Business travelers, conference speakers, entrepreneurs, and pilots — f your household has a parent on the road, the home-again, gone-again schedule gets confusing for kiddos. But having a traveler in the family is an ideal opportunity to bring home real-life education for the children missing Mom or Dad.
1. Uniting the states.
Have you heard? There's a big percentage of Americans who can't point out a state on the map. Don't let this happen to you and yours. For domestic travel, a map of the United States on a bedroom wall or corkboard is a simple prevention to this problem.
When Mom is traveling from the Midwest to the West Coast, find her location and make a mark. It's amazing how young children can begin to learn the location of states at a young age with the repetition of this activity, and begin to understand how the United States comes together as one country.
2. Directional challenges.
While you're looking at that map, toss cardinal directions into the mix. Show them California on the West Coast, and New York on the East Coast. Dad may be traveling south to Louisiana one week, and then north to Illinois the next. Have your child place a finger, a toy plane, or a matchbox car from where you live, and take it to the state to where he traveled, talking up the correct direction along the way. They may still confuse their left from their right, but hey, at least they'll learn which way they're headed.
3. Climates and weather.
Dad may be attending a business meeting in snowy Colorado one week, and flying to warm Florida the next. He can snap photos on his phone of snow-topped mountains in one state, and the sandy beach in the other. He can also send a message about the weather from that day's forecast at his location. Use a weather site like the National Climatic Data Center for older children to compare the climate in that state to the home climate where your family lives.
The information on climates and weather is also a great teaching tool for learning about reading graphs and understanding statistics — a perfect real-life application. If you're lucky, it might make stats fun for your kids.
4. Map legends.
Children can learn to calculate miles using the map legend. How far away from home is Mom when she traveled to Arizona? Use a scrap of paper and a pencil to mark the mile distance, and show your child how to move it along the map from your home state. Yes, it's old school, but it incorporates math, reading, problem solving, and map-reading skills your child won't get if they just use an app for calculation. No cheating, folks.
5. History brought home.
In the beginning, none of the 50 states were around. A traveler in New England has colonial history in the palm of her hand. Grab a brochure or regional publication and bring it home. When did the state achieve statehood? What were the circumstances? It doesn't take more than 20 minutes to read or look up the information, and doing this for each trip gives your child an extra boost on their U.S. history education. That's something everyone can use.
6. Transportation woes.
Taking a flight is quicker than a drive, but then there are layovers, delays, and lost luggage. Talk about the different transportation options for traveling in the United States today. What is the least expensive? The most efficient? Is it worth extra money for a short flight, when the drive is only a few hours? These are all great questions for older elementary students to work out and problem solve.
7. Tracking time zones.
Oy. Keeping track of time zones is tough for adults, but offers a great education for students. Why is it 10:00 in Arizona and 12:00 in Arkansas at the same time? Make sure to go over sun movement and the part it plays as well, incorporating earth movement and astronomy. Just keep an eye on the time.