Alaska Homeschool Cruise
Education on the Sea

Our trip to this vast wilderness was to be by sea.   We cruised southbound on
the Island Princess and took the inside passage sailing from Whitter, then to
College Fjord to view glaciers.  Next was Glacier Bay National Park, where we
spent the day viewing the Margerie, Grand Pacific Glacier and Johns Hopkins
Glacier.  Our next 3 days were moving from port to port, ending our voyage in
Vancouver, Canada, cruising a distance of 1633 nautical miles.

The glaciers calving and monstrous, living rivers of ice were best seen by
sea.  We entered into the glacier bays, and the cruise ship would do a very
slow 360 degree turn-around.  A national park ranger gave a talk over the loud
speaker educating us about the glaciers and surrounding sea life.  It was serene
and peaceful.  We were lucky to witness several calvings. This is the process of
ice  breaking from the face of the glacier meeting the sea.  The sound is a
cracking, then followed by a roar with a resulting plunge into the bay, breaking
the serenity of the moment. The Tlingit people call it "White Thunder".  It's
spectacular!

In Skagway, Juneau and Ketchikan we spent the day exploring and would
board the ship in the evening.  The many choices of activities are limited only by
time and finances.  Shore excursions exist  for every pocket book, or just
take a map and explore, as the shore excursions can take much of the day.  
With so much to see and learn about, the best advice is to research your port
cities before going, so you can make the best use of your time.

From a homeschooler's perspective there are several options for
"edutainment".  Our philosophy is to try to learn  while enjoying ourselves and
that was easy on this trip.  We focused  on general history of Alaska and the
push for gold in establishing many of these towns.  We read several books,
fiction and nonfiction in anticipation of the trip. The time waiting and
anticipating a trip like this is a wonderful motivator to learn.  On the cruise,
there were age specific activities for the children with science incorporated by
the California Science Center.  We also participated in a Junior Ranger
Program. The children completed a series of activities, and then  were
"inducted" as junior park rangers. Link to www.nps.gov  and search for junior
ranger program.  Island Princess also had Onboard Naturalists and Park
Rangers visit the children's classes.

Books read in anticipation of trip - "The Happy Holisters and the Mystery of the
Totem Faces", "The Bite of the Gold Bug" by Barthe Declements, "Artic Lights
Arctic Nights" by Debbie S. Miller( this is a simple book about the time
changes), audio book "Julie of the Wolves" by Jean Craighead George.

Ship Education: forward, aft, starboard, port, embark, disembark, sextant; also
go to at least one formal dinner night to practice manners in a formal situation.
Historical significance:  Steamship S.S. Excelsior arrived in San Francisco on
July 14th, 1897; Klondike gold rush; Alaska gold rushes-1897-1904, Alaska
acquired from Russia in 1867.
                                             
Here's what homeschool student, Sarah (age 11) wrote about the trip:

"Our trip began at the Houston airport.  The airport was huge, and it took us a
long time to board our plane.  We took our seats and when everyone was on
board the engines roared, then we were in the air.  The flight from Texas to
Alaska was seven hours long. We landed in Anchorage, Alaska and then got on
a bus that took us to Whitter.  While we were on the bus, we saw moose
happily eating by the road.  We also saw eagles that looked like little black and
white spots in the sky.

While waiting in line, I got to see the true size of the ship.  I believe
that was the biggest ship I have ever laid  eyes on!  A few days later we saw
a glacier calving.  While we visited Alaska we went to Skagway, Juneau, and
Ketchikan, Alaska.  In  Skagway we panned for gold like pioneers.  In Juneau
we went whale watching for humpback whales.  Our grandparents took us on
a Ketchikan dogsled tour.  All the dogs were huskies and one dog had puppies.
The big puffs of fur were funny little things.  Back on the ship we saw sea
otters swimming and eagles soaring majestically overhead.

Our lovely cruise is at  an end.  We boarded a bus in Vancouver, Canada.  
When we stopped we were at an airport.  This airport was not much different
than the Houston airport.  They both were like huge malls with air crafts.  The
airports were loud with people talking and people on loudspeakers calling out
numbers. Then our number was called out and we boarded the plane.  We flew
four hours home.  The Alaskan trip was one wonderful week.  One week I'll
never forget."

This article was written by Susan Richie.
Homeschool Travel Resource