First step down a new path... Homeschooling children while traveling - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 12 Old 05-08-2014, 02:15 AM - Thread Starter
 
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First off, I apologize if I'm posting without having done much research yet, but I do feel a little overwhelmed by the dearth of information I have found and hoped to find some helpful advice from a knowledgable community in order to avoid wasting hours in the wrong direction.

The basics are: I have two children (4 and 7) that have always attended public school and day care. We've always felt rather unsatisfied with the schooling they've received, but we both work full-time and, until now, have had no opportunity to home-school.

Next year we are planning on traveling through the U.S. in a camper (visiting my friends and family as well as various places in nature) and then volunteering on farms and for local organizations through a specific part of rural Italy (where we will then move in summer 2015). I'm really looking forward to taking this year to home/travel-school our children, but am also feeling a bit behind. The truth is, the circumstances that are allowing us to take this year of vagabondry are all new, and we have only six months to budget, plan itineraries, find farms and build a curriculum.

As of right now, we are planning on signing our children up to public school again once we have settled down in September 2015 (because we will both be back to full-time work).

 

So my questions are:

-How unrealistic is it of me to think that I can educate my children using lessons planned around the places we'll be visiting (i.e. geology lesson reinforced by visit to Grand Canyon, pre-history and Native American history reinforced by visit to Mesa Verde, and on)? As a note, I have an appointment with the Italian school representatives next week and know that they have a very basic curriculum of what gets learned in third grade, which I will look at for reference in order to make sure that my son has learned the basics he will need when returning to school (my daughter will just be starting obligatory school upon our return so I can be more free with her teaching). While I know that no National Park will teach my children grammar, I'd like as much as possible for their learning to be fluid and illustrated by the world around them - both to stimulate their curiosity for learning and to make the places we visit mean more to them.

-Did you feel that you lost time in any one particular way while researching curriculums? Or in any part of the planning stages? Did you have any assumptions that turned out not to be true?

-How do you deal with two children who, aside from being different ages, have very different learning methods?

-Any advice on how to move from being a "parent" to "parent & teacher"? I do realize that there will be so many changes going on in our family structure that it might be more about me being consistent from the beginning than anything else, but would still appreciate any advice you have to offer.

-Any advice on finding balance with my parner regarding family responsibilities? To be completely honest, he is not going to be responsible for curriculum or much teaching - I just know our personalities and he is not a structured enough person to handle these duties. How can I keep from becoming overwhelmed if the large majority of planning and teaching is on my plate?

 

I think these are my first questions. I realize that many of these topics may have been covered in detail in other threads and would be happy to read through them as well. Also, I'd be grateful even to hear just one line about any one of these questions, so please consider answering even a small part of any one of the questions. I have done a few searches, but am still a beginner so, again, apologies if you feel I haven't done enough legwork before posting.

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#2 of 12 Old 05-08-2014, 07:21 AM
 
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oh, lord. You are getting to do what I've only dreamed of: roadschool!

 

In your place, I would focus on the older child, and let life and experience be the younger child's main teacher. 

 

Looking at the school's expectations for the following year is a great place to start. Personally, I think reading/writing skills and math are your most important focus points, fully expecting that as you travel, science, geology, and social studies will make themselves evident.  As for curriculum, I would probably just purchase from amazon used textbooks that you think you want.

 

Good luck, and good journey!

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#3 of 12 Old 05-08-2014, 06:26 PM
 
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We do something similar -- I work in international relations and we move all over the world because of my job, to a new country every two years. We're currently in the Caribbean, will leave here and spend 6 months in training and then almost two months traveling around in a pop up camper before going to Eastern Europe for two years (and then to wherever work needs us to go next.) We homeschool a second grader and a Kindergartener, and we almost exclusively do unit studies. We can probably carry more junk around with us than you can, though. 

 

We went straight to already put together unit studies, mostly Intelligo and Pandia Press (but we're also militant secular homeschoolers, which cut out a lot of equally good options due to religious content) just because we don't have access to an English Language library, which makes creating from the ground up really hard. I've always geared their home schooling to the core knowledge sequence, which you can get online for free download. I ignore the fussy bits about which nursery rhymes to learn, and focus on which subjects and sub-subjects to cover each year so they'll be mostly at grade level if we decide to put them in an international school along the way and so I know they'll get well-rounded eventually.

 

So like, we're doing weather now and we're focusing on hurricanes and the rainy season and monsoons, so they're measuring rain and comparing this month (early rainy season) with last month (late dry season) and into next month (eek, hurricane season!) and graphing changes in temperature and humidity. They're reporting on the changes in the plants in our back yard and in the biomes around us (crabs in the ocean, the volume of water in the river in the park, etc.) We're going over our personal preparedness for hurricane season and doing some health as we check our first aid kit. And then reading about how weather forms and all that as well. 

