How to Add Learning to Your Travels
As our family travels North America in our RV full time, we are always looking for ways to promote learning -- and not just for our four kids, but also for us parents!
This is extra important for our family because we homeschool our kids (we actually do a form of homeschooling called unschooling). Because of this, there is no start or end to our 'school day' or 'school year.' In our rolling home, learning happens all day every day and doesn't have a start or an end.
Whether you also homeschool your kids or travel during school breaks, here are a few tips for incorporating learning into your travels (most of these are great for adults, too):
1. Join the Junior Ranger Programs
Every National Park has a Junior Ranger program. Just stop in at the Visitor Center to ask for the Junior Ranger book, then complete a variety of pages (different amounts are required for different ages). Afterwards, you can hand the book back in and have the ranger check it. They will then have the kids hold up their right hand and repeat the Junior Ranger pledge for that park to receive the badge. Or if you are short on time, you can take it home with you, mail it in and they will send you your badge.
This is such a great way for all of us to learn even more about the parks we are visiting -- and it often involves science, history and lots of reading!
2. Check Out Visitor Centers
Outside of the Junior Ranger programs, all National Parks have visitor centers that we always make sure to stop in. They often have a museum to walk through or a ranger available to answer questions about the park. Usually, they will also have a video that explains the history of the park and tells you more about what you will be seeing.
Bonus -- it is always FREE to go to a Visitor Center (read about other free family activities we suggest)! We love supporting National Parks, they are a great place for families. However, many cities have great visitor centers as well.
3. Plan for Free Time
Our kids have a lot of down time at the campgrounds, state parks or national parks we stay at. While you may be wondering how this involves learning, for us it is one of the most important parts! We want to give our kids the space, time, and environment where they can just play, be creative, make friends, get in disagreements and work it out.
A lot of the research we have done points at how free play is such an important way for kids to learn and we couldn't agree more. It's pretty fun for adults, too!
4. Listen to Audiobooks
When you travel full time, you spend a decent amount of time driving -- many hours some days! So, it is the perfect time to listen to audiobooks. Normally these are books like Laura Ingalls Wilder or Harry Potter. The best part about listening together is that we can have a family book club where we talk about what we thought about the book we listened to.
Another cool thing about this is that we can then visit places that relate to the books, like Laura Ingals Wilder's home in South Dakota or The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal!
5. Get Hands-On in Museums
One of the best purchases that we have made (outside of our National Parks pass) was a reciprocal museum membership. The membership gets us into science centers, national history museums, and children's museums all over the country!
Not all museums are on the program, but most of them are. Before visiting a city, we will look up which of the museums are part of the reciprocal membership program and then plan a visit. As a family, we can easily spend all day in a museum and always learn a lot! We also get discounts on zoos and aquariums.
6. Plan Outdoor Activities
We like to get outside as much as we can and experience the area through hiking, kayaking, paddle boarding, tubing, swimming, biking ... you get the idea.
This does two things: 1 - It allows all of us to really immerse ourselves in the environment we are in. To touch it, feel it, smell it, and see it. And 2 - It helps us all be physically active and get exercise, which no matter your age is an important thing.
As anyone who spends time outside knows, nature is the ultimate teacher and helps encourage our curiosity.
7. Embrace Technology
In this day and age, you can't avoid technology and it will be part of our kids' future. So, in our home, there is also time spent on tablets. It could be Minecraft or another educational game. Of course, it can be used for watching a cartoon or movie, too. The internet has given us so many great tools to learn from right at our fingertips and we definitely use this as part of how we all continue to learn.
When learning becomes part of everyday life, it is amazing to see how it appears all day and all year long in a variety of different ways! We hope our tips help your family enjoy gaining knowledge during your travels, as well.