Even the mention of traveling with small children elicits raised eyebrows, and telling people, proudly, we are taking our three very young children to Amsterdam, is no exception. We had been talking for years about going to Holland to see the Tulips in the spring, and early last year we decided that we would finally make it the year that we took it off of the “someday” list of destinations. As we began, eagerly, planning our holiday, I quickly started realizing that a trip to the Van Gogh Museum might be more interesting for the kids if they’d already been introduced to his art, and then from there I began to establish what else and whom else we could learn about to make our trip across the sea more worthwhile for all of us. And so the beginning of our World Schooling was started by dipping our toes into the canals of Amsterdam.
The first lesson when traveling is always an easy one to establish – Geography. We most often refer to this Map book, and I stumbled upon this book about Holland and this book to go along with it. I can’t even tell you how many hours my boys poured themselves over the pictures in this book on Holland, the colors and pictures are so vibrant and my kids were so excited to take our trip to a place they’d never been before because they felt like they’d already seen it. City names, and towns, the countryside filled with cows and canals lining the streets became what my boys dreams were made of in the weeks leading up to our departure. These books are priceless, and I honestly wish that every country had a specific book made about them, just like this set. They’re gems, and I highly recommend you get them before planning a trip to Holland.
Our focus on History had been about Native Americans and the Pilgrims, who so happen to have conveniently made their first pilgrimage away from England to Holland for religious freedom. We read about their lifestyle along the canals in Leiden and how it was so different from their English traditions and heritage that they eventually decided to make another pilgrimage to the New World. We spent some time strolling though Leiden and really talking about how different it must have been for these young english children in this new dutch world.
Obviously the Dutch have contributed so much in the way of art, so that was a no brainer to grab some of their most famous painters and learn about them and study their work. Van Gogh, Rembrandt, and Vermeer were the three we studied beforehand. We read about Rembrandt and his life and how he taught students in the top floor of his home, and then when we toured his house and made it to the attic space they offered an art class for our five year old to take. It’s obviously above his head, but the fact that our then preschooler, was sitting sketching in the very same corner that Rembrandt sketched is the kind of thing that makes my homeschooling heart want to just explode. It’s the type of moment that just reiterates, yeah, he’s getting an awesome experience by attending a school that travels the world. We browsed the Van Gogh museum and my boys, then three and five, were absolutely thrilled to point out paintings that they recognized from our books back at home. The museum is very kid friendly and allows you to pick up a scavenger hunt package at their information desk. This gave the boys an activity while we perused Van Gogh’s art, and reiterated a lot of stories behind his paintings that the kids already knew about. Sadly, Vermeer, has no recorded information about his life, but we admired his art work in extensive detail before we left for The Netherlands.
A trip to Amsterdam wouldn’t be complete without a visit to Anne Frank’s house, and we knew we would be putting that at the top of our list of things to do during our time in the city. I found this book on Anne Frank, which is written at a young child’s level of comprehension. It’s a story, that regardless of how it is written, is devastatingly sad, you don’t lose that with this book, but you also don’t have to explain mass genocide to young children. I wanted Liam, especially, to be familiar with the story of Anne Frank hiding out in this apartment for two years, so when we toured her home he would be able to really comprehend how difficult it was for her to stay hidden in a small space. And it worked, I would find the boys building structures with their legos and they would inform me, “This is Anne’s house, Mommy!” and once we arrived in Holland, nearly everyday the questions of when we would go to her house were asked. The anticipation was priceless, and they were clearly disappointed that the home no longer has any of the furniture that was inside when Anne and her family and friends stayed hidden there, but Liam was overjoyed that her collection of celebrity photos were still decorating her former walls.
Our trips to The Netherlands led us to drive to Belgium, because it’s so close and because Chocolate! Waffles!
We visited Antwerp, Brussels, Bruges and Ghent. We didn’t study anything about their country specifically, instead we just let the kids be in Heaven with an abundance of Chocolate and Waffles. We used our Maps book which has pretty illustrations about what animals, famous people, foods and places come from each country.
It was the perfect first experience for this traveling-world school that we started dreaming up for our kids. We loved, and more importantly our kids loved, everything we did on our vacation. And we would, and will be, most definitely traveling back to The Netherlands. Thanks to our book about Holland, we had a list a mile long about places to see and we didn’t get to all of them. So there is only one way to solve that, we must go back! And as for whether or not Amsterdam is an appropriate place for children to visit, I would say, Yes, I actually can’t think of a place that is child friendlier.
Here are our sources for where we stayed and what books we used for this trip.
We rented a comfortable farm house in the country of Holland, a dreamy townhouse in Bruges, and a converted bathhouse in Amsterdam.
Book on Pilgrims | Pilgrim Stories | (This book, specifically, spends an ample amount of time on the pilgrims time in Leiden)
Books on Artists | Vincent Van Gogh: Sunflowers and Swirly Stars | van Gogh and the Sunflowers | Van Gogh | Vincent’s Colors | Color Your Own Van Gogh Paintings | Rembrandt | Rembrandt and the Boy Who Drew Dogs: A story about Rembrandt van Rijn | Rembrandt | Coloring Book Jan Vermeer | Twenty-Four Johannes Vermeer’s Paintings for Kids |
Book on Anne Frank | A Picture Book of Anne Frank |
And some examples of what we did while abroad!
Anne Franks house | Van Gogh museum | Keukenhof gardens | Artis Zoo | canal tour in Amsterdam and Utrecht | Delft | Rembrandt house | Pancake boat | Grand-Place Brussels | Canal cruise in Bruges | Mini Europe | Madurodam | the canals and windmills in Leiden | De Haar Castle