Travel School for us starts each year with two solid weeks of home-schooling at home. We use the time to get into the groove of school, discuss our goals for the year and prepare, academically, for the places we will visit.
Aristotle said in his book of Poetics that “decisions define character.” Each day of our travel-school represents a series of decisions about where we will go, how will we get the most out of our lessons and what will be the best use of our time.
We travel with our workbooks in math, poetry, literature, writing and history. We study art as well as spelling, although when we are on the road so much of the real learning happens through experience or what modern educators call, ‘experiential learning.’
The kids have spent the last two weeks (of 5th + 7th grades) studying environment, climate and geology of the Great West USA – soon we will go there. We studied the timeline and preservation of Yosemite. What are the driving industries of San Francisco and what can we expect to see there? And finally where is Lake Tahoe and what are the surrounding mountains that formed it?
Our research will soon be cemented in our minds as we experience the sights, tastes and smells of parts of California, Nevada and Arizona.
How does travel-school work? Needless to say, while traveling someplace new, we would be remiss to spend too much time indoors memorizing rules of grammar. By November, we will have longer school days, but for now, we are on a mission to get to know some parts of the west the kids have never seen.
I have found there is plenty of time later in the year to cover workbook fundamentals and so we can afford to take in the sights now. We have school five days per week. A typical September-October schedule is to spend the mornings doing our core subjects… then we get out and explore. Post-museums and sight-seeing, we might study literature in a park or read poetry at night after dinner. We enjoy a lot of flexibility not only in the timing of our daily learning, but also in allowing for the organic flow of a free-form education. Interest in one thing can lead to a great dinner time discussion – to a Google search for more information – followed by further discussion… the sky really is the limit.
Literature: This week we have started reading a novel by Karen Hesse titled, “Out of the Dust.” Although the book takes place in the flats of Oklahoma, it ties in nicely with our study of US History and early westward migration – as will our entire travel-school itinerary these next several weeks.
So much to see, so much to do!
Our students on a windy ferry ride – note Alcatraz and the Golden Gate Bridge in the background.
Our first stop is San Francisco. In the interest of getting our feet wet in one of the coolest cities on the planet, we started with a tour of Alcatraz/Angel Island and have a good list of museums and sites to visit. Did you know that Angel Island had an immigration station which was once dubbed the “Ellis Island of the West?” In the early 1900’s they processed nearly 1 million Asian immigrants to the US (currently, San Francisco is 29% Chinese). In 1882, the Chinese Exclusion Act forced many immigrants to spend years on the island waiting for entry. A cool story is that while waiting, the Chinese people wrote poetry on the walls of the detention center. While likely filled with both hope and anger, this was probably the first Asian-American literature in the United States!
View from Angel Island, looking towards San Francisco, Alcatraz and the Oakland Bridge.
After San Francisco, we will drive to Lake Tahoe, Nevada. We will be there long enough to get a real feel for the lake area. Wine enthusiasts call this getting to know the terroir, or the flavor of the region. We plan to explore the area museums (there are many!) and are working to get Oliver connected with a local Fall Ball baseball team.
After Tahoe, we will drive to see the BIG SIGHTS of Yosemite. We have about six weeks to see what we can see and learn all we can – both in and out of books – before we move back onboard our beloved Huckins, CORTADO.
No time to waste time –