Planning a Spanish Adventure

Planning a Spanish Homeschool Adventure

Then

My rucksack was heavy on my back as I knocked tentatively on the door of the Cappucinas hostel in Granada, Spain. I’d spoken with the proprietress on the telephone a few days earlier but my Spanish – self-taught from a BBC book over the preceding few months – wasn’t strong enough for me to be sure whether I’d actually booked a room for the night.

An elderly Señora wearing a white cotton nightgown greeted me with mild surprise. She ushered me in, showed me to a bedroom, and disappeared back to bed. I never did find out whether or not she’d been expecting me.

I was 22 years old. I had £300 saved from my summer job, and a piece of paper certifying that I could teach English as a foreign language. In exactly one year I was due to start work in London as a commercial lawyer. I didn’t know a single person in Spain, and I had no job lined up.

How intrepid we were back in those pre-internet days!

Now

Fast forward 22 years and I’m planning another Spanish adventure. I know from experience that the best way to learn a language is to spend time in a country where it’s spoken, so I’d always planned to take my kids abroad for a few months during their homeschooling years.

In my half-formed imaginings, my children would be teenagers and we’d be spending a long summer in rural France.

But over the last year, as friends have started to talk about their teens sitting exams, it’s dawned on me that instead of waiting, now might be the perfect time to go. And when C(10) expressed an interest in learning Spanish, I realised how much sense it made for her to learn a language I already speak.

We’ll start by going away for a month. My husband (who has to stay home for his work) is very supportive, but I don’t want to abandon him for an entire season. Four weeks is more like an extended holiday – enough time to immerse ourselves in the local culture, and to find out what we might do differently if we ever go for longer.

As for when to go… When you’re homeschooling in the northern hemisphere, what better time to head off for an adventure in sunnier climes than … February?

More on the practicalities of our forthcoming trip below. But first, here’s a glimpse of our first family trip to Spain, earlier this year.

A taste of Spain

Planning a Spanish homeschool adventure
We watched flamenco dancers stamp out passionate rhythms as we dined on tapas of manchego cheese, serrano ham, olives and almonds.

The children visited the Moorish palace, Granada’s Alhambra {the “h” is silent}, for the first time.

Planning a Spanish homeschool adventure
View of the Alhambra from Granada’s old town, the Albaicin

Back in 1992, entrance to the Alhambra was free on Sundays.  I spend many happy days within its intricately decorated walls and wandering through the lush gardens of the Generalife.

Alhambra collage jpg
Inside the Alhambra

 

View from the Alhambra
Views of Granada from the Alhambra

Granada also has a very modern side, as we discovered when we visited its science park.

Planning a Spanish Homeschool Adventure
Granada’s Parque de las Ciencias contains hundreds of indoor and outdoor hands-on exhibits. There’s even a tropical butterfly house.

Down on the Mediterranean coast, we enjoyed afternoon promenades along Nerja’s “balcony of Europe”.

Planning a homeschool Spanish Adventure
El Balcón de Europa, Nerja

And visited the famous Caves of Nerja, which are home to the world’s largest stalagmite, a towering 32 metres high!

Planning a homeschool Spanish Adventure
Las Cuevas de Nerja

 

Planning a month-long trip overseas – Practicalities

1. Where to go

Back in 1992 I chose to spend my gap year in Granada because a fifth of its population were university students. Granada is a beautiful city, but for my long trip with the children I want to go somewhere smaller, ideally on the coast.

While I was in Granada, a uni friend was teaching English 200 miles away in the town of El Puerto de Santa Maria, near Cádiz on the south-west coast of Spain. Granada is situated high up in the Sierra Nevada mountains – which makes for chilly winters. When I visited my friend, I basked in the warmth of El Puerto’s mild December air on my skin, and was entranced by the orange trees lining the pretty streets.

I’m hoping that El Puerto de Santa Maria will be the perfect setting for our February adventure. We’re visiting in a couple of weeks to check it out and to meet the staff at the local language school, a very well-organised outfit I’ve been emailing over the last few months.

3. Spanish and social life

As there won’t be many other non-Spanish children around in February, the language school have agreed to provide private Spanish classes for C(10) and J(9). And while they’re learning, I’ll be brushing up my own Spanish in adult group lessons.

The language school run a full social program which we’ll be welcome to participate in. And as the school also teach English, they’ll arrange for C(10) and J(9) to get together for intercambio with Spanish kids wanting to practise their English.

C(10) has been learning Spanish with me for several months. J(9) hasn’t shown much interest so far, but he’s looking forward to our trip.  Perhaps this kids’  phrasebook will inspire him to learn a few words of Spanish before we go.

Spanish phrase book

4. Homeschooling

The children will be learning heaps simply by being immersed in another culture for five weeks. But with our computers, whiteboards and Ed Zaccaro maths books we should also be able to continue learning in Spain as we do at home.

