When I was 16 and soon to be a homeschool graduate, my dad planned the ultimate homeschool traveling “field trip” for our family. He planned it for months and had every minute of the trip planned out, literally. When it was time, our family of five loaded up in a 1971 Dodge Van and drove east out of Tulsa. We were all pretty excited to be taking this big trip, but I don’t think anybody was excited as our dad, who had planned it for so long.
Our first stop was Cumberland Gap, Tennessee: We played in the Cumberland Falls, which were beautiful. Then it was on to Beverly, Kentucky, where I was born. At the time when I was born my parents were dorm parents in a boys dormitory at Red Bird Mission near Beverly, Kentucky. It was cool seeing the mission campus, which is still a mission school today, and standing in front of the tiny hospital where I was born.
When we stopped for the night, it was mostly at campgrounds where we could tent camp. At 16, the tenting got old rather quick, but looking back it was actually pretty fun. I rarely go camping now, and I find that I miss it sometimes. Growing up, our family went camping quite a bit.
After Kentucky we headed to Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, and took an afternoon audio drive tour through the Gettysburg battle fields. I think we bought the tape at the beginning of the tour and listened to it in the van as we drove through. Then we traveled on to Washington D.C., where we actually stayed in a hotel in the middle of the city. I remember it had a pool on the roof!
We spent the whole next day touring the state capital: It was hot, and I remember thinking my parents could just leave me at the Library of Congress and I would be perfectly happy. In one afternoon, we hit all the hot spots, including the Smithsonian, Lincoln and Washington Memorials, Capitol Hill, and the outside of the White House, where Reagan was president at the time.
Other than the Library of Congress, I don’t really remember a lot about the tour. I wish now that I had paid more attention or that we could have spent more time in D.C. This is definitely a place I want to go back to.
Our next stop was Boston. The traffic was crazy there, so we took a bus tour, as well as a tour of Old Ironsides at the USS Constitution Museum. Then we stopped at Plymouth Rock on the waterfront in Plymouth, Mass., and looked around.
I remember camping on the beach in Connecticut, I believe. It was my first time camping on the beach and other than the mosquitos, it was a pretty neat experience.
Then it was on up the East Coast, where we saw many beautiful lighthouses. We stopped and toured the eastern most lighthouse somewhere in Maine. After that we drove on up to the tip of Maine, where we camped out before catching a ferry to Prince Edward Island, Canada.
We spent several days on Prince Edward Island in a cabin, touring and relaxing. This was our big destination, as the author of my favorite series of books, L.M. Montgomery of Anne of Green Gables, had lived here. It was a beautiful island, and we spent enough time here to thoroughly enjoy ourselves.
When we came back to the states, we drove to Niagara Falls, then west and down to Iowa to visit my grandparents. My grandpa had a heart attack while we were visiting. He had a triple bypass and thankfully, is a fairly healthy 81-year-old today. Being there when he had his heart attack was a scary experience, but the adults were pretty calm and at the time, I didn’t know that much about what had happened to him. We left when we knew he was going to be okay.
On the way home, we stopped at Worlds of Fun in Kansas City. I was too motion sick to enjoy my time there and was glad when we finally made it home.
In all, I believe we weren’t gone much longer than two weeks, and it was a very low-budget trip. We ate at a few restaurants, but for the most part, it was roadside picnics. However, I learned a lot on that trip, and I look back fondly on it now. In fact, I can’t wait to take my own children on a driving tour of the eastern United States!
As homeschoolers, our options are limited only by our imaginations. We have very flexible schedules, and the world can be our classroom. Homeschool traveling is a wonderful opportunity we should all try to take advantage of in some form.
For us, traveling as a homeschool family now is really not any different than traveling back when we were not homeschooling. Maybe that’s because I was a homeschooled student myself, and with that background, I have just always treated traveling as an educational experience.
For two years, my husband was the Northwest Region’s Sales Manager for the Daylight Donut Flour Company. He traveled pretty much all the time and thankfully, he was able — and even encouraged — to take the family along when possible. The girls were in grade school at the time (why we didn’t homeschool them back then is beyond me), so we only got to travel with him during the summer and spring and fall break.
Sometimes the girls went with their dad, and I got some blessed quiet time at home. But when I went with them, I know I was educationally minded about the trip. I remember traveling along Snake River in Washington and asking the girls to imagine what it would have been like traveling here by covered wagon. We talked about the Oregon Trail experiences. We learned about each state we traveled through: the capitol, its main crop, history, state bird, etc.
The girls went to Yellowstone with their dad, and we visited Yosemite several times because their great grandparents have a cabin there. We also went to the Grand Canyon several years ago. The girls learned a lot about the western half of the United States in those two years of traveling — mostly on Daylight Donut’s dime. And they were in public school at the time.
Today, I teach my kids a lot of history, and I really can’t wait to be able to travel east with them. I think we have pretty much “done” the west and the midwest, but my children have never traveled further east than Nashville — and that was just this past summer and not for educational purposes.
I have several friends and family members out east that claim they would love to have us come visit. One lives just an hour outside of Washington D.C. It is hard for my husband to get away from our business, and when he does, he would really just rather visit his family in Oregon at the beach. But I am hoping to talk him into a trip east before the girls get too old to want to go with us.
Homeschool traveling is hard to do on a budget: Gas prices are high, my family doesn’t like tent camping, etc. But it can be done with some advance planning. I believe that homeschool traveling is one of the greatest educational tools we have available to us, and no matter how hard it might be, it is definitely worth doing.