Road trips can be a wonderful way to create memories of your summer vacation. But did you know they can be educational as well? Sure you did – it’s obviously a great opportunity to teach geography. Ahh, but did you know road trips are a prime time for exploring science and math as well?? My parents took me on several road trips throughout my homeschool experience, and they always made the best of each trip. There are several ways students can still do school during the summer – without it really being “school.” Here are just some of the main subjects students can still learn while on a road trip.
-History. This is almost as obvious as geography, but I have to mention it. Road trips provide incredible opportunities to learn history hands-on. Walk the battlefields of the Civil War. Visit the Presidential Wax Museum. Hike through Mt. Rushmore. Walk along the Trail of Tears. Drive on Route 66. All of these activities open up worlds of opportunities. What was the motivation behind both sides of the Civil War? What were some legendary acts of the presidents? How much work, time, and meaning went into carving the mountain? Why were people so heartbroken along the Trail of Tears? Why has 66 gone down in history? You could also study specific information about each new state you travel through – what year did they join the Union? What is their state bird, state flower? What’s one fun fact about each new state?
–Science. Now, you might not be expecting to learn about science on your road trip. Even so, there are plenty of opportunities for it! What are those new plants and trees – and why don’t they grow back home? Why is it so dry and hot – or so humid and rainy? How were those bodies of water formed – manmade or natural? Are those huge mountains dormant volcanoes? It’s also the perfect time to explain why you might be experiencing tornado warnings or earthquakes (hopefully not too close, though!). What kind of clouds draw together to form those tornadoes or thunderstorms? Where did all the water come from? You can also explore why some states can grow fields and fields of corn in their dry weather, while others are known for lobster and rain.
–Economics. Why are some cities huge and prosperous, while other towns are small and a little shabby? What are the differences in their economies? What kinds of jobs are available? Are the general prices higher in one city over another? Why?
–Government. As you pass through different cities and states (who knows, maybe even D.C.), you could possibly do an overview of who is governor, who is mayor, perhaps a tidbit of background information of each, etc. From personal experience, cities tend to come alive when I know who is in charge and what that person believes in.
–Cultures. Road trips are the perfect time for exploring different cultures. Find out which Native American people groups live where, how they live, etc. Do they have their own government? Does the majority live on a reservation? Perhaps not just Native Americans, though – perhaps there is a large portion of immigrants living in a certain area. What is it about that area that attracted them? Where did most of them come from? Why?
Also, you can explore the different kinds of food styles per area – be it Southern cooking, New Orleans flair, Southwestern spice, and so on.
–Math. This was the part that I didn’t like so much on road trips. Still, it provided valuable, practical lessons that still affect me today. Students can participate in calculating mileage vs. gasoline prices, varying costs per state, whether you need to penny-pinch in a certain town so you can make it to the next to fill the tank, etc. Aside from gasoline, students can also calculate the prices of hotel/motel rates per each night, attractions (museums, parks, etc), and meals. This always helped me realize how much my parents were sacrificing so we could have some fun and new experiences. It instilled in me a deep sense of gratitude.