What we may lack in science and art supplies, I’m sure we’ll make up for in other learning opportunities!

5. How to get there

I know that for many people driving long distances is no big deal, but when you live in a country that’s 847 miles by road from one end to another, 1500 miles it’s a big road trip!

Financially, it would probably work out the same to fly. But when I balanced the cost and hassle of flying us all (including dogs) plus hiring a car for the month, against the convenience of taking our own car (filled to the roof rack, no doubt, with essential stuff, despite my best minimalist intentions), the road trip won.

Google Maps says it’s a 21.5 hour journey, which we’ll spread over 4 days. Here’s our route:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/0749574194/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1634&creative=19450&creativeASIN=0749574194&linkCode=as2&tag=navbyjoy-21&linkId=EU7CQEA3AA4EO7M5
Our route to Spain

We’ll make two overnight stops in France, and one in Spain. And we’ll listen to lots of audiobooks in between!

Then

The year I spent in Spain was one of the best of my life. I become fluent in Spanish, learned to dance Sevillanas (badly) and made friends from over a dozen different countries.

But more than that, creating a whole new life miles away from everyone I knew and loved helped me to grow in ways I could never have anticipated.

I came back so confident that after a few weeks working two jobs, I squeezed in another month travelling around Europe on my own before I began my law career. Perhaps I’ll write about that here one day.

Now

I’m so grateful to my younger self for having that adventure. If it weren’t for her, I probably wouldn’t be contemplating taking my tweens off to Spain now.

I know a month with their mother isn’t quite the same as a year on one’s own, but I’m hoping that the experience will give C(10) and J(9) a taste for adventure in other cultures.

J(9) wants to go to Japan and learn Japanese. That’s just slightly beyond my comfort zone right now, but never say never…!

***

Have you ever made a long road trip with kids?

Any tips for overnight stops in France or Spain?

Got any audiobook recommendations?

***

I’m appreciatively linking up here:

Collage Friday at Homegrown Learners

Weekly Wrap-Up at Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers

Finishing Strong #35 at Education Possible

The Creative Kids Culture Blog Hop at Marie’s Pastiche

History and Geography Meme at All Things Beautiful

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29 thoughts on “Planning a Spanish Adventure

  1. Lucinda~
    Loving it!!
    Great pics, wonderful post!!

    Yes we did take numerous road trips with the kids…..across the USA and really I should put together a post witha few tips. Because, in five summers of travel, camping, hiking, etc…. we have fine tuned many things and I think a few people may pick up a tip or two. I just have not blogged them though.

    Love this. Thank you friend…

    1. Hi Chris – I always love your warm, generous comments – thank you!

      I would love to hear about some of your road trips. I bet you have some great tips to share. I always intend to blog about our travels, but there always seems to be so much to do when we return that I don’t get round to it. I was pleased to have a reason to share our last Spanish trip in this post!

  2. Wow, wow, wow! I wish I could come along too! It will be such an awesome experience for the children and no doubt their Spanish will improve tremendously by the end of your immersion programme. What a fantastic opportunity!

      1. That’s a good idea, Hwee. I have the Kindle version, and I read parts aloud to the children before we went to Spain last time. (The bits about Napoleon’s occupation of the Alhambra are a fascinating insight into Washington Irving’s time!) I will see if I can find an audio version.

    1. You have detected my enthusiasm, Hwee! 🙂

      “Immersion programme” – what a perfect way of putting it. I shall remember that phrase if I ever feel guilty for letting a few other things slip while we are away!

  3. Sounds like so much fun! We do lots of long car trips. Between DVDs on the laptop, audiobooks, and some puzzle books our trips usually go well. I think swim googles are our most often forgotten item.

    1. Well having said that, I am sure you will never forget the swim goggles again, Carol 😉 For us the most important item is probably chargers!

      I think my friends on other continents take long car trips in your stride much more than we do. I think you’re right – a mixture of activities is probably the key to keeping everyone in good spirits.

  4. That’s quite an adventure you have planned. Will you be teaching English while you are there? Several years ago we made a road trip from Germany to the same part of southern Spain as you. We drove for 2 long days there and 2 long days back. Both times we stopped near the France/Spain boarder. (An Icelandic volcano blew up, so our flights were cancelled. Since we were meeting my parents who were already in Madrid at the time, we decided to drive.) Due to the toll roads in France, it would have been slightly cheaper to fly. Anyway………

    I’m really excited for you. As for audio books, check out Just William on Librivox. Also the Tale of Major Monkey and other tales by Arthur Scott Baily.

    Have a great time!

    1. Thank you, Julie! I love the Just William books but I’m not sure we’ve read more than one together. And I haven’t heard of the others so I will definitely check those out.

      I’d forgotten about the toll roads in France. They are a mixed blessing, aren’t they? They do add to the cost of the trip, but on the plus side they are fantastic roads to drive on.

