Whether you’ve chosen to homeschool your children or not, there’s no arguing that travel is beneficial for their learning and development. In fact, many parents within the homeschooling community are now traveling with their kids as much as they can afford. When families travel, children gain firsthand experiences and applications. Consider some of the benefits of traveling with your kids:
A better understanding and appreciation of different cultures
One of the most amazing things about traveling abroad, whether it’s to New York City, China, Africa, etc, is that it allows your children to learn about different cultures. While you could teach your children about different countries and their cultures from the comfort of your living room, it’s hard to give kids a proper understanding and appreciation of different places. Actually traveling to and interacting with another culture helps kids experience it on a much deeper level. It makes history come alive when children can walk the battlegrounds, see the ancient ruins, or behold the places Jesus walked and taught. Plus, it builds tolerance, understanding, and insight into how our children think about other cultures from around the world.
I know when I traveled to Brazil in college, it was an eye-opening experience in many ways. I walked away with an appreciation of their diverse culture, beautiful language, hospitality, delicious food, cultural values, and many lessons learned. One of the lessons I walked away with was that people are people everywhere. Love is a universal language spanning language and cultural differences if we know how to interact with respect.
(Some of our sweet friends we met in Vitoria, Brazil.)
(This man worked at a living history museum. But he was fascinating to talk to. He opened up and talked a lot about what it was like growing up on a reservation and how things like unemployment, depression, and suicide were so rampant.)
(Brazilian BBQ is seriously amazing.)
Learning as a family
A big part of homeschooling is learning as a family. By traveling as a family, you can learn as a family. Now, I’m not going to downplay the fact that sometimes traveling with family can be quite stressful. I’m sure you have memories of everyone grating on one another’s nerves in small spaces, such as cars or hotel rooms. Still, moments of annoyance aside, traveling as a family can create some of the best memories and learning opportunities. Children learn best from real-life application or everyday lessons. The parents that slow down enough to talk about God and faith in everyday life often get through to their kids. The same goes for other subjects, especially the arts, literature, and history.
In college I took a study travel trip to visit New England. We studied and traveled at a break neck pace the famous battles, historical events, writers, and poets of the area. But I will never forget some of the smallest details that made Emily Dickinson or Louisa May Alcott come alive for me.
(The home of Emerson.)
If you are worried about where to stay while traveling and trying not to bust the budget, think outside the box. There are plenty of accommodation options for families, such as Homestay or Airbnb. This type of accommodation offers long-term accommodation – so that you can properly get to know a place. Homestay and other accommodations like this are rising in popularity. Many people find them a safe and affordable way to travel (or to make money by opening up their own home).
It is true that there is always some risk, but even hotels can be risky if in the wrong parts of town or poorly ran. So if you are trying to save money while traveling as a family, don’t be afraid to look into creative options. Consider Homestay, or getting a deep discount on hotels or condos by touring a timeshare location, or even looking into local options. Local bed and breakfasts or cabins are sometimes are quite affordable and include accommodations like a kitchen!
(The home of Emerson.)
(Red Lobster has nothing on New England lobster right along the ocean . . . )
The fantastic thing about traveling with kids is that the entire trip, from start to finish, offers an incredible, hands-on learning experience. From the moment you arrive at the airport or set off in your car, your children will be learning. My parents valued travel and visiting places like national parks. And we never flew. We always drove. Which made for long trips. But the scenery along the way, the little towns we would stop in and explore, and the time spent together talking about what we saw made it all worth it. Even if we got lost once and awhile.
Text books are great for giving children the knowledge they need about a subject, but they can’t offer them the real life experience. By visiting a country or different state with your child, you allow them to use their senses–touch, sight, sound, smell, and taste–to learn about that place. They can use the currency of that place, attempt to speak the language, try the food, and see how people live.
While traveling, encourage your kids to do age appropriate things like draw, journal, or take photographs. If you are driving, bring along cultural music or audiobooks that teach them about where you are going. Historical fiction is one of my favorite genres because it is written with compelling characters that help bring to life historical events. You can also listen to or read works by poets or authors from that part of the country or the world.
Talk to your kids about how to interact in different cultures in a respectful way, aware of that culture’s preferences. Too often American tourists get a bad name for not taking time to learn about a culture before visiting. Travel is an opportunity to learn before, during, and after, as well as to encourage empathy and cultural appreciation.
So often our world, mine being middle class, Midwest America, shapes our worldview. And there is nothing wrong with being middle class or from the Midwest–it is quite wonderful actually. But when we (and our children someday) look at global issues, we often lack the tools of historical knowledge, cultural appreciation, and empathy. Living in a bubble can lead to reactions of fear or discrimination. Our world, and our country, are incredibly diverse. If we want to equip our children to deal with global issues and cultural diversity within our own communities, we need to teach them about and safely expose them to other cultures and parts of the country and world.
What do you think about traveling with children? How can it be harnessed as a learning opportunity?