One Easy Way to Make a Vacation an Education

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"Make a vacation an education" by Abby Watts (CatholicMom.com)

Image credit: By Adam Sherez (2017), Unsplash.com, CC0/PD

Vacation. Time to unplug, relax, reconnect, and learn!

Learn? Ugh. It’s the worst! That’s when parents try to sneak an educational moment into a week that is supposed to be nothing but fun. The nerve! I remember a trip to St. Augustine when I was about 9. I was promised forts. And I was given forts, but with a ridiculous number of placards listing dates and historical events. By the end of that trip my mom threatened to leave me behind if I continued to use the “b-word.”*

Of course, I’ve learned from the pain of my childhood and now that I am a mom, I am planning vacations that have zero educational value doing the exact same thing!

We just unpacked our bags from a trip to Kennedy Space Center. My sons learned about rockets, shuttles, gravity, and astronaut ice cream (We’ll stick to earth desserts, thank you). Science, math, problem solving, and “successful failures”: There were enough lessons for a lifetime. But what makes places like KCS or a fort in St. Augustine so valuable is actually seeing and touching what you’re learning about. The Castillo de San Marcos is 325 years old which sounds like a lot but then you see the cannons, the coquina walls and the cells that held three signers of the Declaration of Independence and the lessons go from imagination to reality.

The space shuttles are huge; Atlantis is 69 tons, 122 feet long. Yeah, that sounds big, but when you are 10 feet away from it … grown men’s eyes are as big a saucers, kids mouths are gaping open and this vessel that I’ve seen on TV and the internet more times than I can count all of a sudden becomes real.

But the tourist attractions aren’t the only places we can get this kind of education. We can learn it in our churches too. This was the second weekend in a row where we were away, so both weekends we did a google search for Catholic churches and ended up in little homes away from home.

Yes, they were different from our regular parish. One was in a strip mall. But at different points during the Mass, my 6 and 7-year-old sons commented to me that, “These are the same things we say,” and “We sing this, but just to a different tune.” They recognized songs. They knew the responses.

No matter how many times I tell my sons we belong to a universal Church, no matter how many times I tell them the Mass is being prayed in the same way by people in another country, it won’t become real until they experience it away from home. These two weekends we’ve been within a two-hour drive, but maybe someday they’ll be away for college or on a mission trip and they’ll find a Saint-so-and-so Catholic Church. It will look different from home, but it will still provide a space where they can join in the prayer that is being said around the world.

The really amazing thing — I have known this truth for a while and the lesson still hits home. I still am amazed by the comfort and peace I find when I spend an hour in Mass even when it’s being spoken in a different language. So, my apologies to 9-year-old Abby. I snuck a little education in this vacation. Don’t be mad. It was better than the forts!

*Boring. C’mom! I was 9!


Copyright Abby Watts 2019

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About Author

Abby Brundage Watts is a mother of two little boys. Since January of 2008 she has hosted The Big, Big House Morning Show on Spirit FM 90.5, the radio ministry of the Catholic Diocese of St. Petersburg in Florida. The show mixes inspiration, humor and family fun (and great music of course)! You can hear Abby every weekday 6-10am, EST and online at www.myspiritfm.com. She also is the co-creator of the podcast, Perhaps This Is the Moment. You can find it on all the podcast platforms.

3 Comments

  1. Love this! Sending to my daughter because in October we are going to Mexico and her 10, 9, and 6 year olds will have the same experience at Mass hearing it all in Spanish rather than English, but they will recognize the universality of the Holy Mass in another country! Thank you!!!

  2. Great post! Good insights and shared lessons learned. I travel a lot and use https://masstimes.org/ to find a Mass close to where I’ll be. It’s been really interesting to just pop into Masses and find out quickly that I’m not a stranger, but family.

    My favorite ever (real quick I promise) during Hurricane Harvey, I was in Jefferson Texas and found a beautiful old restored church. After singing along this little old lady walked up to me and asked me where I was from, told me I sing beautifully. She wanted to know if I wanted to join the choir, walked me over to coffee and donuts, introduced me to the pastor, etc.

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