom teacher for many years, I realized that if I presented material to my students in three ways – visually, auditory, and kinesthetically – they were much more likely to retain the information. The longer I taught, the more I strived to bring the outside world in. Not a week would go by without me wishing I could take the class on a field trip or expose them to the experiences we would read about in books.
My own children became school aged, and I found myself teaching them in much the same way, but I was no longer limited to the walls in my classroom. A full-time homeschooling mom, I was able to plan adventures to correspond to the topics we studied locally. As my children grew and their studies deepened, so did our desire to travel.
So, we got an RV. For two years we traveled part-time, taking long trips for a month or more. We homeschooled on the road (also known as “roadschooling”). We explored state and national parks, museums and other attractions. Our love for travel only grew, and we decided to sell our home, move into our travel trailer and travel full-time. As we travel, we find learning opportunities everywhere we go.
Learning opportunities are everywhere
With each new travel adventure, I saw my children’s confidence increase. Additionally, their retention about topics we covered on the road was impressive. Not only were they learning the history and science that I was teaching, but their skills in geography, navigation, language, critical thinking, social responsibility, math, art and culture developed at rapid rates as well!
The great thing about visiting different places is it is easy to find material for learning. The material in museums or at various kid-friendly activities was presented in all three learning styles. Hiking through National and Local Parks provides endless lessons about wildlife, environments, and history. Connecting with locals or small businesses in various regions gave us the opportunity to learn directly from the experts about certain topics, like how to catch shrimp off a shrimping boat in Mississippi or all about humpback whales in Massachusetts.
5 Easy Ways to Homeschool While Traveling
Whether you are traveling full-time while homeschooling, going on a family vacation, or prefer to stay close to home- these five tips will help you as you teach your children through travel of any kind.
Tip #1: Make the journey as educational as the destination.
From the moment you start packing for your trip or hop into the car for a ride, your child’s learning can begin. Let them help you prepare by learning to anticipate what they need for the day’s adventure. They can learn to navigate by using the map.
Giving your child a task and asking them to be an integral part of the process increases their learning and your family time! If the journey is long, bring along books, coloring pages, toys or educational videos that help them to learn about where you are heading.
Tip #2: Engage the senses.
Learning through travel is not just about all the new things your child will see. It’s also about the sounds, smells, tastes and feel of someplace different than home! On our current journey to see all 50 states we are continually pointing out how each state is unique by asking our kids to engage their senses.
For example, in Florida, we smell the salt in the air, feel the ocean breeze and sandy beach, taste seafood and listen to the waves! These are all part of the experience.
Engaging the senses not only enhances the learning but its fun! It also helps them remember what they’ve learned and where they’ve been!
Tip #3: Connect experiences to past learning.
The more you see with your children the more they will naturally begin to connect past experiences with current adventures. Historic timelines begin to fall into place in their mind with each visit to a historic site.
Artifacts or exhibitions in museums will remind them of other destinations or things they have already learned. Help strengthen this connection by reminding your child of what they already know about a topic.
Tip #4: Plan school topics or lessons around travel experiences.
Prior to a recent trip to Gettysburg, we read a story about the civil war. I reminded them about the different places we had been and what he had learned about President Lincoln in Washington DC.
The kids have timeline books where we record things we have studied with pictures and words in time order. When visiting Gettysburg, we found the civil war and reread other important events that happened just before and immediately following the war. We also read through the Gettysburg address and committed to memorizing a few lines. They were able to have more of an understanding prior to the visit and it helped them to connect new learning to what they already knew.
It was pretty awesome to see my children’s eyes light up when they began reading the Gettysburg address on the walls of the museum and could recite it themselves! Because they have some prior knowledge of the subject, it allows them to absorb even more while they explore.
Tip #5: Dig deeper into topics of interest to your child.
Traveling opens up new doors. It exposes your kids to new material. As you explore and have new experiences, you will naturally discover what is of most interest to them. Dig into these topics together after your adventure. Find books at the library on the subject, or watch a few videos. Find related field trips or an expert that can help your child learn more on the topic.
Children have an inborn curiosity to learn about the world around them. When they are given the freedom to pursue their own interests they naturally develop confidence and a sense of purpose.
The story of my son at the Statue of Liberty is just one example of letting kids take the lead in learning. He learned so much that day! In fact, as we were sight-seeing he began listing off all the facts he knew for our family video, and we had several families following along with us as if he were a tour guide! Almost a year later, he still shares that the Statue of Liberty was one of his all-time favorite places to visit and I know he will never forget his time there. Being able to learn about these iconic places AND experience them in-person has made a lasting impression on us all. (You can view the video below)
Traveling can be a huge aid in fostering a life-long love of learning. Have fun traveling with your children! The experiences you have shared will benefit you both.
Here’s the video we made at the Statue of Liberty:
Leslie Stranathan is a former teacher who now travels with her family full-time in a travel trailer. She loves to homeschool (aka roadschool) her kids and enrich their learning through the things they experience while traveling. Together, they create amazing videos of their RV travels at their YouTube channel The Elementary Explorers. You can also follow them on Instagram.
Related to Homeschooling on the Road
What I learned my First Year of Homeschooling – what worked, what didn’t, and how I learned to chill out and go with the flow.
If you are on the fence about homeschooling from the road, check out this article by a “roadschooling” graduate, Kelsey Henry: 10 Reasons I Loved Growing Up Roadschooled.