Creating Quality Family Time With Summer Learning Opportunities
by: Saleama A. Ruvalcaba
Now that school, or homeschool, is out for mostly everyone, what are the big summer plans?
Will your children bounce around to every Vacation Bible School you can find? Will your children attend just about every art, sports, cooking, horse, sewing, stem, swimming camp, you can find?
Hey, I’m not knocking Vacation Bible Schools. They are a valuable and fun summer pastime. I’m actually teaching third grade at our home church VBS and I cannot wait!
I’m also not knocking camps. Our athletic program, Gifted Athletes, has two camps this summer and we are so excited to teach sport fundamentals during two separate sports camps.
But how can you ALSO incorporate quality family time coupled with learning opportunities this summer?
I have many friends who use summer to enjoy amazing family road trips that are full of wonderful educational opportunities.
But what if your family cannot take a long family road trip?
You can improvise with weekend getaways or a family day trip. We have so many historic sites not far from us here in Memphis, TN to take advantage of.
Last year, we took our annual “family retreat” to St. Louis. St. Louis is only a four-hour drive from Memphis, TN. (We call it a family retreat, but it’s just our family; me, my husband, and our children)
Whenever we visit St. Louis we always visit the sites St. Louis is famous for; the Science Center, the St. Louis Zoo, the Botanic Garden, Grants Farm, and so forth. But hands down, our favorite places to visit last summer were Cahokia Mounds and the Holocaust Museum.
Cahokia Mounds located in Collinsville, IL, was a Native American settlement and one of the greatest cities of the world. Cahokia was larger than London in AD 1250. The Mississippians who lived here were accomplished builders who erected a wide variety of structures from practical homes for everyday living to monumental public works that have maintained their grandeur for centuries.
The museum is free and packed with valuable history. Upon arrival, a twenty-minute history video is presented in a small theater. After the video, visitors are then free to explore the inner and outer parts of the museum.
(In this picture we are teaching our children some of the ways in which the Native Americans lived and how they survived and thrived.)
(In this picture we are looking at the map to begin our journey through the historic Cahokia Mounds grounds outside.)
(In this picture we are walking up the stairs to the top of Monks Mounds. We certainly got a workout that day. This was a trek up MANY stairs in the summer heat. Monks Mounds is the highest mound and it is where the chief lived. The height of this mound allowed the chief to see the city below and to keep an eye on potential enemies.)
(This is a depiction of what the city looked like and you can see the stairs leading to the top of Monks Mounds. )
(This is a picture standing on top of Monks Mounds. If you zoom in you can see the St. Louis Arch in the distance.)
Cahokia Mounds was awesome to say the least! It is a tremendous feeling to stand on actual history and envision the lives that once occupied the land. If you are ever in the St. Louis area Cahokia Mounds is worth a visit.
The day after we visited Cahokia Mounds, we visited The Holocaust Museum, located in St. Louis, MO. The Holocaust Museum in St. Louis is a free museum as well.
Obviously when visiting such an important museum as the Holocaust Museum, you will want to make sure the particular Holocaust museum you are visiting is appropriate for younger children. We felt this particular Holocaust Museum was appropriate for younger children. Some of the information might be too much for younger children to understand, but what they can retain is valuable.
We spent a lot of time reading and explaining the information on the walls to our children. We took our time explaining the relevance of what they were learning.
These two museums were fascinating! It was great family quality time and our children had tangible learning opportunities during the summer.
Memphis, TN, is surrounded by wonderful historic sites. You and your family can spend time learning together, and your children will experience continued hands-on learning during the summer months. If you need some ides, here are few places to visit this summer:
- Shiloh National Military Park, Shiloh, TN (Free. Two-hour drive from Memphis, TN. Our family visited in 2015)
- Clinton Presidential Library and Museum, Little Rock, AR (Small fee. Two-hour drive from Memphis, TN. Our family visited in 2013)
- Little Rock Central High School and Museum, Little Rock, AR (Free. Two-hour drive from Memphis, TN. Our family visited in 2013.)
How about some local favorites:
- Slave Haven Underground Railroad Museum (Small fee. Amazing history. Our family visited in 2016)
- The Metal Museum (You will look at metal in a new way!) (Small fee and they have a beautiful garden with picnic tables to have lunch afterwards. Our family visited in 2017)
- Chucalissa (Learn about the historic Native American site here in Memphis, TN. Small fee. Our family visited in 2016)
Enjoy your summer! Enjoy all the fun summer has to offer. Enjoy VBS and the outstanding camps to choose from. But don’t forget about quality family time and the many opportunities to bring learning to life with your children this summer. Pack a lunch and take a drive. You will never get this particular summer back – so make the most of it by spending time learning together.
-Saleama A. Ruvalcaba
Do you have a homeschool story or practical tips to share with our community? Use the contact page and tell us about it.