By Jerry Yeatts, F390000, Executive Director
It is hard to believe the end of the summer is upon us and children are heading back to school. For FMCA members Ernie and Wendy Mayo, F374696, the school year means travel with their son, Nick. Homeschooling has provided wonderful opportunities for the Mayos to learn and grow as a family. As we travel, the world around us becomes the classroom.
Whether you are 9 or 90, take out that FMCA North American Road Atlas and Travel Guide; map your next adventure; jot down notes of the special sites and special people you meet; have your camera ready to record those spectacular sunsets; and be a little spontaneous! You will discover that life truly is an adventure.
The following was written by Wendy Mayo. I think you will enjoy her perspective.
Motorhome Field Trips Bring Lessons to Life
By Wendy Mayo, F374696
Back-to-school for our homeschooling family means planning our curriculum for the upcoming school year, ordering books and supplies we need, and waiting for them to arrive on our front porch. But, more importantly, it means planning exciting field trips in our motorhome for hands-on learning.
Our homeschooling journey began when our older son, Zack, was diagnosed with liver cancer at age 11. At the time, our younger son, Nick, was starting kindergarten. My husband, Ernie, and I decided homeschooling was the best option to keep our family together as we traveled from our home in coastal North Carolina to Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center in Ohio for treatment. (Thanks, FMCA, for always showing our family the love in Cincinnati!) Unfortunately, Zack lost his battle with cancer. But we were blessed with a very special year of living mostly in a hospital and our motorhome at the FMCA campground as a family. After Zack died, we decided to continue homeschooling, because we enjoy being completely involved in Nick’s learning. Most of all, we love the flexibility it allows us as a family to travel in our motorhome and experience learning in a way that is just not available in a traditional classroom.
Travel gives us an opportunity to apply what we have learned. For example, this past third-grade year, Nick read The Boy in the Alamo and could hardly wait to take our monthlong trip to Texas to visit the Alamo in San Antonio and other historical landmarks. He used his geography skills to plan the trip using a map, and used his math skills to plan the mileage and gas we would need to purchase and to set a budget for campsites. But the real learning came when we got to the Alamo. He will never forget the experience of being in the very room where the little boy he read about was guarding the women and children while Davy Crockett and other brave men were being killed.
A trip to Red Bay, Alabama, for service on our Tiffin motorhome provided many learning adventures. On the way, we read a book about Helen Keller, which made visiting her Alabama birthplace more meaningful. We met a state representative who gave us a personal tour of his property, and we learned how Tiffin motorhomes are manufactured.
I was certain our three-week trip to Tampa in January for the Florida RV SuperShow to purchase our new motorhome would not provide opportunities for field trips. I was right. But that did not stop our adventure in learning. The Lazydays campground where we stayed was filled to capacity with snowbirds attending the RV show, and Nick was the only youngster there. But he made lots of amazing friends. We were studying wars of the world, and we met several men who had fought in Vietnam and shared their experiences with Nick. He was infatuated with their stories of helicopters being shot down; rescue missions; injuries; and so much more. Eager to learn from them, he would show up at breakfast with his notepad and ask questions. It was amazing for all of us to see history come to life through new friends.
Learning doesn’t have to include books, worksheets, and assignments. Learning is experiencing something. Our goal for Nick is to provide an environment where learning is fun and becomes a lifelong journey. Sometimes our travels are planned and sometimes they are spontaneous, but they are always filled with adventure.
You don’t have to be a homeschooler to learn on the road. Anyone who travels with a child can “road school.” Parents and/or grandparents can take youngsters on weekend jaunts or summer-long field trips. Your vacation time does not have to be filled with books and assignments; you just need to look for ways to have a great time making memories and learning together. As the saying goes, “Kids don’t remember their best day of television.”
Here are some ideas for making learning on the road fun.
- As you travel, have children mark a map and track your path. A highlighter and a copy of the FMCA atlas work well.
- Encourage kids to research your trip and let them pick a place they would like to visit. This means you must be flexible and do as they wish. (Nick picked the UFO museum in Roswell, New Mexico. Who knew it would be so fun?)
- Allow time for spontaneity. Sometimes you just have to pull over to see that giant ball of string or climb that mountain. And if you meet a state representative at the local café, you must take him up on his offer to tour his farm in an old Army jeep.
- Have a notebook and plenty of paper and pens and colored pencils handy so the kids can write or draw pictures about your travels.
- Arm youngsters with an easy-to-use camera and let them put a photo show together for you.
- Help kids blog about their travels.
- Collect postcards to mail home.
- Limit, limit, limit television time! It will rob you and your children of memories. I still cannot understand why our motorhome has four televisions. That does not promote getting off the sofa. We all know the best stories do not begin with, “Hey, remember that time we were sitting on the sofa … ?”
Any trip can be an amazing journey in learning with your loved ones if you take time to look for learning opportunities. Be blessed! We hope to see you on the road. You can follow our travels via our blog at www.amomentatatime.org.