      I think that Icelandic volcano is one of those memorable events that everyone has a story about. Yours is very interesting! My young goddaughter and her five siblings were skiing in Austria when the flights were grounded. My friends would never have planned it, but they all have fantastic memories of travelling home overland, including an impromptu stop in Paris. My own husband was stranded in New York at the time. He’d gone there on business, which worked out well as his company gave him an extra week’s holiday that year to make up for it!

  5. Lucinda,

    You are an adventurous person! I bet your children (and you) are so excited! I admire you greatly. I can’t work up the courage to drive through Sydney let alone drive all the way to Spain. No doubt, you will be grateful to have your car while you are away from home. I’ve just had a thought. You’ll be driving on the ‘wrong’ side of the road in Spain, won’t you? Does that worry you? I bet it doesn’t!

    “Perhaps I’ll write about that here one day.” Please do!

    1. Thank you for your lovely words of encouragement, as usual, Sue. 🙂

      Yes, driving on the “wrong” side of the road is very strange! I once spent three months in Australia, and I loved that the roads and cars were “normal” – although I did have to adjust to kilometres! I must admit I usually leave the driving to James when we are abroad, but I have driven to the north of Spain a couple of times by myself (over several weeks). I know from experience that I will have to be extra careful on roundabouts!

  6. We go on road trips all the time! I love them, find some good audio books to listen to and you’re set.

    I’m so jealous, that’s got to be one of the neatest parts of living in Europe, so many countries and cultures you can drive through and visit.

    1. We just need to remind ourselves to make the most of it! Especially with the kids being at such an easy age to take travelling. You have some pretty amazing places over there, too – I bet the culture changes vastly across even just the US, though perhaps without having to speak the different languages.

    1. Thank you, and for hosting the history & geography meme. One day we hope to do a road trip on your side of the Atlantic. I’ll be asking you all for tips then!

  7. I love your sharing of the adventure. The breakdown makes it look totally possible. I’m planning one for my family to go to Greece. Although, we’ve done 20 days in Hawaii a few years back which was a near impossibility since both my husband and I work outside the home. Luckily our jobs allowed us the flexibility. Since though, my older daughter has gone on several reasonbly priced study abroad trips through her school which she tells me she will forever remember.

    1. If anyone can make your Greece trip happen, Nita, it’s you! We would love to spend more time in Greece, too. We were lucky enough to visit a few islands and Athens this summer. We’d like to go to Corfu next, and back to Kefalonia – so beautiful. Last week at a workshop we met a homeschooling family who are planning to spend a year in Corfu or Kefalonia. We swapped contact details and may meet up with them over there. I love those kind of connections!

      How brilliant that your daughter has been able to take memorable trips through school. My daughter goes away often with her Scout troop. In March she’s going abroad with them for the first time, to Switzerland. She is very excited. I think it’s so valuable for them to have experiences without us as they get older.

      And as for Hawaii … other side of the world from us … but I can dream…! 🙂

  8. I hope to be doing the same thing when my kids are that age! My kids are already bilingual and homeschool, but I plan on taking them to a Spanish speaking country at least once a year. My two are little (5 and 3) and they have already visited Colombia (were I am from), and Panama for three weeks. We are going to Mexico for two weeks in January! We are learning that by being bilingual you get the wonderful opportunity to meet and learn from so many people around the world. I wish to keep them bilingual, and eager to explore other countries. As for an audio book, what about Shawdow of a Bull. It won a Newbery medal here in the US. and it is a very touching story of a Spanish boy (won’t tell you more about it) I used to assigned it to my most advance readers in 4th grade.
    Back to traveling, just this past summer I realized that my kids and I love to go on road trips. I took them to 4 states in September! My husband had to stay, but nothing is holding us back (my husband is very supportive). I plan on taking them to Costa Rica, and/or Spain next year. I hope to hear more about your plans and trips!

    1. Silvana, what a wonderful start in life you are giving your children! I would love to be bilingual, or for my children to have had that chance. Still – my motto is it’s never too late to learn!

      Thank you for the book recommendation. It seems only to be available on cassette here, which wouldn’t work in our car, but I shall check Amazon US. If I don’t find it, we can read it aloud together. And your tip has also led me to “Toro Toro” by Michael Morpurgo, which is available on Audible and will be perfect for our journey!

      You sound as intrepid as me when it comes to taking trips with your kids! Aren’t we lucky with our supportive husbands? I shall be following your adventures on your blog, now that we’ve “met”!

  9. What an amazing adventure to take with your kids. They will learn so much!! Thank you for sharing it at Creative Kids Cultural Blog Hop!! I will be featuring you this month at Crafty Moms Share.

  10. Hai Lucinda,
    nice pics ,good to see your family again , when I saw these I felt i am also in a tour ,thanks for these smiley pics.

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