 

We do a lot with computers and iPads, using pay as you go cellular internet, internet cafes and anker battery packs, because they're easy and portable and the internet and netflix are kind of our library, since we don't have one. My kids also really learn by DOING things, so we do a lot of taking digital pictures, writing and illustrating books and websites and making videos. We're probably more tech-focused than most families would be, but that works for us because technology is portable and light and easy. I still miss books, but we're making it work. :)

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#4 of 12 Old 05-09-2014, 12:00 PM
 
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I have a long-time homeschooling friend who had an experience like this when she was in 4th grade, back before homeschooling was a thing. Her mom was a teacher in her former life, so they packed up with workbooks and textbooks and paper and a 4th grade curriculum plan and hit the road in their travel trailer for a year. And for about 2 weeks they made some effort to do periodic schoolwork, and for another month they tried instead to organize unit-study-like schoolwork based on where they were and what they were experiencing. And then they just gave up and had fun.

 

The following year she went back to school into 5th grade, having done no formal schooling in almost a year and ... it was like she hadn't missed a thing. She was at a 5th grade level in math, and reading, and writing, and social studies and all the rest, simply because she'd been growing up and experiencing an interesting life. 

 

So I would just travel. I would not try to replicate some sort of stand-in for schooling. Drink up everything you can about the places you are, the experiences you have, the people you meet, the new ways you find of living your daily lives. Play games and read for pleasure, be a family, do fun things. It'll be more than enough. 

 

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#5 of 12 Old 05-13-2014, 12:31 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Wow, thank you already for these answers, as it is making it all seem more doable.

 

I do realize that I will mostly need to focus on the older child, but I really don't want the little one (who is less bookish and more hands on) to be left out. She needs structure and thrives with it, but she is also much less studious in a standard way. She can't sit still unless she's sleeping so it would be really easy to just work with the older one. Which isn't fair or right, in my opinion. On that note, does anyone have any helpful resources for how to work with children of different temperaments?

 

Also, just one note about something Belleweather brought up. We are also not a religious family and will be using secular learning materials; I guess I should point that out. Along those lines, a quick search for secular homeschooling units turned up a few very helpful sites. And I checked the Intellego website, as well as Pandia Press and saw some great units that would be perfectly adaptable to what we are doing, though I still need to figure out whether we will have internet or not. Any advice on high-tech vs low-tech? It seems easier to bring along only a tablet or two, but we would then need internet access. As I've been out of the States for a while now, I need to do some research about how costly it would be...

 

Lastly, I do realize that we won't need (or want) to be doing full time schooling, but I also want my children to have some structured learning. Though I'm not worried about them falling behind, per se, I think it's important for them and for us. I want to take this year to retrain their brains, in a way - to learn how to learn, as well as take pride in creating projects, solving problems and thinking!

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#6 of 12 Old 05-31-2014, 05:17 PM
 
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If you want a curriculum conducive to your travels, Calvert school in MD has been in business over 100 yrs and caters to families like you.

Calvert...https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Calvert_School
http://www.calverteducation.com/
http://homeschool.calverteducation.com/
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#7 of 12 Old 06-03-2014, 04:05 PM
 
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Many formal studies have been done regarding children homeschooling in situations similar to what you've described. The essential summary is: given an environment of joy in learning, your children will come home "ahead" of their peers whether or not you use any type of curricula, have a degree, or "teach."

Your children are always learning from you, whether you work full time or not -- you are their most important teacher.

I'd suggest reading aloud, exploring, and learning together. That's it. The most important lesson until age 7 is unconditional love. Teach that, and you have been enormously successful.

Bon voyage!
peace,
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#8 of 12 Old 06-04-2014, 12:43 PM
 
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Just thought I'd mention this recently published ebook about RV living with homeschooled kids:
Must Have Been Another Earthquake, Kids: a short, honest guide to full-time RV living with children Must Have Been Another Earthquake, Kids: a short, honest guide to full-time RV living with children
by Jason Robillard. I haven't read it but I know Jason's writing style from his book on barefoot running and from his blog and I imagine that like his other stuff this book is full of humour and pithy bits of useful information.

Miranda

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#9 of 12 Old 06-19-2014, 01:21 PM
 
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We did this for a long time living in an RV Fulltime and traveling with dh's job. The biggest things that helped were a laptop with cellular wireless and a kindle. They provided a lot of learning resources either purchased or free and took up less space in a camper that was housing 5 people. We kept some form of structure to how our day went and that worked well. DD is a bit of a workbook type person so I would give them "morning work" folders that held various worksheets and such that they could work on at will. She always had more worksheets in hers than ds did because she liked them and would work on them more. He mostly toyed with his while I was helping her with something. If you're intending on putting them back in the school system in a year then you could check out some of the leveled workbooks if they'd like them to ease your mind about staying on grade level. I found Ed Hirsch's What your __ grader needs to know books to be pretty thorough at least for the US school system in the area I live in. Honestly for grade level the key factors are language arts (reading, grammar, spelling) and math. If it were me and I wanted to stay on track for just a year I'd probably buy a leveled math program and grammar program and then just free range everything else. If you want I'm sure you can get a list of topics that will be covered in that grade for science and history then find correlating activities that will be fun. It's amazing what kids retain when they're enjoying something. I'd keep it pretty simple with traveling. If you have a list of grade level topics needed and areas you'll likely go then I'm sure posters here could help with itinerary ideas. There are tons of resources available!
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#10 of 12 Old 06-20-2014, 11:08 AM
 
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Thank you for this interesting perspective on homeschooling while traveling. I also travel too during the summer, although I mainly just go to visit my parents at that time. I find that it certainly is possible to "lightly teach" while traveling and alot of Hands-on learning can take place during that time.

