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