Homeschooling · Natural Childhood

How to Homeschool While on Vacation

Graphic - 30 Ways We Successfully Homeschooled While On VacationLast week our family went to Banff, Alberta for a 5 day getaway. The man of the house needed to go to Banff for work reasons, and since we homeschool (and therefore have the Awesome Superpower Of Flexibility), we decided to temporarily assign a new classroom arrangement. Psst, that’s homeschool code for “we are totally getting out of the house”.

I used to see any unexpected changes in our schedule as a horrific disruption to all that I held dear. My carefully constructed schedule, my learning objectives, my education plan… all completely messed up because of a few days off. That was the old me. I’ve since taken a few chill pills and edged nearer to the “Delight Directed Learning” and unschooling crowd. I’m progressively learning that “Education” happens everywhere,  and the best kind with the most lasting influence is most often the unscheduled, spontaneous kind.

So how to take this little vacay in stride? Well, first, here’s what I did NOT do:

  • I did NOT fret about anything on the schedule that we were missing.
  • I did NOT try to pre-schedule our vacation to become a long string of “educational” pursuits, a.k.a. suck the life and fun out of the vacation.
  • I did NOT follow my kid along and continually ask irritating questions like “so, what are you learning about this?”
  • I did NOT bring any school along. No workbooks, no assigned reading, no texts.

Nah, we just had a lot of fun. That’s how my kids saw it, anyways. We also happened to have an amazingly productive week, and they learned so much. It was a huge win for us.

Here’s what I DID do to make our vacation a successful ‘homeschool’ week:

  • I DID ensure some downtime everyday. Dad is the only one in our house that naps anymore, but I did make sure we had some time to kick back in the hotel room and do nothing each afternoon. Ipads, kids shows… hey, it’s a hotel room. Whatever works. This quiet time is mostly for mom anyways.
  • I DID give the kids some choice in what we did each day. This usually involved me pre-selecting a couple ideas, then they chose from the two.
  • I DID make sure the kids spent a lot of time swimming in the hotel pool each day. This is what they wanted to do most, so it was the cherry on top of each day.
  • I DID make a internal, mental note of the educational value of the activities that we were doing. I was wise and kept this to myself!
  • I DID follow any child’s lead and interests… if anyone requested to repeat an activity, or go look at something, or read about it, or ask more questions… I made sure to stop and listen and go with their curiosity.

So if anyone is wondering, here is what a week of homeschool/vacation can look like. Yes, the two CAN co-exist. (In brackets are my own mental observations about how the activity correlated with a subject or learning objective)

Day 1

  • Arrive at Banff, check into hotel.
  • Go for swim in hotel pool about 2 mins after check-in. (Physical Activity)
  • Made some new friends with other kids in pool. (Socialization)

Day 2

  • Mountain Skiing and tubing as a family. (Physical Activity, Outdoor Pursuits, Relationship-Building)
  • Each girl went on chairlift for the first time, and had a couple scary moments and wipeouts that became real teaching moments about safety, staying in control, stopping and turning. (Risk Assessment, Safety Training, Developing Self-Awareness and Self-Evaluation Skills, Knowing one’s own limits)
  • More swimming with friends and hot-tubbing back at hotel. (Physical Activity, Socialization)

Day 3

  • Explored Banff Springs Hotel, looking at architecture and historical photos. (Canadian History & Culture)
  • Attempted to visit Cave & Basin and Banff Museum but both were closed today.
  • Visited Banff library, looked at books and used computers in children’s area. (Reading, Literature, Computer literacy)
  • Went to see Zootopia at Lux Cinemas in Banff. We all loved it! Also had a bit of discussion after about bullying and self-confidence and all that jazz.
  • More swimming with friends and hot-tubbing back at hotel. Unfortunately, this night the hot tub was full of some unruly hotel guests sneaking in beer and drinking it while in the hot tub. Reported it to hotel but to no avail. Used it as a teaching moment for my kids. (Physical Activity, Socialization, Social Issues, Health: Substance Abuse Effects, Awareness and Prevention, Personal Advocacy)

