I took some books, catalogs and big legal pad along with us to the beach last week to start sketching out our next homeschool year. I love casting vision and writing down all the things I want to accomplish and then pare it down by fifty percent.
But before I plan out a big picture for next year, I reflect on the past year- what worked and what didn’t? We finished our school year on the road, with a big epic adventure of driving across Canada for 5 weeks.
It was fantastic and memorable and exhausting.
I knew that I wanted to incorporate a study of Canada into our trip and so as I typically do, I went to the library. For the month before we left, the girls looked at books of provincial emblems like the flags, plants and birds of each province. We read about some of the historic figures that make up Canada’s story. We read books like M is for Maple ,A Day in Canada and The Kids Book of Canada. I put together activity binders for the girls that would incorporate the geography study as well as keep them occupied for the many hours in the car. Thanks to Pinterest and free printables, I had a page for each province that had a picture of the flag, map outline of the province, flower and bird. We made a big deal when we crossed each provincal border, stopping to get a picture and then we were on the look out for the provincial flag as we drove. Kilmeny, a new reader practiced reading the names of everything and Khaira practiced her letters by copying out the names and capitals of each province.
We chose just a few attractions to go to along the way that would enhance learning and hopefully provide a tangible experience of the things we’ve studied in the past year. One highlight was the Upper Canada Village near Morrisburg,Ontario, this was one of the best historic villages I have ever been too. The characters were very knowledgable, there was plenty to see and experience and it brought stories like the Ingalls family to life by giving my daughters a visual of a farm house with a butter churn and a man plowing a field. We talked with a broom maker and a spinner and I fed my baby in the upstairs room of the local hotel. As we left the village, all sweating buckets, my six year old thanked me for reading the Little House books because now it all made sense to her.
Thanks to an instagram video of the zoo, we had the Assiniboine Park Zoo in Winnipeg high on our radar for months. We knew we wanted to make this an all day excursion partly because we were driving for two straight days from Ontario and a rest day would be quite welcome. We were all completely smitten with the zoo and in particular the Journey to Churchill exhibit. Churchill, Manitoba is home to polar bears, arctic foxes, seals and other Arctic animals. The zoo has done a great job re-creating that special area of the world with displays and information both interactive and visual. We all loved watching the polar bears swim and play in their habitat and thrilled at the seals turning circles as we walked through a tunnel of water. The girls followed along the zoo’s map, figuring out where we should go next. I’m excited to further this study by learning about arctic animals this winter and will bring out pictures from our visit to the zoo.
There were many learning moments along the way like the time we pulled into the tiny town of White River, Ontario to see the train station where Harry Colebourn bought a bear cub named Winnie and brought him to England along with his Army regiment where a small boy named Christopher Robin met Winnie at the London Zoo. Before our trip we had read multiple books about Winnie the Pooh both the stories by A.A. Milne and a sweet picture book narrating the true story of the loveable Bear. It was an absolutely delightful experience. We followed the train tracks all the way to Winnipeg and despite the long day of travel, the girls got excited at any glimpse of the train track because they knew we were traveling the same route as Harry did, decades earlier.
Another route we followed was that of Terry Fox’s marathon of hope. I wasn’t sure how much of his story to share with my daughters, and in the end shared enough that my older daughter understood who Terry was and why he died. We had a few sobering conversations about cancer and big dreams and death so that when we stopped at the memorial overlooking Thunder Bay, Ontario it wasn’t just another bathroom stop. We had read about Terry Fox in The Kids book of Great Canadians, another fantastic learning resource.
I traded my book copy of Story of the World Vol. 1 for my friend’s audio version of this fantastic history resource and we all loved listening to Jim Weiss tell tales of the earliest civilizations. The girls also listened to favourite audiobooks like the Ramona collection, Pippi Longstocking and Betsy-Tacy. It wasn’t all free drawing and audio books, the girls had iPad time almost every day we were in the van for the last couple hours of the day. This was a complete sanity saver for all of us and since we try to be fairly screen free except for movies at home, playing games on the iPad was a novel and exciting experience.
We drove through the heavy forests of Ontario often beside water of some kind into the flat prairies of Manitoba with its checkered board landscape of crops which blended into Saskatchewan with bright yellow canola fields and brilliant blue sky. Alberta was much of the same with the never-ending fields reminding us of the vast Atlantic ocean waves of our home. Crossing into British Colombia with the mountains on every side and the ocean ahead of us was such a momentous feeling. The day we put our toes into the Pacific ocean was a hot one, we were all tired and a little grumpy but knowing that we had literally driven coast to coast as family with three young children was deeply fulfilling. The girls hunted for treasures and played in the wet sand as Jared and gave each other high fives at this huge adventure.