“Roadschooling” Around Flagstaff, Arizona

I have dreams of being a “roadschooling” family, hopping in an RV and flitting around the country educating our children as we visit amazing places.  Alas, my husband’s job (which, thankfully, he loves) isn’t the kind that can be done remotely, so the chances of us becoming full-time roadschoolers are pretty slim.

We do the best we can, however, to take advantage of learning opportunities whenever we do manage to get away, and we recently had one of my favorite trips ever.  We were headed to Flagstaff, Arizona for a car show in which my husband’s family was participating, and we decided to take a few extra days to explore the area.  Thanks to our 4th grader, we even got into the National Parks for free!  Here are some of the places we visited during our week in Flagstaff.

Grand Canyon National Park

The one thing we knew we wanted to do as soon as we started planning this trip was visiting the Grand Canyon.  I actually decided to spend our whole year studying geology just because I knew we’d want to know what we were seeing.

So much of the information out there about the Grand Canyon tries to explain its formation from a secular worldview, and I knew that as we walked through the park, the information being thrown at the kids would similarly attempt to discuss its history without considering the Bible’s account of the early years of the earth and the catastrophic impact of the Flood of Noah’s day.  Therefore we spent some time as a family learning about what scientists with a biblical worldview say about the history of the Grand Canyon.

Here are some of the resources we used before and during our trip.

Preparation:

My husband and I also watched a few videos on our own so we could be prepared to answer some of the kids questions.  (Older kids could learn a lot from these, but I don’t think my kids could sit through them very well yet.)

Our visit

We decided to add a little extra fun to this excursion by taking the train. Grand Canyon Railway takes you 60 miles from the town of Williams (about 35 miles from Flagstaff) to the South Rim of the canyon.  The scheduled departure for the return trip left us about three and half hours to explore.  I would have liked more on my own, but that was just about the perfect amount of time for my kids.

We walked along the rim enjoying the scenic views, ate lunch at one of the lodges, then enjoyed the Native American dance presentation at Hopi House before heading back.

       

Slide Rock State Park

Okay, so this was more about fun, but the drive down to Sedona and this whole area has some amazing geological features as well.  We were there at the end of September, so the crowds were less than what I’ve heard it can be in the summer.  The water was still really cold, but we had a great time!

Meteor Crater and Petrified Forest National Park

East of Flagstaff are two great educational spots to visit.  Meteor Crater has a great visitor center to learn more about meteors in general and this site in particular.

Nearby, the Painted Desert in Petrified Forest National Park is like no place I’ve ever been.  It was unbelievable beautiful, and the kids could tell right away that the area was formed by volcanic activity.

Preparation:

  • Awesome Science: Explore Meteor Crater and Petrified Forest National Park (streaming or DVD)
  • study meteorites

Our visit

We did both of these in one day, but we probably could have spent the whole day driving around Petrified Forest National Park and spending time in the visitor centers.  There were several places you could stop and get out to walk around and see the petrified logs.

Montezuma Castle National Park

That 4th Grader’s National Park Pass came in handy again on the day we went to see some of the Native American ruins down south of Sedona at Montezuma Castle National Park.  The museum and trail signs gave a lot of information about the people who once lived here.  There’s also a second location that is a part of this park (Montezuma Well), but we had some little ones ready for a nap and decided to head back up to Flagstaff without stopping for that.

Walnut Canyon National Park

My husband took the older boys off to explore more Native American ruins one day while the little ones and I stayed home.  After hearing his report, I’m glad we did since he said there were a lot of stairs that wouldn’t have been fun babies to wear or carry.  I’m glad they got to go, and this site was special because they were actually able to go into some of the ruins.

Lowell Observatory

Our trip to the Lowell Observatory one evening was the highlight of the trip for Arianna. It was my first time visiting an observatory at night, and we loved getting to look through some of their enormous telescopes to see things like the rings of Saturn, as well as listening to a presentation about the constellations visible at that time.

This is the place where Pluto was first discovered!  There is a whole room about it, which the older kids and adults found fascinating.  There is also a fabulous “SpaceGuard Academy” exhibit for kids that was a major hit with our family.  We were literally the last ones to leave the observatory when they closed that night because my children wanted to stay in that exhibit longer.

Superstition Mountain Museum

Okay, so our final stop for the week was not exactly near Flagstaff, but Ian was begging to go, so we made a little detour on the way home to visit Superstition Mountain, which is east of Phoenix.  One of his favorite books is Missing on Superstition Mountain by Elise Broach.  He has checked the audiobook out from our library multiple times, and he liked it so much he was even willing to read the second book in the series since there was no audio version available.

This little town has a fascinating history, and Ian was astounded as we went through the museum and he realized how much of those books was based on true events and real people who have lived there.  Our whole family enjoyed walking around the museum area, and I bought all three books in that series for our family library as a souvenir.  Someday I hope we can go back and spend a day on the Apache Trail, which is supposed to be a beautiful scenic drive.

And that was our week of roadschooling around Flagstaff.  If you’ve visited other great sites around Flagstaff, please share in the comments!

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