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As I write this, many of you are planning trips. I remember how helpful our travels were in the educational process when Kosta was a contract engineer and we lived for a time in the Seattle area and traveled to Massachusetts for a visit when he worked there. We drove back and forth to Seattle four times, and across the country once. Aside from the wonderful field trips this made possible, we gained from the traveling itself. When we took our trip across the country, Jason was 11 and Sarah was 15. Jason sat in front with me, our AAA trip tik in hand, and navigated. He also kept track of our gas mileage. I knew hed watch the scenery and observe everything without any push from me because he was so curious he wouldt want to miss anything.
Sarah, on the other hand, was the type who preferred to sit in the back seat and write letters or read. I was determined she should not miss what might be her only chance to see this great country of ours, so she was assigned the responsibility of keeping a log. She had to write down the times we started out in the morning, passed major cities,crossed state borders,and arrived at the evening destination. She kept track of climate changes, landmarks, rivers crossed, industries and agricultural activities we passed by as we drove. If we had questions about things we didnt understand as we passed them, she had to write them down so we could find the answers later. She also kept track of all the historical and scenic places we visited. When we got home, she had to put this log into a journal form that I later edited and that served as an introduction to our individual keepsake trip albums.
When we got back from our trip, each child was given a U.S. map and individual outline maps of every state wed passed through. They had to show our route and color in the states we visited on the U.S. outline map. On the state maps they wrote in the major rivers, mountain ranges, capital cities, cities where we went sight seeing, and the locations of historical monuments and state and national parks we visited.
We collected our share of postcards and took plenty of pictures. We later used the pictures in our keepsake albums, and each had to be labeled with important information. Some pictures I took and copied for use in flash cards and testing. Example: in the West we took pictures of land features such as mesas or craters. We photographed hogans and landmarks such as Ship Rock. Along the Oregon Trail they were expected to tell the difference between Fort Casper, Fort Lamamie, and Fort Bridger by uncaptioned photos and identify Independence Rock, which they had climbed, Devils Gate, the Platte River, etc.
Another thing we used for testing were duplicate AAA maps we had lying around. We cut out pieces of them that represented important places we had passed through or visited and pasted them on a piece of cardboard, identified only by number. The children had to know which state each piece was taken from.
Ah, but I'm ahead of myself. Most of what I've mentioned above happened during and after the trip. But the activities before the trip made our experiences on the road much more interesting. My son had read Carry On, Mr. Bowditch and had studied the life of Abigail Adams before we visited Salem. He could hardly wait to see the places where these people, who had become very real to him, had lived. We had also read On to Oregon aloud as a family, and that made us all eager to see the sights along the Oregon Trail. As soon as you know where you will be going, start reading biographies, history, or historical fiction that relates to places you will see. This will build anticipation and also give your children a frame of reference for their sight-seeing adventures.
Before we visited living history museums, we had the children make lists of questions to ask docents who were impersonating people from times past. These docents do a wonderful job of being other people, and you should allow a lot of time for your children to interact with them. They not only convey information, but they also reflect the attitudes and morals of the people whom they are impersonating.
If you visit the national parks or historical parks, be sure to go to the gift shop at the first one and buy a passport.Your children will love to get them stamped as they visit each new park. And later on, they will have a good record of where they've been.
These are just a few ideas for incorporating your travels into your curriculum. Those of you who are planning trips might also want to look into the following books:
Going Places: The Young Travelers Guide and Activity Book (5.95, O/P but we might have a couple left.) This is for children of 8 or older, and is full of suggestions for trip planning, what to do while standing in lines, observing geography and making maps and compasses, and understanding air travel and time zones. There is background information to help young travelers get the most out of visits to campgrounds, museums, amusement parks, zoos, beaches, cities, and rural areas. Mom and Dad might find the information useful, too.
My Vacation Book for Kids by Kids is a tool to help children both keep a record of their trip and keep occupied while traveling though the boring stretches. It contains a small outline map of North America, signs to look for along the road, license plate activities, math activities, games to play in the car, a drawing and doodling section, pages and pockets for photos, etc, journaling ideas, and log pages to last several days. It is spiral bound.
For children ages 3-7 we suggest Fun Things to Find on the Road (4.95) There are eight copies each of eight different searches in this book. Each search has a simple labeled picture of an object in a box with a square to check it off when found. Page themes are "B" words, "t" words, yellow things, red things, circles, rectangles, counting (2 different ).
If you have done your homework, your vacation can be the ultimate field trip.
To see some of the ways we incorporated education into our travel, check out these articles I wrote on another site: Our Parenting Adventure in the 1980's and The Ultimate Monterey County Homeschool Field Trip
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