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Travel as Education: Building a Knowledge Base for Your Kids

by Amy O'Quinn


My family is planning a trip to Charleston, South Carolina in a few days. My husband wants to take our sons to see the World War II aircraft carrier, the USS Yorktown, perhaps visit the recovered Civil War Confederate submarine, the H.L. Hunley, and possibly even make it to Fort Sumter. However, my daughters and I are more interested in carriage rides, touring a plantation, and walking around the old district to learn more about the history of this charming city while enjoying the beautiful architecture. Overall, it should be an enjoyable and educational vacation.


Although I don’t think that EVERY trip has to have an education slant, I do believe that being familiar with what we are going to see and do before we go will help my children appreciate the experience. The ‘take away’ value factor will definitely go up a notch or two, but more importantly, their knowledge bases will grow by leaps and bounds. After all, life learning is all about exposure, and when good learning opportunities arise, I think we should make the most of them.


So what have I done to make our upcoming vacation to Charleston something to anticipate? First, I hit our local library. I filled our reading basket with picture books, non-fiction titles, and beautiful coffee table editions of books containing gorgeous photographs—all related to the sites, sounds, and history of this lovely coastal Carolina city.


We have read about the H.L. Hunley, Fort Sumter, and the USS Yorktown. I was also able to the various websites about each and download learning guides and educational pamphlets that are available for educators and homeschoolers, which are all free.


I also checked out books about the arts and culture of Charleston in addition to titles about architecture, gardens, and famous landmarks. My daughters and I will easily be able to spot the Tiffany stained glass window in the antebellum home at Number 2, Meeting Street or identify which cemeteries are the final resting place for certain famous individuals.


When my children actually see the places we’ve read about over the last few days, I believe that a lot of the information we’ve covered will come back to them. In addition to being a fun family trip, I want it to be about exposure to this historic place for my younger children—and that will be enough. Their knowledge bases will be established, and from now on, those can only grow. That means that when we do our ‘Sea and Sky’ unit in a couple of years, a great deal of what they learn in Charleston (aboard the Yorktown or beside the Hunley) will be remembered, even as we add additional layers that will be deeper and more thought-provoking. However, for my oldest son, this trip will simply give reality to the things he’s already learned about in the past. The exposure will expand his knowledge base as well!


My daughters will get to experience the charm, arts and culture of one of the great ‘ladies’ of the South. Because they all three seem to have a creative and artistic bent, this vacation in Charleston will only sharpen their interest and create a greater thirst for all things beautiful.

When we return home, we will pull the books back out and discuss what we saw and learned. I may add in a report assignment for my older students and some dictation/narration/copywork for my younger ones. By ‘telling back’ their experiences, the information will be cemented firmly in their knowledge bases.


Exposure is so important in the area of education, even though I know that my children will probably revisit this information again as they progress through school. However, I want to capture these special opportunities as they arise because the idea is to make learning fun and relevant whenever possible. I suppose this Charleston trip might turn into a ‘working/educational vacation’— but that will be a very good thing!


*Article originally appeared on The Work Writer's Club website HERE.




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