Two weeks on the road is not a normal classroom, but then again, 2020 is not a normal year. Two girls, my mom, a dog and I packed up into a Dodge Caravan and headed northeast. Road trip classroom was happening.
I had spent the previous month putting together a lesson plan for my oldest daughter (4.5). It was John Taylor Gatto (New York school teacher of the year 3x) that said kids will find their genius by exposure and experience. This year gave us the opportunity to do just that.
We explored 13 states over 14 days. Due to Covid, we stayed in cabins and made use of outdoor explorations. Below I share the prepared and impromptu lessons that came up along the way.
Resiliency and Tenacity
Car rides can be anything but joyful. The body can get uncomfortable. Some days are very long. I noticed by the end of the two weeks, their ability to muster up patience and find ways of coping with less than ideal conditions had improved tremendously.
From sharing the tablet when one died, to learning how to ask for needs/desires in a way that was compromising instead of demanding, they learned an invaluable communication tool that will serve these kids for their lifetime. A lesson that isn’t only taught in the classroom!
Exposure to Different Cultures
In one day’s time the girls’ experienced the American presidents through discussion of Mount Rushmore and hours later were watching hoop dancing by the Rosebud-Lakota-Dakota Indians of South Dakota. From discussion of the memorialization of Crazy Horse to discussion of state mottos, we crossed off many topics as we crossed state lines. We also discussed “Unity in Diversity” and how in a federation a large group can work together by accepting and honoring differences of the smaller groups.
Upon returning the girls have found various hoops in the form of hoola hoops, glow in the dark necklaces etc with which to emulate the beautiful representations of animals that were exemplified in the hoop dancing.
My two year old now exclaims “George Washington!” every time she sees the one dollar bill.
Seeing the absorption and integration of information enrich their daily lives has been the most rewarding aspect post-travels.
I had expected to discuss states borders and look at a map, and this would be the extent of our lesson in this area. What I had not expected was to discuss natural landmarks, geological formations. Even at their young ages, they were able to ask questions.
Since geology isn’t my strong point, we used YouTube videos to fill in any information we needed, in a kid friendly format.
Packing a Sense of Humor is a Must
I repeat, a must. Being with anyone for an extended period of time is sure to bring up our weak points. And our buttons will likely be pushed. We learned that it is okay to a) be mad b) express anger/frustration but most importantly we learned that the easiest way to reset was to laugh about it once we got to the other side.
Cycle of Life
Another unexpected, yet deeply meaningful life lesson was learning about death, dying, grieving and expressing our views on the afterlife. Although not unexpected, my mom’s dog took a turn for the worst when we were about 4 days into our trip.
We made the decision to take her to the vet while the girls were sleeping to put her down. It’s always been important in our family to not have fear of death, but rather discussing the process helps to bring understanding.
The girls didn’t ask too many questions. We said a prayer and goodbyes. Questions would come up over the ensuing days, but they were mostly brief layered with curiosity and without much fear.
Some days we ate at a sit-down restaurant, some days we sat in the dew coated midwestern grass. As no experience is better than another, each required a different behavior and ability to adjust and accommodate to the circumstances.
I understand that the nervous system rewires itself more freely when it feels safe. By exposure to different environments in a safe manner, this trip allowed for us to program their nervous systems to say “okay, new and different isn’t scary and isn’t bad.”
Would I do it again? In a heartbeat. In fact, I think my husband has some concern that a world schooling idea is percolating. To be honest though, I would prefer to just go back to seeing friends and family on a normal schedule. But I’m REALLY glad we capitalized on this time to take a step outside of our comfort zone and make memories even during this time of such uncertainty.