This morning we joined our Raven Homeschool Cross-Country Ski Club on an outing to the Beach Lake Trails. As we were gliding along in perfect conditions with the sun shining on our faces I couldn’t help but think about the contrast to a couple of weeks ago when I was sitting on the couch in the Airbnb we were staying in watching my girls with their toy army men set up battle strategies and use hand signals to communicate to each other just what their little toy soldiers were supposed to do and where. Information they had learned while earning their Junior Ranger Badge for the Guilford Courthouse National Military Park in Greensboro, North Carolina. An experience and accomplishment made possible by something I like to call “Travel School.”
What is Travel School?
One of the things I love most about homeschooling is the freedom to travel. When we go, we rarely call it a “vacation,” instead, we refer to it as travel school.
Travel school is simply doing school in different locations. Traveling with our kids allows them to learn about various topics in hands-on ways. Instead of just reading about the Revolutionary War, you can go to where the actual battles took place, walk on the same land the soldiers did, and see their uniforms and weapons for yourself. It allows the students to absorb the lesson in a way that is real and relative to them.
How Does it Work?
It is all about going, seeing, and experiencing a different location with your kids. Your travels can be close by (in your state) or far away (on the other side of the world). It can be a long journey (some families choose to do travel school non-stop for a few years – the most well-known way is through Project Worldschool), or you can squeeze in a few days of travel here and there as you are able. The most important thing about travel schooling is just getting out and doing it!
Keeping up with Bookwork
When we do travel school, my kids know it isn’t a “vacation.” Our girls know they need to keep up with their workbooks while we are away.
It isn’t always possible to bring the whole stack of workbooks with us, so we use a workbook binder for each girl. It takes up less space and weighs less than bringing entire books with us. We’ve also tried lap desks, but my kids generally prefer to work right out of their binders.
For us, the point of travel schooling is that the child gets out and experiences lessons firsthand. While I do require progress in our workbooks, I don’t expect my kids to do the same volume of bookwork that they would do at home. Typically, I plan for them to do around 2/3 of the usual amount of workbook pages while we are away.
We have a general rule that workbooks are to be completed primarily during travel days (on the airplane, or in the car to and from whatever adventure that day), and also during “rest days” when we aren’t out doing things.
How do you build a Workbook Binder?
Let the child pick out a binder.
Help the child design a “cover sheet” for the see-through front pocket for their binders.
The parent goes through the child’s workbooks and removes the portions that they need to complete during their travels.
Hole punch the workbook pages and insert them into the binders with tabs or construction paper to separate each subject.
Have the child pick out a pencil bag for their supplies. We typically keep a few pencils, pencil sharpeners, extra erasers, scissors (don’t carry on the airplane), a set of colored pencils, and a glue stick in our bags.
Pack any other tools in additional pencil bags (we use an extra bag for our Math-U-See manipulatives).
This way, everything the child needs to accomplish their workbook pages for the day is conveniently organized and transportable.
Where to Go?
If you’re new to the idea of travel school, I suggest picking a location near your home to start. An excellent travel school option for those near Eagle River is to take an overnight trip to Seward to visit the Sea Life Center.
Other local options include:
Girdwood- Students can take skiing or snowboarding lessons at Alyeska, or Cross-Country Ski on Winner Creek Trails. If it’s during the summer, take the Tram to the top and hike around and explore the mountains. Hike Winner Creek Trail and Gold Pan at Crow Creek Mine. Girdwood also hosts the Forest Fair and the Blueberry Festival; both are excellent travel schooling opportunities. Book a room at the Alyeska Prince Hotel and follow up on the day’s activities with some extra PE time in the pool.
Fairbanks- Though a bit further away, you can take a family trip to Fairbanks. You can visit Chena Hot Springs (no kids allowed in the actual springs, but still stuff to explore and learn there), or find a spot where you can get out and touch the pipeline.
Denali State Park
Valdez- Visit the fantastic fish hatchery during Salmon spawning season. You can watch the bears feast on salmon or watch the sea lions. Both are amazing.
There are many, many other great local options (also consider Juneau, Sitka, McCarthy, Kenai, Homer, etc.).
If you feel you’re ready to expand out of state, then your options are endless. The biggest tip would be to start by going somewhere familiar or comfortable. Once you’ve gotten the hang of how your family travels, then you may be ready to expand into new areas.
Learning What’s Out There
If you are starting with a place where you have connections, take advantage of what they already know! The knowledge that your family and friends have about their hometown is valuable, so don’t be afraid to ask them about excellent hands-on learning opportunities nearby.
You can also discover educational opportunities in new places by searching the websites for a state or checking out the city’s visitors center. You can also use phrase searches on the internet to narrow your field. Find articles that talk about the best things to do with kids in an area, the best travel tips, and the best places to stay.
Check out YouTube videos on an area. This approach can render more misses than hits depending on the place you’re interested in, but sometimes you’ll stumble into some great tips and get a sneak-peak into parts of a location.
And last but not least, talk to locals while you’re there! We always seem to run into other homeschoolers, probably because we visit museums, etc. during the school day when the only other people there are usually homeschoolers! And local homeschoolers always know the best places for other homeschoolers to visit. So ask! Or consider striking up a conversation with any of the employees at the businesses you visit or speak to the owner of the vacation rental you are using for suggestions. They often have great ideas.
Connecting Adventures to Education
Finally, it is worth mentioning that we can and should connect our travel experiences with our kids’ studies. So if you intend to visit the pipeline in Fairbanks, weave in a discussion of the history of the pipeline, its economical and practical uses, and why and how they built it the way they did. As homeschoolers, we are always looking for opportunities to teach our kids through everyday life and experiences! There are learning opportunities everywhere!
I take a lot of the photos with the intention of documenting. I really am only required to send Raven 1 or 2 a quarter for “work sample” purposes. But, I like to have options when it comes time to submit. I also just love documenting what they are doing for our own records and to share with others with the hope it may inspire them the way I’ve been inspired by seeing photos of what others are doing with their kids.
I hope you and your family enjoy many happy adventures!