Thursday, July 22, 2010

Curriculum Review---Travel Kits---A Simple Way to Bless Others

We are getting ready to head off to Iowa in a few weeks. It is a twenty three hour trip. That's a long time for a family with six kids, four under the age of seven, to be confined to an automobile...even if it is a comfortable Suburban complete with dvd, cd, and cassette players, and an outlet for computers to plug in to. Since we lived in Florida for four years and traveled sixteen hours to see my family in Virginia several times a year, the children are used to automobile travel, but the last time we did it, Firefly had not been born yet (she was born the day after we arrived...that's another story!) and Boo wasn't even a thought in our minds (though God knew him already!)

I have to admit that I am a little nervous about this trip. I love to drive...I see it as an opportunity to stop running around and REST, and to sit still and listen to sermon or seminar tapes, and to talk with my husband without feeling like there is something else I should be doing. I am, however, conerned about the dynamics of a long ride with all these little ones. Videos will only last so long, and I really don't want the kids to glut on them. Bubba and Tex will not be a problem. They have their iPods and can read most of the way, but the others are too small to read well on their own, and if I know my kids, they will sleep some, but not a lot.

Luckily for me, I was asked by TOS Magazine to review the e-book Travel Kits to review for the Homeschool Crew in the month of July. What a timely gift that was! It is a 91 page book packed with ideas on how to bless your children by preparing well for a long car (plane, train, bus) ride ahead of time.

You might wonder, "What exactly is a Travel Kit?" Here is how the author, Donna Rees, defines one:

 A Travel Kit is a collection of items that will entertain and/or delight the passengers (especially the younger passengers), thus making the trip more pleasant for everyone. The items should be chosen, purchased (or baked, rented, checked out of the library, or crafted), and then wrapped individially, The components of your travel kit should be assembled in an appealing, creative, hardy "container" that will easily fit in your vehicle, within easy reach of the passengers (or Mom's reach, if you have very young children.)

At first glance, when I read the very detailed parts about wrapping, labeling, and packaging items in elaborate ways, I have to admit, I wasn't too keen on the idea. I am barely going to have time to get packed, what with all the preparations I have to do to be gone for two weeks, let alone wrap items for the car ride in a fancy way. I have to find someone to watch the animals, make sure they have adequate provisions, clean the house in case one of our church's young men agrees to stay here and house sit, do all the laundry and FOLD it (ugh) and put it away, choose and pack clothes and toiletries for seven people (Bubba can do his own, Tex and Hubby can help, but are busy, too), and continue to do day to day chores. All that doesn't even include the jams I need to make before we go, the zucchinis still waiting to be made into bread, or the work needed to maintain my website and this blog. I am exhausted just thinking about it...I am thinking, maybe I will just stay home.

But then as I read through the rest of the book, I was reminded of so many things I used to do when we had only Bubba, and maybe Tex, because we traveled more back then. We actually used to pack what this author calls "travel kits" (minus the gift wrapping) and we always had a lot of fun on car trips.

I will never forget when we lived in Florida and had to evacuate because of Hurricane Ivan. My husband was in charge of Emergency Services for the Navy base he was at, so he had to stay behind and that left me driving Bubba, Tex, and a bitty Ladybug to Missouri where I had relatives with a kind neighbor who was not at home and said we could live in her house for a week or two. We had so much fun listening to the book on tape set I had bought a few months before (it was Princess Tales by Gail Carson Levine, the author of Ella Enchanted) that the boys didn't even want to stop for the night. They wanted me to keep on driving so they could keep listening! That one set got us almost all the way to Missouri, and a book called Dragonrider, by Cornelia Funke (the author of the Inkheart series), got us all the way back.

They didn't just have the tape to listen to. They also had lap desks, drawing materials, their own small boxes with Legos, simple games, and snacks. We had some baby toys for Ladybug and had bought a Podee (a nifty bottle with the nipple on the end of a long tube so it can be drunk while sitting upright in a baby seat), and the boys took turns taking care of her. We played games like "I Spy" and "I am Going on a Trip and I am Going to Take a...". And we laughed and laughed and laughed at the silly stories on the tape set until our sides hurt. I think my memories of the trip are almost better than those of the stay, though the stay was absolutely awesome, too.

Being reminded of this by reading theTravel Kits book has now put me into a more excited, anticipatory mood about the drive, instead of one of dread. The book was a good refresher to me for what I need to do ahead of time to prepare for the trip to make it a good one. It was a reminder to not rely on using the dvd player for entertainment, but that the trip itself is part of the memories and that we want them to all be good ones.

