travelling as a unit study

I’ve heard it said a LOT: it’s so good, then, that you homeschool, so you can travel with ease.

May 2012 057

Yes, it’s true. It does making approaching an education simpler when there are no teachers to consult, no workbooks to tote along, no schedule is interrupted. But this is not at all why we homeschool. For those reasons, take a peak at the first few blogs I’ve written.

However, as with all homeschoolers everywhere, I certainly know how to travel with the intent of educating my children. There is never a dull moment when we’re on the move, and it is fun. (The kids would like me to be honest and say there are dull moments: laundry hours and twenty minutes of math each day…yes, they still do that. And there are tough moments existing in a 4×10 space, especially when you enjoy quiet).

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Why not make a unit study out of anywhere we’re visiting? It’s easy to satisfy all the traditional subject areas, if your conscience is so primed for that.

1. Physical Education: Canoeing at a new lake, hiking on a new path, cross country skiing, skating…the sky’s the limit.

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2. Language Arts: Journaling their trip, writing postcards, or blogging. They think it’s fun to share their adventures with family and friends. (I know they’re learning to express themselves). With a teeny bit of review, I share grammar and spelling…and sometimes give them freedom to sway from conventionally taught wisdom so they can flow in their conversational style.

3. Math: To my surprise early on, this stuff comes up every day. I said it when I was in school, but I was wrong: math really is used every single day in some form or fashion.

A discussion on how much bottled water we needed to buy yesterday reinforced how many mL were in a cup, how many cups one person drinks each day and how many cups were in a litre.

Map study, distance, speed is an easy discussion point, especially with the repeated question: Are we there yet? How much more time?

4. Science: Geology is my children’s pastime, and rocks are everywhere. New ones in new locations. As long as I have a few guidebooks, we can learn a few things about them.

I like to learn foraging: which berries can be eaten, what flowers are medicinal. I tasted an Oregon grape yesterday, and spit, then spit again and again. Turns out, I could have swallowed it without trouble; learned that after flipping through the guidebook.


Astronomy. 9’oclock every night, all summer, I’ve had recorded on my iPod calendar, STARGAZE. In the hometown valley that I live, it is a challenge to step into the yard, lay on the ground and see anything more than a few clouds, or a lot of clouds. Or maybe that was just this summer.

Last night we laid feet away from the roaring Kaslo River and watched Venus make her entrance, then Jupiter, Mars, Saturn. We found the basic constellations and the North Star. We saw two stars flash across the sky, and a half dozen red and blue flashing ‘stars’ move slowly from east to west…okay, they might have been planes.

5. History: There is always a museum. I get that these can be dry, but it takes little effort to focus on one aspect to engage the child’s mind. Like, this town is the backdrop to your Dear Canada book about the Japanese internment in World War II. Then they’re on the look-out for evidence.

Since we’re on a British Columbia road trip, we’ve decided to incorporate discussion on regions and their industries, topography, climate and government too. There is time to reinforce the provincial flowers, birds, flags, major cities…an M&M quiz will keep their attention.

“The world is a book

and those who do not travel read only one page”.

Augustine of Hippo

One of the mommy projects I completed this summer…can’t believe I completed it, was to make friends with the London Drugs photo department… Okay, it wasn’t intentional. I updated our family albums for the last three years. That’s a LOT of photos.

After finally putting it all together and flipping for a final perusal, though they weren’t in perfect order, I was mesmerized at how many times we’d left town, heading south, east, west, north.

We have travelled the province. When I’d said we’d travelled quite a bit, it was easy to remember the BIG trips, to Africa, the Arctic. But we’ve really buzzed around Alberta, BC, NWT, Washington, and California. Never a dull moment for my camera. No matter the location, travelling next door, or out-of-country, it is fun. And what better way to remember those places by turning them into unit studies.