Call this mashing in vegetables with the foods your kids want to eat. But our Global Correspondent Paul J. Heney, a gay father of two, devised a strategy to blend fun travel and useful scouting. In his words:
I’m all about having fun on family vacations, but, as most parents do, I also like to throw in some educational things when I can. All the better if the kids don’t quite realize they’re learning something. Whether it’s a somber visit to the Pearl Harbor Memorial or a lighthearted stop at a science museum, my kids generally go along with it, and we all get a lot out of the experience.
My older son, Josh, is now 12, and while college is still quite a few years off for him, I’ve begun to key him in to the idea that you can’t ever begin too early with looking at campuses and considering options. And what better way than by visiting some unexpected universities while on vacation?
I was very much of the mindset that I wanted to go away to college and experience a different part of the country for four (ahem, five!) years. I loved where I grew up, but I wanted to try something different. Think about it–college is a sort of unique opportunity in your life where you can choose an all-new and relatively temporary place to live. So I traded the cold Midwest winters for the fun of Atlanta and the very different cultural issues of the South–and I wouldn’t have traded it for anything.
I’ve long appreciated and been intrigued by college campuses, and so I have gone to visit assorted universities when I’ve had extra time on a business trip. I love to walk the quad, visit the bookstore and student center, get the vibe for the place. My closet has sweatshirts from Colorado, Ohio University, Berkeley, and other places that I have no connection to–other than at I’ve been there to experience it.
On our summer vacation to Montana, Idaho and Washington this year, I made sure we stopped by two universities we were near: The University of Montana in Missoula, and Gonzaga in Spokane, Washington. While I don’t imagine that either will be on Josh’s short list, who’s to say? And some day when he’s looking seriously at Ohio State or Georgetown (or wherever), he’ll have a better sense than most kids what a campus is, what it should feel like, what amenities there are, how far the dorms are from the classrooms, what the conditions of the buildings are, etc.
At Gonzaga, he connected with the fact that the school mascot is a bulldog–the same as in our city school system. I bought Josh and his younger brother Gonzaga shirts with bulldogs as mementos of our trip and our visit. Plus, as the boys get into watching sports on TV more and more, I can now point out, say, how Gonzaga is doing in the March Madness tournament and remind the boys of the small connection they now have with the school.
And I figure, heck, if I can convince either of them to attend the University of Hawaii one day, what a side bonus for parental campus visits that will be!