Homeschooling in itself can be completely overwhelming, but throw in learning on the road and you’ve got yourself a pretty big task in front of you. I want to say it is easier said than done, but it really is a lot of work. The best part though, is that it isn’t the kind of work that we all moan and groan about. It is real, rewarding work that puts out a big return. That big return is our children’s exposure to many different places and cultures, as well as the family bonding that occurs in such tight quarters. I mean, we are typically crammed in our SUV for upwards of 30-50hrs per trip. Things get personal. Some would say a little too personal like how I made H pee in a bottle at a rest stop because there were rattlesnake signs on the restroom door. I’m here to tell you that roadschooling and even homeschooling IS possible and it IS fun! Here are my 5 tips to starting out:
- Get input from your kids
I know this should go without saying, but to make everything run smoothly, always make sure your kids are onboard. What is important to your children, is important to you, so having them choose a place or a subject, will have you with their full attention.
My 2 children LOVE animals. We often base many of our trips around seeing animals in the wild or animal refuges that teach you about conservation. They absorb so much and seeing the glow in their faces is 100% worth the hours of planning. They also are obsessed with rocks, which is lucky for us as both of our backgrounds are in geology. We sometimes find them explaining things to tourists (whether they’ve asked them a question or not).
- Have low expectations
Your first few times on the road, may leave you feeling like trading your children in for those adorable tarantulas you just saw on the side of the road. Fear not. This can happen to the best of us, so try not to let it discourage you. We started big roadtrips when our kids were very small. They are used to hours on the road, tailgate picnics and hotel hopping. Even with their experience, we’ve been known to open the sunroof and pretend we are about to push the eject button on their seat. My biggest piece of advice is to have an abundance of activities on hand. And when you think you’ve packed enough fun things to do, pack 10 more. We may be the odd ones out, but we typically don’t use tablets when we drive. The only time we bring them out is if we are driving after dark. I think this helps in the long run because they never get bored of them when used in short spurts.
- Start planning well in advance
This may be different from other roadschoolers, but we unfortunately have to stay on a very strict budget. We sacrifice other luxuries to be able to afford this sort of lifestyle, so by planning far in advance, we are able to take advantage of hotel early bird rates, researching alternate/cheaper routes, and calculating distances per day. By being prepared so far in advance, there is less chance of surprise expenses that can pop up. I love how many other roadschoolers fly by the seat of their pants, and one day maybe we will too, but for right now we need to make sure our travel plans and budget agree with each other.
- Research, Research, Research
Once you decide on the places you want to visit, research to see what else piques your interest around that area. The more you can get done in one area (give or take 50 miles), the less expensive it will be. This past spring, we visited Yellow Stone National Park. I spent a lot of time researching as many points of interest as I could in the surrounding area. We ended up stopping in Jackson Hole, WY and stumbling upon a cowboy shootout. The kids were ecstatic and it had me wanting to go back with that being the central part of our trip. Stopping into new places allows you to get a feel for the town/city. We did Portland a few years ago, and the vibe of the city totally made us fall in love with it. It creates a bigger impact on how much we absorb, when we have that rush of excitement in us.
- Start small, gain big
If you are new to roadschooling, I want you to start small. Take a trip somewhere less than 5 hours away. How do your kids do? What did you forget? What would you do different next time? Are you like my husband and wish you researched a little more? Whatever it is you feel can improve, write it down (if you’re like me, you have notes about everything strewn about your home). You will start to feel your families groove on your second time on the road. I am still constantly improving, but now I feel I have a good system and know my kid’s strengths and weaknesses in regards to being on the road. It is also good to know your partners strengths and weaknesses as well because they will be there to ground you if things go wrong. I know that Nathan despises when I comment on his driving, so I try to keep my comments to once every 15 minutes.
You are now well on your way to starting the amazing journey of roadschooling. I would love to hear from you on how your planning is going!
Expect the unexpected
One of our favorite parts about roadschooling, is running into the unexpected. Let me rephrase that. The GOOD unexpected. When you fly to a destination, you have the ease of being somewhere quickly, but when you drive, you have so many hidden gems at your fingertips. Roadschooling has really given our kids the best geography lesson we could have imagined. They understand country, state and province boarders, how long it really takes to drive across huge states like Texas or up the California coastline. It puts everything into a completely new perspective and allows them to not only see these places in a book, but give them the ability to <i>feel</i> these places with their souls.
Driving through Idaho a few years back, we had just finished exploring Crater’s of the Moon, and we decided to take a turn into a very small town. We ended up finding this amazing milkshake place and to our surprise, they had wiener dog napkins. This seemingly simple stop, brightened our day even more and we enjoyed bringing our business to this small town (We also took like 10 wiener dog napkins). Another time we had somehow (I’ll never admit to my mistakes) taken a wrong turn through Ely, NV. As we get closer to the city center, the speed limit drops (as it does in every other place we’ve ever been to). Well Nathan decides to keep going the speed he was at, and low and behold, a local cop pulls him over for speeding. He will tell you a completely different story, but my version is the true one. Anyways, we decided we just wanted to pay the ticket now so that we didn’t have to deal with mailing it in. We stopped at their local courthouse (which was so incredibly small and cute) and the kids and I fed the ducks and learned some history about Ely, while Nathan took the walk of shame into the courthouse. It is moments like these that really make for family bonding and a unique roadschooling experience. Most wouldn’t plan these sorts of stops, but they allow you to experience the beauty and authentic nature of the people and places. So, the next time you accidently (IT WAS ON ACCIDENT) take a wrong turn or end up somewhere you hadn’t planned, take advantage. Find the magnificence in the road less traveled.