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Cross-Country Vacation Education, The Mega Penny Project

By Heather Idoni

Added Friday, May 05, 2006
The Homeschooler's Notebook
Encouragement and Advice for Homeschool Families
Vol. 7 No 18  May 5, 2006
ISSN: 1536-2035
Copyright (c) 2006 - Heather Idoni, FamilyClassroom.net

  Welcome to the Homeschooler's Notebook!

  If you like this newsletter, please recommend it to a friend!

  Directions for subscribing and unsubscribing are below.



  Notes from Heather
  -- New Feature
  Helpful Tips
  -- Digital Camera
  Question of the Week
  -- Your Questions
  -- Your Answers
  Editor's Picks
  -- So Many Pennies!
  -- Subscriber Information
  -- Sponsorship Information


  New Feature - Kids' Corner

  A friend of mine came up with an idea for a new feature for
  our Homeschool Notebook!  She thought it would be fun to
  invite our readers' children to write in from time to time and
  answer a homeschooling-related question.

  All ages are welcome to write in... and of course moms and
  dads can assist with typing, if needed.

  Since Mother's Day is fast approaching, our first question will be:

  "What makes YOUR homeschooling mom special?"

  Include your first name, age, and state you live in (optional).


  Send your answers to:



  [Here's your chance!  Send YOUR ideas along to

  Digital camera = learning tool

"Giving your children an inexpensive ($30-40) digital camera will make
time spent in nature twice as fun. They can take dozens of shots of
flora, fauna and each other, and you won’t have to worry about wasting
film. Anything that didn’t turn out can be deleted at the press of a

The good shots can then be used for reports, project fair displays and
scrapbooking. If you don’t want to print them out, they can be used for
a digital scrapbook using the simple art and photo software that
probably came with your computer. Don’t know how to use that
software? Ask your older children (age 7+) or borrow an older child from
a friend. It’s amazing how quickly they pick up such things.

The digital scrapbook can also be used as a Web page. Many ISPs
(Internet service providers) offer free web pages; check to see if yours
is one of them. Think how excited your children will be to email news
of their new nature Web page to their friends."

Tip provided by Barbara Frank of "The Imperfect Homeschooler"



  Send YOUR ideas to:  HN-ideas@familyclassroom.net

      Last Issue's Question

  "My girls (12,9,4) and I are leaving Michigan May 20th for a trip
  to CA with my parents in their motor home.  We'll be making a
  13 state loop.  I'm actually only going the first three weeks and
  will fly home from CA.  The kids and grandparents will take
  approx. 2 more weeks to get home.  I'm not very creative in
  hands on learning activities, being more comfortable with work-
  book type learning.  I really want to break out of this mode and
  make this whole trip a great learning experience for them without
  them feeling like Mom is making them "do school".  Any sugges-
  tions would be greatly appreciated. The loop will have us as far
  south as Arizona and as far north as Wyoming and South Dak-
  ota." -- Susan M.

      Our Readers' Responses 

"Make each stop a unit study. Keep the educational tourist and
state history information you can find along the way and have the
kids read it, discuss it, find the places on a map, determine dis-
tance between points using an atlas, time it takes to get there,
average speed, figure out gas mileage at each fill up, compare
terrains, try local cuisine and discuss its origin or history, take
pictures when you get to destinations. Have the kids keep written
records and logs according to ability. Save what you can and
make it into several unit study "scrapbooks". In the end you will
have accomplished; geography, map reading, math, cultural
studies, history, essay writing all without one single prefab work-
book." -- Pam S.


"What I would do is buy each child a thick sketch book or note-
book and have them draw their favorite things about each state
and what they did and then write a little story to describe it
alongside.  The four year old could draw the picture and then
could tell the you a little story about what the picture is about.
My daughter and my daycare do this.  I remind them that a
story requires a beginning, a middle, and an ending, with a
character, a setting,  and some action.  So it's good practice! 
What's fun is they are following their own interests!  If they can't
think of anything, they could use their imagination and draw
from their heart a creative story!  I suggest bringing for them an
assortment of mediums such as, felts, crayons, feltpens, and
watercolor paints all in prime condition.  I find with my daughter
I make sure her felts,etc. are always working well or we get new
ones and I have thin felts and thicker felts for different effects.
This encourages artisitic development!  And she enjoys using
all the mediums in one picture at times!!  Also, for the older
children they could each have a real writing journal and record
their feelings in it if they like to write.  You could also challenge
them to discover if there is anything different and new to them
in each state passed through and explore it.  I'm thinking of
simple things like different kinds of plants along the road, a new
kind of chocolate bar or other food, the way people speak, as in
drawling, word usage in different states, and special sightseeing
places.  I've been through a bunch of the states and I was most
intrigued by differences I noticed, especially in southern states!!
-- Sue D.


