Saturday, July 22, 2017

Follow Us on a Trip Around the World and Maybe Your Kids Will Even Learn Something

Blame it all on an issue of Parents magazine. Or maybe it was Family Fun. Whatever it was, ruined our summers forever.

One fateful day in late spring 2011 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.

Follow along and use my ideas to teach your kids about world geography and culture! New updates posted to Unremarkable Files every Saturday.
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.

Follow along and use my ideas to teach your kids about world geography and culture! New updates posted to Unremarkable Files every Saturday.
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.

Follow along and use my ideas to teach your kids about world geography and culture! New updates posted to Unremarkable Files every Saturday.
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.

Follow along and use my ideas to teach your kids about world geography and culture! New updates posted to Unremarkable Files every Saturday.
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.

Follow along and use my ideas to teach your kids about world geography and culture! New updates posted to Unremarkable Files every Saturday.


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.

Follow along and use my ideas to teach your kids about world geography and culture! New updates posted to Unremarkable Files every Saturday.
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 fight over the crayons copy it on a sheet of typing paper.

Follow along and use my ideas to teach your kids about world geography and culture! New updates posted to Unremarkable Files every Saturday.
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.

Follow along and use my ideas to teach your kids about world geography and culture! New updates posted to Unremarkable Files every Saturday.
The dining room, end of summer 2014.

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.

For the next 6 weeks, I'll be posting regular Saturday recaps and I'd love it if you followed along on the blog.

Our 2017 summer schedule:
  • July 29: Austria
  • August 5: Greece
  • August 12: Chile
  • August 19: Madagascar
  • August 21: North Korea
  • September 2: Spain
In the meantime, feel free to check out the archives to see where we've gone in the past: VenezuelaJapanUnited KingdomCanadaOmanWashington, D.C., and the Netherlands (Holland).

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11 comments:

  1. This isn't awesome! Check out Give Your Child the World for some great book recommendations based on region of the world!

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    1. Thanks, I'll look into it! (P.S: Auto-correct is mean sometimes, I get it.)

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  2. I love your around the world activities! They are so creative! (And they give me courage that one day I may learn the fine art of chopstick-holding :) )

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    1. I'll have you know that was a completely staged photograph. I look like a drunk toddler trying to actually use the things. But I'm sure you'll do better.

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  3. I am an American living in Austria since 2001. Let me know if you have any questions or need ideas! ����
    Greetings from Salzburg, Anne D.

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    1. What good timing! We just learned today that 'Salzburg' means 'city of salt' because of the big salt mines there.

      If you want to drop a comment with your favorite Austrian recipe/food, I'll make it! I forgot to plan an Austrian dish to eat this week and I haven't yet had time to look for one.

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    2. Have you ever made real Wiener schnitzel? I would use chicken filets, thin or pound them out, kids should love it if they like fried chicken without bones,,,,,��
      http://allrecipes.com/recipe/78117/wienerschnitzel/

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    3. http://allrecipes.com/recipe/141136/kaiserschmarrn/
      Another favorite is Kaiserschmarrn, like cut up pancakes, with raisins or without if kids are weird like my kids are..... served at most mountains huts during ski season and also for hikers in the summer, warm, sweet and delicious and always made fresh

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    4. We would have parsley and butter potatoes with the schnitzel and always serve with cranberry jam as the sauce to dip it in, squeeze a fresh lemon on the schnitzel as well.....

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    5. Yum! I will definitely use one of those before the week is over, thank you!

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