One of the things I love most about homeschooling is the ability to educate wherever you go, and for us that includes homeschooling at Disney World! Since the girls were tiny we have made an annual trip to the happiest place on earth, and once we started homeschooling it just made sense to use some of our fun vacation time as learning time. Disney World is an amazing place and chock full of learning opportunities for both kids and adults, and many times the kids don’t even realize that we are learning as we go!
Here are some great ways that you can add some fun learning on your next Disney Trip. There are 4 parks: Magic Kingdom, EPCOT, Animal Kingdom and Hollywood Studios, and each park offers it’s own special way to learn!
Homeschool at Disney Animal Kingdom
Animal Kingdom has an amazing program called Wilderness Explorers. It’s modeled after the movie UP, and is free for both kids and adults! The program guides you through the different countries and allows the participants to earn badges as they play along. My girls did this on our last trip and it was amazing the detail that Disney puts into the program. They learned about bugs and beetles, dinosaurs, jungle animals, recycling and conservation – and that was just our first day. The program is designed for *go at your own pace*, which means you can earn all the badges or just your favorites. If you decide to participate you will need to use your time wisely if you also want to ride any of the attractions, but it’s well worth it. You can also bring your badge books home and start again on your next visit. The girls still have their badge books and they are already mapping the badge route for our next Disney World trip!
If you don’t want to participate in the Wilderness Explorers program, there are a ton of learning opportunities all around the park. In many cases Animal Kingdom is a huge zoo and there are plenty of keepers happy to answer all your questions! A quick and easy lesson idea: grab a spiral notebook and have your kids glue a picture of each animal that they want to see on each page. When you get to Animal Kingdom, make sure to have a pencil handy so they can check off the animals and ask the keepers questions. It’s a fun way to record your time in Animal Kingdom, and your kids will be checking off some school time without even knowing it!
Homeschool at Disney EPCOT
Like Animal Kingdom, EPCOT has a fun learning program called KidCOT. It’s a passport program where you can visit all 11 countries at the World Showcase in EPCOT, earn a stamp and make a fun craft project as you go along. We took these blank passport books for the kids last year and it worked out really well, because at each country stop you can chat with someone in their native language, get a stamp for your passport and if you ask nicely they will even write your child’s name in their native language as well. It’s a fantastic way to get some global learning in, and again, it’s so fun the kids don’t even think it’s school.
Outside of the World Showcase, learning opportunities abound! You can study the fish and learn about the ocean at the gigantic aquarium that also houses The Seas with Nemo and friends; you can blast off to space at Mission:Space and learn about G Force and what astronauts feel as they travel. (Note: I have not done this ride and I don’t foresee riding it anytime soon!) In Spaceship Earth you travel back in time and see how things have evolved from Ancient Greece to the Middle Ages to present day. Since we are a Classical Conversations family, my girls love spotting the events from our timeline song! There are so many fun and creative activities for your child to participate in!
Homeschool at Disney Hollywood Studios
There isn’t a dedicated learning program at Hollywood Studios, and this park is definitely geared towards movies so unless you have a movie buff, it might not seem like a great park to add some schooling in, but it you can! When we go to Hollywood Studios, I give the girls the map and they take turns navigating us around the park. (Reading and a directions). For kids 5 and under it’s a great park to have them find shapes, colors and letters; for the older kids it’s a great time to look for the Hidden Mickeys. We’ve done scavenger hunts and BINGO and problem solving. Because this is a park that usually isn’t as crowded, it can be a fun, relaxed day of learning.
Homeschool at Disney The Magic Kingdom
Learning opportunities abound at the Magic Kingdom! Some are ready made programs that are offered by Disney, and some are simple learning tips you can do yourself. The Magic Kingdom is a fantastic park to play BINGO (winner gets Mickey ice cream!), or take a step back in time and sing along with the barbershop quartet. If you have an aspiring photographer, many of the park photographers are happy to share some photo tips. You can get an amazing history lesson from every President of the US, learn about the Liberty Bell and take a cruise on a river boat. On Tom Sawyer Island kids can travel back in time and learn how Tom and Huck lived and played. For the more adventurous, you can learn how pirates lived, visit the Swiss Family Robinson’s Tree house or learn some new dance moves from the Country Bear Jamboree.
There is the Pirate Adventure – Treasure of the Seven Seas, a mini quest with 5 missions that can be completed during your time in the Magic Kingdom. The quest is free to play, you simply need to stop at the Crows Nest in Adventureland to get started! This is a great activity for problem solving and following directions.
For those more interested in magic, check out Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom. You can pick up your map and pack of cards at the Firehouse near the main entrance and get started right away. You are able to get new cards at each visit, and they make great souvenirs!! This is a slightly more intense game than the Pirate Adventure, but the kids are learning problem solving, working together as a team, following directions, solving puzzles and social skills.
We are getting ready to return to Disney for our next vacation, and while I’m looking forward to all the fun that being at Disney World brings, I’m also looking forward to adding some great learning to our vacation!