Our 10 Favorite Carschooling Resources & Activities

by ChristinaPilkington on September 12, 2012 · 0 comments

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After spending 30 days traveling these past two months and clocking 72 hours in the car with my family, I’ve come to understand pretty well what it takes to achieve harmony and peace with my husband and kids while trapped in a tight space – at least most of the time anyway!

I was a little nervous about how much time we’d be spending in the car. We’ve always driven fairly long stretches in the car with our kids since they’ve been small babies – usually about 9 hours at a time – but we hadn’t spent this much time in the car in such a short amount of time.

But, despite a few minor arguments, I’m happy to say that we all survived. In fact, we did more than survive. We got to understand each other even better and bonded in ways that would not have been possible if we had travelled for a shorter period of time or any other way.

I get quite a few questions about how we’re able to travel with kids and have them do so well in the car or planes for such a long period of time. I guess I can think of three main reasons:

- We’ve travelled with our kids routinely since they’ve been small babies. They went on a five hour plane ride and then spent lots of time riding in the car with us all over St. Thomas and St. John in the US Virgin Islands when they were 15 months old. They’re used to lots of trips, so I think that might make it easier. It might be harder to expect a six or seven year old to do as well if they’ve haven’t been used to long trips.

-We don’t have a DVD player or lots of handheld games for them to play in the car. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with using these devices as a way to occupy some of a child’s time on a long trip, but I’m glad that our kids have become used to entertaining themselves with reading, playing Legos and pretend games, talking, listening to books and CDs, and talking with us. This year we did have some games on the Kindle that they played sometimes, but we noticed that if they played for too long they’d start to get grouchy and irritable. As much as possible, we tried to engage them with other things and that kept them in much better moods.

- We research our trips beforehand and talk about what we will be doing months before we leave. We take out lots of books about the region we will be visiting, watch DVDS, talk about things we’d like to do there and where we’ll be staying. As the kids get older, we’d like to give them even more responsibility for our trips – helping us with the planning, researching things they’d like to do, and with packing.

We usually like to travel in fall or spring. You get incredible deals on home rentals; many times you also get great deals on local attractions, too, since business is slow. We were able to swim with the dolphins in Grand Cayman Island for $150 for all four of us for 2 hours when it normally would have been $300 just because they had no one coming in.

So if you’re thinking that summer is coming to an end and that means it’s the end of travelling for awhile, I’d strongly encourage you to rethink your travel plans. It worked out this year that we had to take two bigger trips during the summer months because Steve was able to take off more days that way, but we would have preferred not to travel too far from home during the summer. It would have been less expensive, too!  I’ve also written about how September is the best month for travel in a previous post, too.

Everyone will have their own ways to have fun learning in the car, but today I’d like to share the top 10 ways we experienced interest-led learning on our trips this summer.

Our 10 Favorite Carschooling Resources & Activities

1. Carschooling by Diane Flynn Keith. Diane has put together a really great book of fun ideas for learning about a wide variety of topics including science, math, history, music and even physical fitness – all while in the car. I hadn’t been able to read through the book before our trip (I brought it along but then got too caught up in a few great books I’d downloaded on my Kindle!), but we did a few things like look for all the letters of the alphabet on the signs we passed. It’s a resource that I’m really looking forward to digging into more on future trips.

2. Telling old family stories – Both my kids, but especially Jared, love hearing stories about when Steve and I were little. We had to tell dozens of stories – adventure stories, sad stories, stories of past injuries, school stories, funny stories, and scary stories. It was one of the most memorable parts of our time in the car together. I even heard a few new stories about Steve that I had never known before!

3. Telling new stories – Jared loves scary stories. Both our kids watched Jurassic Park when they were 2 years old without blinking an eye. So he would beg me to make up a scary story. And the story had to be long, too. One of the stories I made up took an hour and a half to tell. Now that was long! But I’ve been much more serious about my fiction writing in the past few months, so, for me, it was a good way to practice making up a longer story on the fly, and making sure I had enough great descriptions, exciting plot points and characters and good dialogue.

4. Read new books – Of course it’s always a good idea for your kids to pick out books they’d like to read while on the trip. But it’s also a good time to bring along books that you’re kids didn’t choose themselves but you know that they would love to read. Maybe you’ve wanted to introduce them to a new series. They’ll be much more willing to read something new if they have nothing else to do for the next few hours.

I surprised Alexa with Rick Riordan’s book The Red Pyramid. I was surprised that she had just about finished it on our first trip. 544 pages is an awful lot for a six year old to read!

5. Favorite toys- Jared loves to build with Legos, so for us it’s a must to bring along a small bag Legos on our trips. If at all possible, bring along the types of things your kids love to do. If it’s art, bring lots of paper, pencils and pens. If it’s sewing, bring those projects.

6. Audio Books & Story CDs – This is also a good time to introduce a new book or author through audiobooks. We listened to most of the 10 hour long The Lightening Thief. I had also downloaded and made a CD with several stories from the free site Story Nory.

7. Hidden Pictures Sticker Books – Both of my kids are really into finding hidden pictures, so this series from Highlights was perfect for lots of car fun.

8. Maze Books – I found this great maze book by Kumon called Around the World. You complete mazes that are part of historical places or objects like the Statue of Liberty or the Taj Mahal. Dover also puts out some really great maze books, too. Jared especially liked the Pirate Treasure Maze books since it combined complicated mazes with a pirate story.

9. Realtor.com – It probably seems strange that I’d list a home rental website as one of our favorite carschooling resources, but Alexa loved looking at this app on my iPhone when we were away. She’d tell us which homes were for sale in the different states we drove though, how much they cost, where they were located. We had some good discussions about the difference in housing cost in different parts of the country and what made some homes worth more than others.

10. Voice Memo on IPhone This was another phone app the kids played with for hours and hours in the car. In fact, after my hour and a half long story I made up, Jared recorded his own 20 minute story. It made a great memory for Steve and I, and Jared also learned, by playing back his story over and over again, how he could improve his storytelling abilities.


Photo Credit: crschmidt

What are your family’s favorite carschooling resources?

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