By Kathryn Gerken
Home school families enjoy the flexibility of being able to plan, save and travel when our public and private school counter parts are sitting in school. We can incorporate the planning into our geography, history, world cultures and even language. A vacation budget and savings plan can be part of occupational education and math. The flexibility that we give ourselves to travel while the mainstream of society is at work and school allows us to be able to see more during the time that we are away because there are less crowds and lines.
In the beginning of our home school journey, one of the benefits of homeschooling was the option of traveling off-season with the kids to “educational” locations. I was a travel agent before we had kids and love to travel, but with a 3 year old and 5 year old it was difficult to get on a plane to Europe to show them the sights. In those days we tended to go to the aquarium or zoo on a week day to avoid the crowds on weekends or we would head to the ocean to enjoy off season rates. One of our earliest “road-trips” was to the Redwood National Monument in northern California. This remains one of our favorite spots.
As the kids became older I still held on to the dream of educational travel. My husband asked me how I defined the term educational travel and I told him that all travel is educational, even if it is Disney World. When our youngest was 6 years old, we decided to take them to Disney World for his birthday in January. It was off season, the school kids had just gone back to school after Christmas break and we were ready for some sun. Unfortunately, we got stranded in Atlanta by an ice storm which closed the airport, freeways and over booked the hotels. We spent all night trying to re-book flights while the boys, aged 6 and 8, played game boy and slept in a corner of the airport. Florida was 40 degrees, but sunny once we got there. Was this trip educational? Yes. It taught the kids that there are unavoidable delays that surface when you travel and you need to be prepared to be patient and make the best of a bad situation. My husband did not think that Disney was educational, but agreed that it did provide an “experience”.
As the kids have gotten older, we have made several trips that were off-season and educational according to my husband’s definition. We have traveled to Akumal, Mexico on the Yucatan Peninsula in September. The rates were low and there were no crowds at the Mayan ruins. We have been to Washington, D.C. and Virginia in September, San Diego in May and Aruba, where we took an off road jeep trip over moonscape like terrain to come to a perfect snorkeling location. We have learned about cultures, traditions and how other people live in the world. We have avoided crowds and stayed in places less traveled.
The high school years finally brought my dream into reality. Our first trip was to Great Britain, where we explored the castles and landscapes of Northern England and Scotland. Even in England, we were able to see evidence of the ancient Romans at Hadrian’s Wall.
Germany and Italy were next on the list before the kids graduated. While in Germany we visited a local family, who we had hosted for a year as an exchange student. Then on to Italy, where were came up close and personal with the Roman coliseum and Forum. This was the culmination of all those years of ancient history. Traveling really brought all that book learning to life. Now that my children are in college, we will continue to travel as their schedules allow, but I know that I have instilled in them the ability to see the world through travel and to know that there is a big world to learn in for the rest of their lives.
Kathryn Gerken homeschooled her boys through high school graduation. She has gone back to her passion of travel and is a retail travel advisor with Gerken Getaways as an Independent Contractor.