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Summer of Discovery

Summer of Discovery
By Leslie Clark

My family and I just returned from a ten-day road trip across several western U.S. states. We traveled over four thousand miles, and saw lots of amazing sights.

I consider seeing different places to be essential to a full life. I want my kids to see that their way of life isn’t the only one. I want them to hear different languages and dialects. I want to have lunch with them in small cafés in the heart of unfamiliar cities. I want to stop and look at things that aren’t on the itinerary.

We did all of this in the United States, where we live. At this time, it isn’t feasible for us to travel internationally, although that is certainly in the plans when we are able. So this year, while walking along the rim of the Grand Canyon, we probably heard five different languages, and twice that many American dialects. We saw humans of all walks of life at the Roswell UFO Festival (a totally unplanned stop), and the Vegas strip.

My kids learned how the Golden Gate Bridge was constructed, and how the Marine Mammal Institute rescues seals and sea lions. They also learned how to cross multi-lane busy streets, how not to fall into the Grand Canyon, and that the waves on Santa Monica beach can crash over your head-even if you’re by the shore! They will never forget getting to watch an elephant seal on the beach molting.

Travel teaches all of us lessons that aren’t in textbooks. My kids have memories that will last a lifetime.

I’ve seen so many posts recently about the dreaded “Summer Slide.” If you read any mommy/education blogs, I’m sure you know what I’m referring to. Summer Slide refers to the “learning” lost during the summer that takes weeks to regain when school starts. I question whether they really “learned” that information in the first place. Learning, by definition, is the acquisition of knowledge or skills through experience, study, or by being taught.

Notice the first word on the list – “experience!” Travel is the opportunity to experience learning opportunities head on. And, you don’t have to force it if you foster curiosity in your kids! I didn’t make my kids a travel journal to write what they learned. Nor did I have them come home and write an essay about the geology of the Grand Canyon. They learned about the striations and shape of the rocks by reading the signs there and asking questions.

This summer, go do things with your kids! Let them be creative! Want some ideas that require little to no cash? Check out my list below:

1. Visit a small shop in your town you’ve never ventured into.

2. Volunteer at a local food pantry, animal shelter, or nursing home.

3. Go to the library and check out the fun, free programs they offer.

4. Eat a meal in a neighboring town at a little café.

5. Go on a scavenger hunt for historical markers in your town.

6. Help your kids start a small business; this could be as simple as a lemonade stand.

7. Host a maker day at your house or in your neighborhood. Gather boxes, empty cardboard tubes, tape, fabric remnants and other items in your house and let the kids create!

8. If your kids are into drama, encourage them to write a script and put on a play; they can also create the costumes, props, and set.

9. Find foods from cultures not your own and cook a meal with your kids.

10. Talk to your kids, play with your kids, get into deep conversations with them.

These ideas aren’t new or revolutionary, but sometimes we need to be reminded that it is okay not to do what everyone else says we must. Your kids will only be this age once so worry less, enjoy more!

Leslie Clark is a parenting coach and co-founder of a non-traditional private school. She is passionate about helping parents find out of the box schooling solutions for their children. She has been married for almost seventeen years to a wonderful man named Darren and they have two amazing kids. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Interdisciplinary Studies (Elementary Education) and a Master’s degree in Educational Administration. She taught in the public school system for almost ten years before making the leap to alternative education.

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