The inspiration for these travel diaries that I’m doing with my kids right now are based on a few truisms in my personal life.
I loath crafts. LOATH them.
If we have a craft scheduled into our day, I will put it off until last and then find a way to not have to do it. To me they are not fun, they are stressful. Crafts with kids are something akin to getting your teeth drilled at the dentist, except the dentist really isn’t that bad.
Karen and I were talking about that the other day. Do you know that if she has a craft scheduled to do with her kids she actually has to exert self control to make herself make them wait till their seat work is done? They use the craft as a reward. I know. Crazy.
Also, I realize that Karen and I have created a curriculum that is craft heavy. That’s because she assures me that a lot of people are like her and like crafts. I am perfectly willing to believe that I am the only person in the whole world that hates crafts. Also, most of the crafty explorations come from her. The printables and discussions are mine (mostly). And science experiments do not count as crafts. I get excited about those. So there.
My kids are geographically illiterate.
My kids couldn’t find Germany on a map of the world (or even Europe) though we’d been studying geography and creating maps year in and year out for their entire lives. Maddening. I blame their father.
So not rich.
We don’t have enough money to actually take the kids around the world, but I noticed that once we actually visit a place closer to home they remember it forever, not just the trip, but the location and where it is relative to other places.
I’m sure if we could fly to Italy they would remember not only its location, but its culture and landmarks. Alas.
I am lazy.
Any lesson plan that takes too much effort (read any effort) is probably not going to actually happen no matter how optimistically I write it in my homeschool planner at the beginning of the year. It took me a long time to acknowledge this about myself. But since I realized that it’s just part of my personality, I’ve found I can work around it and we can have a much more fun and productive homeschool.
I believe in printables!
On to the Travel Diaries
Obviously based on all of the above, I couldn’t craft my way through the world. So, thought I, how can I make geography memorable and fun, and not torture for my kids who hate writing and (most of whom) are struggling with reading.
We could travel around the world! Not really, because of the money problem, but virtually. (By the by, Unit 4-9 deals with economics and scarcity. I just think of it every time I think of money. Scarcity. That’s all. Thought I’d mention it.)
- So what we do is have one child choose a passport sticker and everyone pastes it into his book on the next blank page.
- Then we find whichever country the sticker takes us to on our world map.
- Next, the kids head, each to his own, computer/tablet/device and look up that country. They find something that interests them about the country.
- Then they write about that thing/place/food as though they were actually there and actually seeing and doing the information they found online. Watching videos of sites in the country is a great way to experience it in a small way without the plane fare.
They each write as many or as few words as they like. We do not check spelling or grammar. We treat it like it were actually their personal travel diary from their exotic trips around the world.
They generally want to draw a map of the country so they can plot the place they visited. Sometimes they draw pictures to illustrate. In the picture above (two pictures back, how very awkward of me to mention here, now you’ll be scrolling, scrolling) Harrison actually drew a picture of a Lego train at Legoland, but I was too anxious to snap the picture so you poor souls don’t get to see it.
We spend several days in each country. We leave when the kids are ready.
The whole activity takes 10-15 minutes each day. So it can easily be paired with other geography activities and curriculum. It would go perfect with any year of Layers of Learning to add more practice with finding countries on a map.
Karen decided to get her kids their own travel journals too. They call them World Explorer Journals, and they actually take them as they explore the world. They use them the same way for the most part, except they also do more actual traveling since her husband is a pilot. Her kids go on lots of virtual trips online just like mine do, and they also take their World Explorer Journals with them when they go on vacations. They have been able to add some real stamps in their passports.
See The World!
The travel diaries have also made my kids want to actually see the world, a desire I want them to have. A desire I have. Until I started studying the world with them and especially before we started Layers of Learning and all the research that entails, I really was pretty satisfied staying at home. But the more I learn the more I want to go out and shake hands with the whole world in a manner of speaking. It is no longer enough to just read about or watch documentaries on far off places.
Personally I love that aspect of the geography units in Layers of Learning. They make me love the world.
Look at this unit on the Balkans, for example. Have you ever thought, “You know where I really want to go? The Balkans.” No, you probably haven’t. But after you dive in to Unit 2-9, you’ll want to go. Because you’ll realize that only in Montenegro are you ever to likely see an oro dance in person.
- We’ve been playing this Professor Noggin Countries of the World game over and over lately.
I know people get all down on memorization. But I think it’s extremely useful to have knowledge at your fingertips. When I read a news headline about something happening in the world, I do not have to go look up where that country is or which countries are its neighbors. I already know. It is instantaneous and my understanding of the world event in the news is far more extensive and useful than if I were scratching my head over where Montenegro is. Ah ha! You say. Montenegro is in the Balkans. (See above).
So I want my kids to have the world map more or less memorized. When we play Countries of the World the kids have to walk up to our wall map and find the country before they get their question. It doesn’t take long before they know where every country in the game is located.