Since we travel full-time and need to integrate education with travel, we incorporate some tactics to give our kids a good education without always having to sit down and open a book. Some days are a little busy but that doesn’t mean we have to miss out on learning opportunities.
- Before we head out to go see say, Mt. St Helens or head to a local museum, I sometimes do some quick research about that place and find out just 1-2 interesting facts to intrigue them and peak their curiosity. This can get them excited about heading to the destination. I find that sometimes kids don’t always appreciate what you are taking them to, but the simple act of creating anticipation with a special clue or cool fact can get them into it! Did you know that there is a chandelier inside the Washington State capital that is so big, a car can fit inside it?!
2. We may watch a short video about where we are going such as a neat mini-documentary of the enormous eruption of Mt. St. Helens in 1980. The content of a biographical video can really bring the destination to life. They always peak our kids’ curiosity as everyone gathers around to watch a short summary of what we are going to go see.
3. Once there, we read things aloud to our kids or summarize things that we have read but that they may have missed, especially if they are younger and can’t read very well. Here is my husband trying to summarize…
4. We use a tour guide when possible. If we are at a national or state park, we try to listen to a ranger talk, which can be very engaging. Our 8 year old still remembers facts about scat (animal poop) from a ranger talk and can now identify scat when we go on hikes. We also try to do guided tours when it’s possible. I remember the last guided tour we took at the Washington State Capital. The guide just brought the details of the building to life! We had the wonderful opportunity to learn about architecture, the import of the elements of design from other countries, government, and even music! They even learned that it’s okay to ask questions! That was much more than we could have shared with our kids. For instance, here our wonderful tour guide is answering the question, “Why is there a state named Washington when there is also a capital called Washington D.C.?” Good question! I pulled my phone out a little too late to capture the whole response, but you get a little glimpse of her answer.
5. With nature, if it’s not at a state or national park where picking flowers or plants are discouraged, we may grab a piece of an intriguing plant or rock and add it to our nature journal, which also allows us to practice our art skills at the same time. I love this particular look and layout of this art book by Julia Rothman. We try and copy her layout. You can find it here.
6. If we can walk away with them having learned 1-2 things from the trip, we are happy. On the way to the next destination, we discuss what they remember about their experience. The more they talk about it, the more they retain it. Those couple of things may be remembered for the rest of their lives just because they were there. They saw it. They felt it. The smelled it. They heard it. That can be a lot more memorable than simply reading a book, although books can certainly be wonderful.
I remember when we visited Fort Clatsop, which is a recreation of the spot where Lewis and Clark set up for 3 months once they had ended their trip to the Northwest before heading home. The kids learned so much in just 1 1/2 hours there. There was a ranger doing demonstrations on how to use quill, which allowed children to learn how Lewis and Clark journaled their findings along the trip. There was another demonstration on candle-making and so we learned how they had light.
It’s not always necessary to sit down to learn. Sometimes it means just getting out! With a little strategy, your kids can walk away with some lifelong memories and a good dose of history, botany, geography, and much, much more!