Have you ever wondered about how to homeschool on vacation?
Or if, say, you needed to flee?
I’m an introvert and, as such, sometimes I like to withdraw from all the things and retreat to a more simple, more peaceful space. I can only go-go-go for so long and then I feel it rising: the need to check out, to disconnect. Fortunately, my parents have a teeny little place up in the mountains that our family shares. And, so, when my introverted soul needs a little nourishment, we clear our calendar and head north.
When talking about this with my friends, I call it my need to flee. As in:
Oh, I can’t do a moms’ night out next week, because I need to flee, but how about the following week?
And they get it because my friends are awesome like that.
When my oldest was in public school, I used to worry about how my need to flee would impact his schooling. I didn’t worry about him academically, mind you. Even the pre-homeschool-me felt that time spent away with family trumps a day in school. Instead, I worried about when The Letter would come.
The educators out there know about The Letter. Once a student misses, or is tardy for, a pre-determined number of days the school sends out a letter. This letter is all scary-sounding and guilt-inducing. It implies that your child will never amount to anything if you don’t stop those getaways and get him the heck on that big yellow bus.
Well, somehow, we never got the letter during my son’s kindergarten year. I’m not sure how, but it never came. And we took hefty heaps of time away because, as I said already, this introverted mama needs to flee every so often.
Sometimes, our fleeing is weather-motivated. For example, the week of Labor Day was amazing here in New England this year. I saw the forecast and I knew we needed to carpe diem. So, yes, my daughter missed the first week of kindergarten and it was glorious. No regrets!
Last week, we decided to flee because I felt the need and because fleeing would enable us to cross the rain-snow line and experience a snow storm without the need to shovel. I mean, c’mon, it was a perfect flee plan.
Friends often inquire as to whether we homeschool during one of these need-to-flees and my answer is yes. Folks are always curious what this looks like and so, today, I’m writing this little post to show you.
Have Books, Will Travel: How to Homeschool on Vacation
I’ve mentioned before that I believe the only thing you need in order to homeschool is a library card and I truly believe that I could create a homeschool curriculum almost entirely based on well thought out read alouds for my children. We always pack some good books, in addition to audiobooks for the long drive. I select these books and audiobooks based on my children’s current interests and I also throw in some titles that are related, in some way, to whatever chapter book we are reading aloud at the time.
Also, I try to pack light. Getaways are meant to be fun and I don’t want ever want our homeschooling to feel like a burden. My goal is to fit it all into one bag. I am realistic in what I select, choosing only the favorites. I’m also realistic in my expectations. We might not cover it all and that is okay. I’ve been homeschooling long enough to know that learning is always happening, especially when you are away and have a chance to simplify and reconnect with each other.
Here are the books and curricula that I packed for our latest excursion:
1. Fantastic audiobooks for the road
We finished Little House in the Big Woods just before heading up north and, as a result, they are currently interested in all things animal and farm-related. I selected three of my favorite audiobooks and they relate to current interests. On the way up, we listened to James Herriot’s Treasury for Children: Warm and Joyful Tales by the Author of All Creaturs Great and Small. Herriot was a British veterinarian who shared stories of working with animals in the rural English countryside. This volume contains eight short stories that appeal to young children and adults alike. I never tire of listening to these sweet stories of the love between people and animals!
When we finished James Herriot’s Treasury for Children, we moved on to a childhood classic: Charlotte’s Web. We were able to listen to about three-quarters of it before arriving at our destination. I love this audiobook because it is read aloud by E.B. White and it is unabridged. This is a favorite of ours and no matter how often we listen to it, the story never gets old. I’ve loved Charlotte’s Web since childhood, but it holds a special place in my heart now. When my oldest was 4-years-old, he started reading seemingly overnight. Soon, he was reading chapter books. Initially, I questioned how much he was actually comprehending, after all, it had all happened so quickly! One day, during quiet time, I was reading downstairs when I heard sobbing. I ran upstairs to find my oldest, Charlotte’s Web in hand, bawling.
I didn’t know Charlotte would die in this book! Why didn’t you tell me?!
And that’s when I knew. I took him in my arms and he sobbed his little heart out. I couldn’t tell you the title of the first book he read to me, but I’ll remember that Charlotte’s Web moment for the rest of my life.
On the drive home, we finished the last of Charlotte’s Web and then moved on to my all-time favorite audiobook collection: A.A. Milne’s Pooh Classics Box Set. If you are going to have one audiobook in your home, it needs to be this one. It is an absolutely magical collection! The stories are read aloud by Peter Dennis and he does a fantastic job. His performance of Piglet will have your children belly laughing! No childhood is complete without a journey into the 100 Acre Wood to see what that silly old bear and his friends are up to. This incredible collection kept us happily entertained for the remainder of our trip home.
