We have just returned from a week long trip to northern PA and NY. It was a beautiful and exhausting vacation...and I learned something. Structure in vacation is almost as detrimental to the goal as structure is to education.
When planning our little voyage, I tried not to schedule too many specific events. I knew that over planning with our sensitivity rich crowd usually results in disaster. I decided just planning based on where to go versus what we'd be doing would work best. Our first day we arrived at the PA Grand Canyon. The picture is looking west from the Leonard Harrison State Park observation deck. Beautiful! We hiked the shorter trails and discovered just how out of shape we are! Then we traveled to the Hills Creek State Park, where we stayed in a modern cabin. This was far from a true camping trip. We had heat, bathroom and full kitchen with a microwave. The only problem we had was that there was some mold growing in the bedroom where the boys were supposed to sleep. We solved this by moving their mattresses to the living room floor. Not perfect, but workable.
We spent the next day hiking more trails and just enjoying the park. Since it was past the swimming season, the beach was completely empty on the lake. The boys had the biggest sandbox they've ever used all to themselves!
The next day was when planning started to get in the way of fun. We had decided to go to the Corning Glass Museum in NY. Previous trips to museums didn't always go well. I assumed these previous failures resulted because we went to crowded, noisy places. I knew this time it wouldn't be busy. It turns out our kids just don't really want to go to museums. They did their best to make us know this by the end of the day. They enjoyed the hands on part. They were each able to make something in the glass studio. JT made a set of wind chimes and EM made a small plate. After that...forget it.
Our final day we checked out of our cabin and traveled 2 more hours north to the Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge. I thought, "What isn't to love?!" We'll hike a bit, see some interesting animals. It's not that structured...they'll learn things and love it. Nope. They were tired of seeing nature. I wanted to stay long enough to look for some of the bald eagles that live in the refuge. They just wanted to get in the car and get home. We followed the highway along Lake Seneca, traveling through NY wine country. We stopped to walk out a pier onto the lake. My husband and I are thinking we will have to take a separate trip to see what we couldn't see with the boys.
So...what did I learn from our adventure? My children learn best when I don't direct or plan what they will learn. They learn as life is happening. Their favorite part of the trip was the hour they spent on the beach. We hadn't planned that. They created a cool irrigation channel and flooded it to their heart's content. I thought the trip would be educational. The most educational moments happened by accident. The cabin had a handout about bears. JT read it and learned how to react if he came upon a bear while we were hiking. He learned about their hibernation, their diets, their habits. Bears were not in the 'plan' for the vacation. They just came along on their own. When am I going to realize that the more I try to direct what they do, the less they seem to get out of it?
Hopefully this trip will remind me that our classroom needs to be a place where learning comes naturally...as life happens.