Homeschooling While Traveling

Full disclosure: We are full time RVers but we do NOT have children with us and know very little about homeschooling but we often see others posting questions about it so we thought it would be helpful to do some research and enlist others to share their expertise.

A big heartfelt THANKS to all that have contributed their time and expertise.

By no means is this an exhaustive list or complete details about homeschooling but I hope it helps you, maybe answer a few questions and/or lead you to where you can get more information or help.

Melanie’s story:

This is the program we use…. Power Homeschool

We don’t have anything set up in the RV that is dedicated to schooling. Everything we use fits in a backpack. If we choose to do a project, etc., then we simply buy the necessary supplies at that time.

We generally school M-F. Our daughter is completely self sufficient and only requests assistance when she needs clarification. I wake her up about 9, she starts lessons about 10, and it takes her about 1.5-2 hours to finish.

We belong to 2 homeschool groups. locally. We do park days, field trips and parent lead classes.

While we are stationary we participate in a co-op and a local homeschool group.

The co-op is a group of Christians. We meet for specific events and classes. For instance, I put together an 11 week Native American Studies class. My students range from 7-14 years of age. We also organize things like PE classes, etc. There are about 120 children preK to highschool age.

Our other group is a bit less formal. We have close to 400 kids. We do park days, field trips, outside art classes, all sorts of clubs, etc.

It takes our daughter about two hours to do her online lessons. Which is about right according to worldwide guidelines….which state, 30 minutes per grade level of work starting in 1st grade.

I’m happy to keep answering any questions.
– Melanie White

Janene’s story:

I saw a Facebook post where you were asking about homeschooling in a RV. I am happy to share my thoughts and experiences, so you can share with others starting this journey. I have no idea what you know and have learned already so I am just going to brain dump as if you have no knowledge. Of course this is all just my opinions and experiences; I’m just one drop in the bucket.

I’ll give you a little introduction of myself so you have an idea of where I am coming from. I have three boys 13, 10, and 7 years old. I jumped into homeschooling 4 years ago in the middle of the school year. I pulled our boys out of public school after spring break and they have not been back. We have been full time in the RV about a year and a half total. We stayed in a rental in AK last winter, I was not going to try my luck in the RV in -40 temps. We know some who do it, but no thank you. 🥶 About half of the time we have been in the RV we were stationary and half we have traveled. There you go, a little about us. 😁

Not knowing the situation of those who are asking you homeschooling questions (ie been homeschooling for years and want to know how to take it on the road or never homeschooled but want to so they can travel), it might be best to have two separate articles for each group. One on getting started the other on how to make it work while traveling.

Here are some thoughts for those just getting started:

First and foremost there is no wrong or right answer for which is “best” to use. Parents know their children and know themselves. Each family is unique and different (thank goodness), what works for one family may not work for the next. They should pick the option that best fits their lifestyle and kids learning style.

I saw in the other comments on the post that one person shared thoughts on how there are so many different options for homeschooling. I fully agree and it seems COVID has opened up many more. Definitely do a little research on each of those options the lady mentioned so you can give a brief description. Hopefully the families who are asking you questions can have an idea of which option fits their family best and can research that one more.

Once you have picked the best option and style for homeschooling you have now narrowed down the curriculum to pick from. There are thousands of curriculum and resources out there and it can be very overwhelming to pick one. You’ll talk to people and one person will tell you how much they love this or that curriculum and the next person will tell you how horrible it is and to stay away. As mentioned above what works for one family doesn’t always work for another. Just don’t stress pick one that seems like a good fit and go for it. If it doesn’t work out you can always try a different one or just adjust how you do the one you picked. The downfall of changing curriculum is 1: it is expensive 2: changing too much you run the risk of gaps because different curriculums can cover topics in different levels.

On top of the different options you have lots of different styles, such as traditional, Charlotte Mason, Montessori, Waldorf, Classical, TJEd, unschooling, roadschooling, eclectic, and I’m sure many others. Now of course the preferred style is going to help determine which option you pick since some of them are not keen on using electronics.

