I have mentioned before that we are planning to take more of a year round school year approach because of our travels. Since we travel for weeks at a time, I didn’t want to be stressed having to get everything done and miss out on the fun as well as educational opportunities that travel allows us to have.
While we are at home in between trips, our homeschool looks more like a traditional classroom (of course, tailored to our style and needs). We read lots of books, work with math manipulatives, do a few science experiments, and practice reading and writing. When we are out on the road, we take more of the “unschooling” approach. This approach has children learning more through natural life experiences, personal interests and curiosity.
Walt Disney World is so much more than spinning teacups and breakfast with Mickey. (Which we absolutely love, too! Okay, maybe not so much the teacups. Hannah spins her teacup fast!) There are so many places to learn and discover, sometimes without even realizing it. Here are some of the things that Hannah had a blast learning about in and around Walt Disney World.
The Wilderness Must Be Explored
In the past, Disney’s Animal Kingdom has been a half-day park for us. During this trip, we spent two whole days there plus another half day with our friends! They have a new program now where kids can become Wilderness Explorers like Russell from the movie, “Up!”.
There are stations set up around the park where kids can learn about anything from insects to dinosaurs to African culture and, of course, the animals. At each station, the leader helps the kids with the challenges and activities. Once they complete it, they get a sticker badge to put inside their field guide. There are over thirty badges to collect and we found almost all of them! Hannah loves activities that have her completing a mission so this was a perfect way for us to explore the park!
Save the Manatee!
We arrived in Port Canaveral one day before we set sail on the Disney Dream. So, we decided to head out to the pier to wave goodbye to the Disney Fantasy as it set sail. Not too far from there is a nature preserve where you can see manatees in their natural habitat, the shallow waters of the coast. It was so fun to spot the manatees as they came up to the surface. Right after our cruise, it was Manatee Day at the Living Seas Pavilion in Epcot so we were able to learn even more. There, you can also see the manatees from under the water. Hannah has talked constantly about how Epcot is helping those manatees because they were injured by boaters in the ocean. She has such a loving, tender heart for others!
Mexico and its Culture
So, we decided that we would pick one country from Epcot each time we visit Walt Disney World and do a mini-unit. This time, we picked Mexico. On the way to Florida, Hannah learned her numbers to ten in Spanish as well as her colors. She learned a little about their culture including what a Mariachi band is, the Day of the Dead, and the different kinds of food they enjoy. She even learned what makes the pyramids in Mexico unique when compared to the pyramids of Egypt. Once in Epcot, we explored the pavilion, helped Agent P catch Doofenshmirtz in Mexico, and ate at the restaurant, San Angel Inn. Hannah was so excited to learn that our waitress was actually from Mexico. And, of course, we couldn’t miss a ride on Gran Fiesta Tour with the Three Cabarellos.
She is excited to learn about each of the other countries in Epcot and has decided that she wants to learn about France next.
19 Hours and Counting
It is a 19 hour drive to Orlando from our home and 19 hours back. That is a lot of time in the car with a five year old and a one year old. With Olivia, we just packed a box full of her toys and books. She’d play with one for a bit, throw it on the ground, and get something else. Then we’d clean up and start over after each stop.
Thankfully, Hannah does so well at keeping herself and her sister entertained. I put together a binder full of activities that she could do on her own. Most of them reinforced concepts that we had already worked on together. She had a map of our journey and would color in each state as we crossed the border. We also made a graph of restaurants that we ate at on the way. With our gluten allergy, there are only a select few that we feel safe to stop at. She’d color in a square each time we stopped to eat. I think Chick-fil-a won this time. Between the binder, the iPad, and her toys, I think she only complained once or twice about the drive!
Of course, this doesn’t even begin to cover the learning opportunities available in Walt Disney World. These are just a few of the ones that we intentionally focused on this time.