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Making Summer Vacations Fun and Educational

Summer vacations are most always fun, but have you ever considered they could be educational as well? I hadn’t either, until just recently.

This past March our family went to Florida for spring break. While there we went to see an exhibit about Winter and Hope, two dolphins from the movie, “A Dolphin’s Tale.” Winter, is a dolphin that has a prosthetic tale and Hope is a dolphin that was orphaned at a very young age and raised by those at the aquarium. While walking around and taking it all in, I wished that I had done some work prior to the trip to make it more meaningful to the kids – as I wanted them to soak up as much information as possible. Needless to say, this began – what has become a dream of mine – to take the things we are already planning on doing and turn them into intentional opportunities to further educate my girls about the world around us.

So, while in Florida, I began thinking about our summer and the trips we would be taking, the outtings we had planned as a family, and different exhibits that were coming to our area. Besides Memorial Day, the next big thing was our trip to Texas. Wanting the girls to learn as much about the state of Texas as possible and not wanting it to be completely overwhelming (because it is such a big state) I decided to stick with the Dallas/Ft. Worth area as that was where we were going. So, I began my search. While seeking out information, I learned this area of Texas was best known for Cowboys, Longhorns, and Cattle Drives. So, next to learning about the Texas state flag and the state’s symbols we embarked on a journey together to learn more about that which this area was known for and let me just say we had a lot of fun in the process!

To start, I headed to our local library and grabbed several books. I wanted to find ones they could read as well as ones that we could sit together and read.

texasbooks

There were a few books that I wanted to get my hands on that I couldn’t get from the library, so I ordered them online through Amazon. They were Teddy’s Cattle Drive by Marc Simmons and This is Texas by M. Sasek. This is Texas is a very informative book if your kids have good attention spans. Mine, however, do not so needless to say, we moved through that book pretty quickly. Another one, not pictured here, that we’ve since picked up is The Old Chisholm Trail: A Cowboy Song by Rosalyn Schanzer. This was great for our specific trip as the cattle drives from Texas to Kansas were done on the Chisholm Trail.

In addition to finding books and reading them, I had some hands-on activities planned to help further engrain what we were reading about. To kick off our learning, we started with Texas shaped cookie cutters and made sugar cookies. The girls LOVED this…and so did I.

cookies

They helped with cutting out the shapes and baking them mostly. The decorating was a bit more tricky, as I had never done this sort of decorating before (using royal icing and piping and flooding the cookies). They did help a little with outlining (piping) and then I did most of the rest. Maybe as I do this a bit more, it’ll become quicker, but this first time around I was in the kitchen all day. I must admit, though, that I had a lot of fun doing it and learning yet another way to use my creativity. I’m sure we’ll be doing more sugar cookies, piping and flooding in the future and hopefully they’ll get better looking the more I do it.

Next we read the story The Legend of the Bluebonnet since the Bluebonnet is the Texas state flower. I loved this story. After reading the book, we did a craft that I found on – none other than – Pinterest! It involved finger painting which was fun. Each girl (and myself) made different paintings. I love seeing each ones different vision for their bluebonnets. I wanted to plant bluebonnets as well, but unfortunately, they are spring bloomers and we were a bit too late to be able to enjoy them. I did, however, buy some seeds while in Texas so hopefully I’ll get to plant those this fall with the girls and see them bloom next spring.

bluebonnetpaintings

Besides painting, reading, and baking, we spent some time learning how to draw armadillos (the state’s small mammal) and coloring pages filled with the Texas State flag, mockingbirds, bluebonnets, and pecan trees. All of these pages can be found, downloaded, and printed from my Teaching Texas Pinterest Board.

Speaking of pecans…we, of course, had to make something with the nut that is produced by the Texas State Tree! 🙂 So, we did. And, oh my were they delicious! Three simple ingredients: square pretzels, rolos, and pecans. Yum!

pecans

In addition to these, we did a couple of worksheets, and I made a spelling list for the girls. I’ve been informed of a new-to-me website (by my sister-in-law, also a teacher) titled SpellingCity.com. It’s awesome! I’ve been able to put their spelling words in and then they play games that helps them learn how to spell the words…and it’s free! They also have an app that I can download onto their ipads so they can work on it during their electronics time and even when away. I’m excited about this site and app.

Well, I think that is all for this go around of Making Summer Vacations Fun and Educational. Later this week I’ll be sharing my travel blog with lots of ideas on how to continue the learning process while on the road and reducing the amount of times the kids say, “Are we there yet?”. Hope you’ll check back or sign up to receive that post via email in the side bar.

Til next time,

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[…] were made while learning about the different symbols of Texas and the final product can be seen here. The finished cookies were a part of the gifts, as were some yummy pecan treats the girls made […]

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