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Travels with Laurie: Winter

A Home Educator's Travel Guide

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WinterToo cold to go out of doors? Now is the time to give in to a personal interest. As homeschoolers we are gifted with the promise of child-led learning, yet we shouldn't overlook our own interests in the process of guiding our children to theirs. What would you like to make or learn? Take a break from your usual routine and chase away the winter blues! Now would be a great time to pick up an old hobby – or even start a new one. Our Activities and Crafts page has some great ideas.

Winter Field Trips and Road Trips updated

Outdoor Winter Activities: Preventing Winter Burnout
Winter Holidays
Jigsaw Puzzles
Birthday Calendar
Plan your Vacation
See also:
Travels with Laurie: Spring / Summer / Fall

Celebrating the Wonder of Winter February is Black History Month
A New York City Christmas
Holiday Family Field Trips for December 2014
Recommended Road & Field Trips with pre- and post-trip resources
Tips for Traveling with Kids
Armchair Travel – making every trip fun for the whole family

Winter Field Trips and Road Trips

  • The Riverhead Foundation for Marine Research offers two-hour winter harbor cruises out of Freeport, Long Island (about an hour from NYC). In midwinter the gray seal migration is complete, which makes for excellent chances to see one or more. A naturalist is on board to discuss the wildlife. Bundle up for this trip (thereís an outdoor viewing deck and an indoor cabin). This is fun for the whole family.
  • The Lakota Wolf Preserve, in western NJ (about 90 minutes from NYC), offers another kind of wildlife experience, with educators present. Tours are offered when the animals are active, at 10:30am and 3pm (you must arrive 30 minutes early). You can see wolves, foxes and bobcats in a forest preserve.
  • The Stamford Museum and Nature Center in North Stamford, CT (about an hour and fifteen minutes from NYC), has a working farm, maple sugaring house, and easy access hiking trails. Spot winter wildlife outside, and then enjoy an exhibit indoors. In the winter of 2014 they have an indoor Lego train exhibit.
  • Philadelphia is less than two hours from NYC and an amazing destination for history and science. See the Liberty Bell, Independence National Historic Park, Independence Hall, where the Constitution was written and signed, and the hands-on National Constitution Center. Or spend the day in the Franklin Institute, one of the best hands-on science museums youíll ever visit.
  • The Crayola Factory in Easton, PA (about a 90 minute drive from NYC), is a great indoor day trip, colorful enough to help any child beat the winter blues.
  • Want a fun indoor activity that gets you out of the cold weather? Only an hour away from NYC is the Bounce Trampoline Sports Center in Syosset on Long Island, where, for a fee, you can bounce, slide, jump, and shoot baskets, to your heart's delight.

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Maple Sugaring new

The end of winter marks maple sugaring time. This is an industry unique to northeastern North America, home of the sugar maple. This sweet treat was a gift to us from the Native Americans, who taught us how to tap the trees for syrup. Learning about the sugaring process is a lesson in science and social studies.

At home, substitute maple syrup for sugar in recipes during maple sugaring season; make an illustrated recipe book with your own maple recipes; try a taste sample of maple syrup from different sources and rate your favorite; make a stick-and-elastic book using a tree twig and write about the story of tapping the trees for maple syrup.

Related reading for kids:

Outdoor Winter Activities

Sledding Hills in NYC

On special snow days NYC parks provides sleds and hot chocolate at certain sledding locations. If the hill is steep (such as Ewen Park at Riverdale Ave. & 231st St.) check the area for safety. Bales of hay placed in front of park benches and street lamps can prevent serious injuries.

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Skating Rinks in NYC and Nearby

Manhattan / Bronx / Brooklyn / Queens / Staten Island

The Rink at Bryant Park is free, and many others are affordable. Ask for special group rates. Check postings in your homeschooling group for gatherings at Bryant Park and other rinks.


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Staten Island:

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Ski Slopes Near NYC

The closest ski slopes to NYC are in the Poconos in Pennsylvania just across the NJ border, and the Catskills just north of NYC. Local homeschoolers in NYCHEA have created a ski club at Shawnee (so car pooling is possible), and some offer connections to bus services (see below). Many ski resorts have homeschoolers days or groups and you should also ask about special rates for a first-time beginnerís lesson and for off-peak hours like weekday mornings. They offer tubing and snowboarding too!

In New York:

In New Jersey and Pennsylvania:

Bus services that commute to ski slopes:

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Preventing Winter Burn-out

This is the time to try something new! Do it for yourself, and not just for your child! Itís easy to get the blues when you are a hard-working homeschooling parent facing endless daily responsibilities, especially if you are stuck indoors during cold weather. Now is the time to make something new! Learn a new craft (like jewelry-making or origami), start a project (the family scrapbook or a memory quilt); listen to some new music; create something new in the kitchen. Many projects can recycle old materials, like making paper beads, or creating a memory quilt out of old T-shirts. Focus on a small task that gives you pleasure and make something beautiful, just for the fun of it!

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Winter Holidays

All people throughout the world have holidays to help them get through the dark, cold days of winter. We celebrate Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hannukah, Kwanzaa, the Chinese New Year. Each has its history, its traditions, and its deeper meaning. Learning more about each holiday helps people understand each other.

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There are many craft projects that lend themselves to dark winter days. Build a fountain (see Build Fountains for supplies and ideas), make home-made scented candles or soap, preserve your family photos in a collage of your own design. See also Crafts perfect for the winter season

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Jigsaw Puzzles

Putting together a jigsaw puzzle is a great way to spend a day (or several!). And the whole family can help. Whatever your interest, you can find a puzzle to reflect it – art, geography, history, animals, and more.

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Birthday Calendar

You'll never forget a birthday or other anniversary again if you make your own Birthday Calendar. It's just like a regular calendar, but with no days of the week, so it will last for year after year. Personalize it with pictures of the birthday person or pet.

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Plan your Vacation

beach sceneNothing cheers up a cold, dark winter's day like planning your summer vacation. A trip to the beach, or a National Park (did you know that there are several in New York State? A visit to family or friends. A trip to a different country – see our page of resources on other countries, languages, and cultures. Armchair Travel suggests several sources of information.

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