Take an Educational Trip Without Your Kids Knowing It

November 18, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

When you homeschool your children, everything can be a learning opportunity. Resourceful parents can turn a trip to the grocery store into a math lesson, and a day of errands into a lesson on time management and stress reduction.

Many parents want to enrich their children with learning and mind expanding activities, even during their free time. The problem is, most kids hate the idea, and so sometimes you have to sneak learning into family events like you’d sneak your dog’s pill into a piece of cheese. Other times you have to struggle with the dog over the pill, and remind her that you’re the parent, and as long as she’s living under your roof, you’re taking family vacations together.

Wait, what? Where was I?

Basically if you’re one of those nerdy parents, like me, who want their kids to learn something while you’re on vacation, you can either sneak in a little learning by making a single stop (or two) as part of a bigger trip. Or you can take a vacation that’s just one long learning adventure, and ignore the groans and protests. Either way, here are several ways to sneak some learning into your family fun.

Go Sightseeing to Historical Locations

Conner Prairie is a great place for an educational trip with your kids

A blacksmith at Conner Prairie Civil War Days in Noblesville, Indiana

When I lived in Indianapolis, we used to take the kids to Conner Prairie, a living history museum that detailed life in Indiana in the 1800s. There, historic interpreters and re-enactors would teach visitors about their lives in Noblesville, Indiana. The kids just liked being outside, and trying some of the different activities, including making crafts and axe throwing.

There are living history museums and interpretation centers in nearly every state in the country, so you could always zip over for a quick weekend getaway, especially if you’re doing a one-tank trip, where you spend your vacation at any place you can get to within a single tank of gas.

There are living history sites like Colonial Williamsburg (Virginia), Old Sturbridge Village (Massachusetts), or Bent’s Old Fort National Historic Site (Colorado), and they’ll all focus on local history and events in the state’s, or even the country’s past. Of course, this doesn’t even include major historic sites, like Gettysburg, PA, Fort Sumter, SC, or the entire city of Boston, so if you can ever swing it, take a day or two to explore some of our important national history sites.

Visit Museums

I love visiting art museums when I travel. Whether local museums like the Evansville (Indiana) museum, which is a combination of art, local history, and even science, or the Chicago Museum of Art, there’s something mesmerizing about being in a place that contains so much history. I love to hear stories about why a particular piece of art was created, or what the area and its people were like 100, 200, even 500 years ago.

While art museums may not be for everyone, children’s museums are great for young kids (my kids loved the Indianapolis Children’s Museum, which is ranked one of the top children’s museums in the country), and science museums like the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry or the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (no relation) will have something nearly every kid enjoys.

There are other museums as well — the Baseball Hall of Fame, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the OZ Museum in Kansas, the International Banana Museum in California — so they don’t all have to be about art and science. If you or your kids have a passion, even an unusual one, chances are, there’s a museum about it.

Visit Natural Sites

This country has plenty of natural and beautiful sites, whether it’s the Grand Canyon and Petrified Forest, the Colorado Rockies, the Great Lakes, or even the Pacific Ocean. You can spend hours and days just exploring the country’s beauty, and never get bored.

Not only are there guided tours in most of these locations, but there are interpretation centers, educational materials, and even lodgings to be found, so you can spend a day or two there, helping your kids learn about geology, ecology, biology, or any of the other earth and physical sciences.

Working Vacation

To me, vacation is all about relaxing and taking it easy for a while. But some people love to spend their week on a farm or ranch, doing a lot of heavy lifting and manual labor for fun. There are farm stay vacations in every state in the country so you and your family can spend several days on a real farm, learning about life in the country, feeding and caring for animals, riding horses, driving a tractor, and even mending fences.

Take an International Trip

They can read all the books they want about a country, but nothing will teach your kids more deeply about that place than actually being in it. Spend a week in another country, trying to live like a local, experiencing the different foods, cultural events, and even their television and media.

I’ve had the joy of traveling to a few different countries in the world, usually for work, but I always managed to spend an extra day or two visiting family and friends while I’m there. And I managed to learn more about the city and country I was visiting than I ever learned by reading and looking at maps.

While there’s something to be said about visiting popular tourist destinations — like trying to see the statue of David or the Mona Lisa — you’ll spend half a day waiting in line for a momentary glimpse of the art. Instead, spend that day visiting smaller museums, or going on guided tours of the city, and learning as much about the place as you can.

Go Camping

While they may not be lessons your kids will learn in school, you can learn a lifetime’s worth of skills by spending a few days out in the wild, surviving on your wits, bug spray, and the five pounds of energy bars you dumped in your backpack.

You can teach your kids about nature, ecology, forestry, self-sufficiency, fishing and hunting, weather, survival skills, and how to spot poison ivy, by taking them out into the woods for a few days. No phones, no TVs, no electronics. Just you, the sounds of nature, and a couple of books.

(Seriously. Teach them the poison ivy thing right away. Trust me.)

Parents, how do you sneak learning into your vacations? Do you have a favorite method for guerrilla learning, or do you just make a full-on charge into educational vacations? Share your thoughts and ideas with us in the comments below, on our Facebook page, or in our Twitter stream.

Photo credit: Erik Deckers (used with permission, all rights reserved)


Erik Deckers is a travel writer, as well as a content marketer and book author. He is the co-author of Branding Yourself, No Bullshit Social Media, and The Owned Media Doctrine. Erik has been blogging since 1997, and has been a newspaper humor columnist for over 20 years

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