May 3, 2017
Many people have inquired as to how I school the two boys while traveling. I have homeschooled my boys since they were born, so the transition has been fairly smooth to road schooling. However, the schedule on the road has become more challenging.
When I first thought of homeschooling, I felt overwhelmed at the responsibility and how to begin. Do I do enough of each subject with the boys? What papers do I file with the government? I knew I would be set once I tackled those mountains.
Taking one day at a time, I easily say I really started homeschooling as soon as my children were born. I encouraged play with various developmental toys. I only placed one or two toys in front of the child at a time. They were either content with the one toy, or none at all. Early on I learned that adding the number of toys to the mix never helped occupy them. On the other hand, small amounts of toys helped increase their attention span. I also spent many hours reading to them. They loved the snuggly story time I shared with them every day. This developed their interest in books, learning, and reading. The boys begged for our history and science time as it was still story time to them when they started school.
Jumping ahead, once the boys started school officially, I complied with the requirements set out by the State of Minnesota. I notified the state every year with my intent to homeschool and let them know which standardized test the boys will take. I do not have to report the results of the tests nor any grades to the school district. These type of requirements do vary by state, so verify the requirements with a homeschool advocacy group like Minnesota Association of Christian Home Educators (MACHE) or the Homeschool Legal Defense Association (HSLDA).
Once the legal stuff was taken care of, I turned my attention to the curriculum. So much curriculum existed, but a wise mentor warned that “less is more”. Many beginners make the mistake of buying too much curriculum and feel overwhelmed that everything was not getting done. Curriculums are specially designed for the various learning and teaching styles. Some are more compatible with larger families versus smaller families. If something does not work well, look around for something better suited to your needs. Hepper’s Homeschool Legacy (www.legacyhomeschool.com) is a nearby curriculum store that has helped me in Minnesota. Many curriculums are also available on-line such as Bob Jones, Rod and Staff, Heart of Dakota, My Father’s World, Apologia, etc. If the budget also demands, many used curriculum sites and fairs are available as well.
All of the above information was applicable to anyone considering homeschooling, however, we took this to the next level by taking the school on the road. This change affected the curriculum, testing, and daily schedule.
Because we were on the other side of the United States for several months at a time, we had to become a bit more organized in regard to curriculum. While it was possible to order ahead and have whatever shipped to the next location it did not fit our traveling style. Most of the time we figured out the next place the night before and only stayed in one spot for a few days. Also, the English curriculum required the use of many classical books. I found most of the books through an on-line library. Other books required a long day or two at some local library to read and answer the questions. Traveling with a fifth wheel, weight was a serious consideration. With that in mind, we found video textbooks and curriculum for both math and science. Science experiments were more doable than what I had first thought. Some required a quick Walmart run for some supplies, but we pretty much had what we needed on hand already.
While I still had a set curriculum for the core classes, I took a hands-on approach to history, some science, fine arts, and physical education. We learned so much through the various local museums, national parks and monuments. We also took advantage of the Junior Ranger programs at the various national parks for my youngest. Some of the fine arts activities included visiting art museums, hearing a theater pipe organ, creating watercolor pencil drawings, turning a bowl on a lathe, etc. Physical education has included numerous several mile hikes along with activities available at the various campgrounds. These included mountain biking, swimming, tournament croquet, pickle ball, tennis, shuffleboard, etc. Through this hands-on approach the boys explored and discovered on their own, making the world around them come alive. This way of learning encouraged the boys’ curiosity to explode and explore the various topics more on their own, creating lifelong learners.
Besides some alterations in the curriculum, we changed our standardized testing method. In the past, I proctored the tests to the boys and sent the answers in for scoring. This year, I found an online standardized test. This eliminated the transfer of testing booklets and instructions through the mail.
All of this discussion of reporting, curriculum, and testing is fine, but the biggest question that remained is how that played out in our day to day schedule. This lifestyle created a more rigorous schedule. The boys are schooled in the morning for an hour or two. Then they spent time in the truck doing their homework as we traveled to the various sites or RV park. Because some days just did not work out to finish all of the assignments, we had a mandatory six day school week with only a break on Sunday. Keeping up this lifestyle can get tiring and we intentionally buffered in some down days to play catch up in school and take it a little more easy.
Short term, we have a full schedule being constantly on the move. However, we do not know how long we will keep this lifestyle up. My oldest is an eighth grader this year and we may have to settle down somewhere to allow him to attend college for free his junior and senior years through Minnesota’s Post Secondary Education Option. However, he may be able to still be mobile if his coursework is all on-line. Only time will tell.
The only advice in the area of road schooling is for parents to start the traveling lifestyle while their children are younger. Less time is needed to educate elementary aged kids and admission costs are substantially less if they are under 12. Of course starting earlier , would allow your family to enjoy many more years together traveling before they grow up and that window of opportunity closes forever.
Until we meet again,