Learning Through Vacation


There’s a lot more to vacation that just fun and games.

What comes to mind when you think of a family vacation? Long road trips? Fun adventures? Sibling arguments? Crazy car games? Well these are all bound to be included in a Cookson Family Vacation. Every year, houseparents are given the opportunity to take their entire family on a vacation. For the Kelly family, it was a “staycation” this year. They slept in their own beds at night, but their days were packed full of activities.

The planning started months ago…with the entire family. The Kelly’s asked their kids to come up with ideas of fun things to do and then gradually narrowed down the options. Next they involved their kids in budgeting. They even had their kids vote on how much of their normal “recreation funds” they should designate for their family vacation. Then they broke down their funds by each activity and showed their kids how to organize it. What a neat teaching opportunity!

The vacation week finally arrived. Their agenda included Silver Dollar City amusement park, Incredible Pizza (go-karts, laser tag, trampoline park), canoeing, disc golfing, skeet shooting, roller skating, a few restaurants, and paintballing. The definite highlight was paintballing. And the girls team proudly finished in first!

While the activities were a lot of fun, family vacations are more than just entertainment. The Kelly’s intentionally tried to make it a time of bonding. All the kids participated in designing custom family vacation t-shirts before the trip. This created a sense of closeness together (and also helped in keeping track of 10 kids!). The Kelly’s pre-planned various car games and activities to make their time on the road more enjoyable.

But as all families know, relationships can be tough. Towards the end of their trip, there were some sharp disagreements between their kids. The Kelly’s knew they needed to intervene to create a better atmosphere.  So they had a brief halt in the fun and games. The Kelly’s explained to their kids that they needed to learn how to work together before they could continue to play together. They called for a family yard project that morning and explained that each kid would need to fully participate in order to earn back their vacation activities. Benita Kelly recalls, “The kids knew we would follow through. They knew that if they didn’t work alongside us, then we would find somewhere else for them to go while we took everyone else to paintball that afternoon.” And the results? Every kid showed up for work…even early! They worked the entire morning without a single complaint. And that afternoon proved to be the most fun of all! On the trip home, the van was filled with laughter and games.

Sometimes the greatest learning comes out of times of hardship.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR — Christine Spading, Storytelling Group Associate, is from Minneapolis, Minnesota and enjoys hiking, playing with her kids, chai tea, and dark chocolate.