Last October, we had the pleasure of spending 5 weeks in our native country, Australia, for our family vacation. Upon returning to the U.S. I was asked several times if we did any school while over there. I immediately answered no. I wasn’t going to pack our math books in our suitcases and make the kids do copywork in between meeting cousins and reconnecting with grandparents. But as I reflected more on this question, I began to think that this might not be true. Out of interest, I decided to break down our experiences into their various fields of study. It is quite enlightening to break life down like this and see how much learning is going on incidently. Here’s my list along with some pretty photos of my home country.
Visit to Werribee Open Range Zoo
Admired the gum trees and compared the difference in color palette to that of tropical Florida’s.
Appreciated the canola fields. E-Age-8 was quite taken with the wide open spaces and wished to run in a field like this.
Visit to a farm where we watched sheep sheared.
This trip seemed to be all about transport, especially for the 2-year-old little man. Airplanes, cars, steamboats, steam trains, and electric trains were all part of the experience.
The iconic Puffing Billy
The steamboat and steam train directly related to our Year 5 science book Great Inventors And Their Inventions. A-Age-10 didn’t make the connection at the time she was experiencing these things, but once we got home and resumed our usual school schedule she came out absolutely beaming, having just read about the invention of the steam train. She could not believe that she had actually traveled on the very invention she was learning about.
Observations of clouds and many, many, many discussions about the ever changing weather of Melbourne, Victoria. Only in Melbourne can it be bucketing down hail one minute then clear to be beautiful and sunny the next.
We flew to the other side of the world!!!! To a whole other country!!! Need I say more? And yet I shall because I can’t help myself. We looked at the map before we left and talked about the direction the plane would travel. The first leg of our flight was a domestic flight from Orlando, Florida to Los Angeles, California. So we learned where Florida was in relation to California. The next leg was our international flight to Australia which crossed the Pacific Ocean. We all know where the Pacific Ocean is now because we flew over it, and how far it is from America to Australia!
We looked on with wonder as we discussed and compared the differences in the landscape between the various parts of Victoria that we visited.
The Great Ocean Road.
The 12 Apostles.
Gum trees, farmland, and great open fields in country Victoria where E-Age-8 got her wish.
Lots of cooking which involved converting imperial to metric, and lots of time figuring out how many days until Christmas (this was a very important computation).
A trip to the bookstore with their Grandma encouraged emerging readers to read out loud and enjoy it. Wendy Harper’s pink books about princesses and encouragement from Grandparents never failed to keep interest long enough to finish the book.
More reading practice as we read road signs and other interesting papers, pamphlets, and displays.
There were many discussions about the differences in definitions of words between the U.S. and Australia, and lots of discussions about books.
We read lots of books. Many of the Australian books were historical fiction or made references to parts of Australian history.
Some Australian favorites were A Fortunate Life by A.B. Facey, The Nellie Stories by Penny Matthews (both read by A-Age-10 only), and Desert Lake: The Story of Kati Thanda-Lake Eyre by Pamela Freeman and Liz Anelli.
A-Age-10 read anything she could get her hands on including her grandmother’s beloved Biggles collection.
“G’day mate!!” – That’s a foreign language, right?
Although we never packed any school books to take on our voyage across the sea, we never stopped learning because education is not about ticking off checklists at the front of workbooks or in our school binders. Don’t underestimate the learning that takes place even without a workbook in sight. As Charlotte Mason said, “Education is life.” We are educated in our living and seeing and experiencing the world around us. Although I have broken down aspects of our vacation into neat little classifiable subject areas that we can print off and say, “Yes. Education happened, see?” The big idea that I realized is that these experiences and lessons make up a larger whole experience where relationships were forged with our world and the people in it. And ultimately, with God our creator, to whom we give the glory.