- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 3, 2000

Each year, home-school leaders from across the United States, Canada, Mexico and Puerto Rico gather for the National Christian Home Educators Leadership Conference hosted by the Home School Legal Defense Association and the National Center for Home Education.

As you read this column, my family and I are attending this year's conference, and we are enjoying some family vacation time in sunny Arizona. The dilemma I face when taking a trip like this during the school term, is how to avoid becoming stressed over losing and making up school time. It would be nice to say we will not have school for 14 days, but it's impossible, especially because we live in a state that requires us to log a certain number of days or hours annually. We can't afford a two-week break this early in the year.

Some years, we have traveled by car. We would pack all our school books and try to have lessons on the road or in our hotel room. This has never worked. The only thing it produced was a frustrated mother. Everyone knew we had to have school to keep on schedule, but the word "vacation" put us in a dream world. The reality of several weeks of playing school "catch-up" set in only after arriving home.

The times we have flown, as we did on this trip, toting 60 pounds of books is not an option. For this vacation, we chose to bring only math books and the books the boys need to keep up with assignments in weekly classes they attend outside our home. This will lessen my anxiety, but I'm still left with how to get back on track with the subjects we left behind.

Short of taking vacations only during non-school months, I decided to put aside some of our books and substitute them with ideas and resources to help us enjoy our vacation and still log school days before, during and after the trip.

First, I began incorporating books and materials that would help us learn about our destination. One book, which became a history and social studies text for our son Zachary for a few weeks, was the Arizona title from the "America the Beautiful" series from Children's Press. Each volume in this series highlights a different state and includes information on its history, geography, culture and points of interest. As we read, we learned about the climate and terrain of Arizona, and noted interesting state and national sites we wanted to visit.

A trip budget became part of Zachary's math lessons. He was to include accommodations, food, attractions and even souvenirs. To get him started and help him make wise choices, I gave him maps and travel books from AAA, and details on the family pass program from the National Park Service.

To help hone his map skills for geography lessons, he learned to read the mileage scale on maps and calculate approximate travel times. He is now the official Arizona trip accountant and navigator.

I wanted to make sure both Zachary and Joseph kept up their writing skills while away from home, so I bought two large journals. In the journals, they are keeping a diary of their trip; sketches of the landscape, animals or artifacts they find interesting; pasting in memorabilia; and reserving space to add postcards or photographs.

A large part of our Arizona school days have been filled with wonderful field trips such as one to the Grand Canyon.

I have struggled with trying to balance vacation and study time for so long, this year I'm taking to heart what I have been telling people for years: Home-schooling is more than reading a textbook. It is learning and exploring the world around us. I'm going to go home and not worry that we are 12 pages behind in our geography book. I'm going to focus on the fact that we didn't just read about the Southwest, we saw the Southwest.

Kim Huber, a mother of four children, has been home-schooling for 17 years. She and her husband serve on the Christian Homeschool Association of Pennsylvania's board of directors. She can be reached by e-mail (CHAPKimH@aol.com).

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