When you are a homeschooling family, it’s easy to plan your days in any way that works best for your family. For some homeschooling parents, this means working around a work schedule, a parent’s or child’s long-term illness, or a need or desire to travel. In fact, some families live a full-time RV life, moving from place to place on a regular basis.
We already know that there is great freedom in homeschooling that you don't get if you have your child has enrollment in a public school or private school, and the freedom certainly extends to vacations, lengthy travels, or simply traveling long distances. With this freedom, we can go anywhere we choose and still remain in our home education wheelhouse. It’s especially easy for Unschooling homeschoolers and World Schoolers who make life a living traveling education, actually visiting places they are learning about and getting to witness, firsthand, the many wonders that a textbook will simply never reveal.
For today’s topic of conversation, we are going to talk specifically about homeschooling through a lengthy vacation. For many, this usually happens between Thanksgiving and Christmas when traveling and holiday activities are at an all-time high. After this lengthy break, we can often deal with a lot of guilt for things we feel like we should have accomplished but didn’t. But there are ways of making these specific times a little easier.
Create a Plan For Homeschooling Through Long Breaks
Whether your extended vacation coincides with a specific holiday or is part of a vacation, you can accomplish much by simply planning ahead. If you’re going somewhere you’ve never been, leading up to the travel by learning as much about your destination ahead of time as possible. Create a list of everything that might be beneficial, whether it’s a week at Grandma’s house, or two weeks on a cross-country mission trip.
There’s no reason homeschool travel has to put a kink in your educational school year. In fact, it could be the sure cure for your child's education when burnout has taken over. The anticipation by the homeschooled children will likely be enough to keep them ready to learn new things for the entirety of the trip. And it’s possible to say that the joy of anticipation can sometimes be as nice as the actual trip or vacation.
If the vacation involves a great deal of travel, plan ahead and create a pack for each child that contains a variety of learning resources. Reading materials, audiobooks, a well-loaded Kindle, sketchbooks, nice pens and papers, handheld games or puzzles, or anything you think might help your child pass the time and still allow them to learn something at the same time. Even a list of potential field trips that you'll be adding to the travel can be something they can research and learn about ahead of time.
Planning for Nature Exploration
For those lucky enough to be arriving in a place that’s surrounded by nature, you have the opportunity for amazing adventures and exploration. As an educator, make sure you have your Nature Journals with you or consider starting a special one just for this particular vacation - this can be a self-made homeschool curriculum that will bring joy to your family! Bring along a nice phone or camera for pictures and video, a sketchbook for spur-of-the-moment rough sketches, and possibly binoculars or a magnifying glass. Don’t forget to bring a backpack or other wearable pack in which you and your child can collect treasures to bring home for safekeeping. Do be sure to consider your location before removing items, however, as some National Park systems do not allow plants and other assorted items to be taken from the location.
Plan Lessons Based on Your Travel Theme
Just as we teach our homeschooled kids to “do their homework”, so also when you’re well-prepared as a homeschool mom, everything runs more smoothly. And if you plan far enough ahead, you can base a series of lessons, or even all your educational materials, around the very theme of your travel. For instance, if you’re traveling overseas, you can combine a lot of activities based on literature, history, or politics. Actually visiting the places you’re learning about, in person, can have a massive impact on how well your child actually retains the information. This can also be a great way to document, in a sort of photojournalistic style, a great deal of the trip.
Go ahead and plan out the places you’ll visit, people you might be able to talk to in person for more insight, and you might even be able to plan a tour of a historic site and make it into a sort of homeschooling curriculum. The same can be said of any destination. With enough preplanning, the entire trip can be a learning experience.
Planning for Journaling Time
These days, journals can take many forms. Many of us still greatly enjoy the age-old method of pen and paper, while others prefer more modern methods including digital recording. Creating an audio recording, a vlog (video blog), or even a blog post on a handheld device can all be a means through which to capture the amazing adventures undertaken during your vacation. In the future, these may be used as writing prompts, or just remembered with fondness for a great time that it was. And last but not least, they can be turned into amazing keepsakes.
If you know you’re going to have a certain amount of free time each day, plan at least ten minutes to write about things that happened during the day. It doesn’t have to be a monumental event, as even the smallest details can create a wonderful memory. Likewise, in those same ten minutes, pre-k children can doodle a picture of the events, or record an audio or video of what they remember or what stood out to them. This is a great way to incorporate writing for high school credit.
A Great Time for Life-Skills Practice
There’s nothing like a vacation for life-skills practice for homeschool families. There are literally hundreds of ways this can happen, and you can take advantage of many of them. If there is extensive travel, let your children help navigate maps or GPS locations, including figuring out how often refueling stops will have to happen, or bathroom breaks, snack breaks, or special locations you want to check out together as a family.
It’s a great opportunity to allow older children to order their own food at a local restaurant, try speaking another language, or buying things needed for the remainder of the trip. I’m sure there are lots of ways you can think of for your own trip, as it will be specific to your own lifestyle. Just think of the additional opportunities if you’re traveling to a family business or farm, helping out with seasonal chores, or learning a new skill like boating, skiing, or fishing.
Unexpected Lengthy Vacations in Homeschooling
Sometimes, as homeschool families, we experience unexpected lengthy breaks. It might be a family illness or death in the family, or maybe your child deals with a chronic illness or you have a child with special needs and they need a break. All of these situations can cause us to have to step back for a length of time.
Last year, the pandemic has caused many to have to reevaluate the way we structure our homeschool programs or the way our schedule looks. Lengthy breaks due to coronavirus have happened, but luckily, as homeschoolers, we can adjust to these types of breaks without much trouble.
When you homeschool your child, these breaks don't have to cause you to panic. Just know that you can take them as they come and adjust as you need to. There might even be local resources, like a homeschool co-op or homeschool support group that could help during these critical times, even if it means staying connected with others in order to have some sort of socialization and consistency in life. The pandemic even taught us that we can socialize via the computer or distance learning if we must.
Even for adults, we never should stop learning. Just so, a lengthy vacation or holiday should never be a reason to pause homeschooling, rather reevaluate how we do things and take it at our own pace. Quite to the contrary, it could be a time of ramped-up homeschooling because of the many rich learning opportunities you’re sure to encounter! It doesn’t matter how far you go or how long you’re staying if you're traveling, it could be just the change you need to add life and zest back into your homeschooling days.
What freedom we have as homeschoolers over a traditional school program to be able to take time away when we need it! There are many more resources on the web for homeschoolers who travel, especially for those that travel extensively. You can also find social media groups centered on this, or at least a few members of a homeschooling group with which you may already be involved that can give you pointers, tips, details, and some great ideas. Don’t be afraid to reach out and learn more, and you might find this to be one of the high points in your homeschooling career.