Around the World in 12 Weeks (Summer 2020)

Feeling trapped or sapped? Why not travel by map? Here’s a homeschool idea you might enjoy.

travel by map

I’ve been getting that familiar feeling of wanderlust. Take Two has been sitting for almost a year now, tethered to a mooring in the Florida Keys. We’ve used the time to visit family, catch up with old friends, build the cruising kitty back up, get our big kids more independent (driving, working, going to college classes, and planning for the future). While I recognize that this is what we came back from traveling to do, I miss the change of scenery and sense of adventure. With COVID-19, I haven’t even been able to satisfy the itch by taking road trips (the Keys were closed and I wasn’t sure if I could get past the road block to get back in.)

So I’m combating that stuck-in-a-rut feeling by upping my homeschool game. If we can’t travel for real, why not travel in our imaginations? I’ve had these two books on the shelf since I was a public school teacher, and haven’t used them since the older kids were in elementary school. So I asked Rachel what she thought of “a trip around the world,” and she was game.

A Trip Around the World

We had just finished a Life of Fred math book, the last Adventures In Phonics spelling list, a chemistry curriculum, and world history up to the American Revolution. It felt like time for a break. So we looked at the world map, picked 12 countries, and set a course for a summer’s worth of geography-based learning. We invited a friend to “come along,” made up two notebooks full of maps, flags, and language lessons, created a global passport, and collected our first “stamp” on June 1.

Notebook and Passport

We have already “traveled” to Brazil and Kenya. While there’s been some push-back about the required journal entries, I’ve heard no complaints about coloring pages, virtual tours, or new recipes. The documentaries/movies we’ve found have been wonderful windows into places we’ve never visited in person.  I’m pleased to see the connections we’re already making between countries we chose at random, like the comparison between big cats (jaguars of the Amazon vs. leopards of the savannah), or the Portuguese exploration of both the East African and South American coasts.

Leopard journal entry

Last weekend, we made a Brazilian chicken pie, Empadão de Frango, and the traditional bite-size chocolate desserts, Brigadeiros, and enjoyed both while watching the 2016 film directed by Jeff and Michael Zimbalist, Pelé: the Birth of a Legend. (Spoiler alert: Pelé himself makes a cameo appearance!)


Many recipes from around the world can be found online (I especially like those from the “Global Table Adventure” blog by Sasha Martin, author of Life from Scratch: A Memoir of Food, Family, and Forgiveness) and in a cookbook from my shelf, Around the World in 450 Recipes by Sarah Ainley.

We break down our “travel” week like this:

  • Monday: Watch introductory video (like Paul Barbato’s Geography Now or Expoza Travel on YouTube) while eating “airplane snacks.” Stamp passport. Color flag. Label map.
  • Tuesday: Begin Duolingo language lessons/notebook language activities. Take a virtual tour of landmark(s). Color a page from Around the World in 50 Pages, illustratedby Hasby Mubarok. Write five facts about the country in travel journal.
Around the World Coloring Book
  • Wednesday: Language lesson on Duolingo. Watch a natural history video (by BBC or National Geographic). Choose an animal to write about in travel journal.
  • Thursday: Language lesson on Duolingo. Watch a video on history of the country. Choose a person from that country and do a short biography.
Pele journal entry
  • Friday: Read a folktale, listen to music, or do an art project or craft.  
  • Weekend: Dinner and a movie! Find a family-friendly movie made in or about your country and cook a meal using authentic recipes.

So far, the geography studies have given fresh life to our homeschool, and by virtue of family movie night and international cuisine, the whole family is along for the ride.