Does Vacation Count for School?

So how do you receive counsel about homeschooling from non-homeschoolers? Do you grin and bare it? Do you stick your fingers in your ears? Do you nod your head in agreement with something you know you’ll never actually worry about or do? Do you roll your eyes? Do you give the reasons why the speaker doesn’t actually know anything about what they are talking about? What do you do when people, seemingly with the utmost concern, come up and offer you advice on how to homeschool?

Kids playing at the beach

I recently vacationed to a foreign country with my family, which includes two school-aged children. I was a bit bemused by the number of comments that I got about my children and school. I especially got lots of comments while in airports and planes.

It always started, “so you must have just been down here for the weekend”, or “you must just be coming down just for the weekend, because of school. So how long are you here for?”

My answer (said with a little hesitance, because I knew what was coming next) “No actually we’re down here for almost two weeks.”

Looks of shock and dismay. So I always rushed to explain without waiting, “We homeschool.”

The first time I stopped there, but got one of those knowing looks like, “Ahah, bold faced truants.”

After that I rushed on to say, “We brought our school with us.”

That calmed the fears of some. I don’t know if it was completely true though. It depends what the definition of “brought our school with us” is. I have the feeling that if they watched us, they wouldn’t have agreed with my statement at all. We really truly vacationed. My school-aged children brought along books to read. A couple of them actually were readers. See, I told you, that we brought school with us. They brought along their nature journals and some pencils. Isn’t that bringing school with us? We had our snorkel gear. Surely that counts for school stuff. We read a book on the life of Christ everyday. We studied from the most important textbook of all, the Bible.

Orange Fronted Parakeet in Captivity

Maybe I should have said, “We’ll make it up in the summer.” But I haven’t planned our summer out yet. I’m sure it will be full of nature study too, so will it actually be more school-like than our vacation? Maybe, I don’t know.

So, do I think that my kids were schooled while we were vacationing? I do. While I do think that they need to get some math done now that we’re home, I happen to think that they learned tons while we were vacationing and I’m off to record our learning experiences in my journal.

They snorkeled and saw lots of neat fish. They went birding every day with their dad and saw and identified some of the neatest birds, you can imagine. They had hands-on social studies and geography lessons. They were encouraged that learning Spanish was a practical thing to do.

Now I have this question for you. What do you count as school? Do you have to do math, reading, language arts, penmanship, spelling, history, science, Bible, etc. before you count it as a homeschool day? Do you count field trips? What do you call a field trip? Don’t you think that vacation counts as one long field trip?

I still don’t consider our family unschoolers. I do however appreciate the learning opportunities that come from things other than textbooks.

I do believe in “doing school”. I’ve just started to really believe that sometimes we overdo school, when actually it’s the experiences around us that help our children to learn and remember.

Mama and Baby

P.S. I actually wrote this post last year after a vacation. We did just return from another vacation to the same spot and it reminded me that I had never actually posted this. This year, I didn’t hear anybody ask about school. Maybe I was too busy trying to keep a squirmy baby in my arms and to look like I was in complete control of her, I don’t know. We did get in a really fun math lesson on this trip. My husband spent a couple of hours teaching my two school-aged kids all about cameras–aperture, shutter speed, etc. They know it better than I do. Hurrah! Score for including math on our vacation! It was school for sure!

These pictures are from our most recent trip.

Native American Unit Study & Lapbooks

Our study of Native Americans was, of course, not comprehensive, but it was pretty broad. We went to one of our local libraries and just picked up a book on every tribe that we could find. Then we figured out that there was one particular series that we liked best, so we got the rest in that series on interlibrary loan. This the series called A First Americans Book by Virginia Driving Hawk Sneve.

Native American Book Series

Unfortunately, we couldn’t find a book about Indians from our area of the world, so we purchased If You Lived With Indians of the Northwest Coast. That was a great little book. We enjoyed so much learning about Northwest Indians and enjoyed looking at photos on the internet of totem poles too.

As usual, the kids made lapbooks about the things they learned. This is the first time that my little preschooler has made a lapbook to go along with what the others were studying. He’s growing up so fast. So here’s his first. His favorite elements were the eagle that had wings that he could flap and the dot-to-dot dream catcher.

(These lapbooks are all in slideshows. If you mouse over them in the bottom quarter, you will see the thumbnails and click on the first one to start them over, if you weren’t able to see the whole set.)

Created with flickr slideshow from softsea.

JD Boy designed and drew the stuff on his cover. There is a totem pole for the Northwest Indians and a tipi for the Plains Indians. He also made a lot of the elements inside his lapbook completely by himself: the tipi, the shield and he changed around how the birch bark canoe was supposed to work. He narrated to me what he wanted written about each group of Indians inside the appropriate mini books. Other elements were either taken from pictures from the internet, Dover coloring books and the book History Pockets, Native Americans.

Created with flickr slideshow from softsea.

Zippy has become quite a writer. She loves to write. She did lots of writing in this lapbook. She designed most of her mini books, using pictures that she found on the internet and then wrote on the inside about the different Indian tribes and traditions. For her cover she cut out the back cover of one of our Dover coloring books.

Created with flickr slideshow from softsea.

I hope my kids learned a lot from this unit. I was surprised at how much I learned about the North American Indians. I was often saddened by how they were treated in some of the stories that we read. We had plenty of opportunity to discuss the difference between Christians and real Christians while reading how the Native Americans were treated.

Native American Crafts

We spent a long time studying about Native Americans. JD Boy wanted to learn about all of the Indians. Whew! That would take a life time, but we briefly covered all of the tribes that we could find at our library.

In this post, I’m just going to share pictures of the crafts that the kids made for this unit. They had lots of fun with these crafts. Crafts and hands-on-activities really do help to make learning more fun, even though sometimes you wonder what to do with them afterwards. (That’s why I’m posting these pictures on my blog, so that I can get rid of some of them!!)

They each made a clay pot. Aren’t they pretty?

Clay Pot by Zippy (age 10)

Clay Pot by Zippy (age 10)

Indian Clay Pot by Gtums (age 4)

Indian Clay Pot by JD Boy (age 7)

Indian Clay Pot by JD Boy (age 7)

They each made a Talking Stick that we got out of the Early American History Kit from Hands and Hearts.

Talking Stick

They also worked together to build these Indian villages that they cut out of books by Dover Publications.

Pacific Northwest Indian Lodge

Pueblo House

Indian Village

Our two favorite books that we read about Indians were Spotted Boy and the Comanches and Swift Arrow. They were books that I had kept around from my childhood. These boys of mine have lived those stories over and over. They built forts and Indian villages in the brush behind our house and constructed, I don’t know how many, bow and arrow sets out of sticks. They definitely either wish that they could be Indians or could be kidnapped by Indians so they could escape. Either way, they would be thrilled with the adventure. Well, at least as long as it was pretend.