You may not be up for homeschooling, but you can still use some of the principles of the homeschooling movement to enhance your kids’ education. Children learn quickest when they are encouraged to follow up the things that grab their attention. Parents can help by turning those moments of interest into educational opportunities, even on vacation.
All children are fascinated by people who are different from them, so bringing the past alive is mostly a matter of helping them to discover the different lives that people led in the past.
Encountering people in character in a living history museum can be a transformation in the way kids relate to the past. The “residents” will engage with the kids and give demonstrations of the life skills of their time. Kids also love dressing up, which is a great way to stimulate their historical imaginations.
Older kids with some knowledge of history may be interested to visit some of the houses where significant people lived. If you are visiting New York, you could explore some of the homes on the Hudson River in Westchester County, like the amazing Kykuik, the Rockefeller estate in Sleepy Hollow.
The National Parks are a fantastic educational resource. They usually have ranger-led programs throughout the season, when children can be sworn in as Junior Rangers and introduced in an engaging way to the landscape and wildlife of the park.
Walking is both healthy and potentially educational. Most kids won’t take a walk for its own sake but encourage them with a treasure hunt or an “I-spy” challenge and they will start to look more closely at the environment they are in.
Today’s museums, even local ones, are generally interactive and fun for all ages. New York, of course, has some of the best in the world, but even out in Westchester there are some great ones.
As you explore an area, try to find questions that you will be able to answer by a visit to a museum. A vacation is always a good opportunity to explore geography and to relate what you find on a map to what you see on the ground. The Bruce Museum in Greenwich, not far from the Marriott Renaissance Westchester hotel, has a fascinating display on the geological history of the area which will help kids to appreciate the rocks they are walking on.
For older kids, a night in a museum will be a highlight. Many major cities offer them. The American Museum of Natural History in New York is one of the best and would be an unforgettable experience. Unfortunately, it is also one of the most expensive!
One of every parent’s goals is to set their children on track to be learners throughout their lives. Kids are like sponges and soak up information and skills. Vacation time is an opportunity to channel that natural tendency and to make every experience a thrilling discovery of something new.