Road Schooling

August 16, 2015

One of our top concerns through our travel planning (besides the stress of deciding what to do with our home, searching for good tenants, and securing a rental commitment that at least would cover the cost of our mortgage) was how do we insure that our kid’s education is on par with their grade level, without the structure of public school.  How would Dan and I fill the role of teachers, while still maintaining flexibility in our travel schedules, and keep our children’s studies inline with their classmates, so that they will be able to easily transition back into school upon our return?

What IS our road schooling philosophy? Are we “unschoolers”, or do we believe in a more classical approach to education, more akin with traditional public schools?
We are not homeschoolers. I do believe that for our family, sending our children to a public school has always been the best way to achieve a comprehensive education. However, I also recognize that homeschooling can provide as rich and thorough a curriculum for many families. We have to tap into that experience and find a way to teach our children so that there are no educational gaps when they reenter the public school arena. Our first step was to schedule an appointment with the principal in the past fall (about a year before our departure) to inform the school of our plans, and to seek advise on how we can keep up with Oregon’s common core. I also approached friends, who do homeschool their children, for advice on the best online support we can utilize.

Last summer, in an attempt to gear myself up for the role of teacher, I begun to teach our children a world history course (developed by Susan Wise Bauer), as both a supplement to their current education, and also to get them used to a new student/teacher relationship with me. It was a struggle, but I am actually impressed by how gripping Egyptian history can be, and what Stella and Gabriel have managed to retain. However, when the new the school year began, I quit reading them chapters, and have only recently picked up the lessons during our road trip through Oregon and California.

The next step was to try to imagine what a day of education on the road might look like. Will we have a regimented schedule, where we commit to a daily, set number of hours, focusing on different subjects; or, will we have a looser schedule, using long bus rides, and greater stays in a single spot to cram in our kid’s lessons? Will we try to finish schoolwork before exploring, or will we intersperse studies throughout a day of touring? Will we base our curriculum on the places we visit, using a mix of museums, art, local literature, and cultural activities (i.e. cooking local cuisine, home-stays etc.)? What about employing topic specific tutors, allowing us to supplement our teaching with lessons from other experts (i.e. music teachers)?

Although our answers to the above questions are still fluid and apt to change, Dan and I have decided that we will initially split up our educational emphases, and specialize in separate  subjects.

Dan’s focus will be on math, science, and volunteer projects. My focus will be on writing (grammar, spelling, penmanship, and creativity), reading, history (with a focus on the countries we are visiting), geography, social studies, and art.
We also plan to enroll the entire family in Spanish classes, once we are in South or Central America, and hope that we might be able to take extracurricular classes along the way – i.e. cooking classes, music or dance classes.

We’ve been discussing WHEN we will do school work, and have come up with a rough plan:

Early in the morning, we will work on more structured assignments (i.e. math, science projects, spelling/grammar & penmanship, and relevant history of the country we are in, plus social/cultural studies focused on the day’s planned events).
In the evenings, we will work on journals (freeform writing) and reading – literature.
We will attempt to incorporate “learning” into 5-6 days of the week.

We’ve begun to list a short library of websites(below) to inform our educational plan, but will be using Oregon’s Common Core standards as our primary guideline:

Fun crash course videos on a variety of topics:
https://www.youtube.com/user/crashcourse/videos

K-4 program to improve reading proficiency:
http://www.explodethecode.com/

Geography facts and puzzles:
http://www.geographyzone.com/new/index.php

Educational materials on a variety of subjects:
http://cnx.org/

Free learning resources for the world:
http://www.curriki.org/welcome/

For Math:
http://www.khanacademy.org/

PBS classroom:
http://www.pbslearningmedia.org/

I am sure that much of our teaching format will not crystallize until we are actually traveling and dealing with the obstacles of time, place and our children’s own resistance! We will revisit this topic in more detail through the coming months.

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