I went on a long, long road trip this summer and I think enough time has passed that I can finally speak about the experience. I tried some new things I’ve never heard of, and a few of them were successful so I’ll tell you about them.
Some tasks can be relegated to children to keep them busy and maybe teach responsibility a bit and someday lighten the parents’ load. (Just in time for the children to go off on their own.)
Are We There Yet Answerer- Children rotated whose job it was to answer, “Are we there yet?” Because that is obviously a question any one can answer. When a few children got their turn at being the answerer… they stopped asking the question.
Gas Pumper- This child gets out and does the button pushing and nozzle inserting and handle locking. An education!
Kid Counter- When we get in the car after a stop, this child is responsible for making sure everyone is present and accounted for.
These weren’t great:
Buckler- Someone would buckle the youngest and check to make sure the second youngest was buckled. I didn’t stick to this. It was too much for me to think about, and it would only be useful when one or two of the children were on it. I mean, the child who needs to be buckled can’t be in charge of buckling the child who needs to be buckled.
Trash Collector- I gave up on this one because if the collector was in the back and the trash bag was in the front, they couldn’t really do their jobs very well. And we only ate at rest stops anyway because my husband didn’t want the smell of crumbs in our car while we were stuck in it for weeks.
It was inconvenient to set up movies inside my van, and I wasn’t sure all my kids could watch something without getting carsick. And I build my life around no one barfing. I pretended that it was about the children’s education. At least I’m honest about it.
But it was a fun challenge- what can I teach my kids that doesn’t require them looking at anything?
Practicing math facts- tailored to the skill level of each child
Rhyming Words- What rhymes with car?
I Spy- I spy something green! Tree. Rotate fairly each turn.
The alphabet spy game- who can see each letter of the alphabet in their correct order?
Pimsleur language learning- download an audio program to teach a language. Useful for the oldest children, frustrating for the younger ones. I had a grand vision where we would learn a lot of Spanish on our trip, and use these phrases… children and adults learn languages in different ways. The older children were ready to move to the next lesson before the younger ones were.
John Bytheway talks- I purchased the audio of this. They are funny enough to appease the children, and insightful enough to teach adults things.
Guess how long is a minute or a mile. Close your eyes, say stop when you think it’s been a mile. One person watches for the mile marker or watches a stop watch app.
I created a whole binder full of ideas.
Review Body Safety Rules
Learn Countries by Continent. I want my kids to know at least what continent a country is on. So I said a country and the kids guessed what continent. This didn’t work because they felt too bad about getting it wrong. Let me know if you find a better idea.
Exhaustive blog post about I before E
Math Things to Remember- A quadratic formula song and a way to remember the names of the parts of fractions. All the kids don’t need to know these yet, but when they need to know it, BAM! It’ll come back to them. Learning something a second time is easier than learning it the first time.
Muscles and Bones- Hearing these terms a few times while they are small will make them stick better when they are graded on memorizing them.
Olympic Sports- The olympics were coming up and I thought that if the kids knew about the sports they would be more interested in them.
Prophets and Apostles- I fit the names of the apostles to a song to help learn them. Listening in church is easier if you have heard of the people being quoted.
Riddles- These were fun.
Scattergories- Pick a letter and see how many words that start with that letter fit in the category.
Spelling Bee- I printed out a list of grade-level spelling words. A kid got a pretzel when they attempted to spell a word. The kids gave me the hardest word they knew for me to spell. And I got a pretzel. No one could check my accuracy, though.
Wild Animals- If you meet a wolf you should look big and throw things. If you meet a bear you should back away slowly. I’m stressed that I’ll meet one and I will do the wrong thing, so I attempted to memorize them. Here is a condensed list from Survival Kid.
I used my free trial for Spotify on this trip. Spotify is so great. I just don’t want to pay every single month for the rest of my life. Anyway, I chose three songs I wanted to teach my children because they were fun (read: easy) to play on the guitar. Blowin’ in the Wind, Someone to Lava, and Puff the Magic Dragon. My dad is good at the guitar and my mom plays the ukulele and I thought my kids would enjoy playing with them if they knew the songs. We sang along to all three songs once or twice a day in the car. I printed out the lyrics so I would learn them correctly. It’s hard to teach something you don’t know.
I had all three children make a playlist of their favorite songs. The toddlers and preschoolers didn’t choose their own, I just found a playlist of someone reading stories. When things got bad, I turned on a child’s playlist. I chose from their playlist which song would come up next. I rotated through each child’s list in order. Whenever I rotate through the children, I try to think of a new way. Age order, alphabetical order, reverse age order, front to back, because one of my children has really strong opinions about ALWAYS being in a certain position in the order.
Car Seat Switch
I know some families have their children always sit in the same place always, and they’re fine with it. But my kids have very strong preferences about which seats are the best so we switched twice a day. Once before starting our journey for the day and again after lunch. (If you’re an early starter you can switch at the end of the day.) Each spot has different pros and cons and after three or four hours they are sick of their seat.
I made a seating chart of the car and had the children fill in who they thought should sit where. I tried to use some of them. I kept the sheets where I recorded the chart so I could show them that everybody was suffering equally.
Teach Car Brands
This was awesome. Before we left, I taught the kids the common car brands over dinner. They got hours and hours of practice over the course of the trip and now the big kids can identify any car. Is this useful? Maybe. Did it fill a lot of hours? Yes. Yes it did.
I like to preserve the freedom of speech in the house, mirroring what it’s like in the real world. But in the car, I curtailed it strongly. If someone asked you politely to stop singing or saying or doing either of those loudly, you got in trouble if you didn’t acquiese.
Also, I defined each child’s air space. Like countries who own all the air in a country-shaped column above their borders, I said that children were in charge of the air above their seat cushion and and legroom, dividing benches at the seat line. No one was allowed to enter another child’s air space without permission, and they were punished if they did anyway.
Here’s how I administered consequences on the trip. I had a paper with nine rows and a column for each child. When a child commited a rule infraction, I marked them down a row. If they were below a certain line, they didn’t get a treat after lunch. If I marked them down the next line, they didn’t get a treat after dinner. Then comes loss of device privileges, and then comes loss of individual possessions and privileges. It’s what I do at home, and I got it from one of the child’s teachers.
Wow we’re done now. That was almost as long as the trip itself.