"When we vacationed to Orlando, Fl, I made copies of a map of
the United States that just had the states outlined. As we
traveled we watched the license plates of vehicles, then colored
in whatever state. It was amazing how much of our map was
filled in by the end of our trip. It was a fun way to help learn the
location of the states." -- V.W. in Tennessee


"What a great opportunity.  Give them cameras (disposable are
fine), a budget, a black outline of each state they will visit
(www.enchantedlearning.com), a notebook and pen/pencil.
Have them take a few notes each day and record where they
have been/are – keep it to a minimum 5-10 minutes is all.  They
may surprise you and want to do more, if so, fine, but if not,
don’t force the issue.  Let them enjoy learning without the
“bookwork” and enjoy time with grandparents more than

When they get home, develop the film and have them videotape
talking about their pictures and what they remember, or just have
them write one or two lines about each photo and put them into
a notebook or scrapbook.  Let it seem like a vacation, but teach
them the value of journaling as well - you cover writing and prac-
tice memory skills, geography, etc.. 

I had similar opportunities when I was younger and wish I would
have kept track of what we did better, but I did purchase post-
cards from almost every stop (I didn’t have a camera) and years
later I can still recall most of what we did.  It is a priceless mem-
ory – much more valuable than remembering names and dates
that I can quickly look up with the internet today.  Having them
record one or two thoughts of what they find important or inter-
esting is of much more value than making endless journal entries.
(I made this mistake once with my 4 kids – never again!  Now I
don’t force it, 5 minutes is plenty, then free from “school” rest of
the day – it is amazing what they decide to record or draw when
it is not forced -- some will increase what they write, others won’t,
but boy will they talk about it later!)" -- Lucinda


"The ULTIMATE Road Trip book is called: Carschooling:  Over
350 Entertaining Games & Activities to Turn Travel Time into
Learning Time - by Diane Flynn Keith
I bought this book last year and it has been SOOOO GOOD.
It has ideas for all ages of kids.  Windshield Bug Collections,
math using roadsigns and license plates, geography ideas...
it is a GREAT book and she should have more than enough
ideas to have fun with the kids and they won't even realize
they are learning!!
Another wonderful book for traveling is "Watch in Made in the
USA."  and it lists all kinds of factories that offer tours all across
the USA.  If she is traveling through 13 states, there should be
lots of opportunity to stop at some of these places and watch
first hand where things come from.   Crayons, jellybeans,
cheese...etc!    I have found that my kids learn so much more
when they actually see it with their own eyes.  Enjoy your trip!"


"Junior Ranger programs are available at all National Parks.
Our children have ranger badges for Mt. Rushmore, Yellowstone
and a lot of other national parks. They learned a lot, had fun
doing it and got some really neat souvenirs they'll always treasure."


"I would plan on making a notebook of the trip.  Make pictures of
the places visited and keep some notes for each one.  If you are
taking a digital camera and a lap top they could keep a digital
record as you go.   History could be included in your notebook.
Be sure to pick up flyers where they are available.  Science ...
pictures of landforms, native plants and wildlife.  Map reading
skills....(geography!) also make some maps to add to their note-
books of their trips,  Math......figuring mileage, time travel.....what
is the average speed from destination to destination, cost of gas-
oline, etc." -- Susan


"Wow!  What a neat opportunity!  I would have the kids keep a
daily journal of what they did, saw, etc.  Give them each a dis-
posable camera, and let them take pictures to scrapbook.  Get
tour books for different sights so they know what they'll be seeing
ahead of time and have them take turns reading it aloud so they
know what to look for!  Give them maps and have them help find
the way.  Give them spending money to budget (or have them
earn it ahead of time), and make contests like "who can tell me
how much change " or "what's an appropriate tip" the fastest.
For the change game, I always give my kids that change...up to
a dollar.  (does that make sense?)  I would try not to make it too
"schoolish" as it won't be as much fun, but my kids love to look
back over their journals and remember all the fun stuff they did...
even if they balked at writing it at the time.  Have a blast!  That's
the best kind of learning there is!" -- Lori in PA


"What a great opportunity!  We did a similar trip four years ago,
stopping at the national parks along the way.  As my younger
son gets car sick if he looks down, we did a multi-level book
study.  I read aloud Indian in the Cupboard by L. Reid.  Then we
discussed the book, its topics, etc., following study guides
appropriate to my sons’ levels.  We also did a lot of music and
critical thinking riddles.  It was fun, except when Dad decided to
quiz on math!  We also got a fun fact book on the states
(geography) and as we entered a new state, looked it up and
read and did the activities.  Have fun and build those life mem-
ories." -- Ellie B.


