The possibilities of summer vacation holds  all kinds of excitement for kids. No more Teachers. No more Books. School has been out for a month now and for many kids summer means weeks of  doing nothing. Let the brain dulling begin!

Not in our house.

It might surprise you to know that although I have no qualms about taking the kids out of school to travel, when they are out of school I also have no qualms about keeping the education going.

(insert loud sigh and child-sized eyeroll here.)

Sorry, not sorry.

It works both ways.

pull dinosaur provincial park

Pulling their weight (and then some) in Dinosaur Provincial Park, Alberta.


For us the learning mostly happens through travel. Want to use your next vacation as a way of keeping the learning top of mind? Here are three tips:


    1. Keep it fun.  Forget sitting them down with workbooks that have names like “Math 101.” Instead hit the road! Hand them a map and  and let them guess how long a tank of gas will last. Get them to use the GPS to figure out where you’ll be at the halfway point of your trip, Teach them how to work out the currency exchange on the piece of candy they want to buy in your destination. Take turns learning the history of the areas you’re visiting and sharing them with the rest of the family. The learning doesn’t have to be rote memory work. Keep it fun and you’ll keep them interested.

      Dino dig alberta

      Working together to dig out some dinos in Alberta.

    2. Play to their interests. I’ve got Minecraft fiends in my house. Anything that has to do with the popular online building game is guaranteed to hold their attention. Knowing that, I also knew that our recent visit to Drumheller, Alberta  and then a road trip through the mountains in BC  and Washington would be a hit. As the guides talked about the kinds of rocks we were seeing the boys’ hands shot up to offer Minecraft references.  Luckily they weren’t the first and the guides were able to confirm and deny their statements. Whether they were right every time didn’t matter. Watching them connecting the dots between learning and something they loved did. Figure out the links between your travel destination and their interests and you’ll have enthusiastic travelers.

      rocks washington

      Finding the Minecraft connection away from the computer.

    3. Reinforce topics from last year’s curriculum and get them excited about topics coming next year. So far this summer it has been Cameron who is most reaping the benefits of our travels. He just finished grade 4 where a good part of the year focused on rock formations,  so our trip to Dinosaur Provincial Park was a winner. Next year in  grade 5 he’ll study early civilizations. As a result we’ve already spent some time this summer talking about our visits to Mexico and Egypt.  The key is we want his learning to feel relevant. Travel provides specific touch points he’ll be able to look back on as he sits behind a desk at school. The summer is the perfect time to help them bring their textbooks to life.
dam washington

Ethan schools his little brother in hydro electricity while overlooking a dam in the North Cascades in Washinton.


We use travel to help keep the learning going but the same can happen at home. Follow the three rules in your own neighbourhood. Take them to a Shakespearean play in the park, spend more time with the animals they were learning about in class last year at the zoo or tap into an aspect of their videogame-loving with a focus on one aspect (Sonic’s speed is an opportunity to discuss and try your hand at racing, speeds, distance and time.) Find the opportunities to keep the learning alive this summer.

The result will be a September that is easier for everyone.

Got tips of your own you’ve put into practice over the summer? Feel free to share them in the comments below.