Jan 16 2011
Let me start by saying that we are not a homeschooling family. I have friends who homeschool. I admire those who homeschool. I think it’s a great choice for many families. We, however, are blessed with an excellent school for our children, and homeschooling has never been something we’ve seriously considered.
Why is it then, when we travel, we are often asked if we homeschool?
I suppose the fact that we have more than one or two children has something to do with it. For some reason, people see our family with four kids quite close in age and think “homeschoolers.”
Perhaps my teaching background also plays into it. When we’re out and about, the teacher in me never goes away. If the kids ask a question, I turn it around to help them figure it out. When we visited the Harkin Store, each child got to take a turn at grinding coffee. After they had each turned the grinder several times, we worked out the math to see how many times it would take to grind enough coffee for a whole cup.
I help them draw connections between places we’ve been and events in history. When we visited the North West Company Fur Post and a sign at the entrance said, “You are now stepping back to 1804.” I asked the kids, “Who’s the President? What else is going on in history right now?” I knew they could answer these questions because we’d visited places along the Lewis & Clark Trail so they knew that Thomas Jefferson was the President at the time of the Louisiana Purchase.
To be sure, there are places where we go and just have fun, but if there’s a way I can help my kids make connections on our travels, I firmly believe it will help them as they progress through their traditional schooling. The textbook Civil War lessons will make a lot more sense since they’ve visited Gettysburg and seen reenactments of the Minnesota regiment. They know that the Dakota conflict was also happening in our area at the same time. When they learn about Valley Forge and Washington crossing the Delaware, they’ll have a picture of it in their minds because they’ve seen it firsthand.
No, we don’t homeschool, but I’d gladly agree that we provide enrichment activities for our kids throughout our travels. And while there are places we go just for fun, I’m still looking for a teachable moment even if we’re at the amusement park. (Physics, anyone?)
Yes, we travel for fun and to see new and interesting places, but we also do it to learn something along the way. Sometimes a vacation is one big field trip. When I’m tagged as a homeschooler along the way, it’s an honor.
I’d love to hear from homeschooling families. How do you approach travel with your kids? Do you form curriculum around your adventures? Do your have tips for other parents who want to help their kids learn as they travel?
Non-homeschooling families, please chime in as well. Am I just an annoying parent by being the one asking their kids a bunch of questions instead of just letting them explore on their own?