"This would be a great time to build a scrapbook of the trip.
Gathering postcards, maps, fliers, and trivia from various stops
will provide material for the project.  So, you wouldn't have to
spend a large amount of money on supplies.  If your girls are
"writers" you can add their journaling to the scrapbook.  Also,
if you use a 8.5x11 sized album, you can make color copies,
after the trip, of each page to provide each girl with an individual
album.  What a keepsake of a special time!  Mount a US map
on a board and set pins at each stop, noticing the geographics
around that area.  At the end of the trip, you'll want a group
picture with the map.  Grandpa/ma can keep the map for every-
one to enjoy at future visits.  If you know the exact route you
will take, take books about or set in those areas.  The long
journey will offer some free reading time.  Board games, even
those with an educational theme, can provide fun time with
grandparents.  This sounds like quite an adventure.  Have a
wonderful, relaxed time watching your girls explore and
experience our wonderful USA." -- Linda in OK


"For two years now, we have done a Flat Stanley project.  I
read the original Flat Stanley book (by Jeff Brown) with my boys
who are now 6 & 9.  In it, a boy is flattened by a bulletin board
and is 4 ft tall and 1/2 inch thick.  Stanley wants to visit a friend
out of state, but his parents cannot afford plane tickets.  They
send him in an envelope express mail.
Our project consists of a journal book (from a dollar store) and
a copy of Stanley from the Internet (do a search on Flat Stanley
and you'll find many).  I glued him to a piece of cereal box card-
board and laminated him.  We ask friends and relatives that
either live out of state or are going on vacation to take Stanley
and the book with them.  They take pictures of Stanley where-
ever they are and write about the adventures from Stanley's
point of view.  The entries are entertaining!
So far, our project has taken Stanley to Colorado, China,
Singapore, Zimbabwe, thru New England,  Nashville, Alaska,
CT, Hawaii, Florida Keys, various places around NY (where we
live), Utah, Arizona, Germany, Russia, and Texas.
Your kids may have fun taking pictures of Stanley along the
way at interesting places and writing (lang. arts) about it in
their own journals.  They may decide to take turns writing in
one.  Invest in some disposable cameras for the kids so that
they can be taking their own photos and write about them later.
Taking such a long trip will take in geography and map reading.
This will be very hands on practice (not the workbooks that I like
as well).  If you belong to AAA, see about getting the kids their
own maps that they can write on and find the "best route".
Maybe it would be neat to see if you can locate laminated maps
that they can trace their route with earaseable markers
They could be doing some math as well.  Have them (in their
journals), keep track of the miles each day.  Teach them to cal-
culate gas milage.  Let the kids take some of their own spending
money and they need to keep track of what they spend.  The
older ones may also learn basic bookkeeping by keeping a
running total of gas, motel, meals, etc.
See about taking recreational books to read or books on tape.
Maybe you could invest in some personal CD players and limit
the kids to listening to one CD a day while in the vechile.  That
will allow them some personal time.
Life does not need center around workbooks.  Your trip will be
a wonderful learning experience and break from "doing school"!!
I hope that some of these ideas will help you (and your kids)
make the trip fun!!  You may be surprised that they will be ready
to get back to the routine once they are back home.  Have a
safe trip!!" -- Heidi in NY