To all NYC moms from the Western Queens area, please check out my Examiner.com page, where I write about all the family news, views, and events happening in and around there: http://www.examiner.com/family-in-new-york/rahela-choudhury
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#11 of 12 Old 06-20-2014, 07:17 PM
 
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We homeschooled in a relaxed way until the kids were 10 and 12, and part of the time we lived in an RV. We've also moved frequently for my DH's job, accompanied him on business trips, and general made North America our classroom. You can totally do this. It's awesome in many ways, and challenging in a few.

Quote:
Originally Posted by eccomi View Post
-How unrealistic is it of me to think that I can educate my children using lessons planned around the places we'll be visiting (i.e. geology lesson reinforced by visit to Grand Canyon, pre-history and Native American history reinforced by visit to Mesa Verde, and on)?
Do the Jr. Ranger programs, and budget money for the bookstores. Take advantage of Ranger led programs. Also visit State Parks, learn nature studies by hiking. Visit botanical gardens, museums, and the Denver mint. Some of the smaller parks have more cool things to do, tell them you are homeschoolers and *sometimes* they go all out and show you special stuff.

Quote:
-Did you feel that you lost time in any one particular way while researching curriculums? Or in any part of the planning stages? Did you have any assumptions that turned out not to be true?
I had lots of assumptions that turned out not to be true. My kids both do best with some, minimal structure. I think that part of the reason for lost time is that no one can really tell you what will work for YOU and YOUR KIDS. There is a bit of trial and error and that is inevitable until you find your groove.

Quote:
-How do you deal with two children who, aside from being different ages, have very different learning methods?
Spending quality time as a family enjoying the world, and a little time one on one with each of them.

Quote:
-Any advice on how to move from being a "parent" to "parent & teacher"?
Don't. Just be their mother. Be there mother who does a little math with them, but keep being mom.

Quote:
I do realize that there will be so many changes going on in our family structure that it might be more about me being consistent from the beginning than anything else, but would still appreciate any advice you have to offer.
I think consistency is overrated. Especially in what you have planned, you may end up with a basic daily routine, but it will vary a great deal -- one day you'll need to get up super early to hike up to the big horn sheep, and another day it will suddenly rain and you'll be thinking about a plan B. Some days will be about laundry and shopping, and you'll feel no learning is happening. You'll have to clean and tidy, because an RV leave NO ROOM for clutter or mess. Life will still be happening, and that just takes up time each week.

Quote:
-Any advice on finding balance with my parner regarding family responsibilities? To be completely honest, he is not going to be responsible for curriculum or much teaching - I just know our personalities and he is not a structured enough person to handle these duties. How can I keep from becoming overwhelmed if the large majority of planning and teaching is on my plate?
my advice is to have some very basic, minimal curriculum for math for both kids, simple phonics for the little one, reading for the older one if he/she isn't already a very solid reader, and leave it at that. You won't have time or need for a bunch stuff that you then have to plan. Honestly, there should be minimal teaching on your plate if you are using the world as your classroom. Lots of work going into teaching and lots of learning going on aren't the same thing.

One of the things about RV living and homeschooling is that you don't have the burden of having a bunch of space to collect a bunch of curriculum. I say burden because many homeschool moms find they don't use most of it anyway, and just feel guilty about not using it.

but everything has pros and cons  shrug.gif

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#12 of 12 Old 06-30-2014, 05:50 PM
 
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Wow, it sounds like you and your little ones will be having a blast! I wish I could spend all summer on the road with my kids. Instead we're taking several week to two week long road trips this summer. Each night we've camped at state parks and gotten he junior ranger guides. One national park was even having a jr ranger day so there were free hikes and kids seminars! I would say do any and all ranger led activities, even I've learned a lot through the three we've done this summer.
I'm not really focusing on anything too structured or curriculum like but then again I try to unschool as much as possible. My oldest is seven and loves to draw maps or pictures of what we see and then write stories about them, granted nothing is spelled right and half her letters are backwards but at least she is loving it. For math we do really basic things like charting data on different types of trees, rocks and animals. This leads into occasionally addition and subtracts problems that she tries to teach her four year old brother.
I do howevere hop online whenever I can get Internet and try to find a page from easypeasy all in one to incorporate into our travels and 'studies' for the week. Like when we went spelunking in caves afterwards we went online and read about ancient art in caves and the biblical perspective of cave men. Since I'm not in an rv and driving a car can get boring for the kids I give them each a backpack with books of their choice from the dollar store. My oldest picked a kitten colouring book, a book on addition and two books to read. She does not read yet but made up didactic stories to tell her little brother.
Okay that was quite the ramble for my first post on here, I love this place.
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