Four years ago I was at the library watching my youngest play at the train table, and I happened to reach over and start leafing through a parenting magazine.
My eyes stopped on an article about some lady who decided to do an educational pretend trip around the globe with her kids over summer vacation. Their family ate at ethnic restaurants, learned different languages, and listened to cultural music. It was a way to broaden her kids' horizons and keep them learning during the summer.
I was kind of an overachiever back then, and I thought, "What a great idea!"
I bought a 5-foot wide world map on Amazon and hung it in the dining room. I posted a "summer itinerary" on the wall, listing in a cutesy font the countries we were "visiting" and when, as chosen by the kids. I made them faux passports with a little United States seal on the cover and everything.
|If this doesn't scream Type A mom, I don't know what does.|
The first page even has their picture and identifying information just like a real passport.
I don't blame you if reading this makes you want to kick me in the head. That's a completely rational reaction. Thank goodness Pinterest wasn't on my radar back then. I would've been unstoppable. (This is why I had more children, I think, so I wouldn't have time to do stuff like this.)
It was a whirlwind summer.
The poor librarians at our public library didn't know what hit them. Their circulation numbers must have gone through the roof that July and August, because we hauled out stacks of books, movies, and CDs about different countries week after week. I mean on top of the stack we usually haul out. just because my kids are total bookworms.
|Why yes, my kids always watch videos like this. Why do you ask?|
(This was before the demise of our TV, by the way.)
We rolled Swedish meatballs in Sweden; in France, I made my first soufflé and daughter said it "tasted like throw-up." (Not sure if I did something wrong or if she just doesn't like soufflé.)
In Egypt, we went to the beach and the kids recreated the Nile river and built pyramids and stuff along the banks.
|My son was a little disappointed at the lack of crocodiles.|
We ate with chopsticks in China and I learned that I love making Chinese food. The recipes I used that week are some of my favorites today, 4 years later.
|Haven't had a haircut since, most likely.|
In Australia, we put together puzzles (just black-and-white maps I printed out and cut up) of the 6 states of Australia and made a didgeridoo out of a wrapping paper tube.
In Ukraine, we made fake pysanky eggs (the unbelievably intricate ones with really deep colors.) In case you want to know how that's done, you color paper all over with crayons, paint black over the top, scratch a design in it with a safety pin, and cut out an egg shape. It's a good activity to take up an entire morning.
When I started, I thought "visiting countries" would just be a fun thing to do for that one summer, but the kids (particularly my oldest) loved it so much they begged me to do it again. Begged.
So it's become a regular thing now.
As the years go on I've dialed it back. That first year I was really out of control — I sewed ponchos for each of the kids when we talked about gauchos (the cowboy, not the pants) in Argentina. I realize I had way too much time on my hands.
By the end of that summer I was completely exhausted. And of course after that I had a baby, then another one, so I've got no choice but to keep it simpler now.
Our loose structure for visiting a country is:
First, we locate the country on the map and fill out a page of our passports. Their passports have blanks to fill in with the name of the country, what it borders, what continent it's on, and other major landmarks they can see on the map. They also make up a visa stamp for that country and color it in.
|Not sure why my daughter is wearing a babushka. I don't even think we visited Russia that year.|
Then they Google the country's flag and
|Leave a comment below if you know what flag this is without Googling it!|
We hang the finished flags on the wall and it's actually really cool to see the accumulation of 4 year's worth of them.
|The dining room, end of summer 2014.|
Then we spend the rest of the week reading, watching, listening to, and doing things related to the culture and geography of the country. I used to make up a lot of my own activities but I find I have less time to do that every year, and why re-invent the wheel? I promise to give a link and proper credit to any websites I crib my ideas from.
World travel starts again on Monday in our house, and you can follow along via my blog to see a recap of each week. Every Saturday night I'll post about what we did that week and how it went.
I don't know how this summer will go, but I can guarantee you funny stories and a few Pinterest fails, with possibly some helpful information in between.
Countries we visited in 2015: