Tasing Our Way Around the World: Epcot’s Food & Wine Fest


Disney is one of our major educational resources. We live roughly 80 miles from Orlando, which makes the theme-parks an easy day-trip for us. As Florida residents, we utilize the annual pass deals – the weekday select pass is great for homeschoolers who can visit on weekdays and avoid the chaos that is weekends and holidays – and go frequently to the parks. One of our favorite time to visit Epcot is during the food & wine festival that runs from August 30th to November 12th, 2018. Both of my boys are super-foodies. They attend a local youth culinary school weekly as one of the learning activities (post on that to come!) and they are devout Gordon Ramsey followers. It may be my fault, I was in the food & beverage industry from age sixteen to twenty-four, working in high-end restaurants on Palm Beach Island. I also do a lot of food writing on the side. I have two passions: writing and food. The food part, I’ve seemed to have passed on to the boys – the writing part, not so much…

Epcot Food Wine Festival1104We love to travel around the World Showcase and sample foods from all the places we hope to visit one day. During the Food & Wine Festival, Epcot opens more than twenty specialty food kiosks that offer samples of food from around the world and more. Each food sample ranges in price from $4 to $10 (approximately) which allows you to taste many different foods for a nominal fee.

Not only do we get exposed to the rich pallet of tastes and smells from all over this planet, we get to learn about the history and socio-cultural facets each food carries. Disney offers many ways to learn about the history and culture of each “land” you visit. You can watch a movie about the different provinces of China, Canada, and France on 360-degree screens. You can explore ancient Mayan relics in Mexico and explore a epcot-food-wine-festival 3revolving exhibit in Japan. Most countries offer some type of educational video, ride, or exhibit to help expand your learning beyond the “plate”.

The Food & Wine Festival also offers many culinary experiences such as cooking demos and educational lectures. Though most required an additional fee, there are some offered for free. Last year, we were able to watch a pancake art demo with “Dan Cakes” the YouTube Sensation. I even got my face re-created as a pancake!

pancake face

My Face as a pancake, by Dan Cakes!

The tips below are to help you turn your Food & wine visit into a fun, tasty, and educational experience the whole family can enjoy.

  • Plan Ahead: You can view the different menus and culinary demos and lectures before you go. This makes it easy to plan your day. I cannot stress it enough – detailed planning makes Disney fun.
  • Do some advanced learning: get some book and watch some shows in the countries you plan to sample, it will make the foods you try even more meaningful!
  • Stop by The Festival Center when you Arrive: Stop by the festival center before doing anything else. Pick up some passports to log your sampling – it’s a fun and free way to make the day meaningful, all of us in the Pearsall clan enjoy it. Check out the stalls in the center and chat with the festival experts to make the most of your day.


    my favorite: the lobster roll!

  • Share your samples: Usually, the three of share 1 sample so we can maximize our tasting. We divide each sample into 3 parts and taste. This way, we don’t fill up too fast.
  • Take time to explore each country: Learning about the background of each food is part of the fun, take your samples and stroll through the streets of each country.
  • Drink water: Don’t spend money on expensive drinks. Disney will give you free cups of water on request at any counter-service restaurant. Bring a water bottle and fill up at the fountains. You can easily save $50+ per visit -which is more money for tasty samples!

food nd wine 4


Making Roadschooling Work for Us

road trip

Adventure is in Our Blood

The boys and I love to travel. we jump at the chance to get in the car and hit the road be it a day or months at a time. As soon after we began homeschooling six years ago, I got interested in the philosophy and lifestyle of “road-schooling” – what we homeschoolers affectionately call learning while traveling. There is even the bigger idea of “world-schooling” where families travel the world learning, sometimes for years on end. Both

plimouth plantation

Plimouth Plantation

ideas make me thrill inside. My grandmother was a hard woman, but one gift she bestowed on me was the love of travel. Ever since I was a young girl, exploring the world has been a top priority. Now, I’ve passed my obsession onto my kids.

Roadschooling is Whatever You Make It

I admit I get a bit envious when I read the blogs about families selling their homes and traveling full-time for years and years in RVs, Sailboats -house swapping, and pet-sitting around the globe. For us, that just isn’t doable. As a college instructor, my schedule is pretty flexible, but I still teach face-to-face classes on campus. And I feel it’s important for my boys to have a home base through their teen years to help give them a sense of community. Road-schooling for us simply means an extension of our unschooling mindset – we travel with the intent to learn. Even day-trips to Disney World (which is a convenient 80 miles from our home) become a road-schooling opportunity. I joined a Facebook page dedicated to using the parks as an educational tool. Now, when we hop over to the Magic Kingdom, there is some tidbit of learning to add to our day.

Our biggest undertaking was this past summer. We spent three weeks on the road exploring New England. It was the longest trip we had ever taken in the car and it was a success. It took me a year to plan out every detail, but planning became part of the fun


Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream Factory!

and a great learning experience. Each stop had fun and educational things to do. Even my thirteen-year-old, who has autism, enjoyed the whole experience. We also learned a lot about traveling for an extended period of time, which will come in handy as I begin planning next summer’s adventure: 4 weeks out west to see the big national parks. My next several posts will focus on specific destinations we stopped at and what we took away from the experience, educationally and travel-wise.

The bug has bitten us hard. Four weeks out west next May and June. Then, our goal is two months in Europe in 2021. Learning out in the world transforms the abstract passages in a textbook into something tangible and real.

Tips to Help You Road-school

  • You don’t need an RV to road-school: I am not a fan of the lumbering leviathans of the road for a myriad of reasons. I crunched some numbers, and to travel in a car and stay at safe, clean, modest travel lodges VS the upkeep of an RV – they both come out equalling about the same money. Yes, you heard me, buying an RV saves you no money. It comes down to preference. If you want all your own stuff with you and to sleep in your own bed, maybe an RV is for you. If you like being able to have a bit more freedom, you might be a car person. Don’t let the fact you can buy an RV keep you from traveling/road-tripping.
  • Plan Early: I start about a year before we plan to leave for big trips. This helps me figure out how much it will cost and I can then save money each week towards the trip. Use sites like Expedia, HomeAway, and Airbnb to help you find affordable places to stay. Research area learning experience and how much the costs. I’ve also had lots of luck using Groupon for discounted admissions to many museums we plan to visit. My motto is to never pay full price. Check the city-pass option in most major cities too. Make a list of accommodations, attractions, and eateries with addresses, phone numbers, and prices so you can compare as you research.
  • Find Creative Ways to Pay for It: I babysit on the side. I have yard sales through the year. I teach online in the summers so we can travel but I still have money coming in. I save a little each week and put it into a special savings account. I put all my weekly shopping on a rewards credit card and pay it off each week, but reap the rewards cash and put that in the savings. The biggest way we save for travel is by abandoning the idea of giving things as gifts for holidays and special occasions. Now, we save that money and put it towards a trip. In upcoming posts, I will go into more details about how I make it fiscally possible to be on the road for three or more weeks at a time.
Sleeping Bear Dunes

Made it to the top of Sleeping Bear Dunes!

Happy “Not-Back-To-School” Day!

Tomorrow we return to our more structured learning mode. Though we view education as a year-round pursuit and believe in the philosophy of unschooling as our preferred learning mode, we still experience different “seasons” of learning throughout our year. We have been road-schooling since the beginning of June, traveling around New England and then spending the remainder of July and early August at an arts camp in Northwestern Michigan, where I teach creative writing and my boys attend camp (posts about our summer of road-schooling and camp are coming soon!).

For the five years we have been homeschooling, we have taken a near-pure unschooling approach: letting our boys chose what they learn, abandoning any form of traditional learning such as curricula, textbooks, and the dread worksheets, and using mostly real-world experiences to learn. Our house has lax bed, screen, and tech times.  We have HSpic 1spent most our time outside of the house – one reason we shy away from using the word “homeschool” – taking various classes at libraries, community centers, and parks. As a result, I have two bright, curious, and happy boys sailing into the puberty and the teenage years.

