Teaching History on the Road or at Home

There is not much room in a camper for a bunch of books.  Although, I seem to find room to stash them in every corner, nook and cranny. 

Books above, in the bathroom, under beds, in cabinets, and all shelves. 

With eight of us, there are many different styles of books, authors, and genres.  But, as far as curriculum books, we made room for as many as we could.

I have thought of doing it all on computer, but I just can't imagine losing the feel of paper between our fingers, or the ease of throwing a book in the van to do while we drive to our next adventure.  Laptops sometimes crash, lose battery at inappropriate times, and are too expensive to haul everywhere; where a $30 - $100 textbook is more affordable to replace or repair.  I know that there is not room in a camper for a ton of books and curriculum, so I so a mixture of books and computer.

We brought our American History books.  I felt this would help them better appreciate the places we would visit.  It gave them a basic knowledge before arriving at the sites so that way they weren't just learning everything there and could enjoy the museum or park more.  Now, I do not have a formal history curriculum for the lower grades.  I feel our visits to these sites is more than they could ever get in public school.

Before going to a historical site, I go on line and research what is available at the site.  A lot of state and national parks have a website with printables and lots of information to read before we go.  This is the ideal situation, but there are many occasions that we do not have time to do prep work before we go, so we just get what we can while at the site.

When we arrive at a historical site, I first go to the front desk and ask if they have a teacher's packet or any resources I can take home and also use while there.  Junior Ranger and other programs are wonderful for all the kids to do to learn more while there.  My teens are sometimes too old to do these programs, so I have them help the younger ones complete their packets. 

I have found that sometimes I learn more by teaching than just reading the information.  I believe my teens get a lot more if they help explain the history or work packet to the younger ones.

Naomi at the Moozeum in Montgomery, Alabama

Most times we bring a journal/notebook along to write anything of interest.  We have a couple of cameras for anyone to use.  Sometimes being able to take their own pictures makes it more interesting and causes them to look at things more closely and observantly.

We collect some of the free brochures about the place and any fliers they might have to cut up and put in scrapbooks or make fun collages out of.  We are careful to only take a few and not more than we can use.

Sometimes we can only stay for a short visit, so we get what we can out of the historical site.  Other times we are there for hours and may even go back the next day. 

My 16 year old will usually write an essay about the historical site.  Often she writes a historical fiction short story about the location, mixing fact and an interesting plot.  This is a wonderful way for her to express herself in a way that reinforces what she has learned.  She also will write poetry or a song about where we have been.

My now 18 yr old, he was 16 when we started traveling full-time, is very factual.  I try to pick up a book for him and my husband that is relevant to the historical site we have visited.  They love to read every sign and detail of the museums and visitor centers we go to.

Our pleasant 9 yr old loves to do the Junior Ranger programs or seek and find hunts that are so often offered at parks across the country.  Sometimes they can be time consuming or maybe more involved than what we have time for.  Yet, for her to earn the badge, she has to finish so many projects from the packet.  We always try to complete the activities required.  But, if we don't get it all done, I usually ask the Ranger if I can get the badge anyways and complete the packet later.  They usually understand and will help us out.  Then, I do not give them the badge unless they earn it.  Integrity is 24 hrs a day!  She takes a lot of pictures, too.

For the younger kids, I try to make sure they have a snack while we drive there.  We hit the bathrooms right away when we arrive.  I always have a few crayons in my purse and a little notebook in case the little ones want to draw a picture while the older ones are walking around the museum, historical site, or visitor's center.  I try to make it fun for the younger ones so they will learn to love learning.

6 yr old boy....in museums....with artwork.....glass....sometimes this may seem like a bad combination, I would disagree.  I always tell the historical site attendant that children will never learn how to behave in museums and visitor centers if they are never taken in them!  So, here I go walking through with six kids, four of which are young, and show them that children can behave and learn much at any age.  Gabriel, my active six year old, loves historical sites.  Sometimes I think he gets just as much out of them as anyone else, just at a different level.  We bought lots of plastic soldier toys for him to reenact any U.S. wars or battles that we may be visiting.  He makes paper dolls on his own to act out the historical site.  We try to read books at libraries that correspond with what where we are.

Soldier Gabriel taking on the enemy.

3 yrs old .....I always get her the Junior Ranger Program, although they say she is too young.  Ha!  That is not true at all!  She learns so much from our visits.  She loves to walk and talk and pretend everywhere we go.  Her and my other young ones usually dress up in the type clothing of where ever we are at.  Gabriel has been a mountain man, soldier, cowboy, rescue swimmer, etc.  Josie has been a princess, cowgirl, prairie girl, etc.  Dress up is a great way for them to really get into the history we are studying.

Dressing up at Kennesaw Mountain Civil War Site in Georgia

1 yr old.  He just rides in the sling and has a blast!  There are times my husband or I take the younger ones outside to run around a little.  They enjoy the fresh while the older ones still have the time to finish looking at the displays inside.

Billy the Kid's home in Lincoln, NM

These are just some ideas for teachinig history at home or on the road.  I want to apologize for any grammatical errors.  We are currently driving down I-35 south of Minneapolis, on our trip, and the laptop is really shaking on my lap.  This is quite a bumpy freeway.  So, I am going to publish this post, with errors and all.  Thank you for understanding!


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