So tomorrow I am going to Wally World and I am going to buy some new for each child, and a few lap desks. I am going to search the house for items to fit in each child's box, special for him or her, rather than buying everything (we are on a tight budget). Then, I plan to go to the Dollar Tree and buy a few surprises to add to the boxes just for fun (though I do not plan to wrap them), plus I will pay a visit to the library to find a GREAT set of cds to listen to on the way there. Our church has the complete Story Keepers dvd set and I will probably borrow it next week, for the littler ones to watch when everything else has been exhausted.

I am definitely going to consult the Travel Kits book for a few more ideas on games to play while driving. There was a lengthy list of fun things to do to keep little ones occupied...some I knew (because we have traveled a lot over the years) and some were new to me, or at least new takes on old ideas. There were also many good ideas in there of things to pack for the trip as diversions, such as different arts and craft items, puzzles, and games. Wrapping up the book are a few snack recipes, such as one for granola, a listing of tourism websites for each state, travel tips from other families, and an extensive list of suggested books for taking along to read on your trip.

With the idea of packing travel kits for each child in mind, I decided to do a trial run last week. I took the kids' usual school supplies boxes (they are the size of extra large shoeboxes, but clear plastic) and told each of the younger children to go around their room and choose some toys that they would like to play with for the day. I explained that this would be the ONLY stuff they could use all day...that everything else would be put away. I figured this would be good practice for when we are on the trip and resources are limited. With some help, each child fixed up a box with an assortment of things...a dolly and clothes, Duplos, cars, coloring books and crayons, a favorite story book, plastic bugs and a bug jar, some dress up items and play food. Let me tell you, the kids had a blast playing with just those toys for several days! The house certainly stayed tidier, giving me a chance to do some deeper cleaning, and I enjoyed watching their creativity grow. At the end of the experiment, I thought, "This is really going to work!"

Based on this experience, and my own memories from traveling with my kids in the past, I think that if you plan to travel with your kids this year, at $12.45 from The Old Schoolhouse Store, this instantly downloadable book would be a worthwhile investment to make, if you have not done much traveling or have had difficulty dealing with antsy children on previous trips .

There are also ideas in the e-book for seasoned travelers, like me...sort of a refresher course and a good reminder that all memories are not made in the big moments. Some memories are more subtle, like those made when you all burst out laughing at a funny joke, or when the youngest member of the family trounces the rest at a memory game...or like the one when everybody in the car puts on Groucho Marx glasses and waves at passing cars while holding up a sign that says, "Have a happy day!!" Or when mom and dad start reminiscing and telling the kids stories of when they first met, or of when the kids were little...or when everybody takes turns telling a small part of a silly story that turns ridiculous...or when a big brother and a little brother work together to figure out how to tie new knots...or when two daughters work together to make friendship bracelets for their cousins...or when one is reading a new book, another is drawing a masterpiece, a third is working a sudoku puzzle, the smallest ones are happily snoozing, and mom and dad finally get time to talk.

Kids really do appreciate small things. You will appreciate the satisfaction that comes from making the children happy...AND the quiet and harmony that comes from a bit of advanced planning. So give the Travel Kits e-book a try and look forward to your next road trip with eagerness. 

I especially think that this would also make nice gift for a grandma or friend to buy, for the purpose of putting together travel kits to pass on to the kids in their lives who will be traveling, to save mom the trouble during an already busy time of preparation. I am certain this would bless any travel-harried mom and dad greatly...hint, hint, Mom...just please remember to leave out the noismakers! ;-)

Happy Trails to YOU!!

I received the e-book, Travel Kits--A Simple Way to Bless Others, for free in exchange for my honest review. The review you see here reflects how I used this product, how it benefited my family, and how I feel it might benefit others.

To see what others think about the e-book Travel Kits, click here.


Unknown said...

Hello to a fellow TOS Crew night owl. We made it into the first two spots. LOL! I'm so glad because I really enjoyed visiting your lovely blog. Great pictures! (I love your blue barn!) I *will* be following and visiting again! Blessings, Cara

Denise said...

Enjoyed reading your review! The Travel Kits really are quite fun!

Jen said...

I enjoyed your post. I am also a member of the TOS crew so I thought I'd take some time to jump around to a few blogs and get to know other TOS crew mates.

You have a beautiful family! I grew up on a farm and would love to live on one again. Have a great trip!

Catherine said...

Your review is so full of sweet stories, and I love the pictures.

Heather said...

Thank you all for the encouraging comments! I am having a great time not only trying out all the TOS Crew stuff, but I am finding that blogging is a lot of fun!! I will look forward to visiting your blogs soon (if I haven't already done so). Blessings!

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