Wednesday, October 27, 2021

Things We Learned Through Homeschool On The Road

Walking the Oregon Trail in Scottsbluff National Monument.

I have seen firsthand how traveling can impact people. Personally, I've seen how it helps my children make connections to their lives, the world, things they know, have learned, or are learning. When I decided to do a big, cross country homeschool on the road trip, our homeschool teacher encouraged us to use our travels as their studies. I know people do it, we did it at the end of last school year, but on a smaller scale. This time, I went for it. I went all in. I packed us up in our Highlander, grabbed some books for reading/language arts, and using our planned travel route as our lesson plans, we were off on our greatest adventure yet.

Oh, the things they learned! Actually, the things I learned too! I'm 37 years old and still flabbergasted by the amount of things we can learn by simply looking out our windows as we drive through new areas of this beautiful country. You can probably guess the things we learned about just by using our itinerary (read that here), but that only scratches the surface. In fact, what I even remembered to write down, only scratches the surface. I feel like we did and saw it all. We didn't, but that's how it feels. 

I know that one day the minis will look back on our travels and realize what an impact they had on their lives and education. For now, I have this list to remind them what they learned (because if you ask them, they'll tell you they learned nothing):

  • Navigation, drive times, trail maps, taking a wrong turn on a trail and getting back on track.
  • Figuring out miles per gallon and when/where we should stop for gas.
  • Google Maps.
  • Cleaning the windshield at gas stations and pumping gas (the kids, I already knew how to do this).
  • Idaho has boat check stations at you enter the state. They've had issues with boats bringing invasive species into their lakes, so the boats undersides are checked before they even make it to water.
  • Using good old fashioned maps because GPS rarely works on small mountain roads.
  • Chimeny Rock and Scottsbluff's history and importance
  • The Oregon Trail. We've seen the trail ruts, we know the trail, where it passed through, the problems they encountered on the land, the beginning, and now the end. One of my greatest memories will be in November of 2020, standing in the trail ruts at Rock Creek Station in Nebraska, my phone buzzing, and I looked down to see the news of who our next President would be. That's powerful stuff. Standing on history each and every time gets me. This time was no exception.
  • Fort Kearney. For the first time ever, the minis were able to climb into a tower in the fort and see the view soldiers once saw.
  • Geological features of Wyoming. Along I80 this time.
  • The Great Salt Lake is visibly and rapidly shrinking. I stood at it's banks 19 months ago and could see it had  receeded since then. Out of sheer curiosity, the minis picked a few objects to see what would float in the Salt Lake and caught sight of brine shrimp (the only thing that can live in the Lake due to its saltiness).
  • The greatness that is In & Out Burger. It prompted them to rate all of the burger places we've eaten at on the road recently (In & Out, Whataburger, Lotta Burger).
  • How Bonneville Salt Flats were created.
  • How big the Great Basin really is and the area it covers.
  • When Shoshone Falls actually fall (hint: not usually in the fall)
  • Volcanos, craters, calderras, lava, and anything that goes along with these things. Apparently it was on all of our bucket lists to climb a volcano, so we did just that.
  • Hydroplaning...or rather how NOT to on wet, windy mountain roads
  • All the books in North America's largest bookstore.
  • That the Oregon Coast has tsunami areas and evacuation routes. The last tsunami was in 1964, but a good majority of the northern coast sits low enough that they are at risk for tsunamis.
  • Those geological features of the Oregon coast.
  • High tide and low tide.
  • Giant bull kelp, jelly-like creatures, and other oddities that wash up on Oregon's shores.
  • State capitals. We visited quite a few: Lincoln, Cheyenne, Salt Lake City, Boise, Salem, Olympia.
  • Mount St. Helen's. Anything and everything about it. The most interesting thing (for me) is that 41 years later, the land surrounding the volcano is bare. You can still see the damage left. It packs a punch seeing it up close and personal.
  • Much like tsunami evacuation routes, there are volcano eruption evacuation routes all throughout Oregon, Washington, Idaho, and Montana.
  • We ate seafood. We are not seafood eaters in the least, but we tried new food and enjoyed it.
  • History of Oktoberfest and how it's celebrated.
  • All about humpback whales and the creatures of the sea found in the waters of the PNW.
  • What fruits and veggies grow in the PNW, followed by taste testing them at Pike Place Market.
  • Wildfires. The visible damage they have done, how to prevent them, scheduled burns, and how it can help the land. We also viewed an Oregon farmer making a poor burning choice and nearly starting a wildfire, as well as a scheduled burn happening in part of the forest by Crater Lake.
  • The 1962 World's Fair (which the Space Needle was built for). On that note, that "iconic" Space Needle...yeah, it's not that impressive. It's small and doesn't offer the views one think it would.
  • Life and works of Dale Chihuly.
  • The reason Mt. Rainier is snowcapped is because it's covered in glaciers! Dozens of them. 
  • The Battle of Little Big Horn. We came across the battlefield in the darkness of night and we still drove through.
  • Wildlife and rock layers in the Badlands. 
  • The trees and plants on the forest floor in Eastern and Western Oregon. 
  • Eastern Oregon is a desert. A real life, dry, brown desert. I'll never forget driving from Eastern Oregon, stopping in Crater Lake, and then driving into Western Oregon and watching the plants change from desert plants, to forest with a floor of desert plants, to forest with the smell of pine filling our car.
  • Weather in the PNW and mountain ranges.
  • Elevation.
  • The severity of droughts and wildfires.
  • Why Iowa's trees are STILL green (when we returned home). Hint: it ties in with our lessons on droughts.

The biggest lessons we got was on independence and letting go. We had our beloved lab with us and that greatly affected what we could and couldn't do. The minis wanted to go to Powell's City of Books and I desperately wanted them to as well. As you can guess, dogs aren't allowed. So, I walked around the block several times while the minis ventured into the biggest independent bookstore alone. They looked, they navigated, they purchased items, all by themselves. This is just one instance they had to do things on their own and I had to let go. Travel is all about gaining experiences and bettering oneself while doing so. I'd say we more than accomplished it on our epic fall road trip.