We just returned from a wonderful week of camping in the Great Smoky Mountains. We had a blast (despite the rain) and proved that you can even sneak in some summertime learning while on vacation!
Welcome to day 2 of our 10 Days of Summertime Learning Series. Be sure to visit the main page to find a list of all of great blogs that are participating in the 10 Days of Tips for Homeschool Moms Series!
If you missed yesterday’s post, you can find a list of all of the posts in this series here or click the picture below.
Sneaky Summer Learning
I don’t know about you, but I enjoy a couple of months in the summer away from the routine of school. It gives us time to participate in activities we wouldn’t have an opportunity to do during the school year. But I hate the idea that we just stop learning, and maybe even lose some of what we have already learned during the school year.
So I have found some sneaky ways to keep them learning without feeling like they have to go to school all summer long. I guess you might say we unschool during the summer.
It is possible to learn while on vacation
This year we went on a camping trip in the Great Smoky Mountains of North Carolina. It was absolutely beautiful in the mountains, and there are many rivers and streams in the area which are great for kayaking and rafting. So we enjoyed several days of swimming and tubing in between the sightseeing I had planned.
Last year we went to Hatteras beach and surrounding areas. In previous years we have visited Florida, Washington D.C., Amish Country, and lots of other places. But no matter where you travel, there are ways to learn something. About the people who live there. About the history of the area. About the natural elements in that place.
You learn different things while visiting a place than what you might learn from a textbook, but you might remember it much longer. So here are some tips to help your kids make the most of your travels during the summer (or other times!)
Visit a National Park
One of my favorite places to visit on every trip are National Parks. Most National Parks offer many free activities that can help you learn about the natural elements around the area, as well as the history of the region. Usually the Visitor Centers have wonderful interactive displays that help you understand the park history and nature.
Take advantage of the rangers in the parks and ask them lots of questions. Most rangers are very knowledgeable about their park, and truly enjoy telling people about their work. It is their job to protect the park and help us enjoy the parks safely. I always require my kids to have at least one question ready to ask the ranger when we are going to a national park.
Many national parks have a “Junior Ranger” Program that helps kids (and adults) learn more about that particular park. Sometimes you are required to attend a ranger talk, and sometimes you fill out a workbook with puzzles and games. Either way, they are fun and not difficult to finish. And when you have finished the requirements, a ranger performs a ceremony instating you as a junior ranger for that park. My kids were able to become junior rangers at the Cape Hatteras Lighthouses and the Wright Brothers Museum last year and they still talk about it!
Visit Historical Memorials and Museums
Washington, D.C. is filled with amazing memorials and museums, many of them free to enjoy. While it might be a little harder to find a good museum in other places, almost every city has historical sites or museums that will encourage learning. I can’t think of a state that hasn’t had a significant historical event, from Civil War sites in the East to the Gold Rush in California. And seeing the site of the event makes it even more real to a kid.
Visit Aquariums and Science Museums
One of my favorite vacation memories is the North Carolina Aquarium in the Outer Banks. They have a turtle rescue area, where they help sea turtles that have been injured. Not only do they have a viewing area where you can see the injured turtles being cared for, they have a hands on turtle rescue exhibit. You rescue a small play turtle from the ocean and take it back the hospital where you help diagnose his injuries and figure out how to help the turtle. After he has been treated you help “release” him back to the ocean. It’s a really great way to help kids get in some hands on learning and they don’t even realize it.
Chat with a Local
I used to be so embarrassed when my dad would stop at a roadside stand, and strike up a conversation with a stranger. Sometimes he would chat for an hour to a person he had never met. And although I’m still not as bold as my dad, I have begun to see the value in conversation with locals. Most people love to talk about the place where they live or the way they make their living. It makes them feel special to be asked questions about their life and home. As I have matured, I have begun striking up conversations with the people I meet when I am on vacation. A local will know the best place to eat and the best way to get where you need to go. And you just might make a friend and learn something in the process.
I feel like I have to say this here, even though I’m sure you know it. Even as much as I want my kids to learn something when we are in a new place, I want them to have fond memories of vacation. Not memories of Mom being all uptight because I have unrealistic expectations of all kinds of wonderful learning. It is still vacation. Don’t be so worried about learning that you miss the chance to enjoy being together.
What is your favorite vacation learning memory? Do you have any vacations you would like to take?