This past month a couple of friends have asked me what we would take for school, if we were going on an extended trip. I decided to reply with a blog post. Firstly, I have to say that traveling with kids is such a completely consuming event that most families will be learning so much together that there will be no need to learn anything more and I certainly wouldn’t bother about your kids falling behind… if you read to them everyday and they play a couple of games, and all the while learn amazing things as they travel… well you just can’t find that kind of learning sitting in a desk, ever.
Before I even started packing, I would begin with a map… and if I was traveling locally then I would get a local map. Keep it handy, roll it out everyday and write on it the progress you made. If you went for a walk, or if you visited a landmark, or experienced a thunderstorm… mark it your map. Your map will be a momento of your trip. It will get worn out… but that it the point. Is there anything better than a lived in artefact.
Se7en Things to Pack for School on the Road
- A Journal: This is going to be their “memory box” for years to come… let them use a double page spread a day. And document their days… a sentence or two about their day. Not a heap of writing. If they look like they can’t think of anything to write then gather together a list of questions you could ask them. Pop your list of questions in your own notebook and ask them just one leading question each day… What was your favourite thing you did today? Did you meet anyone interesting today? What did you eat today? Otherwise, once a week add a nature page, or a landmark page. Give them lots of free space to add and stickers and things they collect along the way, wrappers and pamphlets, postcards, till slips and such like. Journaling is something you can do as a family, creating your own journal will give you the space to create the “perfect memoir” for each of you, and will give the kids a bit of space to put whatever they want to into their own journal. Courtney Adamo posted a fabulous post on Journaling their trip around the world on her blog, Somewhere Slower.
- A Journaling Kit: Keep it really simple. The simpler the better, you really don’t want to lose all your enthusiasm because you can’t find what you are looking for or have a family drama, because someone sat on the fancy paints. Keep it simple, so that if anything gets lost you can replace it at any town grocery store. This would be my list:
- A Large Notebook for each journaler, we just use a hardback school notebook, that you can get from any store tat sells stationary.
- A couple of pencils, erasers and a sharpener each.
- A pair of scissors, a glue stick and we use bostik all purpose adhesive in the tube, for things that don’t stick in with a glue stick. And a roll of contact paper, or wide transparent tape… fabulous for taping in things that are awkward to glue… like seeds, or a pinch of sand from a special spot.
- If I was going to splurge, I would get a set of great watercolour pencil crayons, and pop a few paintbrushes in with the pencils. That way they can colour in their drawings and all you need to turn your colouring into a painted artwork is a little water from a water bottle and a paintbrush.
- Avoid markers, kids love them, but they always bleed through the page and mess things up. If you want coloured pens just get a set of coloured ballpoints and be happy with those.
- I would take a pile of scrap paper as well… because kids love drawing and you don’t want to pack their journals with a million random drawings on the first day.
- Cover your book before you leave and spend a day… sticking a printable map on the inside cover, so that they can track their journey. And write a list of things they are packing and taking with them… it will be fun to look at later, not to mention you can add things to it when you are on the road, that you should have thought of before you left home. Also, as part of your preparations, stick a large envelope inside the cover of the book, for storing small collectables, like maps and such, that you may not want to stick into your book.
- Books: I would definitely take a small pile of favourite books. I would include a story book… a collection of stories is the best. Something you could read everyday and make part of your routine… like the Rebel Girls Book. A collection of local stories would be fantastic and a collection of just jolly fun stories something that your kids will look forward to that you can read a chapter at bedtime or mealtimes when the waiting is terminal, or a rainy day… there will be those. Pick a family classic that you will all enjoy and read it, just a chapter a day… Mary Poppins or Heidi are great family favourites, you would be surprised how quickly you will all get used to reading time. I would also let each kid bring a favourite book or two… something old, something new… if you get tired of a particular book, mail it home or leave it behind. You are most likely not going to the far side of the moon and should be able to treat your kids to a new book once in a while.
- Nature Study:
Children thrive on asking questions about the environment they are in… we use a range of nature books for traveling and creating nature journals. Kids love collecting leaves, feathers and so on. If it is small and flat let them. These things can easily be stuck into your journals, and the odd flower or leaf that you tape in, will naturally become a pressed leaf as you travel, as your journals will be closed most of the time. Beware of the little stone collected, rather encourage rock rubbings… paper and a wax crayon rubbed gently to and fro as you press on the rock and you are winning. What can I say… we had a rock collector and ummm there is only so much a car can hold before it is overcome by the weight of it.
I would definitely get a kid friendly nature guide for traveling and possible the adult version to browse and inspire as well. Did you know that you can get the South African Wildlife Guide as an App? Follow the link and download it… and for more local wildlife apps.
- Games: I totally understand that space is limited… you can’t actually beat a pack of cards for fun… teach your kids patience and they will play on their own, otherwise rummy. UNO is totally playable for all ages and that right there is all the math training your kids need, if they play daily their math skills will soar. For word play, with a little help even small people can enjoy bananagrams or boggle. Other small and packable games would be Spot it and my kids love and adore Story Cubes (and there is an app for Story Cubes as well).
- Audio Books Are Your Very Friends: Pick a series from audible and listen away, a story collection gives you the best value for money on Audible.com… I would recommend The Narnia Collection if your children haven’t listened to it yet. Otherwise my kids have absolutely loved The series of the Incorrigible Children of Ashton Palace, and we have all loved the Little House on the Prairie Series, narrated by Cherry Jones. Otherwise, look online for the CD Roald Dahl Collection… that set of CD’s took us happily to Lesotho and back. Over and above that, I would choose something that makes everyone laugh and can lighten the mood… because there will be times when you need a little humour… a Dr Seuss Collection, or a classic Winnie the Pooh, trust me Winnie the Pooh is hilarious for kids and especially for their adults. Otherwise, search for Classical Kids on iTunes and download some of their stories with a classical music theme, our kids love these: Beethoven Lives Upstairs, Mr Bach comes to Call and many more.
- Actual School Stuff:
If your kids are normally school goers and you are breaking free so to speak, I would definitely set up a rhythm and routine… a journaling half an hour everyday, a reading time every day, a game playing time and running about in the great outdoors time. If you just can’t leave school behind, then head for your local stationary store and grab some grade level workbooks, but really that is just busy work and your kids really don’t need them, they will keep up with their grade level by living a learning lifestyle. Maybe to help yourself stay calm and not panic… get hold of a kindle copy of Sarah Mackenzie’s The Read Aloud Family, or listen to her podcast, the Read Aloud Revival… and you will hear from someone other than me, that all you have to do is read to your kids and they will be fine.