Actually starting the curriculum and making a schedule for your family can be difficult. The kids may be resistant and frustrated at the difference between public and home school. I don’t remember how many times I heard “that’s not how we did it in real school” those first few months. There will be days you’ll all be crying and cursing each other by the end of it. There will be the glorious days in between where you see the light bulb turn on in your kids brian or you see the excitement in learning something new and those are the days that keep you going. Just try and be patient with your kids and yourself, especially if you start RV life and homeschooling life at the same time. There are going to be some big adjustments for everyone getting used to living in a small space and all being together all the time.

Don’t be worried if the idea for a schedule you come up with does not work, just keep adjusting till you find the right fit. You’ll find that changes as the kids grow too.

Don’t be worried about not knowing how to do problems or knowing answers to questions. You don’t have to know it all and when your kid comes to you with a question you don’t know how to solve it’s a golden opportunity to say “I am not sure but let’s figure it out together.” Those are amazing moments to teach them how to learn and helps the kids realize that it’s ok to not know it all.

Don’t be stressed about making sure you complete the entire curriculum in one school year. Even in public school they do not complete the entire curriculum. This is why you’ll see an overview of the last levels information at the beginning of the next level. Your goal is to make sure the kids understand it not that they finish it. I still struggle with this myself because my mind still sees pages marked off as progress. I am continually reminding myself that checking the lesson off is not the progress, understanding the concept is even if it takes weeks for the kid to get it. This can get extremely frustrating trying to find what way of explaining or showing will click and bring understanding when they do struggle on a concept. Don’t forget to explain to your kids that you are frustrated with the situation not them. My poor kiddos at first would get so down on themselves and it finally clicked with me that they thought I was mad at/ disappointed in them for not understanding. It is also important to let them know that they are not in any way stupid for not getting it right away. I had to tell them that everyone learns different and everyone has different talents, so while they might struggle to get this or that concept they excel in other areas.

You are going to be worn out, mentally, physically, and emotionally so it is going to be important that you fill your own cup. If you don’t take time for yourself your going to all be struggling big time. Whatever it is you need, make sure you add it into your schedule. This might be a difficult one in a RV, depending on what helps you. If it’s time and space you’ll need someone to take the kids out. If it is getting out with some friends this could be hard while traveling unless you can make friends quick. If your normal relax and fill your cup thing is not something easily done in a RV start looking for new ways that can work.

Thoughts for families that have been homeschooling and continued thoughts for those just starting.

Homeschooling while traveling is amazing, but it does come with its challenges.

Space of course is a big one.
– Space for all the homeschooling items can get tricky especially if you don’t have a storage unit somewhere to store items. If you have more than one kid and plan to homeschool them all then you’ll want to save curriculum for each level, but your not necessarily going to want it in the RV until you need it.
– Space for the items you are currently using. You’ll probably cut back on a lot of the items you might have had in the stick and brick home. Hanging charts, all the extra what nots, books, books, and more books will not make the cut for space.
– Space for working. There will be limited space for each child to spread out and work on their stuff, especially if they are a keep everything out while I do this project type of person.
– Space for alone time. You’ll have to get creative with getting your kids and yourself space to just get away from everyone if you need it.
– Space for working alone if you need it. I have one kid that likes to listen to music while he works and one that can’t stand any sound so that can be a challenge.

Another challenge is if you do school online you may have a difficult time getting good service. A lot of RV parks even if they have wifi it is very poor. There will be the popular times when the wifi is even worse because so many are using it at once. We also boondock a lot and have been in places that have no service at all.

Traveling around you constantly have the “but this is vacation time we don’t have to do school work” attitude. I am not just talking about the kids here. It is very hard for us adults to not want to get out and explore each area; forget about the book learning.

I use a mixture of curriculum –
We use The Story of the World. 
We enjoy this one a lot. It will generally start each chapter with a story then give more details. The story gets the kids interested and often helps them remember better. I do not really have any cons.