Day 4

  • Traveled to Calgary’s Telus Spark Science Centre for the day. This place is WORTH a day trip. We had been here before, two years ago, and were eager to return.
  • Watched Dome Theater film “Our Solar System: Spotlight Sun“. The movie talked about the sun’s eventual demise and the end of all life, so afterwards my distraught and tearful daughter and I had a discussion about God’s plan for us, Hope, and ‘the end’ with a Christian Worldview. (Science: Astronomy, Intelligent Design, Bible: Plan of Salvation)
  • Explored the Creative Kids Museum. This is a favorite of ours, there is so much to do in this room. A climbing structure, water play area, theater stage complete with kid-controlled lighting, building materials of all kinds, this is a room to spend hours in. It is all hands-on and very engrossing. (Physical Activity: Fine & Gross Motor Skills, Science: Properties of Water & Light, Problem-Solving)
  • Took part in the Open Studio Workshop where both girls were suited up with safety goggles, gloves, and got to participate in a building project where they used real saws, clamps, and drills. (Life Skills, Carpentry, Safety Training, Problem Solving, Fine Motor Skills)
  • Also in the Open Studio area, there are stations involving all sorts of materials and different ways of interacting with them. Hands down, for the second visit, the BIGGEST HIT of the whole day for my girls was the 3 dress-form mannequin area. Dressmaking pins and oodles of various pieces of colorful fabrics in all sorts of sizes and colors were available for my girls to fashion new designs to their hearts content. I may have gotten involved and done a design of my own. It’s pretty addicting. (Art, Fashion Design)
  • Watched a Live Science Demo involving helium, balloons, loud bangs and explosions. Lots of ooohs and aaaahs here. (Science: Chemistry)
  • Back at the hotel room for… wait for it… swimming. (Physical Activity, Socialization)

Day 5

  • After an insanely busy day yesterday, we started off slow with breakfast, then a quiet lazy time in the hotel room, and a late morning swim. (Physical Activity)
  • We went to Crock-A-Doodle pottery studio to pick a piece and paint it. My eldest chose a unicorn fairy figurine, the youngest and I chose big bowls to make our very own. This was a blast! We had so much fun painting, and easily could have picked more pieces and painted all day if my wallet had been willing. (Art, Handicrafts)
  • Explored Cave & Basin National Historic Site. Aside from the unbearable sulfur smell while in the actual cave, I’ve always enjoyed coming here. They’ve done some renovation since our last visit, so there was a whole new building and design to explore for the Visitor’s Centre. We watched a couple movies, one about Canada’s National Parks, and another about the discovery and development of Cave & Basin. Our oldest daughter was particularly enraptured with the hot springs cave and kept wanting to go back in. (Canadian History, Science: Geology, Nature Study)
  • Nourish Bistro was our destination for dinner. I was very excited to go, as it is Vegetarian/Vegan, and they serve locally sourced, Organic, Non-gmo gourmet dishes in a quaint, intimate atmosphere. I was happy that they do not have a kids menu, and each dish for dinner is served tapas-style, with all of us sharing from each dish that arrived. This was HUGE for my family, as I am the only vegetarian. My husband is All Albertan in the sense that he loves his meat and potatoes, and the girls do eat some meat on occasion. The dishes were huge and substantial, and divine. My husband fell in love with one dish in particular, the “Holy Moly Shroom Ravioli”… which is really ironic considering he does not like mushrooms. My eldest was really tickled to be eating so ‘healthy’ and so many new-to-her foods – she is very health conscious. (Health: Food & Nutrition)

Day 6

  • Hotel swim! (Physical Activity)
  • And afterwards… heading home exhausted yet happy.

In a Nutshell, THIS is what we managed to accomplish this week.

  1. Physical Activity
  2. Physical Activity: Fine & Gross Motor Skills
  3. Socialization
  4. Outdoor Pursuits
  5. Relationship-Building
  6. Risk Assessment
  7. Safety Training
  8. Developing Self-Awareness and Self-Evaluation Skills
  9. Knowing one’s own limits
  10. Canadian History & Culture
  11. Reading
  12. Literature
  13. Computer literacy
  14. Social Issues
  15. Personal Advocacy
  16. Science: Astronomy
  17. Science: Intelligent Design
  18. Science: Properties of Water & Light
  19. Science: Chemistry
  20. Science: Geology
  21. Science: Nature Study
  22. Bible: Plan of Salvation
  23. Problem-Solving
  24. Life Skills
  25. Carpentry
  26. Art
  27. Fashion Design
  28. Handicrafts
  29. Health: Food & Nutrition
  30. Health: Substance Abuse Effects, Awareness and Prevention

Now THAT was an incredible (un) school week!

Tell me about how you vacation/school…

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