Jan 16 2011

Homeschooling and Travel

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?

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Published by at 9:00 am under Family Travel
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8 comments so far

8 Comments to “Homeschooling and Travel”

  1. Carm on 16 Jan 2011 at 10:25 am

    I applaud that sort of learning from life approach and have often said that if I were to ever have children that is the approach I would take… not so much home schooling, but seizing real life opportunities to learn. The thing so many of my students lack is background knowledge–real life experience, the ability to make connections between things they encounter in their high school classrooms in literature, math, science, social studies etc. and the things they’ve been exposed to in their day to day lives. So I am thrilled to see that you are living my dream and that it doesn’t have to be one or the other… homeschooling or public schools but it can be a blend and a lifestyle of learning.
    .-= Carm´s last blog ..The Golden Globes =-.

  2. Talon (@1Dad1Kid) on 16 Jan 2011 at 11:18 am

    Currently not a homeschooler but will be beginning in May when we start our indefinite round-the-world trip.

    I think teaching moments are some of the best ways for kids to learn, especially when they can make a connection with what’s before them. Sometimes in the grocery store or while we’re driving we’ll do math games with items, signs, mileposts, etc. He thinks it’s fun and doesn’t realize he’s *gasp* learning. I totally support what you’re doing on your travels, and you bring up a very good point as well: sometimes you have to do things just for fun.
    .-= Talon (@1Dad1Kid)´s last blog ..Caverns- Custer- &amp Bears =-.

  3. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by The Windwalker Duo. The Windwalker Duo said: RT @Wandering_Off: Homeschooling and Travel http://bit.ly/h2NV1R from @minnemom. A great read! [...]

  4. Sharon on 18 Jan 2011 at 9:43 am

    I don’t homeschool either, and we only have one child. There’s an excellent school where we live, and I’m happy for my daughter to go there. Like you, though, I look for lessons in everything so we can all learn while having fun. My daughter always asks lots of questions; sometimes the answers might have more depth than she’s looking for. ;)
    .-= Sharon´s last blog ..How To Travel Like James Bond =-.

  5. Heidi on 11 Mar 2011 at 11:17 am

    We homeschool and love to travel. I definitely consider travel an important part of my children’s education, but I’ve never planned curriculum around our trips. The closest we’ve come to that is choosing to go to a place that fits what we’re studying in history: Williamsburg, VA or Plimoth Plantation when we’re studying Colonial America or the King Tut exhibit when we’re studying ancient times.

    What I notice, though, when we’re traveling is how many connections my *kids* make. Everything we do reminds them of a book they’ve read or something we’ve studied… I love the chance to find out what they’re thinking!

    Our latest trip involved airports… and a 3 hour delay. That was the first time I’ve given an “assignment” specifically related to our travel. I had everyone pull out their notebooks (required contents of carryon luggage) and write a list of their Top Ten Ways to Survive a Delayed Flight. Because… one of my personal travel survival tips is to do whatever it takes to keep my kids from asking me what time it is.

    I’m honored that you consider it an honor to be taken for homeschoolers. :)

  6. Carrie Pomeroy on 24 May 2011 at 11:25 pm

    Hi–I found your blog by searching “homeschool travel with kids blogs.” We are homeschoolers, and I consider the flexibility to travel during “off-season” times a real asset of choosing homeschooling.

    A trip my family took last year illustrates how travel ties in with our homeschooling–during the year, inspired by movies about oceans we’d seen at the MN Zoo and the Science Museum, we did a lot of reading about ocean life. Last May, my husband was going to a conference in Monterey, CA, so the kids and I went with him. We went to Monterey Bay Aquarium and enjoyed long bike rides along the ocean, checking out sea lions and otters hanging out near the shore and on rocks and along wharves.

    This year, we re-read “Paddle to the Sea” while traveling through Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, and Illinois, all Great Lakes states, and it was wonderful to actually see some of the landmarks described in the book as we drove. Closer to home, we plan this summer to visit the Betsy-Tacy historic sites in Mankato, MN that tie in with the Betsy-Tacy series of historic novels. I agree with other posters here that travel helps my kids make new connections and develop a real-world context for their learning.

    Nice blog!

  7. minnemom on 25 May 2011 at 10:51 am

    Carrie, I’m glad you found Travels with Children. Thanks for sharing your homeschooling travel adventures.

  8. Jeanne @soultravelers3 on 05 Jul 2012 at 6:57 pm

    Coming late to this, but love the concept of learning through travel and using the world as your school or enrichment!

    We’ve been traveling the world with our 11 year old child, non-stop for the last 7 years ( 44 countries on 5 continents on $23/day pp) to educate her plus have more freedom and time together.

    One great thing about combining homeschooling and travel is one is not confined by a school schedule, so can travel off season and do slow travel..both save money! Related books, discussions, journaling are keys for us. On a guided tour in a museum in Austria, the guide was shocked at how much our daughter knew about Austrian history…all learned on her own through historical fiction geared toward our travels!

    We do “world schooling” through combining eclectic homeschooling with dips into local foreign schools for language immersion as we are monolinguals raising a fluent-as-a-native trilingual in Mandarin Chinese, Spanish and English. This also helps with long term consistent friendships as my daughter has long known best friends on 3 continents in 3 languages as we repeatedly return to our “homes” around the world.

    We also do piano and violin lessons online ( and other things like Chinese or Johns Hopkins Univ CTY) with teachers on other continents…despite traveling the world with just a small carry on each.

    I agree with you that asking questions and play are very important parts of educating and enriching one’s child. Travel adds tremendous value …whether it is around the corner or around the world!

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