"Our family took a 3-week trip last spring through fourteen states,
and I can assure you that more learning occurred during that time
than normally occurs in a year using textbooks.  Start by con-
tacting the travel/tourism departments of all the states you will visit.
(www.sirlinksalot.net/travel.html)   They will send you travel guides
and maps.  I would suggest you do this by phone, and ask them to
send information right away.  Set aside a good block of time to
browse through the material and choose sites to visit, involving
your children as much as you can.  As you plan your itinerary,
allow extra time for unplanned stops.  Sometimes small towns have
local attractions that are not featured in the state guides, but they
are always well worth visiting, especially the museums.  If you
attend a cultural event, call it fine arts; if you hike a nature trail,
count it as PE and science; aim for variety.  (Have your children
ever seen a rodeo?) Whatever you do, don't use the word "school",
and don't let your children know you're giving them credit for it.
Purchase or make a special notebook or journal for each child,
and set aside time every night for them to record what you did
and where you went that day.  If they aren't writing yet, or if writing
is tedious for them, let them dictate what they want to say, and
you write it for them.  Allow room in the journal for photos,
brochures and other memorabilia.  After your children return home,
they can cut pictures out of the travel guides to put in their journals.
Your children would love to have their own camera, if you can afford
a disposable camera for each child.
If you want to include math, you could have your younger ones
keep track of receipts, and the older ones total the expenses for
each day, as well as number of miles driven.
You could send postcards to friends from the different places you
visit -- a quick and easy, but meaningful writing exercise that
doesn't seem like a writing lesson.  Another fun project would be
to send yourself envelopes or postcards from the places you visit
and accumulate a collection of postmarks.   If you go inside the
post office and tell them what you're doing, they are usually very
willing to stamp a nice clear postmark for you.  When you get
home, you could put them in a scrapbook, on a map, or in your
journals along with other memorabilia from those places.
You will see some breath-taking scenery.  Take the time to enjoy
it, and to appreciate the wonder of God's creation.  You might get
to see some plants, birds or other animals you don't normally see.
You could keep a notebook of those, too.  If you have room to pack
a few field identification guides and a pair of binoculars, those would
certainly be helpful.   You could also contact the fish and game or
conservation departments of the various states and ask for informa-
tion on wildlife and vegetation.  Your state's department of natural
resources might be able to help you contact those of the other states.
Whenever you need to check a map, have the children do it with you.
You could trace your route on a highway map and save it along with
other documents from your trip.  If each child has her own map, they
could use markers or stickers and keep track of your progress as
you travel, marking the map every time you stop.
To make productive use of driving time, you might want to consider
learning tapes.  Again, you don't have to call it "school".  These
tapes are so much fun, your children won't have a clue.  One
excellent source for these is www.singnlearn.com. 
After this trip, you might never want to open a workbook again!"
-- Mary Beth


"My first question would be if you are planning on taking advantage
of the sights and field trips that will be in each and every state?  We
live in Indiana and we went out west 4 years ago.  We were gone for
2 weeks.  Each and every day was educational!  Even the view from
the car window!!!  I would investigate things that you could see on
your way.  Sometimes they are just off the road a ways and not a
bother at all to stop.  Do you have a DVD or Video player in your
vehicle? Below is an except from a website that I use extensively.
The program is TOTALLY free to you.  They even send you a post-
age paid envelope to send the items back each time!  They have
TONS of materials to choose from.... Science, History...etc. 
[Freshwater Fred's Lending Library includes approximately 1,100
educational videos, software programs and curriculum - and the
collection is always growing. Explore topics such as biology,
zoology, anatomy, physics, math, history, geography, the arts
and environmental science.

There is no charge for Lending Library materials. Freshwater Fred's
Lending Library is brought to you by Hoosier Energy and its
Environmental Education Center, located at the Turtle Creek
Reservoir in Sullivan County, Ind.

Materials are available to educators in Indiana, Illinois, Kentucky,
Michigan, Ohio and Wisconsin for 30-day intervals. Renewals are
subject to demand. Educators limited to 10 items at any one time.]

When we went to South Dakota on vacation/field trip...we took a
VCR/TV combo.  Our three kids watched educational videos on the
road...especially on highways where there was little to nothing to
see." -- Martha H.


"Check out Roadside Geology books for the areas that they will be
traveling.  The girls can learn about fossils, minerals and gems that
may be along the way.

Get the Weather Wizard's Cloud Book so that they can learn how to
forecast the weather as they travel

Get a star chart for evenings under the stars

Find books, fiction or non, about the areas that you will be traveling
to.  Have the oldest (or you) read to the others while on the road.
(There is an excellent series of chapter books involving girls and their
horses in Wyoming which your librarian may be able to help you find,
and of course Little House on the Prairie.)

Let the girls compute distances to towns using the map.  Have them
work out gas mileage averages and chart how it gets better or worse
depending on terrain.

Have them keep diaries about their trip.

Have fun!" -- Cheryl W.


"My children love getting mail!  Maybe you could have your children
send a postcard home from each state they visit.  They could write
something interesting that they've seen on the way.  (This would be
their writing).  Then, when they get home they'll have lots of mail
waiting for them and you could use them as part of a geography lesson.
It sounds like a great trip!  Have fun!" -- Amy in MA

     Answer our NEW Question 

  "Anyone using 'Five In A Row' and want to share some ideas
  regarding it?  I am just really struggling to make it interesting
  and fun, but educational at the same time." -- Darcy

  Do you have some suggestions for this mom?

  Send your emails to:  HN-answers@familyclassroom.net


  Do you have a burning question that you can't ask just anyone?
  Send it to HN-questions@familyclassroom.net and we'll see
  if our readers can help you out.


  The MegaPenny Project

  I LOVE this web page!!  Start with ONE penny... then build up
  to a trillion or more... even see how many would fill the Empire
  State Building!  This is an awesome math visual.

     Interactive Email Group

  In an effort to help our readers become more of an interactive
  community, we have set up an email loop at YahooGroups called

  Here is the link to sign-up!



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