We use Apologia and have really enjoyed it. I don’t really have any cons with using this. It is religious based, so if folks are not christian this may not be for them. They can easily just skip over the lines about how amazing God is for doing this or that and the scripture verse that goes along with each chapter though.|1002236

Language arts:
For my older kids I use The Good and the Beautiful. I love this curriculum! One very nice thing about this curriculum is the first 5 levels you can download for free! I have printed them off and then with each kid I just have to reprint the work pages. I did purchase the readers to go along with levels instead of printing them off. They were in book form and it just seemed a better idea in my mind to buy them. This one also is a religious based curriculum, but same as with the science you can skip over the references to Christianity if that’s not your thing.

My youngest son is currently using Sing, Spell, Read, & Write for his language arts. It has been pretty good. I got it for free which is why I have been using it. I can’t decide if I would buy it. My son is reading extremely well though, so no complaints with that. Cons are it was definitely written for a past generation so some questions and pictures are very outdated for this day and age. Maybe it has been been updated and I just have an older version who knows. We don’t do the songs at all, my son doesn’t like them. I personally don’t like that there are 3 (4 if you count the readers) different books to do work from.  Here is a link to see the books. What I was given was a combo kit with everything for K and 1grade, i don’t see that option in here though, just to get individual items,-Spell,-Read–and–Write.html

Here are some additional resources I have used and found helpful. “6+1 traits of writing” has some great information to help kids with their writing skills.*1+traits+of+writting+&Ne=0&N=0&Ntk=keywords&action=Search&ps_exit=RETURN&ps_domain=www&event=ESRCG

“Now What” by Rachel Harrison has a lot of fantastic advice and helps for teaching reading skills after phonics have been learned. Rachel is also a homeschooling consultant and she is AMAZING! She taught in public school for years, has and is currently homeschooling her own children, and has a master’s degree in Designing Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment. She helped me start on my homeschooling journey and was a huge blessing! She gave me options of curriculum and looked over options I found on my own to make sure they were good ones and covered everything important. Here is a link that shows her book on her webpage so if you want to explore her page more you can.

I use Saxon math which we like well enough. When I was trying to find a math I went with this one because I’m not very good or confident in my math. I had looked at various friends curriculum and I saw that this one told you word for word what to say and that definitely appealed to me. Apparently I did not read through more than one lesson though, because I quickly realized that the word for word was a bit irritating, LOL. The first couple pages of every lesson are basically the exact same.   After two weeks of asking my son to count by 10’s to 100, tell me all the days of the week, what yesterday was, what tomorrow will be, the even numbers to 20, and all the other things similar to that I was sick of it myself. He knew it all, so why spend 20 min going over it still everyday. Now I do everything the first day and see how they do. If they still need practice on something we go over it until they have it. The word for word lessons only go up to level 3 I believe after that the lessons are just an explanation and a few examples, thankfully. The kids can read over it and do it themselves if they want.
I did use Preschool Math at Home by Kate Snow with my youngest and we really liked it. She uses games and fun activities to help teach number sense. It was a great start for my son for sure.

My oldest is trying out an online math through BYU independent study this year. It has been going pretty good other than when we spent almost a month in an area with no cell service, so he couldn’t do any math during that time. A downfall of online school. I was not sure what to expect with it and initially was a little disappointed because I assumed there would be videos of the teacher explaining each new concept. It just has a few pages of written instructions then there are questions to answer. It is nice though that he can do the work over and over again until he understands the concept without it counting against his grade. Every time you submit and start a new one it gives you a different set of questions which is very nice.

