As a fulltime traveling family with three young children, homeschooling on the road, or roadschooling, is just part of our way of life. It’s actually one of the main reasons we decided to become fulltime travelers in the first place. This is the experience of a lifetime for our kids and they are learning so much along the way. These are five of the big things we do to homeschool while we travel.
1. Use a Kindle instead of bringing a mountain of books
The first thing to do is get it out of your head that things will be the same as before the journey…at least that is what I needed to do. Before, I was doing a mish mash curriculum. I liked a little of this and a little of that. I had it set and I was liking my results. The kids were learning topics in depth due to all the reading we were doing on each topic. I would get mountains of books from the library and read away. We all loved it. Books and a road trip just don’t mix. We have had to go to Kindles which has driven me up the wall. I like books–to touch them, feel them, and smell them. It is not the same as a Kindle, but it is the next best thing and saves us a ton of space and weight. We got the Kindle Paperwhite because I wanted it just for reading. This is the best item for plain reading without the distraction of games or apps.
2. Use the Junior Ranger programs to your advantage
The Junior Ranger programs are an awesome way to cover a lot of science and some history. We have found these programs at all the national several state parks we have visited. It is simple to do. When you get to a park, go to the visitors center and ask if they have one available. If so, do it. It is a booklet filled with activities and learning opportunities for you and the kids that pertain to the area in which you are located. For example, when we went to the Bonneville Dam in Oregon, it was a total surprise that they even had a ranger program, the book contained activities about water safety, the dam itself and how it works, and the salmon life cycle. Upon completion, you return to the visitors center and present it for the ranger. The ranger looks through the book and asks the kids questions about what they have learned. The best part is they get sworn in as an official Junior Ranger for the park and they receive a badge, patch, sticker, or a mix of the mentioned and a signed certificate that they are “official”. My kids love it.
Mention that you homeschool and see if they have any extra programs or booklets on different topics for you. We mentioned it at the Bonneville Dam and we got a booklet and DVD on water safety, three hands on projects including building a hydroelectric dam, the lifecycle of the salmon, the water cycle, and a few other things that we happily added to our curriculum for the week.
We also watch the visitor center movie on the national park when we stop at a new place. It is a great way to set the stage about what the kids will be seeing and experiencing.
3. Driving days are a great opportunity for learning to take place
At first, this was difficult for me to get a grip on due to the fact that I get incredibly car/motion sick. We have been on many windy roads that have left me not feeling at my best. Fortunately, I have gotten somewhat used to the windy roads as long as I don’t turn around too much. Here are some ideas to try while driving:
- Brain Quest is a great way to pass the time and learn along the way. It is a set of cards with questions and answers for each grade level. The kids love trying to answer the questions. I only have one set, 3rd grade, and everybody participates regardless of age. I give an easier question to the younger ones.
- A great learning game for the road is Apples to Apples Junior. You can use chip bag clips to make it easier for the kids to hold their cards. It is a great language arts exercise and it gets a lot of giggles along the way.
- Rory’s Story Cubes provide oral story telling practice. There are about 8 cubes in each set and you roll them like dice. They have a picture on each side. I hand each of my children 2 and I get 2 also. Then we choose a person to start the story. The person then uses the pictures on their dice to start the story. We go around one dice at a time until we have told a complete story using only the pictures on our dice. Then we roll the dice and play again.
- I am liking a book set called Word Fun. It is a great way to talk about language arts topics such as parts of speech. I read the story out loud and we do the activity together at the end. My kids have loved doing action verbs in the car or practicing describing nouns (ones we see around us at the time) using adjectives each taking a turn to give an adjective.
- Bring a memory box. I got a great idea from a fellow homeschooling mama when I started homeschooling. She calls it a memory box. It is a small box full of 4×6 cards that contain any sort of practice items that the kids need to memorize or work on throughout the week. We put in items like vocabulary or people to remember from history and science, we put in language arts terms they need to know, some church related items, counting by 2-12’s, poetry, nursery rhymes, basically anything you feel they need to memorize or remember. I have tabs for things that need to be worked on daily, weekly, M,W,F or T,TH. You can play all kinds of games with these like True or False, fill in the blank, or a point based game.
4. Use The Story of the World series as a history curriculum
The Story of the World is a compact (4 volumes) but comprehensive set of history books that can be read aloud together and tells the story of the world in chronological order. It comes in 4 volumes starting with Ancient History and continuing through Modern Times. It includes a workbook to use as a teacher guide and to make copies for work pages. It has geography, coloring pages, recipes, additional books to read to match the lesson, questions to ask, and all kind of activities listed to go with the lesson. I love this set.
5. Learn about each state as you visit
Learning about each state as we visit them has been fun for us. We create a cover page (cannot find the exact website I found it unfortunately); color a state map with the major rivers, capital, any place we have visited; and draw or color the state flower, state bird, and state flag. We like to color them as they would be in real life. Then we read a little about the history of the state and stop at historical markers we encounter along the way.
You can get the state flower, bird, and flag at Kid Zone. On the cover page, we write the number in which it entered the union, the state nickname, the state motto, a state outline with capital and major rivers and lakes, state symbols of your choice, any interesting facts we have learned along the way, and an illustration about the state.
These are five of the ways we have integrated homeschooling into our fulltime lifestyle. We try to do as much as we can while driving or during visits to national parks or historic sites. Fulltime roadschooling has been a great way for the kids to really learn about the history and geography of the places we visit. It makes everything more real to them and they understand and remember it better when they get to see it first hand.