2. Our current read aloud, Farmer Boy by Laura Ingalls Wilder
I have loved the Little House series since I was a little girl and I’ve been looking forward to the day when I could read the series aloud with my own children. As a homeschool mom, I have an even greater appreciation for these books because they are not only engaging but educational. Where else can you learn about American history in such a rich and vivid way? Each chapter holds a wealth of opportunities to expand upon learning. We are barely two books into the series and already my children have learned about early pioneers, Native Americans and forced resettlement, maple sugaring, butter and cheese making, farming, hunting, pioneer cuisine, deer and bear behavior, hibernation, American folk songs, bees and honey making, simple machines, westward expansion, corncob dolls, square dancing, and more!
We rarely leave home without a journal! I use these Mead Primary K-2 journals for everything! From Doodle Diaries to nature study to creative writing and more. I love that there is space for art and also guided lines to help with letter formation and spacing.
4. Brave Writer
I have gushed about Brave Writer a gazillion times on this page. The Brave Writer philosophy meshes so perfectly with our family and our educational philosophy that I often feel it was created for us. Does that sound crazy? Truly, once you have devoured The Writer’s Jungle, you become a Brave Writer. At that point, you need only travel with a journal in order to implement the lifestyle. Sometimes, that’s all I pack and other times I pack Daily Writing Tips because they are fantastic and have never, ever failed to inspire creative writing in my children. I packed them this time and we had a ball!
We use a variety of resources for math over here, from online curricula like Khan and Redbird, to games, to story books, to workbooks. Well, since my daughter wrote her amazing homeschool manifesto, my children have delighted in “doing school” at the kitchen island together, usually with math workbooks. My 7-year-old loves Beast Academy and my little two are both working on Singapore Math.
6. Exploring Nature with Children
Rarely do I stumble across such a delightful, easy-to-implement, start right out of the box, and affordable curriculum. Well, recently, my friend Kara over at Quill and Camera introduced me to Exploring Nature with Children and we love it! I will have a full review coming out in the next month or so, so stay tuned! I love that it is so thorough- this one book contains 48 weeks of lessons, four weeks per month. If you have never studied nature before, this is for you. And, if you are avid nature seekers like ourselves this will only inspire you further. When we are home, we supplement with The Handbook of Nature Study by Anna Botsford Comstock, in addition to many of the nature books and field guides that we use in our Nature Explorer Packs, but I left those at home for this trip. You really only need this book to learn outdoors!
7. Zeezok Music
I have had my eyes on Music Appreciation for the Elementary Grades for quite some time. The program combines reading, history, biographies, and music. We have Book One, and I have found it easy (and fun!) to use having no musical background myself. We also have the biographies and audio CD. Currently, we are reading Sebastian Bach: The Boy from Thuringia by Opal Wheeler. We are almost finished with the story and can’t wait to start on our next composer. For this trip, I packed the teacher book, biography, and CD. Stay tuned for a more thorough review soon, folks!
8. Grandparent Journals
For the past year-plus, my children have been passing journals back and forth with their grandparents. My kids ask the questions, and their grandparents respond, each in his or her own hardcover journal. Reading these journals aloud is something I don’t like to rush and this fall was a chaotic blur. I thought we could start reading them again, finally, when we were away from all of life’s many distractions.
And, of course, we packed a couple of games for the road too!
Our family loves games and we do have games up north, but I always like to bring a couple extra just in case. Games play a huge role in our homeschool curriculum and there’s nothing like playing a board game while on a leisurely vacation. This time, we packed UNO, because my children are currently obsessed and it travels well. We also packed Ticket to Ride. My oldest and I have been playing this game quite a bit lately and my younger two wanted to learn. Fleeing provided us with the perfect opportunity to teach them!
Interested in checking out what we left behind?
We dabble in oodles of curricula over here. If you would like to see more of what we love, check out this post on our curriculum choices for this year.
Are you joining us from Simple Homeschool?
Did you hear my big news, folks? I am now a contributor over at Simple Homeschool- one of my most favorite sites ever! I actually have a post up over there today, so please hop on over and check it out!
If you stumbled here from Simple Homeschool, welcome! Please feel free to poke around and, if you like what you see, we’d love to have you stay a while!
Now, it’s your turn. Do you ever need to flee? Do you homeschool on vacation? What do you pack and what do you leave behind? Share here!
Cait co-hosts The Homeschool Sisters Podcast and is co-founder of Raising Poppies, a community for parents of gifted and twice-exceptional children. Cait is also founder of the Family Book Club at My Little Poppies, a fantastic community of book-loving parents and the Gameschool Community at My Little Poppies, a vibrant community of gameschoolers.
Cait is a contributing writer for Simple Homeschool. Her work has also appeared on The Huffington Post, The Mighty, Scary Mommy, GeekMom, and many others. You can find her on Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, Instagram
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