Another resource I use that is helpful is the book “the Well Trained Mind” by Susan Bauer. It has a lot of great information for what kids should know and learn for each grade. It is a big book, but keep in mind you don’t have to read it all at once. Just focus on the chapters your kids need right now

Of course Google, Siri, and Alexa are great go tos for finding out quick answers to questions. Although they do not always have the answers either. Like today when my son asked me how many volts of electricity a human heart puts out; all Google wanted to tell me was how many it would take to get it beating again, to kill you, or how many your whole body produced.
There you go, the curriculum and resources we use. I have found when buying curriculum Christian Book and Rainbow Resources often have the best prices. Amazon will as well, but not always. You can shop around and find the best price. Christian Book will generally have a code to get free shipping on items or will give you free shipping if you spend x amount. They also have great customer service when you need assistance. Another way to get curriculum is to look in the area you are and see if there might be a homeschooling group. They could let you know if they do a homeschool curriculum sale event or you could just ask if anyone might have what you need sell. You might end up with an older addition doing this which every once in a great while could cause issues.

Here are a few other things we do while traveling. We love to play the name the states game when we do long treks. The boys have to name in order all the states we have driven through. It’s a fun one to do. When we get to a new location we try to learn about it. I’ll share a different kind of plant that grows in the area each day and the boys try to keep an eye out for it in our walks and such. We learn about different animals that live in the area. I like to do this one before we set them free to run around so they have an idea of dangerous animals and will hopefully leave them alone. Of course most things hear them coming and get the heck out of the way long before they get there. LOL If the area has some neat geological features we point them out and explain how/why it is that way.

National parks, state parks, and historic sites generally have lots of signs around that give great information. I’ll try to have them stand and read them or listen to me read them, but they are normally too excited to stay and listen very long.

Our school schedule for the most part follows this pattern, but honestly when you travel it’s always up in the air. When the boys wake up they are supposed to read in their book and read scriptures then they can spend time on their iPads until I call them for breakfast. I used to just start the day off right away with breakfast and school as soon as we got up, but i had to change that. I found I need time to myself each morning to help me stay sane. So, I go for a walk and read my scriptures then I am more prepared to tackle the crazies. It is my me time.

I will do our group time stuff while they sit and eat breakfast, they are a more captive audience that way. LOL Group time is me reading our family scriptures and daily quote that Grandma sends to everyone. I read our history and science lesson for the day. I read a chapter in whatever book we are reading out of. I try to get one that goes along with our history or science, but that is not always possible while traveling.

After they have finished eating if we have completed a lesson they will have a worksheet or project to do. The older kids have more to do than the younger ones. They all hear the same information, but my oldest will have to answer an essay question or do a research project, my middle will have multiple choice questions, and my youngest will draw a picture about what he learned and tell me about it. After this is done they get to go run and have recess time. They will typically run around and play until lunch time. After lunch we start doing individual work. This is when we do math and language arts. My oldest can do all his pretty much on his own, which is very nice. He will ask for help if he needs it or when the lesson says do this with a parent/teacher. My other two still need me to go over their lessons and help them work on assignments. I’ll start with one and go over the lesson while the other one is doing his individual reading time. Then we switch and I help the other one with his lesson. Often we end up with one playing while he waits for me to finish helping the other one. My middle child has ADHD so he tends to need more help and redirecting. He is the one that makes me want to pull my hair out, 🥴. He will take all day long to answer 5 questions some days and I’ll have to repeat myself many times before he listens. We are working on learning how to learn though, so helping him learn skills to focus and get work done is part of what we do with him.

Where we keep school supplies. Every nook and cranny. LOL In the master closet there is a spot all along the wall that is supposed to be for shoes I’m sure. That has become a bookshelf for us and has all of our story/chapter books that we brought on it. We also keep a stack of them under the dinette, typically the ones that are being read but also several others that just haven’t made it back to their home yet. We have a spot on our kitchen counter that looks like it’s supposed to hold magazines. It is pretty big though, and that is where we keep our curriculum books. I do have a two shelves in my closet that have past/future curriculum. I also have a little plastic drawer thing in my closet that has all the pencils, markers, scissors, etc.

I’ll be glad to help answer any other questions viewers might have.

Janene Croak

A big THANKS to the ladies above for their input.

If anyone else would like to help with information, I will gladly take all the help I can get!! Thanks.

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