I have wanderlust. I can’t help it. I get giddy at the thought of exploring new places and seeing new things. The food! The history! The cultures! The possibilities of things to see and places to go are endless. I want to share this sense of wanderlust with my children and have found that learning through travel is surprisingly easy with a little bit of planning.
We’ve been blessed to live and travel in many interesting locations, from the west coast to the east coast, and all over Europe. Every time we go somewhere, my kids’ faces light up with wonder and excitement. You don’t have to travel somewhere exotic for your kids to react the same way. Any trip, be it to a local wilderness park or the other side of the world, can be made fun and educational with a few easy steps:
Help your kids get excited about the trip before you leave
Before we pack our bags for a trip, I look for resources to help us learn more about the history, culture, and things to see at our destination and along the way. We check out as many books as possible about the area, watch movies, read travel reviews, and learn as much as we can before we leave. Dreaming about the adventure is half the fun, so I like to help the kids know what to expect of the trip and start a countdown together!
For example, before leaving for Paris, we ate French food, made a model of the Eiffel Tower, read “Madeline” and “This is Paris” and built up the excitement for the trip. We talked about the trip for weeks before getting in the car and setting off to the City. When we arrived, the kids were able to recognize the sites. I will never forget the way they reacted to the Eiffel Tour! They recognized it right away and hugged each other out of joy when they realized how big it really is.
If you are traveling somewhere closer to home, you can still research and build excitement before you leave. Is the town known for its wildflowers? Do they have a special festival each year? Every town has something that makes it special; you just have to find out what that special thing is, and show up prepared to enjoy it!
Bring school to the car (or train, or plane!)
We travel often enough that the bookwork needs to come with us. So many subjects can be covered with “car schooling”. I keep a stash of audiobooks loaded up for long car drives. I choose classic literature that I know Mom and Dad will enjoy as much as the kids. Not only do the audiobooks help us avoid boredom and make time pass faster, the kids get exposure to rich language and stories!
You can also play games to help the time pass faster. Math facts can be recited, spelling words can be sounded out, and silly stories can be told. The time we spend in the car is some of our most productive learning time.
Hit the travel office
When you arrive in a new place, stop by the tourist office first. Even if you did your research before leaving, they often have special insight into interesting things to see, tours to take, and current special events, museum exhibits, or travel deals. The tourist office is where you will find the best recommendations for restaurants and museums, and oftentimes, free maps!
If the location you are headed to doesn’t have a tourist office, don’t be afraid to ask the front desk of your hotel or your server at a restaurant. You’ll never find the “hidden gems” if you don’t ask around for them.
Keep a travel journal
Give the kids a notebook to keep track of their trip. They can draw pictures during the drive, collect postcards to stick in it or take notes on the things they see. Encourage them to make a journal entry each day. Writing will allow them to reflect on the things they did and saw during the day and help them remember the fun they had for years to come.
If writing isn’t your style, you can give the kids an inexpensive camera to document their trip with. Ask them to collect entrance tickets, receipts, napkins from restaurants, leaves from walks, and other “souvenirs” along the way. When you get home, these can be compiled in a book, or placed in a treasure box.
Follow up at home
Even with the best planning, you can’t possibly know all the answers to the questions your child will come up with during your trip. Sometimes we can’t figure out what kind of bird we saw, or we want to learn more about historic events.
The best part about looking back to answer questions when you get home is being able to enjoy the trip for just a little bit longer. I love coming home from a trip and talking with the kids about their favorite parts. A year after our Paris trip, the kids still ask for “French Hot Coco” and we sit and reminisce about just how cool the Eiffel Tour really is.
Give it a try on your next trip! Happy Travel-Schooling!
Heather is a homeschooling mother and also a proud Military wife to her husband. They live in Europe with their three children, where most of their learning happens out in nature, or on the road. Read all about their adventures at www.onlypassionatecuriosity.com.