Spend Long Hours in the Car As Moments to Teach Your Children

summer vacations are learning times

How much longer? Are we there yet? He’s touching me…He’s on my side. These are words we thought we would never hear out of the mouths of our little sweetheart children. Then, we took a 2-day road trip with them in an effort to arrive at a beautiful beach house that my parents so graciously rented for the family to enjoy. Each year, it’s a different location where my extended family comes together to enjoy a week of vacation together. It’s always a beautiful place with breathtaking views and lots of sites to visit – both educational and just-for-the-fun-of-it places. But, the long miles of road between St. Louis and the beach seems endless when you have a restless crew of children behind you.

Oh, we had traveled with them when they were younger.  We even journeyed with our 13 month old son across the country to Chicago and further up into New York and Rhode Island to visit with some cherished family & friends. But, for us; traveling with an infant or toddler seems to be somewhat easier in that our children would sleep in the car for long stretches of time allowing us to continue down the road. And, as early talkers, they say memorable sweet things you remember; such as when we were on our way to a Best Western Hotel when my oldest daughter was of potty training age. She kept refusing to accept our requests for her to stop and use a potty. She finally announced that she was waiting for the “Best Rest-Room (Best Western).” We rolled with laughter and she was the first into the hotel room.

For some reason in our family, as the children grow, traveling long distances seem to be more difficult. If it weren’t for my sister, who also homeschools, we may not have survived the journey to and from these wonderful destinations. Maybe she gained wisdom from the many road trips our family would take when we were younger with 4 children stuffed side-by-side in the back of a car fighting over who would avoid getting the hump over the muffler. I always lost since I was the smallest so my feet supposedly fit better with my knees bent and scrunched overtop that little bump in the backseat floorboard. But, it was on one of those family trips that my brother pointed out to me how the mile marker signs worked alongside the highways; how to read a map and what road markings and signs meant. So, my siblings are well-versed and prepared to handle a long journey with children.

A few years ago; before our summer vacation, my sister handed me a file stuffed with information. When I opened it up and fanned through it, I was thrilled! There was so many fun-packed learning tools included that I knew our miles and miles of vacation by car was going to be a lot more enjoyable. She knew the secret to turning miles of travel into teachable moments.

Among the treasures that she presented me with were copies of activities for each state we were to pass through along the way. She had state bird and flag pictures for them to color. There was a copy of a map of each state and one to show where it was located within the United States, and which state we would drive through next. The children were so amazed each time we would cross a state line. They looked forward to me handing back their educational packets for each state. We brought colored pencils and a sharpener to avoid crayons melting in our rental vehicle. So, I handed each child their colored pencils and pages to color and read each time we would cross a state line. To my amazement, they were really interested in all the detail of each state. I even learned that some states have the same bird that they call their own. And, even though St. Louis baseball fans would like it to be, Missouri’s bird is not the cardinal.

I even added a few things of my own. Of course, we had plenty of snacks which seems to quiet little young mouths in a happy way. But, I also included a journal for each of the children. I knew they were too young to write a lot of detail. You can purchase a notebook journal for $1.00 at Dollar Tree or Deals. But, I took various styles of paper including some water-proof foam pages & 3-hole punched them adding a silver connector ring to make our journals. Then, I included inexpensive stickers that they could post on their pages as we visited different locations such as beach stickers, lighthouse stickers, fish for our aquarium visit, etc. I couldn’t find a sticker for each event but told them they could draw pictures too. My son was able to write and wrote down memories in his journal that are precious.

Also included in this packet of helpful information frommy sister was information about the completely relaxing locations we visited. One year we went to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina and took in the Ripley’s Aquarium which was great science learning along with their many sand and water learning time on the beach where we found a baby sea turtle and observed its struggle to journey into the ocean during which it has to develop strength or it won’t survive.

Another year we stayed on the outer banks in North Carolina. That’s one homeschooler’s dream trip. There is a learning adventure for every day. There were the lighthouses & the sand dunes and the Wright Brothers museum which is located on the spot where they first took to flight. The best part is North Carolina is their National Park Junior Ranger patch program. When you visit a National Park and take part in a few learning activities, you are granted a patch for each location. So, being the die-hard homeschooler I am, we attempted to tackle each and every park event. We received our patches from Wright Brothers Museum, Roanoke Island where we learned about early settlers and their struggles in their journey to a new world. We attempted to receive our lighthouse patch, but even though we saw several lighthouses, we ran out of time to complete the patch requirements.

Even with a lengthy drive time, we enjoy our yearly vacations with the family. Though, I will admit we have considered flying now and again. Even so, travel learning can take place at an airport and looking out of the window of a plane as well. But, like the sea turtle that we watched struggle for its destination & our early settlers, some of whom were eating sawdust by the time they arrived to our country, we also experience a struggle in the journey of the long trip to arrive at an enjoyable destination. But, when we’re equipped with a packet of learning tools for the travel time, it makes the journey seem quicker and much more enjoyable. You might even hear, “We’re here already?” coming from the backseat.


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