Tomorrow marks a shift for us, though I believe the shift stays true to the unschooling philosophy of child-led learning. The boys will enter their middle school years and they have requested more rigor and structure to their learning. So we are introducing some more traditional elements this year such as IEW for writing and a couple online course through the state online education system. Our one learning tool that resembles a real curriculum, Life of Fred, is being replaced with CTC Math. It’s overwhelming, it’s exciting, the boys and I are all holding our breaths.

As with everything we have ever tried, we see this as a new era of trial and error. I go into these new years of more structure understanding that we will navigate them just as we have in the past five years, with open minds and an understanding that we are simply seeking the right fit, the best way to learn the things we seek to learn. And if I’ve learned anything so far, it’s that you have to okay with things not working, plans not going as envisioned. So even though we are adding some new elements I still feel we are embracing the “not-back-to-school” mindset for the word “school” carries with it the connotation of “rigid structure”, an adherence to a set plan, no matter if it fails or succeeds. Unschooling is a deviation from that standard where learning- however it happens- is the goal.

So we welcome our new learning season. Not back to school, but a new adventure with much to discover.

Welcome to “WanderLearning”!

Welcome to my new blog, “Wanderlearning”. You may be wondering what this blog is all about and what does the name mean. The term, “wanderlust” is defined as a strong desire to travel. And being that our family “unschools” and we enjoy learning through travel and exploration of the world, I put the two words together and so was born this site.  Image result for unschooling

In this first post, I thought I’d introduce why we decided to homeschool our two boys and how we ended up as “Unschoolers” – which is a whole post in and of itself. Five years ago we decided to pull my oldest son out of school six weeks before the end of his second-grade year. To the outside onlooker, it may have seemed a rash decision, but it had been a long time coming. My son has autism and though he is verbal, he didn’t really talk until he was five years old which means he began kindergarten hardly able to talk. We tried two different schools, first a charter school with a high rating, but they didn’t want to help him and since they were a small school, didn’t have the resources he needed. They also weren’t shy about letting us know they didn’t want their high rating tarnished by kids they couldn’t help, so we moved him to an “ASD cluster” school which was designated a school with special resources for kids with autism.

He began at the new school in his second-grade year and we felt revealed to have a team of PTs and OTs and STs to help us find the best way to teach him. And for a while, it seemed he was doing well. Then he began to cry and beg not to go to school. He would throw up each morning before class, so full of anxiety and fear. Since he had a hard time articulating why he was so upset and didn’t want to go to school, it took a while for us to figure out the reasons. We learned that the school, being four times, the size of his previous charter school was too overwhelming for him. He was paralyzed by the loud cafeteria and car loop pick-up line. The thousands of kids screaming and laughing all around was a nightmare for him. We had found a good school for him, but we realized school was not a good fit.

I had wanted to homeschool since the day he was born. Maybe even before then. I did not have a good experience as a public school student. Only third grade comes to mind as a pleasant year. I was bored most of the time and rather than seeing my lack of interest as a trait of giftedness, I was seen as below-average and treated as so. It was not until college that I took an IQ test for a leadership class and discovered my score was well above average. I had been the product of a broken system that was too poor and too under-staffed to help kids like me.

I could see my son going down a similar path, and I could not bear to repeat history. So I pulled him out of second grade and brought him home without any plan or any prep, just the hazy idea of what homeschool meant. For the next year, we would practice, unknowingly, what we come to learn as “de-schooling. We played together and healed from the trauma of 3 years in the public school system. We did nothing that resembled formal education like worksheets or textbooks. We went to a lot of museums and parks, watched a ton of fun and educational shows, we laughed a lot along the way. And an amazing thing happened, he began to bloom. He even began to talk more and he began to love to learn new things.

That is where our unschooling journey began. Now, both my sons are home to learn. Our approach to learning is all about experiences be it through travel or simply a visit to the local park. This blog will chronicle our journey in child-led learning as we enter the middle years and beyond.

Up Next on WanderLearning: “Roadschooling Summer Trip 2018: Charleston, SC”

Thank you for joining us on this adventure!