“Travel schooling” : learning to relax

Many home school families have been amused by the term HOME schooling or HOME education, because, well frankly, we are not quite home as much as others may think.  We drive to co-ops and extra classes, drive to the parks, to social groups, and drive to countless field trips.  Perhaps we ought to call it car schooling?  But that concept might be for a different post.  Once or twice during the school year our family embarks on a major trip across country or states to visit family.  As we are out of our routine for one to three weeks, I never like to just take off all that time from academic work.  I am still quite caught up in counting the number of “school” days and making the most of every learning opportunity, besides the fact that it becomes increasingly difficult for my boys to jump back into books and studies when they have had a lengthy hiatus.  As I type these words in to my iPad, we are munching pretzels and sipping cranberry juice on the airplane while on our way back from family and friends in Arizona.  It was a successful visit in many ways.  Here are a few of the simple ways we maintained our learning while still having a fun vacation.

Make use of local museums-

While this may not always be possible depending on your budget and the affordability of your destination, museums are a wonderful way to experience new places while learning.  Although not necessary, if you can tie them in to your curriculum, even better.  This trip our family hit the art museum and science center.  On previous visits, we have explored children’s museums, geology centers and history or state museums.

Appreciate relationships as their own education-

Here is where the tired and trite socialization argument dies.  Before we officially began our home schooling adventure we comprised a concise list of all the reasons we wanted to keep our kids at home.  The freedom to travel and family closeness topped the list.  I love seeing A’s and S’s brotherly relationship solidify the longer we do this thing.  G adores being a part of his big brothers’ daily routines, and has learned an indescribable amount. Traveling only enhances this.  It is not only the relationships in our immediate family, however, that benefit us when we travel, but the relationships with everyone we meet.  This is particularly crucial for my guy with Asperger’s.  All three of my guys need to know their grandparents.  We live in a time when the value of family may be fading.  Unconditional love can be the greatest educational tool, not to mention all those extra life skills they may learn from being around different people from different generations.  Utilize them in your travels, or if you have the grandparents next door, be appreciative, and allow them to serve your family well.

Notice nature and take advantage of the outdoors-


Regardless where your journeys take you, there will be something new to see and explore.  Taking advantage of nature centers, hiking trails and parks only makes sense.  It can be as simple as photographing and observing the diversity in our world to something more intentional.  One year we spent two weeks walking about my parents’ neighborhood identifying various cactuses – saguaro, ocotillo, prickly pear, organ pipe, cholla, etc.  One of S’s favorite memories is chasing (and catching) lizards around the Sonoran desert.

Travel lightly-

Packing textbooks and heavy curriculum is not what you want to do.  Traveling with kids can be stressful enough. Simplify.  On this trip we packed The Story of the World, volume 3 by Susan Wise Bauer, and our read aloud, which currently happens to be Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.  That’s it.  We read the Bible together, we practiced our copy work, we watched a couple of science videos, and did some random math practice.  Supplemented by our museum trips, it felt like just the right amount without providing too many stressful expectations.

Let go.  Come to terms with taking days off.

Honestly, I only “counted” two-thirds of our travel days toward schooling.  The rest of the time I let the guys just be.  They laid around and watched far more t.v. than is usually permitted.  They played in parks, and threw rocks at each other in the backyard.  They ate far more desserts than was typical.  They relaxed.

Now, we are back in the Midwest buckling down once more to studies and winter.  Though leaves are sparse, we love them.  “Travel schooling” allowed us to go from summery hikes to craving peppermint mochas in a single day.  It was a wonderful break.


Unequal Beauty

Arid, desolate, withered, brown and devoid of life.


Scorching, dangerous, treacherous, exposed, intense and cursed.


Are these apt descriptions to you of the desert?  Barren and dry?  God-forsaken?


Recently my family and I returned from two weeks in the Sonoran Desert.  I enjoyed the distinctive beauty all around me.  The sun was still relatively mellow at this time for central Arizona, but a blinding beauty as we came from the harsh realities of this year’s Midwestern winter.  Yet there are many who view the desert as ugly, harsh, without natural beauty.  Who would prefer a thorny barrel cactus, or ocotillo to a lush, full oak?


DSC_0177_2255The desert is rugged and the sunsets are gorgeous, but how can you compare it to a winding path in a maple wood, celebrated by a bubbling brook?  Must there be comparisons?  This may be where all the troubles begin.



Comparison is the death of joy.

~Mark Twain

Haven’t we seen this already as parents, moms in particular, as educators, as Christians, well, let’s face it, as human beings?  Must one thing be more beautiful than another?  Which one of your children is more beautiful?  Cannot two completely incompatible scenes of the LORD’s creation bring us a wondrous sense of awe and bafflement?


Then I peer deeply into the differing eyes of my three boys, my family, my brothers and sisters in Christ about me, into my own soul, and marvel.  Which one of us is the thorny ocotillo, initially so unappealing and rough?  Which one possesses the unsung beauty of the Sonoran sunsets?  Even the prickly pear shows its springtime blooms.DSC_0129_2216





Have I experienced a beauty others might name as scorching, arid, intense, devoid of life?


God saw all that he had made, and it was very good.  Genesis 1:31

One of my sons may be socially awkward at times.  Seemingly self-centered.  Aloof.  Gawky.  Obsessive.  Intense.  Piercing.  Heartfelt.  Tender.  Perceptive.  Observant. Is he the arid desert, the dry rocky hills, or the lush oak, the verdant field of blooming wildflowers?

If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be?  If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be?  But in fact God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be.

I Corinthians 12:17-18

Comparing beautiful scenery may be like comparing inner beauties.  Incomparable.  The introvert’s unseen acts of love and service may not be arranged the same way as the gregarious person’s warm smile and full embrace.  And yet they are both beautiful.  Unequally, incomparably beautiful.DSC_0132_2218


The desert and the parched land will be glad; the wilderness will rejoice and blossom…they will see the glory of the Lord, the splendor of our God.

Isaiah 35:1, 2b